McIntosh, Lachlan

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McIntosh, Lachlan

McINTOSH, LACHLAN. (1725 or 1727–1806). Continental general. Scotland and Georgia. Born at Inverness, Scotland, Lachlan McIntosh came to Georgia with his parents in 1736, shortly after James Oglethorpe established that colony, and settled at the place later named Darien. Little is known of his life prior to 1775. One historian, Benson Lossing, suggests that his father was taken as a prisoner to St. Augustine when Lachlan was 13 years old. In 1748 Lachlan went to Charleston, South Carolina where he is said to have become a friend of Henry Laurens, a future signer of the Declaration of Independence. It is believed that McIntosh lived in Laurens's home, and and that he became a clerk in Laurens's counting house. Lossing further suggests that, when he returned home from Charleston, he became a surveyor and "was considered the handsomest man in Georgia."

In July 1775 McIntosh appeared in Savannah as a member of the Georgia Provincial Congress. On 7 January 1776 McIntosh became a colonel in a Georgia battalion that later was augmented and incorporated into the Continental army. On 16 September 1776 he was promoted to brigadier general. A pragmatist, McIntosh tried to defend Georgia from its many enemies with his few and ill-supplied troops. In March 1776 he organized the defense of Savannah from British naval vessels, with little support from citizens or civil authority. In August 1776 he raided northern East Florida, breaking up the Loyalist settlements north of St. Johns River, but had to pull back across the Altamaha River in October. Fort McIntosh, the southernmost rebel fort and named for him, surrendered to the British and was burned by them in February 1777. McIntosh's recommendation to Washington that a large force should defend Georgia went unheeded.

McIntosh also requested clarification regarding whether civil or Continental authority held control of the military. While the question went unanswered in the abstract, it was dramatically played out in Georgia. Beginning in late 1776 and lasting throughout the war, the radical faction, which supported state control over the military, campaigned vigorously to discredit General McIntosh, in part by declaring that he and various family members were Tories. In late 1776 they accused his brother William of conniving with the enemy and forced him to resign his commission. Button Gwinnett, leader of the radical faction, became president of Georgia in March 1777, and arrested another McIntosh brother, George, on suspicion of treason. Neither McIntosh nor Gwinnett would relinquish authority during the subsequent military expedition to invade East Florida, which failed as a result. They fought a duel, and Gwinnett died of his wounds. The radical faction circulated a petition to have McIntosh removed from the state. Prior to any formal action by the assembly, McIntosh was ordered to report to General George Washington for reassignment.

In December 1777 McIntosh joined the army under Washington at Valley Forge and was placed in charge of the North Carolina Brigade. He then inspected military hospitals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and in May 1778 was placed in command of the Western Department with headquarters at Fort Pitt (now Pittsburg). He established Fort McIntosh and Fort Laurens (both in Ohio), despite encountering factionalism and lack of cooperation. Back in Georgia by July 1779, McIntosh assumed command of both the Continental and militia forces in the state, and radicals launched a renewed effort to discredit him. His wife and children were trapped in Savannah as siege preparations began in September 1779 and his request that all women and children be allowed to leave the town was denied, first by the British and then by the French and rebels.

McIntosh led Benjamin Lincoln's march from Charleston to make contact with Admiral Charles Hector Theodat Estaing, urging the latter to attack promptly (which he did not do), and commanding the First and Fifth South Carolina Regiments, along with some Georgia militia, in the second echelon of the attack. During November 1779, George Walton requested tht the Continental Congress remove McIntosh from command. In February 1780 Congress didso, and McIntoshwas informed whilehewas serving in the defense of Charleston. He became a prisoner of war on 12 May 1780, when Lincoln surrendered Charleston. Hewas released during the summer of 1781 and went to Philadelphia, where the Continental Congress cleared him of all charges in July.

McIntosh returned to Georgia in 1783, "incredibly poor," as he put it. In February 1783 the Georgia assembly declared Walton's 1779 accusations against him to be unjust. This did not inhibit Walton's appointment as Chief Justice of the state, however. McIntosh's son, Captain William McIntosh, publicly horsewhipped Walton after his first session in court. McIntosh was brevetted as a major general in 1784. He never recovered financially from the war and took little part in public life.

SEE ALSO Fort Laurens, Ohio; Fort McIntosh, Georgia; Gwinnett, Button; Lincoln, Benjamin; McIntosh, John.


Carp, E. Wayne. To Starve the Army at Pleasure: Continental Army Administration and American Political Culture, 1775–1783. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1984.

Jackson, Harvey H. Lachlan McIntosh and the Politics of Revolutionary Georgia. Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 1979.

Lossing, Benson J. The Pictorial Field Book of the Revolution. 2 vols. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1860.

Searcy, Martha Condray. The Georgia-Florida Contest in the American Revolution, 1776–1778. Tuscaloosa, Ala.: University of Alabama Press, 1985.

                              revised by Leslie Hall

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