IRVINE, JAMES. (1735–1819). Continental officer. Born in Philadelphia on 4 August 1735, Irvine was a hatter who joined the militia in 1760, rising quickly to the rank of captain in 1763. During Pontiac's Rebellion, he took part in Colonel Henry Bouquet's expedition of 1764. Elected a delegate to the Pennsylvania Provincial Congress in 1775, Irvine resigned to accept a commission as lieutenant colonel in the Continental army. After service in Virginia, he joined General Richard Montgomery's invasion of Canada in November 1775. Disappointed with his failure to gain promotion to general he resigned from the army in June 1777 to become brigadier general of the Pennsylvania militia, commanding it at the Battle of Germantown in October. It was Irvine and General William Alexander who advised Washington, contrary to the wishes of the other senior officers, that the army should spend the winter together in a single location at Valley Forge.
When General William Howe led his army out of Philadelphia on 5 December 1777 in an effort to lure Washington into battle, Irvine and six hundred Pennsylvania militia were ordered to determine the enemy's strength. At Chestnut Hill they discovered most of the British army advancing; the militia then fled, leaving Irvine, who had been wounded, a prisoner of the British. He was not exchanged until 1781, receiving the rank of major general of militia and a small pension from Pennsylvania the following year. He was also elected to the state's Executive Council in 1782, becoming its vice president in 1784. After serving a single term in the assembly, Irvine quit politics in 1786. He died in Philadelphia on 28 April 1819.