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Indiana historian tells story of Armstrong County namesake

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By Mitch Fryer
Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011

From his career as a surveyor for the Penn family to becoming the "Hero of Armstrong County," retired Indiana University of Pennsylvania English professor and history author Bill Betts of Indiana provides a comprehensive view of the life and accomplishments of Gen. John Armstrong in a biography of Armstrong published by Heritage Books being released this month.

"Rank and Gravity, The Life of General John Armstrong of Carlisle" will soon be available for purchase online at Heritage Books of Westminster, Md, and at .

"The book is the first, and long overdue, biography of this very important colonial figure, one of the most notable and consequential of 18th-century Pennsylvania," said Betts. "I think it will be of great interest to the people of Armstrong County, especially in Kittanning."

"Rank and Gravity" presents Armstrong as typical of the Scotch-Irish pioneers who settled in Pennsylvania.

Armstrong County was formed and named for Col. Armstrong in 1800.

Betts tells of Armstrong as the commanding officer of the Pennsylvania militia for the Forbes Expedition to Duquesne; as defender of the frontier, building forts and commanding militia forces; as a close friend to George Washington, helping him in the acquisition of lands; as brigadier general in the Continental Army, commanding forces at Charleston, Brandywine, Germantown and Whitemarsh; member of the Continental Congress; an influence in the Presbyterian Church and a principal founder of Dickinson College in Carlisle.

"It was a life of service, of duty — to his fellow Scotch-Irish, his Carlisle community, his Pennsylvania, his country, his family and his Presbyterian God," said Betts.

The book is divided into two parts — "The Pioneer" and "The Patriot." It is composed of 640 pages with 26 chapters and 32 photos of historic interest.

The afterward is chiefly about the Armstrong activities in Kittanning over the years. It includes a lot of information about Kittanning and Armstrong County.

The afterward depends heavily on excerpts from Simpson's Daily Leader of May 12, 1917, and the Daily Leader Times of Sept. 10, 1926.

The book includes a chapter on the raid by Armstrong-led forces on Kittanning in September 1756 during the French and Indian War. An expedition of 300 frontier troops reached Kittanning and surprised the hostile Indians in an attack of the Indian village of Kit-Han-Ne, the present site of Kittanning on the Allegheny River.

Betts is the author of 10 books and many articles for outdoors magazines and professional journals.

Among his books are "Lincoln and the Poets," The Evergreen Farm," "Bombardier John Harris and the Rivers of the Revolution" and "The Hatchet and the Plow, The Life and Times of Chief Cornplanter."

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