Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

Annals of Tryon County;
or, the
Border Warfare of New York,
During the Revolution.
By William W. Campbell
New York; Printed and Published by J. & J. Harper 1831

Biographical Sketch of Governor George Clinton.

Note F.

George Clinton, formerly Governor of the State of New York , and Vice-president of the United States, was born on the 26th July, 1739, in the county of Ulster, in the colony of New York. He was the youngest son of Colonel Charles Clinton, an emigrant from Ireland, and a gentleman of distinguished worth and high consideration.

He was educated, principally, under the eye of his father, and received the instruction of a learned minister of the Presbyterian church, who had graduated in the university of Aberdeen: and, after reading law in the office of William Smith, afterward chief justice of Canada, he settled himself in the profession in the county of his nativity, where he rose to eminence.

In 1768, he took his seat as one of the members of the colonial assembly, for the county of Ulster, and he continued an active member of that body until it was merged in the Revolution. His energy of character, discriminating intellect, and undaunted courage, placed him among the chiefs of the Whig party: and he was always considered possessed of a superior mind and master spirit, on which his country might rely, as an asylum in the most gloomy periods of her fortunes.

On the 22d of April, 1775, he was chose by the provincial convention of New York one of the delegates to the continental congress, and took his seat in that illustrious body on the 15th of May. On the 4th of July, 1776, he was present at the glorious declaration of independence, and assented with his usual energy and decision to that measure; but having been appointed a brigadier general in the militia, and also in the army, the exigencies of his country, at that trying hour, rendered it necessary for him to take the field in person, and he therefore retired from congress immediately after his vote was given, and before the instrument was transcribed for the signature of the members; for which reason his name does not appear among the signers.

A constitution having been adopted for the state of New York, on the 20th April 1777, he was chosen at the first election under it, both governor and lieutenant governor, and he was continued in the former office for eighteen years, by triennial elections; when, owing to ill health and a respect for the republican principle of rotation in office, he declined a reelection.

During the revolutionary war, he cordially cooperated with the immortal Washington, and without his aid, the army would have been disbanded, and the northern separated from the southern states, by the intervention of British troops. He was always at his post in the times that tried men's souls: at one period repelling the advances of the enemy from Canada, and at another, meeting them in battle when approaching from the south. His gallant defense of Fort Montgomery, with a handful of men, against a powerful force commanded by Sir Henry Clinton, was equally honorable to his intrepidity and his skill.

The following are the particulars of his gallant conduct at the storming of Forts Montgomery and Clinton, in October, 1777:

"When the British reinforcements, under general Robertson, amounting to nearly two thousand men, arrived from Europe, Sir Henry Clinton used the greatest exertion, and availed himself of every favorable circumstance to put these troops into immediate operation. Many were sent to suitable vessels, and united in the expedition, which consisted of about four thousand men, against the forts in the highlands. Having made the necessary arrangements, he moved up the North River, and landed on the 4th of October at Tarrytown, purposely to impress General Putnam, under whose command a thousand continental troops had been left, with a belief, that his post at Peekskill was the object of attack. At eight o'clock at night, the general communicated the intelligence to Governor Clinton, of the arrival of the British, and at the same time expressed his opinion respecting their destination. The designs of Sir Henry were immediately perceived by the governor, who prorogued the assembly on the following day, and arrived that night at Fort Montgomery. The British troops, in the mean time, were secretly conveyed across the river, and assaults upon our forts were meditated to be made on the 6th, which were accordingly put in execution, by attacking the American advanced party at Doodletown, about two miles and a half from Fort Montgomery. The Americans received the fire of the British, and retreated to fort Clinton. The enemy then advanced to the west side of the mountain, in order to attack our troops in the rear. Governor Clinton immediately ordered out a detachment of one hundred men toward Doodletown, and another of sixty, with a brass field piece, to a eligible spot on another road. They were both soon attacked by the whole force of the enemy, and compelled to fall back. It has been remarked, that the talents, as well as the temper of a commander, are put to as severe a test in conducting a retreat, as in achieving a victory. The truth of this Governor Clinton experienced, when, with a great bravery, and the most perfect order, he retired till he reached the fort. He lost no time in placing his men in the best manner that circumstances would permit. His post, however, as well as Fort Clinton, in a few minutes, were invaded on every side. In the midst of this disheartening and appalling disaster, he was summoned, when the sun was only an hour high, to surrender; but his gallant spirit sternly refused to obey the call. In a short time after, the British made a general and most desperate attack on both posts, which was received by the Americans with undismayed courage and resistance. Officers and men, militia and continentals, all behaved alike brave. An incessant fire was kept up till dusk, when our troops were overpowered by numbers, who forced the lines and redoubts at both posts. Many of the Americans fought their way out, others accidentally mixed with the enemy, and thus made their escape effectually; for, besides being favored by the night, they knew the various avenues in the mountains. The Governor, as well as his brother, General James Clinton, who was wounded, were not taken."

The administration of Governor Clinton was characterized by wisdom and patriotism. He was a republican in principle and practice. After a retirement of five years, he was called by the citizens of the city and county of New York to represent them in the assembly of the state; and to his influence and popularity may be ascribed, in a great degree, the change in his native state, which finally produced the important political revolution of 1801.

At that period, much against his inclination, but from motives of patriotism, he consented to an election as governor, and in 1805, he was chosen Vice President of the United States, in which office he continued until his death, presiding with great dignity in the senate, and evincing by his votes and his opinions, his decided hostility to constructive authority, and to innovations on the established principles of republican government.

He died at Washington, when attending to his duties as Vice-president, and was interred in that city, where a monument was erected by the filial piety of his children, with this inscription, written by his nephew.

"To the memory of George Clinton. He was born in the State of New York on the 26th of July, 1739, and died in the city of Washington, on the 10th April, 1812, in the seventy-third year of his age. He was a soldier and statesman of the Revolution. Eminent in council, distinguished in war, he filled with unexampled usefulness, purity, and ability, among many other offices, those of governor of his native state, and of vice-president of the United States. While he lived, his virtue, wisdom, and valor, were the pride, the ornament, and security of his country; and when he died, he left an illustrious example of a well-spent life, worthy of all imitation.

There are few men who will occupy as renowned a place in the history of his country as George Clinton; and the progress of time will increase the public veneration, and thicken the laurels that cover his monument." (American Biographical Dictionary.) Photo of George Clinton.

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