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William North
General William North.jpg
Portrait by Charles Willson Peale, 1785
United States Senator
from New York
In office
May 5, 1798 – August 17, 1798
Preceded byJohn Sloss Hobart
Succeeded byJames Watson
Personal details
Pemaquid, Maine
DiedJanuary 3, 1836 (aged 80–81)
New York City
Political partyFederalist
Spouse(s)Mary Duane
RelationsJames Duane (father-in-law)
Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (adopted father)
ProfessionSoldier, Statesman

William North (1755 – January 3, 1836) was an American soldier and politician.

Early life

William North was born in Pemaquid, Maine to John and Elizabeth (née Pitson) North in 1755. He had two half-siblings from his father's previous marriage to Elizabeth Lewis, Joseph and Mary North.

Captain John North was an Irish immigrant who served as a surveyor of the Kennebec Purchase in 1751, Lieutenant Commander of Fort Frederick from 1744 to 1756, and was alternately in charge of Fort on St George's River and Fort Frederick between 1756 and 1763. In a Boston Newspaper, his obituary read in part, "One thing remarkable in his conduct was, that he settled all disputes amongst the inhabitants that came before him, and not suffer'd [sic] any to enter into law."[1]

After the death of his father in 1763, William North moved with his mother to her hometown, Boston, Massachusetts. There he attended the Boston Latin School between 1764 and 1770. [2][3]


Military career

He entered the Continental Army in 1775, and served under Benedict Arnold in the unfortunate expedition to Canada in that year. He was appointed in May 1777 as captain in Henry Jackson's 16th Massachusetts Regiment, with which he participated in the Battle of Monmouth. In 1778 he met Baron Steuben, and the following year was appointed his aide-de-camp, and greatly assisted him introducing his system of discipline in the Continental Army. Later he accompanied Steuben to Virginia, and was present at the surrender of Cornwallis.

North was appointed by Act of Congress a Major in the 2d United States Regiment on October 20, 1786. After the war he settled in Duanesburg, New York, where he married.

He was appointed adjutant general of the United States Army with the rank of brigadier general on July 19, 1798,[4] but was mustered out on June 10, 1800, as tensions with France diminished. In March 1812, he was again appointed adjutant-general of the Army, but declined.

Relationship with Baron Steuben

North and a fellow aide-de-camp, Captain Benjamin Walker, were formally adopted by Steuben, and made his heirs.[5] Some historians believe that these 'extraordinary intense emotional relationships'[6] were romantic,[7] and given Steuben's reported earlier behaviour, it has been suggested it would have been out-of-character for him if they were not.[8] However, based on the limited historical record, it is impossible to prove.[9] Following Baron Steuben's death, North divided the property bequeathed to him among his military companions.[10]

Political office

He was a member of the New York State Assembly from Albany County in 1792, 1794 and 1795, from Albany and Schenectady Counties in 1796, and from Schenectady County in 1810. He was Speaker in 1795, 1796 and 1810. North was appointed as a Federalist to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of John Sloss Hobart and served from May 5, 1798, to August 17, 1798, when James Watson was elected and qualified to succeed.

He was a member of the first Erie Canal Commission, from 1810 to 1816.

Personal life

On October 14, 1787, North married Mary Duane (b. 1762), the daughter of James Duane (1733–1797), the 44th Mayor of New York City and U.S. District Judge for the District of New York, appointed by George Washington. Together, they had six children, Frederic William Steuben (1788-1789), Marie (1780-1812), James Duane (1791-1792), Elizabeth (1792-1845), William Augustus Steuben (1793-1845), Adelia (1797-1878). William, Mary, Benjamin Walker and Mary's sister Adelia Duane were named as sponsors for Adelia North at her baptism.[11]

The General William North House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.[12]

General North was a member of the Society of the Cincinnati. He died in New York City, and was buried in the crypt under the Christ Episcopal Church in Duanesburg.[4]


  1. ^ Codman, Ogden (1968). Index of obituaries in Boston newspapers, 1704-1800. Boston, Massachusetts: G. K. Hall.
  2. ^ "Letter from William North to George Featherstonhaugh, undated [c. April 1810]". New York Heritage Digital Collections.
  3. ^ Boston Latin School Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ a b "NORTH, William - Biographical Information". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved September 16, 2016.
  5. ^ Kapp, Friedrich The Life of Frederick William Von Steuben, Major General in the United States Army, Mason Brothers, New York 1859, p. 707.
  6. ^ American National Biography - Volume 16 - Page 513. n.b. Contrary to many online articles, this phrase does not appear in Steuben's final Will:
  7. ^ Benemann, William Male-Male Intimacy in Early America: Beyond Romantic Friendships Haworth Press, 2006, ISBN 1-56023-345-1
  8. ^ Quinn, Michael D. Same-Sex Dynamics among Nineteenth-Century Americans, University of Illinois Press, 2001, pp179-180
  9. ^ Benemann, p. 102
  10. ^ White, J.T. (1892). The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. Harvard University. p. 7.
  11. ^ Central New York Genealogical Society (1965). Tree Talks, Volume 5. Syracuse, New York: Central New York Genealogical Society. p. 142.
  12. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
James Watson
Speaker of the New York State Assembly
Succeeded by
Gulian Verplanck
Preceded by
James W. Wilkin
Speaker of the New York State Assembly
Succeeded by
Nathan Sanford
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
John Sloss Hobart
 U.S. senator (Class 1) from New York
Served alongside: John Laurance
Succeeded by
James Watson
Military offices
Preceded by
Edward Hand
Adjutant General of the U.S. Army
November 5, 1783 – October 28, 1787
Succeeded by
Ebenezer Denny (acting)
Preceded by
Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben
Inspectors General of the U.S. Army
April 17, 1784 – October 28, 1787
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Thomas H. Cushing (acting)
Adjutant General of the U.S. Army
July 19, 1798 – June 15, 1800
Succeeded by
Thomas H. Cushing
This page was last edited on 20 August 2020, at 02:21
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