Battle of Fishdam Ford

November 9, 2013

The Battle of Fishdam Ford was an attempted surprise attack by British forces under the command of Major James Wemyss against an encampment of Patriot militia under the command of local Brigadier General Thomas Sumter around 1 am on the morning of November 9, 1780, late in the American Revolution. Wemyss was wounded and captured in the attack, which failed because of heightened security in Sumter’s camp and because Wemyss did not wait until dawn to begin the attack.

Pursuant to the British “southern strategy” for winning the American Revolutionary War, British forces had captured Charleston, South Carolina early in 1780, and had driven Continental Army forces from South Carolina. Following his successful routing of a second Continental Army at Camden in August 1780, British General Lord Cornwallis paused with his army in the Waxhaws region of northern South Carolina. Believing British and Loyalist forces to be in control of Georgia and South Carolina, he decided to turn north and address the threat posed by the Continental Army remnants in North Carolina. In mid-September he moved north to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he was virtually surrounded by active North Carolina militia and Continental Army units. Following the important defeat of gathering Loyalists at Kings Mountain, Cornwallis retreated back to Winnsboro, South Carolina, where he engaged in attempts to suppress the Patriot militia that were harassing his supply and communication lines.


South Carolina Historical Marker: Battle of Fishdam Ford, on the east side of the Broad River at Hwy 215

Two troublesome militia commanders in South Carolina were Thomas Sumter and Francis Marion. Marion caused trouble for Cornwallis in the northeastern part of the state, east of the Santee River. His activities were successful enough that Cornwallis sent Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton in November to hunt the wily Marion down. Sumter made similar troubles in the backcountry, where Cornwallis sent Major James Wemyss with the 63rd Regiment and some Loyalist dragoons to find him.

Wemyss learned on November 8 from local Loyalists that Sumter was encamped near Fishdam Ford. His intelligence about Sumter’s camp was sufficiently detailed that some men were specifically designated to attack Sumter’s tent. Moving quickly, Wemyss arrived near Sumter’s camp early on November 9. Fearing they would be discovered by Sumter’s patrols, Wemyss opted to attack immediately rather than waiting for dawn.

Sumter’s men had been wary to the possibility of surprise attacks, which were a popular British tactic. His officers had ordered their men to lie on their arms, to keep their fires burning, and had specific instructions about how to form up in case of attack. When Wemyss led the British attack against Sumter’s sentries, he was hit twice by musket fire and went down. His dragoons continued the charge into the camp, where the campfires illuminated them, providing easy targets for Sumter’s men, who had lined up in the woods just outside the camp. Their first volley took the British lead company by surprise, killing and wounding several men. They retreated, and Wemyss infantry then advanced into the camp, where they also came under fire from the woods. The British attempted a bayonet charge, but it was confounded by a fence between the two lines in the darkness. After twenty minutes of battle, the British retreated, leaving their wounded, including Major Wemyss, on the field.

Sumter played virtually no role in the battle, escaping from his tent to the riverbank early in the action.

Following the British failure, Lord Cornwallis recalled Tarleton to instead go after Sumter, who he believed was preparing an attack on Ninety Six. Tarleton and Sumter met at Blackstock’s Farm, in which Sumter very nearly revenged himself for Tarleton’s near-capture of him at Fishing Creek in August.


  • “The History of South Carolina in the Revolution, 1775-1780″ by Edward McCrady, New York: The MacMillan Company (1901) pp. 821-823

Bourbon Whiskey first brewed in Kentucky

November 8, 2013

In the early colonial history of America, a Baptist minister named Elijah Craig is believed by many to have been the first true distiller of bourbon whiskey in Georgetown Kentucky on November 8, 1789. Mr. Craig then began producing whiskey from a corn base, and the roots of bourbon whiskey began. Elijah Craig’s bourbon still is believed by many to have possibly been the first whiskey still in the area.


Woodcut depicting Elijah Craig, late 18th or early 19th century, artist unknown

Soon customers christened his product as “Bourbon County Whiskey” from the county of its origin. This is one theory which is stated by: Alexis Lichines, in the encyclopedia of Gastronomy by Andre L. Simon, and also Robert A. Powell, author of a history text which was used in Kentucky schooling at the time. Powell states in his text that “the same name was later given to a pioneer product, Kentucky’s famous ‘Bourbon’ Whiskey.”

To trace the roots of Kentucky’s bourbon back to its origin, you have to first look at the work of Richard Collins’ “History of Kentucky” which was published in 1874. Collins does not directly identify Craig as the first distiller of bourbon, but states that “the first bourbon whiskey was made in 1789 at Georgetown, at the fulling Mill at the Royal spring.” Although Craig was a distiller, and operated a fulling mill at the Royal spring, he was not mentioned in Collins work. At that time in Kentucky history counties were changed and boundaries we added or subtracted but Bourbon County remained the same.

Other stories tell of Fort Harrod as being the first permanent distiller, which is now Harrodsburg Kentucky, just a short piece down the road from Louisville. Fort Harrod was first established in 1774, a few years before Craig’s distilling. How Louisville came into the bourbon business concerns the business of the mighty Ohio River and its growing industry and trade at the time.

Kentucky was admitted as a state into the union in 1792, and now a new legislation was carving up what had been nine counties into many more. By 1800 there were now 43 counties in Kentucky, and bourbon was spreading like wild fire throughout the counties.

In 1785 it’s been stated that a dozen if not a hundred farmers were making whiskey through the region. In those days with very few roads and a low market for the farmer’s crops, the practical way to sell their crops was to distill it into whiskey. This whiskey was then loaded into flat bottom boats along with hemp and shipped down the Ohio River to New Orleans for sale.

One of most important river ports at the time in Kentucky was Maysville, which at the time was referred to as Limestone. This port in Limestone was in use when “two Navel officers or collectors” were sent to the “Falls of the Ohio” which is now Louisville. These collectors were to watch and supervise the traffic on the Ohio River and collect tolls. And now, whiskey was a growing cash crop to be involved in, and Louisville just happened to be sitting in the right spot, at the right time.

This area of Kentucky soon became known as “Old Bourbon.” People soon believed that Old Bourbon was the best, so business began to thrive in all of the surrounding counties. Soon bourbon was being produced elsewhere and labeled as Old Bourbon, no matter where it was distilled. Eventually around 1840 the name simply became bourbon.

Louisville was considered the mouth of Limestone along with the Navel supervisors at the falls of the Ohio (Louisville) where all traffic was patrolled. Now bourbon whiskey was growing in leaps and bounds in Kentucky, and Louisville soon joined into the act.

Many distillers in Kentucky have played a big part in the history of bourbon whiskey, along with the abundance of: white oak trees, limestone water, and fields of corn. These ingredients along with the hot summers and cold winter nights are the perfect combination for distilling bourbon whiskey.

Jim Beam distilleries in Clermont Kentucky, has been brewing bourbon for seven generations; over two hundred years. Wild turkey which is brewed in Lawrenceburg Kentucky, has twelve distilleries which provides the world with 90 to 95% of its bourbon whiskey. Makers Mark which is brewed in Lorreto Kentucky, is brewed from “iron free” spring lake water. Bardstown Kentucky is considered the “bourbon capitol of the world” with its many distilleries.

Taking a tour of Kentucky’s bourbon trial which treks along some of the most beautiful back roads of Kentucky would take a little longer than you might expect. Louisville and Kentucky’s history goes back to the very roots of bourbon whiskey. If your ancestors were originally from Kentucky, there’s a chance that they were distilling bourbon whiskey at its very beginning.


Stoughton Musical Society is formed

November 7, 2013

Organized on November 7, 1786, Stoughton Musical Society is the United States’ oldest choral society. Over the past two centuries it has had many distinguished accomplishments. In 1908, when incorporated under the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the name was changed to Old Stoughton Musical Society and it has retained that designation.

From the inspiration of a singing school given in Stoughton in 1774 by Boston composer, William Billings, a group of male singers in town decided to form a singing society.[1] There were 25 names and all of them listed in the membership journal with the date of organization being November 7, 1786. Their first President was Elijah Dunbar, 1740–1814, from Canton. He was also their conductor and a singer. The first music collection the musical society purchased was The Worcester Collection of Sacred Harmony compiled by Isaiah Thomas in 1786, which contained the first American printing of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah.[2]

According to the musical society’s 1929 history book, the Stoughton singers met a chorus from the nearby First Parish Church in Dorchester about the year 1790. This is believed to be the first singing contest held in America. The Dorchester chorus consisting of men and women were accompanied by a bass viol, the Stoughton Musical Society had twenty selected male voices and sang without accompaniment. The Stoughton singers first performed Jacob French’s anthem, The Heavenly Vision, which they performed from memory. Next, the Dorchester chorus performed an unidentified piece. Then the Stoughton singers performed Handel’s majestic Hallelujah Chorus from his oratorio, Messiah. again from memory. Following that performance, the Dorchester chorus acknowledged defeat and the Stoughton singers won the contest. .[3]


The 60 member chorus of The Old Stoughton Musical Society on stage at Stoughton High School for the Bicentennial Concert on November 7, 1986.

On June 9, 1886 the Stoughton Musical Society celebrated its centennial with a full day of activities including a special dinner and an evening concert attended by both Governor George D. Robinson and Lt. Governor Oliver Ames. Gov. Robinson spoke glowingly about this centennial concert, ending with these remarks: “Let me commend, so far as my opinion can possibly extend, the fine production of this evening. It has afforded me real delight.” The featured work for the concert was Haydn’s oratorio, The Creation, for soloists, chorus and orchestra.[4]

One of their greatest achievements took place at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. The Stoughton Musical Society’s 100 musicians performed two concerts in the Music Hall. Both the singers and orchestra wore Colonial costumes. At the first concert on August 14, there were 2,000 people in attendance, more than had attended the symphony concerts conducted by Theodore Thomas. The music performed by the musical society consisted of 24 pieces by such 18th century New England composers as: William Billings, Oliver Holden, Jacob French, and Daniel Read. Some of these composers were later recorded by the Stoughton Musical Society on their LP album in 1975 titled “An Appeal to Heaven.”[5]


This plaque is located at the entrance of the Stoughton Historical Society building in Stoughton Square and reads:

“On November 7, 1786, America’s oldest musical society was organized near this spot. This plaque placed on the occasion of its 200th anniversary in 1986.”

The small town of Stoughton has produced a number of composers who have written music performed by the Stoughton Musical Society and other performing organizations:[6]

18th century

  • Supply Belcher, b. 1751/ d. 1836 (Farmington, Maine)
  • Samuel Capen, b. 1745/ d. 1809 (Canton, Massachusetts)
  • Edward French, b. 1761/ d. 1845 (Sharon, Massachusetts)
  • Jacob French, b. 1754/ d. 1817 (Simsbury, Connecticut)

19th century

  • Alanson Belcher, b. 1810/ d. 1900 (Stoughton)
  • Edwin Arthur Jones, b. 1854/ d. 1911 (Stoughton)– his cantata for soloists, chorus and orchestra, Song of Our Saviour (1881), received its world premiere performance in Stoughton in 1992.

20th century

  • F. William Kempf, b. 1901/ d. 1950 (Stoughton)- one of his instrumental works, Suite Classique (1940) was performed by the Boston Pops, conducted by Arthur Fiedler.
  • Laura Shafer Gebhardt, b. 1885/ d. 1959 (Stoughton) – composed Flag of All Our Country for the bicentennial of the Town of Stoughton in 1926.
  • Roger Lee Hall, b. 1942 – composed several commemorative pieces, including Peace (1981/rev. 1990) and Dedication (1986).


  1. Standish, Lemuel W. The Old Stoughton Musical Society: An Historical and Informative Record of the Oldest Choral Society in America. p. 22
  2. Huntoon, Daniel T.V. History of the Town of Canton, Norfolk County, Massachusetts. p. 307-309
  3. Standish, Lemuel W., editor. The Old Stoughton Musical Society: An Historical and Informative Record of the Oldest Choral Society in America. p. 31-32
  4. Hall, Roger L. Music in Stoughton. p. 5
  5. Hall, Roger L. Singing Stoughton. p. 7-8
  6. Hall, Roger L. Music in Early Canton: Historical Notes and Music. p. 3-4


  • Roger L. Hall, Music in Early Canton: Historical Notes and Music, Pinetree Press, 1997
  • Music in Stoughton: A Brief Survey, Private printing, 1989
  • Singing Stoughton: Selected Highlights from America’s Oldest Choral Society, Old Stoughton Musical Society, 1985
  • Daniel T.V. Huntoon, History of the Town of Canton, Norfolk County, Mass., Cambridge, John Wilson and Son, 1893
  • Lemuel W. Standish, editor, Old Stoughton Musical Society – An Historical and Informative Record of the Oldest Choral Society in America, Stoughton, 1929

Father John Carroll Appointed First Bishop of Baltimore in 1789

November 6, 2013

The American clergy, originally reluctant to request the formation of a diocese due to fears of public misunderstanding and the possibility of a foreign bishop being imposed upon them, eventually recognized the need for a Roman Catholic bishop. The election of Samuel Seabury in 1783 as the first Anglican bishop in the United States had already shown that Americans would not necessarily be hostile to the appointment of a Catholic bishop. The American clergy had also received the assurances of the Continental Congress that it would not object to election of a bishop whose allegiance was to Rome.

Seeing the need of a bishop, and that an American, Father John Carroll, as Prefect Apostolic in February 1785, urged Cardinal Antonelli, that some method of appointing church authorities be adopted by Rome that would not make it appear as if they were receiving their appointment from a foreign power. A report of the status of Catholics in Maryland was appended to his letter, where he stated that despite there being then only nineteen priests in Maryland, some of the more prominent families were still Catholics in faith, though prone to dancing and novel-reading. The pope was so pleased with Father Carroll’s report that he granted his request “that the priests in Maryland be allowed to suggest two or three names from which the Pope would choose their bishop”.[1]

Interior of the chapel at Lulworth Castle, where John Carroll was ordained a bishop

The priests of Maryland petitioned Rome for a bishop for the United States. Cardinal Antonelli replied, allowing the priests on the mission to select the city and, for this case only, to name the candidate for presentation to the pope. Carroll was selected Bishop of Baltimore by the clergy of the new nation in April 1789 by a vote of 24 out of 26.

On November 6, 1789, Pope Pius VI appointed Father Carroll the first Catholic bishop in the United States and selected Baltimore as the seat of the first diocese. When Bishop Carroll was consecrated on August 15, 1790 at Lulworth Castle in England, there was only one Catholic church in Baltimore, St. Peter’s, located on the north side of Saratoga Street between Cathedral and Charles Street.


Portrait of Bishop John Carroll, by Gilbert Stuart, circa 1806, Georgetown University Library

St. Peter’s, resembling more a middle-class residence than a church, served as Bishop Carroll’s pro-Cathedral until his death in 1815, although by 1806 he laid the cornerstone of the present Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Cathedral and Mulberry Street.


Bishop John Carroll, bishop of Baltimore, lays the cornerstone for the Cathedral of the Assumption in Baltimore, the first cathedral in the United States. Artist unknown.

Estimates vary on the number of Catholics in Maryland at the end of the Revolution, but the figure usually cited is 6,000. By Bishop Carroll’s death, the Catholic population was 10,000.


  1. O’Donovan, Louis. “John Carroll.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908


Barzillai Lew, negro Revolutionary War veteran

November 5, 2013

Barzillai Lew was an negro soldier who served with distinction during the American Revolution.

Barzillai Lew’s story began with Primus Lew of Groton, Massachusetts ( a former servant of Captain Jonathan Boyden), and Margret Lew (a former servant of Samuel Scripture). As free-blacks, Primus and Margret Lew married in 1742 and they had two sons and two daughters. Primus served as a musician in the French and Indian War in 1747. In 1752, Primus married again to Rose Canterbury and bought a farm on the west side of Nashua River in the Pepperell section of Groton, Massachusetts and they had two children.

Primus and Margret Lew’s oldest son Barzillai (pronounced BAR-zeal-ya) often called “Zeal” or “Zelah,” was born a free-black in Groton, Massachusetts November 5, 1743.[1] Following in his father’s footsteps, Barzillai Lew was a fifer in Captain Thomas Farrington’s Company from Groton, which marched northward for “the total reduction of Canada.” From March 10, 1760 to December 1, 1760, he served with the English forces against the French and Indians and was probably present at the capture of Montreal, Canada by the British.[2] Lew was known as “big and strong with an extraordinary talent as a musician.”[3]

In the mid-1760s, Lew sold his family farm in the Pepperell section of Groton and moved to Chelmsford, Massachusetts where he worked as a cooper making barrels. About 1766, he bought the freedom of Dinah Bowman (1744–1837), born a slave, who was fair skinned and described as “bleached by the sun,” from Major Abraham Blood for 400 pounds (today’s value about $28,000) and married her.[4]


The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill by John Trumbull, June 17, 1775. The black man holding a musket pictured in the right corner is probably Asaba Grosvenor, a slave belonging to the colonial officer he stands behind.

At the opening of the American Revolution, Lew’s skills and talents were called upon again and he enlisted May 6, 1775 in Captain John Ford’s Company, 27th Regiment, Chelmsford, Massachusetts. As soldier, fifer, and drummer Lew fought on June 17, 1775 at the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775. In the military records, Lew is described as “cooper by trade, and quite dark-colored, a large man, six feet tall.”[3] Bunker Hill was one of the most important battles in the American Revolution; inexperienced colonial forces fought a highly trained army of British soldiers. Less well-known were the approximately three dozen African American soldiers including Barzillai Lew, Phillip Abbot (killed at Bunker Hill), Alexander Ames, Isaiah Bayoman, Cuff Blanchard, Titus Coburn, Grant Cooper, Caesar Dickenson, Charlestown Eaads, Alexander Eames, Asaba Grosvenor, Blaney Grusha, Jude Hall, Cuff Haynes, Cato Howe, Caesar Jahar, Pompy of Braintree, Salem Poor, Caesar Post, Job Potama, Robin of Sandowne, New Hampshire, Peter Salem, Seasor of York County, Sampson Talbot, Cato Tufts, and Cuff Whitemore, who also took part in the battle.[5][6]

During the bloodiest battle of the war the British lost 226 troops, with another 828 wounded, and the Colonists/Americans counted 140 dead, 301 wounded, and 30 captured. It was said that during the battle, Lew kept morale high with his fife version of “There’s Nothing Makes the British Run like ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy.'”[6] The powder horn used by Barzillai Lew in the Revolutionary War is now in collections of the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, Illinois; it was donated by Gerard Lew, the great-great-grandson of Barzillai Lew and a co-founder of the DuSable Museum.


Surrender of General Burgoyne at Fort Ticonderoga hangs in the United States Capitol Rotunda.

In 1777, on his return home to Chelmsford, Lew joined Captain Joseph Bradley Varnum’s company of volunteers, Dracut, Massachusetts. In September 1777, Varnum’s militia was ordered to Fort Ticonderoga and the company marched to reinforce the Northern army. Joseph Bradley Varnum’s son Jonathan wrote in his diary on November 1, 1777, Zeal is selected as “a fifer and fiddler for the grand appearance the day that Burgoyne’s Famous Army is to be brought in. A Wonderful Show. . . This “wonderful show” was the surrender of British General John Burgoyne to American General Horatio Gates at Saratoga, after the Siege of Fort Ticonderoga (1777). During the American Revolution, African Americans from Massachusetts served as freemen or as slaves with their masters in many local militias.[7]

General George Washington, Commander-in-Chief, excluded negroes from serving in the Continental Army, until finally on January 2, 1778, Washington responded to a letter from General James Mitchell Varnum (born in Dracut, Massachusetts and brother of Joseph Bradley Varnum) recommending that Rhode Island’s troop quota should be completed with blacks. Washington urged Rhode Island Governor Nicholas Cooke to give the recruiting officers every assistance. In February, the Rhode Island legislature approved the action — giving slaves their freedom in return for military service. The resulting black regiment, commanded by white Quaker Christopher Greene was the 1st Rhode Island Regiment also known as the Varnum Continentals.[8]

During the war, with wages earned from his years of service, the Lew family purchased a large tract of farmland on the far side of the Merrimack River in Dracut (now Lowell, Massachusetts.) They build a house near Varnum Avenue on Zeal Road named for Barzillai (now called Totman Road.) After the war, Lew returned to his farm in the Pawtucketville section of Dracut. In addition to farming, Lew continued to work as cooper, making barrels for the Middlesex Canal Company. The Lews were both active members of their community and the Pawtucket Society Church (Congregational) on Mammoth Road. They raised 13 children, Zadock (1768)[9] Amy (1771), Serviah (1773), Eucebea (1775), Barzillai II (1777), Peter (1779),[10] Rufus (1780) – impressed at sea by the British in 1808, Eri (1782), Dinah II (1784), Zimri (1785), Phebe (1788), Lucy (1790) married Thomas Dalton,[11] and Adrastus (1793).[12]


Portrait titled “The Flutist”, attributed to Gilbert Stuart. This portrait hung in a Diplomatic Reception Room at the State Department. Some say it is a portrait of Barzillai Lew, but remains only a probability.

Barzillai, Dinah, and several of their sons and daughters sang and played wind and stringed instruments all over New England. They were noted throughout the 19th and 20th centuries as well-educated, skilled, and talented musicians. It was said “no family in Middlesex County from Lowell to Cambridge could produce so much good music.”[3] They formed a complete band in their family and were employed to play at assemblies in Portland, Maine, Boston, Massachusetts, other large cities and towns, as well as commencement exercises at several New England colleges. They kept an elegant coach and fine span of horses and came on the Sabbath to the Pawtucket Society Church in as much style as any family in the town of Dracut.[13] Dinah Bowman Lew may have been the first African American woman pianist in American history. Barzillai Lew died in Dracut on January 18, 1822 and was buried in Clay Pit Cemetery.[14] Years later, Dinah Bowman Lew petitioned and received from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts a pension for her husband’s military service in the American Revolution.

After his death in 1822, Barzillai Lew’s Pawtucketville farm went to his sons, Zadock and Zimri. Zadock, a well-known musician, died in 1826 without a will and his property was sold at auction. Zimri died in 1847 in a tragic train accident in Lowell on Fast Day. A few years earlier in 1844, Zimri’s son, Adrastus, married Elizabeth Freeman of Derry, New Hampshire. They purchased and cleared a piece of woodland off Riverside Street and built a house which still stands on Mount Hope Street. In 1912, at the age of 91, Elizabeth Freeman Lew recounted in an interview with the Lowell Sun: “The house where I live was, one of the houses which in slavery times, formed one of the underground railroad where runaway slaves word come for shelter and protection on their way to Canada. Those were terrible times.”

Adrastus and Elizabeth Lew had five sons and one daughter. James, moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, formed a popular dance band, and served as the music advisor to the Cambridge School Committee. William and Fred opened a successful dry-cleaning and dyeing business in Lowell.

In 1874, William married Isabell Delaney of Virginia and had four children: Harry, Theresa, Marion, and Gerard. After graduating from Pawtucketville Junior High School, Harry Lew entered the family’s dry-cleaning and dyeing business. He was recruited to join Lowell’s Pawtucketville Athletic Club “P.A.C.” of the New England Professional Basketball League and was the first to integrate professional basketball in 1902. Theresa Lew, graduated from Lowell High School as Class Salutatorian in 1912. After finishing Lowell Normal School, she taught at the Bartlett School for 25 years. Marion Lew, also graduated from Lowell High School and the Lowell Normal School music program, she taught piano to generations of Lowell children. Gerard Lew, also an outstanding athlete, graduated from Lowell High School and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, was interviewed by the Lowell Sunday-Telegram in June 1913, about his experiences teaching in a poor, rural, segregated school in Gloucester County, Virginia.

In 1943, musician Duke Ellington wrote a piano piece in honor of Barzillai Lew. It is believed that Ellington learned about Barzillai Lew from his high school teacher, historian Carter G. Woodson at the Armstrong Manual Training School, Washington, D.C..[15]


  1. Groton, Massachusetts Vital Records
  2. Middlesex County Probate Records
  3. Butler, Caleb. “History of the Town of Groton: Including Pepperell and Shirley.” Boston: T.R. Marvin, 1848, p. 278
  4. Barzillai Lew and Dinah Bowman
  5. Horton, James Oliver, and Lois E. Horton. In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community, and Protest among Northern Free Blacks, 1700–1860. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.
  6. Oxford African American Studies Center
  7. Patriots of Color at the Battle of Bunker Hill
  8. Varnum Continentals
  9. Zadock Lew – Officer, Prince Hall Freemasonry Lodge, Cambridge Street, Boston, Massachusetts
  10. Peter Lew, Grand Master 1811-1816, Prince Hall Freemasonry Lodge, Cambridge Street, Boston, Massachusetts
  11. Thomas Dalton, Grand Master 1831-1832, Prince Hall Freemasonry Lodge, Cambridge Street, Boston, Massachusetts
  12. Chelmsford, Massachusetts and Dracut, Massachusetts Vital records
  13. Newspaper Article, “American Citizen,” 1859
  14. Dracut, Massachusetts Vital Records
  15. Duke Ellington Collection, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Archive Center

External links

Major Robert Kirkwood, leader of The Blue Hen’s Chickens regiment

November 4, 2013

Robert Kirkwood was a soldier who fought in the American Revolutionary War. Born in 1746, he had eight sisters and no brothers. He attended the Newark Academy (now the University of Delaware) and worked the family farm on Polly Drummond Hill.

He was named a lieutenant of the 1st Delaware Regiment in the Continental Army on December 9, 1775. In 1776, the Delaware Battalion, under the command of Captain Robert Kirkwood, was assigned to Mifflin’s Brigade under Gen. Thomas Mifflin of Pennsylvania. He participated in every battle in which George Washington fought in 1777.


Blue Hen (In this case, a rooster) – State Bird of Delaware

In the August 16, 1780 Battle of Camden, Kirkwood’s troops won fame and were called “The Blue Hen’s Chickens” after that. This battle reduced his regiment from eight companies to two by reason of death and capture. At the Battle of Cowpens on January 17, 1781, Captain Kirkwood repulsed the British cavalry, and made a famous bayonet charge ordered by Colonel John Eager Howard. He was with General Washington in his pursuit and defeat of Cornwallis.

As a captain in the regular army, he joined a 1791 military expedition led by Arthur St. Clair, the governor of the Northwest Territory. In November 1791, Kirkwood was killed by Native Americans from the Miami tribe in a major defeat near present-day Fort Wayne, Indiana, after having survived 32 Revolutionary battles without a disabling wound.

The University of Delaware chose the Blue Hen as its mascot to honor Captain Kirkwood. Kirkwood also held a certificate of membership in the Society of the Cincinnati.

Kirkwood is the great grandfather of Robert Kirkwood Martin, constructor of the Gunpowder Water works which supply the city of Baltimore, and grandfather of General R. H. K. Whitely of Baltimore.

On January 17, 1776, six months before the Declaration of Independence, Robert Kirkwood (at age twenty) was commissioned a First Lieutenant in Col. John Haslet’s Regiment of Continental troops. Kirkwood fought in 32 battles of the Revolutionary War, recording his observations in a Journal and in an Order Book that have survived to this day and have been published. In August of 1776 the Delaware Regiment fought in the battle of Long Island — the first battle for our new nation’s survival. Since the terms of enlistment were for only a few months at this early stage of the war, few men remained in the regiment at the end of the year. Kirkwood was promoted to Captain in December of 1776 and went home to recruit in Delaware, so he was not present at the battles of Trenton (Dec ’76) and Princeton (Jan ’76). Col. Haslet was killed during the battle at Princeton.

In April of 1777 the Delaware Regiment was reformed and two of the senior Captains were promoted — David Hall to Colonel, and Joseph Vaughan to Major.

Kirkwood was with the Regiment for the battles of Brandywine (Sept ’77) and Germantown (October 1777). During the latter Col. Hall was so badly wounded that he never again fought. Major Joseph Vaughan was now promoted to lead the regiment as a Lt. Col.

In June of 1778 the British abandoned Philadelphia (nine months after taking the city).

In Feb 1779 (after a furlough) Kirkwood and the Delaware Regiment travelled to South Carolina, where Kirkwood survived and escaped capture in the disastrous first battle of Camden SC on August 16, 1780. During this engagement some 20% of the 250 men in the Delaware Regiment were killed and 30% (including Lt. Col. Vaughan) were captured. The remnants of the Delaware Regiment were then brigaded with the Maryland Regiment for the remainder of the war, and Captain Kirkwood was the Delaware contingent’s senior officer.

The Americans retreated across the Carolinas; American General Nathaniel Green reported “For more than two months more than one-third of our men were nearly naked,with only a breechcloth about them… and the rest were as ragged as wolves.”

But the Americans won the race with the British forces to cross the Dan River in VA, so the Americans could gather strength and inflict serious damage on the British at Guilford Courthouse NC, Hobkirk Hill SC, the siege of Ninety-Six SC, and Eutaw Springs SC. There are numerous reports by general staff officers of the Delaware Regiment’s bravery under fire. Kirkwood’s own accounts of the battles were brief. For Cowpens SC, one of the major victories of the war, he wrote in his journal simply,

Jan 16 – March’d to the Cowpens – 12 miles.

Jan 17 – Defeated Tarleton.

At the close of the war (Sept 30, 1783) Kirkwood was brevetted Major and returned to Newark DE. In recognition of his service during the Revolution Delaware gave Robert Kirkwood 100 pounds (Delaware was then using British units for currency). He married Sarah England. They had a son Joseph R. in 1784 and a daughter Mary. They moved to Odessa and then to St. Georges Station (now called Kirkwood) where Sarah died in 1787.

Also in 1787 Kirkwood paid $2,204 to buy 260 acres of land in Jefferson County of the North West Territory (now Ohio). He moved there and was a justice of the peace in that area in 1790. Kirkwood was one of the founders of what is now the town of Bridgeport OH, 6 miles NW of what is now Wheeling WV. In 1788 Virginia gave Kirkwood 1,920 acres of land in Belmont County in the North West Territory (20 miles south of his land in Jefferson Co.)

The Northwest Territory had been ceded by the British to the Americans as part of the settlement of the Revolutionary War, but the British encouraged the Indians who inhabited the area to fight the new settlers. The Indians were a confederation of the Shawnee, Delaware, Ottowa, Iriquois, Chippewa, Miami, and Pottawotami tribes. Several major battles ensued.

In March of 1791 an expedition under the command of the Governor of the Northwest Territory, Arthur St. Clair, set out to build a line of forts. Robert Kirkwood was commissioned a captain in the Second Regiment of U.S. Infantry (one company of which was raised in Delaware).

On November 4, 1791, at Fort Recovery, 60 miles northwest of present day Dayton Ohio, on the Indiana border, 1,000 Indians attacked the 1,000 soldiers, plus about 200 support people, and killed some 700 of them including Robert Kirkwood. This was Kirkwood’s 33rd battle.

One of his companions described the scene as follows:

There, resting beneath a tree, lay old Kirkwood scalped, his head smoking like a chimney.

Note that “old” Kirkwood was only 35 years of age.

A monument was erected near Fort Recovery in Ohio to honor Kirkwood and others who died there. In 1938, a highway was named in honor of Major Kirkwood. The Robert Kirkwood Highway comprises a part of Delaware State Highway 2 in New Castle County. A small village at a crossroads on DE Rte. 71 also bears his name. The Major Robert Kirkwood Reserve Center is the headquarters of Detachment 2, 11th Battalion, 98th Regiment (formerly 9th Battalion / 80th Regiment Health Services) of the United States Army.

The Major Robert Kirkwood Chapter of the Delaware Society of the Sons of the American Revolution has a Color Guard whose members wear the frontiersman uniform used when the Delaware Continentals fought in remote regions of the Carolinas, far from good cloth and family seamstresses.

A North Carolina unit of the Brigade of the American Revolution (BAR) portrays Kirkwood’s Company—the remnant of the Delaware Regiment which fought with the Maryland Brigade after the Delaware Regiment was devastated in the first Battle of Camden.


  • The Journal and Order Book of Captain Robert Kirkwood of the Delaware Regiment of the Continental Line. Associated Faculty Press, Inc., 1970.

Excerpt: “when the British advanced and attackd our Left Flank where the Malitia Lay, who give way, which give the Enemy’s horse an opportunity to gain our Rear, their Infantry at the same time gaining our Flank, and their Line advancing in our front, which Caused the Action to Become very Desperate, which continued for the Space of Half an hour — in this action, Lt Col. Vaughan, Major Patten, six officers and Seventy Rank and file of our Regt was taken Prisoners with all the Cannon and Baggage of the Army — I can give no account of our Marches on the Retreat until we came to Salisbury which we Arrived at on the 21st” -September 21, 1780

Nathaniel Massie, Ohio settler

November 3, 2013


Nathaniel Massie was a frontier surveyor in the Ohio Country who became a prominent land owner, politician, and soldier. He founded fifteen early towns in what became the State of Ohio, including its first capital, Chillicothe. In 1807, the Ohio General Assembly declared him the winner of the election for governor, but he refused the office.


sketch by Henry Howe

A native of the colony of Virginia, Massie served briefly in the Virginia militia during the American Revolution. After becoming a surveyor, he established the first town in the Virginia Military District at what is now Manchester. He platted the town of Chillicothe on his own land. Massie was one of the largest landowners in early Ohio, and served as a major general in the Ohio militia.

He served as a Ross county delegate to the 1802 Ohio Constitutional Convention[1] and was a leader of the Jeffersonian faction that supported statehood. He was a leader of the Chillicothe Junto, a group of Chillicothe Jeffersonian-Republican politicians who brought about the admission of Ohio as a state in 1803 and largely controlled its politics for some years thereafter. Among his colleagues in the faction were Thomas Worthington and Edward Tiffin. He was a Presidential elector for Thomas Jefferson in 1804 and James Madison in 1808.[2] He was a Trustee of Ohio University from 1804 to 1808.[3] Massie served in the General Assembly and was the first president of the Ohio Senate.

Massie led troops in the War of 1812, but died of pneumonia on November 3, 1813, at the age of 50. He is buried at Grandview Cemetery in Chillicothe, Ohio


A monument to Massie stands along U.S. Route 50 just east of Bainbridge, another town he founded. It commemorates his life, as well as marking the approximate location of his home in the Paint Valley. The memorial was dedicated in September 1938.[4] The Nathaniel Massie Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in Chillicothe is named in the general’s honor, as is Massie Township in Warren County, Ohio and the Clinton-Massie Local School District that serves the area.


  1. “First Constitutional Convention, Convened November 1, 1802″. Ohio Archaeological and Historical Publications V: 131–132. 1896
  2. Taylor, William Alexander; Taylor, Aubrey Clarence (1899). Ohio statesmen and annals of progress: from the year 1788 to the year 1900 …. 1. State of Ohio. p. 64.
  3. Walker, Charles M. (1869). History of Athens County, Ohio And Incidentally of the Ohio Land Company and the First Settlement of the State at Marietta etc.. Robert Clarke & Co.. pp. 346–348.
  4. Ohio Historical Society

Daniel Boone: soldier, statesman, frontiersman

November 2, 2013


Daniel Boone was an American pioneer, explorer, and frontiersman whose frontier exploits made him one of the first folk heroes of the United States. Boone is most famous for his exploration and settlement of what is now the Commonwealth of Kentucky, which was then beyond the western borders of the settled part of the Thirteen Colonies. This region legally belonged to both the Commonwealth of Virginia and to the American Indian Tribes at the time. Despite some resistance from American Indian tribes such as the Shawnee, in 1775 Boone blazed his Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap in the Appalachian Mountains from North Carolina and Tennessee into Kentucky. There he founded the village of Boonesborough, Kentucky, one of the first English-speaking settlements west of the Appalachians. Before the end of the 18th century, more than 200,000 European people migrated to Kentucky/Virginia by following the route marked by Boone.[2]

Boone was a militia officer during the Revolutionary War, which in Kentucky was fought primarily between the European settlers and the British-aided Native Americans. Boone was captured by Shawnee warriors in 1778, who after a while adopted him into their tribe. Later, he left the Indians and returned to Boonesborough to help defend the European settlements in Kentucky and Virginia.

Boone was elected to the first of his three terms in the Virginia General Assembly during the Revolutionary War, and fought in the Battle of Blue Licks in 1782. Blue Lick was one of the last battles of the Revolutionary War, coming after Lord Cornwallis surrendered to Washington in October 1781.

Following the war, Boone worked as a surveyor and merchant, but fell deeply into debt through failed Kentucky land speculation. Frustrated with all the legal problems resulting from his land claims, in 1799 Boone emigrated to eastern Missouri, where he spent most of the last two decades of his life (1800–20). Boone remains an iconic figure in American history. He was a legend in his own lifetime, especially after an account of his adventures was published in 1784, making him famous in America and Europe. After his death, he was frequently the subject of heroic tall tales and works of fiction. His adventures — real and legendary — were influential in creating the archetypal Western hero of American folklore. In American popular culture, he is remembered as one of the foremost early frontiersmen. The epic Daniel Boone mythology often overshadows the historical details of his life.[3]


This 1820 painting by Chester Harding is the only portrait of Daniel Boone made from life.[1]

Daniel Boone was of English and Welsh descent. Because the Gregorian calendar was adopted during Boone’s lifetime, his birth date is sometimes given as November 2, 1734, (the “New Style” date), although Boone continued to use the October 22 date.[4] Daniel’s family belonged to the Religious Society of Friends, disparagingly called “Quakers” and persecuted in England for their unorthodox beliefs. His father, Squire (his first name, not a title) Boone (1696–1765) emigrated from the small town of Bradninch, Devon (near Exeter, England) to Pennsylvania in 1713, to join William Penn’s colony of dissenters. Squire Boone’s parents, George and Mary Boone, followed their son to Pennsylvania in 1717. In 1720, Squire, who worked primarily as a weaver and a blacksmith, married Sarah Morgan (1700–77). Sarah’s family were Quakers from Wales, and settled first in Towamencin Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania in 1708. In 1731, the Boones moved to the Oley Valley, near the modern city of Reading, Pennsylvania. There, they built a log cabin, partially preserved today as the Daniel Boone Homestead. Daniel was born there, the sixth of eleven children.[5]

Daniel Boone spent his early years on what was then the western edge of the Pennsylvania frontier. There were a number of American Indian villages nearby. The pacifist Pennsylvania Quakers generally had good relations with the Indians, but the steady growth of the white population compelled many Indians to relocate further west. Boone received his first rifle at the age of 12, and he learned his hunting skills from both local Europeans and American Indians, beginning his lifelong love of hunting. Folk tales often emphasized Boone’s skills as a hunter. In one story, the young Boone was hunting in the woods with some other boys, when the howl of a panther scattered the boys, except for Boone. He calmly cocked his rifle and shot the predator through the heart just as it leaped at him and it exploded. As with so many tales about Boone, the story may or may not be true, but it was told so often that it became part of the popular image of the man.[6]

In Boone’s youth, his family became a source of controversy in the local Quaker community that existed in what is now present day Lower Gwynedd Township, Pennsylvania. In 1742, Boone’s parents were compelled to publicly apologize after their eldest child, Sarah, married John Willcockson, a “worldling” (non-Quaker). Squire Boone’s apology was warranted in larger part because the couple had “kept company”, and thus were considered “married without benefit of clergy”. When Boone’s oldest brother Israel also married a “worldling” in 1747, Squire Boone stood by his son and was therefore expelled from the Quakers, although his wife continued to attend monthly meetings with her children. Perhaps as a result of this controversy, in 1750, Squire sold his land and moved the family to North Carolina. Daniel Boone did not attend church again, although he considered himself to be a Christian, and he had all of his children baptized. The Boones eventually settled on the Yadkin River, in what is now Davie County, North Carolina,[7] about two miles west of Mocksville.[8]

Because he spent so much time hunting in his youth, Boone received little formal education. According to one family tradition, a schoolteacher once expressed concern over Boone’s education, but Boone’s father was unconcerned, saying “Let the girls do the spelling and Dan will do the shooting….” Boone received some tutoring from family members, though his spelling remained unorthodox. Historian John Mack Faragher cautions that the folk image of Boone as semiliterate is misleading, however, arguing that Boone “acquired a level of literacy that was the equal of most men of his times.” Boone regularly took reading material with him on his hunting expeditions — the Bible and Gulliver’s Travels were favorites — and he was often the only literate person in groups of frontiersmen. Boone would sometimes entertain his hunting companions by reading to them around the evening campfire.[9]

As a young man, Boone served with the British military during the French and Indian War (1754–1763), a struggle for control of the land beyond the Appalachian Mountains. In 1755, he was a wagon driver in General Edward Braddock’s attempt to drive the French out of the Ohio Country, which ended the Braddock expedition at what is known as the Battle of the Monongahela. Boone returned home after the defeat, and on August 14, 1756, he married Rebecca Bryan, a neighbor in the Yadkin Valley. The couple initially lived in a cabin on his father’s farm. They eventually had ten children.

In 1759, a conflict erupted between European colonists and the Cherokee Indians, their former allies in the French and Indian War. After the Yadkin Valley was raided by Cherokees, many families, including the Boones, fled to Culpeper County, Virginia. Boone served in the North Carolina militia during this “Cherokee Uprising”, and his hunting expeditions deep into Cherokee territory beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains separated him from his wife for about two years.

“I can’t say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days.”

—Daniel Boone[10]

Boone’s chosen profession also made for long absences from home. He supported his growing family in these years as a market hunter. Almost every autumn, Boone would go on “long hunts”, which were extended expeditions into the wilderness, lasting weeks or months. Boone would go on long hunts alone or with a small group of men, accumulating hundreds of deer skins in the autumn, and then trapping beaver and otter over the winter. The hunt followed along a network of bison migration trails, known as the Medicine Trails. The long hunters would return in the spring and sell their take to commercial fur traders.[11]

Frontiersmen often carved messages on trees or wrote their names on cave walls, and Boone’s name or initials have been found in many places. One of the best-known inscriptions was carved into a tree in present Washington County, Tennessee which reads “D. Boon Cilled a. Bar [killed a bear] on [this] tree in the year 1760″. A similar carving is preserved in the museum of the Filson Historical Society in Louisville, Kentucky, which reads “D. Boon Kilt a Bar, 1803.” However, because Boone spelled his name with the final “e”, and the inconsistency of an 1803 date east of the Mississippi after Boone moved to Missouri in 1799, these particular inscriptions may be forgeries, part of a long tradition of phony Boone relics.[12]

In 1762, Boone and his wife and four children moved back to the Yadkin Valley from Culpeper. By mid-1760s, with peace made with the Cherokees, immigration into the area increased, and Boone began to look for a new place to settle, as competition decreased the amount of game available for hunting. This meant Boone had difficulty making ends meet; he was often taken to court for nonpayment of debts, and he sold what land he owned to pay off creditors. After his father’s death in 1765, Boone traveled with his brother Squire and a group of men to Florida, which had become British territory after the end of the war, to look into the possibility of settling there. According to a family story, Boone purchased land near Pensacola, but Rebecca refused to move so far away from her friends and family. The Boones instead moved to a more remote area of the Yadkin Valley, and Boone began to hunt westward into the Blue Ridge Mountains.[13]


“Capture of Boone and Stuart” from Life and Times of Col. Daniel Boone by Cecil B. Hartley (1859)

Boone first reached Kentucky in the fall of 1767 while on a long hunt with his brother Squire Boone Jr. Boone’s first steps in Kentucky were near present-day Elkhorn City.[14] While on the Braddock expedition years earlier, Boone had heard about the fertile land and abundant game of Kentucky from fellow wagoner John Finley, who had visited Kentucky to trade with American Indians. Boone and Finley happened to meet again, and Finley encouraged Boone with more tales of Kentucky. At the same time, news had arrived about the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, in which the Iroquois had ceded their claim to Kentucky to the British. This, as well as the unrest in North Carolina due to the Regulator movement, likely prompted Boone to extend his exploration.[15]

On May 1, 1769, Boone began a two-year hunting expedition in Kentucky. On December 22, 1769, he and a fellow hunter were captured by a party of Shawnees, who confiscated all of their skins and told them to leave and never return. The Shawnees had not signed the Stanwix treaty, and since they regarded Kentucky as their hunting ground, they considered white hunters there to be poachers. Boone, however, continued hunting and exploring Kentucky until his return to North Carolina in 1771, and returned to hunt there again in the autumn of 1772.

On September 25, 1773, Boone packed up his family and, with a group of about 50 emigrants, began the first attempt by British colonists to establish a settlement in Kentucky. Boone was still an obscure hunter and trapper at the time; the most prominent member of the expedition was William Russell, a well-known Virginian and future brother-in-law of Patrick Henry. On October 9, Boone’s eldest son James and a small group of men and boys who had left the main party to retrieve supplies were attacked by a band of Delaware, Shawnees, and Cherokee. Following the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, American Indians in the region had been debating what to do about the influx of settlers. This group had decided, in the words of historian John Mack Faragher, “to send a message of their opposition to settlement….” James Boone and William Russell’s son Henry were captured and gruesomely tortured to death. The brutality of the killings sent shock waves along the frontier, and Boone’s party abandoned its expedition.[16]


George Caleb Bingham’s Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the Cumberland Gap (1851–52) is a famous depiction of Boone.

The massacre was one of the first events in what became known as Dunmore’s War, a struggle between Virginia and, primarily, Shawnees of the Ohio Country for control of what is now West Virginia and Kentucky. In the summer of 1774, Boone volunteered to travel with a companion to Kentucky to notify surveyors there about the outbreak of war. The two men journeyed more than 800 miles (1,300 km) in two months to warn those who had not already fled the region. Upon his return to Virginia, Boone helped defend colonial settlements along the Clinch River, earning a promotion to captain in the militia as well as acclaim from fellow citizens. After the brief war, which ended soon after Virginia’s victory in the Battle of Point Pleasant in October 1774, Shawnees relinquished their claims to Kentucky.[17]

Following Dunmore’s War, Richard Henderson, a prominent judge from North Carolina, hired Boone to travel to the Cherokee towns in present North Carolina and Tennessee and inform them of an upcoming meeting. In the 1775 treaty, Henderson purchased the Cherokee claim to Kentucky to establish a colony called Transylvania. Afterwards, Henderson hired Boone to blaze what became known as the Wilderness Road, which went through the Cumberland Gap and into central Kentucky. Along with a party of about 30 workers, Boone marked a path to the Kentucky River, where he founded Boonesborough. Other settlements, notably Harrodsburg, were also established at this time. Despite occasional Indian attacks, Boone returned to the Clinch Valley and brought his family and other settlers to Boonesborough on September 8, 1775.[18]

Violence in Kentucky increased with the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783). Native Americans who were unhappy about the loss of Kentucky in treaties saw the war as a chance to drive out the colonists. Isolated settlers and hunters became the frequent target of attacks, convincing many to abandon Kentucky. By late spring of 1776, fewer than 200 colonists remained in Kentucky, primarily at the fortified settlements of Boonesborough, Harrodsburg, and Logan’s Station.[19]


This 1877 illustration, entitled The rescue of Jemima Boone and Betsey and Fanny Callaway, kidnapped by Indians in July 1776, is one of many depictions of the famous event.

On July 14, 1776, Boone’s daughter Jemima and two other teenage girls were captured outside Boonesborough by an Indian war party, who carried the girls north towards the Shawnee towns in the Ohio country. Boone and a group of men from Boonesborough followed in pursuit, finally catching up with them two days later. Boone and his men ambushed the Indians while they were stopped for a meal, rescuing the girls and driving off their captors. The incident became the most celebrated event of Boone’s life. James Fenimore Cooper created a fictionalized version of the episode in his classic book The Last of the Mohicans (1826).[20]

In 1777, Henry Hamilton, the British Lieutenant Governor of Canada, began to recruit American Indian war parties to raid the settlements in Kentucky. On April 24, Shawnee Indians led by Chief Blackfish attacked Boonesborough. A bullet struck Boone’s leg, shattering his kneecap, but he was carried back inside the fort amid a flurry of bullets by Simon Kenton, a recent arrival at Boonesborough. Kenton became Boone’s close friend, as well as a legendary frontiersman in his own right.

While Boone recovered, the Shawnees kept up their attacks outside Boonesborough, destroying the surrounding cattle and crops. With the food supply running low, the settlers needed salt to preserve what meat they had, so in January 1778, Boone led a party of 30 men to the salt springs on the Licking River. On February 7, 1778, when Boone was hunting meat for the expedition, he was surprised and captured by warriors led by Chief Blackfish of the Chillicothe Shawnee. Because Boone’s party was greatly outnumbered, he persuaded his men to surrender rather than put up a fight.

Blackfish wanted to continue to Boonesborough and capture it, since it was now poorly defended, but Boone convinced him the women and children were not hardy enough to survive a winter trek. Instead, Boone promised that Boonesborough would surrender willingly to the Shawnees the following spring. Boone did not have an opportunity to tell his men he was bluffing to prevent an immediate attack on Boonesborough, however. Boone pursued this strategy so convincingly that many of his men concluded he had switched his loyalty to the British.


Illustration of Boone’s ritual adoption by the Shawnees, from Life & Times of Col. Daniel Boone, by Cecil B. Hartley (1859)

Boone and his men were taken to Blackfish’s town of Chillicothe, where they were made to run the gauntlet. As was their custom, the Shawnees adopted some of the prisoners into the tribe to replace fallen warriors; the remainder were taken to Hamilton in Detroit. Boone was adopted into a Shawnee family at Chillicothe, perhaps into the family of Chief Blackfish himself, and given the name Sheltowee (Big Turtle). On June 16, 1778, when he learned Blackfish was about to return to Boonesborough with a large force, Boone eluded his captors and raced home, covering the 160 miles (260 km) to Boonesborough in five days on horseback and, after his horse gave out, on foot.[21]

During Boone’s absence, his wife and children (except for Jemima) had returned to North Carolina, assuming he was dead. Upon his return to Boonesborough, some of the men expressed doubts about Boone’s loyalty, since after surrendering the salt making party he had apparently lived quite happily among the Shawnees for months. Boone responded by leading a preemptive raid against the Shawnees across the Ohio River, and then by helping to successfully defend Boonesborough against a ten-day siege led by Blackfish, which began on September 7, 1778.

After the siege, Captain Benjamin Logan and Colonel Richard Callaway—both of whom had nephews who were still captives surrendered by Boone—brought charges against Boone for his recent activities. In the court martial that followed, Boone was found “not guilty”, and was even promoted after the court heard his testimony. Despite this vindication, Boone was humiliated by the court martial, and he rarely spoke of it.[22]

After the trial, Boone returned to North Carolina to bring his family back to Kentucky. In the autumn of 1779, a large party of immigrants came with him, including (according to tradition) the family of Abraham Lincoln’s grandfather.[23] Rather than remain in Boonesborough, Boone founded the nearby settlement of Boone’s Station. He began earning money at this time by locating good land for other settlers. Transylvania land claims had been invalidated after Virginia created Kentucky County, so settlers needed to file new land claims with Virginia. In 1780, Boone collected about $20,000 in cash from various settlers and traveled to Williamsburg to purchase their land warrants. While he was sleeping in a tavern during the trip, the cash was stolen from his room. Some of the settlers forgave Boone the loss; others insisted he repay the stolen money, which took him several years to do.

A popular image of Boone which emerged in later years is that of the backwoodsman who had little affinity for “civilized” society, moving away from places like Boonesborough when they became “too crowded.” In reality, however, Boone was a leading citizen of Kentucky at this time. When Kentucky was divided into three Virginia counties in November 1780, Boone was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the Fayette County militia. In April 1781, he was elected as a representative to the Virginia General Assembly, which was held in Richmond. In 1782, he was elected sheriff of Fayette County.[24]


Jury finding from Kentucky County, Virginia, confiscating lands of two men adjudged to be British citizens – Daniel Boone was listed as member of jury. (July 1780)

Meanwhile, the Revolutionary War continued. Daniel Boone joined General George Rogers Clark’s invasion of the Ohio country in 1780, fighting in the Battle of Piqua on August 7. In October, when Boone was hunting with his brother Ned, Shawnees shot and killed Ned. Apparently thinking they had killed Daniel Boone, the Shawnees beheaded Ned and took the head home as a trophy. In 1781, Boone traveled to Richmond to take his seat in the legislature, but British dragoons under Banastre Tarleton captured him and several other legislators near Charlottesville. The British released Boone on parole several days later. During Boone’s term, Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown in October 1781, but the fighting continued in Kentucky unabated. Boone returned to Kentucky, and in August 1782, fought in the Battle of Blue Licks, in which his son Israel was killed. In November 1782, he took part in another Clark expedition into Ohio, the last major campaign of the war.

After the Revolution, Boone resettled in Limestone, renamed Maysville, Kentucky in 1786, then a booming Ohio River port. In 1787, he was elected to the Virginia state assembly as a representative from Bourbon County. In Maysville, he kept a tavern and worked as a surveyor, horse trader, and land speculator. He was initially prosperous, owning seven slaves by 1787, a relatively large number for Kentucky at the time, which was dominated by small farms rather than large plantations. Boone became something of a celebrity while living in Maysville: in 1784, on his 50th birthday, historian John Filson published The Discovery, Settlement And present State of Kentucke, a book which included a chronicle of Boone’s adventures.[25]

Although the Revolutionary War had ended, the border war with American Indians north of the Ohio River soon resumed. In September 1786, Boone took part in a military expedition into the Ohio Country led by Benjamin Logan. Back in Limestone, Boone housed and fed Shawnees who were captured during the raid, and helped to negotiate a truce and prisoner exchange. Although the Northwest Indian War escalated and would not end until the American victory at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, the 1786 expedition was the last time Boone saw military action.[26]

Boone began to have financial troubles while living in Maysville. According to the later folk image, Boone the trailblazer was too unsophisticated for the civilization which followed him and which eventually defrauded him of his land. Boone was not the simple frontiersman of legend, however: he engaged in land speculation on a large scale, buying and selling claims to tens of thousands of acres. The land market in frontier Kentucky was chaotic, and Boone’s ventures ultimately failed because his investment strategy was faulty and because his sense of honor made him reluctant to profit at someone else’s expense. According to Faragher, “Boone lacked the ruthless instincts that speculation demanded.”[27]

Frustrated with the legal hassles that went with land speculation, in 1788, Boone moved upriver to Point Pleasant, Virginia (now West Virginia). There, he operated a trading post and occasionally worked as a surveyor’s assistant. When Virginia created Kanawha County in 1788, Boone was appointed lieutenant colonel of the county militia. In 1791, he was elected to the Virginia legislature for the third time. He contracted to provide supplies for the Kanawha militia, but his debts prevented him from buying goods on credit, so he closed his store and returned to hunting and trapping.

In 1795, Rebecca and he moved back to Kentucky, living in present Nicholas County on land owned by their son Daniel Morgan Boone. The next year, Boone applied to Isaac Shelby, the first governor of the new state of Kentucky, for a contract to widen the Wilderness Road into a wagon route, but the governor did not respond, and the contract was awarded to someone else. Meanwhile, lawsuits over conflicting land claims continued to make their way through the Kentucky courts. Boone’s remaining land claims were sold off to pay legal fees and taxes, but he no longer paid attention to the process. In 1798, a warrant was issued for Boone’s arrest after he ignored a summons to testify in a court case, although the sheriff never found him. That same year, Kentucky named Boone County in his honor.


Boone lived much of the last part of his life with the family of his son Nathan in this home near present-day Defiance.


This engraving by Alonzo Chappel (circa 1861) depicts an elderly Boone hunting in Missouri.


A portrait of Boone by John James Audubon

In 1799, Boone moved out of the United States to a frontier area, at that time part of Spanish Louisiana, that eventually became the state of Missouri. The Spanish, eager to promote settlement in the sparsely populated region, did not enforce the legal requirement that all immigrants had to be Catholics. Boone, looking to make a fresh start, emigrated with much of his extended family to what is now St. Charles County. The Spanish governor appointed Boone “syndic” (judge and jury) and commandant (military leader) of the Femme Osage district. The many anecdotes of Boone’s tenure as syndic suggest he sought to render fair judgments rather than to strictly observe the letter of the law.

Boone served as syndic and commandant until 1804, when the area became part of the Louisiana Territory of the United States following the Louisiana Purchase. Because Boone’s land grants from the Spanish government had been largely based on verbal agreements, he once again lost his land claims. In 1809, he petitioned Congress to restore his Spanish land claims, which was finally done in 1814. Boone sold most of this land to repay old Kentucky debts. When the War of 1812 came to the Missouri Territory, Boone’s sons Daniel Morgan Boone and Nathan Boone took part, but by that time Boone was too old for militia duty.

Boone spent his final years in Missouri, often in the company of children and grandchildren. He hunted and trapped as often as his failing health allowed. According to one story, in 1810 or later, Boone went with a group on a long hunt as far west as the Yellowstone River, a remarkable journey at his age, if true. In 1816, a United States officer at Fort Osage, on the Missouri, wrote, “We have been honored by a visit from Colonel Boon, the first settler of Kentucky; he lately spent two weeks with us. . . . . He left this for the river Platt, some distance above. Col Boon is eighty-five years of age, five feet seven inches high, stoutly made, and active for one of his years; is still of vigorous mind, and is pretty well informed. He has taken part in all the wars of America, from before Braddock’s war to the present hour.” [Boston Recorder, July 3, 1816] His obituary, printed in the Missouri Gazette, October 3, 1820, says, “At the age of eighty, in company with one white man and a black man, whom he laid under strict injunction to return him to his family dead or alive, he made a hunting trip to the headwaters of the Great Osage, where he was successful in trapping of beaver, and in taking other game.” Other stories of Boone around this time have him making one last visit to Kentucky to pay off his creditors, although some or all of these tales may be folklore. American painter John James Audubon claimed to have gone hunting with Boone in the woods of Kentucky around 1810. Years later, Audubon painted a portrait of Boone, supposedly from memory, although skeptics have noted the similarity of this painting to the well-known portraits by Chester Harding. Boone’s family insisted he never returned to Kentucky after 1799, although some historians believe Boone visited his brother Squire near Kentucky in 1810 and have therefore reported Audubon’s story as factual.[28]


Boone’s gravesite in Frankfort, Kentucky

Daniel Boone died of natural causes on September 26, 1820, at Nathan Boone’s home on Femme Osage Creek at age 85, just a few weeks short of his 86th birthday. His last words were, “I’m going now. My time has come.” He was buried next to Rebecca, who had died on March 18, 1813. The graves, which were unmarked until the mid-1830s, were near Jemima (Boone) Callaway’s home on Tuque Creek, about two miles (3 km) from the present-day Marthasville, Missouri. In 1845, the Boones’ remains were supposedly disinterred and reburied in a new cemetery in Frankfort, Kentucky. Resentment in Missouri about the disinterment grew over the years, and a legend arose that Boone’s remains never left Missouri. According to this story, Boone’s tombstone in Missouri had been inadvertently placed over the wrong grave, but no one had ever corrected the error. Boone’s relatives in Missouri, displeased with the Kentuckians who came to exhume Boone, kept quiet about the mistake, and they allowed the Kentuckians to dig up the wrong remains. There is no contemporary evidence that this actually happened, but in 1983, a forensic anthropologist examined a crude plaster cast of Boone’s skull made before the Kentucky reburial and announced it might be the skull of an African American. Negro slaves had also been buried at Tuque Creek, so it is possible the wrong remains were mistakenly removed from the crowded graveyard. Both the Frankfort Cemetery in Kentucky and the Old Bryan Farm graveyard in Missouri claim to have Boone’s remains.[29] According to “The Boone Family” book by Hazel Atterbury Spraker (1982), “[Daniel] was buried near the body of his wife, in a cemetery established in 1803 by David Bryan, upon the bank of a small stream called Teuque Creek about one and one-half miles southeast of the present site of the town of Marthasville in Warren County, Missouri, it being at that time the only Protestant cemetery North of the Missouri River.” {page 578}


The Daniel Boone half dollar was a U.S. commemorative coin issued from 1934 to 1938 in honor of the bicentennial of Boone’s birth.

Many heroic actions and chivalrous adventures are related of me which exist only in the regions of fancy. With me the world has taken great liberties, and yet I have been but a common man.

—Daniel Boone[30]

Daniel Boone remains an iconic figure in American history, although his status as an early American folk hero and later as a subject of fiction has tended to obscure the actual details of his life. The general public remembers him as a hunter, pioneer, and “Indian-fighter”, even if they are uncertain when he lived or exactly what he did. Many places in the United States are named for him, including the Daniel Boone National Forest, the Sheltowee Trace Trail, the town of Boone, North Carolina, and seven counties: Boone County, Ill., Boone County, Ind., Boone County, Neb., Boone County, W.Va., Boone County, Mo., Boone County, Ky., and Boone County, Ark.. Today, there are schools named for Daniel Boone in many different places, including Birdsboro, Pa., Douglassville, Pa., Gray, Tenn., and Chicago.

The U.S. Navy’s James Madison-class Polaris submarine USS Daniel Boone (SSBN-629), was named for Boone. This nuclear submarine was decommissioned in 1994, and has since been scrapped. She was a member of a class of 41 submarines, all of which were named for great Americans from history, including the USS Lewis and Clark, two other noteworthy frontiersmen of the Great West.

Boone’s name has long been synonymous with the American outdoors. For example, the Boone and Crockett Club was a conservationist organization founded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1887, and the Sons of Daniel Boone was the precursor of the Boy Scouts of America.

Boone emerged as a legend in large part because of John Filson’s “The Adventures of Colonel Daniel Boon”, part of his book The Discovery, Settlement And present State of Kentucke. First published in 1784, Filson’s book was soon translated into French and German, and made Boone famous in America and Europe. Based on interviews with Boone, Filson’s book contained a mostly factual account of Boone’s adventures from the exploration of Kentucky through the American Revolution. However, because the real Boone was a man of few words, Filson invented florid, philosophical dialogue for this “autobiography”. Subsequent editors cut some of these passages and replaced them with more plausible—but still spurious—ones. Often reprinted, Filson’s book established Boone as one of the first popular heroes of the United States.[31]

Like John Filson, Timothy Flint also interviewed Boone, and his Biographical Memoir of Daniel Boone, the First Settler of Kentucky (1833) became one of the best-selling biographies of the 19th century. Flint greatly embellished Boone’s adventures, doing for Boone what Parson Weems did for George Washington. In Flint’s book, Boone fought hand-to-hand with a bear, escaped from Indians by swinging on vines (as Tarzan would later do), and so on. Although Boone’s family thought the book was absurd, Flint greatly influenced the popular conception of Boone, since these tall tales were recycled in countless dime novels and books aimed at young boys.[32]

Much of Daniel Boone’s life was covered by William Henry Bogart in his book Daniel Boone and the hunters of Kentucky.

At least three well-known American entertainers have claimed kinship with Daniel Boone: the actor and singer Pat Boone; Richard Boone (1917–81) of the TV series, Have Gun, Will Travel; and Randy Boone, one of the actors in the Western series, The Virginian. indicates Richard Boone is descended from George Boone (1738–1820), a brother of Daniel Boone.

The baseball-playing family of Ray Boone and his descendants are shown in to be descended from Daniel Boone through the line of a son, Daniel Morgan Boone.

Thanks to Filson’s book, in Europe, Boone became a symbol of the “natural man” who lives a virtuous, uncomplicated existence in the wilderness. This was most famously expressed in Lord Byron’s epic poem Don Juan (1822), which devoted a number of stanzas to Boone, including this one:

Of the great names which in our faces stare,

The General Boon, back-woodsman of Kentucky,

Was happiest amongst mortals any where;

For killing nothing but a bear or buck, he

Enjoyed the lonely vigorous, harmless days

Of his old age in wilds of deepest maze.[33]

Byron’s poem celebrated Boone as someone who found happiness by turning his back on civilization. In a similar vein, many folk tales depicted Boone as a man who migrated to more remote areas whenever civilization crowded in on him. In a typical anecdote, when asked why he was moving to Missouri, Boone supposedly replied, “I want more elbow room!” Boone rejected such an interpretation of his life, however. “Nothing embitters my old age,” he said late in life, like “the circulation of absurd stories that I retire as civilization advances….”[34]

Existing simultaneously with the image of Boone as a refugee from society was, paradoxically, the popular portrayal of him as civilization’s trailblazer. Boone was celebrated as an agent of Manifest Destiny, a pathfinder who tamed the wilderness, paving the way for the extension of American civilization. In 1852, critic Henry Tuckerman dubbed Boone “the Columbus of the woods”, comparing Boone’s passage through the Cumberland Gap to Christopher Columbus’s voyage to the New World. In popular mythology, Boone became the first to explore and settle Kentucky, opening the way for countless others to follow. In fact, other Americans had explored and settled Kentucky before Boone, as debunkers in the 20th century often pointed out, but Boone came to symbolize them all, making him what historian Michael Lofaro called “the founding father of westward expansion”.[35]


This 1874 lithograph entitled “Daniel Boone protects his family” is a representative image of Boone as an Indian fighter.

In the 19th century, when Native Americans were being displaced from their lands and confined on reservations, Boone’s image was often reshaped into the stereotype of the belligerent, Indian-hating frontiersman which was then popular. In John A. McClung’s Sketches of Western Adventure (1832), for example, Boone was portrayed as longing for the “thrilling excitement of savage warfare.” Boone was transformed in the popular imagination into someone who regarded Indians with contempt and had killed scores of the “savages”. The real Boone disliked bloodshed, however. According to historian John Bakeless, there is no record that Boone ever scalped Indians, unlike other frontiersmen of the era. Boone once told his son Nathan that he was certain of having killed only one Indian, during the battle at Blue Licks, although he believed others may have died from his bullets in other battles. Even though Boone had lost two sons in wars with Indians, he respected Indians and was respected by them. In Missouri, Boone often went hunting with the very Shawnees who had captured and adopted him decades earlier. Some 19th-century writers regarded Boone’s sympathy for Indians as a character flaw and therefore altered his words to conform to contemporary attitudes.[36]

Boone’s adventures, real and mythical, formed the basis of the archetypal hero of the American West, popular in 19th-century novels and 20th century films. The main character of James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales, the first of which was published in 1823, bore striking similarities to Boone; even his name, Nathaniel Bumppo, echoed Daniel Boone’s name. As mentioned above, The Last of the Mohicans (1826), Cooper’s second Leatherstocking novel, featured a fictionalized version of Boone’s rescue of his daughter. After Cooper, other writers developed the Western hero, an iconic figure which began as a variation of Daniel Boone.[37]

In the 20th century, Boone was featured in numerous comic strips, radio programs, and films, where the emphasis was usually on action and melodrama rather than historical accuracy. These are little remembered today; probably the most noteworthy is the 1936 film Daniel Boone, with George O’Brien playing the title role.

Audiences of the “baby boomer” generation are more familiar with the “Daniel Boone” television series, which ran from 1964 to 1970. In the popular theme song for the series, Boone was described as a “big man” in a “coonskin cap”, and the “rippin’est, roarin’est, fightin’est man the frontier ever knew!”[38] This did not describe the real Daniel Boone, who was not a big man and did not wear a coonskin cap. Boone was portrayed this way because Fess Parker, the tall actor who played Boone, was essentially reprising his role as Davy Crockett from an earlier TV series. That Boone could be portrayed as a Crockett, another American frontiersman with a very different persona, was another example of how Boone’s image could be reshaped to suit popular tastes.[39]


  1. Faragher, Daniel Boone, 317
  2. For number of people, see Faragher, Daniel Boone, 351
  3. For overview of Boone as early folk hero and American icon, as well as his enduring fame and the confusion of myth and history, see Lofaro, American Life, 180–83
  4. Bakeless, Master of the Wilderness, 7
  5. Brown, Meredith Mason. Frontiersman, p.4
  6. Faragher, Daniel Boone, 9
  7. Lagle, Andrew (31 July 2007). “Map of Davie County, N. Carolina Showing Original Land Grants”. Daniel Boone; The Extraordinary Life Of A Common Man. Drums, PA: Margy Miles.
  8. Faragher, Daniel Boone, 25–27; Bakeless, Master of the Wilderness, 16–17. For baptizing children, see Faragher, Daniel Boone, 311
  9. Faragher, Daniel Boone, 16–17, 55–6, 83
  10. Faragher, Daniel Boone, 65
  11. For market hunting, see Bakeless, Master of the Wilderness, 38–39
  12. For doubts about tree carvings, see Faragher, Daniel Boone, 57–58; Belue’s notes in Draper, Life of Daniel Boone,163, 286; Elliott, Long Hunter, 12. For historians who do not doubt the tree carvings, see Lofaro, American Life, 18; Bakeless, Master of the Wilderness, 33. Faragher and Belue generally question traditional stories more than Bakeless, Elliott, and Lofaro
  13. Faragher, Daniel Boone, 62–66
  15. Faragher, Daniel Boone, 69–74. According to some versions of the story, Findley specifically sought out Boone in 1768, but Faragher believes it more likely that their second meeting was by chance
  16. Faragher, Daniel Boone, 89–96, quote on 93
  17. For Boone in Dunmore’s War, see Lofaro, American Life, 44–49; Faragher, Daniel Boone, 98–106
  18. When, exactly, Henderson hired Boone has been a matter of speculation by historians. Some have argued that Boone’s first expeditions into Kentucky might have been financed by Henderson in exchange for information about potential places for settlement, while Boone’s descendants believed Henderson did not hire Boone until 1774. For doubts that Henderson hired Boone before 1774, see Faragher, Daniel Boone, 74–76, 348
  19. Faragher, Daniel Boone, 130
  20. For Boone’s influence on James Fenimore Cooper, see Faragher, Daniel Boone, 331; Bakeless, Master of the Wilderness, 139
  21. Boone biographers write that Boone was adopted by the chief, but see Chief Blackfish for doubts
  22. For court martial, see Faragher, Daniel Boone, 199–202; Lofaro, American Life, 105–106
  23. Faragher, Daniel Boone, 203, writes without qualification that the Lincolns joined Boone on this trip, while Lofaro calls it a tradition. Other sources give a later date for the Lincoln migration
  24. For Boone as a leading citizen, see Faragher, Daniel Boone, 206
  25. Faragher, Daniel Boone, 235–37
  26. For border war and prisoner exchanges, see Faragher, Daniel Boone, 249–58. Most Boone biographers tell a story of Blue Jacket, the Shawnee chief, escaping while in Boone’s custody in Maysville, and raise the possibility that Boone intentionally let the chief escape because the two men were friends. According to the scholarly biography of Blue Jacket, however, the chief escaped at a later time: see John Sugden, Blue Jacket: Warrior of the Shawnees (University of Nebraska Press, 2000), 82
  27. For analysis of Boone’s land speculation failures, see Faragher, Daniel Boone, 245–48
  28. For Yellowstone, see Faragher, Daniel Boone, 295. For doubts about Audubon’s tale, see Faragher, Daniel Boone, 308–10; Randell Jones, In the Footsteps of Daniel Boone, 222. For historians who report Audubon’s story without doubts, see Lofaro, American Life, 161–66; Bakeless, Master of the Wilderness, 398–99
  29. For burial controversy, see Faragher, Daniel Boone, 354–62; Jones, Footsteps, 227–30
  30. Faragher, Daniel Boone, 302
  31. Faragher, Daniel Boone, 4–7; Lofaro, American Life, 180
  32. Faragher, Daniel Boone, 323–24
  33. Faragher, Daniel Boone, 328
  34. Faragher, Daniel Boone, 302, 325–26
  35. Faragher, Daniel Boone, 321–22, 350–52; Lofaro, American Life, 181–82.
  36. Bakeless, Master of the Wilderness, 162–62; Faragher, Daniel Boone, 39, 86, 219, 313, 320, 333
  37. Faragher, Daniel Boone, 330–33
  38. The complete lyrics of the song can be found online
  39. Faragher, Daniel Boone, 338–39, 362; Lofaro, American Life, 180


  • Atterbury Spraker, Hazel. “The Boone Family”. Originally published Rutland, Vermont 1922, reprinted Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. Baltimore, 1974, 1977, 1982; ISBN 0-8063-0612-2. A Genealogical History of the Descendants of George and Mary Boone who came to America in 1717, Also a biographical sketch of DANIEL BOONE, the pioneer
  • Bakeless, John. Daniel Boone: Master of the Wilderness. Originally published 1939, reprinted University of Nebraska Press, 1989; ISBN 0-8032-6090-3. The definitive Boone biography of its era, it was the first to make full use of the massive amount of material collected by Lyman Draper
  • Brown, Meredith Mason. Frontiersman, Louisiana State University Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-8071-3356-9
  • Draper, Lyman. The Life of Daniel Boone, edited by Ted Franklin Belue. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1998; ISBN 0-8117-0979-5. Belue’s notes provide a modern scholarly perspective to Draper’s unfinished 19th century biography, which follows Boone’s life up to the siege of Boonesborough
  • Elliott, Lawrence. The Long Hunter: A New Life of Daniel Boone. New York: Reader’s Digest Press, 1976; ISBN 0-88349-066-8
  • Faragher, John Mack. Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer. New York: Holt, 1992; ISBN 0-8050-1603-1. The standard scholarly biography, examines both the history and the folklore
  • Jones, Randell. In the Footsteps of Daniel Boone. Blair: North Carolina, 2005. ISBN 0-89587-308-7. Guide to historical sites associated with Boone
  • Lofaro, Michael. Daniel Boone: An American Life. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2003; ISBN 0-8131-2278-3. A brief biography, previously published (in 1978 and 1986) as The Life and Adventures of Daniel Boone
  • Kozar, Richard. “Daniel Boone and the Exploration of the Frontier”. Chelsea House Publishers: Philadelphia, 2000. ISBN 0-7910-5510-8

General Samuel Elbert, Governor of Georgia

November 1, 2013

Samuel Elbert was an American merchant, soldier, and politician from Savannah, Georgia.

Elbert fought in the Revolutionary War, commanding the victorious American colonial forces in a naval battle near St. Simons Island, Georgia on April 19, 1778. He was wounded and captured at the Battle of Brier Creek the following year, though he regained his freedom in a prisoner exchange. He rose to the rank of major general in the Georgia militia and colonel in the Continental Army. He was brevetted a brigadier general after the end of the war.

In 1784, he was elected to the United States Congress, but declined to serve because he did not consider himself physically fit for the task. He did later serve a term as the 18th Governor of Georgia.

Elbert was a Freemason. His name appears on the 1779 Masonic membership roles of Solomon’s Lodge No. 1 at Savannah along with James Jackson, Governor John A. Treutlen, and Archibald Bulloch. Elbert also served as the last Provincial Grand Master of the first English Provincial Grand Lodge of Georgia in 1785.


Photograph of a locket containing a painting of Samuel Elbert by Richard Whitehead.

Born in 1740 in Savannah, in the British Province of Georgia,[2][3][4] Samuel Elbert was the son of Baptist minister William Elbert and his wife, Sarah Greenfield. Elbert’s parents died in South Carolina when he was fourteen. He traveled back to Savannah.


Elizabeth Rae

Elbert was employed by a prosperous planter named John Rae, an important man in both commerce and government. Rae had built a beautiful home on his land near Savannah known as Rae’s Hall. It was through Rae’s influence that Elbert was commissioned to go into Indian country as a trader. He had great success in his dealings with the Indians, mostly because of his kind regard for them. On one occasion, Elbert had been called upon to escort and protect a party of Indians, who had come to Savannah in an effort to redress a great wrong – the murder of a Creek chief called Mad Turkey by Thomas Fee. The incident turned into an issue, and in 1774, feelings ran high between the whites and the Indians. Fee was convicted and jailed. In 1785, Elbert wrote in a letter to George Walton, “It is a pity that the people on our Frontiers will behave so cruelly toward those poor savages; not contented with having the lands, but to rob, beat and abuse them likewise is enough to bring down Divine vengeance on their heads.”[5]

He became engaged to Rae’s daughter, Elizabeth. In 1769, they were married at Rae’s Hall, a union which, according to historian Charles C. Jones, “confirmed Elbert’s social position and influence.”[6]

Elbert became a captain of a grenadier company of Savannah’s First Regiment of Militia in June 1772 and signed a pledge of allegiance to the King of England as a prerequisite to being commissioned as an officer.

He became active in the Provisional Congress of Georgia and its outgrowth, the Georgia Council of Safety. At the suggestion of a committee of the Council of Safety, the companies of the Georgia Militia decided to elect their own officers. As a result, all officers loyal to the king were replaced with staunch supporters of the oppositionist cause. On February 4, 1776, Elbert was made a lieutenant colonel and later colonel in the Georgia Militia. “Samuel Elbert contributed as much as any other man to the early movement for Georgia’s independence”, according to researcher C. E. Purcell.[7]

In 1777, Georgia’s president, Button Gwinnett, decided to launch an invasion of Florida to liberate that territory from the British. His plan was to send Colonel Samuel Elbert with 400 continental troops in three galleys and support craft by sea and another element of 109 mounted militia led by Colonel John Baker by land. The two elements were to rendezvous at Saw Pit Bluff, near the mouth of the Nassau River, a site that is presently within the city limits of Jacksonville, Florida.[8]

At about the time this expedition was initiated, an ongoing feud between Gwinnett and the commander of Georgia’s Continental troops, General Lachlan McIntosh, resulted in a duel in which both parties were wounded. Button Gwinnett died of blood poisoning three days later on May 19, 1777.

Nevertheless, one reason Florida never became a part of Georgia might be found in the vagaries of the wind. May 13, 1777 was to the date picked for Elbert and Baker to combine their forces and drive back the British. Many problems prevented Elbert’s sea expedition from reaching its destination on time. While on the boats, the men were stricken by disease, which combined with supply problems and head winds, slowed their progress considerably. In addition, the waters in this area are relatively low in the spring, making navigation somewhat difficult. On May 30, Elbert wrote in a letter to his brother in law, Colonel Joseph Habersham, “could we have got the Galleys into St. John’s river, I would, with the men I have with me, made the whole province of East Florida tumble.”[9]

Colonel Baker’s mounted militia arrived at Saw Pitt Bluff as planned, but quickly moved to a new location when it became apparent that the British already knew of their intentions. During this move, Colonel Baker’s men were surprised by a force of some 400 British troops, and a brief battle ensued in the vicinity of Thomas Creek just south of where it empties into the Nassau River.[10] Outnumbered and facing withering fire, most of Baker’s men deserted. Colonel Baker together with his few remaining forces was obliged to retreat, returning to Georgia on May 17.

It was about three days later that Colonel Elbert disembarked his troops on the north end of Amelia Island. His forces were joined by a few stragglers from Baker’s detachment, but after reconnoitering, Elbert found the British well entrenched with troops and artillery. While Elbert’s little band was busy trying to cut through the Amelia Narrows, the British commander, Patrick Tonyn, was making plans to attack them with vastly superior forces.

To ensure total victory, the British war ships Rebecca and Hawke were ordered out to block any attempt of Elbert’s little flotilla to escape. A violent storm came up, and the British warships were forced out to sea. Before they could return, they encountered a rebel brigantine of sixteen guns. The ensuing battle damaged the Rebecca so badly that it could no longer carry on, allowing Elbert to leave Amelia Island unopposed.[11]

Failing to surprise the British and without the support of Baker’s detachment, Elbert and his men returned to Georgia without much having been accomplished. Shortly thereafter, Elbert concluded in a letter to General McIntosh:

I think — that little can be done, unless by a formidable invasion, which I judge to be rather too much for Georgia to undertake till her forces are put on a more respectable footing, and therefore recommend confining our operations entirely to the defensive till a more favorable opportunity. We have too many secret enemies amongst us who keep up a regular correspondence with our Florida neighbors, and until they are put to a stop it will be impossible for us to enter Florida without their having timely notice of our approach.

A later attempt to invade Florida with a much larger army was initiated by Governor John Houstoun and General Robert Howe in 1778. It was doomed to failure from the start by lack of a unified command. One of the few successes of this second invasion attempt came when Colonel Elbert put 300 of his troops aboard three galleys and caused the surrender of three British warships, his Majesty’s schooner Hinchinbrook, the recently repaired sloop-of-war Rebecca, and a third vessel referred to as a prize brig, all anchored near Frederica. These ships had been harassing the Georgia rebels for almost two years. Prevailing conditions favored Elbert’s little flotilla and it wasn’t long before the British were forced to strike their colors and abandon ship. Having suffered no casualties, Elbert was ecstatic.

Elbert’s three galleys comprised a good part of the Georgia Navy at that time. These vessels were the Lee, the Washington and the Bulloch. A fourth galley, named the Congress, was the other galley authorized by the Continental Congress for the state. The galleys were approximately 70 feet (21 m) in length and were powered by two lateen sails as well as oars and had a very large cannon mounted in the bow. Although not suited for ocean going, their maneuverability made them formidable in the shallow coastal waters of Georgia.

The remarkable success of this enterprise encouraged him to consider launching an attack against another heavily armed British vessel, the Galatea, anchored at the north end of Jekyll Island. Apparently he decided against it, and the Galatea, unable to complete its mission, set sail for St. Augustine, Florida a few days later.[12] General Howe commended Elbert and his troops for their victory over the British ships and, partly because of this venture, decided to continue with the invasion of Florida.

Meanwhile, Samuel Elbert continued with his Continental troops toward Florida. Just after they crossed the Satilla River, on June 24, the first Solar eclipse recorded in the British colonies occurred.[13][14] It was called “the dark day” by the troops and may well have been responsible for some of the desertions about then.

Elbert, now joined by General Howe, continued on and occupied Fort Tonyn, which had been deserted by the British. It was here that problems began to arise. Houston and Howe were unable to agree on who would lead the continentals in the invasion and the rebel naval commander, Commodore Oliver Bowen, refused to subordinate himself to the Army. This, along with the lack of surprise and widespread illness among the troops, caused the invaders to be halted in a battle at a place called Alligator Bridge. General Howe announced that “our principal objective has been accomplished” and returned his troops to Georgia. Although the skirmishes between the Patriots and the Loyalists continued, the 1778 expedition was the last of Georgia’s attempts to throw the British out of Florida.

In December of 1778, the British sent a fleet with about 3500 troops led by Colonel Archibald Campbell to retake Savannah. General Howe, in command of the city, declined to accept an offer from Colonel Elbert to use Elbert’s regiment to defend a landing place known as Girardeau’s plantation. As a result, the British were able to land without incident and soon were able to attack the American army from the rear by traversing a swamp under the guidance of a slave named Quamino Dolly.[15] The Americans were soon forced to retreat across the bridge over Musgrove Creek. Although most of the army crossed safely, the British seized the bridge just before Elbert’s command arrived. As a result, Elbert and his men were forced to swim the icy creek to avoid capture. They later joined General Howe about eight miles above Savannah.


Portrait of Major General Samuel Elbert

Savannah was pillaged by the British, and General Howe later faced a court martial for abandoning not only Savannah, but giving up all of Georgia.[16][17] The defense of Georgia continued with the troops that had not fled to the Carolinas. Among those was Samuel Elbert who, with his remaining troops, briefly occupied Augusta, then deployed to the Brier Creek area where they continually harassed Colonel Campbell’s army as it marched toward Augusta. The weather was cold and conditions harsh. On January 29, 1779, Elbert wrote in a letter to General Lincoln, commander of the Southern army:

The articles of provisions we shall have plenty, of artillery we have none, small arms very ordinary in general and scarce, many men have come to camp without any, which we have not to give them. Entrenching tools and camp utensils are not to be had here.[18]

In late February, Elbert was joined by General John Ashe and about 1800 additional troops. Ashe deployed most of

his troops on high ground near Brier Creek. It was here that Elbert nearly lost his life.

Although Elbert was a brigadier general in the Georgia Militia, he was still a colonel in the Continental Army at this time and was in command of one of three divisions under General Ashe. On March 3, 1779, the British launched a surprise attack and quickly routed Ashe’s main army. Ash disappeared into the woods, ostensibly to rally his scattered troops. The remaining left wing, under General Elbert, was driven back against Brier Creek. With Brier creek behind him and surrounded on all other sides by the enemy, Elbert and Lieutenant Colonel John McIntosh together with 60 Continentals and 150 Georgia militiamen, made a heroic effort to turn the fortune of battle without any help from the other two divisions. In the words of the Georgia Historical Commission, Elbert’s small regiment “– made one of the valiant stands of military history.” The British Army was forced to bring up its reserves and, with all hope of escape or victory gone, Elbert surrendered the remnants of his command. More than half of the 150 men killed were Elbert’s men. Elbert himself was about to be bayoneted when he was recognized as a Mason by a British officer who ordered his life spared.

There is ample reason to believe that, if the other two divisions had fought with the tenacity of Elbert’s command, things might have turned out differently, especially since General Andrew Williamson was on his way with 1200 men and General Griffith Rutherford was coming with 800 men to reinforce the army at Brier.[19] As it was, General Lincoln’s plan to win control of the South and bring the war to an end resulted in disaster. General Ashe was later accused of cowardice for leaving the field of battle while Elbert was still engaged, but since nothing could be proved, a court of inquiry found Ashe only guilty of gross neglect.

Elbert remained a prisoner on parole in the British camp for more than a year. During this time, he was accorded great respect and kindness. The British made every effort to suborn his allegiance, offering promotion, honors and other rewards, but he remained loyal to the American cause.

Elbert was given considerable freedom while being held prisoner, which was unusual given the typically harsh treatment of prisoners at the time. It is a family tradition, however, that this freedom exposed him to a plot upon his life.[7][20] It was attributed to a gang of Tories who had every reason to dislike Elbert since he had been very active against them. Their plan was to have him killed by Indians. While strolling in the woods one day, Elbert encountered two Indians with guns aimed directly at him. He had always extended great kindness to the Indians whenever he had had dealings with them in the past. He made a secret signal to them, and they recognized him as a friend.

The Patriot movement at Augusta petitioned the Continental Congress to offer Brigadier General James Inglis Hamilton in exchange for Elbert, and to arrange for his promotion to the rank of brigadier general in the Continental Army.[21] This request was granted after the capture of Charleston by the British in 1780.

Elbert went immediately to George Washington’s headquarters in the north. General Washington was elated to accept Elbert’s services, and at the Siege of Yorktown in 1781, Elbert was given command of a brigade. While at Yorktown, he made a lasting friendship with a young French general, the marquis de Lafayette. This friendship continued after war’s end, and these two men maintained a friendly correspondence for many years. Such was Elbert’s admiration for Lafayette that he named one of his sons after him.

In 1782, the General Assembly of Georgia chose Elbert, General Lachlan McIntosh, Edward Telfair and a number of other prominent Georgians to serve as commissioners at a conference with the Creek and Cherokee Indians regarding their title to certain Georgia lands. A meeting took place at Augusta in May 1783. In a May 31 treaty, the Cherokee ceded a tract between the Tugaloo and Oconee Rivers.[22] According to Hugh McCall’s The History of Georgia,[23] Before the conference had ended, the news reached Georgia that a peace treaty had been concluded between Great Britain and her former colonies.

Many honors were bestowed upon Samuel Elbert. He was elected Sheriff of Chatham County and chosen Vestryman for Christ Church, the first church in the new nation to organize a Sunday school. In 1784, he was selected as one of five delegates from the Society of the Cincinnati, an organization comprising officers who had fought in the Revolution. The same year, he was elected to the General Assembly of Georgia to be a delegate to the United States Congress. This latter honor he was forced to refuse, because he felt, after the long rigors of war, his physical condition was not at its best.

When the General Assembly of Georgia convened at Savannah on January 4, 1785, Samuel Elbert was elected governor of the state, to succeed John Houstoun. Elbert had not sought this honor and he asked for time to give the matter his earnest consideration. On January 7, 1785, Elbert appeared before the House, and formally accepted the honor, saying in part:

I shall ever be sensible of the honor you have conferred on me, in appointing me Chief Magistrate of the State of Georgia. It must, in the highest degree, be flattering to me, that my conduct as a soldier through our last glorious struggle, has met the approbation of my Country; and rest assured that it will be my study as a citizen to merit the confidence you have reposed in me. I firmly rely on the concurrence and support of your Honorable House in every measure that will secure the citizens in their just rights and privileges and which may be conducive to the welfare of the State.[24]

In January, 1785, an unusual piece of legislature was passed by the General Assembly for the regular establishment and support of religion in Georgia, mixing Church and State matters. Though governors at that time had no power to vote, Elbert and succeeding governors who found the legislation untenable, ignored it, as stated in the Digest of the Laws of Georgia.

As governor, Samuel Elbert was intensely interested in educational and cultural matters. Along with another prominent advocate of education, Abraham Baldwin, Elbert persuaded the Georgia House to pass a bill supporting the “full and complete establishment of Public seminaries of learning”. On January 27, 1785, the House granted a charter to Franklin College, later to become the University of Georgia, and Baldwin became the university’s first president. Georgia thus became the first state to charter a state-supported university. The Savannah Morning News stated that this event was “… perhaps of more enduring and far-reaching importance and good than any other of this great man’s notable career.”[25]

The matter of taxation came before Elbert early in April, 1785, when William Houston, Georgia’s delegate to the United States Congress, wrote a letter informing him that New York and Georgia were the only states that had not conceded the right to levy these taxes – that feeling against Georgia in the national capital New York City at the time was very high, even going so far as to threaten to vote Georgia out of the Union. Undoubtedly, Elbert favored full cooperation with Congress, but governors of that did not wield the power that executives of later years were to possess, and Georgia did not accept the tax.

Elbert and Elizabeth Rae had six children: Catherine, Elizabeth, Sara, Samuel de Lafayette, Matthew and Hugh Lee. That he was a kind and greatly beloved father to his children is evidenced in many records.

He died on November 1, 1788. On November 6, 1788, the following obituary appeared in the Georgia Gazette, published in Savannah[26]:

Died last Saturday, after a lingering sickness, age 48 years, SAMUEL ELBERT, Esq. Major General of the Militia of this state, Vice president of the Society of the Cincinnati, and Sheriff of the County of Chatham. His death was announced by the discharge of minute guns and the colours of Fort Wayne, and vessels in the harbour being displayed at half mast high. An early and warm attachment to the cause of his country stimulated him to exert those natural talents he possessed for a military life, throughout the late glorious and successful contest, with ability and general approbation, for which he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General in the Army of the United States. In the year 1785, his country chose him, by their general suffrage, Governor and Commander in chief of the State, which office he executed with fidelity and discharged its various duties with becoming attention and dignity. The appointments of Major General of the Militia and Sheriff of this county, were further marks of the confidence of his country, whose interests he had always at heart, and whose appointments he received and executed, with a grateful remembrance that his conduct through life had met the approbation of fellow citizens. In private life, he was among the first to promote useful and benevolent societies. As a Christian, he bore his painful illness with patience and firmness, and looked forward to his great change with an awful and fixed hope of future happiness. As a most affectionate husband and parent his widow and six children have great cause to lament his end, and the society in general to regret the loss of a valuable member. His remains were attended to on Sunday to Christ Church by the ancient society of the Masons, (of which he was the Passed (sic) Grand Master in this state) with the members of the Cincinnati as mourners, accompanied by a great number of his other fellow citizens, whom the Rev. Mr. Lindsay addressed in a short but well adapted discourse on the solemn occasion. Minute guns were fired during the funeral, and every other honor was paid his memory, by a respectable military procession, composed of the Artillery and other Militia Companies. The body was afterwards deposited at the family burial place on the Mount at Rae’s Hall.

Much of the credit for awakening interest in Georgia’s great Revolutionary heroes is due to the efforts of William Harden, former longtime librarian of the Georgia Historical Society at Savannah. His interest inspired the Sons of the American Revolution to appoint a committee to locate Samuel Elbert’s grave. The grave site was eventually found on an Indian mound overlooking the Savannah River.

In a letter to the editor of the Atlanta Journal & Constitution dated May 9, 1971, John L. Sutlive, former editor of the Savannah Evening Press, stated the discovery of Elbert’s grave was somewhat accidental. Working on the Rae plantation many years ago, workmen uncovered some bones thought to be those of an Indian, but the fact that there were some military buttons with the skeleton came to the attention of General Robert J. Travis, who rescued them, realizing that they were the remains of Governor Elbert. He kept them in a crate under his desk until reburial arrangements could be made.


Grave of Samuel Elbert at Colonial Park Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia

On March 24, 1924, Samuel and Elizabeth Rae Elbert were re-interred in the Colonial Park Cemetery in Savannah. Once again, honors were paid to this man in a military funeral by units from the Army, Navy and National Guard.

Elbert County and the town of Elberton were named for him. There is also an Elbert Ward and an Elbert memorial in Savannah. In 1971 a private school named the Samuel Elbert Academy was chartered in Elberton, Georgia. Many markers have been set up by the Daughters and Sons of the American Revolution, the Society of Masons and the Georgia Historical Commission honoring Samuel Elbert.[27][28][29]


  1. Jones 1886, p.36
  2. Purcell 1951, p.1
  3. Georgia Colonial Records, Vol. V, p.655
  4. Georgia Colonial Records, Vol. X, p.907
  5. Purcell 1951, p.90
  6. Jones 1886
  7. Purcell 1951
  8. Bennett 1970, p.10.
  9. Purcell 1951, p.35
  10. Bennett 1970
  11. Bennett 1970, p.16
  12. Wood 2006
  13. Purcell 1951, p.48
  14. “Solar Eclipse Calendar”.
  15. Purcell 1951, p.60
  16. Purcell 1951, p.62.
  17. Coulter 1947, p.138
  18. Elbert Letter 1779
  19. Hollingsworth 1959
  20. Johnson 1851
  21. Purcell 1951, p.69
  22. “Cherokee Land Cessions / Fifth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institute / 1884″
  23. McCall, Hugh (1817). The History of Georgia, Vol. 1.
  24. Purcell 1951, p.75. from the Georgia Gazette, January 13, 1785
  25. Purcell 1951, p.80. from The Savannah Morning News of Oct 31, 1920
  26. Georgia Gazette November 6, 1788
  27. Cotten, Mary Gene. “General Samuel Elbert Masonic Historical Marker”. University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia: Carl Vinson Institute of Government
  28. Cotten, Mary Gene. “Battle of Brier Creek State Historical Marker”. University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia: Carl Vinson Institute of Government
  29. “Elbert County State Historical Marker”. University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia: Carl Vinson Institute of Government


  • Bennett, Charles E. (1970). Southernmost Battlefields of the Revolution. Crossroads, Virginia: Blair
  • Christensen, Mike (April 4, 1976). “Georgia’s Navy”. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta: Cox Enterprises)
  • Coulter, E. Merton (1947). Georgia: A Short History. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press. p. 138
  • Elbert, Samuel (January 29, 1779). “Letter to General Benjamin Lincoln, Southern Army Commander”
  • General Samuel Elbert Masonic Historical Marker. located on Brannen’s Bridge Rd. at Brier Creek: Grand Lodge of Georgia Free and Accepted Masons
  • Johnson, Joseph, M.D. (1851). Traditions & Reminiscences Chiefly of the American Revolution in the South Including Biographical Sketches Incidents & Anecdotes Charleston, South Carolina: Walker & James. pp. 473–477
  • Jones, Jr., Charles C. (1886). The Life and Services of the Honorable Major General Samuel Elbert of Georgia (Speech). a speech on file at the Georgia Historical Society, Savannah, Georgia
  • Map of the Battle of Brier Creek. Georgia State Historical Marker located on Brannen’s Bridge Rd. at Brier Creek, 11 miles northeast of Sylvania, Georgia: Georgia Historical Commission, compiled by Clyde D. Hollingsworth – 1959
  • Order book of Samuel Elbert. Collections of the Georgia Historical Society. V, pt. 2. pp. 655
  • Purcell, Clarice E. (1951). The Public Career of Samuel Elbert. Master’s thesis. University of Georgia
  • Sutlive, John L. (former editor Savannah Evening Press) (May 9, 1971). “Governor’s Bones – a letter sent to the Atlanta Journal Constitution”. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta: Cox Enterprises)
  • The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia. V. 1738 to 1744. pp. 655
  • The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia. X. pp. 124–125, 907
  • published by authority of the lords commissioners of the Admiralty ; to which is added, The North Georgia gazette, and Winter chronicle. (November 6, 1788). The Georgia Gazette. an article on file at the Georgia Historical Society, Savannah, Georgia: Printed and published by Abraham Small …. ISBN 0665418353. OCLC 15351971
  • The Last Will and Testament of Samuel Elbert. Will Record Book C 1780 – 1791. Chatham County, Georgia: court of the Ordinary. pp. 105–111
  • Whalen, Gail. The WPA Excavation of Irene Mound. Georgia Historical Society, Savannah, Georgia: Coastal Georgia Archaeological Society.
  • Wheeler, Frank T.; Georgia Historical Society (October 1998). Savannah River Plantations (Images of America: Georgia). Arcadia Pub. pp. 69–82. ISBN 0738500305
  • Whitehead, Stella Muse. To the Glory of Georgia. a profile of Samuel Elbert derived partially from journals of Elbert left to Stella by her grandmother, Jane Stiles Muse Hernandez who inherited them from her first husband, Samuel Elbert Muse, a great grandson of General Elbert
  • Wood, Virginia Steele (Summer 2006). “The Georgia Navy’s Dramatic Victory of April 19, 1778″. Georgia Historical Quarterly (Savannah, Georgia: Georgia Historical Society) XC

Reverend Eilardus Westerlo, Dutch Reformed minister

October 30, 2013

Eilardus Westerlo was a Dutch Reformed minister who worked in the United States. He spent his career, from October 1760 until December 1790, as pastor of the Dutch Reformed Church in Albany. During this period, the United States fought for its independence, and the Dutch Reformed Church in North America gained its independence from the mother church in the Netherlands.

Westerlo was born on October 30, 1738, in Kantens, Netherlands, to Isaac Westerlo (1708-1766), a Dutch-Reformed minister, and Hillegonda Reiners (ca. 1715-1750), daughter of Dominee Eilardus Reiners. He was reared in Denekamp, and educated at the grammar school in Oldenzaal and the University of Groningen. Westerlo graduated from the University of Groningen in 1760, and he was ordained as a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church the same year.

In the year of Westerlo’s ordination, Daniel Gerdes and Michaël Bertling in Groningen were asked to find an adequate successor for Theodorus Frelinghuysen as pastor in Albany, New York. Thousands of miles from Albany, unfamiliar with the local situation, faced with a limited number of candidates, these two Groningen professors selected Westerlo. He accepted the call, and arrived in Albany in October 1760.


Dutch Reformed Church, first church in Albany, New York

Westerlo proved not only that he understood the issues in Albany, but also that he could come up with workable solutions. He became one of the leaders of his denomination in America. For thirty years he successfully steered his own congregation past its problems of discord. Moreover, he was instrumental in helping the Dutch Reformed Church in New York and New Jersey establish its own organization in North America. In addition to his work at Albany, he also ministered at Schaghticoke, New York, quarterly.

Although it would take more than a century after the British takeover of New Netherland in 1664 for the English language to replace Dutch in Albany, this process was accelerated by the presence of British troops in and around Albany during the French-and-Indian War (1754-1763). Westerlo’s switch from Dutch to English in his Memoirs in 1782 and the addition of English as a language in which he preached laid his conflicting feelings about the use of Dutch bare: he did not want to disappoint the elderly members of his congregation, while at the same time realizing that hanging on to Dutch would lead to the loss of the non-Dutch-speaking part of the population for the Dutch Reformed Church in Albany.

Westerlo also led his large, politically divided congregation, with its powerful consistory and with many influential members, to a solution in the Coetus-Conferentie conflict, and later on the issue of whether the congregation in Albany should join the other North American congregations under the Plan of Union proposed by the Classis of Amsterdam.

When Westerlo’s congregation finally joined the Union of Dutch Reformed Churches in 1785, he was immediately chosen to be president of the General Synod. Perhaps for this reason, but also to be celebrated for his efforts towards education, he was made an honorary doctor of theology by the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University, that same year.

Another delicate issue in which Westerlo carefully guided his congregation was its position with regard to the War of Independence. The War put the Dutch Reformed pastors at risk. During the Revolution, he sympathized with the patriots, and delivered the address of welcome when General Washington visited Albany in 1782.

In 1984 Howard Hageman called Eilardus Westerlo “Albany’s Dutch Pope.” This says more about the influence that is now ascribed to Westerlo in Albany. He should, however, be known as a successful representative of his church community in the quickly changing world of Revolutionary North America.

Among his correspondents, Westerlo numbered the Rev. Ezra Stiles, president of Yale, to whom he frequently wrote in Latin and Hebrew. Westerlo left in manuscript an autobiography containing references to the years between 1761 and 1790, Greek and Hebrew lexicons, complete, and a translation from the Dutch of Robert Alberthoma’s “Catechism” (1790; 2d ed., 1805).

In 1775, Westerlo married Catharine Livingston, daughter of Philip Livingston (“the Signer”) and widow of Stephen Van Rensselaer II. Their son, Rensselaer Westerlo, was elected to the United States Congress.

Eilardus Westerlo died on December 26, 1790, in Albany, New York.


  • Hageman, H. G. 1985. ‘Albany’s Dutch Pope,’ in: De Halve Maen, Volume 58:4:8-10, 20-21
  • Naborn, R. A. 2011. Eilardus Westerlo (1738-1790): From “Colonial” Dominee to “American” Pastor. Dissertation, VU University Amsterdam [1]
  • Rogers, E. P. 1858. A Historical Discourse on the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of Albany. New York: Board of Publication of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church
  • Naborn, R. A. (ed.) 2011. Memoirs of Eilardus Westerlo, Pastor of the Dutch Reformed Protestant Church in Albany, NY (1760-90). Stichting Neerlandistiek VU Amsterdam/Nodus Publikationen Münster
  • Wikisource-logo.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1889). “Westerlo, Eilardus”
  • Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton

John Cook, Delaware statesman

October 27, 2013

John Cook was an American planter and politician from Smyrna, in Kent County, Delaware. He served in the Delaware General Assembly and as Governor of Delaware.

Cook was born in 1730 in Duck Creek, now Smyrna, son of John and Margaret Cook. He married Elizabeth Collins, the sister of later State President Thomas Collins and they had five children: Sarah, Margaret, Elizabeth, Michael, and Robert. He was a prosperous farmer and tanner and gradually acquired a considerable amount of land in the area. Included in the property at one time was Belmont Hall, the home of Thomas Collins. The Cook home, however, was probably to the west of the present U.S. Highway 13, across the road from Belmont Hall. They were members of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Smyrna.

Cook was Sheriff of Kent County from 1772 until 1778, just before the American Revolution. Like many of his Anglican neighbors in Kent County, Cook was fundamentally opposed to the break with Great Britain and was counted among the conservatives whose loyalty to the new government was suspect. However, he was personally liked and was elected to the more conservative Delaware Constitutional Convention of 1776 and to the first State House for the 1776/77 session.

In July 1777 Cook was named one of the associate justices of the new State Supreme Court. Before he was allowed to take office, however, the appointment was blocked and David Finney, the cousin of Thomas McKean, was given the seat. At the height of the American Revolution, no one lukewarm to the cause would be able to get such a position easily.

Regardless, he was popular enough in Kent County to be elected again to the House of Assembly for the 1778/79 session, and in the 1780/81 session he began a term in the Legislative Council, later known as the State Senate. Cook was Speaker in the 1782/83 session when President John Dickinson resigned, thereby becoming President of Delaware himself. His succession was controversial, however, and was not generally agreed to until he agreed to serve only until a special election could be held to select a President. He served as President from November 4, 1782 until February 1, 1783, when the special election was held. He was back in the State House for a term in 1783/84, and again in 1786/87, and finished his legislative career with two years in the Legislative Council, beginning with the 1787/88 session. He was still in office when he died.

During his tenure as President the noted loyalist Cheney Clow was brought to trial for treason. The trial was presided over by two ardent revolutionaries, William Killen and David Finney. During the proceedings Clow was able to produce papers to prove his claim to have had a British commission and the jury acquitted him. In spite of this his enemies insisted on continuing to hold him in prison for reimbursement of damages caused.


Cook died at Duck Creek, now Smyrna, on October 27, 1789, and was buried there in an unmarked grave at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Cemetery.

His daughter, Sarah, married future Governor John Clark.

No known portrait of John Cook exists.


  • Conrad, Henry C. (1908). History of the State of Delaware. Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Wickersham Company.
  • Hancock, Harold B. (1977). Loyalists of Revolutionary Delaware. Newark.
  • Martin, Roger A. (1984). History of Delaware Through its Governors. Wilmington, Delaware: McClafferty Press.
  • Martin, Roger A. (1995). Memoirs of the Senate. Newark, DE: Roger A. Martin.
  • Racino, John W. (1980). Biographical Directory of American and Revolutionary Governors 1607-1789. Westport, CT: Meckler Books. ISBN 0-930466-00-4.
  • Rodney, Richard S. (1975). Collected Essays on Early Delaware. Wilmington, Delaware: Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Delaware.
  • Scharf, John Thomas (1888). History of Delaware 1609-1888. 2 vols. Philadelphia: L. J. Richards & Co.

The Battle of the Chateauguay

October 25, 2013

The Battle of the Chateauguay was an engagement of the War of 1812. On October 25 and 26, 1813, a British force consisting of 1,630 regulars, volunteers and militia from Lower Canada and Mohawk warriors, commanded by Charles de Salaberry, repelled an American force of about 2,600 attempting to invade Lower Canada and ultimately attack Montreal.

The Battle of the Chateauguay was one of the two battles (the other being the Battle of Crysler’s Farm) which caused the Americans to abandon the Saint Lawrence Campaign, their major strategic effort in the autumn of 1813.


The Battle of Chateauguay, oainting by E.H. de Holmfield (1896) courtesy of Château Ramezay Museum and Historic Site of Montreal

Late in 1813, United States Secretary of War John Armstrong devised a plan to capture Montreal, which might have led to the conquest of all Upper Canada. Two divisions were involved. One would descend the St. Lawrence River from Sackett’s Harbor on Lake Ontario, while the other would advance north from Plattsburgh on Lake Champlain. The two divisions would unite in front of the city for the final assault.[6]

The Americans around Lake Champlain were led by Major General Wade Hampton, who had taken command on July 4, 1813. Hampton had several misgivings about the plan. His own troops, encamped at Burlington, Vermont, were raw and badly trained, and his junior officers themselves lacked training and experience.[2] There were insufficient supplies at his forward base at Plattsburgh as the British had controlled the lake since 3 June. On that day, two American sloops pursued British gunboats into the Richelieu River and were forced to surrender after the wind dropped and they were trapped by gunboats and artillery firing from the river banks.[7] The British had taken over the sloops and used them in a raid against many settlements around Lake Champlain. In particular, they captured or destroyed quantities of supplies in and around Plattsburgh. Although the British crews and troops involved in the raid were subsequently returned to other duties, the American naval commander on the lake, Lieutenant Thomas Macdonough, was unable to construct a flotilla of sloops and gunboats to counter the British vessels until August.[8]

Major General Wade Hampton

Finally, Hampton, a wealthy southern plantation owner, despised Major General James Wilkinson who commanded the division from Sackett’s Harbor and who had a reputation for corruption and treacherous dealings with Spain. The two men, who were the two senior generals in the United States Army after the effective retirement of Major General Henry Dearborn on July 6, 1813, had been feuding with each other since 1808.[9] Hampton at first refused to accept orders from Wilkinson, until Armstrong arranged that all correspondence regarding the expedition was to pass through the War Department.[10]

On 19 September, Hampton moved by water from Burlington to Plattsburgh, escorted by Macdonough’s gunboats, and made a reconnaissance in force towards Odelltown on the direct route north from Lake Champlain. He decided that the British forces were too strong in this sector. The garrison of Ile aux Noix, where the British sloops and gunboats were based, numbered about 900[11] and there were other outposts and light troops in the area. Also, water on this route was short after a summer drought had caused the wells and streams to dry up,[12] though this excuse caused some amusement among Hampton’s officers as Hampton was known to be fond of drink.[13] Hampton’s force marched west instead to Four Corners, on the Chateauguay River.

As Wilkinson’s expedition was not ready, Hampton’s force waited at Four Corners until October 18. Hampton was concerned that the delay was depleting his supplies and giving the British time to muster forces against him. Hearing from Armstrong that Wilkinson’s force was “almost” ready to set out, he began advancing down the Chateauguay River.[14] A brigade of 1,400 New York militia refused to cross the frontier into Canada, leaving Hampton with two brigades of regulars numbering about 2,600 in total, 200 mounted troops and 10 field guns. Large numbers of loaded wagons accompanied the force. Hampton’s advance was slowed because the bridges across every stream had been destroyed and trees had been felled across the roads (which themselves were little more than tracks).[15]

The Swiss-born Major-General Louis de Watteville was appointed commander of the Montreal District on 17 September. In response to reports of the American advance, he ordered several units of militia to be called up. Reinforcements (two battalions of the Royal Marines) were also moving up the St. Lawrence from Quebec.[15] The Governor-General of Canada, Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost, ordered Lieutenant Colonel George MacDonnell to move from Kingston on Lake Ontario to the front south of Montreal with his 1st Light Battalion of mixed regular and militia companies.[16] Already though, the commander of the outposts, Lieutenant Colonel Charles de Salaberry, had been organising his defenses. De Salaberry had many informants among the farmers in the area who provided accurate information about the strength of Hampton’s force and its movements, while Hampton had very poor intelligence about De Salaberry’s force.


The Battle of Chateauguay by C. W. Jefferys

In addition to his own corps, the Canadian Voltigeurs, and George MacDonnell’s 1st Light Battalion, de Salaberry had called in several units of the Select Embodied Militia and local militia units. The road along which Hampton was advancing followed the north bank of the Chateauguay. Facing a ravine where a creek (the English River) joined the Chateauguay, de Salaberry ordered abatis (obstacles made of felled trees) to be constructed, blocking the road. Behind these he posted the light company of the Canadian Fencibles under Captain Ferguson (50); two companies of the Voltigeurs under Captain Michel-Louis Juchereau Duchesnay and his brother Captain Jean-Baptiste Juchereau Duchesnay, totalling about 100 men; an elite militia company from Beauharnois under Captain Longuetin (about 100) and perhaps two dozen Mohawks nominally commanded by Captain Lamothe. To guard a ford across the Chateauguay 1 mile behind the abatis, he posted the light companies of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of Select Embodied Militia under Captains de Tonnancoeur and Daly, and another company of Beauharnois militia under Captain Brugière (about 160 in total). In successive reserve positions, stretching a mile and a half along the river from the abatis to the ford and beyond, were another five companies of the Voltigeurs (about 300); the main body of the 2nd Select Embodied Militia (480), 200 more local “sedentary” militia; and another 150 Mohawks.[17] De Salaberry commanded the front line in person, while the reserves were commanded by Lieutenant Colonel MacDonnell.[1]

All of de Salaberry’s forces were raised in Lower Canada. The Canadian Fencibles were raised as regulars, though liable for service in North America only. The Voltigeurs were volunteers and were treated as regulars for most purposes. The Select Embodied Militia contained some volunteers but consisted mainly of men drafted by ballot for a year’s full-time service.

De Salaberry had been so confident of victory that he had not informed his superiors of his actions. De Watteville and Sir George Prevost rode forward and “approved” de Salaberry’s dispositions, even as the fighting started.

Hampton knew of the existence of the ford and, late on October 25, he decided to send 1,000 men of his first brigade (including most, if not all, of his light infantry) under Colonel Robert Purdy, to cross to the south bank of the Chateauguay, circle round the British position and outflank it by capturing the ford at dawn, while 1,000 men of his second brigade under Brigadier General George Izard attacked from the front. The remainder of the American force was either sick or left to guard the baggage and artillery.

After Purdy set off, Hampton received a letter from Armstrong, dated October 16, informing him that Armstrong himself was relinquishing overall command of the combined American forces, leaving Wilkinson in charge. Hampton was also ordered to construct winter quarters for 10,000 men on the Saint Lawrence. Hampton interpreted this instruction to mean that there would be no attack on Montreal that year and the entire campaign was pointless. He would probably have retreated immediately, except that Purdy would then have been left isolated.[18]

Purdy’s men spent a miserable night marching through swampy woods in pouring rain, becoming quite lost. As dawn broke on October 26, they located the correct trail, but inexperienced or unwilling guides first led them about mid-morning to a point on the river opposite de Salaberry’s forward defenses. Some time after noon, Purdy’s brigade encountered the detachment de Salaberry had posted to guard the ford. Captain Daly, leading the light company of the 3rd Select Embodied Militia, launched an immediate attack against the Americans, while other Canadian troops engaged them from across the river.[19] Captain Daly and Captain Brugière were severely wounded but the Americans were driven back.

After Purdy’s force had been in action for some time with no obvious signs of American success, Izard’s force marched into the ravine facing de Salaberry’s defenses and deployed into line. Legend has it that at this point, an American officer rode forward to demand the Canadians’ surrender. As he had omitted to do so under a flag of truce, he was shot down by de Salaberry himself.

Izard’s troops began steady, rolling volleys into the abatis and trees. These conventional tactics, better suited to pitched battles between regular forces in open terrain, were almost entirely ineffective against the Canadians. The defenders replied with accurate individual fire. Lieutenant Pinguet of the Canadian Fencibles later related “All our men fired from thirty-five to forty rounds so well aimed that the prisoners told us next day that every shot seem to pass at about the height of a man’s breast or head. Our company was engaged for about three-quarters of an hour before reinforcements came up.”[20] Surprisingly few Americans were hit however. On the Canadian right, the light company of the Fencibles were outflanked and fell back, but either on de Salaberry’s orders or on their own initiative, several companies from the reserve were already making their way forward. They did so with bugle calls, cheers and Indian war whoops. De Salaberry is also credited in several accounts with sending buglers into the woods to sound the “Advance” as a ruse de guerre. The unnerved Americans thought themselves outnumbered and about to be outflanked and fell back 3 miles.[21] Hampton did not order any guns to be brought forward to destroy the abatis.

Purdy first fell back to the river bank opposite De Salaberry’s front line, expecting to find Izard still in action, so that he could ferry his wounded across the river. Instead, he once again found himself under fire from De Salaberry and was forced to retreat through the woods to his starting-place. Once Purdy had extricated himself after another dismal night in the woods, the American army withdrew in good order. De Salaberry did not pursue.[21]

De Salaberry reported 5 killed, 16 wounded and 4 missing[3] but 3 of the men who had been returned as “killed” later rejoined the ranks unharmed,[4] giving a revised Canadian loss of 2 killed, 16 wounded and 4 missing. The American losses were officially reported by Hampton’s Adjutant-General (Colonel Henry Atkinson) as 23 killed, 33 wounded and 29 missing.[5] Salaberry reported that 16 American prisoners were taken.[22]

Having reunited his forces, Hampton held a council of war. This unanimously concluded that a renewed advance stood no chance of success.[23] Furthermore, the roads were becoming impassable under the autumn rains, and Hampton’s supplies would soon be exhausted. Hampton ordered a withdrawal to Four Corners and sent Colonel Atkinson to Wilkinson with a report of his situation.

Wilkinson’s own force had reached a settlement named Hoags, on the Saint Lawrence River a few miles upstream from Ogdensburg, when they received this news. Wilkinson replied with orders for Hampton to advance to Cornwall, bringing sufficient supplies for both his own and Wilkinson’s division. When he received these orders, Hampton was convinced that they could not be executed and declined to comply, retreating instead to Plattsburgh.[24] Before Hampton’s reply could reach Wilkinson, the latter’s own force was defeated at the Battle of Crysler’s Farm on November 11. Wilkinson nevertheless used Hampton’s refusal to move on Cornwall (which he received by letter on November 12) as a pretext to abandon his own advance, and the campaign to capture Montreal was called off.

Hampton had already submitted his resignation the day before the battle of Chateauguay, in his reply to Armstrong’s letter of October 16. He was not employed again in the field.

On the British side, the victorious troops at Chateauguay held their existing positions and endured much discomfort for several days before Indians reported that the Americans were retreating, which allowed them to retire to more comfortable billets. The hot-tempered de Salaberry was furious that Major General de Watteville and especially Sir George Prevost had arrived on the field too late to take part in the fighting but in time to submit their own dispatches claiming the victory for themselves.[25] He considered resigning his commission but was later officially thanked by the Legislative Assembly of Quebec. He and Lieutenant Colonel MacDonnell were made Companions of the Bath after the war for their parts in the battle. Sir George Prevost’s dispatch, which claimed that 300 Canadians had put 7,500 Americans to flight[25] nevertheless contributed to the battle becoming legendary in Canadian folklore.

Eight currently active regular battalions of the United States Army (1-3 Inf, 2-3 Inf, 4-3 Inf, 1-5 Inf, 2-5 Inf, 1-6 Inf, 2-6 Inf and 4-6 Inf) perpetuate the lineages of several of American infantry regiments (the old 1st, 4th, 25th and 29th Infantry Regiments) that took part in the Battle of the Chateauguay.

The site was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1920.[26]


  1. Hitsman, p.185
  2. Elting, p.143
  3. Borneman p.166
  4. James, p. 312
  5. Cruikshank, p. 207
  6. Elting, p.138
  7. Hitsman, p.153
  8. Roosevelt, p.157
  9. Elting, p.136
  10. Hitsman, p.179
  11. Elting, p.144
  12. Hitsman, p.183
  13. Hitsman, p.180
  14. Elting, p.145
  15. Hitsman, p.184
  16. Hitsman, p.181
  17. National Parks of Canada website
  18. Elting, p.146
  19. Hitsman, p.186
  20. Robert Henderson (1997). “Canadian Fencible Light Company at the Battle of the Chateauguay, 1813″. The War of 1812 website
  21. Elting p.147
  22. Wood, p. 397
  23. Hitsman, p.187
  24. Elting, p.150
  25. Charles de Salaberry; Dictionary of Canadian Biography online
  26. Battle of the Chateauguay. Canadian Register of Historic Places


  • Borneman, Walter R. (2004). 1812: The War That Forged a Nation. New York: Harper Perennial. ISBN 978-0-06-053112-6
  • Cruikshank, Ernest (1971). The Documentary History of Campaign upon the Niagara Frontier in the Year 1813, Part IV, October to December, 1813 (Reprint ed.). Arno Press Inc. ISBN 0-405-02838-5
  • Elting, John R. (1995). Amateurs to Arms:A military history of the War of 1812. New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80653-3
  • Hitsman, J. Mackay; Donald E. Graves (1999). The Incredible War of 1812. Toronto: Robin Brass Studio. ISBN 1-896941-13-3
  • James, William (1818). A Full and Correct Account of the Military Occurrences of the Late War Between Great Britain and the United States of America. Volume I. London: Published for the Author. ISBN 0-665-35743-5
  • Latimer, Jon (2007). 1812: War with America. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-02584-9
  • Roosevelt, Theodore (1999). The Naval War of 1812. Random House. ISBN 0-375=754199
  • Wood, William (1968 (first published 1923)). Select British Documents of the Canadian War of 1812, Volume III. New York: Greenwood Press

Captain Daniel Malcolm: American Revolutionary

October 23, 2013

A true Son of Liberty, Daniel Malcolm, a Boston merchant, openly defied British rule and its revenue act.

Little is known about Patriot Malcolm’s life, other than his defiance of the British, but it is believed he was born in Georgetown, Maine, some time in 1725.

Malcolm became a minor figure in colonial history following a confrontation with customs officials that is known today as the Malcom Affair.

On September 24, 1766, two customs officials in Boston, William Sheafe and Benjamin Hallowell, with a deputy sheriff, searched merchant Daniel Malcom’s home, which was also his place of business. They claimed the authority to do so by a writ of assistance issued to Hallowell, and the information of a confidential informant. Malcom allowed them to search, but denied them access to a locked cellar, arguing that they did not have the legal authority to break it open. According to customs officials, Malcom threatened to use force to prevent them from opening the door; according to Malcom and his supporters, his threat specified resisting any unlawful forced entry.

The officials left and returned with a specific search warrant, only to find that Malcom had locked his house. A crowd supportive of Malcom had gathered around the house; Tories claimed that this “mob” numbered 300 or more people and was hostile to the customs officers, while Whigs insisted that this was a peaceful gathering of about 50 curious onlookers, mostly boys. No violence occurred, but reports written by Governor Francis Bernard and the customs officials created the impression in Britain that a riot had taken place.[16] The incident furthered Boston’s reputation in Britain as a lawless town controlled by “mobs”, a reputation that would contribute to the government’s decision to send troops in 1768.

Although British officials, and some historians, described Malcom as acting in defiance of the law, John Phillip Reid argued that Malcom’s actions were lawful—so precisely lawful, in fact, that Reid speculated that Malcom may have been acting under the advice of his lawyer, James Otis. According to Reid, Malcom and Otis may have been attempting to provoke a lawsuit so that they could once again “challenge the validity of writs of assistance” in court.

In 1768, Malcom’s boldest exploit was the clandestine landing of a cargo of wines without paying the duty. During the night, a vessel anchored at one of the islands in the harbor. About 60 casks of wine were brought ashore, and guarded by bands of men armed with clubs. The casks were spread about the town. Soon after this event, a meeting was held by prominent traders and merchants, and it was resolved that no English goods, other than those used in the fishing industry, would be purchased from England for 18 months.

John Hancock was a renowned smuggler, with the English tax collectors and government officials aware of his activities but unable to capture one of his vessels unloading untaxed cargo. Captain Malcolm Malcom was a major player in the Liberty affair. Comptroller Hallowell testified that Malcom was among the leaders of the mob that interfered with the seizure of the Liberty.


Boston Evening Post, September 18, 1769

The following is an affidavit by Daniel Malcom in the January 9, 1769, Boston Chronicle that describes the illegal seizure of the Liberty by the British. Malcom took great risk to himself by publishing such an account:

“I DANIEL MALCOM, of Boston, of lawful age, do certify and say, that on Friday the 10th day of June, 1768, being in my store of John Hancock, Esqr’s wharf, about sunset, I saw Mr. Harrison, Collector, Mr. Hollowell, Comptroller; Mr. Sheaf, Deputy-Collector, with a number of inferior officers, pass my store and go down the wharf, and I, the said deponent, went down after them, and saw Mr. Hollowell give a signal to the Romney man-of-war, commanded by Captain Corner, which lay about a table’s length from the wharf; on which the boat came from said man-of-war, and came a breast a sloop lying at said wharf; said Hollowell pointing with his hand to the said sloop, on which the master of the man-of-war, who was in the boat, boarded her immediately, with a number of marines, having their guns and other arms.

I was then along side the said sloop, and heard said master of the man-of-war give orders to fix bayonets and take their places, and that the first damned rascal that said a word to blow his brains out, or run him through with the bayonet. With that I said you are a rascal to give such orders, when you see no persons opposing you, there being at that time but three or four men, besides a few boys near the sloop, except the custom-house officers, and man-of-war’s men.

It bring then sun-down, one of the marines, being ordered by the officer, fired a gun, when there came another boat along side said sloop, and Mr. Hallowell ordered said sloop’s sails to be cut or cast off, and to tow her away; with that the said master of the man-of-war began to cut the sails, and Mr. Hollowell said, let me see who dare to oppose. I told him it looked like robbery, to take away a gentlemen’s vessel in that manner, but he swore by God she should go.

As I knew Mr. Harrrison to be a superior officer to him, I applied to him as he stood next to me, and said, Mr. Harrison, by whose orders does the officers take away the sloop; he replied by mine. I answered, if the sloop had broke any act of trade, cannot you seize her, and let here stay where she is (and take her trial to the Court of Admiralty) as she is as safe here as with the man-of-war, and I will take upon me to insure her forthcoming if you are afraid, or a least should be glad you would give orders to the officer to detain her till the owner, Mr. Hancock, comes down, as he is sent for, and will be here in a few minutes, for I am afraid it will make a great disturbance in town, as I think your proceedings are contrary to law, for I think you have done your duty when you seized her; but, Mr. Hallowell answered, I’ll be damned but she shall go, and so cried out to the officer cut all way, when he cut away the sails, said Hallowell casting off some of them himself; when said officer had cut away all the sails, the boats towed her away, off to the man-of-war, and aid master of the man-of-war breathing out threats against the town, and swore he would send them all to hell; and he the said master several times ordered the marines to fire.

After this was done, a few [blacks] and boys gathered round Mr. Hallowell, and told him that he had been the means of robbing a gentlemen of his interest, and so made a good deal of disturbance, following him up the street; and night coming on they went to said Hallowell’s house, and broke a few panes of glass there, and to Mr. William’s, and broke there, and got a small boat belonging to Mr. Harrison which they burned, and further the deponent sayeth not. Daniel Malcom.”

Malcom died on October 23, 1769, and is buried at Copp’s Hill Burying Ground in Boston

Buried as noted on his marker “…in a stone grave 10 feet deep…”, his tombstone and that of his wife beside what were his earthly remains are chipped by British musket balls, including one solid hit in the left eye of the skulls on each of these markers. Legend has it that British soldiers would read his epitaph, spit on his grave and then fire at his marker for luck in battle.


Malcolm’s bullet scarred gravestones in Copp’s Hill Cemetery

A memorial plaque hanging at the Old North Church elaborates:


In Memory of


A merchant of Fleet Street

and Junior Warden of this Church

A fearless opponent of the Revenue Acts

and leader of the Patriots

Who in 1768 opposed

Seizure of Hancock’s sloop LIBERTY

by the frigate ROMNEY

He died October 23d 1769 and was

Buried ten feet deep in COPP’S HILL

Safe from British Bullets


David Brydie Mitchell, Georgia statesman

October 22, 2013

David Brydie Mitchell was a Scots-American politician in Georgia. He was elected as mayor of Savannah and next was appointed as state attorney general. He served three terms in the Georgia General Assembly.

He was first elected as governor in 1808, and served two terms. He was elected again in 1814, but resigned in 1817 to accept an appointment by President James Monroe as United States Indian Agent to the Creek people in their lands in present-day Georgia and Alabama.

Mitchell was born in Muthill, Perthshire, Scotland on October 22, 1766.


As a young man, he immigrated in 1782 after the American Revolution to Savannah, Georgia after having inherited land from his late uncle.[1] Enthusiastic about the new country, he read the law and became an attorney. He became an American citizen in 1789.[1] He was elected as mayor of the city (1801-1802) and made connections statewide.

Mitchell was appointed as Attorney General of Georgia (1796–1806). He moved to Mount Nebo Plantation, near the state capital of Milledgeville. He served three terms in the Georgia General Assembly, two as a representative and one in the Senate.

Mitchell was elected to two consecutive two-year terms as the 27th Governor of Georgia (1809–1813) and a third non-consecutive term from 1815 to 1817. He was the last governor of Georgia to be born outside the United States .

He resigned from his third term as governor to accept appointment by President James Monroe as the U.S. agent to the Creek Indians. One of Mitchell’s responsibilities was the negotiation of the Treaty of the Creek Agency (1818). He was erroneously accused in the African Importation Case of 1820 of smuggling slaves into Creek and US territory, in violation of the 1808 law against the international slave trade and resigned his position.[1]

Beginning in 1828, Mitchell was appointed to serve as the inferior court judge of Baldwin County, Georgia. He was later elected as Baldwin County’s State Senator in 1836.

Mitchell died at Mount Nebo Plantation, his home in Milledgeville, on April 22, 1837. He is buried at Memory Hill Cemetery at Milledgeville.


  1. “David Brydie Mitchell,” This Day in Georgia History: April 22, Ed Jackson and Charly Pou, Carl Vinson Institute of Government, The University of Georgia
  • “David Brydie Mitchell”, Portrait and Bio, Georgia Secretary of State site
  • “David Brydie Mitchell,” This Day in Georgia History: April 22, Ed Jackson and Charly Pou, Carl Vinson Institute of Government, The University of Georgia
  • History: Office of the Attorney General of Georgia, Georgia state government
  • Behind the Names: Part 1, U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs website
  • “Historical Information”, Fort Mitchell National Cemetery

Sergeant Ezra Lee, pilot of the submarine Turtle

October 21, 2013

Ezra Lee was a Colonial American soldier, best known for commanding the Turtle submarine.

Lee was born in August 1749 in Lyme, Connecticut. In August 1776 he was selected by brother-in-law Brig. General Samuel Holden Parsons, also of Lyme, as one of several volunteers to learn to operate the Turtle, an early submarine invented by Saybrook, Connecticut native David Bushnell. When General George Washington authorized an attack on British Admiral Richard Howe’s flagship HMS Eagle, then lying in New York harbor, Lee was chosen to operate the “infernal machine”.


Portrait of Ezra Lee, the Turtle’s operator

On the night of September 6, 1776, Lee piloted the Turtle up to the Eagle, which was moored off what is today called Governors Island, due south of Manhattan. A common misconception was that Lee failed because he could not manage to bore through the copper-sheeted hull. In practice, it has been shown that the thin copper would not have presented any problem to the drill, and that he likely struck a metal rudder support.

A more likely scenario is that Lee’s unfamiliarity with the vessel made him unable to keep the Turtle stable enough to work the drill against the Eagle’s hull. When he attempted another spot in the hull, he was unable to stay beneath the ship, and eventually abandoned the attempt. Governors Island is off the southern vertex of Manhattan, This is the place where the Hudson River and the East River merge. The currents at this point would be strong and complex. The Turtle would only be able to attack ship moored here during the short period of time when the incoming tide balanced the river currents. It is possible that during the attack the tide turned and Lee was unable to compensate. He released the keg of gunpowder when some British in row boats tried to pursue him. The British suspecting some trick gave up the pursuit.


Depiction of the Turtle

Lee landed safely after remaining several hours in the water, and received the congratulations of Washington, who afterwards employed him on secret service. Lee made a similar attempt a short time afterward with Bushnell’s machine in an attempt to destroy a British frigate that lay opposite Bloomingdale, New York, but was discovered and compelled to abandon the enterprise. The submarine was soon after sunk by the British as it sat on its tender vessel, in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Years later in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, Bushnell reported he had salvaged the Turtle; its final fate is unknown.

After these events, Lee was congratulated by Washington and General Israel Putnam and moved into the secret service/special forces. Lee’s tombstone is the only one that mentions “in service to Gen. George Washington” of all those who fought in the American Revolution.

Lee subsequently participated in the battles of Trenton, Brandywine, and Monmouth. He had his sword handle shot off and received many bullet holes in his coat at Brandywine.

Lee died on October 29, 1821, is buried in the Duck River Cemetery in modern day Old Lyme, Connecticut.


Ezra Lee grave marker, photo by Carl W. McBrayer


  • Appletons Encyclopedia & A Lyme Miscellany- Willauer & Wesleyan University Press 1976

James Logan, Quaker statesman and scholar

October 20, 2013

James Logan, a statesman and scholar, was born on October 20, 1674, in Lurgan, County Armagh, Ireland, of Scottish descent and Quaker parentage. In 1689, the Logan family moved to Bristol, England where, in 1693, James replaced his father as schoolmaster. In 1699, he came to the colony of Pennsylvania aboard the Canterbury as William Penn’s secretary.[1]


Later, he supported proprietary rights in Pennsylvania. After advancing through several political offices, including commissioner of property (1701), receiver general (1703), clerk (1701), and member (1703) of the provincial council, he was elected Mayor of Philadelphia in 1722. During his tenure as mayor, Logan allowed Irish Catholic immigrants to participate in the city’s first public Mass. He later served as the colony’s chief justice from 1731 to 1739, and in the absence of a governor of Pennsylvania, became acting governor from 1736 to 1738. He was a founder and trustee of the Academy of Philadelphia which is now the University of Pennsylvania.

He opposed Quaker pacifism and war tax resistance, and encouraged pacifist Quakers to give up their seats in the Pennsylvania Assembly so that it could make war requisitions.[2]

Meanwhile, he engaged in various mercantile pursuits, especially fur trading, with such success that he became one of the wealthiest men in the colonies. He collected a personal library of over 3,000 volumes. He wrote numerous scholarly papers published by the American Philosophical Society and European journals.

Logan was also a natural scientist whose primary contribution to the emerging field of botany was a treatise that described experiments on the impregnation of plant seeds, especially corn. He tutored John Bartram, the American botanist, in Latin and introduced him to Linnaeus. He was also a mentor of Benjamin Franklin, who published Logan’s translation of Cicero’s essay “Cato Maior de Senectute”.

Logan died on October 31, 1751, and was buried in an unmarked grave[3] at the Arch Street Friends Meeting House Burial Ground in Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia, the Logan neighborhood and the landmark Logan Square are named for him. His 1730 estate “Stenton,” now a National Historic Landmark operated as a museum, is located in Logan area.

The Loganian Library

James Logan, who was known by his peers as “the best Judge of Books in these parts,” donated his private collection of over 3,000 books to the Loganian Library, which, in 1792, was incorporated into the Library Company of Philadelphia.


  1. Keith, Charles Penrose (1997), The provincial counsilors of Pennsylvania, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., p. 6: “They [William Penn and James Logan] sailed from Cowes on September 9th, 1699, in the “Canterbury.” On the way over, the ship was attacked by pirates, and Logan took part in the defence of it,” “The pirates were beaten off,”
  2. Gross, David M. American Quaker War Tax Resistance (2008) pp. 45–52 ISBN 1438260156
  3. James Logan at Find A Grave
  • Strahan (ed.), Edward (1875). A Century After, picturesque glimpses of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Allen, Lane & Scott and J. W. Lauderbach
  • Claus Bernet (2010). Bautz, Traugott. ed (in German). James Logan (statesman). Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). 31. Nordhausen. cols. 790–798. ISBN 3-88309-544-8.

Colonel John Brown of Pittsfield, patriot spy

October 19, 2013

Colonel John Brown, often known as John Brown of Pittsfield because of his common name, was a Patriot, spy, soldier, and military leader, in the War for Independence. He played a significant role as a courier between the Colonies and Province of Quebec prior to the outbreak of the war, and then participated in military actions in Quebec and the frontiers of New York, where was killed in action on his 36th birthday.

According to historian Christopher Ward, “Brown was one of those remarkable characters that one finds hidden in the crannies of history, almost unknown even to historians.”[1]


Colonel John Brown Marker

Born to Daniel Brown in Sandisfield, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, on October 19, 1744, he graduated from Yale University in 1771, where he first met Benedict Arnold. He was a close friend to a classmate, David Humphreys, who also went on to serve in the Continental Army.

In March 1775, as a member of the Massachusetts Committee of Correspondence, he was sent to Montreal to begin communications with citizens there interested in taking up the Patriot cause. Meeting in April with Thomas Walker and other leading British-American merchants in Montreal unhappy with the British government and the terms of the Quebec Act, he was ultimately met with supportive inaction.[2]

He and his brother Jacob went on to serve with Benedict Arnold during the war, participating in the important capture of Fort Ticonderoga in May 1775. In July, General Philip Schuyler sent him back to Montreal for a report on the military situation there. In August he returned, reporting that the British had only 300 soldiers at Fort Saint-Jean, but were improving its fortifications and building boats. In mid-August he again went north to meet with James Livingston, a Patriot sympathizer near Chambly. On August 25, General Richard Montgomery received a letter from him indicating that the British had two war vessels nearly ready for launching on Lake Champlain. Following receipt of this letter, Montgomery launched the invasion of Quebec. Brown went on the serve under Montgomery and his successors in that campaign.

On September 17, 1775 Brown with 80 men opened action north of Fort St John but was driven back by 200 British and Canadians but not before he destroyed a key bridge and captured supplies en route to the Fort. He met with Ethan Allen at Longueuil on September 23, where they hatched a plan to capture Montreal. For reasons unknown, Brown failed to hold up his part of the plan, and Allen was later captured in the Battle of Longue-Pointe. While serving under Montgomery, he was instrumental in warning Montgomery of low troop morale and the possibility of mutiny during the siege of Fort Saint-Jean. On October 18, 1775, Brown joined with James Livingston, 50 Americans, and 300 Canadians, to lay siege and capture the British fort at Chambly. This precipitated the end of the siege at Saint-Jean, and opened the route to Montreal. Brown and his troops crossed to the north shore of the St. Lawrence, isolating Montreal from Quebec City.

In action during the Battle of Quebec, Brown and Livingston were responsible for diversionary tactics intended to distract the British defenders of the city. These tactics failed, and the attack ended in disaster, with Montgomery killed and Benedict Arnold wounded.

He was killed in action on his 36th birthday, October 19, 1780, near the ruins of Fort Keyser in Stone Arabia, NY, on the Mohawk Valley frontier.


  1. Ward, Vol. 1, p. 147
  2. Lanctot, pp. 38–39


  • Howe, Archibald M (September 29, 1908). “Colonel John Brown of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the Brave Accuser of Benedict Arnold”
  • Lanctot, Gustave (1967). Canada and the American Revolution. Harvard University Press
  • Ward, Christopher (1952). The War of the Revolution. New York: Macmillan

Burning of Falmouth

October 18, 2013

The Burning of Falmouth on October 18, 1775, was an attack by a fleet of Royal Navy vessels on the town of Falmouth, Massachusetts — site of the modern city of Portland, Maine, and not to be confused with the modern towns of Falmouth, Massachusetts or Falmouth, Maine. The fleet was commanded by Captain Henry Mowat.[1] The attack began with a naval bombardment which included incendiary shot, followed by a landing party meant to complete the town’s destruction. The attack was the only major event in what was supposed to be a campaign of retaliation against ports that supported Patriot activities in the early stages of the American Revolutionary War.

Among the colonies, news of the attack led to rejection of British authority and the establishment of independent governments. It also led the Second Continental Congress to contest British Naval dominance by forming a Continental Navy. Both Mowat and his superior, Vice-Admiral Samuel Graves, who had ordered Mowat’s expedition, suffered professionally as a consequence of the act.


Detail from a 1777 nautical chart showing Falmouth (now Portland, Maine)

Following the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, the British army was besieged in the City of Boston. The British were supported and supplied by the Royal Navy under the command of Vice-Admiral Samuel Graves, who was under Admiralty instruction to suppress the burgeoning rebellion. Under his orders, vessels were searched for military stores and potential military communications. Laid-up vessels were stripped of their masts and rudders to prevent their use by privateers and military equipment was salvaged from readily-accessible recent wrecks.[2]

Captain Henry Mowat had been in the port of Falmouth in May 1775, during Thompson’s War when local Patriots captured several ships carrying supplies for Boston and weaponry from Fort Pownall at the mouth of the Penobscot River.[3] Graves’ Admiralty orders (issued in July 1775 and received by him on October 4) required that he “carry on such Operations upon the Sea Coasts … as you shall judge most effective for suppressing … the Rebellion”.[3] Graves ordered Mowat to “lay waste burn and destroy such Sea Port towns as are accessible to His Majesty’s ships … and particularly Machias where Margueritta was taken”.[3]

Mowat left Boston harbor on October 6, 1775[3] aboard his 16-gun[4] hydrographic survey sloop HMS Canceaux,[5] in company with the 20-gun[4] ship Cat,[6] the 12-gun[4] schooner[6] HMS Halifax,[5] the bomb sloop[6] HMS Spitfire,[5] and the supply ship[6] HMS Symmetry.[5][7] While his instructions were broad in the number of possible targets, he opted against attacks on harbors on Cape Ann, where the buildings were too widely spaced for naval cannon fire to be effective.[8] On October 16 he reached the outer parts of Falmouth harbor and anchored there.

The people of Falmouth had mixed reactions to the presence of the British fleet. Some recognized the Canceaux, which Mowat had previously captained into Falmouth, and believed there was no danger; others, primarily the militia members, were more suspicious. The next day was windless: Mowat kedged the ships into the inner harbor and anchored them near the town. He sent one of his lieutenants ashore with a proclamation stating that he was there to “execute a just punishment” for the town’s state of rebellion. He gave the townspeople two hours to evacuate.[8]

As soon as they received this ultimatum, the townspeople sent a deputation to plead with Mowat for mercy. He promised to withhold fire if the town swore an oath of allegiance to King George. They must also surrender all their small arms and powder, along with their gun carriages. In response, the people of Falmouth began to move out of the town. No oaths were sworn. A small number of muskets were surrendered, but no gun carriages.[8]


A 1782 engraving depicting the burning of Falmouth

Mowat had set a deadline of 9:00 am on October 18 for the town’s response. By 9:40 the town appeared to be deserted, so he ran a red flag up the Canceaux’s masthead, and ordered the fleet to begin firing. Incendiary cannonballs set fire to the harbor installations and most of the town’s houses and public buildings.[8] One witness reported:

The firing began from all the vessels with all possible briskness, discharging on all parts of the town … a horrible shower of balls from three to nine pounds weight, bombs, carcasses, live shells, grapeshot and musket balls. … The firing lasted, with little cessation, until six o’clock.[9]

When the bombardment appeared inadequate to Mowat, he sent a landing party to set fire to any buildings that had survived.[10] The town militia offered little significant resistance, as most were helping their families to safety. In spite of this, some of the landed British marines were killed or wounded.[11] By evening, according to Mowat, “the body of the town was in one flame”.[12]

Following the bombardment, Mowat went on to Boothbay, where he set fire to a few houses and raided for livestock, but his expedition was faltering to an end. The decks of some of his ships had been inadequately braced for prolonged gunnery, and many of his guns had jumped their mounts. He returned to Boston, and remained there as winter was setting in. When Admiral Graves was relieved in December 1775, these punitive raids were gradually abandoned.[10] One of the last, undertaken to avenge British military losses to revolutionary Patriots, was the burning of Norfolk, Virginia, on January 1, 1776, instigated by Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of the Colony of Virginia.[13]

More than 400 buildings and houses were recorded as damaged or destroyed by fire.[14] In his report to Graves, Mowat stated that eleven small vessels were destroyed in the harbor itself, and four captured, at the cost of one man killed and one wounded.[10] The people were left to fend for themselves for the winter. A visitor to the town reported that, a month later, there was “no lodging, eating or housekeeping in Falmouth”.[12]

On October 26, the town formed a committee to raise funds for the distressed families. More than 1,000 people (out an estimated population of 2,500), including at least 160 families, had been left homeless by the raid.[15][16] The Massachusetts Provincial Congress authorized £250 to be paid to the distressed families, and arranged for the distribution of up to 15 bushels of corn to those left destitute. As late as 1779, additional grants were made to needy families in Falmouth.[16] Despite numerous earlier entreaties to a wide variety of parties, significant recompense was not made until 1791, when Congress granted two tracts of land as compensation. These tracts became the towns of New Portland and Freeman. The town of Falmouth accounted losses in the raid at over £50,000.[17]

The citizens of Falmouth began rebuilding their town. In 1784 they built over 40 homes and 10 shops. By 1797 over 400 homes had been built, or rebuilt, along with factories, offices, and municipal buildings.[18] Part of the Falmouth Neck was politically separated in 1786 to form the city of Portland.[19]

News of the raid caused uproar in the colonies. Propagandists emphasized its cruelty.[10] The Massachusetts Provincial Congress authorized the issue of letters of marque, licensing privateer actions against the British navy.[20] The Second Continental Congress heard of the event just as word arrived of King George’s Proclamation of Rebellion. Outraged by the news, Congress resolved a recommendation that all provinces declare themselves self-governing and independent of British rule or influence.[21] The attack on Falmouth stimulated Congress to advance its plans for establishment of a Continental Navy. It authorized the commissioning of two ships on October 30 “for the protection and defense of the united Colonies”.[22] The Falmouth incident was again mentioned on November 25, when Congress passed legislation described by John Adams as “the true origin of the American Navy”.[23]

When news of the event first reached England, it was dismissed as rebel propaganda.[24] When the reports were confirmed, Graves’ superior, Lord George Germain expressed surprise rather than offence, noting that “I am to suppose that Admiral Graves had good reason for the step he took”, in spite of orders (not received by Graves until after Mowat had sailed for Falmouth) to not take such acts unless the town clearly refused to do business with the British.[10] Graves was relieved of his command in December 1775, in part due to his failure to suppress the rebel naval forces.[25] Germain issued the orders before Falmouth burned.[26]

News of the event also reached France, which was carefully monitoring political developments in North America. The French foreign secretary wrote: “I can hardly believe this absurd as well as barbaric procedure on the part of an enlightened and civilized nation.”[24]

Mowat’s career suffered as a result of his actions. He was repeatedly passed over for promotion, and achieved it only when he downplayed his role in the event, or omitted it entirely from his record.[25]

On August 30, 1775, Royal Naval Captain James Wallace, commanding HMS Rose, fired into the town of Stonington, Connecticut, after the townspeople there prevented Rose’s tender from capturing a vessel it had chased into the harbor. Apparently not seeking to burn the town, he did not fire any heated rounds or incendiaries.[27] Wallace also fired on the town of Bristol, Rhode Island, in October 1775, after its townspeople refused to deliver livestock to him.[28]


  1. Sometimes spelled Mowatt
  2. Duncan, pp. 215–216
  3. Duncan, p. 216
  4. Goold’s gun count includes swivel guns, but not the mortars of the bomb sloop Spitfire. Half (or fewer) of this count were carriage-mounted cannon. Other references indicate Canceaux carried 8 cannon, and Halifax carried 6.
  5. “The Penobscot Expedition Archaeological Project”. United States Navy.
  6. Goold, William The Burning of Portland 19 February 1873
  7. Symmetry may have carried guns, because other references indicate she fired during the Battle of Bunker Hill; but Goold describes her as a magazine for the bomb sloop during this engagement. As a safety measure to prevent loss of a ship through accidental ignition of unfired incendiary carcasses, carcasses were transferred by lighter from a non-firing ship to the bomb sloop as needed.
  8. Duncan, p. 217
  9. Miller, p. 47
  10. Duncan, p. 218
  11. Willis, p. 520
  12. Miller, p. 48
  13. Fiske, p. 211
  14. Willis, p. 521
  15. Conforti, p. 60
  16. Willis, pp. 521–523
  17. Willis, p. 524
  18. Conforti, p. 62
  19. Willis, p. 582
  20. Burke, p. 281
  21. Fiske, pp. 192–193
  22. Miller, pp. 48–49
  23. Miller, p. 49
  24. Nelson, p. 146
  25. Duncan, p. 219
  26. Nelson, p. 273
  27. Caulkins, p. 516
  28. Charles, pp. 168–169


  • Charles, Patrick J (2008). Irreconcilable Grievances: The Events That Shaped American Independence. Westminster, Maryland: Heritage Books. ISBN 9780788445668. OCLC 212838026.
  • Conforti, Joseph (2007). Creating Portland: History and Place in Northern New England. Durham, NH: UPNE. ISBN 9781584654490. OCLC 154804541.
  • Duncan, Roger F (1992). Coastal Maine: A Maritime History. New York: Norton. ISBN 9780393030488. OCLC 24142698.
  • Burke, Edmund (1780). An Impartial History of the War in America. London: R. Faulder. OCLC 6187693.
  • Fiske, John (1902). The Historical Writings of John Fiske, Volume 10. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin. OCLC 1658057.
  • Caulkins, Frances Manwaring; Griswold, Cecelia (1895). History of New London, Connecticut: From the First Survey of the Coast in 1612 to 1860. New London, Connecticut: H. D. Utley. OCLC 1856358.
  • Miller, Nathan (1974). Sea of Glory: The Continental Navy fights for Independence 1775-1783. New York: David McKay. ISBN 9780679503927. OCLC 844299.
  • Nelson, James L (2008). George Washington’s Secret Navy: How the American Revolution Went to Sea. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional. ISBN 9780071493895. OCLC 212627064.
  • Willis, William (1865). The History of Portland, from 1632 to 1864: With a Notice of Previous Settlements, Colonial Grants, and Changes of Government in Maine (2nd ed.). Portland, Maine: Bailey & Noyes. OCLC 2341166.

Colonel Ebenezer Allen, Green Mountain Boys

October 17, 2013

Ebenezer Allen was an American soldier, pioneer, and member of the Vermont General Assembly. He was born in Northampton, Massachusetts on October 17, 1743. His parents were Samuel Allen (1706–1755) and Hannah Miller (1707–1755).


Allen married Lydia Richards (1746–1833) in 1762 in New Marlborough, Massachusetts. She was the daughter of Zebulon Richards and Lydia Brown.

Along with Thomas Ashley, Allen was a founder of Poultney, Vermont. Allen and Ashley (both had married daughters of Zebulon Richards) arrived at the site of the town along the Poultney River on 15 April 1771. Allen brought his family with him on the journey. Ashley traveled alone, building a shanty and planting corn before bringing his family to the wilderness.[1]

Poultney was a patriotic village. All of its residents (except one) supported the American Revolution and most males served in the revolutionary army at various times during the war.[2]

Allen became a Lieutenant in a company of Green Mountain Boys, was with Ethan Allen when Ft. Ticonderoga was captured from the British, and with Colonel Seth Warner in Canada. He was appointed a captain in Colonel Herrick’s battalion of rangers in July 1777, and distinguished himself at the battle of Bennington. In September of the same year he captured Mt. Defiance by assault, and on the retreat of the enemy from Fort Ticonderoga made fifty of them prisoners. Subsequently he was made major in the rangers, and showed himself a brave partisan leader. In his later life he was always referred to as Col. Allen.[3]

Allen occupied many positions of civil authority in Vermont. He was a Justice of the Peace, served on many town committees, and was a representative to the Vermont General Assembly from 1788-1792. He was prominent in the planning of a new government for Vermont, helping to frame its constitution.[4]

Allen was one of the original grantees of South Hero, Vermont by an act of the legislature in 1779. He left Poultney with his family for South Hero, Vermont where he once again was the first pioneer in a wilderness—tradition states that he arrived on 25 August 1783, however he may have arrived as early as 1779. In 1787 he enlarged his house and operated a public house on the island. He held many public offices and was a representative to the Vermont General Assembly from 1788 – 1792. His cousin, Ethan Allen, spent the last night of his life at his house in South Hero. Ebenezer removed from South Hero to Burlington, Vermont in 1800 and operated a tavern there until his death in 1806.[5]

Allen was known as a man of strong convictions—whether political, moral or religious. He was opposed to slavery. On 27 November 1777, he granted freedom to two slaves stating: “I being conscientious that it is not right in the sight of God to keep slaves, give them their freedom.”[6]

In 1792 Allen toured the unsettled portions of Ohio, Michigan and Upper Canada with a group of Indians for a year. In 1795, Allen was part of a partnership with Charles Whitney, also of Vermont, Robert Randal, of Philadelphia and several British subjects in Detroit including John Askin and William Robertson, which planned to buy the entire lower Michigan peninsula from the United States government for $500,000. A stock company was established, and two of Allen’s eastern partners promised members of Congress either stock or cash for their support in the purchase. This clumsy scheme was exposed, and the partner’s plans evaporated.[7]

Allen died on March 6, 1806, and was buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Burlington, Vermont.[8]


  1. Smith, Henry P. & Rann, William S., The History of Rutland County, Vermont, Syracuse: D. Mason & Co., 1886
  2. Joslin, Joseph, “A History of the Town of Poultney, Vermont, from its Settlement to the Year 1875″, Poultney: Journal Printing Office, 1875
  3. Hemenway, Abbey, “The Vermont Historical Gazetteer”, (Clark, History of South Hero), Burlington: The Author, 1871, vol. II, p. 580-81
  4. Hemenway, Abbey, “The Vermont Historical Gazetteer”, Burlington: The Author, 1871, vol. II, p. 582
  5. Hemenway, Abbey, “The Vermont Historical Gazetteer”, Burlington: The Author, 1871, vol. II, p. 573
  6. Joslin, Joseph, “A History of the Town of Poultney, Vermont, from its Settlement to the Year 1875″, Poultney: Journal Printing Office, 1875, p. 198
  7. “Account of a Plot for Obtaining the Lower Peninsula of Michigan from the United States in 1795 by J. V. Campbell”. Collections of the Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan together with Reports of County Pioneer Societies, Vol VIII. (second edition ed.). Lansing, Mich.: Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford. 1907 [1886]. pp. 406–411.
  8. Ebenezer Allen at Find A Grave

Colonel Morgan Lewis, Governor of New York

October 16, 2013

Colonel Morgan Lewis was an American lawyer, politician and military commander.

Of Welsh descent, he was born October 16, 1754, the son of Francis Lewis, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He graduated from Princeton (then the College of New Jersey) in 1773 and began to study law on the advice of his father. His studies were interrupted by military service during the American Revolutionary War. From September 1, 1776 to the end of the war he was a colonel and the Quartermaster General for the Northern Department. In 1779 he married Gertrude Livingston (1757–1833), the daughter of Robert R. Livingston.


After the Revolution, Lewis completed his legal studies and was elected to the New York State Assembly and the New York State Senate. He was New York State Attorney General and later Justice and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New York. He served as governor of New York from 1804 to 1807, defeating Vice President Aaron Burr in the race to succeed future Vice President George Clinton as Governor. On April 30, 1807, he was defeated in his run for re-election by Daniel D. Tompkins, also a future Vice President. Tompkins received 35,074 votes, Morgan Lewis 30,989.

During the War of 1812 Lewis resumed his duties as Quartermaster General and served in western New York. He commanded the American forces at the Battle of Fort George. Although the British position was captured, Lewis ordered Colonel Winfield Scott to break off the pursuit of the defeated British troops. But for Lewis’s over-caution, Scott might have been able to capture Major-General John Vincent’s entire division and greatly weaken the British defense of the Niagara Peninsula. Later, Lewis was appointed as commander of upstate New York.

Lewis was a presidential elector in 1828.

Lewis was a Freemason, and served as Grand Master in the Grand Lodge of New York from 1830-1843.

From 1832 to 1835 he was the President of the Historical Society of New York.

Lewis helped to found New York University in New York City, where he was born and where he died on April 7, 1844.


Grave of Moran Lewis, Saint James Episcopal Churchyard, Hyde Park, New York

Lewis County, New York, the Town and Village of Lewiston, New York, and the Town of Lewis in Essex County, New York have been named to honor him.


  • [1] Morgan Lewis
  • [2] Morgan Lewis
  • [3] Morgan Lewis picture and gravesite
  • [4] New York history, election result 1807


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