On a recent trip to Valley Forge National Historical Park I came across the monument to featured below, of a general that did not initially ring a bell in my memory. So I did a little investigating. The first name was intriguing. His story even more so. Especially how he came to spend the winter at Valley Forge.
Born near Raits, Badenoch, Scotland on March 17, 1725 and at the age 11, Lachlan, along with his family and approximately 100 other Scottish immigrants, landed in Georgia where they founded the town of New Iverness. Out of all the cruelties that could visit a family eking out a future on the frontier, the calamity that claimed Lacklan’s younger brother would have been far down the list. While swimming in the Altamaha River in 1737, Lewis McIntosh was killed by an American alligator.
The example of the dangers of military life creeped into Lachlan’s life as well, when during a conflict associated with the War of Jenkins’ Ear, his father was captured by the Spanish near St. Augustine, Florida and would be held prisoner for the next two years. Upon release and in failing health because of his ordeal, the last act associated with Lachlan’s father, John, was to signal his support to the Colony’s British Board of Trustees in their rejection of importing more African-American slaves to answer the call for a larger labor force.
With the death of his father, Lachlan was sent to an orphanage in Savannah, Georgia under the tutelage of the renowned evangelist George Whitefield. The connection to the military in the colony was further cemented when Lachlan’s older brother, William, served against the Spanish and attained the rank of colonel. In what seemed like a lifetime to a young and ambitious Lachlan, but in reality was only two years, he was off to Fort Frederica, on the Georgia coast, as an incoming military cadet.
On the southeast Georgia coast, Lachlan’s connection with American almost ended, when along with his brother William, the McIntosh boys were going to venture back to their native Scotland. The Jacobite Rebellion had broken out and both wanted to serve the cause. A fortuitous intervention by General James Oglethorpe, who had become somewhat of a mentor and voice of reason for the younger McIntosh kept them in Georgia.
Yet, the cause of rebellion against the British seemed to course through his veins. By 1770, Lachlan was considered one of the leaders of the pro-independence movement in the Southern colony. He was an organizer for the Provincial Congress and was elected colonel in the Georgia Militia. He was the emphasis behind raising the 1st Georgia Regiment, lent a hand to shaping the defenses of Savannah, and saw action at the Battle of the Rice Boats on the Savannah River, fought over two days; March 2 and 3, 1776. Later that year, he instructed his older brother William to construct a fort on the Satilla River which was named for the family, Fort McIntosh.
With rising tensions, stress of the rebellion, and tempers simmering below the surface, personal affronts could turn deadly quickly. That is what happened between McIntosh and another Georgia patriot, Button Gwinnett. Sparking initially when McIntosh replaced Gwinnett as commander of Georgia’s Continental Battalion in 1776. Since the ending of his budding military career, Gwinnett had become a delegate to the Continental Congress and had affixed his signature to the Declaration of Independence.
Upon arrival back in Georgia, Gwinnett rode the momentum to electing him speaker in the Georgia legislature and then president and commander-in-chief of the Committee of Safety where he began using his position to make life miserable for his political rivals by removing them from their posts. This included those within the military as well; including George McIntosh, a brother of Lachlan.
George was arrested and charged with treason after he led an unsuccessful attempt into British-held Florida. Barbs flew between the two parties which led Lachlan to defend his brother, rising up in the Georgia assembly charging Gwinnett with being a “scoundrel and lying rascal.” Obviously, this did not sit well with Gwinnett who wrote a reply demanding a public apology. Or satisfaction, which in 18th century terminology, meant a duel to reclaim the tarnished honor. Lachlan refused the public apology and Gwinnett countered with the next step; issuing a challenge to a duel.
The duel unfolded on the property of James Wright, a few miles outside the town limits of Savannah. Wright had served as the last royal governor of Georgia and was now a colonial lawyer. The weapons of choice were pistols. After marking off the required ten paces, both gentleman turned and fired simultaneously. Gwinnet was struck in the thigh and a musket ball lodged in Lachlan’s leg as well.
Gwinnett’s wound proved fatal and he would succumb to the wound three days later. Although Lachlan McIntosh would be acquitted of the murder charge leveled against him by Gwinnett’s allies, George Washington intervened before vengeance could be extracted on the Scottish-born military man. Washington cut orders requiring McIntosh to report to Continental Army headquarters by October 10, 1777. Lachlan headed north and would spend the winter at Valley Forge in command of North Carolina infantry.
He would stay north and actually west in the service of the Continental Army, controlling the Western Department headquartered out of Fort Pitt, Pennsylvania. After establishing the formation of a few posts and forts to protect the district he was ordered south. He would command troops at the Siege of Savannah which proved unsuccessful for the Patriots. More misfortune awaited him when he was captured with the American garrison at Charleston, South Carolina on May 12, 1780 and would be imprisoned until exchanged for Charles O’Hara on February 9, 1782.
After the close of hostilities, McIntosh returned to a ruined plantation which was an omen for the last years of his life. Unable to revive his business fortunes, he turned back to politics where he won election to the Continental Congress in 1784 although he never attended a session. Instead, the following year he was appointed to treat with Native Americans on land treaties before turning to boundary disputes between Georgia and South Carolina. One of his last public acts was to be part of the official welcoming committee that greeted George Washington in 1791 when the president visited the state.
On February 20, 1806, Lachlan McIntosh died and was buried at Colonial Park in Savannah. Interestingly, two great-grand nephews, James M. McIntosh and John B. McIntosh became generals during the American Civil War, albeit on opposing sides. He was also cousins with Chief William McIntosh of Creek Native American renown.