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American troops lay siege to the Chew house during the Battle of Germantown. From Wikimedia

By Alex Wysocki

Folks, that one of Delaware’s most intrepid and fearless men, Robert Kirkwood, is given scarce notice today, speaks to the lack of interest in our heritage.

Robert Kirkwood, 1756-1791, was born on the family farm in Polly Drummond Hill, Newark, Delaware. At age twenty he was commissioned a First Lieutenant in Colonel John Haslet’s First Regiment of Continental troops. He fought in 32 battles in the War of Independence. He was quite involved in local campaigns, having fought in the Battle of the Brandywine {Sept. 1777} and the Battle of Germantown {Oct. 1777}. He participated in every battle in which George Washington fought in 1777.

In the August 1780 batttle of Camden, South Carolina his troops won fame and were called “The Blue Hen Chickens.” As one that finds it irksome to drive through the Carolinas–I’m flabbergasted by Captain Kirkwood’s march of over two months through the Carolinas to Virginia.

Talk about the fickle finger of fate–Robert Kirkwood came through 32 battles in the War of Independence unscathed only to be killed by Native Americans of the Miami Tribe in the Northwest Territory in 1791. After the “War,” Kirkwood purchased 260 acres of land in Ohio, and resettled there. Delaware gave him 100 pounds for his gallant service during the War of Independence.

A scholium: Another hero from Delaware who has been shuffled off our memory is Colonel John Haslet. He was the brave leader of the First Delaware Regiment. He was killed during the Battle of Princeton in January 1776.

 

The final resting place of Dr. John McKinly. From Wikimedia.

Folks, Dr. John McKinly, 1721-1796, has the distinction of being the first President (Governor) of Delaware. It is also reputed that he is the only Chief Magistrate of Delaware to be foreign born. He was born in Northern Ireland in 1721.

He emigrated from Northern Ireland to Wilmington in 1742. Dr. McKinly was a veteran of the French and Indian War, which raged on the frontier from 1754 to 1763 between the British and French Forces, and their respective Native American allies. It was in this war that the young George Washington gained valuable military experience.

McKinly became an active member of the Delaware Committee of Correspondence in 1773. He also served as Brigadier General of the New Castle County militia. In February 1777, the General Assembly elected him to be Delaware’s first Chief Magistrate with the title of president. He served only seven months, from February to September of 1777. He unfortunately was taken prisoner by the British and kept as a prisoner of war. McKinly was finally paroled in August 1778.

Interestingly, he was exchanged for William Franklin, the Loyalist Governor of New Jersey and most importantly the wayward son of Benjamin Franklin. After his release he returned to his medical practice and help found the Delaware Medical Society in 1789. Adding to his laurels, McKinly became President of the Newark Academy Board of Trustees in 1794 and served in that capacity until his death in 1796. In time the Academy of Newark developed into the University of Delaware. In fact the University of Delaware honored our hero by naming a laboratory the John McKinly Laboratory. It’s worth noting that John McKinly held numerous offices in Wilmington and New Castle. We can truthfully say that he served and did his duty.

A Scholium: Joshua Clayton, 1744-1798, was the tenth person to be the Chief Magistrate of Delaware and thanks to a constitutional change the first to hold the title of governor instead of president. On June 2, 1789, members of the General Assembly chose John Clayton President. In 1792, Delawareans, as a result of a Constitutional change, went to the polls for the first time to elect their first Governor–and Clayton was their choice. As a consequence Joshua Clayton was the last President of Delaware and its first Governor. Clayton was a medical doctor and a founding member of the Delaware Medical Society.

Today’s TSD History Corner comes from Alex F. Wysocki, who is a Veteran of WWII, served in the Pacific Theater and was part of the original occupation of Japan. He has a passion for the history of state he was born in, Delaware.

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