Robert Magaw (1738-1790)

Robert Magaw was born in Ireland in 1738. His family moved to Cumberland County, Pennsylvania and became prominent in local affairs around Carlisle. His brother Samuel was a Presbyterian minister who served as the Provost of the University of Pennsylvania, while Robert had built a prominent law practice. In 1774, Robert Magaw was a Carlisle representative to the Provincial Convention, but soon turned his attention to military duty, In June of the following year he was commissioned a major in Thompson's Regiment, which arrived in Cambridge, Massachusetts as one of the first units outside of that colony to rally to the Revolutionary cause. By January 1776, he was in command of the Fifth Pennsylvania Infantry; in August his troops were to cover General Washington's retreat from New York from the strong point at Fort Washington, in what is present-day Harlem. Defeated in the Battle of Long Island, Magaw was forced to surrender his 2,700 men to Lord Howe in October 1776; he remained a prisoner of war for four years. Captured with him was also fellow Carlisle representative John Montgomery.

Released on October 23, 1780, he later served as a member of the state legislature from 1781 to 1782. In 1783, he became, along with Montgomery, a charter member of the board of trustees of Dickinson College in Carlisle and remained so until his death.

While a prisoner in New York, Magaw had met and married Marietta Van Brunt. The couple had two children. Robert Magaw died in 1790 and is buried at Meeting House Springs near Carlisle.

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Dickinson College Archives
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