CLINTON, JAMES. (1736–1812). Continental general. New York. Born on 9 August 1736 in Little Britain, New York, James Clinton served as a militia captain in the expedition under John Bradstreet that took Fort Frontenac on 27 August 1758. He remained in the provincial army on frontier duty until 1763. At the beginning of the Revolution, Clinton was a lieutenant colonel with the Ulster County militia regiment. A delegate to the New York provincial congress of May 1775, he was named a colonel of the Third New York Continental Regiment on 30 June, and accompanied General Richard Montgomery's column of the Canada invasion to Quebec, taking part in the Battle of Quebec. On 8 March 1776 he was named colonel in the Second New York Regiment, and on 9 August Congress made him a brigadier general. In this capacity he joined his brother, George Clinton, in supervising the construction of defenses along the Hudson River.
Serving under his brother in the Highlands, James escaped from Fort Montgomery with a bayonet wound when it and Fort Clinton were captured by Sir Henry Clinton's expedition in October 1777. James Clinton was placed in command of the northern department, with headquarters in Albany, on 20 November 1778, holding that post until 25 June 1781. Upon taking command he launched a series of attacks against the Loyalists in Tryon County, and then led one of the two forces that constituted General John Sullivan's expedition against the Iroquois from May to November 1779. After burning more than forty Indian towns and winning its only battle against the Indians, at Newton, this expedition pushed westward to the Genessee River but ultimately returned without having dealt the decisive defeat to the Indians that General George Washington had desired. In 1781 Clinton and his brigade participated in the Yorktown campaign. He was brevetted major general on 30 September 1783.
A member of New York's ratifying convention, Clinton opposed the federal Constitution because it lacked a bill of rights. His son, De Witt Clinton, (1769–1828), would later be governor of New York and the Federalist Party candidate for President in 1812. James Clinton spent most of his last years overseeing his farm, and died in Little Britain on 22 December 1812.
Roberts, Robert B. New York's Forts in the Revolution. Rutherford, N.J.: Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 1980.
revised by Michael Bellesiles