Lachlan McIntosh, Scottish-American revolutionary, died on the 20th of February, 1806.
There were many Scotsmen who played a significant part in the American War of Independence. In fact, thirty-three of George Washington’s senior Generals were of Scots descent or, at very least, of Scottish blood. One of those was Brigadier-General Lachlan McIntosh, from Badenoch. Unlike Hugh Mercer, McIntosh left Scotland when he was still a boy and was firmly ensconced in Georgia by the time of the Jacobite Rising. However, the eleven years Lachlan spent in his native land provided sufficient influence. At the age of twenty and whilst serving as a military cadet, McIntosh, together with his brother William, had planned to travel to Scotland to join the Young Pretender. However, they were persuaded otherwise by the Governor, General James Oglethorpe, who had become a mentor to our Young Protagonist. Oglethorpe convinced them to remain in Georgia, but it was only a matter of time before they joined the Colonial Rebellion.
It was fairly natural for a Highlander to have joined the Jacobite Rebellion, but by no means a given. On the other hand, the nature of the conflict involving the American Colonies meant that, for an aspirational, immigrant colonist like Lachlan McIntosh, who was involved in native poltics as well as being a trained soldier, there was no decision to be made. In fact, Lachlan McIntosh was perhaps the most famous Georgian of the Revolution. However, he was born innocent of any revolutionary thoughts near Raits in Badenoch on the 17th of March, 1725. His family flitted to the North American continent in 1736, where he resumed his somewhat interrupted education in Georgia. Lachlan progressed well, through his own determined efforts, and got his first job in Charleston, South Carolina, in the counting-house of Henry Laurens, another mentor, who nurtured the seeds of rebellion in Lachlan.
Some time after 1756, he returned to Georgia and studied surveying. He then acquired some land in the Altamaha River delta and became a prosperous rice planter. By 1770, McIntosh had become a leader in the independence movement in Georgia and, in the January of 1775, had helped organise the delegates from New Inverness (now Darien, in McIntosh County) to the Provincial Congress, for which he was selected. Then, on the 7th of January, 1776, Lachlan McIntosh got the opportunity to put his military studies to good use when he was commissioned as a Colonel in the Georgia Militia. Later that year, he was elected Brigadier-General.
A well documented incident in McIntosh’s life occurred in 1777, when he fought a duel with Button Gwinnett, one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence. Their bitter personal rivalry began when McIntosh succeeded Gwinnett as Commander of Georgia’s Continental Battalion and it wasn’t helped by Gwinnett’s having George McIntosh, another brother, charged with treason. The feud was nicely brought to the boil during the Second Florida Expedition, with the two men being recalled by the Council of Safety, because of their constant bickering. In point of fact, Gwinnett was singularly unqualified to lead any military campaign, but that ambitious worthy was blissfully unaware of any such concerns. Things came to a head at the General Assembly on the 1st of May, 1777, when Gwinnett tried to blame the expedition’s problems on McIntosh.
Using strong words at the time, McIntosh rose in response and called Gwinnett a “scoundrel” and a “liar”. Gwinnett didn’t have much option in face of such insult and on the 15th of May, he challenged McIntosh to a duel. The following day, the two men met in Governor James Wright’s meadow in Thunderbolt, southeast of Savannah. Gwinnett, supported by George Wells, and McIntosh, with his second, Colonel Joseph Habersham, squared off at twelve paces (about thirty feet). At that distance it would have been hard for either to miss as both men levelled their weapons and fired virtually simultaneously. McIntosh sustained a wound in his leg and Gwinnett received a ball to the hip. Unaware of the severity of Gwinnett’s wound, McIntosh asked if Gwinnett wanted to duel again. Gwinnett declined and they parted, ne’er to meet again. McIntosh recovered from his wound, but Gwinnett was in fact mortally wounded and died three days later.
To get him ‘out of the way’, General George Washington ordered McIntosh to report to his army headquarters on the 10th of October, just as Gwinnett’s political buddies were preparing to arrest him on a murder charge. McIntosh spent the winter of 1777-1778 with the Continental Army at Valley Forge, where he was given command of the North Carolina Brigade. Then in May, 1778, Washington appointed McIntosh Officer in Command of the western frontier against the Indians. In a letter to the President of Congress, dated the 12th of May, Washington wrote, “I part with this gentleman with much reluctance, as I esteem him an officer of great merit and worth. His firm disposition and equal justice, his assiduity and good understanding, point him out as a proper person to go, but I know his services here are and will be materially wanted.” McIntosh marched with a force of five hundred men to Fort Pitt (now Pittsburg), where he remained in command until May, 1779, when he was ordered south to help recapture Savannah.
General Lincoln was in command of the American forces, with the French Count D’Estaing and, in an early attack, McIntosh was sent in with his forces in advance of the main army. The Continentals were hopeful of a British surrender. However, under the ruse of demanding a truce, the British sneaked in some reinforcements and prepared their defences. There had no intention of surrendering. After a particularly heavy bombardment and under cover of fog, the Continentals attacked, but were unsuccessful. The Frenchman decided he’d had enough and went away, leaving Lincoln and McIntosh to pick up the pieces. They headed for Charleston, but Lincoln’s army was substantially reduced by expiry of the militia’s term of enlistment. Nevertheless, McIntosh persevered and was able to build up a sizable force as he and Lincoln determined to resist. In April of 1780, a forty day struggle ensued, which finally, due to the shortage of provisions and lack of reinforcements, led to surrender.
McIntosh was taken prisoner and held until February, 1782. Eventually, he returned to his plantation, only to find it ruined by the occupying British. In 1783, he was made a Major-General and in 1784, he became a member of the Society of Cincinnati and was elected to Congress, although he never attended. In 1875, he was appointed to help organise a treaty with the Indians to the west of Georgia. He died in Savannah on the 20th of February, 1806 and he was buried there, in the Colonial Cemetery.