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This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Armstrong, James

by Elmer D. Johnson, 1979; Revised by SLNC Government and Heritage Library, May 2023

d. 1794

Roster sheet of Revolution soldiers. Armstrong is listed as Colonel of the Eighth Regiment.James Armstrong, revolutionary officer, was a resident of Pitt County during the Revolution and until his death. Little is known of his ancestry or his family, but he was apparently a well-to-do planter and leader in his community. He was elected a major in the Pitt County militia in September 1775. On 30 Nov. 1776 he was appointed colonel of the Eighth Regiment of North Carolina Continental troops. He was also a member of the Pitt County Committee of Safety in 1776. In September 1777 he led his troops in the Battle of Brandywine, near Philadelphia, and his regiment suffered such casualties that it was dissolved and its remnants combined with the Second North Carolina Continentals. Following this battle, Armstrong presided over a court of inquiry into the conduct of another North Carolina officer, Colonel Gideon Lamb, in which the latter was acquitted. On 1 June 1778, Armstrong resigned from the Continental forces; he later became a colonel in the North Carolina militia. In this capacity he took part in the Battle of Stono Ferry, S.C., 20 June 1779, where he was wounded. In 1780 he was in charge of recruiting for the North Carolina forces in the eastern part of the state and on 6 Feb. 1781 was made brigadier general of the militia in the New Bern area. Shortly afterward, he retired at half pay; he later received for his military services a grant of 7,200 acres of land in Tennessee.

In 1782, Armstrong became Commissioner of Confiscated Property for the District of New Bern and in 1784 a member of the North Carolina Governor's Council of State. From 1788 to 1790 he served in the state legislature. In November 1789 he represented Pitt County at the convention in Fayetteville, when North Carolina ratified the Constitution of the United States.

James Armstrong died late in 1794, and his descendants subsequently left the area. According to the census of 1790, he owned and enslaved ten people at that time and may have had as many as four sons and two daughters.

Additional information from NCpedia editors at the State Library of North Carolina: 

This person enslaved and owned other people. Many Black and African people, their descendants, and some others were enslaved in the United States until the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in 1865. It was common for wealthy landowners, entrepreneurs, politicians, institutions, and others to enslave people and use enslaved labor during this period. To read more about the enslavement and transportation of African people to North Carolina, visit To read more about slavery and its history in North Carolina, visit - Government and Heritage Library, 2023


Henry T. King, Sketches of Pitt County . . . 1704–1910 (1911).

Hugh F. Rankin, The North Carolina Continentals (1971).

William L. Saunders and Walter Clark, eds., Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, 26 vols. (1886–1907).

Additional Resources:

Blount, John Gray, 1752-1833. John Gray Blount papers: Volume 1. Raleigh [N.C.]State Dept. of Archives and History, 1952-. 1952. (accessed April 24, 2014).

N.C. General Assembly. Journal of the proceedings of the Provincial Congress of North Carolina, held at Halifax on the fourth day of April 1776. Raleigh, N.C. [N.C.]: Lawrence & Lemay, 1831. 1831. (accessed April 24, 2014).

Davis, Charles Lukens. A brief history of the North Carolina troops on the Continental establishment : in the War of the Revolution : with a register of officers of the same. Philadelphia, Pa. : [s.n.]. 1896. (accessed January 18, 2013).

Image Credits:

North Carolina. Secretary of State. North Carolina troops in the continental line : a register of officers, with dates of commissions, made up under the direction of the Secretary of State from records in his office, October, 1884. [Raleigh, N.C. : s.n.]. 1884. (accessed January 18, 2013).