Colonel Walter Stewart
By Rachael Pei
Colonel Walter Stewart of the 13th Pennsylvania Regiment
Walter Stewart was born in Ireland in 1756 and later settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
He entered the war on January 6, 1776, when he was appointed captain of Company F in the 3rd Pennsylvania battalion. In May of that year, he was promoted to major and became an aide-de-camp to General Horatio Gates. Under General Gates’s command, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel.
On June 17, 1777, Stewart was appointed commander of the Pennsylvania State Regiment (which was renamed to the 13th Pennsylvania Regiment that November). He fought valiantly in the Philadelphia campaign at Brandywine and Germantown, then stayed with his regiment at the Valley Forge Encampment from December 1777 until June 1778.
Stewart was known for his handsome appearance (he was nicknamed “the Irish Beauty”), as well as for paying careful attention to his soldiers’ needs. In Private Yankee Doodle, a narrative of the Revolutionary War, soldier Joseph Plumb Martin describes, “This Colonel Stewart was an excellent officer much beloved and respected by the troops of the Line he belonged to” (pg 219).
After leaving the Valley Forge encampment, he was wounded at the Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778. A few days afterward, the 13th Pennsylvania Regiment was merged with the 2nd (since enlistments of many soldiers in the 13th expired), and Stewart was given command of this new regiment.
Later, in 1781, he married Deborah McClenahan and fought under General Anthony Wayne in the Yorktown campaign. He retired from the army on January 1, 1783, but George Washington asked him to stay as Inspector General of Northern Department. After holding the position for several months, he retired with the brevet rank of brigadier general. He went on to become a major general in the Pennsylvania militia, as well as a successful merchant.
Stewart died in June 1796 during the yellow fever epidemic and was buried in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (in Philadelphia).