Maj. Gen. Arthur Thomas St. Clair

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Maj. Gen. Arthur Thomas St. Clair

Birthplace: Thurso, Caithness, Scotland, United Kingdom
Death: August 31, 1818 (84)
Greensburg, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, United States
Place of Burial: Greensburg, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of William Sinclair and Elizabeth Balfour
Husband of Phoebe St. Clair
Father of Capt. Daniel St. Clair; John Murray Murry St Claire; Elizabeth Lawrence; Arthur St. Clair, Jr; Louisa Robb and 2 others

Occupation: General, soldier, governor, business man
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Maj. Gen. Arthur Thomas St. Clair

A Patriot of the American Revolution for PENNSYLVANIA with the rank of MAJOR GENERAL. DAR Ancestor # A104265

General Arthur St. Clair (23 March 1734/1736 - 31 August 1818), born in Scotland, believed himself more an American than a British subject by the mid 1770s and became not only a commissioned officer in the 3rd Pennsylvania Regiment (present at the famous 'crossing of the Delaware'), but was eventually voted to the Continental Congress and became its 15th President. As the United States expanded westward, St. Clair served as Governor of part of the Northwest Territory and of the Ohio Territory.

His parents, unknown to early biographers, were probably William Sinclair, a merchant, and Elizabeth Balfour.[1]

Conflict: Parents: Daniel Sinclair (1684 - unknown) and Elizabeth HAMILTON.

Marriage: Phoebe BAYARD (1743 - 1818) in May 1760 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Boston MA.

Children: Arthur St. Clair.


Arthur St. Clair was born in Thurso, Caithness, Scotland on March 23 of either 1734 or 1736. He attended the University of Edinburgh and studied medicine under the renowned anatomist William Hunter. In 1757, St. Clair purchased a commission in the British Army and came to America with Admiral Edward Boscawen's fleet to fight in the French and Indian War. He served under General Jeffrey Amherst at the capture of Louisburg, Nova Scotia on July 26, 1758. On April 17, 1759, he received a lieutenant's commission and was assigned to the command of General James Wolfe, under whom he served at the Battle of the Plains.

In May, 1760, St. Clair married Phoebe Bayard at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Boston, Massachusetts.

On April 16, 1762, St. Clair resigned his commission and moved to Bedford, Pennsylvania to survey land for the Penn's. In 1764, St. Clair and his wife decided to settle permanently in Ligonier Valley, Pennsylvania. Using his wife's wealth, he purchased land and erected mills, becoming the largest landowner in western Pennsylvania and a prominent British subject.

In 1770, St. Clair became a justice of the court, of quarter sessions and of common pleas, a member of the proprietary Council, a justice, recorder, and clerk of the orphans' court, and Prothonotary of Bedford and Westmorland Counties.

In 1774, the colony of Virginia took claim of the area around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and some of the residents of western Pennsylvania took up arms to reject them. St. Clair issued an order for the arrest of the officer leading the Virginia troops. The boundary troubles between Virginia and Pennsylvania were finally settled during the Revolutionary War.

By the mid 1770s, St. Clair considered himself more of an American patriot than a British subject. In January 1776, he took a commission in the Continental Army, as colonel of Pennsylvania militia (3rd Pennsylvania Regiment). Colonel St. Clair then marched six companies of the regiment from Pennsylvania to Canada, a distance of several hundred miles, and joined the American army in Quebec on April 11, 1776. Using his familiarity with British military strategy and the Canadian wilderness, he helped General Thompson retreat from an area where the Americans had suffered a disastrous defeat, and thus helped save the Northern army from capture. In recognition of this service, St. Clair was promoted to Brigadier-General on August 9, 1776 and ordered to join George Washington to organize the New Jersey militia.

St. Clair took part in George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas night 1776, before the Battle of Trenton. Many biographers credit St. Clair with the strategy which led to Washington's capture of Princeton, New Jersey in the following days. George Washington remained steadfastly loyal to Arthur St. Clair, recognizing the Pennsylvania general's deeds and council during the campaigns against Trenton and Princeton. It was a beginning of a friendship that would positively serve the United States, beyond anyone's expectations, for the next 24 years. For his service in 1776 and 1777, St. Clair was promoted to Major-General.

St. Clair was sent in 1777 by President John Hancock to defend Fort Ticonderoga, an upstate New York fort which was built to control the strategic route between the St. Lawrence River in Canada and the Hudson River to the south. Major-General St. Clair arrived in early June and set about preparations for defense of the fort. Although Congress desparately wanted to retain Fort Ticonderoga, St. Clair was only spared some 2,500 men and scarce provisions to hold it, and a minimum garrison of 10,000 men was required to check the British advance of General Burgoyne, whose army consisted of 8,000 British regulars and 2,500 auxiliary troops. St. Clair was forced to retreat at the Battle of Ticonderoga on July 5, 1777, and for that he was later court-martialed. The court-martial was held in 1778, and Major-General St. Clair was acquitted, "with the highest honor, of the charges against him", which verdict was approved by Congress.

George Washington led a fight against the British army at Yorktown, Virginia. When Congress realized that the British were not going to attack Philadelphia, orders were hastily given to St. Clair to move his forces south to Yorktown. St. Clair joined Washington at Yorktown only four days before Lord Cornwallis surrendered on October 19, 1781.

St. Clair was elected a delegate from Pennsylvania to the Continental Congress from November 2, 1785 until November 28, 1787. He was President of the United States in Congress Assembled from February 2, 1787 until October 29, 1787, and was the only President of the United States to have been born and raised in a foreign country.

Under the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which created the Northwest Territory, General St. Clair was appointed governor of what is now Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan, along with parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota. He named Cincinnati, Ohio after the Society of the Cincinnati, and it was there that he established his home. When the territory was divided in 1800, he served as governor of the Ohio Territory.

On September 17, 1791, Major-General St. Clair headed north from Cincinnati to establish a fort in Indiana. Instead, St. Clair was soundly defeated by the Indians in what has been called the bloodiest battle of pioneer American history. The battle site, which became Fort Recovery, Ohio, was about 50 miles southeast of the Indians' Kekionga village, where Fort Wayne was built. Nearly 700 of St. Clair's people were killed, compared with approximately 40 Indians who lost their lives. Of St. Clair's dead, more than 600 were soldiers, and at least 56 were women who had accompanied their husbands on the trip. Dozens of other women and children were taken prisoner. The debacle at the hands of the Miami Chief Little Turtle became known as "St. Clair's Defeat", the "Columbia Massacre", or the "Battle of the Wabash". After this debacle, he resigned from the Army at the request of President Washington, but continued to serve as Governor of the Northwest Territory.

A Federalist, St. Clair hoped to see two states made of the Ohio Territory in order to increase Federalist power in congress. However, he was resented by Ohio Democratic-Republicans for what were perceived as his partisanship, high-handedness and arrogance in office. In 1802, his opposition to plans for Ohio statehood led President Thomas Jefferson to remove him from office as territorial governor. He thus played no part in the organizing of the State of Ohio in 1803. The first Ohio Constitution provided for a weak governor and a strong legislature, in part due to a reaction to St. Clair's method of governance.

St. Clair returned to his home in Ligonier, Pennsylvania and engaged in the iron business. He died in Greensburg, Pennsylvania on August 31, 1818. His vast wealth had been dissipated by generous gifts and loans, and by business reverses, and he died in poverty.

Arthur St. Clair was an American soldier and politician. Born in Scotland, he served in the British Army during the French and Indian War before settling in Pennsylvania, where he held local office. During the American Revolutionary War, he rose to the rank of major general in the Continental Army, but lost his command after a controversial retreat.

After the war, he was elected to the Confederation Congress, where he served a term as president and was appointed governor of the Northwest Territory. Disputes with Native Americans over land treaties resulted in the Northwest Indian War. In 1791, General St. Clair led an expedition against the natives that resulted in the worst defeat the United States Army would ever suffer at the hands of Native Americans. Although an investigation exonerated him, St. Clair resigned his army commission. He continued to serve as territorial governor until 1802, when he retired to Pennsylvania. Although once very wealthy, he died in poverty.



  1. , which reprints a chapter from PRESIDENT WHO?: FORGOTTEN FATHERS, by Stanley L. Klos (Evisum, Inc., 2004; ISBN 0975262750). This reference is an excellent source of information.
  8. The "Old Northwest" Genealogical Quarterly, Volume 9. Page 43. < GoogleBooks >
  9. see also -
  10. Graduate of Edinburgh University
  11. Arthur St. Clair portrait print < link to >
  12. Ninth President of the United States in Congress Assembled. February 2, 1787 to January 21, 1787. < link > St. Clair's life, more than any other U.S. President, was comprised of sterling and stark contrasts. Enjoying a great family inheritance in his youth only to end his life in desolate poverty; crossing the Delaware with Washington to capture Trenton and Princeton while later losing Fort Ticonderoga under his own command; presiding as President of the United States, in Congress Assembled that produced the U.S. Constitution and Northwest Ordinance only to be removed by President Jefferson as Governor of the Northwest Territory for opposing Ohio Statehood. Arthur St. Clair also has the unique distinction of being the only foreign born President of the United States. …. Arthur St. Clair was born in Thurso, Scotland on March 23, 1736 and died in Greensburg, Pennsylvania on August 31, 1818. There is much debate over President St. Clair's Lineage, his last name at birth and even his year of birth. William Henry Smith in his two work, The St. Clair Papers, notes his birth year as 1734 under the name St. Clair. The Clan Sinclair in U.S.A,. for instance maintains that St. Clair's actual name in Scotland was Sinclair and he was born March 23, 1736 -- (clarified by clicking here). …
  13. Source: MyHeritage photos & docs [online database], MyHeritage Ltd. Record: Citation: Arthur St. Clair in General Index of Westmoreland, Pennsylvania Register's Office, Orphan's Court records. Source:>Pennsylvania Probate records>Westmoreland>Surnames starting "S",given name starting"A".

Note: Arthur St. Clair in General Index of Westmoreland, Pennsylvania Register's ofice, Orphan's Court Records. Surnames Starting with "...

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Maj. Gen. Arthur Thomas St. Clair's Timeline

March 23, 1734
Thurso, Caithness, Scotland, United Kingdom
March 24, 1736
Age 2
Boston, MA, United States
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, USA
Bedford, Pennsylvania, USA
Ligonier, Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, United States
December 24, 1773
Ligonier, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania
Ligonier, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, USA
Thurso, Highland, UK