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Peter Muhlenberg

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Peter Muhlenberg Statue
U.S. Capitol

John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg (1746-1807) was a Clergyman, a Major General of the Continental Army, and a United States Senator and Congressman from Pennsylvania. He was born to Anna and Henry Muhlenberg in Trappe on October 1, 1746.

Peter received a classical education from the Academy of Philadelphia. Then, following his father's example, he studied at the University at Halle in Germany from 1763 to 1766. He also served briefly in the German dragoons before returning to Philadelphia. He was ordained in 1778 and headed a Lutheran congregation in Bedminster, New Jersey[?] before moving to Woodstock, Virginia. He visited England in 1772 and was ordained in the Anglican Church. Besides his new congregation, he led the Committee of Safety for Dunmore County, Virgina. He was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1774.

Military career Toward the end of 1775 he was authorized to raise and command as its Colonel the Eighth Virginia Regiment of the Continental Army. After Washington personally asked him to accept this task, he agreed. On January 21st, 1776 Rev. Muhlenberg started the services in the Anglican church in Woodstock as usual. For the sermon, he took his text from the third chapter Ecclesiastes, which starts with 'To every thing there is a season...'. When he got to the eighth verse, he declaimed '...a time of war, and a time of peace', and this is the time of war. He removed his clerical robe to reveal his Colonel's uniform. The next day he led out 300 men from the county to form the nucleus of the Eighth Virginia. The unit was first posted to the South, to defend the coast of South Carolina and Georgia.

In early 1777, the Eighth was sent north to join Washington's main army. Muhlenberg was made a Brigadier General of the Virginia Line, and commanded that Brigade in Nathaniel Greene's division at Valley Forge. Peter saw service in the Battles of Brandywine, Germantown[?], and Monmouth. After Monmouth, most of the Virginia Line was sent to the far south, while General Muhlenberg was assigned to head up the defense of Virginia using mainly militia units.

At the Battle of Yorktown he led the first brigade of Lafayette's Light Infantry division. His brigade was made up of units drawn from Massachusetts (10 companies), Connecticut (5 companies], New Hampshire (5 companies), and 1 company each from Rhode Island and New Jersey. They held the right flank, and manned the two trenches built to move American canons closer to Cornwallis defenses.

At the end of the war (1783), he was brevetted to Major General and settled in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

Political career After the war he was elected to the Executive Council of Pennsylvania in 1784, and was Vice-President of Pennsylvania from 1785 to 1788. He was elected to the first U. S. Congress (1789-1791) by the entire state of Pennsylvania as an at-large representative. (His brother Frederick was the Speaker for that same Congress.) He later served in Congress from 1793 to 1795 and 1799-1801 for the 1st district. He entered the U. S. Senate in January of 1801, but resigned on June 30th of that same year. President Jefferson appointed him the supervisor of revenue for Pennsylvania in 1781 and customs collector for Philadelphia in 1802. He served in the later post until his death on October 1, 1807. He died in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania and is buried at the Lutheran Church in Trappe.

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