Battle of Oswego 1756 and the Captivity of Benjamin Taylor

Ebenezer FOSTER’s son-in-law Benjamin Taylor was born in Yorktown, Westchester Co, NY ca 1736. His parents were William Benjamin and [__?__] Van Pelt.  He married Jemima Foster ~1763 Verplanck Point [outside Peekskill], Westchester Co, NY.  Benjamin died in Sep 1832 in Fishkill, Dutchess, NY, at 96 years of age and was buried in the Methodist churchyard adjacent to the farm of his grandson, James Taylor.

Benjamin enlisted in the Colonial Army in 1753 or 54, aged 16 years.  He was at Fort Orange, afterwards actually engaged in war, with the French and Indians on the northern frontier, taken prisoner by them at Fort Owego 1756, was in the army and a prisoner of war some five or six years. Worked in London as a brickmason three years (three or more), returned to America in the year 1761, married in 1763, aged 29 or 30 years. Died at Fishkill, Dutchess Co, NY, Sept 1832, aged 96 years.

Benjamin F. Taylor entered the Colonial Army in 1753, Co F, 9th NYV. From here on we’ll let his grandson, Augustus Campenfeldt  Taylor tell the story as he heard it from Benjamin when he was an old man and Augustus was a very young one:  You’ll see the meaning of Augustus’ middle name in the story.

“Their rendezvous was at Fort Orange, Albany, where they awaited supplies and orders. In 1755 the Colonial Governor planned a grand campaign against the French and Indians; one commanded by Gen. Braddock against Fort Duquesne; one commanded by Gen. Johnson against Crown Point; one commanded by Gen. [William] Shirley against Fort Niagara. England was to furnish munitions of war and 6,000 men—the Colonies to raise 10,000 more. All of these campaigns were entire failures. Gen. Shirley with an army of near 2,000, including friendly Indians, advanced in 1755 to the northern Frontier, to Lake Ontario. He went up the Mohawk trail, then the only passable route to this northern lake, striking the lake near its mouth, to proceed hence by water to besiege Fort Niagara, situated near the head of the lake. 6,000 troops were to follow this advance guard. But in consequence of bickerings between Colonial and English officers, they failed to make the connection. The advance guard reached the frontier and built two forts, or more properly called, stockades, both near the mouth of Lake Ontario, one on each side of the Oswego River, one called Ontario and the other Owego. Owing to the desertion of their Indian allies, and severe sickness amongst the Colonial soldiers, the main object of the campaign was abandoned. Gen. Shirley left Col. Mercer in command, returning to Fort Orange, Albany.

File:William Shirley.JPG

Wiliam Shirley (1694-1771) His management of the war in 1755 and 1756 was a failure. His expedition against Fort Niagara got no further than the final staging point at Fort Oswego on Lake Ontario in 1755, and the French captured Oswego in August 1756. In Mar  1756, the Secretary of War replaced him as commander-in-chief and ordered him to return to England

“In the above named [Gen Shirley’s] contingent, were parts of three companies of English soldiers, one commanded by Capt. Augustus Campenfeldt. To this company my grandsire Benjamin Taylor was attached.

“In the spring of 1756, the French, seeing the deleterious and fatal mistakes of the English, profited by their failures. The Marquis de la Calm had just been appointed Governor and General of all the French forces in Canada. He collected together at Fort Frontenac, now Kingston, a force of 5,000 men, mostly Indians, crossed Lake Ontario with 30 pieces of cannon, and besieged Fort Ontario. After a bloody fight Col. Mercer was forced to evacuate the place, retiring across the river to Fort Owego. During the night’s retreat, my grandsire Benjamin Taylor, by his expertness as a swimmer, rendered essential service, saving, with others, the life of his captain who was drowning. This incident undoubtedly made them ever after fast friends.

[Significant elements of the two Massachusetts regiments including Benjamin Taylor, which were under the overall command of Colonel James Mercer of Pepperrell’s Regiment, overwintered at Fort Oswego, and suffered significantly due to the shortage of supplies, especially food. Many men died during the winter from diseases such as scurvy, and there had been serious discussion of abandoning the position for want of supplies. While the garrison nominally approached 2,000 men in size, less than 1,200 men were fit for duty.]

Location of Fort Oswego

“Fort Oswego was besieged. After a bloody resistance of three days, Col. Mercer being killed, the garrison surrendered to Mont de la Calm as prisoners of war. This was in August 1756.

Fort Oswego in 1755

[The Battle of Fort Oswego was one in a series of early French victories in the North American theatre of the Seven Years’ War won in spite of New France’s military vulnerability. During the week of August 10, 1756, a force of regulars and Canadian militia under General Montcalm captured and occupied the British fortifications at Fort Oswego, located at the site of present-day Oswego, New York.

Battle of Fort Oswego Map

In addition to 1,700 prisoners, Montcalm’s force seized the fort’s 121 cannon. The fall of Fort Oswego effectively interrupted the British presence on Lake Ontario and removed it as a threat to the nearby French-controlled Fort Frontenac. The battle was notable for demonstrating that traditional European siege tactics were viable in North America when applied properly in the right circumstances and terrain.]

“At that time grandfather was about 20 years of ago, having served his country in the French and Indian War over three years.

Surrender of Fort Oswego 1756

[The British surrendered about 1,700 people, including laborers, shipbuilders, women and children.  When the fort was opened to the Canadian militia and Indians, they rushed in and began plundering the fort, opening the barrels of rum and getting drunk on the contents. Amid the confusion some of the British tried to escape, and were tomahawked and killed by drunken French or Indians. General Montcalm, shocked by the behavior, was eventually able to prevent further killings, although he claimed it would “cost the King eight or ten thousand livres in presents.” He then ordered the destruction of all the supplies the French did not take, as well as the boats under construction, after which the entire company, including the prisoners, traveled to Montreal]

Montcalm Trying to Stop The Massacre by Alfred Bobbett

“The prisoners that were not massacred by the Indians arrived safe at Quebec in November. They were conveyed down the River St. Lawrence in bateaux and Indian canoes, arriving at Quebec at the commencement of winter.

“My grandfather at that time was at the zenith of youthful manhood: straight, tall, athletic, brave, and proud of his fine qualities.  After reaching Quebec a French officer detailed him as a servant, and ordered him to black his boots. He refused. For this refusal he was imprisoned in a dungeon and fed on bread and water for nearly two months. It so happened that a French soldier for some offense was confined in the same place; he was taken sick and his case reported to the Provost. On leaving for the Court, grandfather told him to tell the Court that an Englishman in the dungeon was sick too, which errand he faithfully performed. My grandfather was ordered into Court. After an examination he told his tale. The Provost ordered him to the Barracks with the other prisoners of war.

“In the spring of 1757 these English prisoners, or a portion of them, were sent to France. The ship in which they were to embark laid in the stream below Quebec. All prisoners were conveyed on board in small boats. A number were massacred at the Embarkadero. Grandfather was the last man to enter a boat. As she shoved off, an Indian made his appearance. Finding his prey too far off, he gave a yell, drew his knife and made a scalping maneuver and picked up a stone, slung it with effect, hitting grandfather in the side. He saved his hair by falling in the boat. His life for a long time was despaired of. He carried the scar in his side, which was an indentation as big as a hen’s egg. This wound troubled him, causing much suffering during a long life.

“He was a prisoner of war in Havre de Grace [Le Havre] in France until 1759. He was then exchanged, went to London, supporting himself there by the occupation of barber. One Sunday in crossing London Bridge, he met face to face his old captain, then Col. A. Campenfeldt—a welcome surprise to both parties.

“The Colonel was to depart the next day to Gibraltar. His regiment was already on board ship. He took grandfather to his house in London, kept by two maiden sisters (for he was not married). Grandfather was introduced to them and made welcome and pressed to make their home his as long as he stayed in London. The next morning Col. A. C. presented grandfather with a purse of five guineas and took his departure for Gibraltar. (Grandfather was never at that place.) And that day was the last seen of the noble Colonel by his friends in London. In 1760 his regiment was ordered from Gibraltar to the East Indies, and he died on the passage.

“Grandfather learned and worked at the trade of brick mason for years in London. He has often told me that he worked some two years on the Tower of London.

“He returned to America about the year 1762. Sailed for Boston in a bark which was wrecked off the harbor; reached New York by a coaster; by sail to Peekskill; foots it out to Yorktown, where he was born; calls for entertainment at his father’s home; receives a welcome; after supper makes himself known to the family. After a hearty embrace by all, his father took down the old fiddle from the wall—fiddled, danced and sung, “Benjamin, my son that was dead, is alive again, alive again.” Grandfather had been absent and mourned as dead some eight or nine years, having a brother born in his absence, at that time seven years of age. His name was altered to Absalom.”

Though periodically suffering from a wound in his side, Benjamin had general good health and muscular power, and lived to the age of 96.   He appears to have been a Presbyterian.  In his Journal, the Rev. Silas Constant, Pastor of the Yorktown Presbyterian Church, mentioned in 1792 and 1794, riding to Benjamin Taylor’s house and preaching there.   In the early 1800’s  Benjamin moved up to Fishkill in Dutchess County, along with his grandsons James and Augustus.

Children of Jemima and Benjamin

i.   James Taylor b. 1764 Peekskill, NY; d. 23 Jan 1844 in Westford, Chittenden Co, VT, at 79 years of age.He married Salome Partridge 15 Feb 1786 in Franklin, Franklin Co, MA.  Salome was born 8 Sep 1768 in Keene, Cheshire, NH.  Her parents were Amos Partridge and Meletiah Ellis.

As a boy, James moved with his family to Franklin, MA. At 16 he apprenticed with Thad Adams to learn the blacksmith trade; at 17 he enlisted for three years in the Continental Army.  He was at Valley Forge and often talked about how he and his comrades dug up the tails of beef after they had been buried for months, stewed them, and ate them without salt or pepper to sustain life..  After the war he returned to Franklin, to finish his apprenticeship.

After finishing his trade, with a group of friends, he crossed the Alleghenies on foot, having only one horse for packing.  At Pittsburgh he came near to losing his life by falling in the night off the wall of old Fort Duquesne.  He crossed the Ohio River into Virginia, thence to Kentucky.  James was with Capt. Lewis’ surveying party one season.  They had several skirmishes with the Indians; several of his party died but he was unharmed.  The only trophy of his adventures was a razor strop made from the untanned hide of an Indian.

James returned to Franklin, married Miss Partridge with the intention of returning to Kentucky, but was persuaded by friends to settle down in Franklin where he carried on a general blacksmith’s business for years, he then returned to Peekskill where he continued blacksmithing and ship smithing, and finally moved to Westford, VT where he remained the rest of his life.

During the War of 1812, Captain James Taylor raised a company from his neighborhood, serving from 1 Sep to 8 Dec 1812. In Sep 1814 he volunteered again to fight in the Battle of Plattsburgh, serving for 7 days.  His son, Augustus, told this story:

“In 1812 the U.S. declared war against Great Britain. He then raised a company of men and entered the service of his country. Most of his company were Westford, Milton, Essex and Underhill boys. These men enlisted for one year. At the expiration of their term of service he was detailed by the General in command to the recruiting service. In the summer of 1814 he visited New York and Peekskill on this business. Sister Salome accompanied him to Peekskill where Brother James was then located….He returned… about ten days before the battle of Plattsburgh. Volunteers were called for and the Green Mountain Boys nobly responded.  On the Sunday morning one week before the battle took place, there was music in the air all along the ridge between Squire Bowman’s and Capt. Taylor’s. The bugles sounded and drums beat “To Arms, To Arms.” The road was lined with marching volunteers. They went by the road through the Government Reserve to Milton, thence by water to Plattsburgh.

My father was detailed and led the boys onward. After arriving in camp the General detailed him to serve the boys with guns and ammunition. They fell short of cartridge boxes to go all around.  Priest Worster of Fairfield, who had raised a company, when it came his turn, filled his capacious pockets (these pockets were in a big silk vest where he carried his Bible and Psalm Book) with double rounds of cartridges, which made the boys cheer heartily. After this service was completed, he was given in charge of a regiment of these Volunteers, who formed the front guard in following the Red Coats on their retreat to Canada. So earnest were these volunteers that when the rear guard was overtaken and hoisted the white flag, it was hard to restrain them. Their cry was “There’s a Red Coat, damn him! Fire!” The day of this battle, Sunday, the 13th, 1814, is to me ever to be remembered.

Although then scarce six years of age, I can remember what happened there as if it were yesterday. A few infirm men with women and children, gathered together on Bold Hill, the dividing line between Westford and Milton, to see the battle go on. Your grandmothers Bowman and Taylor were there with their children. Your mother, father, uncles and aunts, and in fact, the whole neighborhood turned out. The able bodied men were, nearly to a man, gone to battle for their country. I remember one incident that happened on that eventful day: an old hunter by the name of Jack Willis came sauntering up the hill from the Milton side, with his rifle on his shoulder. Old grandfather Partridge asked him if he was not ashamed for not being in the ranks fighting for his country. He excused himself by saying he had been to the embarcadero and could not get a passage over the lake. The old man told him he was a coward. He, however, done us some service for he felled several trees to give all a better view of the battlefield.” [Milton is over 200 miles from Plattsburg, I’m not sure where the viewers and the battle were.]

ii.   Augustus Campenfeldt Taylor was born in Peekskill, 12 Sep 1770. He went with his father’s family to Franklin, MA but returned to Peekskill at the age of 16. He was married by Rev. Silas Constant, 11 Apr 1792 to Elizabeth Lent at her father’s house in Peekskill, Westchester Co, NY.  Elizabeth was born 16 Sep 1773 and died 27 Sep 1857 in Peekskill.  Augustus and Elizabeth had three children who all died young.

Augustus C. Taylor appears to have been educated and well to do and at the time of his death was said to be one of the best and most thrifty farmers in Westchester Co.  In 1801 he mortgaged to Jonathan Ferris, for $1625, two properties: 49 1/2 acres in the town of Cortland on the south side of the road from Peekskill to the Yorktown Meeting House and 16 1/2 acres on the same road.  It was paid off by 1804.  These may have been part of the old family farm in Yorktown from whence Benjamin left to enter the army.   In his will, dated 20 Feb 1815, proved 4 Apr 1815, Augustus bequeathed $300 to his brother, James Taylor, $400 to his nephew William Taylor, son of his deceased brother Justus, $1,400 to his nephew James Taylor, along with all his land lying on the north side of the road leading from Crompond to Peekskill (now downtown Peekskill) except half of the lot adjoining the land of James Divon. He willed all his household goods and all his books and the residue of his estate to his wife Elizabeth.  His nephew, James Taylor, was charged with using whatever he needed from his bequest for the support and maintenance of Augustus’ father, Benjamin Taylor. His wife Elizabeth was also charged with giving a good and decent support to his father.  The executors were Elizabeth, his brother-in-law Henry Lent, and a friend, William Nelson. Apparently there were no living children.

iii. Justus William Taylor b. 1771 in Peekskill

iv.   [__?__] Taylor, female

Jemima Foster Bio

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5 Responses to Battle of Oswego 1756 and the Captivity of Benjamin Taylor

  1. markeminer says:

    From Zan56 (Suzanne) See original comment on About

    Hi Mark! This is a *wonderful* site! I live in Westford VT, where several of your ancestors lived and participated in the founding and history of our Westford Church. You have a priceless description of your ancestor James Taylor raising a company from here to go to the Battle of Plattsburgh, where the father of one of Westford’s brightest lights, the Rev. John Hills Woodward, lost his life – William Woodward (his company was raised in Charlotte Vt, where he lived, and in surrounding towns). Rev, Woodward would come to be known as the Fighting Chaplain of the First Vermont Cavalry, pivotal in many Civil War battles including Gettysburg. You also have a firsthand account of Westford folks going up Bald Hill to watch the battle, including a mention of “grandfather” Amos Partridge, who held the first meeting of Westford Church in his barn just north of Bowman’s Corners, which is quite near Bald Hill Road (still exists today 🙂 Bald Hill in Westford is just 20 miles from Broad Street in downtown Plattsburgh. The Westford, Milton, and Essex (and I would imagine this also included a few from Fairfax) referenced are in Vermont, not New York, and they could see Plattsburgh quite well. I see it every day I go over the Westford Milton Road to pick up the kids from school. Anyway, thanks again for collecting and publishing this treasure trove!! Suzanne

    include this map link: https://goo.gl/maps/EfP8m8sdcQ22

  2. zan56 says:

    Thanks, Mark – when you have a moment, I would love to know the source for Augustus’ description of the battle. I can see him and the other kids and their families stretching out from their perch on Bald Hill, straining to see what they could of the battle (which I imagine was mostly smoke).

  3. Gary L Rhodes says:

    Does anyone know of events prior to June 1756 as concerns the 51 Regiment of Foot?Capt. Samuel Rhodes I believe died somewhere, some time, he was a capt or Lt. in the Pepperrills unit, and his estate paper filed June 14, 1756 in N. Kingstown,RI are all I have found of his death. he was at Louisburg with Pepperill and at Ft. Benton. Was trying to find where he died and is buried. very nice account here..

  4. Gary L Rhodes says:

    Can anyone help with finding any record of Capt. or Lt. Samuel Rhodes, a believed member of pepperrills, 51 regiment of foot, he also was at Louisbourgh with the Col, and I believe was in the Oswego and surround time, situation. His estate paper, 1 page was filed, June 1756 at N. Kingstown, RI. But I have never found any mention of his death or burial, as an officer, I guess
    I thought there would be some record. Very nice site, and research , thanks for sharing with us.

  5. Hi Mark – Thank you for all this great information. I am a descendant of Benjamin Taylor and would love to know where you obtained the info. I have hit a wall with Benjamin’s father William and mother ___ Van Pelt and am looking for anything that may help me. Thanks again for all your hard work.

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