Battle of Wyoming and the Blackman Family

The Battle of Wyoming was an encounter during the Revolutionary War between  Patriots and Loyalists accompanied by Iroquois raiders that took place in the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania on July 3, 1778.   340 Patriots were killed in the battle out of a total force of about 400 with the Iroquois raiders hunting down fleeing Patriots.  On the British and Iroquois side, 3 killed, 8 wounded.

Exaggerated and fabricated reports of the massacres of prisoners and atrocities at Wyoming infuriated the American public leading to tragic consequences for the Iroquois.

Battle of Wyoming – Depiction of the battle by Alonzo Chappel, 1858

The Blackman Family Adventure

Elisha Blackman moved from Connecticut to Wilkes-Barre in June 1772 and purchased a lot in the “Third Division” of the township. He is listed in the Wilkes-Barre tax-lists for 1776, *77 and ’78. In May, 1777, he was established and commissioned Ensign of the *’2d Alarm List Company in the 24th (or Westmoreland) Regiment of Connecticut Militia.”

Teenage son Eleazer aided in strengthening the defenses of Fort Wilkes-Barre—by hauling logs with an ox-team, and digging in the trenches.  He said says: “I was then a boy of about thirteen, but was called on to work in the fortifications. With spade and pick I could not do much, but I could drive oxen and haul logs.” Every sinew from childhood to old age was thus put in requisition.”

During the battle of Wyoming, Elisha Sr  was garrisoned at  Fort Wilkes-Barre.

“Capt. William Hooker Smith and Ensign Elisha Blackman, Sr., of the 2d Alarm List Company, with a handfnl of their men, served as a garrison; while James Bidlack, Sr., of Plymouth, Captain of the 1st Alarm List Company, in command of a very small number of his men, performed a similar duty at Shawnee Fort in Plymouth.”

The next morning (July 4th) Ensign Blackman said to his wife: “Take the children and make the best of your way to a place of safety; we must stay and defend the fort.” The family set out by the “Warrior Path.” taking with them two horses; but in their alarm and distress took no provisions. They got on their way a scanty supply of huckleberries, but on the third day, having reached the German settlements in Northampton County, they were kindly cared for and supplied with proper food. They finally arrived at their old home in Connecticut.

Late in the morning of July 4th Ensign Blackman was joined at the fort by his son Elisha Jr, who had escaped from the battlefield, and in the afternoon they set out on foot for Fort Penn. Ensign Blackman’s house and barn and their contents were totally destroyed when Wilkes-Barre was burnt by the Indians. He also lost his oxen and other stock, with the exception of two cows.

His son, Elisha Blackman Jr.  took part in the battle of Wyoming as a private in the “Lower Wilkes-Barre Company,” commanded by Capt. James Bidlack, Jr. [38 men].  In the hardest part of the battle he saw his brother-in-law, Darius Spafford, fall mortally wounded, and he became so intent on avenging his death that it was some time before he discovered that the Americans were losing ground. In the flight from the field he and a companion headed for the river. Indians chased them and called to them to surrender, assuring them that they would not be hurt. Blackman did not surrender, but his companion did, only to have his skull immediately split open with a tomahawk.

Robert Stray Wolf of Ralston plays an Oneida Indian during the “Escape from Wyoming” re-enactment in July 2010 in Mount Cobb. Mr. Stray Wolf said the Oneidas helped American colonists during the battle.

Blackman strained every nerve to escape, and did so by swimming to Monocanock Island—with the bullets fired by the pursuing savages whistling about his head. He remained in hiding on the island until after nightfall, and then made his way to Forty Fort. The next morning he set out for Wilkes-Barre, and, as previously mentioned, reached the fort here shortly before noon. Miner says (“Wyoming,” Appendix, page 33) that only eight members of Captain Bidlack s company escaped from the battle-ground on July 3, 1778: Ensign Daniel Downing, Serg’t Jabez Fish, Serg’t Phineas Spafford, Elisha Blackman, Jr., Samuel Carey, M. Mullen, Thomas Porter, drummer, and one other.

Ensign Downings Escape Battle of Wyoming  (but we can imagine this was Elisha Blackman Jr)

Ensign Downings Escape Battle of Wyoming (but we can imagine this was Elisha Blackman Jr)

The two Elishas made their way to Fort Penn in due time, but later they both returned to Wilkes Barre and were in service there as early, at least, as August 9, 1778, in the detachment of militia commanded by Lieut. Col. Zebulon Butler. Some time later in 1778, or perhaps early in 1779,

Ensign Elisha Blackman joined his wife and children in Connecticut, where, in April, 1780, he was one of the signers of a memorial presented to the General Assembly of Connecticut by certain Wyoming refugees who were then temporarily residing in Connecticut. ) In 1787 Elisha Blackman returned to Wilkes-Barre, whither his sons had preceded him in 1786, and here he lived until his death, Sep 10, 1804.

After the battle, settlers spread rumors that the Iroquois raiders had hunted and killed fleeing Patriots before using ritual torture against thirty to forty who had surrendered, until they died


The Wyoming Valley is a region of northeastern Pennsylvania, it is also known as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area, after its principal cities,

In 1629 King Charles II of England gave Connecticut the land between the 41st and 42nd parallels of latitude and west to the “south sea.” This grant included the Connecticut Western Reserve was land claimed by Connecticut from 1662 to 1800 in the Northwest Territory in what is now mostly part of Northeast Ohio.

In 1681 King Charles gave the same parallels west of the Delaware River to William Penn. So this land was claimed by both states, by Connecticut, as its western reserve, and by Pennsylvania. To perfect its claim, a state had to have a charter from the king, purchase the land from the Indians, and its citizens had to establish possession. Both states formed land companies. The land companies sold land to people in their respective states who wished to settle on the land. The same land was, therefore, sold to different people.

Among the Connecticut settlers in the Wyoming Valley were some Scotch and Dutch families from the Mohawk Valley. About thirty of them, suspected of being Tories, were arrested at the beginning of the war, and sent to Connecticut for trial. They were released for want of evidence, returned to the Mohawk, joined the Tory partisan corps of Johnson and Butler, and waited for a chance of vengeance on their persecutors.  According to the Tory, Richard McGinnis, the Wyoming Battle and Massacre were retribution for the Americans having rounded up and sent the Tory men  Connecticut prisons, and leaving their families homeless.

“Several persons who were suspected of Tory sentiments had been arrested and sent to Connecticut by the Committees of Inspection and in the autumn of this year [1777] several scouting parties were sent by the same committee up the river and between thirty and forty Tories were arrested, some of them taken with arms in their hands. A conspiracy among them to bring the Tioga Indians on the settlement was broken up by the arrest of these Tories.”

“The most suspicious….were arrested and sent to Connecticut.”

In 1777, British General John Burgoyne led a campaign to gain control of the Hudson River in the American Revolutionary War. Burgoyne was forced to surrender after the Battles of Saratoga in October, and news of his surrender prompted France to enter the war as an American ally. Concerned that the French might attempt to retake parts of New France that had been lost in the French and Indian War (something they did not know the treaty specifically forbade), the British adopted a defensive stance in Quebec, and recruited Loyalists and Indians to engage in a frontier war along the northern and western borders of the Thirteen Colonies.

John Butler (1728–1796)

John Butler (1728–1796)

Colonel John Butler recruited a regiment of Loyalists for the effort, while Seneca chiefs Sayenqueraghta and Cornplanter recruited primarily Senecas and Joseph Brant recruited primarily Mohawks for what essentially became a guerrilla war against frontier settlers. By April 1778 the Seneca were raiding settlements on the Allegheny and Susquehanna Rivers, and by early June these three groups met at the Indian village of Tioga, New York, where Butler and the Senecas decided to attack the Wyoming Valley while Brant and the Mohawks (who had already raided Cobleskill in May) went after communities further north.

American military leaders, including Washington and Lafayette, also attempted to recruit Iroquois, primarily as a diversion to keep the British in Quebec busy. Their recruitment attempts met with more limited success, with Oneidas  and  Tuscaroras declaring their support (since the Seneca, Mohawk, and other western Iroquois were now their enemies).

Two full companies, out of 3,000 inhabitants, had been raised in the valley for the Continental army, and its only defenders were old men, brave women, teenagers, and a handful of trained soldiers.  These, 400 in number were led by Colonel Zebulon Butler (no relation), assisted by Colonel Denison, Lieutenant-colonel Dorrance, and Major Garratt,.

The Battle of Wyoming

Position of the Wyoming Forts:  A marks the site of Fort Durkee; B, Wyoming or Wilkesbarre Fort; C, Fort Ogden; D, village of Kingston; E, Forty Fort. [This in the early histories of the Revolution is called Kingston Fort.] F, the battleground; G, Wintermoot’s Fort; H, Fort Jenkins; I, Monocasy Island; J, the three Pittstown stockades. The dot below the G marks the place of Queen Esther’s Rock. The village of Troy is upon the battleground, and that of Wilkesbarre, upon the site of Wilkesbarre Fort and its ravelins.

Position of the Wyoming Forts: A: Fort Durkee;  B:Wyoming or Wilkesbarre Fort; C: Fort Ogden; D: village of Kingston; E: Forty Fort.  F: The battleground; G: Wintermoot’s Fort; H: Fort Jenkins; I:  Monocasy Island; J:the three Pittstown stockades.

The British arrived in the valley on June 30, having alerted the settlers to their approach by killing three men working at an unprotected gristmill on June 28. The next day Colonel Butler sent a surrender summons to the militia forces at Wintermute’s (Wintermoot) fort. Terms were arranged that the defenders, after surrendering the fort with all their arms and stores, would be released on the condition that they would not again bear arms during the war. On July 3, the British saw that the defenders were gathering in great numbers outside of Forty Fort.

Battle of Wyoming Reinactment

William Caldwell was destroying Jenkin’s fort, and when the Americans were still a mile away Butler set up an ambush and directed that Fort Wintermute be set on fire. The Americans, thinking this was a retreat, advanced rapidly. Butler instructed the Seneca to lie flat on the ground to avoid observation. The Americans advanced to within one hundred yards of the rangers and fired three times. The Seneca came out of their positions, fired a volley, and attacked the Americans in close combat.

Battle of Wyoming Reinactment

Accounts indicate that the moment of contact was followed by a sharp battle lasting about forty-five minutes. An order to reposition the Patriot line turned into a frantic rout when the inexperienced Patriot militia panicked. This ended the battle and triggered the Iroquois hunt for survivors. Only sixty of the Americans managed to escape, and only five were taken prisoner.  Butler reported that 227 American scalps were taken.

Colonel Dennison surrendered Forty Fort and two other forts along with the remaining soldiers the next morning. The Americans were paroled with the condition that they not engage in hostilities for the remainder of the war. These soldiers were not harmed. Colonel Dennison and the militia did not honor the terms of their parole, and they were under arms within the year and later attacked Iroquois villages.

There was no substantial killing of non-combatants and almost no inhabitants were injured or molested after the surrender. John Butler wrote :

“But what gives me the sincerest satisfaction is that I can, with great truth, assure you that in the destruction of the settlement not a single person was hurt except such as were in arms, to these, in truth, the Indians gave no quarter.”

An American farmer wrote:

“Happily these fierce people, satisfied with the death of those who had opposed them in arms, treated the defenseless ones, the woman and children, with a degree of humanity almost hitherto unparalleled”.

According to one source, 60 bodies were found on the battlefield and another 36 were found on the line of retreat and all were buried in a common grave. According to another source 73 bodies were also buried in one hole.

“Copy of a letter from Major John Butler to Lieutenant Colonel Bolton dated Lacuwanack 8 July 1778″


On the 30th of June I arrived with about 500 Rangers and Indians at Wioming, and encamped on an eminence which overlooks the greatest part of the settlement, from whence I sent out parties to discover the situation, and strength of the Enemy, who brought in eight Prisoners, and scalps: Two loyalists who came into my camp informed me that the Rebels could muster about 800 men, who were all assembled in their Forts.

July 1st.   I marched to the distance of half a mile of Wintermonts Fort and sent in Lieutenant Turney with a Flag to demand imediate possession of it, which was soon agreed to. A flag was next sent to Jenkins’ Fort which surrendered on nearly the same conditions as Wintermonts both which are enclosed. I next summoned Forty fort the Commandant of which refused the conditions I sent him.

July 3d   parties were sent out to collect cattle, who informed me that the Rebels were preparing to attack me. This pleased the Indians highly, who observed they should be upon an equal footing with them in the woods;

at Two o’Clock we discovered the Rebels upon their march in number about four or five hundred. Between 4 & 5 o’Clock they were advanced within a mine of us; finding them determined, I ordered the Forts to be sett on fire, which deceived the Enemy into an opinion that we had retreated:

We then posted ourselves in a fine open wood, and for our greater safety lay flat upon the ground, waiting their approach. When they were within 200 yards of us, they began firing; we still continued upon the ground without returning their Fire till they had fired three Vollies: by this time they had advanced within 100 yards of us, and being quite near enough Suingerachton ordered his Indians who were upon the right to begin the attack upon our part; which was imediately well seconded by the Rangers on the left.

Our fire was so close, and well directed, that the affair was soon over, not lasting above half an hour, from the time they gave us the first fire till their flight. In this action were taken 227 Scalps and only five prisoners. The Indians were so exasperated with their loss last year near Fort Stanwix, that it was with the greatest difficulty I could save the lives of those few.

Colonel Denniston who came next day with a Minister, and four others to treat for the remainder of the settlement of Westmoreland assures me, that they have lost one Colonel two Majors, seven Captains, Thirteen Lieutenants, Eleven Ensigns, and two hundred and Sixty Eight Privates. On our side are killed one Indian, two Rangers, and Eight Indians wounded. In this incursion we have taken and destroyed eight pallisaded Forts, and burned about 1000 Dwelling Houses, all their Mills &c., we have also killed and drove off about 1000 head of horned Cattle, and sheep and swine in great numbers. But what gives us the sincerest satisfaction is, that I can with great ___ assure you that in the destruction of this settlement not a single person has been hurt of the Inhabitants, but such as were in arms, to those indeed the Indians gave no Quarter.

I have also the pleasure to inform you that the Officers and Rangers behaved during this short action highly to my satisfaction, and have always supported themselves through hunger, and fatague with great chearfullness.

I have this day sent a party of men to the Delaware to destroy a small settlement there, and to bring off prisoners. In two or three days I shall send out other parties for the same purpose if I can supply my self with Provisions, I shall harrass the adjacent country, and prevent them from getting in their harvest.

The settlement of Schohary or the Minisinks will be my next objects, both of which abound in Corn, and Cattle the destruction of which cannot fail of greatly distressing the Rebels. I have not yet been able to hear any thing of the expresses I sent to the Generals Howe & Clinton, but as I sent them by ten different routes, I am in hopes that some of them will be able to make their way to them and return.

In a few days I do myself the honour of writing to you more fully and send you a Journal of my proceeding since I left Niagara.

I am Sir, with respect,
Your most obedient & very humble Serv’t
(signed) John Butler


The battle caused a panic on the frontier, and settlers in the surrounding counties fled. About 1,000 homes and all of the forts in the area were burned in the days following the battle.

The Iroquois were enraged at the accusations of atrocities which they said they had not committed, as well as at the militia taking arms after being paroled. This would have tragic consequences at the Cherry Valley Massacre later that year. Reports of the massacres of prisoners and atrocities at Wyoming and atrocities at Cherry Valley enraged the American public.

Iroquis Reenactor

Iroquois Reenactor

The Wyoming militia led by Denisson and others, violated their parole and later that year under Colonel Hartley ascended the Susquehanna as far as Tioga, destroying Tioga and area Loyalist farms.  In 1779, the Sullivan Expedition commissioned by General George Washington methodically destroyed at least forty Iroquois villages throughout upstate New York.

The Sullivan Expedition, was an American campaign led by Major General John Sullivan and Brigadier General James Clinton against Loyalists (“Tories”) and the four nations of the Iroquois who had sided with the British in the American Revolutionary War.

The expedition occurred during the summer of 1779, beginning June 18 when the army marched from Easton, Pennsylvania, to October 3 when it abandoned Fort Sullivan, built at Tioga, to return to New Jersey, and only had one major battle, at Newtown along the Chemung River in western New York, in which about 1,000 Iroquois and Loyalists were decisively defeated by an army of 3,200 Continental soldiers.

Sullivan’s army then carried out a scorched earth campaign, methodically destroying at least forty Iroquois villages throughout the Finger Lakes region of western New York, to put an end to Iroquois and Loyalist attacks against American settlements as had occurred the previous year. The devastation created great hardships for the thousands of Iroquois refugees outside Fort Niagara  for the harsh winter of 1779-80, and many starved or froze to death. The survivors fled to British regions in Canada and the Niagara Falls and Buffalo areas.

How States Got Their Names

The massacre was depicted by the Scottish poet Thomas Campbell in his 1809 poem Gertrude of Wyoming. Because of the atrocities involved, Campbell described Joseph Brant as a “monster” in the poem, although it was later determined that he was not present,but was at Oquaga on the day of the attack.

The western state of Wyoming received its name from the U.S. Congress when it joined the Union in 1890, much to the puzzlement of its residents. Ohio Congressman J. M. Ashley suggested the name supposedly because he liked the poem by Campbell.

Back to the Blackman Family

Elisha Blackman was born 19 Sep 1717 Lebanon, CT. His parents were Elisha Blackman and Susanna Higley.  He married 22 Mar 1753 in Norwich, CT to Lucy Polley (b. 16 May 1722 Norwich, CT – d. 10 Sep 1804 Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne, PA) Her parents were Mattew POLLEY  and Hannah [__?__]  Lucy first married 4 Mar 1743/44 Norwich, CT to Ebenezer Smith (1724 -1754) and had two children.  Elisha died 10 Sep 1804  in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania.

During the French and Indian War  Elisha Blackman served as a private in the Colonial army in three campaigns,

  • From April 10 to October 18, 1755, in the 3d Company (Robert Dcnison of New London, Captain) in the 1st Regiment of Connecticut troops, commanded by Phincas Lyman,
  • From April 8 till November 23, 1756, in the 1st, or Colonel’s, Company, in the 4th Regiment of Connecticut troops, commanded by Col. Andrew Wr.rd, Jr., of Guilford.
  • From March 24 till November 14, 1762, in the 10th Company (Azel Fitch of Lebanon. Captain) in the 2d Regiment of Connecticut troops, commanded by Col. Nathan Whiting. (See “Connecticut Historical Society’s Collections,” IX : 10, 144, 340.)

Elisha Blackman came to Wyoming for the first time in June, 1772, and in the following October, at Wilkes-Barre, he signed this petition.

“To the Honourable the General Assembly of the Colony of Connecticut To be Holden at Newhaven on the second Thursday in October A. D. 1772.

“The Memorial of us the subscribers Inhabitants of Wyoming on Susquehannah and within the Colony of Connecticut Humbly Sheweth that we being Destitute of the advantages of Civil Authority which lays us under many Disadvantages by Reason of our setlers being very numerous and consequently some unruly Persons among us who commit Disorders to the great Disturbance of the Inhabitants—which to Prevent we Pray your Honours to take into your wise consideration our unhappy and Distress’d condition and either Incorporate us into a County and appoint us Proper. Authority; or annex us to some one of the Counties or in some other way grant us Relief as your Honours in your wisdom shall Think Proper—(we would Humbly suggest that some thing of this kind would not only tend to suppress vice and Immoralitys among us but Promote virtue and be a means to spread the gospel through these western parts) and your Memorialists as in Duty bound shall ever Pray.

“Dated in Wilksbarre on Susquehannah October ye 3d 1772

Copy of above Petition, Elisha Blackman’s signature is the last one in the center column

Children of Lucy and Elisha

iii.  Lucy Blackman b. 7 Sep 1755 Lebanon, CT; m.  Titus Darrow.

iv. Lovina Blackman b. 7 Sep  1757; m.  Darius Spafford, who was killed in the battle of Wyoming.   Receiving a death wound, he fell into the arms of his brother Phineas, by whose side he fought. “Brother,” said he, “I am mortally hurt; take care of Lavina.”

v. Elisha Blackman b. 4 Apr 1760 Lebanon, CT; m.  10 Jan 1788, to Anna Hurlbut (b. 5 Jan 1763) Anna’s parents were Deacon John Hurlbut and Abigail Avery. (His obituary was published in the Republican Farmer and Democratic Journal  of Dec 10 1845.) During the last ten years of his life he was a United States pensioner.

Elisha Blackman son of Elisha Blackman and Lucy Polley

Elisha Blackman, Jr. came to Wilkes-Barre in 1773, at the age of thirteen, with the other members of his father’s family.

He returned to Wilkes-Barre in Aug 1778, and was in service here as a militia-man under the command of Lieut. Colonel Butler. In the Sullivan Expedition of 1779 he served in the Wyoming militia company commanded by Capt. John Franklin.

Later in that year, or early in 1780, Elisha joined his parents and the other members of their family in Connecticut.

Early in 1781 Elisha Blackman, Jr., enlisted as a private in the company of Capt. Selah Benton of Stratford, in the 5th Regiment, Connecticut Line, commanded by Lieut. Col. Isaac Sherman,and served till the latter part of June, 1782. He was honorably discharged from the service at Fishkill, New York, and thence he went to the home of his parents in Lebanon. There he subsequently learned the trade of a tanner and currier, and in 1786, in company with his brothers Ichabod and Eleazar, he returned to Wilkes-Barre. The three brothers built a log house on the lot of their father—on South Main Street, between the present Academy and Sullivan Streets. [There's a small shopping center there now]

Elisha Blackman, Jr.. was commissioned First Lieutenant of the Light Infantry Company attached to the “1st Regiment of Militia in Luzerne County,*’ commanded by Lieut. Col. Matthias Hollenback. In 1791 Lieutenant Blackman bought a tract of land in Hanover Township, to which he removed and which he cleared up and converted into a farm. His wife died there January 6, 1828. There he resided until his death, which occurred December 5, 1845. (His obituary was published in the Republican Farmer and Democratic Journal of December 10, 1845.) During the last ten years of his life he was a United States pensioner.

vi. Ichabod Blackman b. 24 Mar 1762  Lebanon, CT. d. Apr 1798, he was accidentally drowned in the Susquehanna River while crossing it in a canoe near the mouth of Sugar Creek, on a very dark night.

Ichabod was eleven years old when he came with his parents and the other members of their family to Wilkes-Barre. At the time of the irruption of the Tories and Indians into Wyoming Valley Ichabod Blackman was 17 years old, and, being within the age limit  fixed by the militia laws of Connecticut, was an enrolled member of the 24th Regiment. With his father and elder brother, Elisha, Jr., he took part in the military expedition from Forty Fort to Sutton’s Creek, July 1, 1778, as described on page 990. Whether or not Ichabod took part in the battle of Wyoming is not now known. It is-quite probable that he was one of the garrison at Fort Wilkes-Barre. He fled from the Valley with his mother, sisters and younger brother, and, making his way with them to Connecticut, remained there until 1786, when he returned to Wilkes-Barre. The same year he was married at Goshen, New York, to Elizabeth Franklin (born at Litchfield, Connecticut, in 1760), daughter of Arnold Franklin of Hanover Township in Wyoming Valley.

In 1700 Ichabod Blackman removed with his wife and child from Wilkes-Barre to Sheshequin, where he settled on, and cleared up, a large tract of land now owned by one of his descendants. In the month of April, 1798, he was accidentally drowned in the Susquehanna River while crossing it in a canoe near the mouth of Sugar Creek, on a very dark night. He was survived by his wife, Elizabeth (who was subsequently married to Timothy Winship).

viii. Eleazar Blackman b. 31 May 1765 Lebanon, CT;  m.  7 Oct 1786, at Wilkes-Barre, to Clorinda Hyde, daughter of John Hyde, originally of New London County, Connecticut, but then an inhabitant of Wilkes-Barre, residing on Lot No. 29 of the “Second Division” of the township.  Major Blackman died at his home 10 Sep 1843, and was buried two days later with the honors of Free Masonry.

Eleazar was eight years old when he came with his parents to Wilkes-Barre. In the Spring of 1778, as a boy of thirteen, he aided in strengthening the defenses of Fort Wilkes-Barre—by hauling logs with an ox-team, and digging in the trenches.  He said says: “I was then a boy of about thirteen, but was called on to work in the fortifications. With spade and pick I could not do much, but I could drive oxen and haul logs.” Every sinew from childhood to old age was thus put in requisition.”

After the battle of July 3d he fled from the Valley with his mother, sisters and brother, as previously related, and proceeded to Lebanon, Connecticut, where he remained until his return to Wilkes-Barre in 1780. (Some years later he removed to Hanover Township.)

Eleazar Blackman settled in Wilkes-Barre. “In the progress of the settlement and opening up of the country be mingled actively in the business of life, held public stations—both civil and military— and during his entire life enjoyed the respect and esteem of all who knew him.” In 1788 he was a private in the “Troop of Light Dragoons” raised and commanded by Capt. John Paul Schott. In 1790 he was a private in the company of Light Infantry (commanded by his brother, Lieut. Elisha Blackman, Jr.) attached to the “1st Regiment of Militia in Luzerne County,” commanded by Lieut. Col. Matthias Hollenback. In September, 1800, he was elected and commissioned Captain of the “First Troop of Horse,” 2d Brigade, 8th Division, Pennsylvania Militia. This position he held for a number of years, and in 1812 he attained the rank of Major in the militia. From 1801 till 1803 he was one of the Commissioners of Luzerne County; and from 1808 till 1810 Treasurer of the County. He was made a Free Mason in Lodge No. 61, F. and A. M., Wilkes-Barre, November 2, 1795, and was Secretary of the Lodge in 1797, Senior Warden in 1798, ’99, 1800, ’01, ’02, ’03, ’13, ’14, ’16 and ’16, Treasurer in 1806, and Worshipful Master in 1804 and 1809.

Major Blackman, for many years prior to his death, lived on his farm in Wilkes-Barre near the Hanover Township line and not far from the foot of the mountain. Prior to 1830 he opened up a “coal-bed” on this farm, and thenceforward, for a number of years, he carried on in a small way the business of coal-mining in addition to his farming operations.  In time this coal-bed became known as the “Blackman Mine, and years later—when the operations -had become more extensive—the mine was known as the “Franklin.”

Epilogue  – Setting the Record Straight

Wyoming Monument –  It was not almost four months after the battle, October 22, 1778 that a recovery party felt the region safe enough to return to begin recovery of the bodies of those slain in the battle. The remains were gathered and interred in a common grave, In 1833, the bones were re-interred in a vault under the present monument. On Aug  2, 2008, the monument was struck by lightning, causing some damage and putting the monument in need of repairs.

There were many lurid and erroneous reports about the Battle of Wyoming and its aftermath. For example:

“They then proceeded to the only remaining fortt called WilkeHwroujth, which, in hopes of obtaining mercy, was surrendered without resistance, or without even demanding any conditions. Here the tragedy was renewed with aggravated horrors. They found here about seventy of that sort of militia who are engaged by the different Provinces merely for the guard and defence of their respective frontiers, and who are not called to any other service. With these, as objects of particular enmity, the slaughter was begun, and they were butchered with every possible circumstance of the most deliberate, wanton and savage cruelty. The remainder of the men, with the women and children, not demanding so much particular attention, were shut up as before in the houses, which being set on fire, they perished all together in the flames.

On December 20, 1820, it appeared in the National Gazelle,  and a copy of that issue of the paper falling into the hands of Gen. Lord Butler of Wilkes-Barre, eldest son of Col. Zebulon Butler, then deceased, he wrote to the editor of the National Gazette a letter, to which the written and signed statements of three survivors of the battle of Wyoming were appended. These communications were not designed to form a full historical relation of the events of July 3d and 4th, 1778, but were intended, simply, to point out and correct the errors in Botta’s history, and to remove the false and injurious impressions which such an account was calculated to make upon the public mind with reference to the principal actors in the events described. General Butler’s communication and the accompanying statements were not only printed in full in the National Gazette, but were reprinted in other newspapers, and they read as follows:

“The account as given in the extract is, perhaps, the most incorrect narrative of events that ever found its way into the history of any transaction ever before published, and particularly of one so highly interesting. Indeed, there is scarcely a solitary truth in the whole extract. Most of the circumstances are wholly fabrications; and others are so misrepresented and distorted as hardly to be recognized. That a true estimate may be put upon it, I will point out some of its most prominent deviations from truth and fact.

“In the first place, Col. Zebulon Butler, at the time spoken of, had not the command of the ‘ whole colony,’ as stated in the extract. He was a [Lieutenant] Colonel in Washington’s army, but, happening to be in this part of the country on a furlough, he was requested to give his assistance, and take the command of the men in case it should be necessary to fight. Further, it is not true that Zebulon Butler was a cousin of John, the commander of the enemy’s forces. There was no relationship subsisting between them, [so] of course the influence which the writer of the extract would seem to draw from that circumstance, must fail. It is not true that Col. Zebulon Butler was drawn out of the fort by the ‘lavish promises’ of his enemy ‘that, if he would consent to a parley in the open field, the siege would be raised, and every thing accommodated.’ Nor is it true that he [Col. Zebulon Butler] marched out for that purpose, and ‘ from motives of caution took with him four hundred men, well armed.’ The fact is, the only conference he marched out to was a battle; the only parley he expected was the point of the bayonet.

“The whole number of men under his [Zebulon Butler's] command that day was about 30-50, and it has since been ascertained that the enemy’s force amounted to from 1,000 to 1,500. The battle was fought sooner than Colonel Butler wished. He advised delay, hoping to ascertain the force, position and intentions of the enemy; [hoping] that succours would arrive, and that he then would be able to meet the enemy to more advantage. But as he had no right to the submission of either the officers or their men—except what they voluntarily paid him—he was obliged to forego his own opinion, and consent to lead them on. Another circumstance obliged him to take this course. There were some brave men among them, but who were as rash and imprudent as they were brave, who were determined to fight that day, or leave the fort and return to their homes.

“It is not a fact that Colonel Butler and his men were enticed into the ‘ dismal solitudes ‘ and ‘thick forests ‘ by a ‘ flag,’ and there ‘completely surrounded’ by the enemy. All that is said in the extract about the ‘ unfortunate American ‘ being ‘ without suspicion of the peril he was in,’ continuing ‘to press forward,’ &c, and 1 being awakened but too soon from this dream of security,’ &c, is false! So far from the Americans having been ‘surprised’ by the British and Indians—had it not been for the imprudence of a few men (sent forward as an advance guard) in firing upon some Indians whom they discovered setting fire to a house, the enemy themselves would in all probability have been taken by surprise, and obliged to engage under many disadvantages.

“The Americans, instead of forming into ‘a compact column,’ fought in a line, on the left of which there was a marsh. The British and Indians, being more than twice as numerous as the Americans, endeavored to outflank them by going around and through this marsh. Colonel Denison, who was a Colonel of the militia, and properly the commander of the ‘whole colony,’ and who had taken charge of the left wing, perceiving the intentions-of the enemy, took prompt measures to defeat their expectations, and gave the necessary orders to effect it.  It was in the execution of these orders that the confusion began! And though Colonel Denison, and the other officers on that wing, did all that men could do to prevent it, the left wing gave way. The right wing was at this time beating the enemy back and advancing upon them.

“Col. [Zebulon] Butler, who had continued on horseback throughout the day, finding that the right was doing well, left it and rode towards the left. When he got a little more than half-way down the line he discovered the men were retreating, and that he was between the two lines, near the advancing line of the enemy. The rout soon became general, notwithstanding the extraordinary efforts of the officers, most of whom were killed in their attempts to rally the men, and bring them again to the charge. It is not true that ‘about sixty men escaped,’ and with Zebulon Butler made their way good to ‘ a redoubt on the opposite bank of the Susquehanna;’ for Colonel Butler, when he found it impossible to rally the scattered troops, instead of seeking his own safety by leaving the field instantly, collected four or five men, made them retain their arms and keep together. These he ordered to fire when any of the enemy approached, and by this means brought them safe to the fort at Kingston.

“As it was impossible to defend this fort [Forty Fort], all the men having been killed in the battle except about forty or fifty (not more than ten or twelve of whom came to the fort), he proceeded to Wilkesbarre, which is about two miles distant, and on the opposite side of the river. Colonel Denison having had a conference with the enemy, next morning sent Col. Zebulon Butler word that they [the enemy] would give no quarter to Continental officers or soldiers. He [Colonel Butler] then hastened into Northampton County. Colonel Denison well knew that the fort in Kingston could not be defended with any prospect of success. He therefore did not make the attempt, but obtained what terms he could from the enemy, and surrendered. There were but few men left, and the fort was crowded with women and children.

“It is not true that Colonel Denison ‘surrendered at discretion,’ nor is it true that the savages ‘enclosed the men, women and childien promiscuously in the houses and barracks, to which they set fire, and consumed all within.’ True they robbed and plundered, contrary to the articles of capitulation, but they killed no one. Finally, it is not a fact that at Wilkesbarre the ‘soldiers of the garrison,’ were (as stated in the extract) ‘put to death;’ nor were the ‘men, women and children burned, as before, in the barracks and houses.’ The British and Indians did not come to Wilkesbarre until the second day after the battle, and then they found the fort and town entirely abandoned. They plundered and burnt every house, except two or three small ones, but there was not an individual killed.

“To perpetuate truth is, or ought to be, the object of history; at all events, history should never be made the vehicle of falsehood. If it be deemed of sufficient interest and importance to the public that any account of the battle of Wyoming should be registered, it certainly is of importance that that account should be correct and authentic. That a true narrative of that transaction may be incorporated into history, is one reason why I have noticed the extract. But it is also due to the memory of Col. Zebulon Butler, and to the feelings of his numerous descendants, that the odium which the account in the extract has so unjustly heaped upon his character should be removed. To do this the more effectually, I add a brief abstract of his military career. * * * *

“Upon the breaking out of the American Revolution, he entered the service of his country in the army under Washington; was a Lieutenant Colonel,and at the close of the war commanded one of the best regiments in the whole army. Colonel Butler was the personal friend of General Washington. I have seen letters from the General to him after the close of the war, written in very friendly terms, proving that Washington, at least, had full confidence in his capacity, integrity and patriotism. It is indeed strange, that after so long a service in both British and American armies, he never before was discovered to have been a coward and a traitor, if he really were such. And yet perhaps this need not be wondered at, when even the brave, the intrepid Putnam has, since his death, been accused of cowardice!

“A desire to be strictly and critically correct in my statement of facts, has unavoidably occasioned some delay in forwarding my letter to you. What I have stated are facts—you may rely on their accuracy. For your satisfaction on this head, however, I send you the certificates of Judge Hollenback and others (who were in the battle) corroborating and substantiating my allegations. Certificates to the same effect might have been obtained from all the survivors of that day’s disasters, who yet live in this part of the country, but it was not tho’t necessary. It is my intention, at some future period, to send you an authentic narrative of the battle of Wyoming, embracing the transactions of several weeks, and perhaps months, both previous and subsequent, which if it should meet your approbation, you will be at liberty to publish.

“I am Vours, &c, [Signed] “Lord Butler.” “Wilkesbarre, Dec. 20, 1820.

Elisha Blackman Jr. certified the above letter as follows:

“I do certify that I was in the battle of Wyoming, fought on the 3d day of July, 1778, and that I am well acquainted with the facts as they took place on that day, and subsequently. I have read the account published in the National Gazette of the 6th insl., and know that most of the circumstances related, and especially the material ones, are absolutely false. I have read, also, the above letter of Lord Butler, Esq., and from personal knowledge, as well as from the information obtained at the time, know the facts therein stated to be correct. I also certify that I was stationed about the centre of the line [of battle], and saw Col. Zebulon Butler, about the time the retreat commenced, riding from the right to the left, between the two contending lines, and saw him turn his horse, ride after his men, and endeavor to stop them. I never heard, until I saw the account above referred to, any blame imputed to Col. Zebulon Butler for his conduct on that, or any other occasion. [Signed] “Elisha Blackman.*”

“December 26, 1820.

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Dakota War of 1862

The Dakota War of 1862, was an armed conflict between the United States and several bands of the eastern Sioux (also known as eastern Dakota). It began on Aug 17, 1862, along the Minnesota River in southwest Minnesota. It ended with a mass execution of 38 Dakota men   in Mankato, Minnesota.  This event took place 150 years ago this month (December 26, 1862), and was the largest mass execution in American history.

The U.S.-Dakota War was largely overshadowed by the Civil War raging to the south.  It is mostly unknown today. In an American Life Story, Ira talks to John Biewen about how remarkable it is that he could grow up in a town and never learn about the most significant event in its history.

“Execution of the thirty-eight Sioux Indians at Mankato, Minnesota, December, 26, 1862.” Milwaukee: The Milwaukee Litho & Engr. Co., 1883. Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1883 by John C. Wise in the office of the librarian of Congress at Washington


Little Crow is notable for his role in the negotiation of the Treaties of Traverse des Sioux and Mendota of 1851, in which he agreed to the movement of his band of the Dakota to a reservation near the Minnesota River in exchange for goods and certain other rights. However, the government reneged on its promises to provide food and annuities to the tribe.

Throughout the late 1850s, treaty violations by the United States and late or unfair annuity payments by Indian agents caused increasing hunger and hardship among the Dakota. Traders with the Dakota previously had demanded that the government give the annuity payments directly to them (introducing the possibility of unfair dealing between the agents and the traders to the exclusion of the Dakota). In mid-1862 the Dakota demanded the annuities directly from their agent, Thomas J. Galbraith. The traders refused to provide any more supplies on credit under those conditions, and negotiations reached an impasse.

The Dakota War took place in the Minnesota River Valley


On August 16, 1862, the treaty payments to the Dakota arrived in St. Paul, Minnesota, and were brought to Fort Ridgely the next day. They arrived too late to prevent violence. On August 17, 1862, four young Dakota men were on a hunting trip in Acton Township, Minnesota, during which one stole eggs and then killed five white settlers. Soon after, a Dakota war council was convened and their leader, Little Crow, agreed to continue attacks on the European-American settlements to try to drive out the whites.

Taoyateduta known as Chief Little Crow (~1810 – 1863)

On August 18, 1862, Little Crow led a group that attacked the Lower Sioux (or Redwood) Agency. Andrew Myrick was among the first who were killed. He was discovered trying to escape through a second-floor window of a building at the agency. Myrick’s body later was found with grass stuffed into his mouth. The warriors burned the buildings at the Lower Sioux Agency, giving enough time for settlers to escape across the river at Redwood Ferry. Minnesota militia forces and B Company of the 5th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment sent to quell the uprising were defeated at the Battle of Redwood Ferry. Twenty-four soldiers, including the party’s commander (Captain John Marsh), were killed in the battle. Throughout the day, Dakota war parties swept the Minnesota River Valley and near vicinity, killing many settlers. Numerous settlements including the Townships of Milford, Leavenworth and Sacred Heart, were surrounded and burned and their populations nearly exterminated.

Settlers who’d fled the Dakota attacks in 1862. Source: Adrian J. Ebell, Minnesota Historical Society

Confident with their initial success, the Dakota continued their offensive and attacked the settlement of New Ulm, Minnesota, on August 19, 1862, and again on August 23, 1862. Dakota warriors initially decided not to attack the heavily defended Fort Ridgely along the river. They turned toward the town, killing settlers along the way. By the time New Ulm was attacked, residents had organized defenses in the town center and were able to keep the Dakota at bay during the brief siege. Dakota warriors penetrated parts of the defenses enough to burn much of the town.  By that evening, a thunderstorm dampened the warfare, preventing further Dakota attacks.

Regular soldiers and militia from nearby towns (including two companies of the 5th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry then stationed at Fort Ridgely) reinforced New Ulm. Residents continued to build barricades around the town.

During this period, the Dakota attacked Fort Ridgely on August 20 and 22, 1862. Although the Dakota were not able to take the fort, they ambushed a relief party from the fort to New Ulm on August 21. The defense at the Battle of Fort Ridgely further limited the ability of the American forces to aid outlying settlements. The Dakota raided farms and small settlements throughout south central Minnesota and what was then eastern Dakota Territory.

Minnesota militia counterattacks resulted in a major defeat of American forces at the Battle of Birch Coulee on Sep  2, 1862. The battle began when the Dakota attacked a detachment of 150 American soldiers at Birch Coulee, 16 miles from Fort Ridgely. The detachment had been sent out to find survivors, bury American dead and report on the location of Dakota fighters. A three-hour firefight began with an early morning assault. Thirteen soldiers were killed and 47 were wounded, while only two Dakota were killed. A column of 240 soldiers from Fort Ridgely relieved the detachment at Birch Coulee the same afternoon.

Further north, the Dakota attacked several unfortified stagecoach stops and river crossings along the Red River Trails, a settled trade route between Fort Garry (now Winnipeg and Saint Paul  in the Red River Valley in northwestern Minnesota and eastern Dakota Territory. Many settlers and employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company and other local enterprises in this sparsely populated country took refuge in Fort Abercrombie, located in a bend of the Red River of the North about 25 miles  south of present-day Fargo, North Dakota. Between late August and late September, the Dakota launched several attacks on Fort Abercrombie; all were repelled by its defenders.

In the meantime steamboat and flatboat trade on the Red River came to a halt. Mail carriers, stage drivers and military couriers were killed while attempting to reach settlements such as Pembina, North Dakota, Fort Garry, St. Cloud, Minnesota, and Fort Snelling. Eventually the garrison at Fort Abercrombie was relieved by a U.S. Army company from Fort Snelling, and the civilian refugees were removed to St. Cloud.

Due to the demands of the  Civil War, the region’s representatives had to repeatedly appeal for aid before Pres. Abraham Lincoln formed the Department of the Northwest on Sep 6, 1862, and appointed Gen. John Pope to command it with orders to quell the violence. He led troops from the 3rd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment and 4th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The 9th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment and 10th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment, which were still being constituted, had troops dispatched to the front as soon as Companies were formed.

After the arrival of a larger army force, the final large-scale fighting took place at the Battle of Wood Lake on Sep  23, 1862.   After brief fighting, the forces in the skirmish line charged against the Dakota (then in a ravine) and defeated them overwhelmingly.


Most Dakota fighters surrendered shortly after the Battle of Wood Lake at Camp Release on Sep  26, 1862. The place was so named because it was the site where the Dakota released 269 European-American captives to the troops commanded by Col. Henry Sibley. The captives included 162 “mixed-bloods” (mixed-race, some likely descendants of Dakota women who were mistakenly counted as captives) and 107 whites, mostly women and children. Most of the warriors were imprisoned before Sibley arrived at Camp Release. The surrendered Dakota warriors were held until military trials took place in Nov  1862.

Little Crow was forced to retreat sometime in September 1862. He stayed briefly in Canada but soon returned to the Minnesota area. He was killed on July 3, 1863, near Hutchinson, Minnesota, while gathering raspberries with his teenage son. The pair had wandered onto the land of white settler Nathan Lamson, who shot at them to collect bounties. For killing Little Crow, the state granted Lamson an additional $500 bounty. For his part in the warfare, Little Crow’s son was sentenced to death by a military tribunal, a sentence then commuted to a prison term.

There has never been an official report on the number of settlers killed, although as many as over 800 settlers have been cited. Over the next several months, continued battles between the Dakota against settlers and later, the United States Army, ended with the surrender of most of the Dakota bands. By late Dec 1862, soldiers had taken captive more than a thousand Dakota, who were interned in jails in Minnesota.

Our 1862 Minnesota Ancestors, Uncles and Cousins

Our Settlers

Guilford Dudley Coleman, Anoka, MN ca. 1880. Blacksmith –  Predates “Fear the Beard” Brian Wilson of the SF Giants by 130 years).

In the 1860 census, my 2nd Great Grandparents Guilford Dudley COLEMAN (1832 – 1903) and  Ellen Celeste WEBBER (twin of Emma) (1835-1881) and their son Dana were living in Anoka, Anoka, Minnesota where Guilford was a blacksmith.

G.D. and Ellen emigrated from Maine to Anoka, Minnesota in 1856.   G.D. was a blacksmith and an owner and driver of fine horses.   He could drive his horse , Tony, by simple, quiet tones as “Turn to the left, Tony”, or “Turn to the right, Tony”.   He wrote in 1900 (age 68) that he couldn’t shoe 200 horses in four weeks like he used to.

Ellen  was educated in a New England “Female Seminary” and wrote beautifully and expressed herself elegantly. Since her family disapproved of her marrying Guilford Dudley, my grandmother believed they eloped when they emigrated to Minnesota. He was young and poor.

Ellen Celeste Coleman ca. 1870

Ellen came to Minnesota as a bride with several nice dresses.  Ellen’s sister Esther sent her a dress of her own, the beauty of which is rarely seen.  It was a changeable silk of grey and pink made in the mode of that period, tight bodice with very full skirt, flowing sleaves with fringe of the same shade.

Ellen Celeste Webber Coleman. About 1880.

Ellen had excellent taste and she loved nice things, but she didn’t have them in Minnesota as she had had as a girl in Vassalboro.  Guilford Dudley was a good man and did the best he could to provide for his family.

1 Dec 1862 Anoka, MN, Extract of Letter from Ellen to her mother Abigail.  Ellen wrote beautifully and expressed herself elegantly, though it appears frontier life didn’t entirely agree with her.

The prices of dry goods and groceries in short, everything, we need are really frightfully high.  Common factory cloth is 35 cents a yard, prints $0.23, flannel $0.75 delaines $0.35 and $0.40, etc.

But business is very good and wages high.  Guilford had 40 dollars per month offered him to drive a horse team this winter in the pinery, but concluded he could do much better to attend to his own business.

We have no fears of the Indians now.  About 200 of the Sioux are at Fort Snelling now, think we shall go down and see them this winter.  Many of them have been tried, found guilty and sentenced to be hanged, but the President will not give his consent.  Petitions are being sent asking him that justice should be done if the civil authorities do not execute them, the people are determined to sweep them from the face of the earth.  An old acquaintance of ours, now a soldier, stopped two days with us two weeks ago.  He was just from the Indian Country and of course we made many questions to ask, he says there have been 2000 people killed by them and Oh they have been so cruel.

Blue Earth River Basin

The Minnesota River valley and surrounding upland prairie areas were abandoned by most settlers during the war. Many of the families who fled their farms and homes as refugees never returned. Following the Civil War, however, the area was resettled. By the mid-1870s, it was again being used for agriculture. I’m not including our numerous Anoka, Stillwater and Minneapolis relatives.  Some of the kin below were in the war zone  in 1862 and the rest were certainly there in the early 1870’s.

Seth RICHARDSON II’s granddaughter Mary “Polly” Richardson (1799 in Attleborough, Mass. -1888 Owatonna, Steele, Minnesota) ; m. 1 Sep 1822 in Vassalboro, Kennebec Co., Maine to Serenus A. Farrington ( 1799 Maine –  1888 Minneapolis)

In the 1860 census, Mary and Serenus were farming in Otisco, Waseca, Minnesota, 35 miles southeast of Mankato.  They were two of the early settlers of Otisco in 1857, where they lived thirteen years. He then moved with his wife to Owatonna.

Seth RICHARDSON III’s son Ira Richardson (1819 Vassalboro, Maine – 1910 Lacomb, Oregon) In the 1860 census, Ira was a shoemaker in Otisco, Waseca, Minnesota, 35 miles southeast of Mankato.

Isaac MILLER’s daughter Hannah was born 3 May 1820 Northampton New Brunswick, Canada. She married John Grant.  Hannah died died 30  May 1885  Kasota Hill Cemetery, Le Sueur County Minnesota (25 miles north of Mankato)

The Grants lived in Canterbury,New Brunswick before immigrating to Wisconsin and Minnesota by covered wagon in 1848. John was a Tanner and farmer. It was reported that two of his sons were such large men, they were obliged to make their own boots. On their journey westward, John and Hannah visited for some time with her mother, Harriet, and stepfather Tristram Hillman in Utica, NY.   Tristram and Harriet are found on the 1850 census of that town.All of Hannah’s brothers and sisters also moved to the U.S. about this time. The Grants second stop was at Lemonweir Wisconsin before moving on to Winnebago, Martin County, Minnesota in 1862.  Winnebago is 35 miles south of Mankato.

Canterbury NB  Mile 0
Utica NY Mile 638
Lemonweir WI  Mile 1578
Winnebago, MN Mile 1813

Joseph COLEMAN’s granddaughter Mercy Ann Sturges (830 in Vassalboro, Maine -1904 in Lewiston, Maine) married  18 Jul 1888 Age: 57 Madelia, Watonwan, Minnesota to Manoah Delling (1819 Madelia, Minnesota – 5 Nov 1892) He first married Hester Eliza Vought (b. ~1818 in New York – d. 1886 in Madelia) Madelia is 25 miles west southwest of Mankato.

Manoah and Hester Delling ca 1870

Joseph COLEMAN’s granddaughter Hannah Jennie Sturges ( 1832 in Vassalboro,  Maine – 1909 in Augusta  Maine) married  22 Dec 1869 Age: 37 Androscoggin, Maine to Harrison Pullen Gilbert (1816 in Kingfield,, Maine –  1898 in Madelia, Watonwan, Minnesota)

In the 1860 census,  H P Gilbert was farming in Madelia, Brown, Minnesota 25 miles west southwest of Mankato.

In the 1880 census, Hannah J and Harrison were farming in Madelia, Watonwan, Minnesota.

Isaac MILLER’s granddaughter Mariah Grant (1841 in Canterbury, New Brunswick – Aft 1880 census) m1. 1865 in Minnesota to Frank Durant (1844 – ); m2. Henry (Elias) Belnap (b. 1820 New York)  In the 1870 census, Mariah Durant was living next to her father John Grant in Nashville, Martin, Minnesota with three small children and no husband at home,  Martin County is on the Iowa border 50 miles southwest of Mankato.

Abraham ESTEY’s and  Isaac MILLER’s grandson Colin John Estey ( 1849,  Winnebago, Wisconsin – 1902 Pocahontas, Iowa;) first married 3 Apr 1874  in Mankato, Blue Earth, Minnesota to Henretta C. [__?__] (b. 1839 Pennsylvania- d. Aft 1910 census ); m2. abt 1900 to Minnie C [__?__] (b. Jan 1872 Iowa) Her father was born in Denmark and her mother in Illinois.

Isaac MILLER’s granddaughter Albertha J. Grant ( 1851 New Brunswick, Canada –  1948   St. Paul, MinnesotaO) married  29 Nov 1874, Blue Earth Co., Minn to Millard Boyden (1845, in Rochester, NY –   1903 in Cumberland, Wisconsin.)

Isaac MILLER’ grandson Leonard Jarvis Grant ( 1845   Canterbury, New Brunswick –  1926   Prairie, Montana); m. 10 Jun 1873 in Kasota, Le Sueur, Minnesota to Alwilda “Polly” Shaw.    Leonard  came to the United States in 1859 and to Minnesota in 1862

Our Soldiers

Dudley COLEMAN’s son-in-law  Milton David Lapham  (1827 in Minot, Maine – 1899 in Anoka, Minnesota)   enlisted as a Sargent in Company C, 1st Minnesota Volunteer Cavalry Regiment  the “Mounted Rangers” on 17 Oct 1862.  He mustered out on 31 Oct 1863.

First Cavalry.–Col., Samuel McPhaill; Lieut.-Col., William Pfaender; Majs., John H. Parker, Solomon S. Buell, Orrin T. Hayes. This regiment was made up of twelve companies, organized in the fall of 1862 and was composed largely of men who had lost their wives, children or relatives in the Sioux massacre the previous August and September.

The first battalion of three companies was sent out as soon as organized for guard and patrol duty. In the spring of 1863 nine companies under Col. McPhaill assembled at Camp Pope for the campaign of the Missouri, the other three companies remaining for patrol duty. The regiment was in the Battle of Big Mound., where the 1st battalion led the attack. It fought its way up the steep hill, put the Indians to flight and followed them for 15 miles. The regiment was in the Battle of Dead Buffalo Lake, and was at Stony lake, when the Indians attacked in great force. It reached the Missouri July 29, and returned to Fort Abercrombie. Col. McPhaill, with several companies of cavalry, was sent to Fort Ridgely, which place he reached Sept. 1. The 1st battalion was sent to Fort Ripley and the various companies of the 1st cavalry were mustered out during the fall and winter of 1863-64.

Hendrik TURK’s grandson-in-law Harvey Terpenning (1820 Cortland, NY –  1899 in Geneva, Ashtabula, OH)  enlisted in Company I, Iowa 6th Cavalry Regiment on Feb 2 1863 and mustered out  Oct 17 1865 at Sioux City, IA.

Moved to Sioux City, Dakota, March 16-April 26, 1863. Operations against hostile Indians about Fort Randall May and June. Moved to Fort Pierre, and duty there until July. Sully’s Expedition against hostile Sioux Indians August 13-September 11. Actions at White Stone Hill September 3 and 5. Duty at Fort Sully, Fort Randall and Sioux City until June, 1864. Sully’s Expedition against hostile Sioux Indians June 26-October 8. Engagement at Tah kah a kuty July 28. Two Hills, Bad Lands, Little Missouri River, August 8. Expedition from Fort Rice to relief of Fisk’s Emigrant train September 11-30. Fort Rice September 27. Duty by Detachments at Fort Randall, Sioux City, Fort Berthold, Yankton and the Sioux and Winnebago Indian Agencies until October, 1865. Mustered out October 17, 1865.

Regiment lost during service 1 Officer and 21 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 1 Officer and 74 Enlisted men by disease. Total 97.

William LATTA’s son Dr. William Story Latta (1826-1903) was a Physician,  Army surgeon,  President National E. Medical Association,  President State Medical Association,  Dean of Medical Facility,  Professor of Pathology and Microscopy at Nebraska Christian University and Dean of Medical Faculty at Cotner University at Lincoln, Neb.  Editor Nebraska Medical Journal in 1891.   He went to Stockton, Calif. October 7, 1904.

William Story Latta MD

William was mayor of Rock Bluff Nebraska when Sidney and Calista MINER moved there.  He came to Plattsmouth, Neb., April 17, 1857, locating at Rock Bluff, Cass County, where he resided sixteen years, excepting two that he served in the army.

He was also a member of the Sixth Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Nebraska, which met in Omaha in December of 1859.

When the Civil War broke out, Dr. Latta enlisted as a private in the 2nd Nebraska Cavalry, and was commissioned Assistant Surgeon for the Second Nebraska Cavalry Regiment . He was chief surgeon over all the territory from Brownville, Nebraska north through the Dakotas. In 1862 he established the first military hospital at Omaha, and in 1863 went into active field service.  He was mustered out in 1864.

The unit was initially organized at Omaha, Nebraska on October 23, 1862 as a nine-month regiment, and served for over one year. They were attached to General Sully’s command, who was in a campaign against Indians in Western Nebraska and Dakota, who were forced to move south from Minnesota following the Dakota War of 1862.

The 2nd Nebraska participated in the Battle of Whitestone Hill,   (Dakota Territory
Present-day Dickey County, North Dakota)  which began on September 3, 1863 when General Sully’s troops engaged upwards of 2,000 warriors under Chief Two Bears of the Yanktonai Sioux. Of the 20 US troops killed in the battle, seven were from the Second Nebraska.  Fourteen from the unit were also wounded in the action. The regiment was mustered out December 23, 1863. A number of its veterans were re-enlisted in the 1st Battalion Nebraska Veteran Volunteer Cavalry, which served until 1865 when it was merged with the 1st Nebraska Cavalry Regiment.

Operations Against the Sioux in North Dakota

The Battle of Whitestone Hill was the culmination of operations against the Sioux Indians in Dakota Territory in 1863. Brigadier General Alfred Sully attacked a village September 3–5, 1863. The Indians in the village included Yanktonai, Santee, and Teton (Lakota) Sioux. Sully killed, wounded, or captured 300 to 400 Sioux, including women and children, at a cost of about 60 casualties.

William Story Latta was a regimental army surgeon at the Battle of White Stone Hill

On the day of the battle, Sully arrived about 6 p.m. on the ridge overlooking the large, much dispersed Indian encampment. He estimated that only 600 to 700 of his men were present. He saw the Sioux packing up their tipis and departing and concluded that the Indians were more inclined to flee than fight. Sully’s objective was to “corral” the Indians and he deployed his force to cut off their escape routes and to advance on the village. He sent Colonel Wilson and the 6th Iowa to his right flank and Colonel Furnas and the 2nd Nebraska to his left to occupy several ravines which offered the Sioux an opportunity to conceal themselves from the soldiers and escape. Covered on both flanks, Sully with three companies and artillery advanced into the encampment without serious opposition. Two chiefs, Little Head and Big Head, and about 150 of their followers surrendered. Because of the close quarters and chaotic nature of the battlefield, Sully was unable to use his artillery.

Many of the Sioux were caught between the Sixth Iowa and the Second Nebraska, with the Iowa soldiers advancing on foot and pushing the Sioux into the arms of the Nebraskans who exchanged fire with the Indians at a range of only 60 yards. With darkness approaching, however, Colonel Wilson of the Sixth Iowa ordered an ill-advised mounted charge with one battalion. However, in his haste he failed to order some of his men to load their weapons and heavy fire from the Sioux caused the cavalry horses to bolt and the charge to break down. The battalion fell back and took up defensive positions on foot.

On the left, Colonel Furnas also withdrew his Nebraskans to a defensive position, fearing friendly fire and losing control of his soldiers in the increasing darkness. The soldiers spent a harrowing night, “the Indians pillaged the battlefield and scalped the dead soldiers; squaws were screaming and wailing” and a wounded soldier screamed for help but the soldiers thought he was a decoy to lure them out of their defenses. They found him next morning, still alive but dying from lacerations inflicted by the Indians.   The Sioux escaped in the darkness.

The next morning the camp was empty of Indians except for the dead and a few lost children and women. Sully sent out patrols to attempt to locate the fleeing Sioux but they found few Indians. Sully ordered all the Indian property abandoned in the camp to be burned. This included 300 tipis and 400,000 to 500,000 pounds of dried buffalo meat, the winter supplies of the Indians and the product of 1,000 butchered buffalo

Union casualties were approximately 22 killed and 38 wounded. Some probably resulted from friendly fire. No reliable estimates of Sioux killed and wounded are available, with estimates ranging from 100 to 300, including women and children. Captured Sioux totaled 156, including 32 adult males. Indian sources often call Whitestone Hill a “massacre” with Sully attacking a “peaceful camp” and killing a large number of women and children. One of Sully’s interpreters, Samuel J. Brown, a mixed-blood Sioux, said “it was a perfect massacre” and “lamentable to hear how those women and children was massacred.” The contrary view is that Sully had a “long demonstrated concern for the Indians and a spotless record of honor and integrity.” The substantial casualties of the soldiers demonstrate, in the opinion of some historians, that Whitestone Hill was a battle, not a massacre.

Due to the poor condition of his horses and mules and his lack of supplies, Sully was unable to pursue the Sioux. About 600 Sioux, mostly Santee, took refuge in Canada after the battle. They were followed by 3,000 more in 1864. Minnesota expelled all Sioux, including those who had not participated in the Dakota War of 1862 and, also, expelled the friendly Winnebago. The State confiscated and sold all Sioux land in the state. Soon, only 25 Santee, steadfast friends of the whites, were allowed to live in the state.

After mustering out with the 2nd Nebraska in December 1864, William Story Lattta returned to his practice at Rock Bluff, where he remained for sixteen years. There he acquired an excellent reputation, and performed many major operations.

William L LATTA’s  grandson Judge Samuel Nichols Latta (1818 in Lattasville, Ohio – 1880 – Leavenworth,, Kansas) was a leader during the Bleeding Kansas series of violent political confrontations involving anti-slavery Free-Staters and pro-slavery “Border Ruffian” elements, that took place in the Kansas Territory and the neighboring towns of Missouri between 1854 and 1861  During the summer of 1855, he was recognized as a leader of the Free State party, and, in the fall of that year, was elected a member of the convention which framed the Topeka constitution.

After the success, of the Free State and Republican party, in 1860, Abraham Lincoln, recognizing the services of Judge Latta in behalf of freedom, appointed  him agent of the Indians of the Upper Missouri, in which capacity he had charge of the seven tribes of Sioux Indians, the Arickarows, Mandans, Growvouts,  Assinibones and Crows, extending up the Missouri river from Fort Randall, Dakota, to near Fort Benton, Montana, holding the office from 1861 till  the fall of 1866.

Joseph COLEMAN’s grandson-in-law Leonard Mooers (1818  Maine –  1890 in Minnesota) enlisted in Company D, Minnesota 10th Infantry Regiment on 21 Aug 1862. Company D, Captain W.W. Phelps; Company D, under Captain Phelps was stationed at Henderson MN.  Mustered out on 21 Mar 1865 at Keokuk, IA.

The 10th Minnesota  had troops dispatched to the Dakota War front as soon as Companies were formed.

Two years later, the 10th Minnesota’s charge up the slope and capture of Shy’s Hill was a turning point in the  Battle of Nashville Dec 15-16 1864   It was one of the largest victories achieved by the Union Army during the war, representing the end of large-scale fighting in the Western Theater of the Civil War and  largely destroying Hood’s army as an effective fighting force.


In early December, 303 Sioux prisoners were convicted of murder and rape by military tribunals and sentenced to death.   Some trials lasted less than 5 minutes. No one explained the proceedings to the defendants, nor were the Sioux represented by a defense in court. President Abraham Lincoln personally reviewed the trial records to distinguish between those who had engaged in warfare against the U.S., versus those who had committed crimes of rape and murder against civilians.

Henry Whipple, the Episcopal bishop of Minnesota and a reformer of U.S. policies toward Native Americans, first wrote an open letter and then went to Washington DC in the Fall of 1862 to urge Lincoln to proceed with leniency.  On the other hand, General Pope and Minnesota Senator Morton S. Wilkinson told him that leniency would not be received well by the white population. Governor Ramsey warned Lincoln that, unless all 303 Sioux were executed, “[P]rivate revenge would on all this border take the place of official judgment on these Indians.” In the end, Lincoln commuted the death sentences of 264 prisoners, but he allowed the execution of 39 men.

Lincoln wrote to state leaders that he was “anxious to not act with so much clemency as to encourage another outbreak … nor with so much severity as to be real cruelty.”

This clemency resulted in protests from Minnesota, which persisted until the Secretary of the Interior offered white Minnesotans “reasonable compensation for the depredations committed.” Republicans did not fare as well in Minnesota in the 1864 election as they had before. Ramsey (by then a senator) informed Lincoln that more hangings would have resulted in a larger electoral majority. The President reportedly  replied “I could not afford to hang men for votes.”


The lithograph below was printed on the 20th anniversary of the execution, in 1883; newspaperman John C. Wise, who founded several papers in Mankato, claimed the copyright. It’s unclear how this image would have been distributed, but it seems fair to assume that Wise would have sold copies for wall display in Mankato.

The subject of the scene is less the execution itself and more the orderliness of the troops and citizen onlookers ranged around the execution platform. Before the execution, the governor of Minnesota had to beg his people to forswear vigilante justice against the prisoners; the arrangement of the scene served as proof that this entreaty worked.

Several witnesses mentioned that the Sioux held hands as they were executed. If you zoom into the lithograph, you can see that this detail didn’t make it into the visual record; the figures stand, arms stiffly held at their sides.

The mass execution was performed publicly on a single scaffold platform. After regimental surgeons pronounced the prisoners dead, they were burieden masse in a trench in the sand of the riverbank. Before they were buried, an unknown person nicknamed “Dr. Sheardown” possibly removed some of the prisoners’ skin,   Small boxes purportedly containing the skin later were sold in Mankato.

At least two Sioux leaders, Little Six and Medicine Bottle, escaped to Canada. They were captured, drugged and returned to the United States. They were hanged at Fort Snelling in 1865


The remaining convicted Indians stayed in prison that winter. The following spring they were transferred to Camp McClellan in Davenport, Iowa, where they were held in prison for almost four years. By the time of their release, one third of the prisoners had died of disease. The survivors were sent with their families to Nebraska. Their families had already been expelled from Minnesota.

1864 Little Crow’s wife and two children at Fort Snelling prison compound.

During this time, more than 1600 Dakota women, children and old men were held in an internment camp on Pike Island, near Fort Snelling, Minnesota. Living conditions and sanitation were poor, and infectious disease struck the camp, killing more than three hundred.

1862  Dakota Internment camp at Pike Island on the Minnesota River below Fort Snelling, Minnesota Photographer: Benjamin Franklin Upton (1818-)

In April 1863 the U.S. Congress abolished the reservation, declared all previous treaties with the Dakota null and void, and undertook proceedings to expel the Dakota people entirely from Minnesota. To this end, a bounty of $25 per scalp was placed on any Dakota found free within the boundaries of the state.  The only exception to this legislation applied to 208 Mdewakanton, who remained neutral or assisted white settlers in the conflict.

In May 1863 Dakota survivors were forced aboard steamboats and relocated to the Crow Creek Reservation, in the southeastern Dakota Territory, a place stricken by drought at the time. Many of the survivors of Crow Creek moved three years later to the Niobrara Reservation in Nebraska.

After suffering a long internment at Fort Snelling, the Dakota and Winnebago peoples were forcefully removed,  precipitating the near destruction of the area’s native communities while simultaneously laying the foundation for what we know and recognize today as Minnesota.

Fort Snelling located at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers as seen from the east shore of the Mississippi River bottom in 1867

An act of Congress banished thousands of Dakota from Minnesota. The law, though now unobserved, remains on the books.


Because of high demand for cadavers for anatomical study, several doctors wanted to obtain the bodies after the execution. The mass grave was reopened in the night and the bodies were distributed among the doctors, a practice common in the era. The doctor who received the body of Mahpiya Okinajin (He Who Stands in Clouds), also known as “Cut Nose”, was William Worrall Mayo.

Mayo brought the body of Mahpiya Okinajin to Le Sueur, Minnesota, where he dissected it in the presence of medical colleagues.  Afterward, he had the skeleton cleaned, dried and varnished. Mayo kept it in an iron kettle in his home office. His sons received their first lessons in osteology from this skeleton.  In the late 20th century, the identifiable remains of Mahpiya Okinajin and other Native Americans were returned by the Mayo Clinic to a Dakota tribe for reburial per the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

By the late 1920s, the conflict began to pass into the realm of oral tradition in Minnesota. Eyewitness accounts were communicated first-hand to individuals who survived into the 1970s and early 1980s. The stories of innocent individuals and families of struggling pioneer farmers being killed by Dakota have remained in the consciousness of the prairie communities of south central Minnesota.

Little Crow’s skull and scalp were put on display in St. Paul, Minnesota. The city held the trophies until 1971, when it returned the remains to Little Crow’s grandson.

In 1972, the City of Mankato  removed a plaque that had commemorated the mass execution of the thirty-eight Dakota from the site where the hanging occurred. In 1992, the City purchased the site and created Reconciliation Park.   There is purposely no mention of the execution, but several stone statues in and around the park serve as a memorial. The annual Mankato Pow-wow, held in September, commemorates the lives of the executed men, but also seeks to reconcile the European American and Dakota communities. The Birch Coulee Pow-wow, held on Labor Day weekend, honors the lives of those who were hanged.

Among the 38 hung was a man named Chaska, who experts now agree was mistakenly executed. The noose used to hang him is the one in the historical society’s archives.

A doctor’s wife, Sarah Wakefield, had testified that Chaska protected her and her children when they were taken captive. But Chaska wound up on the gallows anyway. A soldier named J.K. Arnold stole the noose right after the hanging and hid it for seven years, according to his letter in the archives, violating orders to ship all the nooses to Washington.

The Chaska noose is now in the  Minnesota Historical Society’s collection which makes some angry.

The history center invited Dakota and settlers’ descendants to join separate panels to respond to plans for the anniversary exhibit and events. They showed the groups the noose and other items this month, but refused a Star Tribune request to photograph or see it. They did not  include it when the 1862 exhibit opened last summer.

“Partly out of sensitivity to the Dakota people, we feel strongly that the noose would tend to overwhelm the whole story and it would just become the noose exhibit,” said a spokesman for the historical society. “It would detract from what we really want people to understand, which is this whole chain of events that leads to this war, and if there’s culpability people can see it.”

Republican state Rep. Dean Urdahl has introduced resolutions to pardon Chaska and to urge Congress to repeal the Dakota Exclusion Act. Even those efforts have aroused controversy.

Some Dakota oppose the pardon as an attempt to “assuage white guilt” by clearing a Dakota who helped a white woman instead of the other 37 hanged warriors, who they say  were patriotic Minnesotans protecting their homeland from intruders.

Find Out More

This American Life “Little War on the Prairie Broadcast Nov 23, 2012

North Country: The Making of Minnesota by Mary Lethert Wingerd 2010

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Francis Brown & the Dartmouth College Case

Our ancestor Francis BROWN’s (1716 – ) namesake grandson Francis Brown played a pivotal role in a  landmark decision from the United States Supreme Court dealing with the application of the Contract Clause of the Constitution to private corporations.  He won the case, but the strain of the high stakes fight led to his early death.

Brown was removed from his presidency at the College as part of the actions that resulted in the Dartmouth College case, but was reinstated following the 1819 decision in favor of the College.

The statesman and leading Senator Daniel Webster was famous for his eloquence and was the greatest orator of his day.   His speech in support of Dartmouth (which he described as “a small college,” adding, “and yet there are those who love it”) was so moving that it apparently helped convince Chief Justice John Marshall, also reportedly bringing tears to Webster’s eyes.

I’ve included my favorite American history movie scene of all time, in which Daniel Webster bests Satan in a jury trial to save the soul of New Hampshireman Jabez Stone from  The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941).

Francis Brown (1784-1820)

Our branch of the Brown family became New England Planters in New Brunswick (see my post) who immigrated to the wilderness in the 1760’s.  Many of the cousins who stayed behind became illustrious members of northern New England Society in Newbury, Mass. Maine and New Hampshire.

Rev. Francis Brown was born 11 Jan 1784 in Chester, NH,,  He married 11 Feb 1811 to Elizabeth Gilman daughter of Rev. Tristram Gilman of Yarmouth, Maine, a lady of fine intellectual powers and devoted Christian character. Francis died 27 Jul 1820);

Francis (wiki) served as the president of Dartmouth College from September, 1815 to July, 1820.

Francis graduated from the College in 1805 and from 1806–1809 held a tutorship there. He also served a pastor in a Congregational church in North Yarmouth, Maine.. Brown was removed from his presidency at the College as part of the actions that resulted in the Dartmouth College case, but was reinstated following the 1819 decision in favor of the College.

A pastor from North Yarmouth, Maine, he presided over Dartmouth College during the famous Supreme Court hearing of Trustees of Dartmouth College v. William H. Woodward or, as it is more commonly called, the Dartmouth College Case.

Dartmouth College Shield

Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 518 (1819), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case dealing with the application of the Contract Clause of the United States Constitution to private corporations. The case arose when the president of Dartmouth College was deposed by its trustees, leading to the New Hampshire legislature attempting to force the college to become a public institution and thereby place the ability to appoint trustees in the hands of the governor. The Supreme Court upheld the sanctity of the original charter of the college, which pre-dated the creation of the State. The decision settled the nature of public versus private charters and resulted in the rise of the American business corporation.

The contest was a pivotal one for Dartmouth and for the newly independent nation. It tested the contract clause of the Constitution and arose from an 1816 controversy involving the legislature of the state of New Hampshire, which amended the 1769 charter granted to Eleazar Wheelock, making Dartmouth a public institution and changing its name to Dartmouth University. Under the leadership of President Brown, the Trustees resisted the effort and the case for Dartmouth was argued by Dartmouth alumnus  Daniel Webster, before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1818.

Daniel Webster Pleads Dartmouth Case –  Displayed in Thayer Dining Hall   Robert Burns painted it in 1962 in acccordance with the will of Col. Henry Nelson Teague 1900

Webster argued the college’s case against William H. Woodward, the state-approved secretary of the new board of trustees. Webster’s speech in support of Dartmouth was so moving that it apparently helped convince Chief Justice John Marshall, also reportedly bringing tears to Webster’s eyes.

Dartmouth College Case Stamp Issued 1969

Webster’s legendary claim, “This, sir, is my case! It is the case not merely of that humble institution; it is the case of every college in our land! … [I]t is, sir, as I have said, a small college, and yet there are those who love it,” earned him a national reputation and Dartmouth a clear victory.

The Dartmouth case helped establish Daniel Webster’s reputation for eloquence and persuasiveness.   A scene from the classic movie, The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), based upon the short story by Stephen Vincent Benet, in which Daniel Webster bests Satan in a jury trial to save the soul of New Hampshireman Jabez Stone.   In this scene Daniel Webster addresses a jury of the damned, all villains of American history.  Tellingly, Jabez was also accused of breach of contract, though of the Faustian kind.  I have always thought this speech one of the most eloquent statements of what it means to be an American.  Go here to read the passage in the Stephen Vincet Benet’s short story.

The jury of the damned in the film is slightly altered from the original, as revealed in the following dialogue:

Scratch: Captain Kidd, he killed men for gold. Simon Girty, the renegade; he burned men for gold. Governor Dale, he broke men on the wheel. Asa, the Black Monk, he choked them to death. Floyd Ireson and Stede Bonnet, the fiendish butchers. Walter Butler, the king of the massacre. Big and Little Harp, robbers and murderers. Teach, the cutthroat. Morton, the vicious lawyer. And General Benedict Arnold, you remember him, no doubt.
Webster: A jury of the damned.
Scratch: Dastards, liars, traitors, knaves.
Webster: This is monstrous.
Scratch: You asked for a jury trial, Mr Webster. Your suggestion – the quick or the dead.
Webster: I asked for a fair trial.
Scratch: Americans all.

In the original story, Webster regrets Benedict Arnold’s absence, but in the film, he is present and Webster objects, citing him as a traitor and therefore not a true American. His objection is dismissed by the judge.

Chief Justice John Marshall wrote the historic decision in favor of Dartmouth College, thereby paving the way for all American private institutions to conduct their affairs in accordance with their charters and without interference from the state. In a letter following the proceedings, Justice Joseph Story explained “the vital importance to the well-being of society and the security of private rights of the principles on which the decision rested. Unless I am very much mistaken, these principles will be found to apply with an extensive reach to all the great concerns of the people and will check any undue encroachments on civil rights which the passions or the popular doctrines of the day may stimulate our State Legislatures to adopt.”

It was not a popular decision at the time, and a public outcry ensued. Thomas Jefferson’s earlier commiseration with New Hampshire Governor William Plumer stated essentially that the earth belongs to the living. Popular opinion influenced some state courts and legislatures to declare that state governments had an absolute right to amend or repeal a corporate charter. The courts, however, have imposed limitations to this.

After the Dartmouth decision, many states wanted more control so they passed laws or constitutional amendments giving themselves the general right to alter or revoke at will, which the courts found to be a valid reservation. The courts have established, however, that the alteration or revocation of private charters or laws authorizing private charters must be reasonable and cannot cause harm to the members (founders, stockholders, and the like).

The traditional view holds that this case is one of the most important Supreme Court rulings, strengthening the Contract Clause  and limiting the power of the States to interfere with private charters, including those of commercial enterprises.

While the outcome was a tremendous victory for Dartmouth, the turmoil of the four-year legal battle left the College in perilous financial condition and took its toll on the health of President Brown. His condition steadily deteriorating, the Trustees made provisions, in 1819, for “the senior professors…to perform all the public duties pertaining to the Office of President of the College” in the event of his disability. Francis Brown died in July 1820 at the age of 36.

Francis Brown Monument – Burial: Dartmouth College Cemetery, Hanover, New Hampshire,

Francis’ Curriculum Vitae

Installed as pastor of the Congregational Church, North Yarmouth, ME, Jan 11, 1810; elected Professor of Languages in Dartmouth College the same year, but declined; married Feb 4, 1811; elected President of Dartmouth College in August, 1815, and inaugurated Sep 27, 1815; he died at Hanover, NH, Jul 27, 1820. The Presidency of Hamilton College was offered him under date of Mar 17, 1817, but declined, May 28th. He received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from both Hamilton and Williams Colleges in 1819. For contributions to the literature of his profession he had little time or strength. Several of his addresses and sermons were published, viz.: Address on Music, delivered before the Handel Society of Dartmouth College, 1809; The Faithful Steward; Sermon at the Ordination of Allen Greeley, 1810; Sermon on the Occasion of the State Fast, 1812; Sermon before the Maine Missionary Society, 1814; Sermon at the Ordination of Jonathan Greenleaf, at Wells, Me., 1815; Calvin and Calvinism, 1815; Reply to the Rev. Martin Ruter’s Letter Relating to Calvin and Calvinism, 1815; Sermon before the Convention of Congregational and Presbyterian Ministers of New Hampshire, Concord, N. H., 1818.


Francis’ son and grandson were “wikipedia famous” in their on right.

Francis’ son Samuel Gilman Brown (1813–1885) was an American educator. He was born in North Yarmouth, Maine, and graduated at Dartmouth in 1831 and at Andover Theological Seminary in 1837; was professor of oratory and belles-lettres in Dartmouth from 1840 to 1863, and held the chair of intellectual philosophy and political economy from 1863 to 1867. From 1867 to 1881 he was president of Hamilton College. Among his published works are Biographies of Self-Taught Men (1847) and an excellent and authoritative Life of Rufus Choate [American lawyer, Senator  and orator]  (two volumes, 1862).

Samue Gilman Brown (1813–1885) Bowdoin College faculty

Francis’ grandson Rev. Francis Brown (Theologian) ( 1849 – 1916) was a Semitic scholar

The younger Francis graduated from Dartmouth in 1870 and from the Union Theological Seminary in 1877, and then studied in Berlin. In 1879 he became instructor in biblical philology at the Union Theological Seminary, in 1881 an associate professor of the same subject, and in 1890 Davenport Professor of Hebrew and the cognate Languages.

Dr. Brown’s published works won him honorary degrees from the universities of Glasgow and Oxford, as well as from Dartmouth and Yale; they are, with the exception of The Christian Point of View (1902; with Profs. A.C. McGiffert and G.W. Knox), almost purely linguistic and lexical, and include Assyriology: its Use and Abuse in Old Testament Study(1885), and the important revision of Wilhelm Hendrik Gesenius, undertaken with S.R. Driver and C.A. Briggs — Brown Driver Briggs,   He also contributed to the Encyclopaedia Biblica

Francis’ crowning acheivement Brown Driver Briggs is still in print today

Brown Driver BriggsA Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (1891–1905). or BDB (from the name of its three authors) is a standard reference for Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic, first published in 1906. It is organized by (Hebrew) alphabetical order of three letter roots. It was based on the Hebrew-German lexicon of Wilhelm Gesenius, translated by Edward Robinson. The chief editor was Francis Brown, with the co-operation of Samuel Rolles Driver and Charles Augustus Briggs, hence the name Brown–Driver–Briggs. Some modern printings have added the Strong’s reference numbers for Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic words





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Battle of Hampden and the Castine Fund

Francis BROWN II‘s (1716 – ) son-in-law Josiah Hooke (b. 21 Oct 1774 in Salisbury, Essex, Mass.  – d. 18 Mar 1827 Castine Cemetery, Castine, Maine) Josiah served for 35 years as collector of the port of Castine, Maine on the mouth of the Penobscot Riber and was in charge of procurements for the fort there.  In those days, the position was appointed by the President and approved by the Senate.

Castine Map

In the War of 1812, the British captured the village of Castine in September 1814 and occupied it  for the rest of the war. The Treaty of Ghent returned this territory to the United States.  When the British left in April 1815,   they took 10,750 pounds obtained from tariff duties at Castine. This money, called the “Castine Fund”, was used  to create a military library in Halifax and  establish  Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Castine Detail Map

The Battle of Hampden, though a minor action of the War of 1812, was the last significant clash of arms in New England.  Sir John Coape Sherbrooke, led a British fleet out of Nova Scotia and defeated the New Englanders, naming the district “New Ireland” and occupying it for eight months.

Sir John Coape Sherbrooke (1764-1830) lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia, was the overall British commander at the Battle of Hampden,

The subsequent retirement of the British expeditionary force from its base in Castine, Maine back to Nova Scotia ensured that eastern Maine would remain a part of the United States. Lingering local feelings of vulnerability, however, would help fuel the post-war movement for Maine statehood (Maine was part of Massachusetts until 1820). The withdrawal of the British eight months later represented the end of two centuries of violent contest over Maine by rival nations (initially the French and British, and then the British and Americans).

 Capture of Castine

On August 26, 1814, a British squadron from the Royal Navy base at Halifax, Nova Scotia moved to capture the Down East coastal town of Machias, Maine. The force consisted of four warships, HMS Dragon, 74 [guns], HMS Endymion, 50, HMS Bachante, 38, HM Sloop Sylph, 18, a large tender, and ten transports carrying some 3,000 British regulars (elements of the 29th, 60th, 62nd, and 98th regiments and a company of Royal Artillery). Under the overall command of Sir John Coape Sherbrooke, then lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia, Major General Gerard Gosselin commanded the army and Rear Admiral Edward Griffith Colpoys controlled the naval elements.

The intention of the expedition was clearly to re-establish British title to Maine east of the Penobscot River, an area the British had renamed “New Ireland“, and open the line of communications between Halifax and Quebec. Carving off “New Ireland” from New England had been a goal of the British government and the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia (“New Scotland”) since the American Revolution.  En route, the squadron fell in with HM Sloop Rifleman, 18, and learned the USS Adams, 28, Captain Charles Morris was up the Penobscot River undergoing repairs at Hampden. Sherbrooke changed his plan and headed for Castine at the mouth of the Penobscot.

Commodore Charles Morris (1784-1856) by Southworth & Hawes, circa 1850

He rendezvoused off Matinicus Island and added HMS Bulwark, 74, HMS Tenedos, 38, HMS Peruvian, 18, and HM Schooner Pictou. The formidable force entered the cove at Castine on September 1. The local militia melted away at the awesome sight and a 28-man U.S. Army contingent under Lieutenant Andrew Lewis spiked their four 24-pounders, blew the magazine, and withdrew to the north trailing a pair of field pieces.

As the first order of business, Sherbrooke and Griffith issued a proclamation assuring the populace if they remained quiet, pursued their usual affairs, and surrendered all weaponry, they would be protected as British subjects. Moreover, the British would pay fair prices for all goods and services provided. Next, Gosselin crossed the bay with most of the 29th to occupy Belfast, Maine and protect the left flank of the major operation to follow. Locals did not challenge the occupation, although some 1,200 militiamen gathered three miles outside of Belfast to await developments.

Battle of Hampden

Griffith assigned RN Captain Robert Barrie the task of going after the “Adams.” Barrie proceeded up the Penobscot with the DragonSylphPeruvian, the transport Harmony, and a prize-tender. The ships carried an armed contingent of some 750 men drawn from the four participating regiments, the artillery company, and Royal Marines. During the war, Barrie was one of the few British officers in America to acquire a loathsome reputation. He was about to reenforce this distinction.

Sir Robert Barrie (1774-1841)

When Morris entered the river late in August he moved past Buckstown (now Bucksport, Maine) and anchored at the mouth of the Sowadabscook Stream in Hampden, Maine on the west bank of the Penobscot some 30 miles inland. Anticipating an attack, he placed nine of the ship’s guns in battery on a nearby hill and fourteen on the wharf next to his crippled ship. Morris, commanding a crew of 150, called for help from Brigadier General John Blake, commander of the Eastern Militia at Brewer, Maine. Blake responded with some 550 militiamen and formed the center of a defensive line running along a ridge facing south, or towards Castine.   Lieutenant Lewis showed up with his two dozen or so regulars and two field pieces. Adding a carronade, he went in line to the right or west and commanded the north-south road, the expected route of British attackers.

Late on September 2, Barrie landed his force at Bald Head Cove three miles below Hampden and waited for morning. Early on the third, in rain and fog, led by Lt. Colonel Henry John, the British moved on Hampden. Skirmishers met with resistance at Pitcher’s Brook, primarily from the guns directed by Lewis. But John sent reinforcements, and the British stormed across the bridge. In short order, the full force was in position to continue against the American defensive line on the hill. The sight of the oncoming disciplined Redcoats, bayonets glistening, rattled the untrained militia. The center broke and fled to the woods toward Bangor, Maine. Morris on the left and Lewis on the right found themselves in untenable positions. About to be overrun, Morris spiked his guns and ignited a train leading to the Adams. With colors flying, the ship blew up before the British could intervene. Lewis likewise spiked his guns and withdrew to the north. Morris and his navy band made it to Bangor, crossed west through rugged country to the Kennebec River, and around September 9 arrived at their base in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. After two weeks, every sailor reported – not a man missing – a source of great satisfaction for Morris. 

At this point, Barrie detailed 200 men to take control of Hampden while he and the balance of his force pursued the Americans in the direction of Bangor. Eighty prominent men of the Hampden area spent a night as prisoners. Most were paroled the next day.

Sacking of Bangor and Hampden

Supported by three of his ships, Barrie entered an intimidated Bangor at midday. He called for unconditional submission. Provisions and quarters were demanded and readily turned over “since the commodore, who was a churlish, brutish monster,” according to a correspondent, “threatened to let loose his men and burn the town if the inhabitants did not use greater exertion to feed his men.”  Although Barrie ordered a ban on liquor for his troops, some men managed to acquire brandy by the bucket. Accordingly, Barrie ordered an officer to destroy all liquor in the town. This set off a wave of plundering. Six stores fell to the mob and $6,000 worth of property was damaged. Many citizens fled to the woods.  “We are alive this morning,” wrote a newspaper correspondent, “but such scenes I hope not to witness again. The enemy’s Soldiery … have emptied all the stores and many dwelling houses – they break windows, and crockery, and destroy every-thing they cannot move.”

During the night of the third, the British burned 14 vessels across the river in Brewer, Maine. Before the raiders could ignite Bangor vessels, the town’s selectmen made a deal. Fearful burning would lead to a conflagration, the selectmen offered Barrie a $30,000 bond and agreed to complete four ships on the stocks and deliver them to him in Castine. Barrie accepted the arrangement and carried away a packet, four schooners, and a boat. Before moving back down the river on the 4th, Barrie and John paroled 191 locals considered prisoners, including General Blake. Bangor selectmen estimated losses and damages totaled $45,000.

By no means did the Bangor diversion end the difficulties for Hampden. Barrie decided to spend more time in the town. Redcoats terrorized the village, killing livestock for sport and destroying whatever met their fancy, including gardens, furniture, books and papers. Two vessels off the town were burned. The rampage prompted a town committee to appeal to Barrie to treat the place with a little humanity. His shocking reply summarized his approach.

“Humanity! I have none for you. My business is to burn, sink, and destroy. Your town is taken by storm. By the rules of war we ought to lay your village in ashes, and put its inhabitants to the sword. But I will spare your lives, though I mean to burn your houses.”

Barrie did not follow through on his threat to burn houses, but he did secure a $14,000 bond on several incomplete vessels on the stocks in town. The terms required the completed vessels be delivered to the Royal Navy in Castine by November 1. In the end, the town estimated the value of its losses to total $44,000. The British slipped down to Frankfort, Maine and demanded considerable livestock and surrender of all arms and ammunition at that place. The locals were slow to comply, and before he moved along on the 7th, Barrie promised to return and make the town pay for its delays. The captain did not make good on this threat, and except for some nuisance sniping at the British as they passed Prospect, Maine, the Battle of Hampden was at an end.


Sherbrooke declared “New Ireland” (Eastern Maine) a province of British North America (Canada) and left Gen. Gosselin in Castine to govern it. For the next 8 months (from the fall of 1814 to the spring of 1815) the Penobscot River was essentially an international boundary. That Hampden and Bangor were on the wrong (American) side might have contributed to their rough treatment,

With the signing of the Treaty of Ghent in Dec. 1814, however, the British claim to Maine was effectively surrendered. The British were forced to evacuate Castine on April 25, 1815, and the pre-war boundary was restored. The final boundary between the inland, wooded portion of Maine and Canada would remain open to dispute until the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842.

Political Aftermath

Local memory of this humiliation contributed to subsequent anti-British feeling in Eastern Maine, which would find outlet again in the Aroostook War of 1838-1839. It would also contribute to the post-war movement for Maine’s statehood (given that Massachusetts had failed to protect the region) and to the building of a large, expensive granite fort (Ft. Knox) at the mouth of the Penobscot River starting in the 1840s.

Fort Knox Maine by Seth Eastman 1870– built from 1844-1869. It is located on the western bank of the Penobscot River in the town of Prospect, Maine, about 5 miles from the mouth of the river. It was the first fort in Maine built of granite (instead of wood).

Gen. Blake and two other officers, Lt. Col. Andrew Grant of Hampden and Maj. Joshua Chamberlain of Brewer, grandfather of the later Civil War general, were court-martialed in Bangor in 1816 for their part in the defeat. Blake and Chamberlain were both exonerated, but Grant was cashiered.

(The elderly Blake was court-martialed first and cleared of charges. He in turn brought charges against his two subordinates in perhaps a move to clear his name. Grant was found guilty of actions unbecoming an officer before the enemy and banned from being re-elected as a militia officer. One report claims he ran from battle and changed out of his uniform into civilian clothes before eventually being captured and identified.)

Castine Fund

The British left in April 1815, at which time they took 10,750 pounds obtained from tariff duties at Castine. This money, called the “Castine Fund”, was used  to create a military library in Halifax and  establish  Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Cambridge Military Library Rebuilt in 1886

In the far corner of the Royal Artillery Park in Halifax, a diminutive red brick building, is the Cambridge Military Library. This building was the social and literary centre of military Halifax. The Library opened in 1817 at Grafton Street, as an alternative to the more notorious choices of city entertainment. It moved to its present location in Royal Artillery Park in 1886 and was renamed Cambridge Military Library in 1902. The library was funded in part from Customs receipts gathered during the War of 1812 at the Battle of Hampden.

Dalhousie University Halifax, Nova Scotia

Dalhousie is a coeducational university, with more than 18,000 students. Their varsity teams, known as the Tigers, compete in the  Atlantic University Sport conference of Canadian Interuniversity Sport.

Dalhousie was founded as a result of the desires of , George Ramsay, 9th Earl of Dalhousie, the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, to establish a non-denominational college in Halifax. The financing of the college had largely come from customs duties collected by John Coape Sherbrooke, Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia during the occupation of Castine, Maine during the War of 1812, who invested  £7000 as the initial endowment and reserved  £3000 for the physical construction of the college.   The school was established in 1818, structured after the University of Edinburgh, which was located near Ramsay’s home in Scotland.  The college was allowed to falter however after Ramsay left Halifax shortly after its establishment to serve as the Governor General of British North America.  In 1863, the college reopened for its third time and was reorganized by another legislative act, which also added the word university into the school’s name, changed to “The Governors of Dalhousie College and University.

Dalhousie University

With his 35 year career, Josiah Hooke must have been the Customs Officer both before and after the war,

Josiah Hooke Customs Officer – Source: Annals of the United States 1824 Vol. 5

Josiah Hook Customs Collector, Catine, Maine. Josiah’s brother Benjamin Hook (1783 – 1862 ) was Deputy Collector and Clerk.  The figures were dollars and cents.

Castine After the War

With the growth of the postwar economy, the town became a prosperous place: the seat of Hancock County and a center for shipbuilding and coastal trading. By the 1820s, it had become a major entrepot for American fishing fleets on their way to the Grand Banks. It also prospered from the lumber industry, in which eastern Maine dominated the rest of the country before the Civil War.

121 ships, many owned and commanded by local people, were launched from Castine shipyards. Local ropewalks, sail lofts and ship chandlers provided all necessary goods and services for maritime trade that was carried on primarily with the West Indies and England. A salt depository supplied the Grand Banks fishing fleets. At times, hundreds of ships were anchored in Castine Harbor.

Castine Maine

During this period of growth and prosperity, many of the handsome Federal and Greek Revival style mansions that still grace the village’s streets were constructed.

Castine from Fort George, 1856, by Fitz Henry Lane

But Castine declined after the Civil War. Its fleet, which once sailed the globe, now carried coal, firewood, and lime to coastal ports, competing with railroads and steamships. Ambitious young people sought their fortunes elsewhere. The Hancock County seat moved to Ellsworth in 1838

Castine Downtown Today

By the 1870s, however, Castine’s quaint old architecture and cool summer air attracted “rusticators” — well-to-do urban families seeking rest and recreation. Its charms also drew cultural luminaries, including Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, whose writings romanticized its past. By the 1890s, wealthy families from Boston, Hartford and Chicago were buying up old farms and sea captains’ houses. Hotels and inns opened as Castine became a flourishing summer colony.  In 1897 a golf course was added to Castine’s summer attractions, designed by the well-known Scottish course designer Willie Parks, Jr.

But in the 1930s, Castine reached its economic nadir. The Great Depression  and the automobile had killed off the hotel trade, the steamship lines that had linked coastal towns and islands, and the local fishing industry. Its fortunes did not revive until the 1960s, with the rediscovery of the town’s charms by a new generation of summer people.

The population was 1,343 at the 2000 census. Castine is the home of Maine Maritime Academy, a four-year institution that graduates officers and engineers for theUnited States Merchant Marine and marine related industries.

More than 100 historic markers can be found in this town characterized by its 18th century architecture. Major landmarks include Fort George, built by the British in 1779 and partially restored as a state memorial, and Fort Madison, earthwork remnants built by the Americans in 1811, occupied by the British during the War of 1812 and reconstructed during the American Civil War.

Posted in History, Storied | 1 Comment

Samuel Colman – Hudson River School

A 2nd Cousin is a bit more of a distant relative than I usually feature, but the Hudson River School is one of my favorite genres and I wanted a page to highlight a few of his paintings.

Samuel Colman was one of the leading artists of the Hudson River School’s second generation, creating luminous landscapes of near and distant lands.

Storm King on the Hudson (1866) is one of Colman’s best known works and one of the iconic images of Hudson River School now in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC.

Samuel Colman  (wiki) was born 4 Mar 1832 in Portland, Maine.  Although our Coleman ancestors spelled their name with an “e,” his family spelled the name “Colman.  His parents were Samuel Colman (1799-1865) and Tamelia “Pamela” Chandler (1799 – 1865). His grandparents were Dr. Samuel Colman (1759  – 1810) and Susan Atkins (1762-1827). His great grandparents were our ancestors Deacon Benjamin COLEMAN (1720 – 1797) and Ann BROWN (1724- 1776).  He married 1863 Newport, Rhode Island to Ann Lawrence Dunham (b. 6 Nov 1832 in Manhattan, New York City). Samuel died 26 Mar 1920 in Portland, Cumberland, Maine.

Samuel’s second cousin (also Benjamin’s great grandson) was our ancestor Dudley COLEMAN (1805 – 1865)

Samuel’s father moved his family from Portland, Maine to Greenwich Village, New York City and opened a fine-arts bookstore on Broadway, attracting a literate clientele that may have influenced his son Samuel’s artistic development.  At the age of eighteen, Colman trained under Asher B. Durand; he began exhibiting at the National Academy of Design that same year.

In the 1850 census, Samuel Colman Sr. (1799 – 1865) was a Book Dealer in Ward 15 Western half, New York City. His son Samuel Jr. age 18 was already listed as an Artist.

In the 1850 census, the Colman family lived in the Western Half of Ward 15. Here is a 1852 map.

Samuel went abroad in 1860, studying in Paris and Spain ; was made a member of the National Academy in 1864 ; president of the American Water Color Society in 1866 : resigned in 1872 and went abroad spending some years in the principal cities of Europe.

Samuel Colman Jr. (1832-1920)

He is believed to have studied briefly under the Hudson River school painter Asher Durand, and he exhibited his first work at the National Academy of Design in 1850.  By 1854 he had opened his own New York City studio.   The following year he was elected an associate member of the National Academy, with full membership bestowed in 1862.

Near Cro’s Nest on the Hudson, NY by Samuel Colman Oil on academy board

Colman spent the summer of 1856 in Jackson, NH, sharing a studio with his brother-in-law, Aaron Draper Shattuck.  The Crayon of that year noted: “Mr. Colman has made wide advances on all his previous studies … He has a study of Mote [sic] Mountain and the Ledges at North Conway, with a wheat-field in the foreground.”

In addition to his exhibits at the  National Academy of Design, he was also a frequent exhibitor at the Boston Athenaeum and the Brooklyn Art Association.

Colman began painting in the pastoral mode of Durand, before a trip abroad in the 1860s unlocked a more instinctive feeling for natural scenery. He soon became one of the most widely-traveled painters of the period, capturing the beauty of the American West, British Columbia, the Gulf of Mexico, Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland, Egypt, Morocco, and Japan. Shifting between oil painting, watercolors, and etchings, Colman developed a fluid, graceful style—emphasizing nature’s quiet harmony over its epic scope.

Looking North from Ossining, New York, Samul Colman 1867 Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, New York

In 1866 he helped found the American Society of Painters in Water Colors and was its first president.  He became interested in etching in 1867 and, in 1877, at the founding of the New York Etching Club, exhibited a number of landscape etchings.

His landscape paintings in the 1850s and 1860s were influenced by the Hudson River school, an example being Meadows and Wildflowers at Conway (1856) now in the collection of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College. He was also able to paint in a romantic style, which had become more fashionable after the Civil War.

Rainbow on the Hudson by Samuel Colman, oil on canvas

In 1867, Henry Tuckerman wrote of Colman, “to the eye of refined taste, to the quite lover of nature, there is a peculiar charm in Colman’s style which, sooner or later, will be greatly appreciated.”  Implicit in Tuckerman’s statement is his observation of a strong individualism in Colman’s style.

Finish—First International Race for America’s Cup, August 8, 1870 Samuel Colman New York Metropolitan Museum — This artwork is currently on display in Gallery 774

Colman was an inveterate traveler, and many of his works depict scenes from foreign cities and ports. He made his first trip abroad to France and Spain in 1860-1861, and returned for a more extensive four-year European tour in the early 1870s in which he spent much time in Mediterranean locales.

The Hill of the Alhambra, Granada 1865 by Samuel Colman New York Metropolitan Musuem of Art – This artwork is currently on display in Gallery 737

He visited Spain and Morocco and painted scenes in a combination of pastel and gauche. Colman often depicted the architectural features he encountered on his travels: cityscapes, castles, bridges, arches, and aqueducts feature prominently in his paintings of foreign scenes.

Solomon’s Temple, Colorado 1888 Samuel Colman Oil on canvas

In 1870 and again in the 1880’s he journeyed to the western United States, painting western landscapes comparable in scope and style to those of Thomas Moran.

Late November in a Santa Barbara Cañon, California – Samuel Colman

In the aftermath of the Civil War, watercolor painting became more popular. In 1866, Colman was one of the founders of the American Watercolor Society, and he became its first president from 1867 to 1871. Colman also became skilled at the medium of etching. He was an early member of the New York Etching Club, and published popular etchings depicting European scenes.

Ruins of a Mosque, Tlemciem, Algeria, Etching by Samuel Colman 1887 National Gallery of Art Washington DC

Colman’s artistic activities became even more diverse late in life. By the 1880s he worked extensively as an interior designer, collaborating with his friend Louis Comfort Tiffany on the design of Samuel Clemens‘ Hartford home, and later on the Fifth Avenue home of Henry and Louisine Havemeyer.  He also became a major collector of decorative Asian objects, and wrote two books on geometry and art:   “Nature’s Harmonic Unity a treatise on its relation to proportional form“1912 and “Proportional Form: Further Studies in the Science of Beauty” 1920

Cover “Nature’s harmonic unity” by Samuel Colman 1912 with 302 illustrations by the author, the mathematical analysis by the editor

For a time he was a member of the Century Association but resigned in 1884.  Colman’s paintings are represented by the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art,  the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Union League Club, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Portland Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection in Madrid.

Samuel Colman Jr. (1832-1920)


Posted in Artistic Representation, Storied, Wikipedia Famous | 1 Comment

Church & State Fighting Antidisestablishmentarianism

Joseph BALCOM’s (1705  – 1787) son Elijah played an interesting role in constitutional history.  Ronald Balkom sent me the story in a PDF image. Tiny, tiny type in all caps. It took skilled touch typing (which I don’t have) to transcribe because one glance away and you lose your place, but it’s in and enhanced with links, pictures and commentary.

The church that Elijah didn’t want to pay for was founded 300 years ago today, November 12, 1712.  Happy 300th  to the First Congregational Church of the Attleboroughs!!

Church and State

This post concentrates on Elijah’s constitutional court case. For his complete story including his minuteman days as a drummer and fifer and his wife and children, see his father’s page.

Elijah Balcom was born 2 Sep 1752 in Attleboro, Bristol, Mass. He married 30 Nov 1786 Attleboro to Marcy Daggett. Elijah died 7 Jan 1796 in Attleboro.

Do you remember learning in elementary school that  Antidisestablishmentarianism  was the longest word in the English language?   I never knew what that word meant. Turns out it was the ideology opposing Elijah in 1781.

Edited from Robert E Bolkom’s of Lakeland Florida Dec 1984 Newsletter — In the night of Dec 17, 1781 Elijah Bolkcom 28 years of age and unmarried was at home with his father Joseph, now 75,  in Attleboro, Mass.  Although Elijah was baptized and raised in the Congregational Church, he changed in May of 1780 to the Baptist Society which was led by Job Simmons.  This church had begun 11 years earlier and were Calvinists in theology and though Elijah attended regularly and supported the church, he did not yet enjoy full membership.

Constable Wilmarth chose this night to place Elijah under arrest for non payment of his religious tax.  On the way to the jail at Taunton, Elijah had second thoughts about leaving he aging father at home alone and agreed to pay the 17 shillings, sixpence and 3 farthings and was released.  [remember 20 shillings to the pound]

Attleboro, like most Massachusetts towns was predominantly Congregationalists and the new state constitution provided for a religious tax on every male inhabitant in order to maintain a “standing church” in each town or parish.  Since Congregationalists were in the majority, the “standing churches” were almost always Congregational.

Following approval by town meetings, the Massachusetts Constitution was ratified on June 15, 1780, became effective on October 25, 1780. It remains the oldest functioning written constitution in continuous effect in the world and was the model for the Constitution of the United States of America, drafted seven years later.

Massachusetts Constitution  PART THE FIRST
A Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

In the summer of 1779, delegates were elected to a constitutional convention, which met in Cambridge in September 1779.  The convention chose a committee of thirty members to prepare a new constitution and declaration of rights, which in turn named a  subcommittee of  John AdamsSamuel Adams, and James Bowdoin.   The subcommittee in turn assigned the task of preparing a first draft to John Adams alone, a “sub-sub committee of one,” as Adams later referred to it. For the new declaration of rights, the committee of thirty members assigned the drafting directly to John Adams. However, the articles on religion was referred to Calvinist Congregational Clergy who guided the orthodox Puritan outcome.

John Adams wrote most of the Massachusetts Constitution himself, but the sections on religion were delegated to the clergy.

Perhaps the most famous line in Adams’s draft declaration of rights was this: “All men are born equally free and independent….” This was slightly revised before being adopted by the constitutional convention: “All men are born free and equal…

Article I. All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.

In 1781,  Article 1 was the subject of a landmark case Brom and Bett v. Ashley  which outlawed slavery in Massachusetts.

In 2004,  the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health that it was unconstitutional under the Article 1 of the Massachusetts constitution to allow only heterosexual couples to marry.

Same Sex Marriage Cartoon

It’s inspiring that John Adam’s work of 233 years ago is still bringing justice today, but back to Elijah and Article 3.

Article 2 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights said

” no subject shall be hurt, molested or restrained in his person, liberty or estate for worship of God in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience for his religious profession of sentiments”,

but Article 3 asserted that every town or parish had the right to make suitable provision at their own expense for the institution of the public worship of God and for the support and maintenance of public Protestant teachers of piety, religion and morality.  This meant that compulsory religious taxes were still to be laid in the new state.

The fourth paragraph allowed non-Congregationalists to pay the tax to their own pastor, but the courts construed this clause so narrowly that in practice it exempted only members of an incorporated Episcopalian, Baptist, Methodist or Universalist Church. A member of one of these bodies who resided too far from his church to attend, or a non-church goer had to pay to support a Congregational minister ( unless he lived in Boston where the voluntary system prevailed.) In Elijah’s case, he had to pay because he had not yet been accepted as a full member of the Baptist church.

In December of 1780, Attleboro had authorized renovation of its Congregational church in the amount of 23,000 pounds and was aggressively raising funds.  At least four of Elijah’s neighbors who refused to pay had a cow siezed and sold at public auction to satisfy the requirement.  Anyone who refused to pay was called “A Certificate man” which meant that they were probably a Quaker, Baptist or Episcopalian. The Baptists in Massachusetts had been fighting to dis-establish the standing church concept for over 100 years.  By disestablishment, they meant the abolishing of religious taxes.

I’m not sure if the Church Elijah didn’t want to pay for his the 1st or 2nd Congregational Church of Attleboro.   Maybe the funds went into one pot and were divided.  I was corresponding with the First Congregational Church of North Attleboro (Oldtown)  and their historian found in  Second Church’s History by Ted Moxham (who is still the historian) that when their first meeting house was built (work began in 1743, but took several years to finish) and that pews were not installed until about 1786 . It then says that they were installed with funds collected to defray the cost.   They said “Sounds like that might be the funds that you are looking for!! :) ”

Second Congregational Church of Attleboro Today

I’m still checking with the 2nd Attleboro Congregational Church for a picture of the Church began in 1743 and finished about 1786, but here’s what the current church looks like.  This Facebook Page from the New England Church Project has over a hundred beautiful pictures of the current church.

First Congregational Church of Attleboro.   The current Meetinghouse was completed in 1825, so it is probably not the one that Elijah didn’t want to pay for.

The First Congregational Church of North Attleboro (Oldtown) Facebook Invitation to  their 300th anniversary celebration.  The church was founded 300 years ago today, November 12, 1712.

Just a reminder tomorrow is our 300th Anniversary Celebration!!!!
All are welcome!!!
Worship is at 10am, fellowship and fun to follow from 11-1pm and then an Oldtown Chicken BBQ at 1pm. (not 1:30 like the Friday email said)
Please wear your 300th t-shirt if you have one. If you don’t we have lots of extras!!! See you tomorrow!!!

First Congregational Church of Attleboro Interior – Congratulations on your 300th Anniversary!

By Feb 2, 1782 Elijah, with counsel, had filed suit against the assessors Wilkerson, Wilmarth and Richardson and was in the Justice of Peace Court at Norton (held in Justice Holmes’ house).  He stated that because he was a member of the Baptist Society, regular attendance and financally supporting it, that he was not liable for the religious tax.  He claimed that the assessors were in full knowledge of this and that the arrest was arbitrary, illegal and vexatious.   The ruling went against Elijah.  He filed an appeal in the Inferior Court of Common Pleas at the Bristol County Courthouse in Taunton and the review was set for the March term.  His case was based on the claim that Article 3 was unconstitutional.

Article 3 was a compromise which attempted to satisfy those who wanted to continue the old Puritan tradition of an established tax supported church and those who wanted a voluntary church system.  It satisfied neither group and was the most controversial and hotly debated issue at town meetings which preceded the ratification of the constitution.

Isaac Backus (1724-1806) argued Elijah’s appeals case

Massachusetts officials recognized Elijah’s appeal to be an ideal test case and the Attorney General personally appeared to argue for the defendants.  Elijah was suppoted by Isaac Backus, spokesman for the Baptists and other minority  sects whho were closely watching the case progress.  The defendants tried to get a trial by jury, but Elijah realizing the difficulties to seat an impartial jury and because of the complexity of the isses insisted that it be heard by competent judges.  Decision by judges also would enhance the legal precedent and potential for future impact.

Elijah claimed that his relationship with God was purely between he and his creator and the government had no right to intervene.  He argued for a separation of church and state in order that each individual could worship and support the church of his choice.  The court ruled in his favor and awarded him six pounds, eighteen shillings and sixpence court costs and recovery of the tax and penalty.

The Baptists and minority sects (and even some Congregationalists) were overjoyed and the case was appropriately publicized.  Isaac Backus even had tracts printed explaining the expected impact of the decision.

Government and Liberty by  Isaac Backus, Boston: Powars and Willis, 1778
Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library, Brown University

Isaac Backus (1724-1806) was the leader of the New England Baptists. In this response to Payson’s Election Sermon, Backus forcefully states the Baptists’ opposition to state support of the churches. This opposition was grounded in the Baptists’ reading of the New Testament and also of ecclesiastical history which demonstrated, that state support of religion inevitably corrupted the churches. Backus and other Baptist leaders agreed with their clerical adversaries in believing that religion was necessary for social prosperity and happiness but they believed that the best way for the state to assure the health of religion was to leave it alone and let it take its own course, which, the Baptists were convinced, would result in vital, evangelical religion covering the land.

The joy at winning Elijah’s case turned to sorrow two years later when Baptist Gershin Cutter of Middleboro found himself in a similar plight as Elijah.  This time the local court ruled in his favor, but on appeal against him.  For the next fifty years Massachusetts authorities did their best to make the religious tax stick until 1833 when the constitution was amended to eliminate it.

While the Bolkcom case was being enjoyed in Massachusetts, Virginia was in the throes of fiery debate on the same subject.  George Washington, Patrick Henry and Richard Lee argued for the general assessment bill with Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Mason opposed.

George Washington in Support of Tax Supported Religion Source: Library of Congress

In this Oct 3, 1785 letter George Washington informs his friend and neighbor, George Mason, in the midst of the public agitation over Patrick Henry’s general assessment bill, that he does not, in principle, oppose “making people pay towards the support of that which they profess,” although he considers it “impolitic” to pass a measure that will disturb public tranquility.

In 1786 the bill was defeated and Jefferson became recognized as the author and initiator of the separation of church and state in the new nation. A close look at Jefferson’s argument reveals that his opposition was based upon a fear that religious influences would creep into government much as they had in Europe and impose their will on the people through government.  An effective philosophy which is as important today as  it was in 1786.

Separation Of Church And State Xmas Police

Elijah’s argument  that religion was prior to all states and kingdoms of the world and could not in its nature be subject to human laws was different from Jefferson’s.  How different might our posture be today towards prayer in schools and federal aid to education if his reason for separation had been accepted rather than Jefferson’s.

Find Out More

Understanding the Separation of Church and State - We need to look at three parts of the Constitution: Article VI section 3, the 1st Amendment & the 14th Amendment.

Religion and State Governments Religion and the Founding of the American Republic

Thirty Quotes from the Founding Fathers on the Separation of Church and State

Posted in Dissenter, Historical Church, History, Storied | 8 Comments

Battle of Sacket’s Harbor

I just finished a War of 1812 story where two of our cousins were captured by the British and an uncle (their father and from the same company) was captured a year later and died in a Quebec City POW camp.  (See my post Battle of Frenchman’s Creek Nov 28, 1812)

Today, I found another cousin who was captured by the British in the War of 1812.

Benjamin COLEMAN’s grandson Charles Colman  (b.  8 Aug 1782 Newburyport, Essex, Mass – d. 12 Sep 1849 Brookfield, New Hampshire of consumption)  enlisted as a sergeant in the 21st US Infantry Jan 2 1813 in Wakefield New Hampshire for 18 months under company commander Capt. Lemuel Bradford (b. 1 Dec 1775 -d. 14 Sept 1814 of wounds received during the War of 1812)  Note: Sep 14 1814 was the day Francis Scott Key saw that “Our Flag Was Still There” at Fort McHenry.

According to his enlistment, Charles was 5′ 11 1/4″  or 6′ 0″ [Very tall for those days].   Blue eyes, Red Hair, Light Complexion; Yeoman or School Master; Newburyport or Boston.

Charles was in the roll of American prisoners of war arrived in schooner Lignan at Salem, Mar 16, 1815 captured at Sixtown Point, Henderson Bay on May 28, 1813.  M.R. Captain James Green Jr’s. detachment Fort Pickering March 20, 1815.  Present – Book 569; Discharged May 1, 1815

Map of New York, the red dot is Sackets Harbor

The Battle of Sacket’s Harbor, (Also called the 2nd Battle of Sacket’s Harbor) took place on May 29, 1813.  A British force was transported across Lake Ontario and attempted to capture the town, which was the principal dockyard and base for the American naval squadron on the lake. They were repulsed by American regulars and militia.

Isaac Chauncey (1779-1840 ) commanded US naval forces on Lake Ontario during the War of 1812

The British force set out late on 27 May and arrived off Sacket’s Harbor early the next morning. The wind was very light, which made it difficult for Captain James Lucas Yeo (commander of the British naval force on the Great Lakes) to manoeuver close to the shore. He was also unfamiliar with the local conditions and depths of water. Shortly before midday on May 28, the troops began rowing ashore, but unknown sails were sighted in the distance. In case they might be Captain [later Commodore] Isaac Chauncey‘s fleet, the attack was called off, and the troops returned to the ships. The strange sails proved to belong to twelve bateaux carrying troops from the 9th and 21st U.S. Regiments of Infantry from Oswego to Sackets Harbor.   The British sent out three large canoes full of Native American warriors and a gunboat carrying a detachment of the Glengarry Light Infantry to intercept them.

Charles Coleman’s 21st Regiment was being transported from Oswego to Sackets Harbor when it was intercepted by the British on May 27, 1813

The British force caught up with the convoy off Stoney Point on Henderson Bay. As the British opened fire, the Americans, who were mostly raw recruits, landed their bateaux  (barges) at Stoney Point and fled into the woods. [Google Maps Directions from Stony Point to Sackets Harbor 13.5 Miles - 25 minutes] The Natives pursued them through the trees and hunted them down. After about half an hour, during which they lost 35 men killed, the surviving United States troops regained their vessels and raised a white flag. The senior officer rowed out to Yeo’s fleet and surrendered his remaining force of 115 officers and men including Charles Coleman.  Only seven of the American troops escaped and reached Sackett’s Harbor.

Another account:  On May 28, 1813, a flotilla of British warships appeared at the mouth of Black River Bay. The weather was miserable, however, with visibility poor and the lake calm. This prevented the British fleet from being able to tack into the harbor. So they waited. Through the fog they noticed barges loaded with reinforcements, elements of the 9th and 21st US Infantry from Oswego, headed for the harbor. The British dispatched their Indian allies to overtake the barges, who fearing for their lives pulled ashore at Stony Point. Pursued by Indians, many of the soldiers were hunted down and killed. Other boats that witnessed the carnage pulled directly for the British fleet, rather than take their chances on shore against the Indians. This skirmish is known as the Battle of Stony Point.

On May 28, 1813 Sir James Lucas Yeo, Commander of the Royal Navy on the Great Lakes, captured  115 American troops including Charles Coleman.

This delay nevertheless gave the Americans time to reinforce their defenses.

I found a book on published in 1879 by Charles Colman’s cousin’s wife Sarah Ann Smith (b. 1787 – d. 1879) titled Reminiscenses of a Nonagenarian.

This book has many interesting and amusing anecdotes about the Colman family which I”ll be sharing. Here’s what she has to add to the story of Charles Colman and the Battle of Sackett’s Harbor.

Charles was taken prisoner, held as a hostage, and confined in the jail at Quebec. With two others he escaped. Having stolen a calf, which they managed to dress and roast, they made the best of their way through the woods for several days, but were so blinded by mosquito bites they were unable to proceed, and were recaptured. Afterwards Mr. Colman was taken to Halifax. At the disbanding of the army he returned home, where he learned that at the time he was taken prisoner a Colonel’s commission was on the way to him, which he failed to get. But later he received the deed of one hundred and sixty acres of land, as other soldiers.

Back to the Battle of Sacket’s Harbor

The next morning, 29 May, Prevost resumed the attack. The British troops landed on Horse Island, south of the town, under fire from two 6-pounder field guns belonging to the militia and a naval 32-pounder firing at long range from Fort Tompkins. They also faced musket fire from the Albany Volunteers defending the island.  Although the British lost several men in the boats, they succeeded in landing, and the Volunteers withdrew. Once the landing force was fully assembled, they charged across the flooded causeway linking the island to the shore. Although the British should have been an easy target at this point, the American militia fled, abandoning their guns. Brigadier General Brown eventually rallied about 100 of them.

The British swung to their left, hoping to take the town and dockyard from the landward side, but the American regulars with some field guns gave ground only slowly, and fell back behind their blockhouses and defenses from where they repulsed every British attempt to storm their fortifications.

2010 Reenactment Battle of Sackett’s Harbor

Yeo had gone ashore to accompany the troops, and none of the larger British vessels were brought into a range at which they could support the attack. The small British gunboats, which could approach very close to the shore, were armed only with small, short-range carronades which were ineffective against the American defences.

Sacket’s Harbor during the War of 1812

Eventually one British ship, the Beresford, mounting 16 guns, worked close in using sweeps (long oars). When its crew opened fire they quickly drove the American artillerymen from Fort Tompkins. Some of the Beresford’s shot went over the fort and landed in and around the dockyard. Under the mistaken impression that the fort had surrendered, a young American naval officer, Acting Lieutenant John Drury, ordered the sloop of war General Pike which was under construction and large quantities of stores to be set on fire. Lieutenant Woolcott Chauncey had orders to defend the yard rather than the schooners, but had instead gone aboard one of the schooners, which were engaging the British vessels at long and ineffective range.

The “enemy” ship, Fair Jeanne, fires at Sackets Harbor — The 110 foot Canadian Brigantine Fair Jeanne travels the world. This Tall Ships training program has graduated over 2,000 young sailors.

By this time, Governor General of Canada, Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost was convinced that success was impossible to attain. His own field guns did not come into action and without them he was unable to batter breaches in the American defenses, while the militia which Brown had rallied were attacking his own right flank and rear. He gave the order to retreat. Prevost later wrote that the enemy had been beaten and that the retreat was carried out in perfect order, but other accounts by British soldiers stated that the re-embarkation took place in disorder and each unit acrimoniously blamed the others for the repulse.

The Americans for their part claimed that had Prevost not retreated hastily when he did, he would never have returned to Kingston. The U.S. 9th Infantry had been force-marching to the sounds of battle, but the British had departed before they could intervene.

The British defeat at Sacket’s Harbor compared badly with the victorious American opposed landings at York and Fort George, even though the odds at Sackett’s Harbor were slightly more favourable to the defenders. The chief reason was probably that the attack was launched without sufficient preparation, planning and rehearsal. The troops were an ad hoc collection of detachments, which had not been exercised together. This applied to the American regulars also, but since they were fighting from behind fixed defences, this mattered less.

Sacket’s Harbor Today

Another account of the end of the battle and aftermath —  The British commanders at the same time began to notice a rising plume of dust to the west of the village. They had learned from Americans captured at Stony Point that a column of Tuttle’s 9th Infantry had marched from Oswego the previous morning. Fearing these to be fresh reinforcements who would arrive on their rear, the British commander, Sir George Prevost, sounded a retreat. Tired and beaten, the British broke ranks and ran back to their landing boats, not even stopping to gather their wounded and dead. Once the landing party was safely back to the British fleet, they sent a representative under a flag of truce to ask that a landing party be allowed to tend to the casualties. The Americans refused.

In the aftermath of the battle, the fires in the Navy Yard were extinguished, but not before more than $500,000 worth of supplies and materials had been consumed. The new ship was saved with only minor damage. The wounded soldiers were taken to several homes in the village for care. One of these homes was the Sacket Mansion. The British were also tended to, while the dead were placed in an unmarked grave south of the village. The location of this grave has yet to be found. In all, the Americans lost 21 dead, 84 wounded and 26 missing. The British fared far worse for their effort: 48 dead, 195 wounded, and 16 missing.

So who won the battle? The British object was to destroy the Navy Yard and recapture supplies taken from York [today's Toronto] and Gananoque. Thanks to some panicked Americans, they succeeded in destroying the Navy Yard and refusing the Americans use of their stores.   Although the new ship was saved, the loss of rigging and sails in the fire delayed her commission for months and gave the British clear reign on Lake Ontario. The 250 or so Americans left at Fort Tompkins were beaten, and would not have held out long against an all-out British assault. The Americans, for their part however, inflicted disproportionately heavy damage on the British, something that Sir George Prevost would have to answer for in the coming months.

Sackets Harbor just after the War of 1812 by 19th-century artist William Strickland

[Based out of Hamilton, Ontario, the 21st U.S. (Treat's Company) seeks to recreate the life and times of a Soldier of the United States during the War of 1812]

They Built Things Better in the Past?

The ships the British and Americans were fighting to destroy and protect left something to be desired in the quality department.  Here’s an historical note about their poor workmanship by Dr. Gary M. Gibson:

When something breaks shortly after you bought it, you might complain that “they built things better in the past.” However, if the past was Sackets Harbor during the War of 1812 and the items were warships, you would be well to prefer today’s models.

Between 1812 and 1815 the United States and Great Britain engaged in a war of ship carpenters. Although there were no major naval battles on Lake Ontario to compare with the actions on Lake Erie in 1813 and Lake Champlain in 1814, the shipbuilding efforts on Ontario far surpassed those on the other lakes. Workmen at the American shipyard at Sackets Harbor and the British shipyard at Kingston, Upper Canada, competed to be the first to build enough warships to gain and maintain control of Lake Ontario.

This competition led to hasty work. On the Atlantic, building a 44-gun frigate could easily take two or three years. At Sackets Harbor that feat was accomplished in two months. Even the first warship built at Sackets Harbor, the 24-gun [corvette]USS Madison, was ready to launch in only 45 days.

All this construction required skilled ship carpenters, and at Sackets Harbor there were never enough of them. The gap was filled by hiring common house carpenters. Unfortunately, you did not build a wooden warship like you did a barn. The shipwright at Sackets Harbor, Henry Eckford., had to compensate for this by altering the design to make the vessels easier (and faster) to build.

This nearly lead to disaster. In September 1814, the 22-gun brig USS Jefferson encountered a fierce gale on Lake Ontario and the vessel, rolling heavily and “twice on her beam ends” began to come apart. To save the ship, the captain, Charles G. Ridgeley, had to lighten the load on deck by throwing ten of her cannon overboard.

In January 1815 construction began on two huge warships, the 106-gun New Orleans and Chippewa.

[The  first-rate ship-of-the-line, New Orleans was designed to carry a crew of 900 and was enclosed in a huge wooden ship house to protect it for future use, but in 1817, the Rush-Bagot Treaty between the United States and Great Britain limited all naval forces on the Great Lakes.  The treaty provided for a large demilitarization of lakes along the international boundary, where many British naval arrangements and forts remained. The treaty stipulated that the United States and British North America could each maintain one military vessel (no more than 100 tons burden) as well as one cannon (no more than eighteen pounds) on Lake Ontario and Lake Champlain. The remaining Great Lakes permitted the United States and British North America to keep two military vessels "of like burden" on the waters armed with "like force". The treaty, and the separate Treaty of 1818, laid the basis for a demilitarized boundary between the U.S. and British North America.]

[In 1816, a year after construction began] , with the war now over, a British foreman of shipwrights, John Aldersley, visited Sackets Harbor and inspected the incomplete New Orleans. He saw “the most abominable, neglectful, slovenly work ever performed …the timbers are in many instances thrown in one upon the other, without even the bark of the tree being taken off.” Aldersley noted that the New Orleans’ gun ports were created after the ship’s sides were completed, “the same as the doors and windows are cut out after a log house is framed.”

The incomplete USS New Orleans in 1883, the year she was sold for scrapping.  She remained on the stocks, housed over, until sold on 24 September 1883 to H. Wilkinson, Jr., of Syracuse, New York.

Built quickly out of green wood, few of these warships survived for long. By the early 1820s most were reported to be “sunk and decayed.” The only exceptions were the incomplete New Orleans and Chippewa, which remained in good condition only because they had expensive shiphouses built over them. As a result, the New Orleans, slovenly construction notwithstanding, was still considered useful as late as the American Civil War, a half century later.

The Great Rope — One Last Fun Story

In May 1814, 84 men carried a ship’s cable weighing five tons from the mouth of Sandy Creek to Sackets Harbor, a distance of 20 miles.   It took two days and they were left battered and bruised, but they did the job “can-do” American style.

The serpentine line of cable-carriers passed from village to village during the 20-mile journey where they were met with growing enthusiasm, refreshments, and replacements for those too exhausted or injured to continue. Mats of woven grass were fashioned to protect the shoulders of cable-carriers but all had large bruises. It was said that some carried the callous or mark on their shoulders the rest of their lives.

The Great Rope was the main anchor cable for the “Superior”, a frigate launched May 1, 1814 from Sackets Harbor under the command of Issac Chauncy. When armed, she was to carry 66 guns. The rope, under guard in Oswego, was 22 inches around and weighed 9,600 pounds. Although the rope traveled by boat most of the way, due to heavy fighting on Lake Ontario, the last leg of the trip was made over land on the backs of men. Here’s the complete story “.Events Surrounding The Battle of Big Sandy and the Carrying of the Great Rope in 1814 and the Ensuing 185 Years.” by Blaine Bettinger.

This reenactment rope  is undersized. Plus the locals were the ones who pitched in and they wouldn’t have had hats with feathers.       The original ships’ cable would have been four times as thick and heavy as the one depicted here.


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