Brigadier General John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg

John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg. 1746-1807.

John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg was born in Trappe, Pennsylvania, the son of a prominent Lutheran pastor. Sent to be educated in Germany, Muhlenberg tired of the academic life and joined a unit of German dragoons. He rose to become secretary of the regiment but his parents disapproved and they were able to secure him an early release.

Muhlenberg returned to America where he resumed his theological studies. He was ordained a Lutheran pastor. Muhlenberg was also ordained in the Anglican Church and served a congregation of German immigrants in Virginia. Muhlenberg was a firm supporter of the American cause. At the outbreak of the war, he called upon his parishoners to support the American cause by proclaiming "there is a time to preach and a time to fight, and now is the time to fight!". With those words, he displayed the uniform of a Continental colonel and promptly recruited 300 members of his parish. Muhlenberg chose to serve not as a chaplain but, rather, as a line officer. The members of his parish joined him as members of the 8th Virginia Regiment, made up primarily of German-Americans.

The 8th Virginia was initially sent to Charleston, SC, to help defend the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia. In early 1777, the 8th Virginia joined Washington's army in the north. Muhlenberg was promoted to brigadier general and given command of all the Virginia regiments, known as the Virginia Line, in the army. He and the Virginia line fought at the Battles of Brandywine, Germantown and Monmouth

The Virginia Line was eventually ordered south again to help defend Charleston. Muhlenberg, however, did not go with them. He was tasked with assisting Baron von Steuben with the defense of Virginia. During the Yorktown Campaign, Muhlenberg served as a brigade commander in Lafayette's Division. He was breveted a major general before he retired from the army in November 1783. He retired to Pennsylvania where he continued to serve his nation in a civil capacity.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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