He was born January 1, 1735 in New York City, the son of Anthony Lamb. His father was a convicted burglar who was transported to the colonies in the 1720s. John was initially trained as an optician and instrument maker in New York City and became a prosperous wine merchant.
Prior to the Revolutionary War, Lamb was a leading member of the Sons of Liberty. He wrote articles in the and published anonymous handbills. When the news of the Battles of Lexington and Concord was received he and his men seized the military stores at Turtle Bay.
He was commissioned a captain of an artillery company and served under Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold in the Battle of Quebec. He was wounded and captured at the assault on Quebec city and was released on parole a few months later. He was appointed major of artillery on January 9, 1776. In January 1777 he was appointed colonel of the 2nd Continental Artillery Regiment. He commanded the artillery at West Point, New York in 1779 and 1780. During the campaign and Siege of Yorktown, Lamb continued to command the 2nd Regiment. A monthly strength report from September 26, 1781 showed 200 officers and men under Lamb's command. On October 9, Lamb was the Officer of the Day when General Washington fired the first American cannon to open the siege. During the siege, the artillery served with distinction.
The artillery detachment, and Lamb's artillery in particular, were accorded high praise by both Washington and General Henry Knox, chief of artillery for the Continental Army. A General Order from the Commander-in-Chief relayed his thanks and appreciation to Lamb's artillery unit.
After the British surrender, Lamb was placed in temporary command of all the artillery, and oversaw its return to New York.
In 1784 he was appointed Collector of the Port of New York by the Congress of the Confederation, and retained the post during the Washington administration. He was dismissed by President John Adams in 1797 after his deputy was accused of defrauding the government of tax revenues.
During the 1787-1788 debates over the ratification of the proposed United States Constitution, Lamb was a prominent Anti-Federalist. He served as chairman of the Federal Republican Committee of New York, which operated to distribute Anti-Federalist writing and coordinate opposition to the Constitution with Anti-Federalists in other states. Between the fall of 1787 and June 1788 Lamb spread Anti-Federalist pamphlets through New York and New England and as far away as South Carolina; his correspondents included Aedanus Burke, Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, and other prominent Anti-Federalists.
He died in poverty May 31, 1800.
- Main, 235.
- Selig, 68
- Fish, Carl Russell. The Civil Service and the Patronage. New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1905.
- Main, Jackson Turner. The Antifederalists: Critics of the Constitution, 1781-1788. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. 1961.
- Selig, Robert A. (2003). The Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route in the State of Delaware, 1781-1783. Dover, Del.: State of Delaware. http://www.w3r-us.org/history/library/seligreptde2.pdf.
- Wood, Gordon S. "The Authorship of the Letters from the Federal Farmer." The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd series, 31 (1974): 299-308.
- Leake, Isaac Q. Memoir of the Life and Times of General John Lamb. Albany, 1857.
|Collector of the Port of New York
1784 - 1797
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