Henry Phelps Johnston.

Yale and her honor-roll in the American revolution, 1775-1783 : including original letters, records of service, and biographical sketches online

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2 ^ 3

Press of

New York


ANY one familiar with the personal history of the
leaders of the Revolution must have remarked upon
the large representation of college-bred men among

This was not only a suggestive fact in the experi
ence of a provincial population, but in part explains
the method and reasonableness of the revolutionary
movement itself. No similar revolt in history was
grounded less in bitterness and hate, or developed
more naturally from discussion and conviction. As
the public controversy the issue in documentary
form turned upon the constitutional relation of the
colonies to the mother country, it required a certain
amount of general learning and familiarity with colo
nial history to engage in it intelligently. The ques
tion appealed to the educated and professional
element, which included not only lawyers, ministers
and orators, but many merchants as well whose dis
gust at England s restrictive commercial policy in
tensified their opposition. The speeches in assem
blies and town-meetings, the sermons and pamphlets

iv Preface.

on the issues of the day, the petitions and protests
which British statesmen admired for their dignity
and breadth of views, were in many, probably in most
instances, the efforts and product of trained minds.
The colleges of the day could count among their alumni
such men as Otis, Warren, Hancock, the Adamses,
Hawley, Trumbull, Wolcott, Jay, the Livingstons and
Morrises, Hopkinson, Rush, Jefferson, Harrison,
Gerry, Wythe, Lyman Hall, and others whose
names are interwoven with the history of that period.
Their influence in the earlier and more important
Congresses is indicated in the fact that very nearly
one half of the signers of the Declaration of Inde
pendence were graduates.

The colonist was proud of such leadership. It
proved the wisdom of his policy in encouraging edu
cation, especially the higher education, from an early
date. The nine colleges he had founded before the
Revolution were : Harvard in 1636 ; William and
Mary, 1693 ; Yale, 1701 ; Princeton, 1746 ; Columbia,
1754; University of Pennsylvania, 1755; Brown,
1765; Dartmouth, 1769; and Rutgers, 1770. The
aggregate number of their alumni living at the out
break of the war was about two thousand five hundred,
which may be regarded as a fair proportion of the
population in those colonies which supported the
colleges ; and they had their full weight in the com
munity, for in addition to those who took a dis-

Preface. v

tinguished part in the larger political field, others
became judges, legislators and governors, and filled
many of the minor civil offices.

As a revolutionary soldier, the graduate is less
familiar to us. That he made a notable record,
however, is quite certain, and its revival would not
only be a happy act of remembrance, but the material
itself a valuable contribution to the personal history
of those times. All the colleges were represented in
the field, and in larger numbers than they are gener
ally credited with. The four oldest in the list, having
many more graduates and graduates of longer stand
ing than the rest, were conspicuously represented.

There was something in the aim and courage of
those alumni " Continentals" we cannot very gracious
ly forget. Not only could they shout as vigorously
against the Stamp Act and talk of their rights as
earnestly as any others, but they clearly foresaw that
if the sword were once drawn, it would not be simply
to decide the limit of ministerial or parliamentary
authority, or even to establish their independence as
the only remedy of their wrongs. It is remarkable
how, after the fighting began, the colonists as a body
lost sight of the original issue and dropped all thought
of returning to their former allegiance. They were
looking to the future. We may say that they fought
in the line of destiny. What sustained them through
the struggle was largely the inherited conviction that

vi Preface.

though nominally or politically they were subjects of
Great Britain, in another sense and in a more natural
way they were the true proprietors of the soil and
founders of new communities whose prospective as
well as immediate interests it was their first duty to

In the case of that portion of the revolutionary
soldiery to which the writer s attention has been called
in the present work, it may be stated that with few
exceptions the graduates were descendants of fami
lies which came to this country before the year 1690.
At the opening of the war they represented the
fourth, fifth, and sixth generation from the first immi
grant, and were members of what might be called
the patrician element in colonial society. It was the
element which instinctively considered itself entitled
to the control of the continent, as against the mother
country, in all matters of vital concern. The best
men among them kept referring to the possibilities
of the future as being theirs to mark out and develop ;
such men, for example, as Dr. Stiles, who both be
fore and after he became President of Yale impressed
this idea of destiny upon his hearers, or such men
as Dr. Dwight, who when tutor at the college deliv
ered an address to the students in 1776, in which he
reminded them of the wide field and the great duties
before them. " Remember," he said, " that you are
to act for the empire of America, and for a long sue-

Preface. vii

cession of ages. . . . Your wishes, your designs, your
labors are not to be confined by the narrow bounds
of the present age, but are to comprehend succeed
ing generations." The graduate of 76 and men like
him took up the sword for the new America. Deep
ly interested in the movement for himself, he also had
a sense of the greatness his descendants would enjoy
through his efforts, which in turn places us under a
very real and personal obligation to him.

In the following pages I have ventured to compile
this missing record, so far as Yale s part is concerned.
An examination, at intervals of leisure, of manuscripts
and printed material has been more or less successful,
furnishing at least sufficient facts for something in the
way of a memorial. The first part includes an out
line of the operations in each year of the war, showing
the situation wherever graduates were present, and
in connection with which some original letters written
by them from field and camp are inserted. In the
second part will be found the Roll of Honor, or list of
all known to have been engaged during the war, with
biographical sketches added. Authorities and sources
of information are indicated in foot-notes, and in
an introductory note to the second part. I am under
obligations to librarians and others for assistance, but
especially to Prof. Franklin B. Dexter, Secretary of
the University and Professor of American History,
who has favored me with many data ; Dr. Samuel



A. Green, Librarian of the Massachusetts Historical
Society, Hon. Charles J. Hoadley, Librarian of the
State Library, Hartford, Conn., and Mr. William
Kelby, of the New York Historical Society Library.


January, 1888.


I. Preface ....... iii

II. Distribution of the Alumni in 1775 . i

III. Events in 1775-76.

The Alarm at the College Young Huntington Chipman s
Epic Washington and the Students Company Noah
Webster Graduates in the General Uprising Bunker Hill
Letters from Chester, Grosvenor, Sherman Dr. Stiles in
Camp Ticonderoga and Quebec Wooster, Brown, Coit,
Babcock Boston Evacuated Col. Gay .... 8

IV. Events in 1776-77.

The New York Campaign List of Alumni Soldiers
Declaration of Independence Joseph Hawley Battle of
Long Island Colonel Silliman Retreat to New York
Tallmadge s Account of It Loss of New York Nathan
Hale Bushnell s Torpedo White Plains Trenton and
Princeton Letter from Capt. Hull Hitchcock s Gallant
Conduct Death of Graduate Officers .... 36

V. Events in 1777-78.

The New Continental Army Graduates in Its Ranks The
Danbury Raid and Death of General Wooster Events in
Pennsylvania Battle of Germantown Lieut. Morris, Pris
oner The Burgoyne Campaign Graduates Engaged Let
ters from Gen. Wolcott and Capt. Seymour Col. Brown s
Exploit The Surrender Washington s Congratulations
Letters from Gens. Scott and Silliman .... 64

VI. Events in 1778-79.

Valley Forge and Its Discipline General Paterson Alumni
in Camp Letters from Lieuts. Chipman and Selden Devo
tion of the Army to Washington The French Alliance
General Scott to Gates Battle of Monmouth Camp at



White Plains Battle of Rhode Island Notice from the
College Steward . 83

VII. Events in 1779-80.

Short Commons at College Letters from Commis
sary Colt Yale Loyalists General Silliman and Judge
Jones Storming of Stony Point Sherman, Hull, Selden
Invasion of New Haven Ex-President Daggett and the
Students Major Huntington Complimented Death of
Col. Russell .... .... 94

VIII. Events in 1780-81.

The Morristown Huts Severe Winter of 1780 Letters
from Major Huntington, Commissary Flint, and Others-
Battle of Springfield, N. J. David Humphreys, Aid to
Washington Letters from Gov. Livingston and Gen.
Paterson Dr. Stiles in the French Camp Death of Col.
Brown Major Tallmadge and His Services Letter on
Andre Humphreys Attempt on Clinton Lieut.-Col.
Gray 112

IX. Events in 1781-82.

Situation at the North Colonel Hull s Affair at the Out
postsLafayette s Virginia Expedition Major Wyllys
Letters from Capt. Welles and Others The Yorktown Cam
paign Graduate Officers at the Siege Humphreys and the
Captured Flags Rejoicings President Stiles to Washing
ton 129

X. Events in 1782-83.

Peace Negotiations Military Affairs Letters from Welles,
Wyllys, and Silliman Tallmadge s Third Attempt on Long
Island The Major s Report and Washington s Reply
Letters from Sill and Humphreys Evacuation of New
York by the Enemy Disbandment of the Revolutionary
Army Letter from Hull . . . . . . . 141

XI. Washington.

Humphreys Visit to Mt. Vernon in 1786 Letter to His
Brother Is Urged to Write a History of the Revolution-
Personal Items The " Father of his Country " at Home
President Dwight s Eulogy on Washington An Estimate of
His Character Personal Qualities, Public Conduct, Mili
tary Talents, and Place in History 153



XII. Majors Wyllys and Heart.

In the Regular Army Wyllys, Senior Major Stationed in
the Ohio Country Recommended for a Colonelcy Letter
from Harmar First Indian War Harmar s Defeat, and
Death of Wyllys Letters Heart Promoted Major of the
Second Regiment St. Clair s Defeat and Death of Heart .

XIII. Roll of Honor,

Sketches .

XIV. Index

with Biographical



IN 1775.

OF the nine hundred or more Yale graduates
known to have been living in 1775, much the larger
proportion, approximately two thirds, resided in the
colony of Connecticut, the home of the college. The
remainder were distributed throughout Massachusetts,
Rhode Island, New York, and New Jersey, with a
limited number scattered at widely distant points
north and south.

In Connecticut the college exerted an appreciable
influence. Dr. Benjamin Trumbull recognizes this
fact in his history of the colony, where he states that
as early as 1743 the alumni constituted a " numerous
and respectable " body, and adds, somewhat flatter
ingly, that not a few had become " pillars" and " stars
of distinguished lustre " in both church and common
wealth ; and this may be accepted as equally true in
1775, when the relative increase of graduates had
very nearly kept pace with that of the population.
It may be doubted, indeed, whether at any time, be
fore or since, the college has filled so large a place in
the eye of the community at home as during the
period of the Revolution.

Yale in the Revolution.

The crisis itself would partially explain this, so far
as it called upon men of acknowledged ability, integ
rity, and public spirit to engage in the management
of affairs ; for it happened that an exceptional num
ber of the alumni then living throughout the principal
towns were citizens of this stamp. Events gave them
increased prominence. But a further explanation
may be sought in the relation of the graduate to the
society of the time, in which the professions as such
had not assumed their modern importance. While
the pulpit, it is true, was a power in itself, neither
law nor medicine were the attractions then that
they are to-day. Apart from the ministers who
often attended the sick in their parishes, com
paratively few graduates became physicians, de
voting themselves exclusively to their calling ; nor
were many more lawyers, or regularly entered " bar
risters at law" as they were styled, as litigation
appears not to have been as general or lucrative
as in the period after the Revolution. College
men, accordingly, more frequently then than now,
dropped into the active life of the community,
sometimes combining business with a profession.
They kept stores, cultivated farms, acted as agents,
owned ships and traded along the coast and with
the West Indies. The lay graduate of that day,
being less the professional man than increasing
wealth and diversity of interests have enabled him to
become in later times, engaged in every honorable
occupation, and wherever he established himself per
manently he exercised a certain neighborhood in
fluence, which, in numerous instances, is known to

The Alumni in 1775. 3

have been neither slight nor transient. Sometimes
he became the local dignitary as probate judge or
colonel of militia, again as town clerk and justice
of the peace, or, perhaps, more often than not, he
was moderator of the town-meeting, or chief spokes
man on town affairs. When, finally, the war came,
his views and example had weight.

As illustrating the influence and distinction, ac
corded to the college element in the State, it may be
noticed that while the honored governor, Jonathan
Trumbull, was a graduate of Harvard, the house of
" Assistants," a body of twelve eminent citizens elected
at large, contained in 1775 eight Yale graduates.
The secretary of state, one of the five superior court
judges, all the county court and many of the probate
judges were also graduates. So also were several of
the prominent members of the General Assembly, fre
quently the Speaker, nearly one half the field officers
of the militia for 1774-75, a majority of the impor
tant State revolutionary Council of Safety, and six of
the twelve members who at different times, from 1 775
to 1783, attended the Continental Congress at Phila
delphia. At the beginning of the struggle graduates
took the lead in the principal town and county war
meetings, in some cases presiding over them, as
at New Haven, Hartford, New London, Norwich,
Windham, and Lyme, and in other cases acting on
the committees of correspondence ; while during the
progress of the contest it is to be remarked how fre
quently they figured on legislative committees charged
with the active and responsible duties of the hour.

In Massachusetts, the Yale representation, was to

4 Yale in the Revolution.

be found mainly in the central and western parts of
the State, in Hampshire and Berkshire counties, in
the towns of Springfield, Westfield, Pittsfield, North
ampton, Stockbridge, Lenox, and neighboring places.
The tide of emigration, or removals, had been setting
in that direction for some years before the Revolution,
and graduates, with others, sought the advantages of
new localities. Several of the Ashleys and the Wil-
liamses named in the triennial catalogue lived in that
section, as well as Hawley, Hopkins, Brown, Dickin
son, Sedgwick, and Paterson, who will reappear in the
military record. Including the few who resided in
Eastern Massachusetts there were at that time not
far from one hundred and seventy of the alumni in
the State. The great majority of these were in the
fullest sympathy with the course of events, and some,
like Joseph Hawley, of whom further mention must
be made, proved towers of strength. Their influence
in Berkshire was not inconsiderable if one may judge
from the fact that at the important county convention
held in July, 1774, for the declaration of views on
the crisis, the chairman, secretary, and three of the
five members of the committee to draft the resolu
tions, were graduates. What is more, they followed
up their patriotic expressions with active service in
the field.

In Rhode Island the number of graduates at that
period was small, probably not more than twenty,
three or four of whom entered the military service.
Three attained some distinction at home in earlier
years or during the war as deputy-governors, namely,
Darius Sessions, Paul Mumford and Jabez Bowen.

The Alumni in 1775. 5

Of the soldiers two were colonels. The most prom
inent graduates there in 1775 were Hon. Joshua
Babcock, formerly Chief-Justice of Rhode Island, and
Rev. Dr. Ezra Stiles, Congregational pastor at New
port, who was to become president of Yale in 1 778.

In New York we meet with some names that are
closely identified with the history of the colony and
the State. Our earliest graduate here, and the
earliest lay graduate from any college, was William
Smith, of the class of 1719, who became the first of
the many distinguished lawyers who have adorned
the bar of New York City from that day to this. By
his contemporaries he is described as a man of pro
found learning, unimpeachable character and " the
most eloquent speaker in the province." At the time
of his death in 1 769 he was one of the judges of the
supreme court. That he kept up a warm interest in
the college would appear from the statement made
by his son, Judge William Smith, of the class of 1745,
the historian, that it was upon his recommendation
that Philip Livingston, the second proprietor of the
manor on the Hudson by his name, was induced to
send his sons to the " Academy " at New Haven.
These four Livingston brothers, Peter Van Brugh,
John, Philip, and William, with some others, continued
the succession of Yale graduates in the city down to
the war. The first three became merchants, the
last a lawyer. Peter was president and treasurer
of the first New York Provincial Congress. Philip
and William were sent as delegates to the Con
tinental Congress. Philip signed the Declaration
of Independence, and William, moving into New

6 Yale in the Revolution.

Jersey, became the "war governor" of that State.
Richard and Lewis Morris, John Sloss Hobart, and
Ezra L Hommedieu went to Congress or became
judges. Another name is that of John Morin Scott,
an eminent advocate, who threw himself heartily into
the cause. Chancellor Kent, who was to keep up the
college representation in legal circles in New York
after the war, speaks of him as " one of that band of
deep-read and thorough lawyers of the old school, who
were an ornament to the city at the commencement
of the Revolution." In all there were about seventy
graduates in the State in 1775, most of whom lived in
the city or on Long Island. As a body they suffered
from the war more than any others. Philip Living
ston, Lewis Morris, and Scott, were nearly ruined
their fine mansions and estates, in or near the city,
being confiscated and despoiled by the enemy. The
house of Dr. John A. Graham, class of 1768, was
burned by the British after the battle at White Plains.
Some were fugitives from their homes during the
entire contest ; and some were Tories who will be
briefly noticed in the operations of 1779.

In New Jersey we had about twenty graduates,
several of whom were settled pastors. Three or four
of the younger alumni were prospecting in Wyoming
Valley, Westmoreland County, Penn., which Con
necticut then claimed as her territory. Others were
to be found in the tracts which afterwards became
the States of New Hampshire and Vermont. Lyman
Hall, the " Signer," had made his home in Liberty
County, Georgia. Very few, if any, were then living in
either Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, or the Carolinas.

The Alumni in 1775. i

The college in 1775 numbered one hundred and
sixty-four students, who graduated with their respec
tive classes. Rev. Dr. Naphtali Daggett was Presi
dent and Professor of Divinity ; Rev. Nehemiah
Strong, Professor of Mathematics and Natural Phi
losophy. Timothy Dwight, Joseph Buckminster,
Abraham Baldwin, and John Lewis were Tutors, the
first three of whom subsequently became chaplains
in the army. Three buildings were then standing on
the grounds, two of which remain to-day old
South Middle and the Athenaeum, which served both
as a chapel and a library.

These graduates and students, we may repeat, were
typical colonists. Barring the few who were either
avowed loyalists or assumed a neutral attitude where
they could, they belonged to the class which formed
the soul of the Revolution. Most of them doubtless
felt with Dr. Stiles in July, 1 774, that : " If oppression
proceeds, despotism may force an annual Congress ;
and a public spirit of enterprise may originate an
American Magna Charta and Bill of Rights, supported
by such intrepid and persevering importunity as even
sovereignty may hereafter judge it not wise to with

EVENTS IN 1775-76.

The Alarm at the College Young Huntington Chipman s Epic Washington
and the Students Company Noah Webster Graduates in the General
Uprising Bunker Hill Letters from Chester, Grosvenor, Sherman
Dr. Stiles in Camp Ticonderoga and Quebec Wooster, Brown, Coit,
Babcock Boston Evacuated Col. Gay.

TURNING first to the college, when the war opened,
we are quite prepared to find that little community
as deeply agitated as any other, and responding as
quickly to the popular sympathies. There is this
reference to the situation in the journal of one of the
students, which expresses much :

" Friday. April 21, . To-day tidings of the battle of Lex
ington, which is the first engagement with the British troops, ar
rived at New Haven. This filled the country with alarm and
rendered it impossible for us to pursue our studies to any profit."

The student was Ebenezer Fitch, of the Sophomore
class, who was to become the first president of Wil
liams College. It is fortunate for our purposes that
his journal has been preserved, as the extract quoted
appears to be, with an item in the diary of President
Stiles, the only contemporary record we have of the
effect produced by the Lexington news at Yale. And
startling news it was, no doubt. One may readily
picture the scene of excitement around the old halls
that evening as the students and townsmen alike
dwelt upon the details of the encounter and can
vassed the probability of having a war at their very


Events in 1775-76. 9

doors. What shows that they were all profoundly
moved, is the fact that on the next day class exercises
were suspended and college " broke up." The stu
dious Fitch himself could not keep to his books, but
went home to Canterbury, and soon after visited the
camps then forming around Boston. It was not
until June ist that he returned to college. 1 So too,
Ezra Stiles, of the same class, surprised his father at
Newport, by arriving on the 26th with word that
the students were dispersing. 2 Clearly, with drums
beating, rumors flying, and serious speculation going
on over the consequences of a general conflict with
the mother country, there could be little attentive
studying for a time. It was something more than an
ephemeral excitement or interruption. Three or four
of the students, as tradition goes, closed their studies
at once and fell into the line of volunteers marching
northward. It is certain that Ebenezer Huntington
of the Senior class was one. His father, the Hon.
Jabez Huntington, of the class of 1741, then a mem
ber of the Upper House of Connecticut, and his elder
brother, Jedidiah, graduate of Harvard, and after
wards general in the Continental army, had both
stepped forward unhesitatingly in the earlier stages of
the crisis, which may go to explain young Ebenezer s
enthusiasm. The tradition in his case, sufficiently
supported by the record, is to the effect that failing
to obtain permission from the college authorities to

the diary in "Sketch of the late Rev. Ebenezer Fitch, D.D.," by

Online LibraryHenry Phelps JohnstonYale and her honor-roll in the American revolution, 1775-1783 : including original letters, records of service, and biographical sketches → online text (page 1 of 28)