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Wilkinson was born in Calvert County, Maryland in 1757. He was the
son Joseph and Betty Heighe Wilkinson. His father was a prominent merchant
and planter in
Calvert County. James was sent to Philadelphia where he studied medicine. After graduation still a teenager of eighteen years, he began practicing medicine in a rural
area of eastern Maryland. He rushed to General George Washington's headquarters at Cambridge, Massachusetts when the Revolutionary War broke out to enlist his services.
Cambridge he became acquainted with Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. By
1777, James had become lieutenant colonel and held the position of deputy
general of the forces commanded by Major General Horatio Gates. When the British were defeated at Saratoga, Gates selected Wilkinson to negotiate the terms of
surrender. He delivered word of victory to Congress and they were so impressed with Wilkinson's message they made him a brigadier general. During the remainder of
the war, Wilkinson was known for getting in and out of trouble. Somehow he became involved in a plot by General Thomas Conway to replace General Washington with
General Gates. Wilkinson betrayed the conspiracy to officers friendly to Washington and shifted the blame to Colonel Robert Troup, who was Gates's top aid and a friend
to Colonel Alexander Hamilton. Gates learned the truth and publicly confronted Wilkinson for his breach of military ethics. Wilkinson immediately challenged Gates to a duel.
Both parties emerged without injury, although Wilkinson's military reputation was ruined. He resigned his commission in March 1778. Less than a year an a half,
Wilkinson managed to get an appointment as clothier general of the Continental Army. After two years as an effective administrator, he again resigned in March 1781.
his retirement from the service in November 1778 , he married Ann Biddle,
an attractive Philadelphian, whose family had close ties with Colonel Aaron
years after his retirement in 1781, James and Ann came to Kentucky, where he built homes in Louisville and in the country on South Elkhorn near Lexington. There he
used his medical skills, dispensing his medicines to the ill and occasionally delivering a baby, when no midwife was available. He was a proprietor of a store in Lexington
and he was often seen traveling the roads around the Bluegrass peddling his goods.
the War of 1812, James Wilkinson was promoted to the rank of major general
and commanded the army for the invasion of Canada. After the failure
Montreal campaign in the fall of 1813, he spent the next few years writing his Memoirs of My Own Times in 1816. In 1817 he moved to his plantation near New Orleans
and in 1820 went to Mexico, where he was an adviser to Emperor Agustin d Iturbide. He died on December 28, 1825 and was buried in Mexico City.
The Kentucky Encyclopedia, by Kleber
The Capital On The Kentucky, by Kramer
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