NEW HAVEN CT, ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO by Leonard Bacon July 4, 1876

Leonard BaconIn the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-six, the fourth of July fell on Thursday. On that day, the Continental congress at Philadelphia gave notice to all nations that the political communities which it represented had ceased to be colonies, were absolved from their allegiance to the British Crown, and had become Independent States. The news that such a Declaration had been made was not flashed along electric wires; it was not conveyed by steam car or steam boat; nor can I learn that it was sent in all directions by an extraordinary express. But we may assume that as early as Tuesday morning, July 9th, the people of New Haven heard the news, and that such news reported by neighbor to neighbor, was talked about everywhere, with every variety of opinion as to whether the Independence that had been declared could be maintained; some rejoicing in the Declaration and sure that it would stand; others doubting; here and there one indignant, but not daring to express his indignation. All knew that the decisive step had been taken, and that the country was committed to a life and death struggle, not for the recovery of chartered and inherited rights as provinces included in the British empire, but for an independent nationality and a place among acknowledged sovereignties.

It is difficult for us to form in our minds any just conception of what New Haven was a hundred years ago. But let us make the attempt. At that time, the town of New Haven included East Haven, North Haven, Hamden, West Haven, and almost the entire territory of what are now the three towns of Woodbridge, Beacon Falls and Bethany. What is now the city of New Haven was then “the town plat”—the nine original squares —with the surrounding fields and scattered dwellings, from the West river to the Quinnipiac, and between the harbor and the two sentinel cliffs which guard the beauty of the plain. Here was New Haven proper—the territorial parish of the First Ecclesiastical Society, all the outlying portions of the township having been set off into distinct parishes for church and school purposes. In other words, the town of New Haven, at that time was bounded on the cast by Branford, on the north by Wallingford (which included Cheshire), on the west by Derby and Milford; and all the “freemen” within those bounds were accustomed to assemble here in town meeting.

A hundred years ago, there was a very pleasant village here at the “town-plat,” though very little had been done to make it beautiful. This public square had been reserved, with a wise forethought for certain public uses; but in the hundred and thirty-eight years that had passed since it was laid out by the proprietors who purchased these lands from the Indians, it had never been enclosed, nor planted with trees, nor graded; for the people had always been too poor to do much for mere beauty. Here, at the centre of their public square, the planters of New Haven built a plain, rude house for public worship, and behind it they made their graves—thus giving to the spot a consecration that ought never to be forgotten. At the time which we are now endeavoring to recall, that central spot (almost identical with the site of what is now called Centre church) had been reoccupied about eighteen years, by the brick meeting-house of the First church; and the burying-ground, enclosed with a rude fence, but otherwise neglected, was still the only burial-place within the parochial limits of the First Ecclesiastical Society. A little south of the burying-ground, was another brick edifice, the state house, so called even while Connecticut was still a colony. Where the North church now stands, there was a framed meeting-house, recently built by what was called the Fair Haven Society, a secession from the White Haven, whose house of worship (colloquially called “the old Blue Meetinghouse”) was on the corner now known as St. John Place. Beside those three churches there was another from which Church street derives its name. That was per-eminently “the church”—those who worshipped there would have resented the suggestion of its being a meeting-house. It was, in fact, a missionary station or outpost of the Church of England, and as such was served by a missionary of the English “Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts.” The budding, though of respectable dimensions (58×38), was smaller than the others, yet it had one distinction,—its steeple—a few feet south of Cutler comer, and in full view from the Green, though somewhat less aspiring than the other three—was surmounted by the figure of a crown signifying that, whatever might be the doctrine or the sentiment elsewhere, there the king’s ecclesiastical supremacy was acknowledged, and loyalty to his sacred person was a conspicuous virtue’ Only a few householders worshipped there, for the Church of England was an exotic in the climate of New England. Not till the Episcopal church had become (in consequence of the event which this day commemorates) an organization dependent on no king but Christ, an American church, and therefore no longer English, did it begin to strike its roots deep into the soil and to flourish as if it were indigenous. Two other public buddings adorned this “market-place;” one a little school-house just behind the Fair Haven meeting-house and not unlike the old-time wayside school-houses in the country; the other a county jail, which was a wooden structure fronting on College street about half way from Elm to Chapel.

Yale UniversityBeside all these public buddings, representative of religion, of government and justice, and of provision by the commonwealth against popular ignorance, there was the college, then as now, the pride of New Haven, but very different then from what we now see. The college buddings at that time were only three. First there was the original college edifice, to which, at its completion, in 1718, the name of Yale had been given in honor of a distinguished benefactor, and from which that name had been gradually, and at last authoritatively, transferred to the institution which has made it famous. That original Yale College was close on the comer of College and Chapel streets, a wooden budding, long and narrow, three stories high, with three entries, and cupola and clock.

Next in age was the brick chapel with its tower and spire, the building now called the Athenaeum and lately transformed into recitation rooms. More glorious yet was the new brick college (then not ten years old), which had been named Connecticut Hall, and which remains (though not unchanged) the “Old South Middle.”

Such was New Haven, a hundred years ago, in its public buildings and institutions. Its population, within the present town limits was, at the largest estimate, not more than 1800 (including about 150 students) where there are now more than thirty times that number. If you ask, what were the people who lived here then, I may say that I remember some of them. Certainly they were, at least in outward manifestation, a religious people. Differences of religious judgment and sympathy had divided them, within less than forty years, into three worshiping assemblies beside the little company that had gone over to the Church of England. Their religious zeal supported three ministers; and I will venture to say that the houses were comparatively few in which there was not some form of household religion. Compared with other communities in that age (on either side of the ocean) they were an intelligent people. With few exceptions, they could read and write; and though they had no daily newspapers, nor any knowledge of the modern sciences, nor any illumination from popular lectures, nor that sort of intelligence and refinement which comes from the theater, they knew some things as well as we do. They knew something about the chief end of man and man’s responsibility to God; something about their rights as freeborn subjects of their king; something about their chartered freedom; and the tradition had never died out among them. There were graves in the old burial ground which would not let them forget that a king may prove himself a traitor to his people, and may be brought to account by the people whom he has betrayed. There were social distinctions then, as now. Some families were recognized as more intelligent and cultivated than others. Some were respected for their ancestry, if they had not disgraced it. Men in official stations—civil, military, or ecclesiastical— were treated with a sort of formal deference now almost obsolete; but then, as now, a man, whatever title he might bear, was pretty sure to be estimated by bis neighbors at bis real worth, and nothing more. Some men were considered wealthy, others were depressed by poverty, but the distinction between rich and poor was not just what it is to-day. There were no great capitalists, nor was there anything like a class of mere laborers with no dependence but their daily wages. The aggregate wealth of the community was very moderate, with no overgrown fortunes and hardly anything like abject want. Almost every family was in that condition—”neither poverty nor riches “—which a wise man of old desired and prayed fox as most helpful to right living. Such a community was not likely to break out into any turbulent or noisy demonstrations. Doubtless the Declaration of Independence was appreciated as a great fact by the people of New Haven when they heard of it . Perhaps the church bells were rung (that would cost nothing); perhaps there was some shouting by men and boys (that would also cost nothing): perhaps there was a bonfire on the Green or at the “Head of the Wharf” (that would not cost much); but we may be sure that the great fact was not greeted with the thunder, of artillery nor celebrated with fireworks; for gunpowder was just then too precious to be consumed in that way. The little newspaper, then published in this town every Wednesday, gives no indication of any popular excitement on that occasion. On “Wednesday, July 10th, 1776,” the Connecticut Journal had news, much of it very important, and almost every word of it relating to the conflict between the colonies and the mother country; news from London to the date of April 9; from Halifax to June 4 ; from Boston to July 4; from New York to July 8, and from Philadelphia to July 6. Under the Philadelphia date the first item was “Yesterday the Congress unanimously resolved to declare the United Colonies Free And Independent States.” That was all, save that, in another column, the printer said, “To-morrow will be ready for sale ‘The Resolves of the Congress declaring the United Colonies Free And Independent States.”’ What the printer, in that advertisement, called “The Resolves of Congress,” was a handbill, 8 inches by 9, in two columns, with a rudely ornamented border, and was reproduced in the Journal for July 17. It was the immortal state paper with which we are so familiar, and we may be sure that everybody in New Haven, old enough to know the meaning of it had read it, or beard it read, before another seven days had been counted.

The Declaration of Independence was not at all an unexpected event. It surprised nobody. Slowly but irresistibly the conviction bad come that the only alternative before the United Colonies was absolute subjection to a British Parliament or absolute independence of the British crown. Such was the general conviction, but whether independence was possible, whether the time had come to strike for it, whether something might not yet be gained by remonstrance and negotiation, were questions on which there were different opinions even among men whose patriotism could not be reasonably doubted.

[Here followed some of the facts intended to give a better understanding of “what were the thoughts, and what the hopes and fears of good men in New Haven a hundred years ago.”]

Having at last undertaken to wage war in defense of American liberty, the Continental Congress proceeded, very naturally, to a formal declaration of war, setting forth the causes which impelled’ them to take up arms.

That declaration preceded by a year the Declaration of Independence; for at that time only a few sagacious minds had seen clearly the impossibility of reconciliation. Declaring to the world that they had taken up arms in self-defense and would never lay them down till hostilities should cease on the part of the aggressors, they nevertheless disavowed again the idea of separation from the British empire. “Necessity,” said they, “has not yet driven us to that desperate measure;” “we have not raised armies with ambitious designs of separating from Great Britain and establishing independent states.” That was an honest declaration. Doubtless a few prophetic souls had seen the vision of a separate and independent nationality, and knew to what issue the long controversy had been tending; but the thought and sentiment of the people throughout the colonies, at that time—the thought and sentiment of thoughtful and patriotic men in every colony—was fairly expressed in that declaration. They were English colonies, proud of the English blood and name; and as young birds cling to. the nest when the mother trusts them out half-fledged, so they clung to their connection with Great Britain notwithstanding the unmotherly harshness of tho mother country. They were English as their fathers were; and it was their English blood that roused them to resist the invasion of their English liberty. The meteor flag of England

“Had braved a thousand years
The battle and the breeze,”

and it was theirs; its memories of Blenheim and Ramillies, of Crecy and Agincourt, were theirs; and they themselves had helped to plant that famous banner on the ramparts of Louisburg and Quebec. Because they were English they could boast

“That Chatham’s language was their mother-tongue,
And Wolfe’s great name compatriot with their own.”

Because they were English, Milton was theirs, and Shakespeare, and the English Bible. They still desired to be included in the great empire whose navy commanded the ocean, and whose commerce encircled the globe. They desired to be under its protection, to share in its growth and glory, and enjoying their chartered freedom under the imperial crown, to maintain the closest relations of amity and mutual helpfulness with the mother country and with every portion of the empire.

All this was true in July, 1775. When Washington consented to command the Continental armies “raised or to be raised,” he thought that armed resistance might achieve some adequate security for the liberty of the colonies without achieving their independence. When, in his journey from Philadelphia to New York, hearing the news from Bunker Hill and how the New England volunteers had faced the British regulars in battle, he said, “Thank God! our cause is safe;” he was not thinking of independence, but only of chartered liberty. When, on his journey from New York to New Haven, he said to Dr. Bipley, of Green’s Farms, who dined with him at Fairfield, “If we can maintain the war for a year we shall succeed,” his hopes was that by one year of unsuccessful war the British ministry and parliament would be brought to some reasonable terms of reconciliation. When (in the words of our historian Palfrey), “the roll of the New England drums at Cambridge announced the presence there of the Virginian, George Washington,” he knew not, nor did Putnam know, nor Prescott, nor Stark, nor the farmers who had hastened to the siege of Boston, that the war in which he then assumed the chief command was, what we now call it, the war of independence. With all sincerity the Congress, four days later, while solemnly declaring “before God and the world,” “The arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unbating firmness and perseverance, employ for the preservation of our liberties, being with one mind resolved to die freeman rather than to live slaves “—could also say, at the same time, to their “friends and fellow subjects in every part of the empire,” “We assure them that we mean not to dissolve that union which has so long and so happily subsisted between us, and which we sincerely wish to be restored.” The declaration on the 6th of July, 1775, was a declaration of war, but not of independence.

Yet, from the beginning of the war, there was in reality only one issue—though a whole year must pass before that issue could be clearly apprehended by the nation and proclaimed to the world. From the first clash of arms the only possible result was either subjection or separation; either the loss of liberty or the achievement of independence. The first shot from Major Pitcairn’s pistol on the village green at Lexington, at the gray dawn of April 19th, 1775, was fatal to the connection between these colonies and their mother country. That was “the shot that echoed round the world,” and is echoing still along “the corridors of time.” That first shot, with the slaughter that followed and the resistance and repulse of the British soldiery that day at Concord, was felt by thousands who knew in a moment that it meant war in defense of chartered liberty, but did not yet know that, for colonies at war with their mother country, independence was the only possible liberty. As the war proceeded, its meaning, and the question really at issue became evident. The organization of a Continental army, the expulsion of the king’s regiments and the king’s governor from Boston, the military operations in various parts of the country, the collapse of the regal governments followed by the setting up of popular governments under the advice of the Continental Congress—what did such things mean but that the colonies must be thenceforward an independent nation or provinces conquered and enslaved?

It came, therefore, as a matter of course, that from the beginning of 1876, the people in all the colonies began to be distinctly aware that the war in progress was and could be nothing less than a war for independence. The fiction fundamental to the British Constitution, that the king can do no wrong, and that whatever wrong is done in his name is only the wrongdoing of his ministers, gave way before the harsh fact that they were at war, not with Parliament nor with Lord North, but, with king George III. So palpable was the absurdity of professing allegiance to a king who was waging war against them, that as early as April in that year, the Chief Justice of South Carolina under the new government just organized there, declared from his official seat in a charge to the grand jury, “The Almighty created America to be independent of Great Britain, let us beware of the impiety of being backward to act as instruments in the Almighty hand now extended to accomplish His purpose.”

When the public opinion of the colonies, north and south, was thus declaring itself, the time had come for action on the part of the Continental Congress. Accordingly on the 7th of June, Richard Henry Lee, in behalf of the delegation from Virginia, proposed a resolution “that the united colonies are and ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown; and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved.” It was agreed that the resolution should be considered the next day, and every member was enjoined to be present for that purpose. The next day’s debate was earnest, for the Congress was by no means unanimous. Nobody denied or doubted that liberty and independence must stand or fall together, but some who had been leaders up to that point could not see that the time had come for such a declaration. Some were embarrassed by instructions given the year before and not yet rescinded. The debate having been continued through the day (which was Saturday) was adjourned to Monday, June 10. On that day the resolution was adopted in committee of the whole by a vote of seven colonies against five, and so was reported to the house. Hoping that unanimity might be gained by a little delay, the house postponed its final action for three weeks, but appointed a committee to prepare a formal declaration of independence. Meanwhile, though the sessions of the congress were always with closed doors, these proceedings were no secret, and public opinion was finding distinct and authentic expression. I need not tell what was done elsewhere; but I may say what was done, just at that juncture, in our old commonwealth.

On the 14th of June there came together at Hartford, in obedience to a call from Jonathan Trumbull, governor, “a General Assembly of the Governor and Company of the English colony of Connecticut, in New England, in America “—the last that was to meet under that name. It put upon its record a clear though brief recital of the causes which had made an entire separation from Great Britain the only possible alternative of slavery, and then—what? Let me give the words of the record: “Appealing to that God who knows the secrets of all hearts for the sincerity of former declarations of our desire to preserve our ancient and constitutional relation to that nation, and protesting solemnly against their oppression and injustice which have driven us from them, and compelled us to use such means as God in His providence hath put in our power for our necessary defence and preservation, resolved, unanimously, by this Assembly, that the delegates of this colony in General Congress be and they are hereby instructed to propose to that respectable body, to declare the United American colonies free and independent States, absolved from all allegiance to the King of Great Britain, and to give the assent of this colony to such declaration.”

It was amid such manifestations of the national will coming in from various quarters, that the Congress, on Monday, July 1, took up the postponed resolution declaring the colonies independent, discussed it again in committee of the whole and passed it, so bringing it back for a final decision. The vote in the house was postponed till the next day, and then, July 2, the resolution was adopted and entered on the journal. In anticipation of this result, the formal Declaration of Independence had been reported by the special committee on the preceding Friday (June 28), and it was next taken up for consideration. After prolonged discussion in committee of the whole and various amendments (some of which were certainly changes for the better), it came before the house for final decision, and was then adopted, in the form in which we have heard it read to-day, the most illustrious state paper in the history of nations.

We may be sure, therefore, that whatever diversity of opinion there may have been in New Haven on the 4th of July, 1776, about the expediency of declaring independence at that time, news that such a declaration had been made by the Congress caused no great astonishment or excitement here. The General Assembly of Connecticut, had already made its declaration, and instructed its delegates in the Congress. One of those delegates was Roger Sherman (or as his neighbors called him, “Squire Sherman”) ; and nobody in this town, certainly, could be surprised to hear that the Continental Congress had done what Roger Sherman thought right and expedient to be done. The fact that Roger Sherman had been appointed on a committee to prepare the Declaration may have been unknown here, even in his own house; but what he thought about the expediency of the measure was no secret. We, to-day, I will venture to affirm are more excited about the Declaration of Independence than they were to whom the news of it came, a hundred years ago.

[Here followed a large number of records, or extracts from records, principally from the town clerk’s office in New Haven, to show that our fathers on all proper public occasions were firmly, perhaps unconsciously, pursuing those steps which when taken by a brave and high-spirited people inevitably lead to their complete independence.]

I have exhausted your patience, and must refrain from tracing even an outline of the war, as New Haven was concerned in it, after that memorable day a hundred years ago. Especially must I refrain from a description of the day when this town was invaded and plundered, and was saved from conflagration only by the gallant resistance of its citizens keeping the enemy at bay till it was too late for him to do all he designed. The commemoration of that day will be more appropriate to its hundredth anniversary, July 4th, 1876. From the day of that invasion to this time, no footstep of an enemy in arms has pressed our soil—no roll of hostile drums or blare of hostile trumpet has wounded the air of beautiful New Haven. So may it be through all the centuries to come!

But before I sit down, I may yet say one word, suggested by what I have just been reading to you from the records of 1775. At the time of that conflict with Great Britain—first for municipal freedom, and then for national independence as the only security of freedom, the people of these colonies, and eminently the people of New England, were, perhaps, in proportion to their numbers, the most warlike people in Christendom. From the day when Miles Standish, in the Pilgrim settlement at Plymouth, was chosen “Captain” and invested with “authority of command” in military affairs, every settlement had its military organization. The civil order, the ecclesiastical, and the military, were equally indispensable. In every town, the captain and the trained militia were as necessary as the pastor and the church, or the magistrate and the town meeting. When the founders of our fair city came to Quinnipiack, 238 years ago, they came not only with the leaders of their unformed civil state, Eaton and Goodyear—not only with their learned minister of God’s word, Davenport, to be the pastor of the church they were to organize—but also with their captain, Turner, who had been trained like Standish in the wars of the Dutch Republic, and who in the Pequot war of the preceding year had seen the inviting beauty of the Quinnipiack bay and plain. Who does not know how, in those early times,

“Our grandsires bore their guns to meeting,
Each man equip’d, on Sunday morn,
With psalm-book, shot, and powder-horn,”

and that, in the arrangements of the house of worship, a place for “the soldiers,” near the door, was as much a matter of course as the place for “the elders” at the other side of the building? Who does not know that every able-bodied man (with few exceptions) was required to bear arms and to be trained in the use of them? What need that I should tell how a vigorous military organization and the constant exhibition of readiness for self-defense, not less than justice and kindness in dealing with the Indians, were continually the indispensable condition of safety? What need of my telling the story of King Philip’s war, just two hundred years ago? Let it suffice to remind you of the long series of inter-colonial wars, contemporaneous with every war between England and her hereditary enemies, France and Spain—beginning in 1689 and continued with now and then a few years’ interruption till the final conquest and surrender of the French dominion on this continent in 1762. It was in the last war of that long series that the military heroes of our war for independence had their training, and it was in the same war that the New England farmers and Virginia hunters, fighting under the same flag and under the same generals with British red-coats, learned how to face them without fear. That war which swept from our continent the Bourbon lillies and the Bourbon legions made us independent and enabled us, a few years later, to stand up as independent, and, in the ringing proclamation of July 4th, 1776, to inform the world that where the English colonies had been struggling for existence, a nation had been born.

Fellow citizens! We have a goodly heritage—how came it to be ours? God has given it to us. How? By the hardships, the struggles, the self-denial, the manifold suffering of our fathers and predecessors on this soil; by their labor and their valor, their conflicts with rude nature and with savage men; by their blood shed freely in so many battles; by their manly sagacity and the Divine instinct guiding them to build better than they knew. For us (in the Eternal Providence) were their hardships, their struggles, their sufferings, their heroic self denials. For us were the cares that wearied them and their conflicts in behalf of liberty. For us were the hopes that cheered in labor and strengthened them in battle. For us—no not for us alone, but for our children too, and for the unborn generations. They who were here a hundred years ago, saw not what we see to-day (oh! that they could have seen it), but they labored to win it for us, and for those who shall come after us. In this sense they entered into God’s plan and became the ministers of his beneficence to us. We bless their memory to-day and give glory to their God. He brought a vine out of Egypt when ho brought hither the heroic fathers of New England. He planted it and has guarded it age after age. We are now dwelling for a little while under its shadow and partaking of its fruit. Others will soon be in our places, and the inheritance will be theirs. As the fathers lived not for themselves but for us, so we are living for those who will come after us. Be it ours so to live that they shall bless God for what we have wrought as the servants of his love ; and that age after age, till time shall end, may repeat our fathers’ words of trust and of worship, Latin Motto: Qui Transtulit Sustinet. (English translation: He who transplanted sustains)

See also:
Non-Revisionist Politically Incorrect History of America from the Ancient Authors Part 1

Non-Revisionist Politically Incorrect History of the World With Biblical References Part 1

Joseph Baldwin: Address 1892, to National Teachers Association in New York
Eulogy of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams by Daniel Webster
4th Cont. Lt. Dragoons

The Pennsylvania Line 4th Continental Dragoons

4th Continental Light Dragoon Regiment

Authorized 5 January 1777 in the Continental Army as the 4th Continental Light Dragoon Regiment and assigned to the Main Army. Organized in spring 1777 at Philadelphia and Baltimore to consist of six troops from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and New Jersey.
Relieved 19 November 1778 from the Main Army and assigned to the Middle Department. Relieved 28 June 1779 from the Middle Department and assigned to the Highlands Department. Reorganized in early 1780 to consist of four mounted and two dismounted troops. Relieved 10 June 1780 from the Highlands Department and assigned to the Main Army. Relieved in December 1780 from the Main Army and assigned to the Middle Department.

Re-designated 1 January 1781 as the 4th Legionary Corps. Relieved in March 1781 from the Middle Department and assigned to the Southern Department. Reorganized 1 January 1781 to consist of one mounted troop and one dismounted troop. Furloughed 11 June 1783 at Philadelphia. Disbanded 15 November 1783.

The Continental Army had four regiments of cavalry, formally designated as “light dragoons.” They were used for scouting, patrolling, and covering missions and for courier service. Except for surprise encounters with enemy patrols, they were intended to fight on foot. As originally conceived, and as prescribed on March 14, 1777, a Dragoon regiment was to have six troops, each consisting of a captain, a Lieutenant, a cornet (the cavalry equivalent of infantry ensign or artillery second lieutenant), and forty-one enlisted men. With the field-grade officers and regimental staff, the regiment would total 280 personnel. The reorganization of May 27, l 778, retained the six-troop structure, but added a lieutenant and twenty-three enlisted men to each troop, bringing the theoretical total to 416 officers and enlisted men. January l, l 781, bought still another reorganization, this one reflecting a conceptual change imposed by necessity. Six more privates were added to each troop and minor changes were made to the staff, bringing the regimental total of 455 officers and men; but only four of the troops were mounted, the attaining two consisting of infantry. This new type of unit was called a ‘legionary corps, “‘ and provided a more versatile organization, roughly equivalent in an embryonic way to a regimental combat team.

4th Cont. Lt. Dragoon 1778-81

But cavalry was an expensive branch of the service. Mounts had to be purchased, and, due to hard usage and perennial shortages, required frequent replacement. Saddles and other “horse furniture” had to be procured. Weapons suitable for mounted men were also in short supply sabers could be manufactured, but pistols and carbines had to be reported. Due to this combination of limiting factors, no Continental cavalry regiment ever had much more than three hundred men, and only bout half of these could be mounted. More often, the regiments mustered no more than 150 men.

The 4th Continental Light Dragoon regiment was authorized by Congress on January 1, 1777 and on January 5, Stephen Moylan was appointed its colonel. He had previously been the Continental Army’s Quartermaster General (in grade of colonel), and at the time of his appointment to the new regiment, was serving as an aide on Washington’s staff. He continued, as commander of the regiment until it was disbanded.’

Of the key officers (captain through colonel) of the original regiment, only Moylan himself and one captain were from Pennsylvania. One Captain was from Maryland, and the rest of the captains, the lieutenant

Colonel, and the major were Virginians. 5 The enlisted men, however, were largely from Pennsylvania, chiefly from Philadelphia and its vicinity.

For more than two years after its formation, the 4th Dragoons had no held-grade officer except for Colonel Moylan. Not until December 10, 1779, was Lt. Col. Benjamin Temple, of the 1st Continental Light Dragoons (a Virginian), transferred to fill the vacancy. He continued with the 4th Light Dragoons during the rest of the regiment’s existence. Similarly, the 4th Dragoons had no major until another Virginian, Moore Fauntleroy, was promoted from captain on August 1, 1779. He remained on the regiment’s roster from that time on, although on February 10, 1783, Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Clair complained that Fauntleroy had been absent from duty for many months.

4th Cont. Lt. Dragoons

The 4th Dragoon regiment was authorized six troops, and actually had that number on July 3, 1781,” but the names of only five original captains have been found. The troops and their commanders appear to have been as follows:

[Troop A], commanded by Capt. Moore Fauntleroy. After serving in 1776 as an ensign and second lieutenant in the 5th Virginia (infantry) Regiment, he was appointed a captain in the 4th Continental Light Dragoons on January 21, 1777. He was taken prisoner at the Battle of Germantown, on October 4, 1777. The date of his escape or exchange is not known; but as noted above, he was promoted to major on August 1, 1779 Records do not indicate the promotion or appointment of any officer to fill the captaincy he vacated. The regiment’s first appointment to captain after Fauntleroy’s promotion was that of Larkin Smith, but that did not take place until April 1,1780, eight months later. Smith, still another Virginian, had been commissioned a cornet in the 4th Dragoons on August 1, 1777, promoted to lieutenant on September 4, 1778, and after becoming a captain continued with the regiment as long as it remained in existence.

[Troop B], commanded by Capt. David Hopkins, of Virginia. He had been a volunteer with Benedict Arnold’s Quebec expedition in 1775, and was appointed a captain in the 4th Continental Dragoons on January 21, 1777. At an unknown date in 1780, he was promoted to major of the 1st Continental Dragoons.” It is possible that his replacement was Capt. Henry Willis, of Pennsylvania, concerning whom the records are contradictory. He was appointed a cornet in the 4th Dragoons in June, 1777, and according to one version was promoted to second lieutenant on June 25, 1781, and to captain on an unspecified subsequent date, serving to the end of the war. Another version, however, says that he was promoted to Captain on December 22, 1780, and resigned his commission on April 24, 1781, at which time he was replaced by Capt. Thomas Overton, a Virginian, who had been a lieutenant in the 9th Virginia (infantry) Regiment until July 1, 1779, when he had been appointed a first lieutenant in the 4th Dragoons. He served with that regiment through the rest of the war.

· [Troop C], commanded by Capt. Thomas Dorsey, of Pennsylvania. He began his service as a captain of infantry, initially in the 1st Pennsylvania Battalion and then in its successor unit, the 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment. He became a captain in the 4th Dragoons on January 10, 1777, but is listed as “omitted” in August of the same year. No promotion occurred which can be associated with the departure from service (whatever the circumstances may have been) of Captain Dorsey. The first such promotion after he left the regiment, which took place on February 8, 1778, was that of John Heard, of New Jersey. After having been a second lieutenant of New Jersey artillery in 1776, Heard had become a first lieutenant of the 4th Dragoons on January 20, 1777. He served as a captain in that regiment from the date of his promotion to the end of the war.

· [Troop D1], commanded by Capt. David Plunkett, of Maryland. His prior service had been as a second lieutenant in Smallwood’s Maryland Regiment. Appointed a captain in the 4th Continental Light Dragoons on January 10, 1777, he was taken prisoner on October 20 of that year (location and circumstances unknown, although possibly in conjunction with the defense of Fort Mercer, near Red Bank, New Jersey), and resigned from the army on March 13, 1779. Possibly to fill this vacancy, Peter Manifold was promoted to captain from first lieutenant on April 14, 1779. One of the comparatively few Pennsylvania officers, he had originally joined the regiment as a cornet, on April 14, 1778, being promoted barely two weeks later (on May 1) to lieutenant. He resigned on October 30, 1780. Apparently the vacancy remained unfilled for some time.

· [Troop E], commanded by Capt. Vashel D. Howard, of Virginia. He was commissioned a captain in the 4th Dragoons on January 24, 1777, but died on March 15, 1778.22 There was no promotion to captain in the regiment from that time until December 22, 1778, when John Craig, a Pennsylvanian, was promoted from first lieutenant. He had been a second lieutenant in the Ed Pennsylvania (infantry) Battalion and a first lieutenant in the Id Pennsylvania (infantry) Regiment before transferring to the 4th Dragoons on March 22, 1977. He stayed with the organization to the end of the wards

Other officers who at one time or another served as captains in the 4th Continental Light Dragoons were:

Capt. Zebulon Pike, of New Jersey. Appointed a cornet in the 4th Dragoons on March 1, 1777, he became the regimental adjutant on November 20, 1777, was promoted lieutenant on March 15, 1778, and captain on December 25, 1778. On June 1, 1780, he was appointed regimental paymaster, holding that position until the end of the war.

Capt. Erasmus Gill, of Virginia. He was appointed a captain in the 4th Dragoons in February 1779, but with a retroactive date of rank of December 25, 1778. He had prior service as a sergeant, ensign, and second lieutenant in the 2d Virginia (infantry) Regiment. (Father of the Brig. R. Gen. Zubulon Pike who discovered Pike’s Peak and who was killed at Toronto during the War of 1812) On October 3, 1779, he was taken prisoner at Savannah, Georgia, and after his exchange (on October 22, 1780), served to the end of the war.

Capt. Lawrence Frank, of Pennsylvania. Having been commissioned a first lieutenant, 4th Continental Light Dragoons on October 1, 1779, he was promoted to captain some time in 1782 and served in that grade throughout what remained of the war.

Whatever the regiment’s pattern of promotions or company strength may have been, it is clear that some time prior to its demobilization the 4th Dragoons had reached a total of six companies, commanded at the end by Captains Smith, Heard, Craig, Gill, Overton, and Frank.

The uniform originally adopted for the 4th Dragoons featured coats captured from the British. These were red, with blue facings. However, the first detachment of the regiment to join Washington at Morristown, New Jersey, in the spring of 1777, was mistaken for British soldiers, to the consternation of the American civilians the troops met along the way. On May 12, General Washington wrote to Colonel Moylan, directing him to change the color, “which may be done by dipping into what kind of dye that is most proper to put upon Red. I care not what it is, so that the present color be changed. Apparently, some of the men wore linen hunting shirts for a time, but before long the regiment was uniformed in green coats trimmed with red, green cloaks with red capes, red waistcoats, buckskin breeches, and leather caps trimmed with bear skin. 29 By the terms of the General Order of October 2,1779, however, all dragoon regiments were thenceforth to wear blue coats, faced and lined with white, with white buttons.

For recruiting, the 4th Dragoon Regiment had been assigned to the area between the North (Hudson) River and the Susquehanna, but, as noted above, it appears to have drawn the bulk of its men from the Philadelphia region. The original enlistment’s expired in the latter part of September 1780. The regiment had never been filled, and only eleven of the old members re-enlisted at that time for the duration of the war.’2 With new recruits, it totaled only eighty men (with fifteen officers!) by the spring of 1781.” The nearest thing to a complete roster, purportedly showing all the enlisted men who ever served with the regiment, lists only 213 namesake.

SUMMARY

In comparison with infantry and artillery organizations, the term “regiment” is misleading as applied to Continental cavalry units. The 4th Light Dragoon regiment, raised chiefly in and around Philadelphia, seems seldom to have exceeded a hundred troopers by very much, and frequently to have fallen to much lower manning levels. As numerical weakness limited the uses, which it could serve, iterated in small detachments or with men functioning independently as individuals.

Operations

OPERATIONS

Even more markedly shall was the case for artillery. American Continental cavalry was employed in small, widely dispersed detachments. It performed valuable services in observing and reporting enemy movements, screening its own infantry’s movements, covering exposed flanks, and providing messengers for dissemination of tactical orders. Except for brief skirmishes, however, it almost never saw extensive combat.

As already noted, the first elements of the 4th Continental Light Dragoons arrived at Morristown on May 12, 1777. For the next two months they were carrying out patrolling activities in the vicinity of Middlebrook, New Jersey. A return dated July 16, 1777 indicates that three troops (under Captains Dorsey, Hopkins, and Plunkett) were in the field. They drew a total of 172 rations, but upwards of twenty of these appear to have been for the authorized regimental laundresses.

Four days later, at Elizabeth, New Jersey, nineteen men of Captain Craig’s troop, disgruntled because they had not been paid, left for Philadelphia in defiance of orders, to demand the money due them. Two troops of the 1st Dragoons brought them back, but the horses were too stiff to permit further movements until they could be rested. The deserters were tried by court martial in early August, by which time the regiment was at Neshaminy, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. All nineteen were sentenced to be hanged, but General Washington commuted the sentence and, on August 19, transferred the men to infantry regiments.’

The 4th Dragoons took part with the rest of the army in the march through Philadelphia on August 24, moving on south toward Wilmington, Delaware. From there, the regiment formed part of the escort for General Washington when he reconnoitered toward the British army’s landing place at Head of Elk, Maryland, and helped drive off an enemy scouting force attempting a probe northward.

During the Battle of Brandywine, on September 11, the dragoons operated chiefly as scouts and couriers, under the over-all direction of Count Casimir Pulaski, soon to be named commander of all the Continental cavalry. Some of the 4th Dragoon regiment may have taken part in Pulaski’s successful attempt to block the British forces trying to cut off the American line of retreat to Chester, but no specific documentation to this effect has been found. On September 13, however, a detachment of the 4th Dragons was sent to retrieve military stores being held at French Creek, in Chester County, and the rest of the troopers were used to provide cover for the fords across the Schuylkill River.

As at Brandywine, the role of the regiment at the Battle of Germantown was to provide covering and scouting forces and messenger service. Presumably, some or all of the regiment may have been with Pulaski’s force delaying the British pursuit. It does not appear to have been heavily engaged, although it may have seen some action, for Captain Fauntleroy was captured during this battle.

Scouting and patrolling continued to occupy the 4th Dragoons. On November 9, 1777, Captain Craig and a detachment were officially commended for capturing a number of enemy soldiers. When Washington took up a defensive position at Whitemarsh, the regiment helped cover the left flank of the position, but was not engaged during the tentative British advance.

The 4th Dragoons moved with the rest of the army to Valley Forge on December 19, 1777. Although the bulk of the army’s cavalry was sent to Trenton in order to ease the demands on the Valley Forge locality for fodder, the 4th Dragoons appear to have stayed at Valley Forge until March 20,1778. On that date, Colonel Moylan was ordered to move his command to Trenton. Over the next several weeks, there was frequent patrolling, which gave rise to several skirmishes, but the lack of fit horses and suitable equipment limited the action which could be taken. Then, on May 28, Washington sent orders for all the cavalry regiments to join the army at Valley Forge. Before the troopers could arrive, however, the orders were countermanded and the cavalrymen were directed to keep close watch over British movements in the vicinity of Philadelphia.

When the British evacuated Philadelphia and started across New Jersey on June 18, the cavalry stayed close on their heels, keeping Washington informed of their direction of march. In fact, the 4th Dragoons clung so close that on June 27 they overran the camp followers marching in the rear of the British columns. On June 27, the day before the Battle of Monmouth, the regiment captured a number of prisoners and sent them back for interrogations

Like most Revolutionary War battles, Monmouth was an infantry and artillery fight, with cavalry playing its part chiefly before and after the actual clash. The 4th Dragoons seem to have had no part in the engagement itself, and there is no record that the regiment suffered any casualties on that day. On the other hand, Moylan’s men did follow up the British withdrawal on June 29, but they were too weak in numbers and the horses were too exhausted to do anything except maintain a watch over enemy movements.

After the Battle of Monmouth, the 4th Continental Light Dragoons remained in New Jersey through the summer. The regiment’s base was at Hackensack, but its assignment was to patrol the area toward the Hudson and to keep the British forces under observation.

By early October, the regiment had moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. From there it was ordered to Durham, Connecticut, for the winter of 1778-1779. It operated along the New York-Connecticut border during the summer of 1779. On July 11, it saw its next sizable action when it accompanied a militia force to try to prevent a British amphibious raid on the town of Norwalk. By the time the Americans arrived, the enemy troops had made their landing and had set the town on fire. Colonel Moylan led an attack, during which, he reported, “a vast deal of ammunition [was] wasted, to very little purpose, as in general our militia kept at awfull distance.” Although the raiding force, concealed by the smoke from the burning town, withdrew successfully to its ships, the cavalry took four prisoners.

During the rest of that summer, the bulk of the regiment continued to operate in the same general area, serving as part of the force under Brig. Gen. John Glover. Some of the regiment appears to have gone to the Southern Theater about this time, as Captain Gill (who was mentioned by name as capturing the four prisoners at Norwalk on July 11) was himself taken prisoner at Savannah, Georgia, on October 3.

The regiment as a whole spent the winter of 1779-1780 in Connecticut. Quarters for men and horses were inadequate, and the 4th Dragoons had to be scattered over a distance of five miles, an impossible situation for any organization, which might be called upon to react quickly. Colonel Moylan claimed that “No Regiment could be more orderly than the 4th since they have come into this State,” but the troopers were unpopular with the local civilians. Shortages of supplies and equipment were acute. “We have an exceeding cold day,” Moylan noted on January 22, 1780, “and the Regiment so badly off for underclothes that they are much to be pitied. He reported on February 15 that there were 130 Pennsylvanians in the organization—probably the bulk of its enlisted strength—but a week later he stated that even this small number was not effective “for want of breeches, boots, shirts and stockings.”54 The shortages were still acute as late as April 14.

Apparently, spring brought more supplies, and the summer definitely brought more action. On July 21, 1780, the 4th Dragoon regiment was part of the force under Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne, which attacked the Blockhouse at Bergen Heights, New Jersey. It carried out the only part of the operation, which was completely successful, driving off the considerable collection of Tory owned cattle and horses at Bergen Neck while Wayne’s infantry and artillery tried vainly to reduce the garrison which was holding the Blockhouse.

According to one authority, parts of the regiment were sent to the Southern theater during 1780, sustaining heavy losses at the Battle of Camden, South Carolina, on August 16, the survivors being absorbed into a composite dragoon unit commanded by Lt. Col. William Washington, originally of the 3d Continental Dragoons. This claim seems to be unlikely. No other reference to 4th Dragoon participation in that battle has been found. Moreover, it is clear that the greater part of the regiment spent the winter of 1780-1781 at Lancaster, and there was a detachment at West Point.

Because of these dispositions, the 4th Dragoons did not take part in the January 1 mutiny of the Pennsylvania Line at Morristown, New Jersey. Nevertheless, they staged a minor revolt of their own. On May 21, 1781, a number of the dragoons, with their weapons, marched on the Lancaster jail, determined to release one of the members of the regiment who was confined there. The jail was guarded by a militia sentry, who ordered the cavalry men to halt. One of the troopers continued to move forward, threatening the sentry with a cocked and loaded pistol. When he tried to wrest away the sentry’s musket, the sentry shot and killed him. As the dragoon fell, his pistol dropped out of his hand and fired when it hit the ground, with the result that a militiamen standing nearby was wounded in the thigh.

The regiment had become greatly reduced in effectiveness. As of April 6, Major General St. Clair reported that the 4th Dragoons had only eighty men, and only fifty of those were mounted, and there was no improvement by mid-July. Even so, by the end of June, part of the regiment had joined Wayne’s provisional brigade in Virginia.63 As of July 3, the regiment’s total enlisted strength is shown as being only 101 men. ‘[‘hey were organized in six troops, but were very unevenly distributed, the largest troop numbering forty-two men and the smallest only three.

By October 1, 1781, what was left of the 4th Dragoons (now officially the 4th Legionary Corps) was all assembled at Williamsburg, in Virginia. From there, it went on to the siege of Yorktown, where it was assigned to the “right division.” By November 1, still at Yorktown, it had fourteen officers and ninety-four enlisted men, and another forty men and four officers had already marched south to join Major General Greene. The mounts of the men in Virginia were in very poor condition, and Colonel Moylan predicted that they would not be capable of marching for at least four months.

The only part of the regiment which saw any further action during the war was the detachment in the south, which by the end of 1781 numbered approximately one hundred officers and men. This force was assigned to the command, which Anthony Wayne led into Georgia, leaving South Carolina on January 4, 1782. During the course of the campaign, which ended with the occupation of Savannah on July 12, 1782, what was left of the 4th Dragoons was absorbed into a mixed command (including elements of the 1st and 3rd Dragoon regiments) under Col. George Baylor, 3rd Continental Light Dragoons. * As for the elements of the regiment, which had not gone south from Virginia, by December 15, 1782, their strength had dropped to one mounted troop and one troop of foot soldiers. The foot troop was transferred to the Pennsylvania infantry (although the men continued to be paid at the higher rate prescribed for cavalry), and the mounted troop was mustered out.

 

*Griffin, p. 126. It seems likely that Berg’s statement that in 1780 remnants of the 4th Dragoons w ere absorbed into a mixed command under let. Col. Washington, 3d Dragoons, reflects a confusion with what actually happened in 1782.