Moses Hazen was a Brigadier General in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Born in the Province of Massachusetts Bay, he saw action in the French and Indian War with Rogers’ Rangers. His service included particularly brutal raids during the Expulsion of the Acadians and the 1759 Siege of Quebec. He was formally commissioned into the British Army shortly before the war ended, and retired on half-pay outside Montreal, Quebec, where he and Gabriel Christie, another British officer, made extensive land purchases in partnership. During his lifetime he acquired land in Quebec, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York, but lost most of his Quebec land due to litigation with Christie and the effects of the revolution.
In 1775 he became involved in the American invasion of Quebec early in the American Revolutionary War, and served with the Continental Army in the 1775 Battle of Quebec. He went on to lead his own regiment, the 2nd Canadian, also known as “Congress’ Own,” throughout the war, seeing action in the 1777 Philadelphia campaign and at Yorktown in 1781. He was frequently involved in litigation, both military and civil, and constantly petitioned Congress for compensation of losses and expenses incurred due to the war. He supported similar efforts by men from his regiment who were unable to return to Quebec because of their support for the American war effort.
Moses Hazen was born on June 1, 1733, in Haverhill, a frontier town in the Province of Massachusetts Bay, to an old New England Puritan family. Some histories that mention Hazen sometimes indicate that he was Jewish. A genealogist clearly documents Hazen’s lineage to England, where the family name was Hassen. Contemporaries of Hazen seem to have thought he was Jewish; for example, Sergeant James Thompson, in his diary The Fraser’s Highlanders, describes meeting him during the retreat from the Battle of Sainte-Foy: “On the way, I fell in with a Captain Moses Hazen, a jew”.
George Campion’s Battle of Sainte-Foy
Hazen was apprenticed to a tanner when the French and Indian War broke out. In 1756, he enlisted with the local militia, which included a number of family members. He first served at Fort William Henry near Lake George, where he probably first met, and may have served under, Robert Rogers of Rogers’ Rangers. Rogers eventually recommended him for an officer’s commission in a new company of the Rangers; in 1758, after having worked for his brother providing supplies for the British Siege of Louisbourg, he was commissioned as a first lieutenant in John McCurdy’s company of the Rangers at Fort Edward. In McCurdy’s company, he saw action at Louisbourg, including the initial landings, when the action was quite fierce.
After Louisbourg, the company was stationed first at Fort Frederick (Saint John, New Brunswick), and then at Fort St. Anne, where the company was part of a campaign against Indians and Acadians that had taken refuge there from the ongoing expulsion of the Acadians. These raids were sometimes quite brutal; the company was known to scalp Acadian settlers. In one particularly brutal incident, Hazen was responsible for the scalping of six men, and the burning of four others, along with two women and three children, in a house he set on fire. Joseph Bellefontaine, a leader of the local militia and the father of one of the women, claimed that he was forced to witness this event in an attempt to coerce his cooperation with the rangers. Bellefontaine escaped into the woods with two of his grandchildren. General Jeffrey Amherst, who did not hear of the incident until after he had promoted Hazen to captain, noted, “I am sorry that to say what I have since heard of that affair has sullied his merit with me as I shall always disapprove of killing women and helpless children.”
In January 1759, Captain McCurdy was killed when a tree felled by one of his men fell on him; Hazen was given command of the company. Later in 1759, his company was at the siege of Quebec, where the company was primarily engaged in scouting and raiding in the countryside; he was away on one of those raids during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. In another notable atrocity that may have involved Hazen’s company, a priest and thirty parishioners in a parish near Quebec were killed and scalped.
Hazen also fought at the 1760 Battle of Sainte-Foy, where he was severely wounded in the thigh. In February 1761, he purchased a commission as a first Lieutenant in the 44th Regiment of Foot in the British Army. He spent the remainder of the war on garrison duty at Montreal, retiring on half-pay in 1763. General James Murray wrote approvingly of Hazen in 1761, “He discovered so much still bravery and good conduct as would justly entitle him to every military reward he could ask or demand”.
Hazen’s business partner, Gabriel Christie
During the siege of Quebec, Hazen had met Gabriel Christie, then a deputy quartermaster. Christie owned some land in the Richelieu River valley south of Montreal, and wanted to expand his holdings. (Christie later became one of the largest landowners in Quebec.) After the war, Christie and Hazen jointly purchased the seigneuries of Sabrevois and Bleury, located on the east bank of the Richelieu near Fort Saint-Jean. They also leased land on the west side of river from the Baron of Longueuil. These holdings gave them almost exclusive control over the land holdings around Saint-Jean, which is the northernmost navigable point reachable from Lake Champlain.
Christie, who was still in military service, was frequently away from the land, so Hazen developed the land while Christie provided the funding. Hazen constructed a manor house at Iberville, and two mills, and set about selling timber and other business endeavors. In 1765, Hazen was also appointed a deputy land surveyor, and a justice of the peace. As part of his business dealings, he offered General Thomas Gage, then in command of British forces in New York City, facilities and lumber for military use. Gage was uninterested at the time, letting Hazen know that he would keep the offer in mind, if the need for military movements became necessary in the area.
Hazen expanded the business of the seigneuries, but his aggressive development also incurred debts, which caused friction with Christie. In 1770, Christie, unhappy with the debts, eventually demanded an accounting. This ultimately led to a division of the holdings, with Hazen receiving the southern portion of the Bleury seigneurage, styled Bleury-Sud. Hazen and Christie were in and out of court for years afterward over control of these lands; Christie eventually won complete control over those lands after the American Revolution.
In 1762 Hazen’s brother John settled Haverhill, New Hampshire, in the far north of that province on the east side of the Connecticut River, and in 1764 Jacob Bayley settled Newbury, in what is now Vermont, across the river from Haverhill. Hazen had shares in both of these settlements; he also acquired land west of the Connecticut River in what is now Bradford, Vermont. It was at this time that the idea of constructing a road from there to Saint-Jean was first raised; this idea surfaced again during the American Revolutionary War, when George Washington authorized construction of what became known as the Bayley Hazen Military Road.
His land developments continued to grow in 1764 when he joined the Saint John River Society, and organization created by a group of military officers for the purpose of developing land along the Saint John River, then in Nova Scotia (now New Brunswick). His co-investors included Thomas Gage, Frederick Haldimand, William Johnson, and Thomas Hutchinson.
In the fall of 1770 Hazen married Charlotte de la Saussaye, a woman from a good family in Montreal. They settled down near Saint-Jean, where they built a house and began farming.
At the start of the Revolutionary War in 1775, Hazen was living on half-pay in Saint-Jean. When Benedict Arnold raided Fort Saint-Jean on May 18, Hazen reported the news of that raid (as well as the capture of Fort Ticonderoga) first to the military authorities in Montreal, and then to Governor Guy Carleton in Quebec, before returning home to consider the consequences the conflict might have on him and his lands.
The American invasion of Quebec arrived near his home at Saint-Jean on September 6. On that day, Hazen met with General Philip Schuyler, explaining to him that Fort Saint-Jean was well-defended and unlikely to be taken by siege, and that the local habitants were unlikely to assist the American effort. This gloomy portrait led Schuyler to consider retreating; but the arrival of additional American troops, and a more optimistic assessment from James Livingston, a grain merchant living near Chambly, encouraged the Americans to renew the attack. Livingston went on to form the 1st Canadian Regiment in November 1775.
On September 17, Brigadier General Richard Montgomery, now commanding the American forces, began to besiege Fort St. Jean. The next day, a detachment of American forces under the command of John Brown arrested Hazen north of the fort. However, a British sortie from the fort forced Brown’s men to retreat; Hazen ended up in British hands. Major Charles Preston, the British commander, was mistrustful of Hazen, and sent him to Montreal under the guard of Claude de Lorimier. Brigadier General Richard Prescott, unhappy with Hazen’s explanations of his movements, imprisoned him.
John Trumbull’s Death of General Montgomery In the Attack on Quebec
He was held in poor conditions for 54 days. Following the fall of Fort St. Jean, the British withdrew from Montreal, transporting prisoners on one of the many ships used in the evacuation. Most of this British fleet was captured by the Americans, who released Hazen and other political prisoners who had supported them. Unhappy with the treatment he received by the British, Hazen joined the American forces, which were on their way to Quebec City. He did this in spite of the fact that the Americans had done significant damage to his estate during the siege, plundering the estate for supplies, and using his house as a barracks.
Hazen served in the Battle of Quebec, and was one of two men (the other was Edward Antill) sent to report the devastating loss to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia. The Congress, in recognition for his efforts, gave Hazen a commission as a colonel, leading the Continental Army’s 2nd Canadian Regiment. Antill was commissioned the regiment’s lieutenant colonel. The regiment was often referred to as “Hazen’s” or “Congress’ Own”, the latter because the regiment was established by Congress and was not part of any state quotas. Hazen was initially offered a position as brigadier general, but he refused, requesting instead a colonel’s commission, and indemnification against losses caused by the conflict. His property had already been significantly damaged by the American action around St. Jean. Hazen was fortunate in arriving in Philadelphia before John Duggan, one of Livingston’s captains, to whom Benedict Arnold had earlier promised the commission for the 2nd Canadian.
This flag is claimed by some to be the ensign of Hazen’s regiment.
Hazen and Antill returned to Quebec, where Hazen was stationed at Montreal while Antill recruited men for the regiment. Hazen was briefly in command of the defenses of Montreal for the Americans, from late March to mid-April 1776, when General David Wooster took command of the American forces outside Quebec, and Benedict Arnold assumed command of the Montreal garrison. During the time he was in command, Hazen dispatched Timothy Bedel and 390 men to fortify The Cedars, about 40 miles upriver from Montreal; these forces surrendered to a British-Native force during the Battle of The Cedars in May.
Following Arnold’s assumption of command at Montreal, Hazen’s regiment was assigned to garrison duty at Fort Chambly. Hazen (and likely his men) were called as reinforcements to assist in the American response to the action at The Cedars. In council, Hazen and Arnold had a heated exchange over what actions to take; in Arnold’s opinion, Hazen’s behavior bordered on insubordination. Arnold had previously held a high opinion of Hazen, writing that he was “a sensible, judicious officer, and well acquainted with this country”.
Mezzotint of Benedict Arnold by Thomas Hart, 1776
During the American retreat from Quebec in May and June 1776, Hazen and Arnold were embroiled in a dispute that led to charges and counter-charges, courts martial and other hearings, lasting into 1779. At issue were supplies that Arnold had ordered seized from merchants in Montreal and sent to Chambly for eventual shipment south as part of the retreat. Hazen, in charge of the facilities at Chambly, refused to sign for the goods, as he recognized them as the property of friends in Montreal. In the ensuing retreat, most of these goods were plundered and lost. Arnold wanted to immediately court-martial Hazen for failing to follow orders, but the arriving British army delayed any such activity until the army’s return to Fort Ticonderoga. Arnold’s opinion of Hazen clearly changed; he wrote, “This is not the first or last order Col. Hazen has disobeyed. I think him a man of too much consequence for the post he is in.”
Hazen’s court martial was held on July 19, 1776; he was honorably acquitted. However, there were irregularities in the proceedings (the judge advocate was the same officer who had delivered the goods from Montreal to Chambly, so he did not testify), and Arnold continued to attack Hazen afterwards. In December 1776 another inquiry was held, and Hazen was again cleared of any wrongdoing. Hazen then countercharged Arnold with the plundering of the Montreal merchants; Arnold was not cleared of these charges until a higher-level inquiry in 1777.
Hazen’s regiment, which was significantly reduced in size by the retreat from Quebec, was assigned first to Ticonderoga, and then to Albany, in the summer and fall of 1776, before being ordered to winter quarters at Fishkill, New York. During this time, Hazen continued recruiting, receiving permission from Congress to recruit anywhere in the United States. In the northern states he ran into difficulties, as those states were having trouble filling their own regimental lines; he was often outbid by other recruiters. Antill, who recruited in the central states (primarily New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania), had greater success. By June 1777, the regiment reached about 700 members, out of an authorized strength of 1,000. The cultural differences between the original Quebec enlistees and the new recruits from the Thirteen Colonies was a regular source of friction within the regiment, and Hazen consequently kept the French-speakers in companies separated from the English-speakers.
Hazen also submitted to Congress a claim for damages to his estate in Quebec. The original bill was for $11,363; Congress paid $2,595 in October 1776.
The Brandywine battlefield today
In May 1777, Hazen’s regiment was ordered to join the main army at Princeton, where it was active in the Philadelphia campaign as part of John Sullivan’s brigade. Some of Hazen’s companies (but not Hazen himself) participated in the Battle of Staten Island; in this action, Antill was captured. Hazen’s command during the Battle of Brandywine included the northern (right) end of the American line; this position was one of those flanked by the British in their attack. Hazen made an early report indicating the presence of British troops on the American flank that turned out to be the main British thrust. His report was dismissed by General Sullivan, who wrote, after receiving other reports, that “Colo. Hazen’s Information must be wrong.” To Sullivan’s detriment, the other reports were wrong, and Hazen’s was correct; the British flanking maneuver was instrumental in the American loss of the battle. Hazen’s regiment lost 4 officers and 73 men in the battle. In the Battle of Germantown, Hazen commanded a brigade that included in addition to his own regiment, the 2nd, 4th, and 6th Maryland Regiments. They formed part of Sullivan’s column when it marched on the town; his regiment lost 3 officers and 19 men in the engagement.
Hazen, ever since his return to the United States in 1776, had maintained a constant stream of communications with Congress, primarily on the subject of Canada. In January 1778, these communications bore some fruit, when, with French assistance, planning for an invasion of Canada began. Hazen was assigned the job of deputy quartermaster for this operation. However, the planning was hampered by supply and staffing difficulties, and never got off the ground. It was ultimately cancelled by Congress in March 1778.
This failure did not deter Hazen from offering a new route for invading Canada. This route went from Newbury, where Hazen owned land and knew the area, to Saint Francis, Quebec. On July 12, Hazen departed Newbury to scout the route. By July 25, he had returned to White Plains; the effort was abandoned for the time being because the manpower was needed in the New York area. Plans for possible attacks against Quebec based on routes departing from the Newbury area were again contemplated in the fall of 1778, but Washington continued to resist the idea.
In the spring and summer of 1779, Hazen’s regiment and that of Timothy Bedel worked on construction of the Bayley Hazen Military Road, once again with the eventual goal of launching an invasion. Part of the road, between Newbury and Peacham had been constructed in 1776 by Jacob Bayley. Hazen supervised the development of the road up to what is now called Hazens Notch in northern Vermont. Work was discontinued on the road in August after word was received that the British were preparing a military force at Saint-Jean to attempt capture of the construction crew. General Washington had never intended to send an invasion along this route; the entire works was a ruse to divert British attention, and deter them from launching an invasion. Washington wrote to Congress that the work “was for the purpose of exciting jealousies at Quebec and at the Enemy’s posts on the St. lawrence, and of making a diversion in favor of the late expedition under general Sullivan … this very happily succeeded”.
Hazen and his regiment spent the winter at Washington’s main encampment in Morristown, New Jersey. There Hazen was again involved in litigation; he was rejected for service on a court martial considering charges against Benedict Arnold due to their previous confrontations, and he also opened complaints of supply mismanagement during the summer’s road building activities. A detailed review of the army in the spring of 1780 by Baron von Steuben led to the recommendation that the regiments of Hazen and Livingston be merged, as Livingston’s had shrunk to 103 men. Hazen and Livingston had a political tussle over seniority; although Hazen lost the claim to seniority, he ended up in command of the combined regiment.
In January 1780 the regiment was involved in a failed attack on Staten Island; word of the operation leaked to the British. Hazen’s regiment was then transferred to the brigade of Enoch Poor. By the time the transfer was effected, Hazen was given command of the entire brigade, although repeated requests he had made for promotion to brigadier general were rejected. During the summer the brigade was relocated to the West Point area. While en route, Hazen allowed his men to stop for water, breaking the army column. Von Steuben ordered Hazen’s arrest for this transgression of military discipline. Hazen was acquitted, and promptly countercharged von Steuben with behavior unbecoming an officer and gentleman; von Steuben apologized.
Hazen’s regiment was garrisoned opposite West Point that fall when British Major John André was captured and General Arnold defected. One hundred of Hazen’s men, including his nephew, Benjamin Mooers, witnessed André’s hanging.
Some of Hazen’s troops were involved in the storming of redoubt #10 at the Siege of Yorktown.
On June 29, 1781, Hazen was finally promoted to Brigadier General and assigned command of a brigade under Lafayette during the Siege of Yorktown. Hazen’s brigade served on the right of the line, and was deeply involved in the October 14 battles for the redoubts.
Following the British surrender, Hazen and his unit were given prisoner guard duty at Lancaster, Pennsylvania. While on this duty, a misstep by Hazen caused a minor diplomatic incident, known as the “Asgill Affair.” The British accused an American soldier of spying, and were threatening to hang him. George Washington threatened to hang a British soldier if this happened, and instructed Hazen to choose an officer whose rank was similar to that of the accused American. The man he chose by lot, Charles Asgill, should have been ineligible for selection due to the terms of the Yorktown surrender. The accused American was eventually acquitted, but Asgill’s plight drew the attention of Marie Antoinette; Washington received a letter from the French foreign minister asking for a pardon.
During the winter of 1781–2 Hazen also took time off for personal business. Among his dealings was a partnership with Timothy Bedel to acquire land along the military road they had built in Vermont.
After the war, General Hazen, unable to return to Quebec, received a grant of land in northern New York. He was active for many years on behalf of the men who served under him and their families, especially those that originally came from Quebec, in their quest for compensation for their losses. He also continued his litigious ways—he was involved in an ongoing string of legal actions until his death on February 5, 1803. He died in Troy, New York where he was buried. His nephew, Benjamin Mooers, was ultimately responsible for untangling many of Hazen’s affairs.
Entrance to Albany Rural Cemetery near Menands, Albany County, New York.
On May 26, 1828, Congress authorized a payment of $3,998.81 to Hazen’s heirs in compensation for the half-pay lost to him when he joined the American forces.
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- Hazen at the Battle of Sainte-Foy
- Moses Hazen with the Rogers’ Rangers
- Moses Hazen Biography at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online (by Allan Everest)