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McIntosh, Lachlanlocked

(05 March 1727–20 February 1806)
  • Harvey H. Jackson

McIntosh, Lachlan (05 March 1727–20 February 1806), planter and Continental army officer, was born in Badenoch, Inverness-shire, Scotland, the son of clan chieftain John McIntosh Mohr and Margaret (or Marjorie) Fraser. McIntosh arrived in Georgia in January 1736 as part of a shipload of Highland Scots sent to guard the colony’s southern frontier. Led by McIntosh’s father, the expedition founded the Altamaha River town of Darien, which was a military center during the War of Jenkins’s Ear. In 1748 McIntosh went to Charleston, South Carolina, where he met Henry Laurens, who would remain his close friend and adviser. He soon returned to Georgia and over the next two decades established one of the largest and most profitable rice plantations in the region. In 1756 he married Sarah Threadcraft, and they had eight children.

McIntosh served briefly in the colonial assembly, but he had little interest in politics beyond the local level. While he did not oppose British attempts to regulate trade after the French and Indian War, by 1775 he had thrown his lot with the Whigs and was recognized as their leader in the southern part of the colony. A member of Georgia’s provincial congress, he was the compromise selection to head the state’s continental battalion in January 1776, acquiring the rank of colonel. McIntosh gathered what troops he could and blocked British efforts to secure supplies in Savannah. He also attempted to protect the state’s exposed frontier, but shortages of men and supplies made his task all but impossible. He was able to lead a raid into Florida and disrupt enemy supply sources, but it provided only temporary relief from pressure being applied by the British and their Indian allies.

McIntosh’s inability to secure the state was criticized by more radical Whigs, led by Button Gwinnett. Tensions between McIntosh and Gwinnett grew to the extent that in May 1777 their differences were settled in a duel; McIntosh was wounded and Gwinnett killed. Friends in the Continental Congress had McIntosh transferred from the state and out of the reach of his political enemies. He joined George Washington at Valley Forge in December 1777 and was put in command of the North Carolina Brigade. In the spring he inspected military hospitals in the area, and in May 1778 he was sent to Fort Pitt to command the Western Department. Washington hoped McIntosh could balance the demands of Virginia and Pennsylvania groups who wished to dominate the postwar Ohio Valley; though the Georgian was not entirely successful in this regard, he was able to build two western outposts (Fort McIntosh and Fort Laurens) that gave the United States a presence in the region important in peace negotiations with the British.

Learning his family had been taken prisoner when Savannah fell in December 1778, General McIntosh requested a transfer home. Arriving in Augusta in July, he found himself again in the middle of a political dispute between the survivors of Gwinnett’s party and his own supporters. In the fall of 1779 he led Georgia and South Carolina Continentals against Savannah in the doomed Franco-American attack. Shortly thereafter he left for Charleston and the Continental army under General Benjamin Lincoln. While there McIntosh learned that he had been suspended from command on the basis of information sent to Congress by the Georgia assembly and Governor George Walton; it was charged that the people had “such a Repugnance” to McIntosh that they would not serve under him. Before he could respond, however, Charleston fell in May 1780, and he was taken prisoner. Released in the summer of 1781, McIntosh set out to regain his post and to avenge the insult to his honor. Finally the Georgia assembly and the Continental Congress cleared him of charges, but he never felt his enemies had been punished sufficiently for the assault on his character. Later McIntosh held a number of appointed offices, including commissioner of Loyalist estates; delegate to the Convention of Beaufort, which negotiated the Georgia–South Carolina boundary; and state representative to treat with the Indians at Galphinton (1785) and Hopewell (1785). He also served as president of the Georgia Society of the Cincinnati. However, his financial losses during the war were considerable, and though he moved his plantation operation from Darien to Skidaway Island, nearer Savannah, he never recovered his prewar prosperity. He died in Savannah.

Bibliography

The largest collections of McIntosh papers are in the Georgia Historical Society and the University of Georgia Library, Athens. These collections have been edited by Lilla M. Hawes and published as The Papers of Lachlan McIntosh, Georgia Historical Society, Collections, vol. 12 (1957), and Lachlan McIntosh Papers in the University of Georgia Libraries (1968). See also Kenneth Coleman, The American Revolution in Georgia (1958); Edward J. Cashin, “George Walton and the Forged Letter,” Georgia Historical Quarterly 62 (1978): 133–45; and Harvey H. Jackson, Lachlan McIntosh and the Politics of Revolutionary Georgia (1979).