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Mini Biographies of Scots and Scots Descendants (A)
John Armstrong

Colonel John Armstrong was one of the most important people in the early history of the Ohio valley in the United States. His parents, Thomas Armstrong & Jane Hamilton, came from Ireland; Thomas was the 2nd generation to be born in Ireland after the family was banished from Scotland.

Born in New Jersey on April 20, 1755, John Armstrong grew up in Pennsylvania. He joined the Continental Army in 1776, serving under George Washington.

While in the Revolutionary War, Armstrong survived several historic battles, including Stoney Point, Monmouth and the Battle of Yorktown. He also made the famous Christmas Day crossing of the Delaware River, which probably changed the course of the war.

Although the highest rank he achieved in the Continental Army was captain--he later earned colonel in the Ohio militia--Armstrong earned his stripes.  The army was very tiny. There wasn’t much room for upper-level officers. Despite his low rank, Armstrong rubbed elbows with the likes of “Mad” Anthony Wayne, the Marquise de Lafayette and George Rogers Clark.

   Following disbandment of the Continental Army in 1784, Armstrong joined the First U.S. Regiment, where he secretly explored land west of the Mississippi. His travels took him no further than the St. Louis area, but the mission laid the foundation for future discoveries In many ways, his excursion across the Mississippi was the precursor of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

   Armstrong later commanded Fort Pitt in Pennsylvania and Fort Finney, a Jeffersonville stronghold located near the current site of the Kennedy Bridge. In 1791, he survived in St. Clair’s defeat, the largest Indian massacre in the United States.

Armstrong obelisk  After living much of his later life in Ohio, Armstrong returned to Clark County in 1814 to the farm he had established 18 years before. On Feb. 4, 1816, he died on the property where a 10-foot obelisk still marks his grave.

   Armstrong’s politics and military duties helped keep him from becoming a household name. Because he agreed with Alexander Hamilton’s philosophies instead of the more popular views of Thomas Jefferson, his accomplishments weren’t as celebrated. Armstrong was also charged with removing squatters from their land, which diminished his popularity on the frontier.

Thanks to Susan Anderson for this information.

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