Military Monday: Samuel Street, Part II

I left off Part I with the battles of Brandywine and Paoli in September 1777. Barely two weeks later, Samuel found himself preparing for battle again, still in Pennsylvania. This time they were in Germantown, a small settlement.

Engraving of the Battle of Germantown by Christian Schussele
Engraving of the Battle of Germantown by Christian Schussele

A thick fog clouded the battlefield throughout the day. At the front of the army was John Sullivan’s column. They opened fire on the British pickets of light infantry at Mount Airy just as the sun was rising at around 5 AM. The British pickets resisted the American advance. William Howe rode forward, thinking that they were being attacked by foraging or skirmishing parties, and ordered his men to hold their ground. It took most of Sullivan’s division to finally overwhelm the British pickets and drive them back into Germantown.

Howe, still believing that his men were facing only light opposition, called out, “For shame, Light Infantry, I never saw you retreat before. Form! Form! It is only a scouting party.” Just then, three American cannons came into action and fired a blast of grape shot. Howe and his staff quickly withdrew out of range. I guess that changed his mind. More than one British officer was shocked to see his soldiers rapidly falling back before the powerful attack.

Now cut off from the main British and Hessian force, British Colonel Musgrave ordered his six companies to fortify the stone house of Chief Justice Chew, called Cliveden. The Americans furiously assaulted Cliveden, but the greatly outnumbered defenders beat them back, inflicting heavy casualties. General Washington called a council of war to decide how to deal with the distraction. Some of his subordinate officers favored bypassing Cliveden and leaving a regiment behind to deal with it. However, Brigadier General Henry Knox recommended that it was unwise to allow a garrison in the rear of a forward advance to remain under enemy control, and Washington agreed.

Map of the Battle of Germantown
Map of the Battle of Germantown

General William Maxwell’s brigade, which had been held in reserve, stormed Cliveden. Knox positioned four 3-pound cannons out of musket range and opened fire against the mansion’s defenders. However, the thick stone walls of Cliveden withstood the bombardment. Soldiers launched against the mansion were cut down, causing heavy casualties. The few who managed to get inside were shot or bayoneted. It was becoming clear that Cliveden was not going to be taken easily, if at all.

Before Knox and Maxwell attacked the Chew mansion, Sullivan’s division pressed past the place in the fog. Sullivan deployed Brigadier General Thomas Conway’s brigade to the right and Brigadier General Anthony Wayne’s brigade to the left and drove forward against the British. As Sullivan advanced, his troops paused frequently to fire volleys into the fog. This tactic effectively supressed enemy opposition, but they quickly ran low on ammunition. Wayne’s brigade moved ahead and became separated from Sullivan’s line. Suddenly, from the rear, the men began hearing the disquieting racket from Knox’s bombardment of the Chew mansion. To their right, the firing from Sullivan’s men died down as the Marylanders ran low on ammunition. Wayne’s men began to panic in their apparent isolation, so he ordered them to fall back. Sullivan was forced back also. Since the British units were moved to fight Greene’s late-arriving column, Sullivan’s men fell back.

Meanwhile, General Nathanael Greene’s column on Limekiln Road caught up with the American forces at Germantown and engaged the British pickets at Luken’s Mill and drove them off after a savage skirmish. Adding to the heavy fog that already obscured the Americans’ view was the smoke from cannons and muskets, and Greene’s column was thrown into disarray and confusion. One of Greene’s brigades, under the command of Brigadier General Adam Stephen, veered off course and began following Meetinghouse Road instead of rendezvousing at Market Square with the rest of Greene’s forces. The wayward brigade collided with Wayne’s brigade and mistook them for the redcoats. The two American brigades opened heavy fire on each other, became badly disorganized, and both fled. The withdrawal of Wayne’s reserve New Jersey Brigade, which had suffered heavy casualties attacking the Chew house, left Conway’s right flank exposed to the enemy.

In the north, an American column led by General Alexander McDougall came under attack and was forced to retreat, suffering heavy losses. Still convinced, however, that they could win, Greene’s column launched an attack on the British and Hessian line as planned, managing to break through and capturing a number of prisoners. However, they were soon surrounded by two arriving British brigades led by General Cornwallis. Greene, upon learning of the main army’s defeat and withdrawal, realized that he stood alone and he withdrew.

With night rapidly falling, the British had repulsed all attacks, but gave up the chase, and Washington decided to withdraw. Yet another defeat. How many could the Continental Army, and the cause, endure?

The_Virginia_Gazette_Fri__Oct_17__1777_17 October 1777 Virginia Gazette17 October 1777 Virginia Gazette

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Military Monday: Samuel Street, Part I

“One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”

I have a British friend with whom I went to college. We both studied history and managed never to agree on just about anything. When it came to the American Revolution, my friend saw it much, much differently than I did. The above quote reminds me of our “discussions” on the subject. Everything, including history, depends greatly on our point of view.

Samuel William Street probably would not have thought himself much a part of history though he knew what he was doing mattered and mattered quite a bit.

He was born in 1737 in Spotsylvania County, Virginia to Anthony and Elizabeth Brockman Street. Spotsylvania County is now known as both the home for the Civil War battle of Fredericksburg and the home of Kunte Kinte from Alex Haley’s Roots. In fact, the Street land was directly adjacent to the land of John Waller, Kunte Kinte’s owner.

By 1758, he had married Lurana and thereafter started his own family. There were four children: William, Anthony, Joseph, and Frances. He bought 100 acres on the Plentiful branch of the Little Anna River from his father. In 1763, he sold the land and moved to Henry County.

Plentiful Creek on Little Anna River

6 March 1777. Samuel joins the 13th Virginia Regiment under Captain James Hook as a private. This regiment was part of Washington’s army and Samuel joins the army at Morristown, New Jersey.

June saw the arrival of the Marquis de Lafayette and with it, the French alliance.

Marquis de Lafayette, Washington’s adopted son

In July, the army marched to the Hudson River Valley. There they fortified their position for the protection of the northeast.

By September the army was in Pennsylvania for the battle of Brandywine Creek on the 11th.

Map of Battle of Brandywine

September 11th rose with a heavy fog, covering the British troops. Washington received contradictory reports about the British movements and continued to believe that the main force was moving to attack at Chadds Ford. At 5:30 AM the British and Hessian troops under General William Howe started to march east along the “Great Road” towards the American troops at the Brandywine Creek road crossing. The first shots of the battle took place at a tavern where Howe was driven back. He sent his troops down the road to take cover behind the stone walls on the Old Kennett Meetinghouse grounds. The battle was fought in the late morning around the meeting house while the pacifist Quakers continued to hold their midweek service. One of the Quakers later wrote, “While there was much noise and confusion without, all was quiet and peaceful within.”

William Howe

From the Meetinghouse grounds, the battle continued for three miles. Eventually Howe pushed the Americans back but not before suffering heavy losses himself. He appeared on the Americans’ right flank at around 2 PM. Washington tried to reposition his troops to meet the unexpected British threat to their right flank. Howe was slow to attack, which bought time for some of Washington’s men to go to high ground at Birmingham Meetinghouse, about a mile north of Chadds Ford. By 4 PM, the British attacked, both American divisions lost ground fast.

Old Kennett Meetinghouse

British fire forced retreat. At this point, slightly after 4 PM, Washington and Nathanael Greene arrived with reinforcements to try to hold off the British, who now occupied Meeting House Hill. These reinforcements stopped the pursuing British for nearly an hour but were eventually forced to retreat. The Americans were also forced to leave behind many of their cannons on Meeting House Hill because almost all of their artillery horses were killed.

Nation Makers by Howard Pyle depicts a scene from the Battle of Brandywine

At this point Lieutenant General Wilhelm von Knyphausen, leader of the Hessian troops, was on the east bank of the Brandywine and launched an attack against the weakened American center across Chadds Ford, breaking through the divisions commanded by Anthony Wayne and William Maxwell and forcing them to retreat and leave behind most of their cannon. Armstrong’s militia, never engaged in the fighting, also decided to retreat from their positions. Further north, Greene sent Brigadier General George Weedon’s troops to cover the road just outside the town of Dilworth to hold off the British long enough for the rest of the Continental Army to retreat. Darkness brought the British pursuit to a standstill, which then allowed Weedon’s force to retreat. The defeated Americans retreated to Chester where most of them arrived at midnight, with stragglers arriving until morning. The American retreat was well-organized largely due to the efforts of Marquis de Lafayette, who, although wounded, rallied the troops to himself.

Although Howe had defeated the American army, his lack of cavalry prevented its total destruction. Washington had committed a serious error in leaving his right flank wide open and nearly brought about his army’s annihilation had it not been for John Sullivan; William Alexander, Lord Stirling; and Adam Stephen’s divisions, which fought for time. Evening was approaching and, in spite of the early start Lord Charles Cornwallis had made in the flanking maneuver, most of the American army was able to escape. In his report to the Continental Congress detailing the battle, Washington stated: “despite the day’s misfortune, I am pleased to announce that most of my men are in good spirits and still have the courage to fight the enemy another day”.

British and American forces maneuvered around each other for the next several days with only a few encounters such as the Battle of Paoli on the night of September 20–21.

The Continental Congress abandoned Philadelphia. Military supplies were moved out of the city to Reading, Pennsylvania. On September 26, British forces marched into Philadelphia unopposed.

Yet another defeat. I cannot imagine how crippling that had to be for morale. I wonder if they considered the cause still worth fighting — and dying — for. There had to have been doubts. 

Lieutenant Ebenezer Hyde

This post deviates a little from the others. Hyde is not a name found in my personal genealogy. I got involved with this tree in the summer of 2012, the second such project since I became a professional genealogist.

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From the 6 July 1791 issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette

As you can see, Ebenezer found himself in a bad way. Be it accident or murder, no one knows. Wales (who I have yet to identify) doesn’t do himself any favors by changing his story. Just because they didn’t get along, it doesn’t mean Wales shoved Hyde overboard, either.

Ebenezer Hyde was born in Canterbury, Connecticut on 13 January 1742 and was baptized four days later at the First Congregational Church in Lebanon, Connecticut. I have yet to locate his parents, even with this information.

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The First Congregational Church of Lebanon was organized in 1700. Its first two meeting houses were built in 1706 and 1732. These were followed by a brick meeting house on the green, designed by the Revolutionary War-era artist John Trumbull, which was built in 1804-1809. It is the only surviving example of Trumbull’s architectural work. The historic building was nearly destroyed in the hurricane of 1938. The church decided to restore the meeting house in its original form. Work began in 1938 and, delayed by the Second World War, was completed in 1954.

In Bolton, Connecticut on 6 March 1769 he married Lois Thatcher.  Six children are known to be born to this marriage, four sons and two daughters. Soon after, he moved his family to Poultney, Vermont. Along on the trip were his three brothers: James, Lemuel, and Timothy. Maybe they were brothers, maybe not, but they were related. I just can’t find their parents. At the end of March 1775, Ebenezer was part of the group responsible for laying out Poultney’s streets. By the way, the first law Poultney passed? No hogs in the road.

It was in Vermont that Ebenezer joined Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys in the Fifteenth Regiment of the Vermont militia, under the command of Colonel Gideon Warren. James, Timothy, and Lemuel are also in the same regiment. Ebenezer served in Captain Zebediah Dewey’s company from 7 November to 14 November 1778. He might have served longer, but records have not been found. In March and June 1780 he was an adjutant to Captain Dewey for a total of ten days in that time period.

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1778 payroll record as found on fold3.com

 

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1780 payroll record as found on fold3.com

Above are the only war records I have been able to locate for Ebenezer. Not much to go on and certainly not much describing what he did. Lieutenant Hyde took thirteen men from Poultney to Crown Point in 1780. Crown Point was a pre-Revolution fort in New York overlooking Lake Champlain and was vital to the control of Canada. It had also been in British hands since 1777. You can read more here and here, if you’re interested.

As complete as many Revolutionary War records are, it is still surprisingly difficult to piece together a soldier’s routine. It is more difficult when this is pretty much all on offer. But as a genealogist, I am intrigued. I don’t back down from a challenge. Ask anyone for whom I have done genealogy work.