GENERAL HISTORY

OF

THE TOWN OF SHARON,

LITCHFIELD COUNTY, CONN.
FROM ITS FIRST SETTLEMENT
BY CHARLES F. SEDGWICK, A. M.
AMENIA, N. Y.
CHARLES WALSH, PRINTER AND PUBLISHER.
1877

CHAPTER VIII

EVENTS OF THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR.


WE have now arrived at the period of the commencement of the Revolutionary War. The citizens of Sharon, almost without exception, partook largely of the feeling which pervaded the whole country, at the commencement of the struggle. Parson Smith, like the other clergymen of the day, was a most ardent and decided whig; and his personal influence contributed, not a little, to lead the public mind in the right channel. In his public ministrations, too, there was mingled much of the stirring patriotism of the times. In the prayers which were offered, and in the praises which were sung, there were interspersed many allusions’ to the tyrannical edicts of the British King, and to the degraded and suffering condition of the colonies. / Hymns were written, and music was composed, which were used for public worship on the Sabbath, the effect of which would seem to be, to stir up martial, rather than devotional feelings, and to excite in the worshipers the deepest hatred of their oppressors. The following stanza was the commencement of one of if e hymns which was frequently sung for Sabbath worship:—

“Let tyrants shake their iron rod,
And slavery clank their galling chains,
We fear them not, we trust in God,
New England’s God forever reigns.”


The intelligence of the battle of Lexington was brought to Sharon on the Sabbath, and Mr. Smith, at the close of the morning exercises, announced it from the pulpit, and made some remarks tending to arouse the spirit of the congregation to firmness and to resistance. Immediately after the congregation was dismissed, the niilitia and volunteers, to the number of one hundred men, paraded on the west side of the Street, south of the meeting house, and prepared to march immediately to the scene of action. David Downs, Esq., was Captain, James Brewster, Lieutenant, and David Gould, Ensign. After further deliberation, however, it was determined to send Lieutenant Brewster to Litchfield, to enquire more fully into the accuracy of the intelligence, and whether the service of the militia would be required immediately. Lieut. Brewster* performed this mission, and learning, that the British had returned to Boston, and that no pressing necessity existed for further military aid, it was determined not to march, until further hosiile movements on the part of the enemy should render it necessary.

The General Assembly was forthwith convened, and a large military force raised. One company was raised in Sharon and its vicinity. Samuel Elmore received a Major’s commission, and also had the command of this company. Amos Chappell was the Lieutenant.

The last survivors of this company were Thomas Heath and Adonijah Maxam. Deacon Isaac Chamberlain, Capt. Sylvanus Gibbs, and Mr. Ehe Everitt, lately deceased, were also members of this company, as were William Gray, Samuel Lewis, Jr., and David Goff. This company was attached to a regiment which marched to the northward in 1775, for the conquest of Canada, under General Montgomery. Before St. Johns was taken, it was determined, by Colonels Allen and Brown, to make an attempt upon the city of Mntreal with a few volunteers, if they could be obtained. The troops were paraded, and Allen marched in front of the Connecticut line, and invited volunteers t? join him. Of the soldiers who belonged to Sharon, Adonijah Maxam, David Goff, William Gray and Samuel Lewis, stepped forward, and offered to share in the perils of the expedition. It was arranged between Allen and Brown, that the latter should land on the island, below the city, while Allen, with about eighty men, should land above the city, and there wait until they should hear the firing from Brown’s party, when they were to rush on to’ the attack. Allen crossed the river St. Lawrence with his detachment on the evening of the 24th of September, on a raft, and waited in the expectation of hearing the firing from Brown’s party through the whole night, but he waited in vain. For some reason the expedition on Brown’s part had failed, and the morning light found Allen altogether in the power of the enemy. This rash adventurer, however, deterniined to defend himself to the last extremity against the seven or eight hundred men that were brought against him, and he fought until twenty-five of his men were killed, and seven wounded, when he and his brave associates, including Maxam, Goff, Gray and Lewis, from Sharon, and one Roger Moore, of Salisbury, were compelled to surrender. They were loaded with irons, and sent to England, for the avowed object of receiving the sentence and punishment of traitors. The threat of retaliatory measures, however, on the part of the Americans, prevented such summary proceedings against them, and after being kept in close confinement, in England and Ireland, during the winter, the prisoners just named were brought back to New York in the spring of 1776. They were confined, in an old church, with a large number of others, who had been taken during the campaign, at Fort Washington, and other places. From this place the persons above named contrived to make their escape within a few days after they were put into confinement. The old church in which they were confined was surrounded by a high fence, and thus a little daily out-door exercise was allowed the prisoners. While enjoying this liberty, William Gray managed to loosen one of the long planks of which the fence was made, but did not remove it, and the appearance of things were so little disturbed by the act of Gray, that it escaped the observation of the officers in charge of the prisoners. Through the opening in the fence, thus made practicable, the five soldiers above named made their escape as soon as it was sufficiently dark to conceal their operations. They had been habited in sailor’s clothes during their captivity, and on this account they were less liable to be detected. They divided into two parties, Maxam and Moore forming the one, and Gray, Goff and Lewis the other. The three latter very sopn found means to land on Long Island, and from thence passed over the Sound to the Continent, and returned to their friends in Sharon. Maxam and Moore had more difficulty. They were two or three days in the city before they found it possible to leave it, and after landing on Long Island they suffered much from hunger. After travelling several days, they found means to embark in a boat on the Sound, and to reach Saybrook. Their return to Sharon astonished their friends, who having learned from Gray and his comrades the circumstance of their escape from confinement, and having heard nothing further from them, had concluded that they had been retaken by the British. The last survivor of this band of sufferers was Mr. Adonijah Maxam, who died at the age of 97 years.

In the campaign of 1775, Parson Smith went with the army to the northward, as Chaplain to Col. Hinman’s regiment, and spent several months in the service.

There was one soldier from Sharon, who joined the expedition led by General Arnold through the wilderness of Kennebec, to Canada, whose name was Alexander Spencer. He died, however, on the march, from sickness.

The exigencies of the times calling for a large army at the commencement of 1776, a large number of men, more than one hundred, enlisted from the town of Sharon. One cornpany marched for Canada. It was commanded by Captain David Downs, already mentioned. The first lieutenant was Adonijah Griswold, and the second lieutenant was David Doty. The last survivors of this’ company, which was a large one, were Joel Chaffee and Adonijah Pangman, of Cornwall. Charles Gillet, another member of the company, was killed near The Cedars, so called, by a party of Indians in ambush, as he was riding along the road, having gone on some business connected with his duty as commissary. The other soldiers raised in Sharon for the campaign of 1776, were distributed among three other companies, and all marched for New York, against which an attack by the British was now apprehended. Of one company, Dr. Simeon Smith, was captain; of another, Elijah Foster was captain; and of the third, Nathaniel Hamlin was lieutenant. These companies were in the campaign of 1776, under General Washington on Long Island and in the vicinity of New York, and shared in the fatigues and perils of that disastrous period. David Wood, Nathaniel Buel, Josiah Coleman, Jabez Jennings, Asahel Somers; John Randall, Jr., and Thomas Ackley were taken prisoners at Fort Washington, of whom Wood and Ackley died during their captivity, and Buel and Coleman on their return. The British having obtained possession of New York, General Washington determined to make an effort to dislodge them during the winter which followed the unfortunate campaign of 1776. For this purpose a large military force was raised in the fall of that year for two months service, and one company was enlisted in Sharon. William Boland was captain, Hezekiah Frisbie, lieutenant, and Azariah Griswold, ensign. As the period enlistment was so short, there was no difficulty in filling the company. The survivors of this company were Messrs, Adonijah Maxam and Thomas Heath. New York was not attacked. and the company was discharged at Kingsbridge, at the expiration of their term of service..

The forces that had hitherto been called into the service were raised on the authority of the State, To provide for the campaign of 1777, Congress undertook to raise an army, which was called the Continental army ; and of this army, two regiments, Swift’s and Bradley’s, were raised in the western part of Connecticut. Of one company, David Strong was appointed lieutenant, and he enlisted a number of recruits. one of whom, David Goodrich, was killed at the battle of Brandywine, in the . subsequent campaign. Of another company, Reuben Calkin was lieutenant, and a number of men enlisted under him. There are none now remaining of either company.

A large depot of provisions and military stores had been established at Danbury, and in the month of April, an expedition was sent out from New York to destroy them. It was cornmanded by Major General Tryon, of the British army, and consisted of two thousand men. They landed at a place called Compo, in the south-west part of the town of Fairfield, and proceeding through the towns of Weston and Redding, reached Danbury, and effected their object. which was the destruction of the stores. The most active measures were taken to spread the alarm through the adjacent country, and to collect the militia to repel the invaders. On the evening of the 26th of April, a messenger arrived in this town bringing the intelligence, apd requiring the immediate marching of such forces as could be collected, to meet the enemy. The bell commenced tolling, and it was kept tolling through the night, and it was a night of great terror and solemnity. Colonel Ebenezer Gay, who then commanded the militia in this vicinity, gathered together as many troops as could be collected on so short notice, and marched for the scene of action; and on the morning of the 28th reached Danbury, and finding that the British had retreated, pursued them. The route which the British bad taken on their retreat, brought them on the westside of the Saugatuck River, which empties into the Sound a mile or two west of Compo, where their fleet lay. They were intercepted in their attempt to reach the. bridge over this stream, by General Arnold, who was then in command of a few regular troops, and were guided by some tories to a fording place, a little higher up,—and it was while they were marching up on the west, side of the stream to reach this fording place, that they were first observed by the troops from Sharon, who were endeavoring to reach the bridge, and to join the corps under Arnold. As the British marched by them on the low grounds which bordered on the river, Adonijah Maxam, who had not forgotten the injuries which were heaped upon him while a prisoner in England, begged permission of the commanding officer to steal down the hill from the left flank and shoot a few of them. - He was strictly forbidden, however, to execute this perilous undertaking. The British marched by unmolested, and our troops took undisputed possession of the bridge. The enemy came down on the east side of the river, and having taken ground a little to the east of the bridge, fired upon our men who were stationed there. Arnold, perceiving the danger to which his men were exposed, brought his artillery to bear upon the new position of the enemy, and firing upon them over the heads of such of his men as were upon the bridge, soon drove them beyond the reach of his cannon. rrhey took new ground a little to the south-east of their first position, and it was determined to attack them there with small arms A few regular troops under Arnold, commenced the aétion with great bravery, and our men at the bridge were ordered to join them. They marched up the hill with a good degree of resolution, to sustain the regular troops. As they came within the reach of the enemy's musketry, however, some one, and it was never known who, cried out retreat. As this word was uttered, Lieutenant Samuel Elmer, Jr.,* perceiving the effect it was producing, and the trepidation which was taking hold of his comrades, stepped up on a stone wall, and cried out, "for God's sake, men don't retreat, don't run, march up the hill and drive them off." He had barely uttered these words, when he was shot through the body. The only words he spoke afterwards, were addressed to his uncle, Mr. George Pardee, who was near him : " Uncle Georges" said he, " I am a dead man." A general retreat of our men then followed ; and the British, being left unmolested, marched to their shipping, and sailed for New York.

A large depot of provisions had been established in this town early in the war. The store-house stood a little west of the Messrs. Goodwins, on the old road that formerly ran through their land, before the present turnpike road was established, and a guard was constantly kept at the depot during the war. The fate of the stores at Danbury caused much apprehension for the safety of those here. There were frequent alarms, and the citizens frequently collected in arms to defend the public property at the store-house. On one Sabbath day, during the sermon, Jonathan Gillett, who lived directly oppo site the meeting house, came out of his house during the public service, and proclaimed with a loud voice that the British were coming. A dense smoke was seen rising beyond Tower Hill, a mountain in the State of New York, a few miles southwest of Sharon, and the belief was general that the enemy was at hand. Parson Smith was foremost in exhorting the people to firmness and resistance, and he entreated them to stand firm, not only as soldiers of the cross, but as soldiers of their country and of liberty. The alarm, however, proved to be groundless. The approach ot a large British army from Canada, under General Burgoyne, and the expedition UI) the North River, under General Vaughan, filled the whole country with terror and despondency, and frequent alarms were spread, requiring the constant and active duty of the militia. The tories, too, in Duchess county, New York, where they were numerous, took courage from the prospect of success which the progress of the British arms afforded, and embodied themselves into a formidable force. Information was brought to this town during the summer that four hundred of them had assembled at Carpenter's, as it was then called, now Washington Hollow, and that they were threatening destruction to all the whigs in the neighborhood. An expedition was immediately set on foot to break up the gang. Volunteers to the number of fifty or sixty immediately assembled. —They marched immediately for the Hollow, and were joined by others in their progress, so that . when they arrived at Bloom's Mills, which is about four miles north of the Hollow, their numbers amounted to two hundred men. There they encamped for the night, and marched the next morning to attack the tories. They found them paraded in the meadow just north of the public house, and marching up with spirit, fired upon them. The tories fled immediately and as many as could made their escape. About thirty or forty of them, however, were made prisoners, and brought to this town, and locked up in the old churáh at the head of the street. They were taken to Exeter, in New Hampshire, where they were kept in close confinement for two years. This proceeding broke up the gang, and no further trouble was had from this class of persons during the war.

A company of light horse, which belonged to Sharon and its vicinity, were kept on duty during the whole summer of 1777, On the North River, watching the motions of the enemy in that quarter. It was commanded by Captain Dutcher, of Salisbury, and David Boland, of Sharon, was the cornet of the company The smoke of burning Kingston was distinctly seen from our mountain when it was destroyed by the Hessian troops. Adonijah Maxam belonged to this company.

A large number of men marched from this town under the command of Colonel Gay to the northward, to oppose the progress of Burgoyne's army, and shared in all the conflicts which preceded its surrender. John Hollister, one of the soldiers from this town, was killed at the battle of Stiliwater, on the 7th of October.

The intelligence of the surrender of Burgoyne's army was received here under circumstances which produced a deep impression. Nothing had been heard respecting the state of affairs at Saratoga excepting that two severe battles had been fought without any very decisive result. This state of uncertainty produced extreme anxiety regarding the issue of the campaign, and many trembled at the prospect of defeat and disgrace to the American arms. The firmness and confidence of Parson Smith, however, never forsook him, and he did everything in his power to rouse the drooping spirits of his people.. On Sabbath, the -- day of October, he preached a sermon from Isaiah xxi. II:- ' Watchman, what of the night? the watchman saith the morning coneth." The discourse was en tirely adapted to the condition of public affairs. He dwelt much upon the indications, which the dealings of Providence afforded, that a bright and glorious morning was about to dawn upon alongnight ofdefeat and disaster. He told the congregation that hebelieved they would soon hear ofa signal victory crowning the arms of America4 and exhorted them to trust with an unshaken and fearless confidence in that God who he doubted not would 'soon appear for the deliverance of his people, and crown with success the efforts of the friends of liberty in this country. Before the congregation was dismissed, a messenger arrived, bringing the intelligence of the surrender of Burgoyne's army. Parson Smith read the letter from the pulpit, and a flood of joy burst upon the assembly.

During the next year a large part of Burgoyne's. army was marched through this town on their way to the south. They were met here by a regiment of continental troops; under the command of Lieut. Colonel Jameson, who was afterwards somewhat conspicuous in the affairs connected with the capture of Major Andre, and who here took charge of the prisoners.* One of Burgoyne's soldiers, by the name of Robert Gibbs, a Scotchman from Dundee, who was wounded and taken in the battle immediately preceding Burgoyne's surrender, was here left by his comrades. He died at the age of 94.

After the campaign of 1777, the seat of the war was removed to so great a distance that no further call was made for the militia of the town, except for the purpose of keeping guard on the sea coast. The burdens and privations of a pecuniary kind, however, which are incident to a state of war, were borne by the people of this town without a murmur, and the almost unanimous feeling in favor of the cause which marked the cornmencement of the war, continued with unabated ardor to the close of it.

The records of the County Court show that several of the citizens of Sharon were delinquent in responding to the calls for temporary service in the army, but it does not appear that their neglect was owing to any want of fidelity to the cause of the country, but it was probably for some reasons which were deemed satisfactory to themselves, but which were not deemed sufficient by the Court. Abner Curtice, David Hollister, Elijah Pardee, and Apollos Smith were each fined £10 and costs of prosecution " for refusing to muster and march to the assistance of the continental army," about the time of the apprehended invasion of this part of the country by Burgoyne's army. Stephen Sears was fined £10 for not marching to the relief of Peekskill. Theodore Elmer, Thomas Hamlin, Jun., Joseph Barrows, Jesse Goodrich, Amasa Hamlin, Robert Whitcomb, David Hollister, James Henry, Nathaniel Curtis, were prosecuted for the same ofTences, but were able to show good reasons whytheyhad not reported for muster, and were discharged.

EPITAPH.
" Lient. Samuel Elmer, son to Col. Samuel Elmer of Sharon, was killed at Fairfield,
fighting for the liberties of his country, April 28th, 1777. in the 25th year of his age.
Our youthfull hero, bold in arms,
}fls countrys cause his bosom warms;
To save her rightd fond to engage,
And guard ikr front a tyrants rage,
Flies to ye field of blood and death,
And gloriously resigns his breath.

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