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Category Archives: Revolutionary War

The Battle of Bennington’s Anniversary

 

Legacy of Payne Front Cover_On August 16th, two hundred forty-three years ago today,, The Battle of Bennington was fought just outside Bennington, Vermont, just inside New York Colony. The battle is an important milestone in my latest novel, #3 of The Maggie Chronicles, The Legacy of Payne. Here is an excerpt in honor of the day. (Oh, yes—available on Amazon, wink-wink.)

At Stark’s encampment, they stopped, but only long enough to drop their knapsacks in a pile and line up for a ration of rum and water. Then they were off. The gunfire, no longer scattered, shivered on Sam’s brow. Sweat ran down his neck and soaked his shirt. As he ran, double-time now, the rum worked on him, relaxing the fearful weight on his chest, and his mind.

Just as he imagined himself prepared for what would come, a cannon blast sent the rum rolling in his gut.

Ez laid his hand on Sam’s shoulder. “We take care of each other now. One step at a time.”

“Just pay attention to what’s in front of us,” Rob added. “And at our backs.”

Jed edged up between them. “And up there. See it? The first bridge? Never thought I’d be wantin’ water—surely not yesterday. Now I want to bathe in it.”

“You? Bathe?” they said, in unison. And they laughed. They had to laugh. The firing and the cannon shot rose to full battle roar. A pall of smoke drifted into the air, and after kneeling at the Walloomsac’s edge and running water over their necks and cupping it into their mouths, they followed the smoldering cacophony.

Not a half-mile down the road, at another bridge crossing, the battle unfurled before them. Blue-coated Hessians flew down the hill on Sam’s right, their scabbards catching in the brush. One tripped and rolled nearly in front of Sam. His foolish gold hat bounced away, and he threw his hands in the air shouting something Sam could not understand. Then someone—“One of ours,” Sam thought—jabbed a rifle to the blue-coat’s back, smiling as if he had gambled and won.

Men on a small rise worked together to raise two cannons nailed to skids and stumbled off, like prideful pallbearers at some outlandish funeral. Sam twirled in confusion. Nothing made sense. Drunk and bellowing men passed him by, laden with goods stripped from the dead and dying. “Stuck him with his own saber,” one said. “Still’s got his blood. See? It’s a fine blade.”

“Sam?” It was Ez, his hand on his back. “We’re moving.”

They marched on, beyond a swarm of blue and red-suited prisoners, and bodies already swarming with flies.

“A win, by God,” Jed called it.

“Lacking order,” Rob countered and led them on.

They stopped, on orders, at a thinly wooded hill where the road dipped down a ravine. A volley of gunfire and the blast of a cannon told them the win was a ruse. Then the wounded filtered past.

Word carried. “Enemy reinforcements encountered. On Warner’s orders, head down the road and form a line…” The words jumbled. Barely contained, the company, like a bull in heat, rushed downhill and spread out.

Jed and Sam bumped into each other, headed in opposite directions. “Right,” Sam yelled. “He said right!”

“Left!” Jed said and pumped his gun toward the river.

“I couldn’t hear,” Ez said, “but they’re mostly heading left.”

They filed toward the river and were met by a riparian swamp. Muck, knee deep, ensnared them. “Now what?” Sam asked, holding his gun high.

“Their coming!” Rob cried.

And they were. Sam fumbled with his rifle, sloshed through the reed and water-loving brush, looking for a bit of high ground. He steadied his arm, elbow high, listening. A musket ball flew past, a whistle at his ear. Reeds rushed and mud sucked, a warning announcing a hard-faced man with frightened eyes. He darted, then froze.

“Like the fox,” Sam thought. He dropped to his knees, gun held high.

“Wir sind ein, bruder!” the man yelled. “Wir sind ein!”

Sam shook his head. What was he saying? He yelled back, “Put your gun down! Gun down!”

The Hessian’s head bobbed. The gun dropped, as did his hand, reaching to his waist. A shot reverberated in Sam’s ears, and the Hessian’s belly opened in a splatter. Thick droplets crusted Sam’s arm and chest. Smoke enveloped him. Then a hand reached out, and gently lowered his gun.

Rob dragged him to the body and pointed, using his gun. “A pistol at his belt. You’d be dead,” he said. “Now, get yourself to high ground. And shoot! Our lives depend on it.”

So he shot—and he killed. One boy in neat civilian dress went down. By his lead shot? “Who cares,” he thought. “The Tory bastard.” Then he yelled it. “Tory bastards!” The words made the next shot easier. And the next.

A Memorial Day Tribute

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Albert Lloydcroy ww1

On this Memorial Day, I remember Albert Lloyd Croy, the only extended family member to die in battle. He died at the World War I Battle of the Argonne Forest on the first day of the campaign, September 26, 1918. Commanded by General Pershing, the battle, on the notorious Western Front, resulted in 26,277 killed and 95,786 injured, the worst of the war. Albert had joined the army only one year before his death and left behind two children, Norvin Albert, and Margaret. He was 31 years old.

Other family members who served in war include:

Revolutionary War

  • Jacob Croy (about 1759-about 1806,)
  • Samuel Payne (1733-1813)

Civil War

World War I

  • Albert Lloyd Croy (1887-1918)
  • Gardner Lester Croy (1890-1920)
  • David Harrison Croy (1892-1944)

World War II

  • Ralph Lewis Croy (1912-2004)
  • Attilio DeBernardi (1919-1976)

…and my mother, still living, a member of the Women’s Army Corp (WAC)

To those currently unknown to me and not represented here, I give my apologies.

The pictures shown here are from The Oklahoma Spirit compiled by Welch and Aldride, Historical Publishing Co. Oklahoma City, OK 1926 and can be found here https://archive.org/details/oklahomaspiritof00np

A Revolutionary War Tragedy and Two Sons Named Zerah

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Data on a page, or a story of family sorrow?

Data on a page, or a story of family sorrow?

Samuel Payne and Abigail Grimes Payne are my 4x great grandfather and grandmother. His son, Zerah, had a daughter, Sephronia, who gave birth to my great grandmother Sarah Angeline Smith who married Calvin Croy.

Not long after the Battle of Bennington (August 16, 1777,) in Bennington, Vermont on November 29, 1777, Samuel Payne joined the “Green Mountain Boys” (formally the Continental Troop under Captain William McCune (McCun) in the Battalion of Forces commanded by Col. Seth Warner.) The enlistment originally was for a three-year term, but family tragedy intervened.[i]

In April of 1778 on the 22nd and 23rd, his oldest son, sixteen years old Zerah Payne, signed up along with 17 other young men to serve the newly formed Vermont Militia. (Vermont, less than a year before in July, had become a separate independent republic.) Who knows to what purpose they were employed, likely some necessary form of manual labor “of Capt. Comstock’s company …by order from Governor Chittenden.” He received 3 shillings 4 pence for the duty and it wet his eager young appetite for more.

When Capt. William Hutchins formed the Provential troops in service of the United States on May 1, 1778, Zerah (Zeruah Pain in the record) enlisted for a seven month term. He was seventeen and a half and was killed on May 26, 1778. No official record exists as to how this occurred. There were no major battles or even minor skirmishes recorded with Captain Hutchins’ Company during that timeline. So perhaps the “family lore” is correct. (Note that it could not be “before the Battle of Bennington” as that battle occurred long before his death.)

“The story is handed down in the family that he was killed by the accidental discharge of a comrade gun before the Battle of Bennington. The village men and boys were getting such weapons as they had ordered and one boy had a very decrepid (sic) and superannuated gun which the other boys were laughing at and making jokes. The owner, in fun picked up the lock, which was detatched (sic) from the barrel and merely held it on the barrel and aimed it at the group about him. The barrel was loaded, and he snapped the trigger and by some strange chance, the load was discharged killing Zerah.”[ii]

No matter how the death occurred, the pain of loss is great. And the pain of an untimely and early death of a beloved child is beyond measure. Samuel’s wife Abigail, to accentuate the stress, was five months pregnant. Samuel arranged an early release on July 15, 1778. In September of that year, Abigail gave birth to a son.[iii]

Much later, on July 1, 1781, Samuel enlisted in the Vermont Militia along with his second born son, seventeen year-old Jared, since Zerah’s death, his oldest boy. They served in Capt. Daniel Comstock’s Company in the Battalion of Infantry commanded by Samuel Fletcher in the service of the State of Vermont.[iv] Samuel enlisted for 150 days and earned 11 pounds 16 shillings, while Jared served for 171 days earning ll pounds 8 shillings. Note that for twenty-one fewer days of duty Samuel earned 8 shillings more indicating that Samuel in some way earned more through some type of greater responsibility. While the period in which they served saw no major conflicts in Vermont, it was a pivotal point in the Revolutionary War eventually leading to winning of the war.[v]

And that son who celebrated his third birthday while his father and brother served with Capt. Comstock? They named him Zerah. He grew to be a boot maker moving with his wife Amy first to Zaneville and then Coshocton County, Ohio. He is my 3x great grandfather.

[i] All Military information from: NARA M881. Compiled service records of soldiers who served in the American Army during the Revolutionary War, 1775-1783. www.fold3.com

[ii] Notes of Rosa Belle Phelps Gordon from personal collection

[iii] Edmund West, comp.. Family Data Collection – Births [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2001.

[iv] Vermont became a state on March 4, 1791 but the copy of the original record indicated “state,” a likely error.

[v] See this link for a better understanding of the import of 1781

http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/timeline/amrev/peace/

 

Samuel Payne and Family: Before his Revolutionary War Enlistment

Catamount Tavern where Colonel Stark planned for the Battle of Bennington

Catamount Tavern where Colonel Stark planned for the Battle of Bennington

In the previous posts we explored the family of Zerah Payne and Amy Felch Payne in Coshocton County, Ohio. Their granddaughter, Sarah Angeline Smith, married Calvin Croy, my great grandfather. Zerah Payne was the son of Samuel Payne.

I devote this post to Samuel’s story as I can best cipher it from analysis of various mentions of him in the Williamstown history from 1907[i].Samuel was born (1733) in Woodbridge, New Haven, Connecticut to William Payne II and Ester Carnes Payne. He married Amy Grimes (Graham) from Wethersfield, Connecticut in 1757.[ii] Samuel was a busy if somewhat restless man with decent resources for speculation. His first child, Lavinia (also called Lorena) was born in 1758 “in the Nine Partners,” this being a section of Dutchess County set aside for land speculation and lot division in 1697. This coincides with the mention in the Williamstown, Massachusetts records that “Warren, a yeoman, sold to Samuel Payn, Of Dutchess County, New York, carpenter…” the land noted in the quote below. He was considered “enterprising and apparently well-to-do” buying at least an additional 200 acres and mill rights, though he never developed a mill and soon sold the rights. The Williamstown history indicates that

“In June, 1761, Gideon Warren…sold to Samuel Payen, for 6 pounds, ‘two acres on Green river, part of a lot known as No. 30, beginning at the N.W. corner of M.L. 47, thence North 20 rods, thence East 16 rods across Green river, thence South 20 rods on the east side of the river, thence West across the river 16 rods to the place of beginning, with privilege of flowing the river bank as hie up as ye top of ye upper falls’; ‘and also a strip of land two rods wide by the west side of said river beginning at the north side of said land I sold to said Payn, and running north by said river to the mouth of the brook (Phebe’s Brook), and up the hill to the lot now enclosed and so out to the main road or Highway, to be a highway for the use of the town.’ This was a very important deed. Gideon Warren and Samuel Payen solved the mill question, opened up Water Street into Main just as it runs to-day…”

I propose the following timeline for Samuel and Abigail Payne’s residences based on birth and Williamstown historical information.

  • First Samuel’s place of birth, Woodbridge, New Haven, Conn., and Abigail Grimes Wethersfield, Conn.
  • Then, Dutchess County, New York in the “Nine Partners” after his marriage in 1757
  • Back to New Haven by 1761 (where the first Zerah Payne was born on September 26, 1761)
  • Soon after the birth of this son he brought his family to Williamstown, Massachusetts where he had bought land on June 1, 1761

Things seemed quite domestic in Williamstown for a while, a time when Abigail bore five more children: son Jared (1763,) daughters Kulvah (1766,) Asenath (1768,) Cloe (1770,) and son Amase (1772.)

Battle of Bennington Map from 1777

Battle of Bennington Map from 1777

Then came the Revolutionary War and the threat, in August of 1777, to Bennington, Vermont just over the border from Williamstown, Massachusetts. General John Burgoyne was working his way south, invading New York and attempting to cut off the “rebel” forces and regain control of New York Colony. Short on supplies, he sent Colonel Fredrick Baum and his Hessian troops on a foraging expedition to Bennington. Vermont’s Council of Safety called out for help and John Stark and about 1,500 troops from New Hampshire responded. They fought off the first on-slot but Hessian reinforcements arrived. Responding reinforcements from Saratoga reached the battle ground in the form of Seth Warner’s Vermont Regiment of the Continental Army commonly called “The Green Mountain Boys.” The Continentals won a resounding victory that eventually led to the surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga. The following accounting gives a perspective of the battle from viewpoint of the Williamstown community.

“A circumstance that will commemorate forever the old log schoolhouse of West Hoosac was the assembling within it of the pious women of Williamstown on the afternoon of Aug. 16, 1777, to pray for the safety and victory of their fathers and brothers and kinsfolk in the battle of Bennington, then raging. The sharp and credible tradition is, that there were not men enough left in the entire town ‘to put out a fir.’ The boom of cannon to the northward was occasionally heard by the participants while the meeting was in progress; their fears were deepened by the sight of women and children in wagons and on foot, with their little valuables snatched up, hurrying past towards places of safety from Bennington and Pownal; and their hearts were filled to the full with gratitude when, in the edge of the Saturday evening, a swift horseman, said to have been sent by Major Isaac Stratton, of South Williamstown, from the field of fight, rode past the schoolhouse into the anxious hamlet, announcing a great victory, and so breaking up a unique prayer-meeting that had lasted for hours without intermission.” From Origins in Williamstown written 1892

From the above quote we can assume that Samuel played a civilian roll in the Battle of Bennington. Soon after the battle, on November 29, 1777, Samuel Payne enlisted with Warner’s Regiment for a three-year term. Tragedy (or at least it can be assumed) cut his service short. (Revolutionary War documentation to follow in the next post.)

Next post: The Payne family experience of the Revolutionary War and the aftermath.

[i] Vital records of Williamstown, Massachusetts to the year 1850.Boston, Mass.: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1907

[ii] Families of Ancient New Haven, Vol 1-3 Baltimore, MD, USA Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc., 1981 (originals from New Haven colony Historical Society New Haven Conn.)

An Account of Frontier Revolutionary Service: Nicholas Lyberger

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“In the fall of the year 1776, in the month of November about the 15th the Indians made an incursion into Morrison’s Cove in Bedford County and burnt Ulrick’s Mill and Killed all Ulrick’s family but one who was absent at the time. On this occasion all the volunteers and Militia of Bedford county were called out and some from Conegocheague. We were collected at the town of Bedford and Col Davidson of the Militia took the command. I was then as a volunteer in the company commanded by Lieutenant Oserwalt.”

The above quote provides a small taste of the extreme conditions endured by those who chose to live on the edge of the Pennsylvania frontier in the 1700’s. The hazards amplified as the Shawnee and Iroquis began escalating their attacks, stirred by British promises to ban settlements west of the Ohio River in exchange for their support. As I hinted in an earlier posting, the most vivid accountings of frontier life in the 18th century come from first person recollections. Revolutionary pensions were long offered only to those unable to make a living on their own. But an 1832 law offered pensions to all who served in the war, as well as their widows. If the veteran did not have a record of service, he would submit a petition through his state of residence and include an extensive personal narrative. These first-hand accounts are extraordinary resources. Nicolas Lybarger (Liebarger/Liberger etc.) who lived in the Will’s Creek area of then Cumberland Valley Township, Bedford County (later Londonderry Township) provided a fabulous narrative in his petition. Portions have been quoted in other historical accounts. I have transcribed the complete petition here. Petition of Nicholas Lyberger for Revolutionary War Pension The “Oserwalt” mentioned here is Michael Oswalt, son of Jacob Oswalt Sr. Hustons and Croys probably also participated in these excursions. (See Outline of inhabitants of Wills Creek from the previous post.) Later, in April of 1847, the wife of Nicholas, Christina Lyberger, petitioned for widow’s benefits. Her daughter Elizabeth Devore placed her mark by her name proving the veracity of the claim. Included was a page copied from a family bible by Nicholas Lyberger, a “Dutch” bible as the record states.  While mostly illegible (He copied it but made a mark when he signed his name so likely didn’t understand what he copied.) the name Croy appears at the bottom of the page, just another testament to the closely connected families of the Will’s Creek settlement.