Thomas Proctor – Continental Army Officer – Pennsylvania


Thomas Proctor or Thomas Procter (1739 – 16 March 1806) commanded the 4th Continental Artillery Regiment during the American Revolutionary War. He was born in County Longford, Ireland, emigrated to British America, and joined the carpenter’s guild in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1772. He received a commission as an artillery captain in October 1775 and proceeded to raise a company of Pennsylvania state artillery. In the summer of 1776, a second company was recruited and Proctor was promoted to major. One of the companies fought well at the Battle of Trenton in December 1776, though Proctor was not there. He wed Mary Fox the same month. He led his gunners at Princeton in January 1777. The Pennsylvania artillery companies informally joined George Washington’s army. The state authorities elevated Proctor to colonel and charged him to recruit the Pennsylvania State Artillery Regiment in February 1777.

In June 1777 Proctor’s Continental Artillery Regiment officially became part of the Continental Army. He played an important role at the Brandywine in September 1777 and at Germantown a few weeks later. In June 1778 he led his gunners at Monmouth. In 1779 he went on the Sullivan Expedition against the Iroquois Nation. On 10 August 1779 his regiment was renamed the 4th Continental Artillery Regiment. He took guns into action at Bull’s Ferry in 1780. The hot-tempered Proctor often quarreled with the Pennsylvania civil authorities and this led him to resign from the army in April 1781.

Proctor served as sheriff of Philadelphia County from 1783 to 1785 and was elected to the Philadelphia city council in 1790. Secretary of War Henry Knox appointed him in 1791 to go on a peace mission to the native American tribes near Lake Erie. Governor Thomas Mifflin appointed Proctor a brigadier general of militia in 1793 and the following year sent him with a brigade of 1,849 men to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. By 1798 he was a major general of militia. He was a Freemason and founding member of the Society of the Cincinnati in Pennsylvania. He died at his home in Philadelphia on 16 March 1806, having outlived his second wife Sarah Ann Hussey by two years.


Proctor was born in County Longford, Ireland in 1739. With his parents Francis and Betsey Proctor, he moved first to Nova Scotia and then to the American colonies. At some point in the 1750s he took up the carpenter’s trade. The year 1759 found him at Fort Pitt where he met the Indian, Captain Joseph Hays. In 1772, he joined the Carpenter’s Guild in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and remained a member until his death.

After the outbreak of the American Revolution, the state of Pennsylvania authorized an artillery company on 16 October 1775. Proctor asked the state Council of Safety to appoint him captain on 27 October and his request was immediately granted. While other state troops were sent to the Flying Camp (reserve), the artillery company was retained near Philadelphia to defend Fort Island. At first, Proctor’s company mustered only 25 men but it increased to 100 by May 1776.

A muster roll from 31 July 1776 showed Proctor’s company numbering 114 soldiers with 12 musicians. The staff included one captain-lieutenant, one first lieutenant, one second lieutenant, one lieutenant fireworker, one quartermaster sergeant, and one clerk. The company also counted three sergeants, three corporals, eight bombardiers, 24 gunners, 69 matrosses, six musicians, five drummers, and one fifer. The gunners served on the USS Hornet (10) during an engagement with the British HMS Roebuck (44). Pleased with the gunners’ performance, the state added a second artillery company to make a battalion on 14 August 1776. At the time, John Martin Strobaugh was appointed captain of the 1st Company, Thomas Forrest became captain of the 2nd Company, and Proctor was promoted to major. Proctor vigorously recruited enough gunners and matrosses to fill both companies. The Pennsylvania State Artillery Battalion transferred to George Washington’s main army on 23 September. In October the state re-enrolled the soldiers for the duration of the war.

Proctor led his artillerists at the Battle of Princeton on 3 January 1777. After the engagement, he added a captured British brass 6-pound cannon to his battery. Since he did not have enough horses to haul an additional piece, he left behind an old iron 3-pound cannon.