Born in 1756, Robert Kirkwood, Jr. spent his youth on the family farm several miles north of Newark. Kirkwood eventually enrolled at the Newark Academy, later to become the University of Delaware. When the American Revolution began, Kirkwood was commissioned first lieutenant in the Delaware Regiment under the command of Colonel John Haslet. He would be promoted to captain in December 1776. In the early years of the war, Kirkwood distinguished himself as a military officer at such battles as Long Island, Brandywine, and Germantown. During the latter part of the war the Delaware Regiment was sent to participate in the southern campaign. Under Kirkwood's steady leadership, the Delaware troops earned a reputation for discipline and hard fighting through their key roles at the battles of Cowpens and Guilford Courthouse. In 1782, he returned to Delaware and married Sarah England. Following his wife's death in 1787, Kirkwood was granted land in the Northwest Territory and moved to southeastern Ohio. Land disputes in the area led to armed conflict between the new settlers and Native Americans. Kirkwood re-entered the army and was killed in action at St. Clair's Defeat on November 4, 1791.