Grace Greylock Niles.

The Hoosac Valley, its legends and its history online

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charged them on August 12th, and they were not allowed to
march on to Skenesboro. Most of the men settled in Hoosac
Valley later.

The military correspondence of Maj.-Gen. Philip Schuyler
and Gen. Horatio Gates, between Col. Benjamin Simonds
and the Berkshire Committee of Safety during 1775, is of
interest to Hoosactonians. These letters reveal the prompt
response of the Berkshire and Bennington militia to both
Schuyler's and Gates's orders :

Williamstown, September, 12, 1776.

Agreeable to an express from his Honour, Major-
General Schuyler, I have caused the Militia under my com-
mand to be on their march to Tyonderoga. I thought
proper to send this by express, so that in case the men
should not be wanted, they may have early orders for their
return, that so expenses of their march further than neces-
sary may be prevented.

I am your Honour's Most obedient servant,

Ben'j Simonds

To General Gates.

'Perry, Williamstown and Williams College, p. loi.

3i6 The Hoosac Valley

Tyonderoga, September 15, 1776.

I this moment received your letter, dated Williams-
town, 12th instant. As I did not send the orders for your
march to camp, I could not take measures more early to stop
yotu" proceeding. The last account from General Arnold
convinces me that there is no immediate necessity for the
Militia coming forward at this time. A copy of his last
letter to me I send you enclosed. The alarm was occasioned
by some firing from our enemy on the shores opposite Isle
Aux Tetes: and I believe a great number of small arms and
cannon fired that and the succeeding days by brigades of
the enemy at exercise at their post below, all which deceived
the Commanding Officer at Crown Point.

A good road will be finished by this day sennight, from
Rutland through Castleton to the east fort of Mount Inde-
pendence, and an excellent bridge over Otter Creek at Rut-
land will be finished in three days. For the future, any
body of men intended for our succor, should march that way.

The United States are, in general, obliged to you for your
alertness to succor their army, and particular. Sir,

Yours &C. &C.
Ho. Gates.

To Colonel Benjamin Simonds.

A month later Ma j.- General Schuyler sent a rallying mes-
sage from his Schuylerville Alansion addressed to the Com-
mittee of Safety, Berkshire County, Mass., dated:

Saratoga, October, 16, 1776.

Gentlemen :

Our fleet, which suffered severely in an engagement
on the 1 2th instant with the enemy, has been still more
severely handled in a subsequent one, insomuch that the
enemy are left masters of the lake, and are now coming
on to attack our army at Ticonderoga. In this situation

The Councils of Safety 317

of affairs it is of utmost importance that the mihtia of your
State should immediately march to sustain the army ; and
such as can march expeditiously, come by way of Albany,
should do so, and the others take the route to Skenesborough.
Each man should come provided with as much provision
and ammunition as possible. The commanding officer
should send me information of his march from time to time.
I shall be either at Fort George or Skenesborough, but as
I cannot determine which, it will be proper to send expresses
to both places, and to forward copies of this to Governor
Trumbull, and to every Committee in your State in a situ-
ation of affording assistance, and also to the neighbouring
counties in the State of Connecticut. I must repeat, gentle-
men, that it is of the utmost importance that I should be
duly furnished with an account of the movements and num-
bers of the Militia.
From, gentlemen, your most obedient, humble servant,

Ph. Schuyler.
To the Committee of the County of Berkshire.

A copy of General Schuyler's order was also sent with the
following message to Hampshire, formerly a part of Berkshire
County, by the Berkshire Committee:

Stockb RIDGE, October 19, 1776.
Gentlemen :

The Militia of this County are rallied and on their
march, and we think it of the utmost importance that
you comply with the General's request immediately.

Erastus Sergeant,
Samuel Brown, Jun.,
Asa Bennett.

Committee of Stockbridge.

To the Committee of Hampshire County.

General Schuyler sent a rallying message to Col. Moses
Robinson, son of the late Capt. Samuel Robinson, Sr., then

3i8 The Hoosac Valley

in command of the Bennington Boys' militia. Nearly every
man able to bear arms in the Walloomsac Valley volunteered,
so that there were not enough left to operate the grist-mills
or ship provincial stores to supply the army. The Ameri-
cans, however, were victorious at that time, and the Benning-
ton and Berkshire companies were soon discharged and
received the official thanks of General Gates.

During the campaign of 1775, Capt. Isaac Wyman, last
commander of Fort Massachusetts, who located at Keene,
N. H., in 1 761, was appointed lieutenant-colonel in Col.
John Stark's New Hampshire militia; and during the cam-
paign of 1776 he was commissioned colonel of a New Hamp-
shire regiment by the Committee of Safety and ordered to
march to Fort Ticonderoga on July 11, 1776. His commis-
sion is of local interest to Hoosactonians to-day, since several
of his captains named were original settlers of English
Hoosac towns:

July II, 1776.

I send you by bearer, your commission as Colonel

of a Regiment of our Militia in the Service; also, thirty
pounds, as two months' advance wages. As the troops will
be along in a few days, it is expected that you will go along
with them to Crown Point and join the army there. The
Captains: Drew, Chandler, Shephard, Dearborn, Blanchard,
Harper, Parker, and Weatherbee, with their companies,
are to make your regiment. As it is of great consequence
that the men are forwarded with speed, therefore expect
you will do what is in your power that they make no delay
at No. 4. You will also receive thirty-two pounds, advance
wages for your Surgeon, Adjutant, and Quartermaster, with
this and blank commissions for those officers to be appointed
by you. Imploring the Divine assistance of your endeavors
to serve your Country, and that you may return in safety,
with laurels of victory, is the sincere desire of him who, in

The Councils of Safety 319

behalf of the Committee, subscribes himself your very

humble servant.

Name unknown.

To Colonel Wyman.

On September i, 1776, it is recorded that a "General
Court Martial" was announced to sit at ten o'clock the
following morning at "the President's tent, upon Mount
Independence, for the trial of Colonel Wyman and such pris-
oners as shall be brought before the Court." Nothing more
is heard of Colonel Wyman 's military career during the
Revolution after that date. Whether the rallying call for
volunteers was sent to Berkshire, Bennington, Connecticut,
or New Hampshire Committees, general obedience and
speed were observed. On June 24, 1776, the Williamstown
Boys voted that they would "solemnly engage their lives
and fortunes" to support the Provincial Congress in its
adopted measures for the formal subsequent Declaration of
Independence, to be executed July 4, 1 776. The Bennington
Boys, also, held their first and second General Councils of
Safety at Dorset on July 24th and September 25, 1776, at
which Dr. Jonas Fay declared that New Hampshire Grants,
comprising the Green Mountain territory, "ought to be and
is forever hereafter to be considered a free and independent
jurisdiction and State."

Col. Benjamin Simonds's regiment of Berkshire Boys,
organized in 1775, was called out to meet the British in the
fatal Battle of White Plains, on October 28, 1776. Col. Mark
Hopkins, a member of the Stockbridge Council of Safety,
and grandfather of the late President Mark Hopkins of
Williams College, died the day before the battle, in which he
had planned to participate. Between December 16, 1776,
and March 29, 1777, Colonel Simonds and three hundred
and eight of his Berkshire Boys took command of Fort
Ticonderoga. The names of his field-officers, many of whom


The Hoosac Valley-

were proprietors of the English Hoosac towns, are of interest
to Hoosactonians. They are:

Assist. Surgeon
Surgeon's Mate
Aide to Colonel

First Company:

Second Company:

Third Company:

Fourth Company:

Fifth Company:

Benjamin Simonds
Caleb Hyde
Daniel Horsford
Erastus Sergeant
William Towner
Eldad Lewis
Joseph Simonds

Erastus Sergeant
Forty-three men

Amos Rathburn
Fifty-eight men

William Douglass
Seventy-seven men
from Hancock, Lanes-
boro, and Williamstown

Ephraim Fitch
Fifty-seven men
from Williamstown
and adjoining towns.

George King
Fifty-seven men
from Cheshire,
Williamstown, and
other towns.













The Councils of Safety 321

Sixth Company:

Captain William Watkins Unknown

Forty-four men
from English Hoosac

Seventh Company:

Captain David Wheeler Unknown

Forty-five men
from Williamstown
and adjoining towns.

During the third and fourth meetings of the General
Council of Safety of the Green Mountain Boys, held at
Westminster, October, 30, 1776 and January 15, 1777, Ira
Allen presented Dr. Jonas Fay's Declaration of Vermont's
Independence. The Continental Congress at Philadelphia,
however, later refused to accept the Green Mountain settlers'
Declaration of Rights, although Ira Allen and Dr. Thomas
Young published papers supporting their contentions.
After the thirteen United Colonies declared their Indepen-
dence of the British Crown, all arbitrary acts of the
New York Royal Colony also became null in the Green
Mountain Republic. The settlers, therefore, considered
themselves "without law or government, truly in a state
of nature." They described and bounded the territory and
pubHshed their State's Declaration of Independence' as
■the fourteenth in the Federal Union, under the name of
"New Cormecticut," in the Connecticut Courant, March 17,

, ^777-
K The meeting of the General Council of Safety, held at

' Windsor, July 2, 1777, met to frame their State Constitution.
Dr. Thomas Young of Philadelphia, in a letter dated in April,
1777, had advised "the people of Vermont to form forthwith

' Dr. Jonas Fay, Records of Vermont Councils of Safety.

322 The Hoosac Valley

a State Government," modelled after Pennsylvania's Con-
stitution. This appears to have been the first time the
name Vermont was appHed to the territory. In October
1763, the Rev. Hugh Peters' had, however, christened the
Green Mountain region Verd-mont, from the French Verd
(green) and motit (mount). The "d" was dropped later
and the present spelHng, Vermont, adopted. Dr. Thomas
Young died before the completion of Vermont's Declaration
of Rights, although they were finished by Ira Allen, who
collected fees for copying the model State Papers.

At the first session of the Windsor Constitutional Council
of Safety, July 2, 1777, Ira Allen was appointed commander
of frontier defences. Three days later news of the Evacua-
tion of Fort Ticonderoga by the Patriots on July 5th, and
the Battle of Hubbardton on the 6th, reached the Windsor
Council. The Vermont Legislature had not yet elected its
officers and the State was thus without a dollar in its
treasury. Ira Allen and Thomas Chittenden, however, sent
express messengers to New Hampshire, Massachusetts,
and Connecticut Committees of Safety, urging militia for the
defence of the Hoosac-Walloomsac frontier. John Langdon,
of the New Hampshire Legislature, personally donated
$3000 in money and pledged $3000 more in silver plate and
seventy hogsheads of tobago rum, to be sold at auction to
swell the military fund. Brig.-Gen. John Stark of London-
derry, N. H., signed an agreement with the Legislature, and
the veterans who fought with him in the Battle of Bunker
Hill, rallied at Fort No. 4, now the site of Charleston on the

Later the Bennington Council of Safety adjourned in de-
spair over the problem of raising funds to equip a regiment.
The youthful secretary, Ira Allen, was appointed "to dis-

'Rev. Samuel Peters, Life of Rev. Hugh Peters, 1807; Thompson's Vermont
Hist., Pt. I., p. 4; Pt. II., p. 108, 1842.


The Councils of Safety 323

cover ways and means" and to report at sunrise. After a
sleepless night he reported that ' ' the property of all persons
(Tories) who had or should join the common enemy (British)
should be sequestered and sold at public auction to furnish
the means of defence." On July 28th following, commis-
sioners were appointed, who sold all Tory property and arms
at auction. Fifteen days later Col. Samuel Herrick's Regi-
ment of Vermont Rangers was organized, including Capt.
Samuel Robinson's' East Bennington Company, Capt.
Elijah Dewey's^ West Bennington Company, and a portion
of Col. Nathaniel Brush's Regiment of Vermont Volunteers,
many of whom resided in Pownal and Stamford.

General Stark's letter, dated at Fort No. 4 on the Con-
necticut, July 29, 1777, informed the Bennington Council
of Safety that the British had left Castleton with intention to
march to the upper Walloomsac and seize Fort Bennington's
Provincial storehouse. He was delayed at Fort No. 4,
owing to scarcity of bullets. Only one pair of bullet-moulds
were at hand to turn out balls, and nine of the eleven barrels
of powder were condemned. Ira Allen and Thomas Chit-
tenden, however, urged Stark's men forward by sending food
and rum to aid them on their march over the mountains
to Manchester, where they arrived on August 8th. General
Lincoln met General Stark with a message from Major-
General Schuyler to march down to the east bank of the
Hudson. Stark refused and showed his agreement made
with the New Hampshire Legislature to hang on the New
England border and strike as opportunity offered. General
Schuyler wholly forgot to give orders to defend the Hoosac-
Walloomsac frontier.

General Stark and his army, accompanied by Col. Seth
Warner, on August 9th left Manchester and encamped late
that evening on the meadow surrounding Colonel Herrick's

• See Note 20, at end of volume. ' See Note 21, at end of volume.

324 The Hoosac Valley-

Tavern, two miles west of the Old First Church of Bennington
Centre, now the site of the Otis Warren residence.

Burgoyne's army of 7000 troops consisted of over 4000
German hirelings, including Brunswickers, Dragoons, Hes-
sians, and Chasseurs, and 3000 Britishers. Only 2800
of the German troops survived. For the death or non- return
of each of the German soldiers England was forced to pay the
petty sovereign £14 — twice as much as she paid for those
returned. Burgoyne's campaign of 1777 was mapped out
for him by King George II. and his ministers. He left
Quebec in May and was ordered to make a juncture with
General Howe at Albany.

On the march south from Canada the British army swelled
to nearly 10,000 men, including Canadians, Indians, and
Tories. On June ist, Burgoyne broke up his River Boquet
Camp and marched for Fort Ticonderoga. The settlers
fled in terror ahead of his Indian scouts. They left their
tables as they rose from breakfast and set a torch to their
dwellings. The British gained the Old Military Road and
soon arrived at Fort Ticonderoga. The battery of the
Patriots on Mount Independence in Orwell was connected
with the main fortress on the west shore by a floating bridge.
Both forts were within cannon shot of Sugar Loaf Mountain,
known as Mount Defiance, where the British hauled for-
midable batteries during the night of July 5th. Before
sunrise the Patriots evacuated Fort Ticonderoga and crossed
on the bridge to Mount Independence. They were ad-
vancing toward Hubbardton, Vt., when the British overtook
General St. Clare's rear-guard, composed of Warner's,
Francis's, and Hale's nine hundred Continentals. The
Battle of Hubbardton lasted three hours, until the British
were reinforced by the Hessians, who marched forward
singing their Battle Hymn of Winfield's Fight, louder than
the sound of musketry. Colonel Francis was slain and Col-

The Councils of Safety 325

onel Warner ordered his men to look out for themselves and
meet him at Manchester. The loss of both the Americans
and the Britishers was heavy; only about one hundred and
fifty of Warner's Continentals reached Manchester safely.

General Burgoyne made his headquarters at Maj. Philip
Skene's Whitehall Manor, where he remained until July 15th,
when his army began to march down the Hudson to meet
General Howe at Albany. Howe later took possession of
New Jersey, New York, and Long Island forts, which led
Gen. George Washington, stationed on lower Hudson, to
exclaim that "as matters were going, Burgoyne would have
little difficulty in reaching Albany." After the Evacuation
of Fort Ticonderoga and the Battle of Hubbardton, however,
General Schuyler rallied his scattered troops at Fort George.
He removed all the cannon and stores, tore up the corduroy
roads, and blocked the enemies' march between Skene's
Whitehall Manor and Fort Edward, by felling trees across
the muddy pass. The British and Germans were thus
unable to march more than a mile a day for the following
twenty-two days and arrived at Fort Edward on the upper
Hudson, July 28th.

Those three weeks gave the Continental Councils of
Safety time to rally large regiments and station them
between Bemis Heights at Stillwater and Half-Moon at
Waterford on the Hudson. Both the Hoosac and Walloom-
sac passes were guarded by the redoubtable Stark, who was
"Stark sure" of Burgoyne's intention to seize the Provin-
cial stores at Bennington and Williamstown, After arriving
at Fort Edward on July 28th, General Burgoyne held a
council of war with his officers, and the Tory Major, Philip
Skene, advised him of the Americans' stores of com, wheat,
horses, cattle, and wheel carriages at Fort Bennington. He
needed horses and wagons to move provisions and artillery
from Lake George to Albany, and 1300 horses to mount

326 The Hoosac Valley

General Riedesel's Dragoons. Burgoyne, therefore, ordered
Col. Frederick Baum to head an expedition to seize Benning-
ton's storehouse. He broke up his Fort Edward Camp and
gave out that he was to march to Boston, although his secret
plan was to make a juncture with General Howe, Colonel
St. Leger, and Colonel Baum at Albany, and to eat his
Christmas plum-pudding either there or in New York City.
However, the massacre of Jane McCrea by the Huron
Chief, Wyandotte Panther, took place on July 27th, the
day before Burgoyne broke up his Fort Edward Camp.
Owing to her youth and the romance of her approaching
marriage to David Jones, an officer in Peters's regiment of
Loyalists, the massacre made a particularly deep impression.
The news spread like magic and roused every American in
the Colonies. A mighty hatred burned in the breasts of
Whig and Tory alike. The wavering Loyalists now seized
their muskets and volunteered for the Patriot Cause against
the British Crown that stooped to enlist savages in their
cause. Jane McCrea was conducted by two Indians to meet
her lover at his brother's home near General Eraser's Camp,
north of the site of Sandy Hill. A keg of rum was promised
to her escorts for her safe arrival. The Indians quarrelled
over the division of the rum, a mile south of her destination,
and the Huron chieftain, in order to prevent his companion
from receiving the rum, seized Jane McCrea's golden hair
and scalped her beneath a pine tree still standing at Sandy
Hill. General Burgoyne, however, pardoned Wyandotte
Panther, and on August 5th, nine days after Jane McCrea's
massacre, he obtained a pledge from seventeen tribes of the
Abenakis and Iroquois nations to remain loyal to the British
Cause. Burgoyne then sent forth a proclamation to the
colonists in which he said : " I have but to give stretch to the
Indian forces under my direction, and they amount to thou-
sands, to overtake the hardened enemies of Great Britain.

The Councils of Safety 327

... I trust I shall stand acquitted in the eyes of God and
man, in executing the vengeance of the Crown against the
wilful outcasts."

Burgoyne's British army of disciplined men was excep-
tionally well supplied with officers and artillery. His
generals — Philip, Fraser, Riedesel, Nesbit, Gordon, and
Thatcher — were all men of skill and judgment.

Stark's American army included eighteen hundred
undisciplined men, including over five hundred Berkshire
volunteers, fresh from their harvest fields, armed with
scythes, axes, hay-forks, and old flint-locks. They arrived
at the North Farm Camp in Bennington on the rainy day of
August 15th. Several of the Bennington County boys were
bare-footed. On August i6th, during the raging battle,
' Captain Comstock led his Sunderland company to the
battle-field without shoes. While in the act of trying on a
dead Hessian's shoes, he was mortally wounded, after which
I the command of his company fell to Lieut. Eli Brownson,
a brother-in-law of Col. Ethan Allen.

There was not a man left at Williamstown in Berkshire

I County except a cripple unable to bear arms. Capt. Samuel

' Clark's South Williamstown company contained sixty-five

I men; and Capt Nehemiah Smedley's North Williamstown

: company contained ninety men. The military line separat-

i ing the two districts ran east and west over the summit of

Stone Hill. Capt. William Douglass's Hancock company con-

t tained forty-six men, and Captain Smith's company from the

same neighborhood numbered thirty-one men, who belonged

to Colonel Simonds's Berkshire Boys Regiment. Capt.

Amariah Babbitt's New Ashford company included a large

number of patriotic men, although the hilly town, famous

for blackberry-briars, is nearly depopulated to-day. Capt.

Daniel Brown's Lanesboro company contained forty-six men,

and they carried to the field sixty pounds of powder, five


The Hoosac Valley

hundred and eighty pounds of lead, and two hundred and
forty flints.

Lieut. William Ford of Brown's Pittsfield regiment headed

Catamount Monument, marking site of the Catamount Tavern on the Parade at

Bennington Centre, Vermont. The Bronze Catamount of the Benningtonians

still grins his teeth westward toward the Yorkers as in iy66 and 177 1.

twenty-two men, including the famous "Fighting Parson,"
Thomas Allen, a cousin of Ethan Allen and first minister of
Pittsfield, and several of his parishioners. Capt. Aaron
Rowley led the Richmond company, containing twenty-six
men, including David Rossiter of Brown's regiment. Capt.


The Councils of Safety 329

Enoch Noble and Lieutenant Warner of Ashley's regiment
also led two companies from Stockbridge, and Captain Solo-
mon headed a company of Stockbridge Indians. A Lenox
company included the sharpshooters Linus Parker, Sepp Ives,
Isaac Cummings, and others. Captain Low's Cheshire com-
pany contained forty-four men, and Capt. Joab Stafford's
company of Independents from Stafford Hill, a part of the
town of Cheshire, contained forty-one men, including several
Quakers from Windsor, Lanesboro, Adams, and North
Adams. They took forty pounds of powder, one hundred
and twenty pounds of lead, and seventy-two flints. Capt.
Enos Parker led the Adams company, containing forty-one

Lead seemed to be one of the most needed articles among
the New England troopers. On August 15th, mounted
messengers were sent through Berkshire and Bennington
counties collecting lead. Dr. Fay's Records of the Council
of Safety contains the following message :

State of Vermont,
Bennington in Council of Safety,
August 15, 1777.

You are hereby desired to forward to this place, by
express, all the lead you can possibly collect in your vicinity;
as it is expected, every minute, an action will commence
between our troops and the enemies, within four or five
miles of this place, and the lead will be positively wanted.

By Order of the Council,

Paul Spooner,

D. Sec'y.
The Chairman of the Committee of Safety of Williamstown.

Col. Benjamin Simonds sent another special order for lead
to his wife at River Bend Tavern in Williamstown, as follows:

330 The Hoosac Valley

Madam: Please to send by bearer, Jedidiah Reed, 6 or
7 pounds of lead, by Col. Simonds's order.

By Order of Council,

Paul Spooner,

D. Sec'y.

Lieut.-Col. Frederick Baum's expedition was equipped
with Burgoyne's finest men, including General Riedesel's

Online LibraryGrace Greylock NilesThe Hoosac Valley, its legends and its history → online text (page 22 of 41)