of the Book My Brother Sam is Dead
Brother Sam is Dead takes place in Redding, Connecticut.
is Redding, Connecticut?
Connecticut is located in Southwest Connecticut. It's size
is 31.5 square miles, about five miles from north to south,
roughly seven miles from east to west. It encompasses 4.9%
of Fairfield County.
Meeker and his family live on Redding Ridge at the corner
of Black Rock Turnpike, Church Hill Road and Cross Highway.
This is also the location of the Anglican Church, William
Heron, Jerry Sanford, Stephen Betts and General Parsons.
information on Redding, Connecticut
Connecticut was first settled in the early 1700's, prior to
that approximately half of Redding was a part of Fairfield,
1709, Fairfield surveyed it's northern boundary and it was
found that it ended at a point best described using present
day roads: Old Redding Rd., Diamond Hill Rd., Great Pasture
Rd., Cross Highway, and Church Hill Rd. These roads would
be the approximate northern boundary of the Fairfield long
lots in 1709. Land north of these roads was the "country lands
between Fairfield and Danbury" or oblong.] See "Early
Settlement of Redding" at the main History of Redding
site for further details and maps.
the setting for My Brother Sam is Dead is at or on this northern
boundary line. This was likely done purposely by the authors
as it allowed them to highlight the split loyalties in that
timeframe. Redding Ridge was long considered a Loyalist settlement
because from the very beginning it was settled by families
that preferred the ideals of the Anglican Church.
Read settled in the Oblong shortly after Fairfield's northern
boundaries were surveyed. Several others settled in the Oblong
prior to 1720, and all are believed to have been Anglicans.
To make a very long and complicated story short, in the 1720's
John Read and the other settlers were joined by new settlers
and many of them were Presbyterians. Together these groups
formed a township and called it "Reading" in honor
of John Read.
Tim Meeker states in the novel that Redding was "Divided
in two parts" he is absolutely correct. Redding truly was
divided in two parts, it had been since the very beginnning:
built their church in Redding Center and The Anglicans built
theirs on Redding Ridge.
was no ill-will between the groups prior to the Revolution,
in fact, the Presbyterians issued the following statement
just prior to the completion of their meeting house:
those persons that inhabit or hereafter may inhabit in this
parish, which profess themselves to be of the Church of England,
shall have free liberty to come into this meeting house and
attend the public worship of God according to the articles
of Divines at Saybrook, and established by the laws of this
a May of 1772 report by Anglican minister, John Beach, he
Church of England people are increasing more than 20 to 1,
and what is infinitely more pleasing, many of them are remarkable
for piety and virtue; and the Independents (Presbyterians)
here are more knowing in matters of religion, than those who
live at a distance from the Church. We live in harmony
and peace with each other, and the rising generation of
Independents seem to be entirely free from every pique and
prejudice against the Church."
heading into the Revolutionary period, members of the Presbyterians
Church, and the Anglican Church were on opposite ends of the
Religious spectrum in terms of ideologies, but for the most
part, they got along. It was rather unique to have two Religious
ideologies residing in the same town, the fact that they lived
in "peace and harmony" is quite amazing. Having two churches
in the same town, had additional benefits: it increased the
potential settlers it could attract, and it allowed families
the opportunity to switch allegiances, and remain in Redding.
In most Connecticut towns, this was not possible. Those banished
from the church or simply wishing to leave the church were
forced to relocate to a new community.
Revolutionary War erased "peace and harmony" and replaced
it with "confusion and violence".
Collier's make us aware of the confusion in Chapter 2:
Read: "Timmy are you on your father's side or Sam's?
"I wished she hadn't asked me that question. I didn't want
to answer it ; in fact, I didn't know how to answer it. 'I
don't understand what it's all about,' I said."
"It's simple, either we're going to be free or we're not."
"It isn't that simple, Sam. There's more to it."
was more to it as Betsy correctly states- religious affiliation
weighed heavily on colonists positions on the war, especially
in 1775 Redding, Connecticut.
important to understand that the Meeker's religious beliefs
made them "Loyalists" by default. The Anglican Church was
the Church of England, their preachers warned of rebellious
behavior and prayed for the health and well being of the King
and his Parliament each and every sermon. Conversely, Congregational
ministers thundered anti-British tirades from their pulpits
week after week, praying for the health and well-being of
the troops and their generals. This religious influence resulted
in many Anglicans siding with England and many Congregationalists
siding with America.
Rev. John Beach was continually harassed and in some cases
threatened because he continued to pray for the health and
well-being of the King and Parliment, which was customary
for Anglican preachers of the time period. He writes:
some time past, I have not been without fear of being abused
by a lawless set of men who style themselves the Sons of Liberty,
for no other reason than that of endeavoring to cherish in
my people a quiet submission to the civil government… "
Meeker is unique in that he and his family are Anglican yet
he is siding with the rebel cause. He has been influenced
by views of those at his college- Yale. At that time period
there were very few colleges in New England, and the few that
did exist were more theologically based. The religion of choice
at these colleges was Presbyterian. Presbyterians were generally
pro-rebellion and thus students received information that
promoted the benefits of a split with England via rebellious
Prayers justifying Loyalty to England:
God, Honor the King"
that ruleth over men, must be just, ruling in the fear of
photo of prayers
Prayer justifying Rebellion:
arising and pleading his people's cause; or the American War
in favor of Liberty..."
photo of prayer
Yankee Doodles of Boston cartoon
is Droving? It is the Act of Driving Cattle to Market
very important aspect of the story is Tim and Life Meeker's
cattle drive to Verplancks.
was very much a part of colonial america and Connecticut was
very much a cattle rich state that became known as the Provision
State because of its role in the American Revolution.
produced for market is commercial agriculture. During the
seventeenth century Connecticut had marketed its surplus overland
to Boston. In the eighteenth century with the settlement of
new towns and more land clearing, new and better roads were
built. It was now possible to trade with New York via a host
of new water routes. Connecticut farmers bred a sturdy oxen
which pulled in pairs either ploughs or two-wheeled carts
for taking produce to points for shipping. Draft oxen usually
weighed six hundred pounds but they were bred for weights
up to sixteen hundred pounds to pull carts loaded with beef.
Map of Tim and Life's Cattle Route shown with yellow stars.
and the Revolution
As early as 1739, a company or "train band" of sixty-four
soldiers and three officers existed in Redding. "Train bands"
were common in colonial times, they were local militias formed
for the protection of town residents, generally they served
as a defense from Indian attacks.
local train bands were formally organized into regiments via
an October, 1739 Act that stated: "…for the better regulating
the Militia of this Colony, and putting it in a more ready
posture for the Defense of the Same…all military companies
in this Colony shall be formed into regiments…"
being a part of Fairfield belonged to the "Fourth Regiment
May, 1754, there were two separate companies of militia in
Redding - One (West militia) commanded by members of the Congregational
society at Redding Center, the other (East militia) commanded
by members of the Anglican society at Redding Ridge.
Militia Officers, 1754: Samuel Sanford, Captain; Daniel Hull,
Lieutenant; John Read, Ensign.
Militia Officers, 1754: Joshua Hall, Captain; James Morgan,
Lieutenant; Daniel Lyon, Ensign.
of both companies served with British troops in the
French and Indian War (Seven Year War). Redding and the War,
1775-1777 After the battles in Lexington and Concord, members
of both militia's (East & West) again served together
with The 10th Company, 5th Connecticut Regiment which joined
other colonial militias for the Invasion of Canada in June/July
Read, Ezekiel Sanford, David Peet and Benjamin Nichols appear
as officers in William E. Grumman's history, titled Revolutionary
Soldiers of Redding, Connecticut. Most of Redding soldiers
returned in November of that same year, though some did remain
during the siege of Montreal that winter.
Redding Militia's were again called to duty in March of 1776.
Orders to assemble and march to New York City were issued
for the Battle of Long Island, but this time, the Anglican
East Company militia, mutinied and refused to assemble. In
response, the Connecticut General Assembly issued arrest warrants
for the militia's officers (Daniel Hill, Peter Lyon, Samuel
Hawley) causing some East Company members to flee to the enemy
West Company militia did assemble, march and fight in the
Battle of Long Island, the Battle of Fort Washington and the
Battle of White Plains in 1776.
first action of the town in regard to the war is found in
the records of a town meeting held on April 2, 1777, when
a committee was appointed "to hire a number of soldiers to
serve in the Continental Army." It was also voted that the
"sum or sums said committee promise to or do pay to those
soldiers…be paid by town rates, and the Selectmen are ordered
to and desired to make a rate to collect the money." In the
same meeting a committee was also appointed "to take care
of the families of those soldiers that are in service of their
country." A month later evidence of the war's affect on town
officials was recorded in a May 5, 1777 meeting appointing
"David Jackson, Seth Sanford, Thaddeus Benedict, and John
Gray as selectmen" to take the place of Stephen Betts and
James Rogers who had been taken prisoner by the British during
their march through Redding en route to Danbury. Betts and
Rogers were later released in September of 1777.
Raid of Danbury, 1777
The British Army's march through Redding Ridge is the only
direct contact Redding residents had with British troops in
the Revolution. It created much excitement and afforded the
Collier's an opportunity to bring that excitement to life
in my brother Sam is dead. Twenty-four vessels carrying around
1,550 regular British troops and some 300 Loyalist militiamen
from "Browne's Provincial Corps", many of whom were originally
from Connecticut, arrived on the shores of Compo Beach in
Westport, Connecticut on April 25, 1777. Their mission: destroy
the rebel military supply depot at Danbury, Connecticut.
Howe, the commander of the British troops, stationed at New
York City, had long meditated an attack on Connecticut and
news of provisions being stored at Danbury provided the incentive
he desired. Howe chose William Tryon, the deposed British
governor of New York, as Commander and two military men: Brigadier
General James Agnew, second in command and Brigadier General
Sir William Erskine as third in command for the expedition.
had been Governor of New York up until the Revolution and
was said to have been consumed with "an inveterate hatred
and thirst for revenge" on the rebel Yankees. He had a special
grudge against Connecticut, the sturdy little colony that
had thwarted him in a variety of ways: "Her horseman had scattered
organs of revolutionary propaganda through the streets of
New York; her "Sons of Liberty" had plotted against him even
in his own city; treated with contempt his proclamations,
using them as specimens of the governor's pleasant humor."
had the further merit of being intimately acquainted with
the towns and landscape of Connecticut. He had been as far
inland as Litchfield, had probably visited Danbury, and had
been dined and feted at Norwalk, Fairfield, and New Haven.
He seems to have acted as a *guide to the expedition while
giving **Agnew and Erskine the responsibility of tactical
was aided by local Tories who had fled from the area and joined
the British army. The locals intimate knowledge of the roadways
and landscape in and around Southwestern Connecticut was a
vital asset to the British troops.
was injured at some point during the weekend and Erskine took
over as second in command.; He was very capable in that role.
Earlier that winter, Erskine had led a foraging expedition
to New Jersey in which "he routed the rebels with great slaughter;
he took no prisoners."
40 or 50 flatboats the troops disembarked at Compo between
five and six in the afternoon, and that same evening marched
to Fairfield, about seven miles distant, where they encamped
for the night.
that the British had landed at Compo, encamped at Fairfield,
and would march through Redding the next day, was conveyed
to the residents at an early hour, and occasioned the greatest
consternation and excitement. Money and valuables were hastily
secreted in wells and other places of concealment; horses
and cattle were driven into the forests, and the inhabitants
along the enemy's probable route held themselves in readiness
for instant flight.
receiving intelligence of the landing at Compo, Captain Zalmon
Read mustered his company of militia, and forthwith marched
to intercept the invaders. At a place called Couch's Rock,
in Weston, Connecticut, they came suddenly upon a British
flanking company and were taken as prisoners. Town selectman,
James Rogers, Timothy Parsons, Russell Bartlett and 13 year
old, Jacob Patchen were among the prisoners. In Charles Burr
Todd's History of Redding, Todd relates that:
Parsons, had a fine musket which he particularly valued; this
a British soldier took, and dashed to pieces on the stones,
saying it should waste no more rebel bullets."
Colonel Joseph Platt Cooke, commander of the 16th militia
regiment in Danbury, had followed General Gold S. Silliman's
instructions and sent all available men from Danbury to Fairfield.
Silliman mistakenly assumed that the British intended to attack
Fairfield. Other troops were sent toward the Hudson River,
in response to a number of ships the British had strategically
positioned there to confuse the American generals. This left
the Military Depot at Danbury in a vulnerable state.
the morning of the 26th, at a very seasonable hour (11am-12
noon), the British troops arrived and halted at Redding Ridge.
During the halt the main body of the troops remained under
arms on the green in front of the Anglican Church. Tryon,
Agnew, and Erskine were invited into Esquire William Heron's
home (the first house south of the Christ Church Episcopal,
no longer in existence). Here they were reported to have been
"hospitably entertained with cake, wine, and it is presumed,
many hopeful prognostications of the speedy collapse of the
after their meeting, a file of soldiers entered the house
of Lieutenant Stephen Betts, a prominent patriot who lived
across the street from the church and seized him. Daniel Sanford,
his son, Jeremiah Sanford (19 years old), and 16 year old,
Benjamin Lines, met a like fate. Three of Redding's loyalists
joined British Troops on this day: Samuel Hawley, James Gray,
and Joseph Lyon. Lyon had been in hiding for 33 days.
the army prepared to resume its march north, a horseman was
observed spurring rapidly down *Couch Hill Road (present day-
Sunset Hill Road) toward them. He was within musket shot before
discovering their presence and though he turned to fly when
he saw their red coats, he was shot, and severely wounded
in the attempt. He proved to be a messenger from Colonel Cooke
in Danbury, bearing dispatches to General Silliman. His name
was Lambert Lockwood. Tryon had formerly known him in Norwalk,
where Lockwood had rendered him a service, and Tryon seems
to have acted on this occasion with some kindness, as he released
him on parole, and allowed him to be taken into a house so
his wounds could be dressed.
CT historians have the same narrative occurring on Hoyt's
Hill in Bethel. Luther Holcolm is the unfortunate horseman
in Bethel's rendition of the story. Whomever the horseman
actually was he was likely carrying an S.O.S. from Cooke;
Danbury was in grave danger.
in all, the British troops spent one to two hours on Redding
Ridge before resuming their march to Danbury with the **Redding
militiamen captured in Weston, Patriots Stephen Betts, Daniel
Sanford, Jeremiah Sanford and a non-combatant (B. Lines) captured
in Redding. One British soldier, Bernard Keeler, deserted
at Redding Ridge and lived in town until his death in 1827.
Bartlett, Lines, Patchen, and most of the Redding militiamen
would all eventually return to Redding. Daniel Sanford, Jeremiah
Sanford, Daniel Chapman, and David Fairchild died in captivity
while being held in the "sugar houses" of New York, where
sanitation was deplorable and disease was rampant.
the British marched toward Danbury, the remaining patriots
of Redding anxiously awaited the approach of the Patriot troops
in pursuit. At length they came in view, marching wearily,
in sodden, disordered ranks, a small army of five hundred
men and boys, led by Brigadier General Silliman. They were
comprised of soldiers from the companies of Colonel Lamb's
battalion of artillery, with three rusty cannon, a field-piece,
part of the artillery company of Fairfield, and sixty Continentals;
the rest were an untrained assemblage, chiefly old men and
boys. It was eight o'clock in the evening when the troops
arrived at Redding Ridge-an evening as disagreeable as a northeast
rainstorm with its attendant darkness could make it. Here
the troops halted an hour for rest and refreshment. At the
expiration of that time a bugle was heard from far down the
turnpike; then the tramp of horsemen was heard and presently
Major General Wooster and Brigadier General Arnold, dashed
into the village of Redding Ridge.
hearing that the British were so far ahead, it is said that
Arnold became so enraged that he could scarcely keep his seat,
and his terrible oaths fell on his auditor's ears like thunder
claps. Wooster at once assumed command, and the column moved
forward through the muddy and heavily rutted roadway as far
as Bethel, where it halted for the night.
Danbury, but three miles distant, Tryon's force was at rest,
and might have been annihilated by a determined effort, but
the Continental command was hampered by the weather conditions,
heavily rutted roadways and fatigue.
Arnold to McDougall, West Redding, April 27th, 1777, 10am:
night at half past eleven, General Wooster, General Silliman
and myself with six hundred militia arrived at Bethel, *eight
miles from Danbury. The excessive heavy rains rendered their
arms useless, and many of the troops were much fatigued having
marched thirty miles in the course of the day without refreshment."
from Danbury vary from 2.5 miles to 8 miles, depending on
who is reporting back to their superiors. In this case Arnold
incorrectly states they were 8 miles from Danbury; They were
within 3 miles of Danbury, at the intersection of Elizabeth
Street and Blackman Avenue.
British had reached Danbury at approximately 5:00 pm and driven
off the Patriots who had been attempting to remove supplies.
Later that evening, seven patriot defenders who had stayed
behind opened fire on British troops from a house in town
owned by Major Daniel Starr, among the patriots was "Ned",
a slave of Redding's Samuel Smith. Two companies of British
regulars charged and put the dwelling to the torch killing
all the men inside.
was the story behind the beheading of Ned in My Brother Sam
their departure early the next morning, the British had destroyed
much of the Rebel's depot: barrels of pork and beef, barrels
of flour, bushels of grain, hogsheads of rum and wine, thousands
of shoes, stockings and tents among other supplies. Provisions
the Continental troops would long for come the winter of 1778-79.
the events of April 26th and 27th, Redding played a supporting
role to the Continental army's efforts in the War of Independence.
8, 1778, Captain Zalmon Read and Asahel Fitch were appointed
to provide "shirts, shoes, stockings and other articles of
clothing for the Continental soldiers."
17, 1778, another committee was appointed to care for the
families of the following soldiers from Redding: Nathan Coley,
Stephen Meeker, Elias Bixby, Jeremiah Sherwood, Samuel Remong.
These soldiers were among General Israel Putnam's encampment
Winter Encampment (Why Sam returns to Redding in the winter
General Israel Putnam's division of the Continental Army encamped
in Redding in the winter of 1778-1779. This division was comprised
of General Poor's brigade of New Hampshire troops under Brig.
General Enoch Poor, a Canadian Regiment led by Col. Moses
Hazen, and two brigades of Connecticut troops: 2nd Brigade
Connecticut Line regiments commanded by Brig. General Jedediah
Huntington, and the 1st Brigade Connecticut Line regiments
commanded by Brig. General Samuel H. Parsons. This division
had been operating along the Hudson (Eastern New York) during
the fall, and as winter approached it was decided that it
should go into winter quarters at Redding, as from this position
it could support the important fortress of West Point in case
of attack, intimidate the Cowboys and Skinners of Westchester
County, and cover lands adjacent to Long Island Sound. Another
major reason was to protect the Danbury supply depot, which
had been burned by the British the year before but resurrected
to keep supplies going to Washington's army.
Aaron Burr, one of General Putnam's aides and a frequent visitor
to Redding, had suggested that Putnam look over the area for
a future winter encampment during a summer visit to General
Heath's Brigade in Danbury. Putnam found the topography and
location ideal. Three camp locations were marked and later
prepped by artificers and surveyors under the direction of
the Quartermaster staff: the first in the northeast part of
Lonetown, near the Bethel line, on land owned by John Read,
2nd (now Putnam Park). The second was about a mile and a half
west of the first camp, between Limekiln Rd. and Gallows Hill
in the vicinity of present day Whortleberry Rd. & Costa Lane.
The third camp was in West Redding, on a ridge about a quarter
of a mile north of West Redding Station (vicinity of present
day Deer Spring Drive & Old Lantern Road).
main camp, which is now known as Putnam Memorial State Park,
was laid out with admirable judgement, at the foot of rocky
bluffs which fenced in the western valley of the Little River.
116 huts were erected to form an avenue nearly a quarter mile
in length, and several yards in width. At the west end of
the camp was a mountain brook, which furnished a plentiful
supply of water; near the brook a forge was said to have been
erected. The second and third camps, were both laid out on
the southerly slopes of hills with streams of running water
at their base.
of the camps were strategically positioned to defend main
highways in and out of town: Danbury to Fairfield; Danbury
to Norwalk; Redding to Danbury and points north (stage coach
to the exact location of Putnam's headquarters, authorities
differ, but all agree in placing it on Umpawaug Hill. Some
of Putnam's officers were quartered in a house later owned
by *Samuel Gold (Limekiln Rd.); others in a house later occupied
by *Sherlock Todd (also on Limekiln Rd). General Parsons'
headquarters were at Stephen Betts Tavern on Redding Ridge.
Gold's and Sherlock Todd's house locations can be found on
Beers 1867 map of Redding. They
were not the owners during the winter of 1778-79. I use their
names because it gives readers an opportunity to view the
locations on a published map.
troops went into winter quarters at Redding in no pleasant
humor, and almost in the spirit of insubordination. This was
particularly the case with the **Connecticut troops. They
had endured privations that many men would have sunk under:
the horrors of battle, the weariness of the march, cold, hunger,
and nakedness. What was worse, they had been paid in the depreciated
currency of the times, which had scarcely any purchasing power,
and their families at home were reduced to the lowest extremity
of want and wretchedness.
has been represented to me that the troops of Connecticut
are in great want of Shirts, Stockings and Shoes. This leads
me to inquire of you whether they have not received their
proportion of these Articles in common with the rest of the
Army. The troops in general have obtained orders for a Shirt
and pair of Stockings per man and a pair of Shoes to each
that wanted. If the Connecticut Troops have not been furnished
… you will on receiving proper Returns for that purpose supply
them in conformity to this Rule." -- George Washington to
Deputy Clothier Gen. George Measam, Jan. 8, 1779]
frustrations caused by the deprivations brought to a head
the attempted mutiny on the morning of December 30th at Huntington's
camp. The troops had decided on the bold resolve of marching
to Hartford, and airing their grievances in person to the
Legislature then sitting. The two brigades were plotting their
escape when the threat of troop desertion was brought to Putnam's
attention. He, with his usual intrepidity and decision of
character, threw himself upon his horse and dashed down the
road leading to his camps, never slacking rein until he drew
up in the presence of the disaffected troops.
brave lads," he cried, "whither are you going? Do you intend
to desert your officers, and invite the enemy to follow you
into the country? Whose cause have you been fighting and suffering
so long in-is it not your own? Have you no property, no parents,
wives, children? You have behaved like men so far-all the
world is full of your praises, and posterity will stand astonished
at your deeds; but not if you spoil it all at last. Don't
you consider how much the country is distressed by the war,
and that your officers have not been any better paid than
yourselves? But we all expect better times, and that the country
will do us ample justice. Let us all stand by one another
then, and fight it out like brave soldiers. Think what a shame
it would be for Connecticut men to run away from their officers."
he had finished this stirring speech, he directed the acting
Major of Brigades to give the word for them to march to their
regimental parades, and lodge arms, which was done; one soldier
only, a ringleader in the affair, was confined to the guard
house, from which he attempted to escape, but was shot dead
by the sentinel on duty- himself one of the mutineers. Thus
ended the affair.
January, Private Joseph P. Martin related two more uprisings
in his camp journal, both were thwarted by regimental officers,
but indicate some discontent among the troops still lingered.
After that many of the Connecticut troops were placed on patrols
at Horseneck, Stamford and Norwalk. Some were sent over to
"no-man's land" in Westchester County and several hundred
troops were sent to New London for guard duty and the construction
of Fort Griswold.
at Gallows Hill (John Smith is the real life example Sam
Meeker's death portrays) Putnam was no stranger to deserters
and spies. Nothing had so much annoyed Putnam and his officers
during the campaigns of the preceding summer on the Hudson
than the desertions which had thinned his ranks, and the Tory
spies, who frequented his camps, and forthwith conveyed the
information thus gathered to the enemy. To put a stop to this
it had been determined that the next offender of either sort
(deserter or spy) captured should suffer death as an example.
opportunity to implement this determination soon arrived.
Scouts from Putnam's outposts in Westchester County captured
a man lurking within their lines, and as he could give no
satisfactory account of himself, he was at once hauled over
the borders and into the presence of the Commander-in-Chief.
In answer to the commanders queries, the prisoner said that
his name was Jones, that he was a Welshman by birth, and had
settled in Ridgefield a few years before the war commenced;
that he had never faltered in his allegiance to the King,
and that at the outbreak of the hostilities he had fled to
the British army, and had been made a butcher in the camp;
a few weeks before, he had been sent into Westchester County
to buy beef for the army, and was in the process of carrying
out those orders at the present. He was remanded to the guard
house, court-martialed and at once ordered for trial. Putnam
had his first example.
Feb. 4, 1779, Edward Jones was tried at a General Court Martial
for going to and serving the enemy, and coming out as a spy.
He was found guilty of each and every charge exhibited against
him, and according to Law and the Usage's of Nations was sentenced
to suffer Death: "The General approves the sentence and orders
it to be put in execution between the hours of ten and eleven
A.M. by hanging him by the neck till he be dead."
days after another General Court Martial was held for a similar
offence: on Feb. 6, 1779, John Smith of the 1st Connecticut
Regiment, was tried at a General Court Martial for desertion
and attempting to go to the enemy, found guilty, and further
persisting in saying that he will go to the enemy if ever
he has an opportunity. "The General approves the sentence
and orders that it be put in execution between the hours of
ten and twelve A.M. for him to be shot to death"
Putnam having two prisoners under the sentence of death determined
to execute them both at once, or as he expressed it, "to make
a double job of it," and at the same time make the spectacle
as terrible and impressive as the circumstances demanded.
scene which took place at the execution of these men on February
16 was described as shocking and bloody, it occurred on a
lofty hill (known to this day as Gallows Hill) dominating
the valley between the three camps. The instrument of Edward
Jones' death was erected approximately twenty feet from the
ground atop the hill's highest pinnacle. Jones was ordered
to ascend the ladder, with the rope around his neck and attached
to the cross beam of the gallows. When he had reached the
top rung General Putnam ordered him to jump from the ladder.
General Putnam,' said Jones, 'I am innocent of the crime laid
to my charge; I shall not do it.'
drawing his sword, compelled the hangmen at sword's point,
that his orders be obeyed and if Jones would not jump, that
the ladder be over-turned to complete the act. It was and
soldier that was to be shot for desertion was but a youth
of sixteen or seventeen years of age. The Rev. Nathaniel Bartlett,
who was pastor of the Congregational Church in Redding for
a period of fifty years, officiated as chaplain to the encampment
during that winter, and was present at the execution. He interceded
with General Putnam to defer the execution of Smith until
Washington could be consulted- for reason the offender was
a youth; but the commander assured him that a reprieve could
not be granted.
Smith was described as "extremely weak and fainting" as he
was led by Poor's Brigade Chaplain, the Rev. Dr. Evans, approximately
200 yards from the gallows to the place he was to be shot.
Putnam gave the order and three balls were shot through his
breast: he fell on his face, but immediately turned over on
his back; a soldier then advanced, and putting the muzzle
of his gun near the convulsive body of the youth, discharged
its contents into his forehead. The body was then placed in
a coffin; the final discharge had been fired so near to the
body that it had set the boy's clothing on fire, and continued
burning while each and every soldier present was ordered to
march past the coffin and observe Smith's mangled remains;
an officer with a drawn sword stood by to ensure they complied.
was indeed a grisly scene, and many have questioned the accuracy
of the accounts published about it because it seems almost
too ghastly. But it should be said that: boldness, firmness,
promptness, decisiveness- were the chief elements of General
Israel Putnam's character, and at this particular crisis all
were needed. There was disaffection and insubordination in
the army, as has been noted. Desertions were frequent, and
spying by the Tories was almost openly practiced. To put a
stop to these practices it was vitally necessary to the safety
of the army, to see that these sentences were carried into
of Cattle & Livestock
The journals of private Joseph Plumb Martin (stationed with
the 8th Connecticut in Parsons' middle camp) shows the desperate
lack of food and poor weather conditions endured by the troops
settled in our winter quarters at the commencement of the
new year and went on in our old Continental Line of starving
and freezing. We now and then got a little bad bread and salt
beef (I believe chiefly horse-beef for it was generally thought
to be such at the time). The month of January was very stormy,
a good deal of snow fell, and in such weather it was mere
chance if we got anything at all to eat."
the conditions, it is difficult to blame the soldiers that
took matters into their own hands and ventured out of camp
in search of provisions. The citizens of Redding, did not
see things this way, those who initially felt quite honored
by the selection of their town for the army's winter quarters,
soon grew tired of soldiers looting their livestock. The soldiers
position was that they were the one's fighting the country's
battles and plundering the neighboring farms was within their
rights as men of war. To them a well-stocked poultry yard,
a pen of fat porkers or field of healthy heifers offered irresistible
cuisine when compared to the horse-beef they were being offered
back at camp. After a time, however, the wary farmers foiled
the looters by storing their livestock over night in the cellars
of their houses and in other secure places.
was an issue throughout the war and the letter below shows
that George Washington was aware of it. It also highlights
why looting was difficult to stop, as looters could claim
they had confiscated the provisions because they were in danger
of being sold to the British.
Major General Israel Putnam, From George Washington, Philadelphia,
December 26, 1778. "I have not a Copy of your instructions
with me, but if my memory serves me, I was as full in my directions
respecting the conduct of Officers who shall be sent upon
the lines as I possibly can be. The Officer must determine
from all circumstances, whether Cattle or any species of provision
found near the lines are in danger of falling into the hands
of the Enemy, or are carried there with an intent to supply
them. If it is thought necessary to bring them off, they must
be reported and disposed of as directed by your instructions.
I was very particular upon that Head, because I know that
great Acts of Injustice have been committed by Officers, under
pretence that provision and other kinds of property were intended
for the Use of the Enemy. I would recommend the bringing off
as much Forage as possible but I would not advise the destruction
of what we cannot remove. I think your plan of sending out
a large party under the command of a Field Officer and making
detachments from thence, a good one; and if you and General
McDougall can agree upon a cooperation of your parties I think
many advantages will result from the measure. You may agree
upon the mode of effecting this, between yourselves."
The troops left Putnam's encampment in stages, Colonel Hazen's
Canadian regiment were detached from the New Hampshire brigade
and ordered to Springfield, MA; they left on March 27th. The
New Hampshire regiments also left on March 27th for their
new assignments in the Hudson Highlands. Huntington's 2nd
Connecticut Brigade left for Peekskill right after May 1st
, and Parsons' 1st Connecticut Brigade was the last to depart
on or about May 27th … also bound for duty at the Highlands.
Be sure to check out: Locations
& Towns Mentioned in My Brother Sam is Dead
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