Archive for June, 2015

“The music of the Army…” by John U. Rees ©1993, 2002

Posted on: June 1st, 2015 by hauleymusic No Comments

“The music of the Army…” by John U. Rees ©1993, 2002 – An Abbreviated Study of the Ages of Musicians in the Continental Army

Part E.

Another old soldier, John McElroy, 11th Pennsylvania Regiment, had a unique story to tell of his service. He stated in his pension deposition, “As to my ocupation I have none being nearly blind by reason of my eyes being nearly destroyed by the accidental bursting of cartriges in the year 1779 at Sunbury Pennsylvania…” McElroy had enlisted as a fifer in 1776 and, despite the accident to his eyes, was appointed to the position of fife major in 1780. John McElroy and another fifer, Aaron Thompson of the 3rd New Jersey, both retained some mementos of their military service well after the war. The former wrote in 1820 that “I have my old Fife and knapsack yet,” while a friend of Thompson noted after his death that he “had heard him [Thompson], often say so, and mention, the fact of his, having mutilated his fife in order to prevent its being stolen and that he might preserve it, as a relic, of his services in that Struggle.”

A further search of the pension files would in all likelihood supply additional information about musicians’ lives as well as more evidence regarding their age. This study and the statistics it has produced give a reasonable idea of the age of the average drummer and fifer in the Continental Army, having been found to be about 18 years. More research into the personal statistics and military duties of musicians is highly desirable in order that a full picture of their services be made known. There still lie untapped many journals, letters, and other documents which may shed light on this little known aspect of the army of the revolution.

(Note: Any of the soldier’s narratives given above for which sources have not been given will be found in the alphabetical listings of musicians included in the statistics section immediately following.)

1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th New Jersey Regiments; also including Spencer’s, Malcom’s and Forman’s Additional Regiments

(Note: Two of the musicians from Malcom’s Regiment who were later transferred to the 11th Pennsylvania Regiment have not been included with the New Jersey troops.)
43 musicians total:
Average age for grand total – 20 years

Average age for fifers – 18 years

Average age for drummers – 21 years (without drum majors)

22 years (including drum majors)

Note: The ages below in parentheses are for the first known year each soldier served as a musician.

Benjamin Applegate, Spencer’s Additional Regiment – Born in 1763 (16 years in 1779)

Daniel Applegate, drum, 1st New Jersey – 80 years old in 1832 (26 years in 1777)
“… at the Battle of short hills [he] succeeded in getting Col Martins horse out of the Mire in face of the Enemy and brought him safely into the American Encampment…” Deposition by William Lyons: “…he also remembers when Col Martins horse got mired while retreating from the Enemy at the Battle of Short Hills of the 4th Jersey Regt. when the said Applegate at the risk of his Life got the mired horse out of the slough when the Enemy commenced firing at him but he safely reached the Camp with the horse…”

Benjamin Baldwin, drum, 1st New Jersey – 59 years old in 1820 (17 years in 1778)

John Bowers, drum, 1st New Jersey – 61 years old in 1820 (18 years in 1777)
(Listed on the February 1782 roll but pension states that he enlisted in 1777 as a drummer in Captain McMires’ Company. No 1777 rolls are available for that company and McMires’ was killed at Germantown on October 4, 1777. The date of enlistment is taken as per the pension file.)

Jabez Bigelow, drum major, 3rd New Jersey – 61 years old in 1820 (19 years in 1778)

Samuel Brown, 3rd New Jersey – 55 years old in 1818 (14 years in 1777)

William Blair, fife, 2nd New Jersey – born April 1754 (24 years old in 1778)

Robert Coddington, fife, 4th New Jersey – born in 1760 (17 years in 1777)

McDonald Campbell, fife, 1st New Jersey and 4th New Jersey, nine months recruit in 1778 – 67 years old in 1820 (23 years in 1776) “On the llth of November 1775, he enlisted as a fifer, …in the 1st Jersey Regiment, then commanded by Col. William Wyands, which Regiment was raised for one years service: that shortly after his enlistment, he was at sea, with said Captain Conaway, and aided in the capture of a British armed vessel, called the ‘blue Mountain Valley’ that afterwards, viz, on the 1st. day of May 1776, he went with said Col. Wyands regiment from New Jersey to the Northern frontier, passing through Albany, thence to Fort George, thence to Lake Champlain; thence to the river St. Lawrence, and thence to the three Rivers in Canada, at which place the American & British forces had an engagement, on the 19th. of June… and the Americans were defeated and forced to retreat to Ticonderoga. He remained with the Army at Ticonderoga, until the expiration of the year for which the regiment was raised, when he, with the whole Regiment was discharged. In the latter part of Nov. 1776 he returned to his fathers, then residing near Perth Amboy, in the state of New Jersey, and soon after volunteered to serve as a guide, in the 12th Pennsylvania Regiment, commanded by Col. Cook, then stationed in New Jersey, and while serving in the capacity of a guide, he was engaged in several skirmishes with the British, viz, at Strawberry Hill, Tappan &c Afterwards, and during the winter of 1776-7, Capt. Fitz Randolph of New Jersey, was commissioned by the Governor of that state to raise a Company of state troops, to serve for one year, as a guard upon the lines. The Company was known by the name of Fitz Randolph Rangers – Thomas Combs was first Lieutenant, Jacob Rowland 2nd Lieut. and – Green Ensign. This declarant enlisted in said Company in… [the] county of Middlesex… in December 1776: A few days after his enlistment, Col. Cooks regiment of Pennsylvania troops, and Capt. Fitz Randolphs Company attacked a British forageing party, which came from Bonamstown, in New Jersey, then in the possession of the enemy, and compelled them to retreat with some loss. He was actively engaged in the affair, in which his Capt. Fitz Randolph was Killed, after his death Lieut. Combs became Captain, Rowland first Lieutenant and Green 2nd. Lieut. by seniority, and this declarant was thereupon commissioned as an Ensign in the Company… sometime in January 1777. Five or six days after he received his Commission as an Ensign, Col. Cook, of the Pennsylvania line, & Capt. Combs, of the Rangers, were ordered to dislodge the British force, then lying at Bonamstown, under the command of Col. Webster of the 71 British Regiment – the command of this expedition devolved upon Capt. Patterson, of Col. Cooks regiment, on account of the absence of the Colonel & Major. The American forces, under cover of the night, succeeded in making their entrance into Bonamstown, just at day light, without being discovered – they were however soon fired on by the English sentinels – an action ensued the Company of Rangers was lead on by capt. Combs and this declarant, who was posted in front – Capt. Combs was severely wounded in the foot, at the British being reinforced by the 42nd Regt. then just arrived from Scotland, the Americans were unable to maintain the possession of the place, and made good their retreat, carrying off their Killed & wounded, and about 40 prisoners. In this affair a Number of Americans were Killed, and about the bold Capt. McElhatten (as he was called) and Capt. Riley [Bath or Both?] of Col. Cooks Regiment were severely wounded. A few days after this affair, this declarant was in an action at Piscataway… in which Col. Cook… commanded the American troops. About this time, (the precise date he is unable to recollect) this declarant was in an action at the Ash Swamp… & also in another called the battle of Short Hill. Sometime after these battles, the two Lieutenants in Capt. Combs’ Company resigned their commissions on or about the 1st March 1777, this declarant was commissioned… as the 1st Lieutenant in Capt. Combs’ Company… until the Month of August 1777… when finding, from the continued disability of Capt Combs, that the command of the company would devolve on this declarant, & unwilling to incur the responsibilty of such a command, he resigned his commission… On or about the 1st of May 1778, this declarant again joined the American army, then lying at Valley Forge, and entered as a private, in the Company commanded by Capt. Jonathan Furman, in the 4th Jersey Regiment, of which his former Capt, John Conway, was then Colonel – two or three days after his arrival at Valley Forge, the American army crossed over to Jersey, & on the 28th of June 1778, the battle of Monmouth was fought, in which this deponent was actively engaged throughout. Soon after this battle, an order was received from Gen. Green, for the employment of forty two Express riders – this declarant… was appointed one of these riders… [and] continued in the service for upwards of two years… [at which time] his horse fell with him, & upon him… [he] was ruptured in the abdomen so badly as to disable him for such service…”

Isaac Coovert, 1st New Jersey – 64 years old in 1819 (21 years in 1776)

Martin Chandler, drum, 3rd New Jersey – Born April 1763 (14 years in 1777)
“… he was in the battle of Short Hills in the State of New Jersey; was in the Campaigns under General Sullivan against the Indians in Genesee; at the Battle of Brandywine; at Germantown Monmouth and under the Command of La Fayette at the siege of Cornwallis and at the siege of the redoubt at Yorktown / he was wounded in the right ankle by a musket Ball at Elizabeth Town Point which was the only wound he received during his service…”

Squire Cockram, fife, Spencer’s Additional – 58 years old in 1818 (17 years in 1777)

Valentine Christian, fife, 3rd New Jersey – Born in 1756 (20 years in 1776)

Caleb Fulkerson, fife, 1st New Jersey – 71 years old in 1832 (17 years in 1778)
Nine months recruit from the Jersey militia. In 1778 “Caleb… enlisted as a fifer for nine months in a company of troops in the Regiment of Col. Matthias Ogden in the Brigade of Genl. Maxfield and faithfully served most of that term at Elizabeth-town where the troops were stationed after the Battle of Monmouth. That at that Battle the Brigade to which the said Fulkerson was attached was held as a reserve [illegible] excepting their Artillery which was engaged.”

George Farney, fife, 2nd New Jersey – 69 years old in 1820 (28 years in 1779)

Robert Fowler, fife, 2nd New Jersey (pension received under the name of Robert Wardell) 61 years old in 1820 (19 years in 1778)
“Robert Wardell formerly Robert Fowler of the… State [of Indiana] personally appeared… on the 27th day of July… [1818 and] saith that some time in the month of February or March he thinks February in the year… [1778] that he enlisted in the servis of the United States under Captain Jonathan Phillips in the second Jersey Regiment… he further states that sometime in the latter part.., [of 1782] or in the beginning of eighty three the second Regiment being reduced to a Battallion by filling up the first Regiment out of it he also states that the said Jonathan Phillips resigned his Commision as Captain of said company and Captain Able Wayman took the command of said company said company being taken to fill up the first Regiment… which was Commanded by Cols Ogden and Barber the latter being killed by the falling of a tree in the winter before the Armey was disbanded. He further states that he was discharged by the aforesaid Captain Able Wayman on the third day of June… [1783] but thinking that his discharge would be of little use to him he neglected to bring it with him when he migrated to the western country… he further states that the reason for his changing his name from Fowler to Wardell that his mother was a single woman by the name of Fowler when he was born and that his reputed fathers name was Wardell and that after he came home from the Armey… then his fathers brother his father being dead requested of him to name him self Wardell and has

Joel Garrison, drum, 3rd New Jersey – born in 1760 (16 years in 1776)

John Grace, fife, 3rd New Jersey – 64 years old in 1820 (21 years in 1777)

Joseph Gate [Gale], fife, 3rd New Jersey – 60 years old in 1818 (20 years in 1778)

John Guy, drum, 3rd New Jersey – 67 years old in 1818 (25 years in 1776)

Charles Hulet [Hatch], drum, 1st New Jersey – died in 1835, aged 75 (18 years in 1778)
The following deposition was given by Hulett’s son-in-law in 1845: “… said Hulett… enlisted in Captain Nichols company [possibly Noah Nichols, captain in Stevens’ Artillery Battalion as of November 9, 1776. In 1778 he was a captain in the 2nd Continental Artillery. See entry for Joseph Lummis] which was a part of the first Regiment of New Jersey in the service of the United States which Regiment was commanded by Col. Ogden. He enlisted as aforesaid on the 7 May 1778… He was engaged in the battle of Monmouth and was wounded in the leg and then or soon after taken a prisoner and by the enemy and carried in captivity to the West Indies, To relieve himself from the horrors of his imprisonment he joined the British Army as a musician and was sent to the United States. That soon after his return… he deserted from the British ranks and again joined the army of the United States and the south under General Greene. He was present at the siege of York and after the surrender of Cornwallis he was one of the corps that escorted the prisoners which was sent to Winchester… and he remained in service to the end of the war. This declarant always understood that said Hulett at the close of the war held the rank of Drum-Major.”

George Harley [Haley or Hailey], drum, 2nd New Jersey – 51 years old in 1818 (15 years in 1782)
The pension states that this soldier enlisted in 1779 in the 3rd Company commanded by Captain Weyman and also that he was at the Siege of Yorktown. The first document on which he appears is the July 1782 return. No prior service as a musician is known and the 1782 date is used.

Richard Jobs, drum major, 4th New Jersey – 81 years old in 1820 (38 years in 1777)

Joseph King, drum, 1st New Jersey – 67 years old in 1818 (27 years in 1778)
Thomas Hickman, found in the Joseph King pension file. Hickman claimed that “he was a sergeant and Clerk to the Company of Capt Helmns, of the 2d Regt. of the New Jersey Brigade… that in the Autumn of 1778 he was employed in recruiting, and distinctly remembers enlisting Joseph King at a station in the County of Somerset, during that season – but the precise date he cannot remember. The farmers were husking corn at the time. Jos. King was then between 18 & 19 years of age… King was made a drummer after enlistment, being found to possess a talent for that service – King was afterwards made a drum major.” A check of the muster rolls show that King never served as a drum major.

James Kirkpatrick, fife and drum, Forman’s Regiment and 3rd New Jersey – Born 1763 (15 years in 1778) Began serving as a drummer in January of 1780, (17 years in 1780). Kirkpatrick stated “That he entered in the nine months service in General David Forman’s Regiment in the spring of 1778 and joined the troops at Mount Holly… that he enlisted in Capt. Patterson’s company in the 3rd New Jersey in the fall of the year 1778 as a Fifer and continued to serve in that Regiment until it was reduced, when he was transferred to the first Jersey Regiment and continued to serve in it as Drummer until he was discharged at New Burgh…”

Isaac Montawney, drum, Malcom’s Additional Regiment – about 90 years old in 1832 (about 35 years in 1777)

Moses Mulliner, drum, 3rd New Jersey – 77 years in 1818 (35 years old in 1776)

Stephen Osborn, 1st New Jersey – 87 years old in 1840 (26 years in 1779)

John Powers, 2nd New Jersey – 74 years old in 1821 (29 years in 1776)
Deposition of Jacob Edmonds: Edmonds and Powers “…served together in Capt. Joseph Brearley’s company in Col William Maxwell’s Regiment… when he enlisted that he remembers the said Powers was in the Regiment in Trenton in November 1775 that they marched together from Trenton to Canada that he recollects hearing… Power’s name every day at Roll call & thinks he was always present never having been detained a day by sickness… they went together from the Plains of Abraham over to Point Levi[s] that this deponent was taken prisoner at the three Rivers, but that Powers remained in the service at that time.”

John Poole[Pool], drum, 2nd New Jersey – 70 years old in 1820 (27 years in 1777)

Swain Parsel, fife, 3rd New Jersey – 62 years old in 1820 (18 years in 1776)
“He enlisted in the beginning of the year One thousand seven hundred and seventy six as a fifer for one year under Captain Samuel Potter in Col. Daytons Regt. – That on the expiration of this service he again enlisted in the same Regt. under Captn. Patterson – but the practice of fifing being injurious to his health, he entered the ranks as a private soldier till the termination of the war… he was in the Battles of Brandywine, Germantown & Monmouth, that he was wounded twice, once a musket ball passed through his left arm and hit his body – and another time a Musket ball passed through his leg…”
Jonathan Dayton wrote the following substantiation: “… Swaine Parsell was a soldier in the third Jersey Regt., & in the Company commanded by me as Capt. Lieutt. when he was wounded in the arm near the stone bridge in Elizabethtown, of which the British troops under Genl. Kyphausen had possession in June 1780 – And I do further certify that …[he] received some time after another wound in his leg, when on guard near Halsted’s point opposite to Staten island under my then first Lieutenant John Blair…”

John Piatt, fife, 1st New Jersey – 66 years old in 1832 (10 years in 1776)
“… he enlisted as a Fifer at the age of ten years in the Company of Daniel Piatt (who was his Father) in the first New Jersey Regiment… in the latter part of the year 1775… [and] was marched to Brunswick upper landing – thence to Elizabethtown and joined the Regiment, under Lord Stirling… Marched thence to New York and lay in Barracks till the following spring opened then was ordered to March to Long Island and from thence to Canada (the Rigement at this time was commanded by Colo. Win’s) and proceeded towards Quebeck as far as the three rivers, there had an engagement with the British, and retreated to Ticonderoga and lay there till late in the fall, or begining of Winter, and then returned to the state of New Jersey – directly after my Father Capt. Danl Piatt recruited his Company again and was soon promoted to the rank of Major in the New Jersey line – The officers was in Pensylvania recruiting a new Company at the time Genl Washington attacked the Hessians at Trenton – the deponent attending the rendezvous as a Musician. The Company was marched to the Delaware to aid Genl. Washington in the battle – was prevented crossing the river till next day after the Capture of the Hessians – from thence was marched on to [Princeton?] – saw the dead and wounded in the collidge – The company quartered one Winter at Elizabethtown, part of the 1st. regt. – The deponent thinks the regt. was commanded by Colo. Matth Ogden – after that the regiment was marched to the Westward under Genl. Sullivan – The deponent was kiked by the horse of Colo Brearly and disenabled to continue his march with the regiment – The troops returned in the fall of 1779 – and went into Winter quarters at Mendham near Morristown placed under the immediate comd. of Genl. Washington – here the deponent joined his compy and continued with them through the Winter – The regiment was Marched to Camptown in the summer of 1780 at the time Genl Kniphausen marched the British army to Springfield on his way (as was supposed) to attack Genl Washington at Morristown – was then marched to Springfield was engaged in the battle – Young Ogden was killed a considerable number more killed & wounded The deponent was in the house of Parson Coldwell saw his Wife a Corps, shot by the British – at Springfield – Was taken a prisoner at pluckemin by the British and released afterwards being a Youth…”

William Radley [Wradley], fife, 3rd New Jersey – 62 years old in 1820 (21 years in 1779)

James Rodgers, fife, 1st New Jersey – 55 years old in 1819 (14 years in 1778)

David Rogers [Rodgers], fife, 4th and 3rd New Jersey – born in 1760 (17 years old in 1777)

Joseph Squire, drum, Spencer’s Additional Regiment – 58 years old in 1820 (17 years in 1779) (Enlisted in Captain Pierson’s Company in 1777 as a private and did not serve as a musician until April 1779.)

John Sithens, fife, 2nd New Jersey – 69 years old in 1828 (18 years in 1777)
He “inlisted on the 17 January in the year 1777 under Captain Cuming at Bridgton Cumberland County New Jersey & Marched from thence to Burlington from thence to Princeton & from thence to the short hills after which he joined the Main Army… & was in the battles at short hills Brandywine Monmouth & Springfield & with the Indians at Shemung at James Town in Virginia and at the taking of Corn Wallace…” He received the “Badge of Merit for seven years of Service” and was discharged June 5, 1783.

William Stives, fife, 3rd New Jersey – 60 years old in 1820 (18 years in 1778)

Aaron Thompson, fife, 3rd New Jersey
Mr. Crane “…had heard him [Thompson], often say so, and mention, the fact of his, having mutilated his fife in order to prevent its being stolen and that he might preserve it, as a relic, of his services in that Struggle. That the Deponent has since his death, seen his tombstone over his Grave at… Connecticut Farms”, New Jersey.

James Whitehead, 1st New Jersey – 57 years old in 1820 (15 years in 1778)

Jacob Woole [Woolley], drum, 1st New Jersey – born in 1762 (16 years in 1778)

William Weston, fife, 1st New Jersey – born in 1761 (17 years in 1778)

James Wygan [Wygant or Wagon], fife, 2nd New Jersey – 53 years old in 1818 (15 years in 1780)