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History of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) online

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of a regiment of militia that was raised to serve for three months
"at forty shillings per month, to be paid in Gold or Silver or
Continental Bills equivalent thereto ; and your petitioner finds

1 Arnold's History of Rhode Island, vol. ii. p. 453.



an uneasiness among the Soldiers by being apprehensive of their
being paid in the Emission of paper money." Colonel Mitchell
therefore asked for directions to be given to him in order that he
might instruct the captains of his regiment as to the manner in
which they should make up their muster-rolls. In answer to
this petition the General Court voted " That each private soldier
in said three months' service be paid at the rate of one hundred
and forty pounds per month, in Continental Bills of credit, or
equivalent in the new emission."

A.D. 1781.

A year of discouragement and disaster had passed away, and
a brighter era was about to dawn. The new year began with
mutiny in the army, which was put down by force, two of the
ring-leaders being shot by sentence of a court-martial. The
mutiny grew out of the fact that the new recruits received large
bounties, while the older troops could not get even the small
wages that belonged to them. Washington recommended that
bounties be given to the troops that had been long in the service,
and great exertions were made to obtain money and supplies.
Our illustrious Commander-in-chief came to Rhode Island in
March, to arrange with Rochambeau for an active campaign.
On the fourteenth a grand and joyful reception was given him
at Providence, at which a company commanded by our Captain
Keith, then in Rhode Island, was probably present. This com-
pany seems to have been composed mainly of Norton men.
The residence of its members is not given, but the following
were from Easton : ^ —

Josiah Keith, Captain. Elijah Copeland.

Ebenezer Williams, Sergeant. Ephraim Hewitt.

Edmund Macomber, Co?-poral. Isaac Stearns.

Amasa Lincoln, Dntviiner. John Tuckerman.

John Andrews. Joseph Ward.

Joshua Burr. Jairus Williams.
Bethuel Turner.

This company was on guard-duty for about thirteen days. It
was in Col. Isaac Dean's regiment of militia.

1 State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. ii. p. 142.



At the same time Capt. John Sha\^^had a company in the reg-
iment commanded by Col. Abiel Mitchell, and they were out on
the same service, being gone, however, for forty days. In this
company were the following Easton men :^ —

Daniel Dailey, Seroeant. Joseph Drake.

Samuel Ripley, Corporal. Lot Drake.

^ William Hack, Corporal. Timothy Drake.

Oliver Drake, Corporal. David Dunbar.

Rufus Burr. Andrew Gilmore.

Sylvanus Burr. Job Packard.
Joseph Packard.

Early in the war the General Court of Massachusetts ordered
that every seventh man in the State should serve for three years,
or for the war. In order to systematize the matter, the town of
Easton divided all its male citizens who were upwards of sixteen
years of age into parties of seven each. These were called
"classes," and were numbered first, second, etc. Each class
was to send one of its men to serve in the army, or was to find
some one who would serve for the class. In order to do this it
soon became necessary to pay considerable money to the volun-
teer. In one of the old town books is this record : —

"These may certify, that as the General Court of this State has or-
dered that every seventh man of this State, from sixteen years & up-
ward, shall serve in the armey for three years, or during the war
between Great Breton and America, We the six men — Samuel Guild,
Edward Hayward the first, John Howard, Jacob Leonard, Nehemiah
Howard, and Abiel Kinsley — have agreed with and hired Ephraim
Smith, which makes the seventh man, to serve as aforesd for the sum
of Eight Pounds, & Sd. Smith has inlisted with me, as Witness my
hand. Abner Hayward, Lieutenant.

Easton, February 20, 1777.

Early in 1781 there were fourteen men due from Easton for
the three years' service, and they were enlisted according to the
arrangement just alluded to. A full copy of the names of these
men and of various particulars concerning them is here given :^

' State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. iii. p. 128.
2 Ibid., vol. xxxiv. pp. 418, 419.









Thomas Clapp


5 ft. 6in.



26, I7S1.

Baron DeBeauez


5 ft. 41 n.



16, I7S1.

Jonali Drake


5 ft. 6in.



II, I781.

Benjamin Eddy


5ft. loin.



17, I7SI.

Benjamin Eddy, Jr


4 ft. g\n.


16, I7S1.

Oliver Eddy . .


5 ft. lin.


16, I781.

John Hall . .


5 ft 5in.



II, I781.

Oliver Lincoln .


5 ft. 1 1 in.


T 7,Q J

I / I .

Joseph Packard


5 ft. 8in.



6, 1781.

Cyrus Randall .


5 ft. 4in.



I, 1781.

Daniel Taylor .


5 ft. 7in.



28, 1781.

Stephen Thayer


5 ft. Sin.



16, 1781.

Isaac Thomas .


5 ft. Bin.



23, 17S1.

Christian F. Wille


5 ft. Sin.



29, 1 78 1.

The last man on the list was what has in later times been
called a " I3ounty-jumper ; " he was claimed by " the town of
Boston," where he had previously enlisted under tlie name of
Arthur Hardcastle. The Benjamin Eddy of this list is the sin-
gular character who was known as " Old Bunn," whom some of
our old people remember, and about whom more may be found
on another page. Those next on this list are his boys, one of
whom is a mere stripling. There must have been sore need in-
deed of troops when so young and small a boy could be accepted.

These fourteen men were enlisted for three years, and were
allowed the large bounty of about three hundred dollars in silver.
This was paid by the town, and afterward, in part at least, re-
funded to the town by the State. Following are specimens of
the receipts given, which indicate that the different " classes "
attended to the business of enlistment : ^ —

Easton, May 22, 1781. Then Received of Saml. Guild, as head
of the first Class of said Easton, the sum of ninety Pounds in hard
Money Sz securities, for my serving as soldier in the Continental x'\.rmy
for three years.

Received by me. Oliver Linkon.

July ye 16, 1781. The subscriber Being engaged in the Continental
Service for three years for the town of Easton, has Received of Cap.

1 State Archives, Military Papers, vol. xxxiv. pp. 505, 517.


Macey Williams (he Being the head of a Classe in sd. Easton) three
Hundred and thurty Spanish milled Dollars, as a Bounty for going
into sd. Service.

Reed, by me. Christian Friederick Wille.

The Committee of Correspondence and Inspection for the
year 1781 was Col. Abiel Mitchell, David Manley, and Thomas
Drake, the 2d. As required by law, Easton continued to do its
part in furnishing beef for the army, and also sent clothing to
the soldiers who were absent in service, besides looking after
the welfare of their families. After this date, almost the only
business relating to the war that is transacted in the town-meet-
ings is what concerns the pay of the soldiers whose wages are
in arrears. The surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown was the
virtual end of the war, although there was some fighting after-
wards, and the articles of peace were not signed until about two
years subsequent to that surrender.

The town of Easton did its fulL part in the great struggle
for Independence. The muster-rolls and pay-rolls which have
been copied here show how large a number of our citizens
participated in that contest. But there are others who de-
serve to share the credit of being the defenders of our country's
liberties, who did not go into the field. Edward Williams, for
instance, when too feeble to enlist in the active service, har-
nessed his team and took into the camp near Boston food,
blankets, and many means of comfort, to procure which he
stripped his house and received the most generous contribu-
tions from neighbors. Meantime the Daughters of Liberty
were busy with their needles, and forwarded many things which
they provided at a sacrifice to themselves. They were real
even though unrecorded sufferers, often enduring privation,
and always full of anxiety concerning the fate of those who
were far away in camp and field, and whom they might never
see again.

A careful comparison of the muster-rolls above copied with
the tax-lists of Easton shows that nearly every able-bodied
citizen of the town, and even many of the boys, served their
country in the Revolutionary War. This is a matter for honest
town pride. Quite a number died in service ; but the military




experience of many was limited to frequent trainings and an
occasional march to Rhode Island on an " alarm." Some of
them never even saw a Red-coat. A study of the military rolls
in this chapter will show who served in posts of danger, who
enlisted for long periods, who suffered at Valley Forge, or died
in battle or of disease consequent upon exposure, privation, and
hard service.

On the subject of Tories there is not much to be said. Some-
thing indeed might be repeated from the traditions that have
come down to us ; but this is a very uncertain means of in-
formation, and does not deserve to be recorded unless it can
be confirmed by documentary evidence, especially where it
affects the reputation of any one. The most diligent search
which the writer has been able to make, has revealed only
one case of an unmistakable Tory among the inhabitants of
Easton during the Revolution. It is as well that his name
should not be mentioned. We naturally regard such persons
with odium ; and yet it is no doubt true that many of them
were conscientious in their devotion to the Crown, and looked
upon a separation from the Mother Country as a great calamity.
The Tory in question was obliged to leave the town, and on
the 8th of September, 1777, Abijah Felch, of Easton, was
appointed agent " to act on the estate of said absentee ; and
on the second day of October, 1780, sd. agent settled his

The town of Easton had several commissioned officers both
in the Continental and Militia service. It is fitting that some
notice should be taken of them in the chapter that treats of the
war in which they bore a part.

First among these officers to be named is Capt. Elisha
Harvey. He came to Easton from Taunton before 1767, and
served throughout the war, being present at the battle of
Brooklyn Heights, the execution of Major Andre, the siege of
Yorktown, and at many of the most important battles. He wa3
sergeant in Captain Drury's company of Knox's Artillery as
early as May, 1776, and held that position during the year, when
he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant, continuing to serve
in that capacity until 1780. From January, 1777, until January,


1780, and probably afterward, he was in Colonel Lamb's artil-
lery regiment. He was probably commissioned a captain about
the close of the war, being after that time always known by
this title. He had the reputation of being a brave officer.
At the battle of Brooklyn Heights, the company to which he
belonged was severely cut up and retreated before a spirited
charge of the enemy. Harvey, then only a sergeant, alone
stood by the guns. Two of them were loaded and ready to
be discharged. Touching off first one and then the other, he
turned the gun-carriages about, dragged them hastily to the
brow of the bluff, and sent them rolling down the steep height,
out of the reach of the enemy. This done, with shot flying
about him on every side, he rushed down the cliff, entered a
boat, and gained the opposite shore. After the close of the
war he lived at Taunton, but returned to Easton in 1790 and
spent his days here, — dying February 11, 1821. During his
later years he was in receipt of a pension of thirty dollars a
month. Our older citizens well remember him in his suit of
homespun, and call to mind the interest with which he used
to narrate his war experiences. He was a member of the
celebrated Society of the Cincinnati, — an organization com-
posed of the officers of the Continental Army.

Capt. James Keith was another officer in the regular army.
He was in the eighth regiment, a captain as early as July, 1775.
This regiment was commanded by Col. Michael Jackson, and
saw a good deal of hard service. March 8, 1780, General Heath
and Lieutenant-Colonel Fernald wrote letters in which they
stated, that, both for meritorious conduct and by regular pro-
motion, Capt. James Keith was entitled to the rank of major in
Michael Jackson's regiment ; and he was accordingly appointed
to fill that position, and served in that capacity to the end of
the war. After the battle of Bunker Hill a letter was found in
the pocket of a British soldier who was killed there ; he was a
sergeant, and in this letter was a list of "rebel" officers, and
among other names was that of "Adjt.-Gen. Jas. Keith, of
Easton." It was however a mistake to apply this title to him.
Major Keith was the son of Josiah Keith, the second of that
name in Easton, and was born in 1751.



Col. Abiel Mitchell was a prominent figure in the Revolu-
tionary matters in Easton, serving on various committees, in the
General Court, as a delegate for the town at several conventions,
and in other ways. We are concerned here only with his part
in the war. We have seen that he led the first company out of
the town on the memorable 19th of April, the day of the battle
of Lexington. At this time he was captain. Just one month
from that day he was appointed major of the third regiment of
militia in Bristol County. In February, 1776, he received the
appointment of colonel of the same regiment, a position that he
continued to hold throughout the war. He was seldom in active
service in the field, his militia being called out only upon occa-
sions of especial emergency. He served at least a few days in
1775, three months in 1780, for forty days in 1781, and perhaps
for one or two other brief periods. The principal assistance
that he rendered, however, was in organizing the militia, in fur-
nishing supplies, and in other such measures as were needed to
make the town an efficient helper in the great cause of Indepen-
dence. He was especially active in stamping out any Tory
sentiment that dared to manifest itself, — there being some man-
ifestations of it among a few of his neighbors. Even when an
old man, the mention of the name of one of these Tory neighbors
would kindle his passion, make his lips tremble and his eyes
flash fire. Two or three incidents of his military experience
may be briefly narrated here.

At one time in battle, when the bullets flew thick and fast, a
captain in his regiment, terrified at the fearful buzz and hum of
those death-dealing missiles, crouched low to the ground. Col-
onel Mitchell's eye caught sight of him, and finding that he was
not wounded, but only thoroughly scared, he told him that if he
did not immediately get up and attend to his duty he would
himself shoot him and save the British the trouble of doing it.
The poor captain, fearing a hundred random shots less than one
from Colonel Mitchell's unerring hand, wisely complied with the
Colonel's order.

During one expedition he had sent out a guard of fifteen men
on three different occasions. Twice the guard caifle in minus
one or two men. No clew could be gained as to the cause of
their disappearance. At the third service they had orders to



shoot at any moving thing, no matter what it might seem to be.
Far into the night a hog was seen moving about. Obedient to
orders, one of the soldiers aimed and fired at the animal, when,
instead of the squeal of a pig, was heard the loud yell of a savage,
who leaped mortally wounded into the air and fell dead. The
Indian in this disguise had tomahawked several soldiers.

At one place where the Colonel was stationed, the ardent
spirits, then regarded as one of the necessaries of war if not of
life, were stored in a building under lock and key, and a sentinel
placed on guard to prevent any one from getting in. But a
French officer well known to the soldiers used to come at night,
and when refused admittance would draw his sword, and being
a very skilful swordsman would unfix the soldier's bayonet, walk
in' and help himself. This was several times repeated, much to
the discomfiture of the guard and the amusement of those who
happened to hear of it. Colonel Mitchell begged that his son
Tom might be put on guard for once. This was done. The
officer came as usual, and the usual scene occurred, except that
when the officer had unfixed the bayonet, the stout sentinel
picked him up and carried him off. This was done repeatedly,
until the Frenchman was tired out and gave up the attempt.
Ever afterward Tom Mitchell was a favorite with that officer,
and when he returned to France he endeavored to persuade the
faithful sentinel to return with him, but in vain. Col. Abiel
Mitchell was the son of Timothy, of Bridgewater, and a direct
descendant from Experience Mitchell, one of the forefathers'
who came to Plymouth in the third ship, the "Ann." He lived
long, enjoying the esteem and confidence of his fellow-citizens ;
was once candidate for State senator, and served for twenty-one
successive years as representative at the General Court. His
grave in the South-Easton cemetery is annually decorated with
flowers and with the flag which he so gallantly defended.

Another prominent Revolutionary officer of Easton was Capt.
James Perry. He was the son of Capt. Nathaniel Perry,
already spoken of as having died in the service of his country in
the French and Indian War. In 1775 he raised a company of
troops for the eight months service. Only five members of this
company were from Easton, as this town had sent nearly all its


available men to the front. He served in the army about two
years altogether, being present at the battles of Trenton and
Princeton. While in camp in New Jersey he was robbed of
money that he had received for the payment of his troops, it
being taken from under his pillow. Suspecting the offenders,
he got the following permission to search their quarters: — ■

Capt. James Perry having lost a considerable sum of money, and
expressing a desire to search the Houses of David Coree and L. Sland,
is impowered to do it.

By order of Major-General Sullivan,

Lewis Morris, A. D. C.
Springfield, January 27, 1777.

In 1779 he returned home to superintend the manufacture of
cannon and cannon-balls, his return being hastened by the fol-
lowing order of one Paul Allen, and by similar applications : —

*' Sir, — I am in immediate want of 400 Pound six-pound Shott and
4000 Grape, suitable to make up for six-pound Cannon. Your Clark
nor workmen dare not engage them in your absence, but think they
could make them all next week."

Captain Perry was at this time the owner of the furnace at
the Furnace Village, and he turned this to account in the service
of his country. There is evidence that he parried on a brisk
business in this line. The above order was in June, 1777; and
in 1782 in the Taunton Court Records is an account of the case
of James Perry of Easton vs. Adam Babcock on a contract for
" guns ; also for converting to the defendant's use two iron
cannon of the plaintiff's." If the word " guns " here means
muskets, it would appear that Captain Perry manufactured those
also, as Eliphalet Leonard, Jr., was doing in the northeast part
of the town.

After the war was over Captain Perry had a painful experi-
ence, which may as well be narrated here as elsewhere. It will
be remembered that in 1786 there was an insurrectionary move-
ment, mainly in Western Massachusetts, which ultimately became
known as Shays's Rebellion. It was a revolt against the pressure
of taxation and other grievances, and the chief remedy proposed
was the issue of paper money, — a proposition with which our


own generation is sufficiently familiar. Captain Perry was ac-
cused of complicity in this rebellion, and appears to have been
the victim of great injustice, and to have been much injured in
his business by the inconveniences to which he was subjected.
By whom or for what purpose this accusation was made against
him is not known. But February 10, 1787, a warrant was issued
for his arrest by the governor, and March 8 the office of jus-
tice of the peace was taken from him.^ Going into Berkshire
County on business, he was, February 21, arrested and impris-
oned in the Northampton jail. The following interesting peti-
tion written by him in jail will tell the whole story : —

To his Excellency ya7nes Bowdoin, Esq., and the Honorable the
Council of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts :

The petition of James Perry of Easton, County of Bristol, Humbly
shews, That your petitioner went from his home in Easton in the
fourth of February last past, in order to settle some of his private
business in the County of Berkshire, and to bring back some patterns
belonging to Easton Furnace ; and having finished his business, as he
was setting out for home was on the 21st day of February taken up
by the Lighlhorsemen by order of the Honble Major-Gen. Lincoln,
which he conceives was from some misrepresentation to the General,
and sent to Northampton Goal, where he is now confined by a State
warrant, being obliged to leave both slay & horses and Furnace
Patterns & other articles, at Lenox, — which disappointment, together
with his confinement, will entirely prevent his making a blast in Easton
Furnace unless soon released, which will render him forever unable to
discharge his just debts. Besides, your petitioner has a very large
family to support, & is in low circumstances ; that he hath ventured his
life & fortune in the late war against Britain, and spared no pains to
protect and support the government and constitution of this common-
wealth through the war ; that he hath not knowingly, wittingly, or will-
ingly said or done any thing to hurt or destroy the constitution and form
of Government of the commonwealth ; that he hath not been with, aided
or assisted the Insurgents in the late tumults in the western Parts of the
State ; that he had a long fit of sickness the last summer, & hath con-
stantly been at home except on a journey to Boston ever since he was
sick, which he could not consistant with his buisness avoid ; that he
conceives there have been many misrepresentations which have oper-

1 State Archives, vol. cl.xxxix. pp. 127, 128, 185, 186.


ated to his injury. He therefore prays that he may be released from
his confinement, he procuring a sufficient bond for his appearance at
the time of trial ; that he is willing to have an impartial trial by his
Peers, or the Laws of the Land, agreeable to the constitution and form
of government ; that if he may be permitted to return home to his busi-
ness he conceives that he shall be able to discharge some of his honest
debts by making a blast in his furnace this Spring, and thereby do
justice to himself and do no injury to government. He therefore prays
that his case may be taken into your wise consideration, and release
him as you in your wisdom shall see meet. As in duty bound shall

ever pray

James Perry. ^
Northampton, March 13, 1787.

After nearly a month's tedious waiting in vain, the selectmen
of Easton, — Abiel Mitchell, Seth Pratt, and Jacob Leonard, —
presented another petition, in which they represented that the
present blast must fail in Captain Perry's furnace because of his
absence, and prayed for his release. To their petition they
added the following: —

N. B. We further certify that we never new James Perry, Esq., ever
heded any body of People against government, or ever spoke against
the same.

Easton, April 2, 17S7.2

Similar statements and requests were made by Samuel Guild,
and by Matthew Hayward the town clerk. Another month
went by without his release; and on the third of May he ad-

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Ladd) ChaffinHistory of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) → online text (page 23 of 78)