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
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
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.
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
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.
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