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First Name: James

Last Name: Clinton

Birthplace: Orange County, NY, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Continental Army (1775 - 1784)

Date of Birth: 09 August 1736

Date of Death: 22 September 1812

Rank: Major General

Years Served:
James Clinton

•  Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783)


James Clinton
Brevet Major General, Continental Army

James Clinton was born on 9 August 1736 in Ulster County in the colony of New York, in a location that is now part of Orange County, NY. He was the grandson of James Clinton, a soldier in Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army and the son of Charles Clinton, an Anglo-Irish colonist and a Colonel in the French and Indian War. He was the brother of George Clinton, who was Governor of New York from 1777-95 and U.S. Vice President from 1805-12

James Clinton's military experience began in the French and Indian War, starting with an Ensign's commission in 1757 and achieving the rank of Captain in 1759. In 1758, commanding a company, he participated, along with his father (Colonel) and his brother, George (Lieutenant), in General John Bradstreet's capture of Fort Frontenac (now Kingston, Ontario). He and his brother played a key role in capturing a French vessel.

James remained in the Army, stationed at various frontier posts until the end of the war in 1763. He then retired and married Mary De Witt.

American Revolutionary War

During the American Revolution, Clinton was commissioned as a Colonel of the 3rd New York Regiment, which took part in Brigadier General Richard Montgomery's unsuccessful expedition to Quebec in 1775. In March 1776, Clinton took command of the 2nd New York Regiment and soon after, in August, was promoted to Brigadier general in the Continental Army.

He served most of the war in the Northern Department, along the New York frontier. During the Saratoga Campaign in 1777, he commanded Fort Clinton in the Hudson Highlands. He participated in a successful effort to prevent British General Sir Henry Clinton from rescuing General John Burgoyne at Saratoga, but he and his troops were unable to hold Forts Clinton and Montgomery.

In 1779 Clinton led an expedition down the Susquehanna River after making the upper portion navigable by damming up the river's source at Otsego Lake, allowing the lake's level to rise, and then destroying the dam and flooding the river for miles downstream. This event is described by James Fenimore Cooper in the introduction to his popular novel The Pioneers. At Tioga, NY, Clinton met up with General John Sullivan's forces, who had marched from Easton, PA. Together, on August 29 they defeated the Tories and Indians at the Battle of Newtown (near today's city of Elmira, NY). This became known as the "Sullivan-Clinton Campaign" or the "Sullivan Expedition."

In 1780, Clinton temporarily commanded the Northern Department. By October 1781, his brigade had joined George Washington's Army in the siege of Yorktown.

Post-War Years

After the war, as a civilian, he served on the commission defining the New York-Pennsylvania boundary and as a delegate to the New York state convention that approved the U.S. Constitution.


James Clinton's wife was Mary DeWitt, daughter of an old Dutch family, and his second son was DeWitt Clinton, later Governor of New York.

Death and Burial

Major General James Clinton died on 22 September 1812 in Little Britain, NY. His brother George died the same year. James is buried at the Woodlawn Cemetery Association in New Windsor, NY.

Honoree ID: 2350   Created by: MHOH




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