Aghhhhhhhhhhhhhh Not again!!!
In the winter of 1778-79, General Israel Putnam’s division of the Continental Army encamped at Redding, Connecticut. Troops began to arrive at camp in November and would continue to arrive until late December.
Gen. Samuel Holden Parsons arrived at Camp 2nd Hill (the middle camp) on November 14th.
The journal of Lt. Col. Henry Dearborn, 3rd New Hampshire Regiment shows his troops arrived at the main camp (Putnam Park) on November 30th. It also indicates a mixture of snow & rain in December:
* Dec. 10th: the weather very Cold, the Snow about 6 inches.
* Dec. 13th: a very heavy storm of Rain and no bread for two days.
* Dec. 17th: a heavy Rain…
* Dec. 22nd : a severe Snow storm…
* Dec. 24th: we had Snow last night & very severe Cold today. Our men are well…Clothed and well hutted.
* Dec. 26th: we have a very severe Snow storm.
* Dec. 27th: the weather seems more like Canada, then Connecticut…
The 8th Connecticut Regiment, which encamped at Camp 2nd Hill (the middle camp), 1-2 miles to the West of the main camp, arrived “about Christmas or a little before”. Private Joseph Plumb Martin’s writes:
“We arrived at Reading about Christmas or a little before, and prepared to build our huts for our winter quarters. And now came on the time again between grass and hay, that is the winter campaign of starving.”
“…I assisted in the building of our winter huts. We got them in such a state of readiness that we moved into them about New Year’s Day. The reader may take my word, if he pleases, when I tell him that we had nothing extraordinary, either eatables or drinkables, to keep a New Year or housewarming.”
Camp Life: What the soldiers did during waking hours depended on the day and the weather. Rainy/Snowy days would be spent in their huts and/or tents repairing their gear and weapons, sewing torn clothing, or if they were lucky playing cards or dice. Sunny days would be spent foraging for wood and food; assembly and drilling in preparation for battle; scouting missions to ferret out Tories or spies; scouting missions to determine whether Cattle or any species of provision found near the lines are in danger of falling into the hands of the Enemy, or are carried there with an intent to supply them.; patrols or marches in response to British alarms.
Many of the Connecticut troops were placed on patrols at Horseneck, Stamford and Norwalk. Some were sent over to “no-man’s land” in Westchester County and several hundred troops were sent to New London for guard duty and the construction of Fort Griswold.
Private Martin’s diary indicates some of the local troops obtained furloughs in February.
“It was now the beginning of February. Many of the men had obtained furloughs to go home and visit their friends…”
Martin was one of those sent to New London from March until May, and from his entries, the conditions there were not any better than in Redding.
“I had not been in camp more than a week before I was sent off with a large detachment to New London to guard the fortifications in and about that town…we were put into houses, and here, too, we almost starved to death, and I believe should have quite starved, had we not found some clams…we stayed here, starving, until the first of May, when we received orders to march to camp and join our regiments.”
Orders and reports coming out of Redding or relating to Redding:
Camp, 2nd Hill, Nov. 17, 1778
“The General having obtained permission of the Commander in Chief to be absent a few days from the Division, the Command will devolve upon Brigadier General Huntington. General McDougal is happy that it falls upon a gentleman in whose care for and attention to the Troops he has the utmost confidence. The orders will be issued as usual at the Headquarters of the Division.”
Report out of the New Hampshire division, Date unknown
“162 men in Hazen’s regiment were ‘unfit for duty for want of shoes.’”
Report out of the New Hampshire division, Dec. 5, 1778
“at twelve at night we were alarmed by hearing that the enemy are at Terry Town (below Peekskill) in force. In consequence of which a detachment of 1500 men from the three brigades under General Putnam’s command were ordered to march…’”
Report out of the New Hampshire division, Dec. 9, 1778
“we returned to camp…’”
Report out of the New Hampshire division, Dec. 12, 1778
“we are very busy at work upon our huts, amongst the snow…’”
Report out of the New Hampshire division, Dec. 16, 1778
“we begin to get into our huts…’”
General Putnam’s Orders, Dec. 18, 1778
“Lieut. Col. Bulter of Wylly’s Regiment is promoted to the command of the 2nd Company Battalion and is to be obeyed as such. Colonel Meigs is appointed Inspector of the Division and to do the duty of Adj. General for the same until further orders. Quartermaster Belding of the 1st Connecticut Brigade is appointed Quartermaster of the Division and is to do that duty until further orders. David Humphrey, Esq. Late Brigade Major to General Parsons is appointed aide de camp to General Putnam until further orders.”
Report out of the New Hampshire division, Dec. 19, 1778
“we are in our huts…’”
Report out of the New Hampshire division, Dec. 22, 1778
“a severe snow storm…’”
Report out of the New Hampshire division, Dec. 25, 1778
“Christmas Day. The Weather is so cold we take but little notice of the day…’”
Report out of the New Hampshire division, Dec. 26, 1778
” we have a very severe snow storm…”
Parsons’ Brigade Orders, Dec. 27, 1778
“The General of the brigade informs the officers and soldiers that he has used every possible method to supply flour or bread to the brigade. Although a sufficiency of every article necessary is at Danbury, the weather had been so extreme that it is impossible for teams to pass to that place. Every measure is taken to supply flour, rum, salt and every necessary tomorrow, at which time, if a quantity sufficient comes in, all past allowances shall be made up. The General, therefore, desires for the honor of this corps and their own personal reputation, the soldiery, under the special circumstances caused by the severity of the season, will make themselves contented to that time.”
Petition of the Connecticut Soldiers in the Revolutionary Army, to His Excellency, Jonathan Trumbull, Governor of Connecticut. Captain Nathaniel Webb’s Orderly Book, Camp Reading, Dec. 27, 1778.
“May it please your Excellency. The Sense of Importance of opposing with Force, ye attempts of Great Britain to enslave our Country, induces us to lay before your Excellency the Condition of that Part of ye Army raised from the State of Connecticut & ye great Danger of their disbanding & returning to their several Homes.
They have may it please your Excellency been promised a Blanket, & other Clothing annually from ye Continent & a Blanket from ye State every year, for each non-commissioned Officer & Soldier, those Promises have not been complied with, so far from it, that although we have not, one half ye Quota of Men this State was to raise, we assure you not less than four hundred are to this Day totally destitute, & no one has received two Blankets according to Contract, nor has more than one half of the Clothing promises ever been received or any compensation made for ye deficiency, that when they have Coats they are without Breeches, & when they are supplied with Shoes, they have neither Stockings nor Shirts, & at this Inclement Season many of our Men are suffering for want of Blankets, Shirts, Breeches, Shoes & Stockings, & some are destitute of Coats & Waistcoats.
The increasing Price of every necessary [necessity] and Convenience of Life, is another Grievance most [unreadable] experienced by ye Soldiery in their Marches, & in other Situations, they are necessitated to purchase Provisions and Vegetables when in Camp. The Prices now asked for one Meal is from three to eight Shillings. Turnips from two to three Dollars per Bushel & other Vegetables in proportion, that a Soldiers month Pay is consumed in about three days in furnishing himself with necessaries not supplied by the Public. – These are Grievances very greatly and Justly complained of by your Soldiers, & Officers of every Rank are Sharers in the Consequences of these Evils.
An expectation of Redress has retained ye Soldiery hitherto, but Desertions Daily increase & unless that Justice which is their due is done, We assure your Excellency we fear it will not be in our Power to retain them. We have ye greatest Reason to believe they will wait ye Event only of their Petition at ye Adj. Assembly, & should that Assembly arise without doing them Justice in ye past depredation of ye Currency, we are convinced ye greater part of ye Soldiery will desert.
We assure your Excellency we have & shall continue to appease every discontent which has ye remotest Tendency to produce Mutiny & Desertion or any other Act prejudicial to ye Service & we have ye Satisfaction to believe we posses ye Love & Affection of ye Soldiery & that they are not desirous to forsake us or ye Cause of their Country.
But it may please your Excellency they are naked in severe Winter, they are hungry & have no Money… We have promised them redress, we have assured them of ye good Intentions of their Country towards them, & that Justice…us as their Soldiery under our Command which is our just Right, but we cannot be convinced tis’ more.
Reasonable for us to rely on ye Provision Congress may be supposed to make some future Time, than for this State to rely on that Body for doing them Justice, especially when we consider ye conditions of ye Officers & Soldiers from ye Extreme Parts of ye States in ye Union, are so very different that one general Rule cannot be adopted which will do justice, & that when we consider that your Excellency is your Proclamation for raising ye Soldiers pledge ye faith of ye State for ye punctual fulfillment of every Engagement, made with ye Soldiers by Congress.
We hope & trust that our Assembly at their next Session will remove ye Causes of out Complaint & satisfy us those Loses we have sustained by ye past depreciation of Money & give those Assurances of keeping good our future pay & redress our other Grievances that no Cause of Complaint may remain among us, but should not this be done, we still think it to be our Indispensible Duty to make this public Representation before ye Evils we are convinced will flow from them have happened, least we should be [tough to read, ends in r-e-d] for our Silence when ye Event has taken place.
We beg your Excellency to lay this Representation before ye Assembly & to assure them we have ye most ardent Desire to assist in our several Stations in reducing that Power which involved out Country in this Cruel War & to promote that Order & decency in ye Soldiery, so necessary to ye Attainment of this End. We have furnished our Agent with a Calculation, founded on ye best Evidence in our power, that being adopted by our Assembly will in our Opinion quiet our Troops & that nothing short will give them Satisfaction.
We have the Honor to be with ye Greatest Esteem Your Excellencies.
Source: New England Historical and Genealogical Register (1873) Vol. 27:58-60
The journals of private Joseph Plumb Martin (stationed with the 8th Connecticut in Parsons’ middle camp) January, 1779
“We settled in our winter quarters at the commencement of the new year and went on in our old Continental Line of starving and freezing. We now and then got a little bad bread and salt beef (I believe chiefly horse-beef for it was generally thought to be such at the time). The month of January was very stormy, a good deal of snow fell, and in such weather it was mere chance if we got anything at all to eat.”
George Washington to Deputy Clothier Gen. George Measam, January 8, 1779
“It has been represented to me that the troops of Connecticut are in great want of Shirts, Stockings and Shoes. This leads me to inquire of you whether they have not received their proportion of these Articles in common with the rest of the Army. The troops in general have obtained orders for a Shirt and pair of Stockings per man and a pair of Shoes to each that wanted. If the Connecticut Troops have not been furnished … you will on receiving proper Returns for that purpose supply them in conformity to this Rule.”
George Washington to the Board of War, January 9, 1779
“Sir: I have the honor. of yours of the 7th. instant. As there is not probably a sufficiency of Mittens for the whole Army, a partial distribution would occasion uneasiness among those who were not supplied. Instead therefore of a general delivery, I should think it better to have them lodged with the Clothiers attending the Army to be delivered out occasionally to detachments going upon a duty that will expose them to the inclemency of the Weather.”
General Putnam’s Orders, Feb. 4, 1779
Edward Jones was tried at a General Court Martial for going to and serving the enemy, and coming out as a spy. He was found guilty of each and every charge exhibited against him, and according to Law and the Usage’s of Nations was sentenced to suffer Death:
“The General approves the sentence and orders it to be put in execution between the hours of ten and eleven A.M. by hanging him by the neck till he be dead.”
General Putnam’s Orders, Feb. 6, 1779
John Smith of the 1st Connecticut Regiment, was tried at a General Court Martial for desertion and attempting to go to the enemy, found guilty, and further persisting in saying that he will go to the enemy if ever he has an opportunity.
“The General approves the sentence and orders that it be put in execution between the hours of ten and twelve A.M. for him to be shot to death”
Report out of Canadian 2nd Regiment, Feb. 11, 1779
“This day a detachment from our Brigade (under the command of Major Torrey of our Regiment) consisting of one Major, two Captains, four Subalterns, six Sergeants, six Corporals, two Drums and Fifes, and one hundred and one Privates, marched from here to reinforce the Detachment at Horse Neck (Greenwich).”
General Putnam’s Orders, Feb. 13, 1779
“The General directs that no person be permitted to visit the prisoners under sentence of death unless at their request as frequent complaints have been made that they are interrupted in their private devotions by persons who come for no other purpose but to insult them.”
Headquarters, Reading, March 21, 1779
“Col. Hazen’s Regiment will march to Springfield in 3 Divisions by the shortest notice: the first Division will march on Monday next, and the other two will follow on Thursday and Friday next, weather permitting, and in case the detached parties join the Regiment, Col. Hazen will take with him one piece of Cannon and a proportionate number of Artillery men.”
Headquarters, Reading, April 11, 1779
“The officers are requested to lose no time in preparing for the field, that they may be ready to leave their present quarters at the shortest notice…No officers whose duty does not really require him to be on horseback will be permitted to keep horses with the Army- It ought to be the pride of an officer to share the fatigues, as well as the dangers to which the men are exposed to on foot…General Washington strongly recommends the officers divest themselves (as much as possible) of everything superfluous.”
Headquarters, Reading, May 24, 1779
“General Parsons orders the Brigade to be ready to march tomorrow at 6 o’clock A.M. Complete for Action.” *This Brigade seems to have returned to the Highlands via Ridgefield and Bedford.
Headquarters, Reading, May 27, 1779
“Major General Putnam about to take command of one of the Wings of the Grand Army, before he leaves the troops who have served under him the winter past, thinks it his duty to signify to them his entire approbation of their regular and soldier like conduct, and wishes them a successful and glorious campaign.”
Headquarters, Reading, May 28, 1779
“Daniel Vaughn and Jonathan Gore of the 8th Connecticut Regiment. Tried by a Brigade Court Martial whereof Lt. Col. Sumner was President, for stealing a cup from Captain Zalmon Read of Reading. The Court are of the opinion that the charges against Vaughn and Gore are not supported.”