Dr. William Irvine
Brigadier General, American Revolutionary Army
b. 3 November 1741 - d. 29 July 1804
m. Ann Callender in 1772
b. 8 February 1758 - d. 15 October 1823

DR. WILLIAM IRVINE, prefacing an abbreviated extract on the public career on the Dr.-General several articles and communications are well worth condensing. As a first is a rather astonishing versatility in his endeavors – from medicine in the British Navy to Revolutionary Service on Gen’l George Washington’s staff, with a heavy involvement in Colonial, State, and National organizational service – to commissions of exploration, awards to defense forces, arsenal commands, quelling the famous Whiskey Rebellion – political representation – court martial jury – and last but not least involved in the founding of the Society of the Cincinnati. A veritable Michelangelo career though not preserved in oil. Apace with this multiplex of activity is the finding among biographers that he seemingly collected brothers as he progressed.

We learn from several sources that he was born in co. Fermanagh – near Enniskillen – 3 Nov., 1741; that he died in Philadelphia, Pa. 29 July, 1804; that in 1772 he married Ann Callender (b. 8 Feb., 1758, d. 15 Oct, 1823) in Carlisle, Pa. A daughter of Capt. Robert. Callender, and that 11 children issued from this broadcast throughout the nation – many having participate, and a few given their lives in the War 1812, Indian uprisings, Mexican War, The Alamo, Civil War, Spanish American War, and World Wars I and II.

At the time of the marriage Robert Callender was a hunter and trapper and Indian fighter, was a survivor of Braddock’s Defeat. Later he was a Revolutionary soldier, promoted to Captain in action – and after hostilities ceased returned to hunting and trapping but finally to fur trading on a sizable scale. Of his wife Mary Scull nothing has come to light.

Gen’l William’s education was in Enniskillen Public Schools and by tutor followed by studying medicine by the preceptor system under the famous Dr. Cleghorn of Dublin – wherein the teacher would finally vouch for the adequacy of knowledge of the pupil. Following this was a trick in the British Navy of undiscovered length during the Seven Years War (the hostilities against France ranging from 1756-63) as Ship’s Surgeon on a Man-o-War. Such service could not have been to his liking for we find that by 1764 he was establishing a medical practice in Carlisle, Pa. It is naturally assumed the events leading to the American Revolution interfered with his professional life, and that his many involvement’s during and after the War were so numerous and varied that doubts exits this work was ever resumed.

Official accounts miss the time of the General’s removal to N.W. Pennsylvania but undoubtedly this occurred shortly after his exploratory commission in 1785 to the ‘western wilderness’ – wherein he evolved the concept that the State of Penn. should acquire a Northwest Triangle of territory and thus become a seaport State, the northern boundary being Lake Erie. Hence, perhaps only 4 of the 11 children were born in Carlisle.

A present day historian – Mrs. Albigence Waldo Jones, 129 Brighton Rd. N.E., Atlanta, Ga. (a great grand-daughter of Gen'l William’s 8th child Rebecca Armstrong de Rosenthal nee Irvine and Dr. Peter Simons Fayssoux of Charleston, S.C.) – a Vassar graduate and most meticulous recorder – has stated that no family tradition exists concerning the General’s parentage nor ancestry – that among his collection of letters there is no mention of Ireland – that his father was James, a prominent physician of Enniskillen. Contradicting this letter is a statement made by her great grandmother that the father’s name was John – but both attest to an Andrew and a Mathew.

A humorous comment occurs in one of the General’s letters. Derogatory to the native Irishman, he says, "The Irish faired poorly against us in the War" and " German is worth 2 Irishman and will prove a better bargain at that." Evidently the General did not consider himself as Irish – taking pride in his Scotch ancestry. In fact in his day the term "Scotch-Irish" hadn’t appeared, and the many apparently well-to-do Scotchman who had removed to North Ireland were skipping back and forth frequently enough to regard themselves still as Scotch. Records show, too, that many of these transplants and their early offspring – during their various revisits to Scotland used the "Irving" spelling while there and reverted to Irvine on returning back to their new homes.

** Confusion** The brother ‘James’ (b.1715; m. Anne Armstrong) is corroborated by Dr. Reed’s Dublin findings that John of Camgart had a 2nd son of the name, and by his 1st son William a grand son James – but no Andrew appears in the finding of either of these generations. An Uncle Andrew though is born out by a 1768 letter to the General from his brother Dr. Mathew – stating from Philadelphia that ‘Uncle Andrew Armstrong has spoken of the General’s health’. Also from Philadelphia in 1792 his brother James wrote of "your brothers and other relatives here." (Eagle, in an 1898 publication of "Some Pennsylvania Women during the Revolutionary War" states this James was born in 1727 and was one of a ‘very large family’. This would seem yet another James Irvine, extraneous to the immediate line for we have authentic record that Gen’l William’s father James was born in 1715 and his brother James in 1748 – otherwise the General would have been sired by a 14 year old. In that age too, 7 children would hardly have been alluded to as ‘a very large family’.)

Names of other brothers come from several sources :-

Jerrard or Gerard, b. 1743 – from Dublin Records – no findings.

Thomas, b. ? and un-recorded by Dublin – wrote the General he had departed Philadelphia in 1788 for New Orleans, but in 1794 wrote from Lexington, KY. That he "had just married Jan Todd, widow of Col. John Todd who was killed in 1782".

Andrew (see page 4), b. 1749, d.1789. Unmar. Gravestone marker in old cemetery, Carlisle, Pa. Bears this legend :-

" In memory of Captain Andrew Irvine who Served in the American Army from the commencement of the War until its end with the reputation of a brave and faithful officer".

Recorded in ‘Memories of Carlisle’s Old Graveyard" by Sarah Woods Parkinson, Carlisle, Pa., 1930 pg. 64 :-

"Capt. Andrew Irvine was born in the kingdom of Ireland in the year 1749. His will is Registered in Cumberland Co., Pa., bequeathing to 3 brothers – General William, Dr., Dr. Mathew, and James a Surveyor – and "Elizabeth wife of Robert Armstrong of co. Fermanagh and Ann wife of William Kerr of co. Tyrone in the kingdom of Ireland are my sisters."

James, b. 1748, co. Fermanagh, Ulster Province, Ireland. Though no records have been uncovered he came to America as a young man – took up surveying. In 1792-3 he was surveyor for Westmoreland Co., Pa, residing in Bush Hill. Married late in life to Sarah Davis. No issue. Died 1811. Both he and Sarah are buried in Silver Springs (btw Carl. & Harrisburg)

Issue of Gen’l Wm. Irvine and Ann Callender – identical from 2 sources – General. Dep’t of Hall of Historical Society of Penn., 1300 Locust St., Phila. 7, Pa. And

Gen’l William’s family Bible – owned in 1954 by a great grand-son of the 8th daughter Rebecca – Edward Fayssoux Leiper Jr., Providence Road and Bishop Hollow, media, Pa.

  1. Callender Irvine, b. Jan. 24, 1775, d. Oct. 9 1841.

  2. Ann Nancy Irvine, b. March 2, 1778. D. Unmarried

  3. Mary, b. Nov. 1, 1780, d. Nov 8, 1781.

  4. William Neill, b. Nov.1, 1782 d. Sept. 25, 1854.

  5. Elizabeth, b. Jan 3, 1786, d. circa 1790.

  6. Mary Bullen, b. March 26, 1788, d.

  7. Armstrong, b. April 12, 1792, d. Jan. 15, 1817. Unmarried

  8. Rebecca Armstrong de Rosenthal, b. Oct. 23, 1794, d.Oct.23,1879.
    Also spelled Rebekah. m. Dr. Peter Simons Fayssoux. 14 children, 27 grandchildren.

  9. Twins : James, b. Oct. 28, 1796, d. May 21, 1848.

  10. John, b. Oct. 28, 1796, d. October 1832

  11. Martha, b. March 9, 1799 – dying 15th May in the same year.

A condensation by Charles D. Davidson


  • " Washington-Irvine Correspondence", 1882.

  • " An Historical Account of the Expedition Against Sandusky under Col William Crawford in 1782’. Both by C. W. Butterfield, 1873.

  • " The Irvines and Their Kin " by L. Boyd. 1808. " Prot. New Jersey Historical Society, 2 Ser. VII, by G. W. Howell. 1883.

  • " Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography". 3rd edition by T. J. Rogers, Easton Pa. 1824.

  • " A New American Biography dictionary." 1824. (Slip up! Rogers wrote the Biog. Dict. But scattered material was extracted from Penn. Magazine and "Penn. Archives". Sorry.)

  • "Aurora", Philadelphia, Pa., 31 July, 1804.

  • "Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser", Phila., I Aug., 1804.

"William Irvine, Revolutionary soldier, was born near Enniskillen, Fermanagh County, Ulster Province, Ireland, on 3 Nov 1741, according to "Dictionary of American Biography" published by Scribner, New York, 1932."

"The Irvines were an ancient Scotch extraction, a branch of the family had migrated to Ireland and built Castle Irvine near Lough Erne, under a land grant from the Stuarts. He was educated at Enniskillen, and at Trinity College, Dublin. After a brief and unfortunate career at arms he studied medicine under the celebrated Cleghorn. He was appointed surgeon on a British battleship of was and served in the Seven Years War. After 1764 he practiced his profession in Carlisle, Pa. Here he married Ann Callender, daughter of Capt. Robert Callender. Like most Scotch Ulsterman, Irvine supported American Independence from the outset. He was a member of the provincial convention in Philadelphia of 15 May, 1774, which denounced the British tyranny in Boston and declared for American Rights. He raised and commanded the 6th (later the 7th) Pennsylvania Regiment, being appointed Colonel in 1777 to rank from 9 Jan 1776."

"Irvine’s command participated in the expedition against Canada, where he was captured in the encounter at Trois Rivieres. He was released on parole soon afterward, but was not exchanged until 6 May, 1778. Immediately thereupon he resumed arms and participated in the Battle of Monmouth, in which Mary McCauley (Molly Pitcher – who had been a servant in the Irvine household) made for herself a name in history. He was a member of the court martial which tried and declared the guilt of Gen’l Charles Lee, and suspended him from his command."

"On 12 May, 1779, Irvine was promoted to Brigadier-General in the Continental Army. His brigade was deployed in New Jersey and around Trenton, took part in the Lord Sterling Expedition against Staten Island and in the unsuccessful attack of Gen’l Anthony Wayne at Bull’s Ferry. In the fall of 1781, upon Washington’s recommendation, Irvine was entrusted with the defense of the north-western frontier. He was stationed at Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh), and retained this command until the end of the war. His troops were poorly trained and inadequately supplied, and his task was aggravated by mutinies from with and Indian raid from without. He received indispensable assistance during these years from his aid-de-camp, a gifted Russian who called himself John Livonia, a Baron of the Empire."

"When peace was declared, Irvine wrote General Washington, to whom he was both personally and professionally known and attached, complimenting him on his success. "With great sincerity" the Commander-in-Chief replied "I return you my congratulations."

"Pennsylvania rewarded Irvine with a generous land grant, and in 1785 he was appointed agent to direct the mode of distribution of promised donations lands to the troops. In exploring the territory he became convinced of the advisability of the purchase by Pennsylvania of a tract known as the "Triangle", which would give the State a considerable frontage of Lake Erie. Incorporated in his report, this suggestion was accepted by the State. On closing the business of the land agency he was elected a Delegate to the Continental Congress of 1786-88. While in New York in this capacity he sat for his portrait to Robert Edge Pine, the English artist then visiting America. A handsome copy of this painting was later made by Bass Otis of Phila."

"In 1790 Irvine was elected to sit in the Constitutional Convention of his State, which framed the organ adopted 2 Sept. of that year. He served as one of the Commissioners who settled the financial account between he several States and the United States Government in 1793, and in that year, was sent to the 3rd United Stated Congress by Cumberland District."

"In 1794 he was active both as arbiter and Commanding Officer of the State Troops in quelling the Whiskey Rebellion in Western Pennsylvania. He was appointed superintendent of the Military Stores at Philadelphia on 13 March, 1800, in which capacity he had charge of the arsenals, ordinance and supplies of the Army, and supervision of Indian Affairs. This office he held until he died 29 July, 1804, in Philadelphia. His bearing is said to have been austere and somewhat forbidding, he was an excellent, if strict, disciplinarian. From 1801-1804 he was President of the Philadelphia Branch of the Society of Cincinnati."