Lamb, John

views updated May 18 2018

Lamb, John

LAMB, JOHN. (1735–1800). Continental Artillery colonel. New York. Born in New York City, 1 January 1735, Lamb was the son of Anthony Lamb, an accomplice of the famous burglar Jack Sheppard, who had been banished to the colonies in 1724. John Lamb was a good writer and fluent speaker who became a popular leader during the Stamp Act Crisis in 1765, leading the Sons of Liberty and the Committee of Correspondence for the next decade. He led crowd actions against the Stamp Act and the New York Restraining Act of 1767. He was arrested in December 1769 for denouncing the New York Assembly after it had complied with the Quartering Act but was quickly freed. On learning of the events of Lexington and Concord, he and Isaac Sears seized the customs house and British munitions and prevented vessels from leaving New York Harbor.

On 30 July 1775 he was commissioned captain of the Independent Company of New York Artillery. At the head of these regulars he joined Richard Montgomery's column of the Canada Invasion. Active in the operations against St. Johns, Lamb aroused the displeasure of Montgomery, who found the artillery captain brave and intelligent but a troublemaker. Lamb accompanied Benedict Arnold's column in the attack on Quebec, 31 December 1775, a battle in which he was so seriously wounded that he lost an eye and in which he was captured. Paroled 2 August 1776, he was named adjutant general and commandant of Artillery in the Northern Department but was inactive because of his parole. After Congress promoted him to colonel on 1 January 1777, Lamb was exchanged and joined the Continental Army at Morristown. During the Danbury Raid, April 1777, he was wounded at Campo Hill (28 April) in a gallant but unsuccessful attempt with three guns to break up an enemy bayonet attack.

In the reorganization of the Continental Army in early 1778, Lamb joined in the general protestation over adjustment of seniority. In 1779 and 1780 he was artillery commander at West Point, and he commanded the post at the time of Arnold's treason.

Colonel Lamb led his Second Regiment south as part of Knox's Brigade for the Yorktown Campaign. He and his lieutenant colonel, Ebenezer Stevens, won particular praise from Henry Knox for their performance during the siege. Lamb was breveted brigadier general on 30 September 1783.

Elected to the New York Assembly in 1783, he quit the following year to become customs collector for the Port of New York. He became an active opponent of the proposed federal constitution, to the extent that his house was threatened by a Federalist mob. Lamb promptly fortified his home. After ratification Washington appointed him to the collectorship at New York. A few years later, a clerk embezzled a large amount of money. Lamb took full responsibility, selling his property to cover the loss. He resigned his post in 1797 and died in poverty, 31 May 1800. The Lamb Papers are held by the New York Historical Society.

SEE ALSO Arnold's March to Quebec; Canada Invasion; Danbury Raid, Connecticut; Knox, Henry; Montgomery, Richard; Quartering Acts; Sears, Isaac; Sons of Liberty; St. Johns, Canada (14-18 May 1775); Stamp Act; West Point, New York; Yorktown Campaign.


Leake, Isaac Q. Memoir of the Life and Times of General John Lamb. 1850. New York: Da Capo Press, 1971.

                               revised by Michael Bellesiles

Lamb, John (d. 1628)

views updated May 18 2018

Lamb, John (d. 1628)

Lamb was a noted astrologer and reputed sorcerer in the time of Charles I. In Certainty of the World of Spirits (1691), Richard Baxter recorded an apocryphal account in which Lamb met two acquaintances who wished to witness some examples of his skill. He invited them home with him, conducted them into an inner room, then, to their great surprise, they saw a tree spring up in the middle of Lamb's apartment. A moment later three diminutive men appeared with axes in their hands to cut down this tree. After the tree was felled, the doctor dismissed his guests.

That night a tremendous hurricane arose, causing the house of one of the guests to rock from side to side, with every appearance that the building would come down and bury him and his wife in the ruins. The wife in great terror asked, "Were you not at Dr. Lamb's to-day?" The husband confessed the truth. "And did you not bring something away from his house?" The husband admitted that, when the little men felled the tree, he had picked up some of the chips and put them in his pocket. As soon as he obtained the chips, and got rid of them, the whirlwind immediately ceased, and the remainder of the night passed quietly.

Originally a physician, Lamb became known for practicing "other mysteries, as telling fortunes, helping of divers to lost goods, showing to young people the faces of their husbands or wives that should be in a crystal glass." It is possible that popular resentment against Lamb was due less to the success of his magical practices than his position as a favorite of the duke of Buckingham. It was generally believed that Lamb used magic charms to corrupt women to serve the pleasure of the duke.

Lamb eventually was so hated for his infernal practices that a mob tore him to pieces in the street. Then, 13 years later, a woman who had worked as a maid in Lamb's house was charged with witchcraft, tried, and executed at Tyburn.

A broadside ballad by Martin Parker titled "The Tragedy of Doctor Lambe, the great supposed conjurer, who was wounded to death by saylers and other lads, on Friday the 14 of June, 1628. And dyed in the Poultry Counter, neere cheap-side, on the Saturday morning following" was sold and sung in the streets. The ballad contains two mistakes, as Lamb was mobbed on June 13 and died the following day.

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