Windham County, Ct. in the French and Indian War.




Military Spirit of the People. - Expedition against Crown Point. - Fasting and Prayer by the People at Home. - Eastern Connecticut Regiment at Lake George.-Distinguished Sons of Windham. - Defeat of Braddock. - Earthquake. - Popular Alarm. - Filling the Ranks with Recruits. - List of Soldiers. - Official Honors. - Capture of Fort William Henry by Montcalm. - Enlistments and Names of Recruits. - Sufferings of the Soldiers, and of their Families at Home. - Flrst Census of Connecticut in 1756. - Population, Valuation, Churches and Schools. - General Progress.

THE French and Indian war interested Windham county in common with her sister counties in this and other New England colonies. In August, 1755, a regiment was raised in eastern Connecticut to assist in the proposed expedition against Crown Point. Eliphalet Dyer was appointed lieutenant colonel of this regiment. Each town of the county was ordered to furnish its proportion of men. John Grosvenor was captain of the company in Pomfret, and Nehemiah Tyler and Israel Putnam first and second lieutenants, respectively. Notwithstanding the dangers and difficulties of the service, the requisite number of recruits was speedily secured. A strong military spirit pervaded the people, to which was added a sense of religious and patriotic obligation, and these prompted the people to ready obedience to what they considered the call of duty. But not with the hilarious spirit of reckless adventurers did they meet this call. Rather with a spirit of humble reliance on a higher power who was able to lead them through the dark and uncertain way which lay before them, did they face the practical and serious question of the hour. As an example, we may quote the record of the vote passed by the people of Ashford at a church meeting, September 9th, which was, "to keep a day of fasting and prayer one day in a month to Almighty God, in behalf of our friends that are gone and going to defend our land against an encroaching foe: that they may be preserved and have success." And on the same day it was voted in town meeting, "That the town do concur with the church in keeping a day of fasting once a month."

The Eastern Connecticut regiment at once joined the forces at Lake George, aüd did good service during the remainder of the campaign. Those heroic qualities which afterward made Putnam famous were at once shown and recognized. Associating himself with a company of rangers under command of Captain Robert Rogers, he engaged with great ardor and boldness in the most exciting and hazardous service. The official report of his first thirty days' service is a series of hair-breadth escapes and thrilling adventures. Alone, or with but a single companion, he passed night after night in reconnoisances; creeping under bushes into encampments of hundreds of hostile Indians, and lying all night within reach of their muskets, venturing on one occasion, at Crown Point, within a rod of the sentry, and having his blanket shot through in different places as he was retreating from his perilous position. Another son of Windham county distinguished himself during this first campaign. This was Nathan Whiting, youngest son of Reverend Samuel Whiting, of Windham, who had established himself in business at New Haven. but went to the front as lieutenant colonel of the First Connecticut regiment. By his resolute action and skillful management on the field of battle at Fort Edward, he rallied his regiment from a destructive panic which followed the death of their colonel and other leaders in the fight, and largely influenced the turning of the tide which routed the French under Dieskau and secured a victory for the English arms. "For his extraordinary services," upon this and other occasions, a reward was granted him by the assembly of Connecticut. His brothers, William and Samuel, also served as colonels during this war.

In addition tothe depression felt by the colonists in view of the defeat of Braddock and the failure of several projected expeditions, the public mind was greatly alarmed by a severe earthquake shock, felt in all parts of the country, which occurred about four o'clock in the morning of November 18th, 1755. The air was clear and calm, the moon was shining with her usual placidity, but the sea was roaring on the shore with such a noise as hardly ever was known. The first shock lasted about one and a half minutes, being succeeded by a second one still more terrific. Mr. Stiles, of Woodstock, reports : "The terra motus in this place very severe, lasting about two minutes-earth violently shaken." This unusual phenomenon was considered an omen of further reverses and disasters. Alarming sickness and mortality already prevailed among the soldiers. One of the first victims of the war was the beloved young Separate minister, Thomas Stevens, dying at his father's house on Thanksgiving day, of disease contracted while serving in the army as a chaplain. In this hour of darkness the Windham County Association, early in 1756, recommended a day of prayer to be observed in all the churches, "on account of frequent and amazing earthquakes; strange, unusual and distressing war; awful growth and spread of vice, infidelity and iniquity; i. e., some hour of the afternoon of the last Thursday in every month, leaving it discretionary with the ministers whether to spend the whole time in prayer only, or give the people a sermon suitable to the occasion."

These untoward events and gloomy forebodings did not, however, discourage enlistments and preparations for further action. In November Israel Putnam received a commission as captain, and was ordered to raise a company of men to hold Fort Edward during the ensuing-winter. Many young men in Pomfret and adjacent towns were eager to serve with so spirited and popular a leader, and the ranks were soon filled, as follows: Captain, Israel Putnam; lieutenants, Nathaniel Porter and Henry Chapin; sergeants, Henry Pearson, Peter Leavens, Peleg Sunderland and William Manning; corporals, David Cleveland, Nathan Hale, David Whitmore and Thomas Lyon; drummer, Nathan Bacon; clerk, Isaac Dean; soldiers, -Robert Austin, Matthew Davis, Daniel Isham, Micajah Torrey, Eliphalet Carpenter, Samuel White, Littlefield Nash, Jeremiah Jackson, Peter Bowen, Timothy Harrington, Giles Harris. Ebenezer Cary, John Austin,Aaron Dewey, John Waters, Eli Lewis, Samuel Horton, Ezekiel White, Robert Newell, Samuel Webb, Gideon Webb, Solomon Mack, Zaccheus Crow, Roger Crow, Charles Biles, Edward Tryon, Edad Parson,. Stephen Pease, Wareham Pease, Thomas Brigdon, James Hartford, Thomas Eddy, George Gregory, John Metcalf, John Philips, John Hutchinson and Benjamin Shipman.

The forces underJohnson during the winter of 1755-56 remained in their quarters at Fort Edward, strengthening it and completing and equipping Fort William Henry at the southwestern extremity of Lake George, and constructing a more commodious road between these two important positions. Putnam's company was chiefly occupied with the congenial service of scouting and ranging, carrying on a sharp guerilla warfare with the bands of hostile savages which infested that region. So efficient was this service that, in May, Captain Putnam received from the general assembly a grant of fifty Spanish milled dollars in recognition of his "extraordinary services and good conduct in ranging and scouting the winter past for the annoyance of the enemy near Crown Point, and discovery of their motions." It is now impossible to give any definite account of the participation of the towns in the county in this war, as they preserved no lists of the men who went from these towns. But there is sufficient evidence to show that Windham county took hold of the matter of frontier defense with no laggard or indifferent spirit. Among the Windham county names, the following were honored with the rank of captain: John Payson, Nathan Payson, William Whiting, Samuel Whiting, Eleazer Fitch, John Grosvenor, Ebenezer Williams, Aaron Cleveland, of Canterbury; Edward Marcy, of Ashford; Ezekiel Pierce and Benjamin Lee, of Plainfield; Robert Durkee, of Canada Parish; David Holmes, of Woodstock; Benjamin Crary and John Keigwin, of Voluntown; John Leavens and Samuel Fairbanks, of Killingly; Samuel Lamed, of Thompson Parish, Joseph Paine, of Pomf ret. The company headed by Captain Eleazer Fitch comprised the following men, most of whom were from Windham; James Tracy and Ezekiel Fitch, lieutentants: Elijah Simons and Asa Richardson, sergeants; Nathan Lilly, Peter Bowditch and William Parish, corporals; Edward Bibbins, Nathaniel Ripley, Darius Waterman, Joseph Farnum, Asa Stevens, Isaac Canada, Aaron Eaton, Henry Brewster, Jonathan Knight, Benjamin Holden, Josiah Fuller, Simon Cady, Stephen Baker, Caleb Austin, George Parker, John Watson, Michael Watson, David Woodworth, Daniel Moulton, James Hide, George Dunham, Joseph Truesdell, Jonathan Canada, Daniel Squier, Moses Sparks, Phinehas Manning, Benjamin Cary, Cyrus Richards, Joshua Hebard, Samuel Morris, William Gorden, Benjamin Paul, Roger Crary and Enos Bartholomew, privates. Putnam's second company was mostly made up from Plainfield and Voluntown: among its members were Thomas Gallup, as lieutenant; George Creary, as sergeant; Ebenezer Davis and David Shep and, as corporals, and Robert DixOn, Benjamin Parks, Elijah Cady, Ezekiel Whiting, James Ashley and Thomas Rudd as soldiers.

Directly following the alarm caused by the capture of Fort William Henry by Montcalm, four volunteer companies marched from Windham county, commanded respectively by Abner Baker, of Athford; John Carpenter, of Woodstock: Isaac Coit, of Plainfield, and John Grosvenor, of Pomfret. As these volunteers were mostly men advanced in life it seems highly probable that most of the young men were already in the service. Captain Carpenter's company was made up as follows: Sergeants, Josiah Child, William Manning and Stephen Marcy; lieutenant, Diah Johnson; corporals, Timothy Perrin and Jonathan Knapp; privates, Isaac Stone, Benjamin Joslin, Zebediah Sabin, Elisha Marcy, Daniel Corbin, Jesse Carpenter, Benjamin Bacon, Joseph Bishop, Thomas Fox, Abraham Frizzel, Abijah Griggs, Abel Hammond, Jeremiah Tucker, Abner Darling, Abijah Nichols, Nathaniel Ormsbee, Joseph Perry, Joseph Peake, Joseph Frizzel, David Barret, Henry Lyon, Daniel Bacon, Uriah Marcy, George Lyon, Jonathan Nelson. Ephraim Peake, Joseph Bugbee, Benjamin Deming, Elisha Child, Ezra Child, Nathaniel Ellithorp, Luke Upham, Nathaniel Saunders, Elnathan Walker, Eliphalet Goodell, Samuel Dodge, Ezra Abbe, Benjamin Marcy, Zebulon Marcy, Elisha Goodell, Daniel Allard, Increase Child, Benjamin Dana, Samuel Lyon, Stephen Lyon, Daniel Lvon, Joseph Town, Joseph Newell, Nathan Bixbv, Peter Leavens, William Marsh, Noah Barrows, John Barrows, Thomas Shapley, and Calvin Torrey. Captain Grosvenor's company comprised Ebenezer Holbrook and John Cotton, lieutenants; Joseph Robbins, Moses Earl, Joseph Johnson and Josiah Sabin, sergeants; Josiah Brown, Jonathan Fisk, Benoni Cutler and Jonathan Coy, corporals; Nathaniel Stowell, clerk, and the following privates: Elijah Sharpe, Joseph Sumner, Elijah Chandler, James Williams, Coy, Danielson, Simeon Lee, Jonathan Jeffards. Jonathan Saunders, James Holmes, Nathaniel Goodefl, Williath Blackmar, Nathaniel Barnes, Joseph Coller, John Patton, James Anderson, Thomas Gould. Joseph Grover, Joseph Sprague, Elijah Cady, Stephen Brown, Benjamin Tucker, Benjamin Craft, Jacob Whitmore, Ebenezer Covill, Jonathan Cutler. and men by the name of Hyde, Hubbard. Goodell, Aldrich and Alton.

These lists contain but a small part of the names of those who served in the war. It is probable that but few families in the county were without one or more representatives in the army. In addition to those who went to fill Windham's quota, others went to make up the quotas of other places. As an example, Darias Sessions, who had removed hence to Providence, returned and raised a company of recruits in Pomf ret and Abington to serve for Rhode Island. During the war Eliphalet Dyer was promoted to the rank of colonel; Nathan Payson and Israel Putnam to that of lieutenant colonel; and Elisha Lord, of Abington, was a surgeon. Many others distinguished themselves, and gained experience which fitted them for still more notable achievements in the revolutionary struggle which was soon to follow.

The sufferings of the soldiers, great as they were, could hardly exceed those of their families at home, not only from suspense and anxiety, but from actual privation and destitution. Very little definite knowledge can, however, be gained. We only know that the currency was greatly demoralized, provisions and clothing were scarce, and all the resources of the country were very limited. As an instance, it is told on very good authority that the family of Ensign Samuel Perrin, of Pomfret, subsisted through one entire winter mainly on a crop of carrots which Mrs. Perrin had raised.

The first census of Connecticut was taken in 1756. The towns of Windham county numbered at that time as follows: Ashford, 1,245 white; Canterbury, 1,240 white, 20 black; Killingly, 2,100 white; Plainfield, 1,751 white, 49 black; Pomfret, 1,677 white, 50 black; Voluntown, 1,029 white, 19 black; Windham, 2,406 white, 40 black; Woodstock, 1,336 white, 30 black; Coventry, 1,617 white, 18 black; Lebanon, 3,171 white, 103 black; Mansfield, 1,598 white, 16 black; Union, 500 white. Taking from the list the five tdwns which have since been withdrawn to other counties, the population of the territory now embraced by Windham county was 11,755 whites and 189 blacks. These blacks were mostly owned as slaves by the more opulent families. They were generally employed as house or body servants, and were treated with great favor and indulgence. No instances of cruelty or neglect have been reported, and no complaint against any master has been found on the court records. The Indian residents were not enumerated at this time. Though greatly reduced in number, they still occupied their old haunts in several towns. Mohegans still asserted their rights to the Quinebaug country, and exercised the privilege of fishing in the river, cutting down trees, and, in general, taking whatever they needed.

The rate-list of 1759 gives to the towns of the present Windham county the following valuations: Ashford, £12,608 9s. 6d.; Canterbury, £16,333 3s. 3d.; Killingly, £21,837; Plainfield, £12,341 19s. 6d.; Pomfret, £20,113 13s. 3d.; Windham, £26,952 1s. 4d.; Woodstock, £16,500. The unsettled condition of the currency at this date makes it difficult to know the real value of this estimate, but it was not probably equal to one-third of the amount in silver. -

Churches at that time were organized and in active work in the towns as then constituted, as follows: In Ashford, one; in Canterbury, two; in Killingly, five; in Plainfleld, two; in Pornfret, three; in Voluntown, one; in Windham, four; and in Woodstock, three. Schools, though poor and insufficient, were gradually improving. Towns and societies were now divided into districts, each maintaining its own school. High schools and academies were yet unknown. Those wishing further advancement than the common schools could give them repaired to the ministers. The influence and authority of the clergy were by this means greatly strengthened. The best educated men of the day, leaders in church and state, honored them as their instructors and spiritual fathers. Ministers of the town as well as of the church, they occupied a most prominent and dig. nified position, and were usually treated with great respect and deference.

Very little progress had yet been made in the manufactures. The few articles needed for domestic use were made in the home circle or by neighborhood itinerants. Inventories of estates show a gradual improvement in household furniture and conveniences. The poverty and limited resources of the people, domestic broils and foreign war, however, had greatly impeded progress, and it is probable that no marked change had been wrought, either in the face of the country or the cOndition and manners of the people, since the organization of the county in 1726 Yet, in the face of many opposing obstacles, much had been accomplished. Settlements had been made, towns founded, institutions established, and a good foundation had been laid, upon which the coming generations might build.

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