Saturday, July 2, 2011

Samuel Smith's Revolutionary War Memoirs, 1855

Memoirs of the Life of Samuel
Smith (Middleborough, MA, 1853)
THE APPEARANCE OF a slim, privately-printed pamphlet in Middleborough in 1853 received little notice, despite its relative rarity.  It was a first-hand account of a common soldier’s experience in the Revolutionary War.  Had Samuel Smith of South Middleborough not been noted at the time of his death July 7, 1854, for authoring his Memoirs of Samuel Smith: A Soldier of the Revolution 1778-1788, he most assuredly would have been recognized for his longevity, living to the age of 95 – a remarkable feat at that time.  The elderly Smith’s avowed purpose in recording his recollections as a member of the Rhode Island regiment was to inform his friends of his earlier trials nearly three-quarters of a century earlier and to provide a small token to those who might give him financial assistance in his old age.

The work was printed by the Namasket Gazette of Middleborough which engaged in job printing work and appeared with little fanfare, eventually finding its way to the attention of Charles I. Bushnell a lawyer and numismatist with an avocation for Revolutionary history whose role in republishing a number of original accounts of the war undoubtedly rescued a number of them from oblivion and preserved them for posterity.  Among the items which came to Bushnell was Smith’s Memoirs which Bushnell had republished at New York in 1860, and had included four years later in a compendium with similar accounts which he published in 1864.  Unfortunately since that time, Smith’s account has languished and is little known to either Revolutionary scholars or Middleborough residents.

And though as a first-hand account of the Revolutionary War, Smith’s Memoirs were a novelty, such accounts were not entirely unknown.  Memoirs of Tarleton Brown, A Captain in the Revolutionary Army, Written by Himself, shared a very similar origin with those of Smith.  In 1843, the then 88-year-old South Carolinian Tarleton (1757-1845) was “persuaded that a few hints in relation to the scenes in which I have bore a part, in that glorious and memorable struggle for Independence would not be unacceptable to my friends and the general reader” and so dictated his recollections to his granddaughter’s husband which were published by the Charleston Rambler.  Again, like Smith’s, Tarleton’s reminiscences were destined for likely obscurity had they not been brought to wider attention through the agency of Bushnell who had them republished in 1862 whereupon they received greater notice.  Other accounts written in a similar vein to those of both Smith and Tarleton included The Revolutionary Adventures of Ebenezer Fox, of Roxbury, Massachusetts (Boston: Munroe and Francis, 1838), The Narrative of Ebenezer Fletcher, A Soldier of the Revolution (Bushnell ed.: 1866), The Narrative of John Blatchford Detailing his Sufferings in the Revolutionary War, Narrative of Major Abraham Leggett of the Army of the Revolution (Bushnell ed. NY: 1865), Journal of Solomon Nash, a Soldier of the Revolution 1776-1777 (Bushnell ed. NY:1861), A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Levi Hanford, a Soldier of the Revolution, and Journal of the Expedition Against Quebec, under Col. Benedict Arnold, in the year, 1775 by Maj. Return J. Meigs

Samuel Smith gravestone, South
Middleborough Cemetery,
Middleborough, MA, photograph
by Michael J. Maddigan, April 25,
Smith makes little comment upon his life subsequent to the war, and information regarding it is somewhat scant.  Following the war, he settled at South Middleborough, an outlying village of the town of Middleborough in Southeastern Massachusetts, setting down roots among other Smith families, though it was noted at the time of his death that he was “not of our Smiths.”.  At South Middleborough, Smith married Hope Doten (1765-1849), daughter of James and Elizabeth (Kempton) Doten of South Middleborough and raised a family of at least four children. 

Smith resided at various locations at South Middleborough, including the former parsonage of the Third Baptist Church of Middleborough where he is recorded as living in 1824.  It is likely that the parsonage was Smith’s original South Middleborough home, having been abandoned by the church when it relocated to Rock in the very late 1700s.  Establishment of the Reformed Methodist Society at South Middleborough in the 1820s, however, probably prompted the relocation of the Smiths so that the parsonage could once more be used for ministerial purposes, and it seems likely that the Smiths relocated at that time to the Maxim House further south on Spruce Street which had been acquired by Smith’s son, Chandler R. Smith in 1823.  In 1835, Chandler Smith provided his parents a life estate in the Maxim House which is the home most frequently associated with Smith and undoubtedly the scene where his memoirs were prepared.  Today known as the Smith-Wallen-Ryder House (the Wallens and Ryders being descendants of Smith), the Cape-style house has been restored.

Throughout his residence at South Middleborough, Smith was engaged in farming as were most of his neighbors, though he appears to have been instrumental in helping establish his son, Chandler R. as a local merchant.  At the corner of Spruce and Locust Streets, Chandler R. Smith about 1848 had “a Store or House built for the express purpose of keeping and selling therein to the people in the vicinity goods of such kinds as are usually kept and sold in stores in country places.”  Middleborough store.

Chandler R. Smith would become a recognizable merchant within South Middleborough and it was undoubtedly upon the basis of his son’s success, as well as his venerable old-age that Samuel Smith would come to be addressed within the community as “Governor” in his later years.

One story which has come down to us regarding Samuel Smith records his opposition to the arrival of the Cape Cod Branch railroad in 1848 which bisected the Smith family property at South Middleborough.  Vehemently opposed to the railroad on these grounds, an elderly Smith stood upon the tracks to block the path of the locomotive.  Only upon threat of being run down by an unsympathetic engineer did Smith relent and forgo his obstructionist campaign.  Though it is said that Smith ultimately recognized the benefits which the railroad brought to the community, the tale is indicative of the hardy and determined character of the man who sixty years earlier had served his new country with a similar fortitude.

Throughout his life, Smith remained an ardent patriot, attending annual July 4th celebrations at New Bedford.  It is perhaps therefore fitting that he survived to witness one last Independence Day, passing away just a few days following on July 7, 1854.

THE TEXT OF THE FOLLOWING MEMOIRS has been prepared from an original 1853 copy of Smith’s Memoirs in the collection of the Middleborough Historical Association.  The small pamphlet measuring with an umber-colored paper cover is one of the few known copies to survive.

Preface to the 1860 Bushnell Edition

THE FOLLOWING WORK was originally published in Middleborough, Mass., in the year 1853, and the very small edition that was printed was chiefly circulated by the Author among such inhabitants of that town as had befriended him, or of whom he solicited alms.

Though but the memoirs of a private soldier, and of unpretending character, yet it is one of several similar ones extant, showing the trials undergone and the privations and sufferings endured by our ancestors in their noble contest for freedom. Samuel Smith, the author of the Memoirs, was for several years in the habit of annually visiting the city of New Bedford, and participating in the municipal celebrations on the Fourth of July. At the visit he made preceding his death, his mind was still unimpaired, and he was in the full possession of his physical strength.  He died in the town of Middleborough, on Friday, July 7th, 1854, in the 95th year of his age.

                                        CHARLES I. BUSHNELL


I HAVE CONTEMPLATED for several years, placing before the American people, a few pages detailing some of the many incidents of my early life, my birth, parentage, and entrance into the army of the American Revolution, in 1776, &c., &c. Hoping that a recital of those labors, hardships, sufferings and trials may be kindly received by my fellow- countrymen, with a hearty response to the demand which I make upon them, namely : a perusal of these few pages, and the payment solicited for the same.

Middleboro, Mass., May, 1853.


   I was born in Smithfield, in Rhode Island, on the 13th of June, A.D. 1759, of humble, creditable parents. My early education was exceedingly limited, never having attended school but two winters, and in that time barely learned to read some easy lessons without spelling, and to write the letters of the alphabet with a copy.

   When eight years old, I was afflicted with a fever sore, which entirely disabled me for a year, and prevented my ever having full use of my right arm.

   My mother died when I was about thirteen years old, and I was taken into the family of a friendly man, with whom I remained one year, receiving as a compensation for my work, necessary clothing and board. At the expiration of that time, I went to live with a bachelor, agreeing to stay three years, as at the former place, namely, for victuals and clothes. After being with him one and a half years, I was, like many foolish boys, enticed away by a stranger, and told by him that he would do better by me than the person with whom I then resided that he wished me to drive team, &c. In consequence of this flattery and deception, I ran away from the bachelor, and joined my new acquaintance.

   In three weeks, however, I returned, and begged the privilege of staying, which was granted.

   At the expiration of three years, I hired myself again to him one year, for necessary clothing and twelve dollars. The next year I was paid fifteen dollars and clothes; then my master relinquished house-keeping, and I was again destitute of a home. My parents being both dead, I was in a lonely condition, but was kindly cared for, and during a long illness which now prostrated me, carefully watched over by a widow, who was, indeed, to me like a “guardian angel.”  She also read and explained to me many passages of Scripture, which I did not before understand, and could not read for myself.

   Soon after I regained my strength, there was a call for soldiers to go to Bristol, and many were drafted to go there. I was hired for one month to take a soldier’s place. When that time expired, I enlisted for three months, and when that time was served, I again enlisted in the Continental Army, but was never mustered as a soldier, on account of my right arm being shorter than my left.

   About this time a small party of recruits were detached from the forces at Bristol, to join the main army.  I was one of the number. We joined the main army in the Highlands, on the east side of Hudson River, opposite Stony Point.

   Soon after we joined the main army, Major Andre was brought into camp, and continued in the regiment till he was hung.  From the Highlands we marched to “Red Bank” where we had a severe battle with the Hessians.

   In this engagement they attempted several times to storm our fort, there being seven times as many Hessians as our number. They were, however, compelled to retreat. In this engagement we had one captain, one fife major, and five privates killed. Two of the privates were shot down, one on my right and the other on my left hand.

   The night following the battle we were all on duty, either in scouting parties or on trails. It fell to my lot to go with a party on trail, and in going about half gun shot from the fort we found Count Dunop wounded and concealed behind a pine, attended by his two waiters.  We took him and carried him into the fort. He lived but a short time and died of his wounds, having been shot through the knees with small grape-shot. The next day the whole regiment was employed, except those on guard and on scouting parties, in digging a trench and burying the dead. Here we buried between four and five hundred ; so many Hessians having fallen in the engagement.

   Having buried the dead, we hung three spies one white man and two negroes. The white man confessed that he had taken pay of the British, (a tankard full of guineas,) for conducting Hessians to Red Bank.

   Soon after this action the British shipping came up opposite a mud fort which we had built, and another action commenced. We succeeded, soon after the action commenced, in firing a red hot shot into one of their ships, the Roebuck, a ship of seventy-four guns, which connecting with her magazine, blew her up.

   Sometime in November, 1776, we were obliged to leave Red Bank on account of the cold, and we marched to Valley Forge, and again joined the main army being at this time nearly destitute of clothing, except what we secured in the Hessian fight. We stopped, however, sometime in the mountains, till we could procure provisions. We there visited a hermit, who was one of the oldest settlers, having lived forty miles in the wild wilderness for fifty years. As the regiment was passing the cabin of the hermit, the column halted, and there was liberty given for all to visit it. It was a nice cabin, furnished with furs and skins, A nice smooth bench set outside the door. About two rods from this cabin, to the right hand as we came out, stood a very large tree, with smooth bark, resembling poplar. On this tree was nicely pictured a warrior s face. There were days while we were on our march to Valley Forge, for winter quarters, that we were entirely destitute of food, sometimes two days at a time. On our march we came to a valley, which abounded with black walnuts and butternuts, where we tarried two days. We then continued our march till we came to the Schuylkill River. There we laid down to rest on our arms, with nothing but the broad canopy of heaven to cover us.  That night the snow fell about half a foot deep. Some had blankets and slept upon the frozen ground and covered themselves with them, while others had none, and slept entirely unprotected from the weather. We staid at this place two days. The second day, in the morning, we discovered near the camp a large flock of goats, which were taken, butchered and devoured to satisfy hunger. After two days we unloaded the baggage wagons, and hauled them into the river to make a bridge on which the regiment crossed. On the next march we suffered extremely, our feet being wet, and being compelled to travel on the wet, frozen ground, ice and snow. Those who had blankets cut off the corners arid wound them round their feet. Others who had none, secured rags and the like, or anything of the kind which had been thrown from the houses on the road on which we marched, and blood from our feet might be traced on the ground. We finally reached Valley Forge, our winter head-quarters, the forepart of January, 1777. Here I built a hut, and soon after finishing it, was taken sick, and was blind for about ten days. We remained at Valley Forge till sometime in June. Then we went out of our winter quarters into the fields with our tents, and marched from post to post till we met the British at Springfield, Penn., where we had a smart engagement, lasting for nearly two hours.* There being of us but a small brigade to contend against the whole British army, we were obliged for a time, in this action to retreat, and a company was detached from our brigade, in a flanking party, and attacked the British right flank opposite General Arnold s, the traitor.

   We contended in this engagement nearly an hour, until in fact the British had nearly surrendered to us, when we were obliged to retreat a short distance on a height of ground and took shelter, first in an orchard and from thence we retreated to an oak grove. Here we had the advantage of them. Our captain now ordered every man to shelter himself by standing behind a tree. In this engagement there was not a man on the American side killed or wounded except one captain, who received a shot through the left arm ; a flesh wound.  The next day after the battle, we were employed in burying the dead in the burying ground, and conveying the wounded to the hospital. I was selected with others to go to the hospital and attend the wounded. Much of my time while there was employed in attending and waiting on the doctor, having the care of his box of instruments. While there I saw a great many legs and arms cut off. I was continued in this occupation at the hospital, until the spring of It 78, when I joined my regiment again.

   While I was at the hospital I was under the command of the doctor, and I waited on him until he left the army, which was in the fall of the year 1778. The name of the doctor was Elias Cornelius.

   I believe him to have been a Christian, as he regularly attended meetings on Sundays, He was a Baptist by profession. When he went to church he always took me with him, as he wished me well. He also instructed me in the ways of righteousness. When he left the army I lost the company of my best friend. He returned from Springfield to his home in the city of New York.  After the British took possession of New York, he was obliged to leave the city, he being a true Republican.  His father and relatives were Tories. The last knowledge I had of him, he resided at Robinson Mills, in the State of New York, and the last time I saw him he was on a visit to Providence, two years after he left the army, when we took a final leave of each other. He entreated me to persevere in serving the Lord, that we might meet in a better world.

   Nothing material occurred until the next June, when the battle of Monmouth was fought. The day on which this battle was fought, was the hottest, I think, that I ever experienced. In fact, the heat was so excessive that I could not tell by which the most died, whether by the heat or the balls.

   In two days after this hot battle, the brigade was ordered to march to Rhode Island. (t.) We arrived on the Island just previous to the tremendous hurricane and rain storm, We had not pitched our tents. I found, however, a large hogshead, knocked in at one end, and got into it for shelter, Soon after the storm, an action took place. In this action the Americans were obliged to retreat. It so happened that it brought the Rhode Island brigade in the rear. Boats were employed all night in carrying off baggage and troops, About sun rise it came our turn to fight, and we descended upon a party of British at the fort on Butts Hill. The British scaled the walls on one side, while the Americans entered the gate.

  We drove the British completely from the fort, dismounted and spiked their cannon, and then hastened to the boats which were waiting for us, and retreated from the Island.

   Soon after, the drafted men were discharged, and we marched to Warren for winter headquarters. The soldiers called for pay, They had had promises of pay for one month in the new emission money. The money was retained by our officers, and we marched to Providence to see the General and get redress, which he promised we should have, and told our commander whenever we wanted redress, to write him, and he would endeavor that we should have it, so we all again submitted, and resigned ourselves to the orders of our old officers.

   In the course of the winter of 1778, many of the regiment to which I belonged were taken to go on ship board, to run down the river to attack and take the British shipping which lay there. The ship that I went on board of had two cannons Our orders were to run along side of the British shipping, board, and take them.

   I believe it was a happy incident to us that our captain run the ship aground on Pawtucket Flats, for thus ended this expedition. We then returned to our barracks at Warren, where we remained until the spring of the year 1779, when we were marched to Boston Neck.

   Our payment for services being unnecessarily detained, we all agreed to have a letter formed, setting forth our grievances, and sent to our General. The letter was made and handed to the Colonel to forward to the General, The Colonel refused to have the letter sent, and took the bearer of it and sent him in irons to jail, He then had him tried by a Court Martial, and sentenced to be hung in rive days. Three days after the sentence, all attended as usual at the calling of the roll. After the roll was called we were dismissed for the day. When the officers had retired, we agreed upon our plan to liberate the prisoner. Every soldier fixed his bayonet on his gun for the purpose of rescuing the brother soldier who was condemned to be hung. The drums beat the long roll as a signal. Every soldier was on parade, with his gun loaded and his bayonet affixed, We were determined to rescue the prisoner, who was innocent of any crime on behalf of his fellow soldiers. We were determined to a man to lose our lives or rescue our brother.

   There were but two officers in the regiment who would allow soldiers to converse with our head commander, for the purpose of settling questions in dispute. On we marched, agreed that fifteen only should be allowed to settle the affair. Meeting General Sullivan, he ordered us to halt, but we marched steadily on. Our old Major, whom we always and at all times authorized to speak to our Commander to settle questions and restore peace, rode in front of our ranks and wished us to halt, as Gen. Sullivan came to settle the disorder and to restore peace.

   We agreed to halt on condition that the officers should get in front, under the muzzles of our guns. These conditions were quickly complied with. The first request of the General was for us to lay down our arms. He said he could not converse with soldiers under arms.  We positively refused to accede to his request, and we all stood with our guns to our shoulders, loaded and bayonets affixed.

   The above took place in the road on a low piece of land. A small island was opposite the place where we halted. The General wanted us to march on the island.  We complied with his request. When we had marched on the island, he wanted we should stack our arms.  Our leader told the General that our arms would remain in each man’s hands until the treaty which we demanded was agreed upon. The General said he could not agree with soldiers upon anything while they were under arms. Then our leader told him he should march for the condemned man. The General told him that he had one black regiment in the fort, which we had to pass, who would cut us to pieces. The answer from our leader was: “We do not fear you, with all your black boys ! The prisoner we will have, at the risk of our lives!”

   The General then agreed that if we would march back, under order to our former officers, he would send the prisoner to the camp. This our leader refused to do, telling the General that he had marched his men there on conditions, and that he would march them back again if he would immediately deliver up the prisoner, and pledge his honor that there should be no one confined or tried in Court Martial for the same offence. It was apparently hard for the General to agree to it, but at last he complied with the terms and sent an officer for the prisoner, who was soon brought and delivered to us.

   We then marched to our old encampment with our comrade in the centre, and colors flying in his hands, and resigned ourselves to our old officers.

   We remained in our encampment until the British evacuated Rhode Island, when we took possession of it.  We remained here until we had orders to march southward.

   The first march we made was to Hartford, Conn., where we staid but a day or two, when we marched to Philadelphia, Penn., where we encamped a week or more, waiting for further orders and for the baggage to come up. We then marched to the head of Elk River, and took boats and went down the river to Little York.  Then came on a squall, and being in flat bottom boats, all landed on an island nearly opposite Little York, in the centre of the British forces. The enemy might have taken with ease the whole of the American troops which were there quartered, and all our bag-gage, had they dared to have attacked us. One British boat landed about a mile from our encampment, and sent out spies who fled before we could come up with them. It being a pleasant day we took to our boats and sailed by them.

   The next march we made was to Yorktown, where we encamped within half cannon shot of the British, and commenced a fortification by digging a trench, or rather by each man digging a hole deep enough to drop into. When this was accomplished, we stationed a man to watch the enemy s guns, at which every man dropped into his hole. But we soon left this ground, and in the night stormed two of their fortifications, and dug a trench all round the British encampment, completely yarding them in.

   Two nights after the storming of the fortifications, the British undertook to retake them, and mustering out a small party calling themselves Americans, came up in the rear of us. They entered the fort with but little difficulty, as there were but few of us in it, and very quickly those who were not instantly killed or taken, were driven out of it.

   Four days from that time Lord Cornwallis surrendered,  and in three days from the time Cornwallis surrendered, the British marched out on the plains, and stacked their arms and resigned and surrendered themselves prisoners of war, and each marched into town again.  The Americans followed them. In three weeks from the time the British surrendered, we took their shipping.

   Forty of the prisoners we took from their ships had a disorder with which our doctor was not acquainted. Its appearance was sudden. Some would fall down on the deck and froth like a mad dog ; others would begin to draw their heads down till their heels and head would touch together. An American of my acquaintance, who, to my certain knowledge, had been exposed repeatedly to the small pox for six years, caught it on board the British shipping and died.

   From York Town we marched to Saratoga, a long and tedious march, where we made our headquarters until the spring of 1783.

   In the winter, after the lakes had frozen up, we went to storm a fort on the frontier. Our army was conveyed in stages. In crossing Niagara River on the ice, just above the Falls, one stage containing six men and the driver, slipped sideways into the river, and was carried over the Falls and lost.

   We passed over across the Lake to a piece of swampy land, where the stages left us and returned home. We staid here two nights and a part of two days, when we learned by our spies, that the British had reinforced their fort with double the number of men they had before, and it becoming more than five degrees colder than when we started from Saratoga to cross the Lakes a number of men having frozen to death, and a great part of the regiment being more or less frozen but little regard was paid to the command of the officers, as every man did the best he could to protect himself from the cold. Sleighs were procured and furnished by the inhabitants, to carry the troops back to Saratoga. We remained at Saratoga until the latter part of the month of May, 1783, when the greater part of the regiment was disbanded by companies. Some of the companies were marched to Providence before their discharge was given them.

   I was selected to drive the Colonel’s baggage to Providence, under command of a lieutenant and a small guard, and then discharged without money or clothes.  I went to a place to board, but having no money to pay, the person with whom I boarded set me to driving trucks. The business he was in was small, and he entered into company with Samuel Bagley. I was finally hired to drive a baggage wagon from Providence to Boston. They agreed to give me one-third of the profits for driving, I to find myself. Bagley was agent, and about six months after I commenced driving, he sold what little property he had and ran away with the money. In consequence of this, I lost the whole of my earnings.

   I then shipped on board a brig, which was bound to the coast of Brazil, on a whaling voyage. We were gone nine months and seventeen days. We killed only five whales, which made sixty barrels each, (300). I lost my time, and was in debt for fitting out. In four days after my arrival home, I shipped for the West Indies, in a brig commanded by Capt. Seth Wheaton. Here I began a wickedness beyond every thing I had done before. In those days sailors were addicted to drinking and swearing. I contracted the habit of swearing, but not that of drinking, and did not follow all the sailors practices, being careful of the company I kept.

   The voyage was long and tedious, as the captain chartered his brig to a merchant in New York to go to Turks Island and load with salt. After we had arrived at Mooner Passage, we attempted to go through a narrow place, and the wind being ahead we had a very narrow escape.

   After we got to sea, we were very scant of provisions, calculating to obtain supplies at Turks Island. Being eighteen days from Curago, we were nearly destitute of bread and water, and four days previous to arriving at Turks Island, were obliged to come on an allowance of half a pint of water and half a biscuit a day. We were, however, at this point, nearly in sight of Port au Prince, but did not dare to go on shore with our boats. When we came so nigh to land that we could go on shore and return in five hours, our boat was hoist ed out, and the captain, merchant, three sailors and myself, left the vessel about 7 o clock, A. M., and pulled for the shore till 3 o clock, P. M., and reached the land.  The captain and merchant went in pursuit of provisions; the rest were left with me to take care of the boat.  Very soon after we landed, a negro came to the boat with bananas, plantains and oranges to sell. We purchased enough to make a good meal. The captain and merchant soon returned with a supply of provisions, which were brought to the boat by negroes. At five o clock, P. M., we pulled again for the brig. The light which we left burning in the morning and hanging in the shrouds, the mate put out after dark, and the wind blowing in shore, we made sail and run for the harbor.

   A man-of-war, not finding the captain, and only the mate, two hands and one passenger on board, and taking her to be a pirate, brought the brig under his stern.  When the light was put out, we put the boat about for the shore, it being exceedingly dark, and we had no compass. We again reached the land, and passed the remainder of the night in the small village where we had obtained our supplies. The next morning the brig was not to be seen, and we had to take to our boat again, and row across the bay, sixty miles to the harbor. We pulled all day, and at sunset were barely in sight of the shipping. When it became so dark that we could not discern the shipping, the captain selected a star in the horizon, and thus we reached the harbor about ten o clock.  As we approached the shipping, our boat was hailed by the sentinel of the man-of-war and ordered along side. Our captain was ordered on board, but in a short time was liberated, with provisions and water, to go on board of his own vessel.

   We staid in port about two weeks till the merchant had taken his cargo, and then sailed for New York, where we arrived in ten days ; discharged our cargo, and then sailed for Providence. On our passage down the Sound we experienced a heavy gale, and being in light ballast, were forced to make the nearest harbor, which was a cove on Long Island, where we laid for four days. Then we sailed out into the Sound, and it becoming perfectly calm, were floated about for four days longer, not making headway enough for steerage, being driven backwards and forwards with the tide. This was in the latter part of December, 1785, and the weather was piercing cold. After we had been becalmed four days, the wind blew a heavy gale, and we ran into New London, where we laid five days. On the sixth day, the weather proving favorable, we sailed again for Providence. The wind hauling to the east ward, began again to blow, and we steered for a small harbor on Long Island, where we staid three days.  Again we sailed and arrived at Newport. The next day we sailed for Providence, and after contending and forcing our way through the ice, arrived three miles below the town in twenty-one days from New York.

   Arriving in Providence, I went to my old boardinghouse and staid three days, when I shipped and went on board of a sloop bound to the West Indies. The crew consisted of captain, mate and four hands all drunkards except a lad of about eighteen years and myself.  We had on board ten oxen.

   We cleared from Providence in the morning, in a rain storm. By nine, P. M., Block Island was two leagues astern of us, and all hands below, drunk. It was blowing a heavy gale, arid I had been placed at the helm before leaving the land. It became dark, and not knowing the bearings of Nantucket Shoals, neither had I time to look in any book or on any chart to ascertain.  I placed the lad at the helm while I went into the steerage and took the stopples out of the kegs of rum and let it run out on the floor. The two hands came on deck the next morning sober and continued so till our arrival at the West Indies. The captain and mate kept half drunk the whole voyage. They were not even capable of managing the vessel, or of discharging or loading.  The mate staid on board a sloop loading with sugar. while we were loading. When we hauled out into deep water to sail for home, the captain was hardly capable of giving orders. At five o clock, P. M., he gave me the charge of the vessel, calling all hands and ordering them to obey my orders the same as if I were the captain, and then went below. About eight o clock the next morning he again made his appearance on deck, ordered the boat alongside, and then two hands to row him on shore.  It being Sunday I kept all hands on board Monday morning the captain came on board in a negro boat, and gave all hands liberty to go on shore to spend the day.

   We staid in port two weeks, loaded with cotton and sugar, and cleared for Providence. We had a very pleasant voyage home, except with our captain and mate, who were very cross and ugly. The captain and myself had a few words one day, and I informed him that I knew my duty as a seaman. He ever after on the voyage, appeared to owe me a grudge. A few days out, our  studding sail halyards gave way at the end of the boom where it was rigged out at the end of the yard.  The captain called upon me to go aloft and reef the halyards. There was no foot rope to rest the feet upon, but I had to crawl out on the yard with the halyards in my hand.  When I had got about half way out, the captain sung out with an oath: “Now fall overboard, and I will pick you up when I come this way again.”  I was obliged to cling to the spar to the utmost of my strength, and had it not been for the stillness of the wind and the smoothness of the sea, should have fallen off.

   We had a moderate breeze on our passage home till we made Block Island. The wind being to the north we could not run to Rhode Island, but anchored off Stonington, where we remained three days. In weighing  anchor, we did not get it to the cat-head as quick as the captain wished, he (being so intoxicated he did not know what he wanted,) began to curse and swear, directing foul language towards me, saying were he nigh some desolate island, I should starve to death. I in formed him that I had ever done my duty as a faithful seaman, and obeyed all his commands. He frequently quarreled with the mate and all hands. I sailed the vessel from our anchorage in Stonington to Providence. About half way from Newport to Providence, I called the captain, he having slept his nap out.

   Having discharged the cargo, I called for my pay, which was six dollars a month, and the captain offered me a kind of paper currency which the State had issued as a cheat. I refused this currency. He declared I should take that or nothing. I lost my wages.

   Next day I visited a brother, five miles in the country, whom I found ploughing, it being a very warm time in the spring of 1786.

   Upon revisiting Boston, I shipped on board a Plymouth packet. Subsequently I sailed on another voyage to the West Indies, and upon returning from which I came to Middleboro , where I have resided for about thirty-seven years, with a less varied life than that which is recounted in the foregoing pages, and from which place this little work is submitted. Having touched in these few pages, on some of the incidents of my younger years, I most humbly beg to arrest your attention one moment longer.

   FELLOW COUNTRYMEN : I need not tell you that I have seen the British guns fired in anger, or that these lungs which now but feebly respire the vital air of heaven, have been suffocated with the smoke of British powder.  I need not tell you that those dim eyes have guided, or that those now palsied limbs have directed the American ordnance, when your country groaned, and Americans bled by the cruel oppression of Britain. I need not tell you that these ears have been stunned by the thunder of the cannon, the clashing of steel, and rattle of musketry, or even that I have lived, not only in the days but with our beloved Washington, the father of his country ! No ! it is not to impose upon you self-praise, or to arouse your passions by a recital of any exertions of my own, in behalf of the American Revolution, or even again to revert to those times which tried men s souls, but merely to say, gentlemen, I am an old man a very old man more than four-score years and ten, and stand nigh the borders of the grave!  I can speak to you but a short time longer. Hear me for my cause!

   Should our country, in your time, be invaded by a foreign foe, and you be called to act the part of men American born men may you enter the field, and should it be ordered and ordained that your bones should bleach in the soil of your country, like those who fell in the American Revolution  - may you say -  “Let justice be done, though the heavens should fall.”


Samuel Smith
Smith was born in Smithfield, Rhode Island, the son of Benjamin and Abigail (Walling) Smith who were married at Smithfield, November 13, 1752, by William Arnold, Justice.  The couple appears to have had but three children: Chloe born June 2, 1754; Enos born March 20, 1757; and Samuel born June 13, 1759.  Smith describes his parents as "humble", perhaps a euphemism for poor.  Following his mother's death about 1772, Smith appears to have been "bound out", a common practice by those unable to support family members.  Smith replaced another soldier, a common practice through the mid-nineteenth century when drafted men could pay money to another to replace them.  It is likely that Smith joined the Second Rhode Island Regiment which was formed at this time.

Major John André
Major John André was a British spy hung October 2, 1780 for complicity in the attempted surrender of West Point by Benedict Arnold.  Clearly, Smith has confused the timing of the episode.  Bushnell simply notes that “the reader will perceive that the author is guilty of several anachronisms in the course of his narrative.”  Andre was not captured until 1780, some four years following Smith’s presence at Stony Point.

Battle of Springfield, Pennsylvania
This battle did not take place until June 23, 1780 - another anachronism in Smith's memoirs.

Battle of Red Bank,  Delaware River south of Philadelphia, October-November, 1777
Following the occupation of Philadelphia, the British sought to secure control of the Delaware River without which their control of the city would remain untenable.  Recognizing this, the Americans moved to block the river below the city.  An anonymous British diarist from the time recorded that "the rebels have endeavoured with vast labour and expense to stop up the navigation of the Delaware River by sinking several ranges of a kind of cheavaux de fries across the channel, to prevent our fleet from getting up to the city."  The obstructions were placed between Red Bank on the New Jersey shore where the Continentals had established a rudimentary fort known as Fort Mercer, and an island in the river upon which the somewhat more substantial For Mifflin was raised.  In an effort to reduce Fort Mercer, British General Howe despatched a force of 2,000 Hessian troops under General Count Carl Emil Kurt von Donop.  On October 22, 1777, Americans led by Christopher Greene of Rhode Island repulsed the Hessian troops.  Sources vary as to the number killed from 200 to 600, including von Donop.  Smith's Memoirs clearly indicate the higher number.  Though not of great strategic importance (Fort Mercer was later abandoned when the British made it untenable following their taking of Fort Mifflin), it was of tremendous emotional import for the Continental troops.

"We hung three spies"
Two spies were hanged November 1, 1777, for having conducted the Hessians to Red Bank.

Sinking of the Augusta
In his Memoirs, Smith clearly confuses the 64-gun warship Augusta with the smaller 44-gun Roebuck.  As part of the effort to secure the Delaware, a force of British war vessels was brought to bear in the attack upon Forts Mercer and Mifflin, as noted by Smith.  The 64-gun Augusta, 44-gun Roebuck, 18-gun sloop of war Merlin, frigates Liverpool and Pearl and a galley ship sought to force their way upriver with the incoming tide.  The Pearl's log recorded that the fleet "work'd up the River in order to engage the Rebel Vessels and prevent their firing on our Troops, who appear'd to be much gall'd from the Enemies Shipping; 1/2 past 5 the Rebel Galleys &c. began firing n us, which was return'd by the Roebuck, Augusta & Cornwallis Galley."  Unfortunately for the British, both the Augusta and Merlin ran aground on shoaling sands on October 23 off Fort Mifflin, following which Augusta caught fire.  Though the British frantically tried to salvage the burning ship, it ultimately had to be abandoned.  The fire ignited its magazine which exploded and destroyed the Augusta, the largest Royal Navy warship lost in the entire Revolution.  The survivors were taken aboard the remaining ships, including the Roebuck.

"Sometime in November we were obliged to leave Red Bank"
Fort Mercer was evacuated in mid-November 1777, following the British capture of Fort Mifflin.

Valley Forge
Though Smith's narrative contains little detail, it clearly indicates the suffering experienced at Valley Forge where it is estimated some 2,000 died during the course of the winter of 1777-78, with Smith himself falling ill.  Food and clothing were both scarce, and Washington was moved o write "that unless some great and capital change suddenly takes place ... this Army must inevitably ... starve, dissolve, or disperse, in order to obtain subsistence in the best manner they can."

"We remained at Valley Forge until sometime in June"
Fearing a French blockade, the British forces under General Clinton withdrew from Philadelphia.  Learning of this, Washington moved to intercept Clinton, and the Continental Army moved out from Valley Forge June 19, 1778, upon receiving news that Philadelphia had been abandoned by the British.

Elias Cornelius (1758-1823)
Though of a Loyalist family, Cornelius enlisted January 1, 1777, and because of some medical background, he served as a surgeon's mate in the 2d Rhode Island regiment under General Israel Angell.  Cornelius, like Smith, served at Red Bank, but was captured before the army entered winter encampment at Valley Forge.  Cornelius escaped on January 7, 1778, and rejoined his regiment at Valley Forge.  Cornelius later wrote reminiscences entitled Journal of Dr. Elias Cornelius, A Revolutionary Surgeon: Graphic Description of his Suffering while a Prisoner in Provost jail, New York, 1777 and 1778.

The Battle of Monmouth (New Jersey), June 28, 1778
The battle was fought between Washington and the main body of the Continental Army which moved eastward from Pennsylvania to attack the rear of the retreating British army led by Sir Henry Clinton as it departed Freehold, New Jersey, with the purpose of reaching Sandy Hook and embarkation for New York.  The British were evacuating Philadelphia and New Jersey as untenable, fearing that French naval forces might cut their supply lines.  General Charles Lee was the first to attack the rear of the British force, but retreated when the British turned to repulse the attack.  Both sides claimed victory.  While the British achieved their aim of evacuating their army intact from New Jersey, the Americans could claim that they had forced the evacuation of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  The battle which was marked by excessive heat is today perhaps best remembered for the presence of Mary Hays (Molly Pitcher).  The American satisfaction over the outcome of Monmouth was marred, however, by subsequent wrangling over Lee's actions.  Lee demanded to be court martialled in the belief that such a body would exonerate him of charges of insubordination.  It did not.  He was found guilty, a verdict later upheld by Congress, and allegations of treason would continue to dog him.  Another Middleborough soldier, Captain Joshua Eddy is said to have been witness to Washington's castigation of Lee.

The Battle of Rhode Island
A force was despatched under General John Sullivan to move northward into Rhode Island and join with French naval forced for an attack upon Newport.  Before it could reach the city, the American force clashed with the British at the northern end of Aquidneck Island.  Continental forces performed a tactical withdrawal to a line which ranged across the island just south of Butt's Hill in preparation for an invasion force of 100 British vessels encouraged by the departure of d'Estaing's fleet for repairs in Boston.  The storm which Smith mentions occurred on August 11 and 12, and laid flat cornfields and hayfields over the course of the two days.  On the evening of August 30-31, the British permitted the American forces to withdraw by boat to Tiverton and Bristol.  Following the battle, the regular troops rejoined Washington and a small force was retained at Fort Barton in Tiverton.

Black Troops
Undoubtedly a reference to the 1st Rhode Island, a nearly all African-American regiment.  The 2d Rhode Island also included black troops.  Rhode Island, along with Massachusetts, emancipated slaves willing to serve as soldiers, paying compensation to their owners for the loss of their "property".

October 25, 1779
The date the British finally evacuated Newport, Rhode Island


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