Thomas Mifflin, merchant, member of the Continental Congress, Revolutionary soldier and governor of Pennsylvania, was born in Philadelphia, Pa., on Jan. 10, 1744. He graduated, at the early age of 16, from the College of Philadelphia, now the University of Pennsylvania.
After graduation he spent four years working in the counting-house of a prosperous Philadelphia merchant. Later Mifflin started a very successful business as a merchant in partnership with his brother.
Mifflin’s talent as a speaker drew him into politics. In 1772, he was elected to the provincial assembly and became recognized as a champion of Colonial rights. He became one of the youngest and most radical members of the First Continental Congress.
He was also elected to the Second Continental Congress, but after the battle of Lexington he turned his attention to recruiting and training troops for the Continental Army.
On June 23, 1775, Mifflin was appointed as Gen. George Washington’s aide-de-camp. On Aug. 14, 1775, Washington selected him as the Continental Army’s first quartermaster general.
He was a faithful and efficient quartermaster, though he preferred the front line to administrative duties. An eye-witness declared he “never saw a greater display of personal bravery” than Mifflin exhibited in his “cool and intrepid conduct” in leading an attack on a British foraging expedition at Lechmire’s Point on Nov. 9, 1775. The following month he was appointed to the rank of colonel. He was promoted to brigadier general on May 16, 1776, and at his own request was relieved of his duties as Quartermaster General.
In October 1776, he was persuaded by the Washington and the Continental Congress to resume the duties of quartermaster general, due to difficulties in finding a suitable replacement. Dissatisfaction and criticism from the Continental Congress as well as ill health, caused Mifflin to resign from both his position as quartermaster general and his rank of major general in October 1777. Congress pressed him to continue as quartermaster general temporarily.
From 1777 to 1778, he served as a member of the Congressional Board of War. In April 1778, he rejoined the Army, but criticism of his service as quartermaster general caused him to take little active participation in military affairs.
Mifflin, after serving two years in Congress, was a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and is one of the signers of the U.S. Constitution. He served three terms as governor of Pennsylvania from 1790-1799. Some of his accomplishments as governor were construction of new roads, improvement of inland navigation, reform of judicial establishments and strengthening of the militia.
After retiring, he served in the Pennsylvania legislature until his death Jan. 20, 1800. General Mifflin was inducted into the Quartermaster Hall of Fame in 1987.