A New England Man

Introduction

In 1755, British colonists had a full plate: French soldiers and their Indian allies were killing British settlers, parliament was finding ways to increase everyone’s taxes, and the British monarch, who couldn’t speak English, was mentally ill.  Amazingly, there was still room on the colonist’s plate for a pissing contest between New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and the Vermont Republic.  British settlers were, at a minimum, antagonistic.

England’s first attempt at North American colonization occurred at the Popham Colony (1607), which failed after only 14 months.  Still, the initial success of the Plymouth Colony (1620 – 1691) encouraged the establishment of the New Hampshire Colony and Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Dissenters from Massachusetts Bay founded the colonies at Providence, Connecticut, and New Haven.  All of these were formed by Puritans, separatists, or other agitators seeking freedom of religion and personal liberty for themselves while (except for Providence) denying the same to others.  This pattern continued to define Anglo policies toward native Americans, and African Negroes were transported to the colonies in chains.  This “Puritan” lack of religious tolerance and humanity can still be seen today in some modern “protestant” groups.

The initial New Hampshire settlement included a series of grants made by the English Crown to Captain John Mason (and others) during the 1620s.  A fishing and trading settlement was established in 1623, and in 1629 the name New Hampshire (after the English county) was applied to a grant for a region between the Merrimack and Piscataqua rivers.  New Hampshire’s main settlements included Dover, Portsmouth, Exeter, and Hampton.

Between 1641 – 1679, the region of New Hampshire fell under the administrative control of the Province of Massachusetts.  During that time, numerous religious and territorial disputes evolved until 1679, when New Hampshire became a separate royal province.  Even then, bitter, and often deadly feuds emerged between settlers in Massachusetts and the Province of New York over part of the New Hampshire grant, particularly in the land and territory that eventually became the Vermont Republic.[1]  A string of feuds continued almost to the beginning of the American Revolution — a problem properly blamed on New Hampshire governor Benning Wentworth.[2]

When Wentworth retired as royal governor of New Hampshire in the summer of 1767, he was one of the wealthiest men in New England.  Wentworth’s long career as a colonial viceroy, astute administration, and capacity for acting in his self-interest helped define the word corruption for all time.  New Hampshire gained from both Wentworth’s ability — and his lack of scruples.  The geography, settlement patterns, and policies within the colony derive from Wentworth’s point of view about politics, war, and economic development — all of which led directly to the creation of a place called Vermont.

Between 1689 – 1763, the people of New Hampshire played an active role in the colonial wars between Great Britain and France.  The colony’s first census occurred in 1767, reporting nearly 53,000 residents.  In 1772, the territory had five counties involved in the American Revolution.  By the end of the colonial period, the capital of New Hampshire was Portsmouth.

Before the revolution, the New Hampshire government was staunchly pro-British.  After 1775 however, the Loyalist faction in the state became one of the weakest and least effective in all of New England.  Wentworth (and his followers) were Loyalists.  His domination of politics and the economy was made possible through a carefully crafted network of family and tightly held business associations.  In 1767, a significant shift in political loyalties occurred — at a time when Wentworth’s nephew John succeeded him as governor.

Afterward, a decrease in demand for the colony’s products, its unsteady support for the English homeland, and the revolutionary madness that was taking hold throughout British America encouraged rebels to assert their extralegal control over all opposition.  Patriots successfully outmaneuvered Loyalists, who soon became trapped and helpless in the course of the war.  Most leading Loyalists followed Benning Wentworth into exile, and when British forces failed to occupy New Hampshire, there was no haven for loyalist sentiment.  Not all Loyalists were helpless, however.  More than a few served the Crown as spies, counterfeiters, and soldiers.[3]

The Green Mountain Boys

Artist’s depiction of the Green Mountain Boys

In 1770, a regional militia formed in the area between New York and the New Hampshire Grants.  They called themselves The Green Mountain Boys. The Green Mountain Boys were led by a man named Ethan Allen and members of his extended family.  Allen was instrumental in resisting the efforts of New Yorkers to gain control over the Vermont territory, over which New York had won its dispute with New Hampshire. In 1777, the New Hampshire Grants became known as the Vermont Republic.

Elements of the Green Mountain Boys served in the American Revolution, notably when Ethan Allen captured Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain (10 May 1775) and when he invaded Canada.  In early June, the Continental Congress created the Continental Army with George Washington as its designated Commander-in-Chief.  Shortly thereafter, Colonel Allen and his second in command, Seth Warner, petitioned Congress to include a ranger regiment within the Continental Army — one composed of men from the Green Mountain area of the New Hampshire Grants.

Separate from the ranger regiment, the Green Mountain Boys organization disbanded in 1776, a year before Vermont (separately from the original thirteen colonies) declared its independence from Great Britain — announcing itself as a “separate, free, and independence jurisdiction or state.”[4]    The remnants of the Green Mountain Boys reconstituted themselves as the Green Mountain Continental Rangers, initially under Ethan Allen.  When Allen accepted a commission to serve under Major General Philip Schuyler, command of the Continental Rangers passed to Colonel Seth Warner.

Colonel Seth Warner

Seth Warner (1743 – 1784) was an exceptional combat commander who occasionally commanded brigade-sized units during the American Revolutionary War.  He is best known for capturing Fort Crown Point, the Battle of Longueuil, the Siege of Quebec, and the battles of Hubbardton and Bennington.

Warner was born on the Connecticut frontier in the western area near Woodbury (now Roxbury).  He was the fourth of ten children of Dr. Benjamin Warner and Silence Hurd-Warner.  Although Warner was not directly related to Ethan Allen, both men were cousins of Remember Baker, who also served as a captain of the Green Mountain Boys.[5]  In his life, Warner was regarded as an exceptional hunter and tracker.  Although only having an elementary education, he learned about medicine from his father and became somewhat of a healer with considerable knowledge of plants and their healing properties.

Benjamin Warner purchased land in Bennington (now Vermont) in 1763, likely as part of the New Hampshire Grants scheme.  In 1765, Seth began working as a highway surveyor and was elected captain of the town’s militia company.

During the land dispute with New York, Seth joined The Green Mountain Boys (sometimes referred to as the Bennington Mob), whose principal role was defending local settlers from New Yorkers seeking to dispossess them.  Eventually, Warner became second in command to Colonel Commandant Ethan Allen but often fished his own hook.  He became an outlaw of the New York Colony after assaulting a justice of the peace as the man attempted to arrest Remember Baker.

Despite his reputation as someone only a fool would trifle with, Seth Warner was more likely than Ethan Allen to grant mercy to a New Yorker.  In one instance, Warner threatened to burn a New Yorker’s cabin for encroaching on New Hampshire land but relented.  Instead, he ordered the New Yorker to remove the roof of his cabin until he could produce a New Hampshire Land Grant title.

The Revolution

During the Ticonderoga expedition of 1775, Warner served as third in command (after Ethan Allen and James Easton).  Warner and the men he had recruited were left on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain as a rear guard while Allen and the newly arrived Colonel Benedict Arnold surprised the garrison early on 10 May.

The next day, Warner and his men captured Crown Point, 13 miles further north.  As it turned out, Fort Crown Point was a plum for the Warner detachment.  While the structure was at one time the largest British fortification in North America, on 11 May 1775, the structure was in ruins and garrisoned by only nine soldiers.  But Crown Point was a storage facility for 111 cannon — the best of which Warner transported to Ticonderoga.[6]  

Afterward, Warner accompanied Allen to St. John, Quebec — a British outpost on the Richelieu River.  Colonel Arnold had successfully raided the outpost, destroyed supplies and seized a British sloop of war, and sailed away, leaving Allen and Warner behind.  Allen attempted to hold the fort against British reinforcements but was driven off by superior numbers.

In mid-June, Allen and Warner appeared in Philadelphia to petition the Continental Congress for approval of the Green Mountain Boys to serve as a regiment in the newly forming army.  The New York assembly was asked to fund the unit because Congress had no treasury.  Understandably, New Yorkers were hesitant to sanction a body of men that had previously acted against the citizens of that colony.  Nevertheless, the New York assembly eventually agreed to fund the unit, and it fell upon New Hampshire officials to choose the regiment’s leadership.

Ultimately, New Hampshire selected Seth Warner as Lieutenant Colonel commanding the Green Mountain regiment — by a vote of 41 to 5.  Ethan Allen, who was fully expected to be named regimental colonel, could not understand how they could have rejected him after all he had done for New Hampshire.  Scholars continue to debate this question, with some believing that religious zealots punished him for his deism and others arguing that Warner was simply a steadier hand.  Subsequently, The Green Mountain Boys became known simply as Warner’s Regiment.

Fort Chateau de Longueuil

In the late summer of 1775, Major General Philip Schuyler and Brigadier General Richard Montgomery led their American forces into Canada by way of Lake Champlain.  Because the British had refortified St. John, the American assault was poorly contrived.  From his position at the Chateau de Longueuil, reinforced by several companies of New Yorkers, Warner successfully defended the fort against a large force under Governor-General Guy Carleton.  Carleton’s defeat at Fort Longueuil set into motion the American victory at Fort St. John in early November.

Subsequently, Montreal surrendered to the Americans on 13 November, and Seth Warner and his men were part of the forces that entered the city.  Montgomery soon ordered Warner’s Regiment to Quebec by canoe; it was the last British stronghold in Canada.  Warner’s difficulty was that his regiment had received no winter clothing or equipment — and besides that, many of his men were reluctant to remain in Canada through the winter.  In the end, General Montgomery somewhat grudgingly permitted the regiment to return home to reequip themselves.  Colonel Warner and his regiment were back in the New Hampshire Grants when General Montgomery was killed, and Arnold was wounded in a pre-dawn attack on Quebec.  The date was 31 December 1775.

Brigadier General David Wooster, then commanding the Americans in Montreal, wrote to Colonel Werner: “You, sir, and the Green Mountain Corps are in our neighborhood.  Let me beg of you to collect as many men as you can, five, six, or seven hundred, and if you can, and somehow or other convey into this country, and stay with us till we can have relief from the Colonies.”

Within a few days, companies from the southwest New Hampshire Grants and western Massachusetts had formed and marched north.  They crossed the length of frozen Lake Champlain to St. John, stopped at Montreal for supplies, and then proceeded eastward to Quebec — a distance of at least 400 miles.

That winter, the American army besieging Quebec was devastated by a smallpox epidemic.  Warner permitted (perhaps even encouraged) his men to inoculate against the disease.  The procedure, which at the time was controversial, went against General Arnold’s orders and subjected anyone inoculated to severe penalties.  Seth Warner’s son, Israel (present during the campaign), reported that there were no casualties within the regiment.

On 6 May 1776, three British warships arrived at Quebec — forcing the Americans to abandon their siege and withdraw from Canada.  There are no primary sources detailing Colonel Warner’s role in the withdrawal, but in a 1795 sketch of Warner’s life, pastor and newspaper editor Samuel Williams wrote, “Warner chose the most difficult part of the business, remaining always with the rear, picking up the lame and diseased, assisting and encouraging those who were the most unable to take care of themselves, and generally kept but a few miles in advance of the British, who were rapidly pursuing the retreating Americans from post to post.  By steadily pursuing this conduct, he brought off most of the invalids. With his corps of the infirm and diseased, he arrived at Ticonderoga a few days after the body of the army had taken possession of the post.”

Forming a New Regiment

On 5 July 1776, the Continental Congress resolved that “a regiment be raised out of the officers who served in Canada” with Seth Warner as colonel.  This new regiment was officially known as Warner’s Additional Regiment.

On 24 July, Warner attended a convention in Dorset, one of a series of meetings held as the New Hampshire Grants gradually formed an independent government.  Warner and all but one delegate pledged “at the risk of our Lives and fortunes to Defend, by arms, the United American States against the Hostile attempts of the British Fleets and Armies, until the present unhappy Controversy between the two Countries shall be settled.”

Recruitment for the new regiment was slow.  In September, Warner and captains Wait Hopkins and Gideon Brownson traveled to Philadelphia to petition the Continental Congress to reimburse them for expenses from the Canada campaign.  Instead, congress referred them back to the commissioners of the Northern Department, who also refused to act.  Additionally, General Phillip Schuyler would not release recruitment money until December.

In the fall, American forces on Lake Champlain at Ticonderoga and Mount Independence prepared to meet a British invasion.  After the Battle of Valcour Island in October, Warner mustered the New Hampshire Grants militia and led them toward the Lake Champlain fortifications.  General Gates wrote to Warner, “I much approve of your zeal and activity in spiriting up the Militia to come and defend their country.  They cannot be too soon here.”

In January 1777, the first men from Warner’s Additional Regiment were quartered on Mount Independence.

In May, Warner led a force of militia from Schenectady, New York, and the New Hampshire Grants on a raid into the Loyalist stronghold of Jessup’s Patent (present-day Lake Luzerne).  The hardships of that campaign formed the beginning of Warner’s failing health.

Burgoyne’s Assault

In June, Warner’s command consisted of 228 men — a very undersized regiment.  Meanwhile, British General John Burgoyne, commanding 8,000 men, and ships, threatened the Americans by sailing southward on Lake Champlain.  Warner directed his men in preparing the forts for a British attack.  In late June, Major General Arthur St. Clair ordered Colonel Warner to raise the militia of the New Hampshire Grants to counter Indian raids along Otter Creek.  He directed, “Attack and rout them — and then join me again as soon as possible.” The situation at the forts only worsened.

On 1 July, Warner wrote to the leaders of the independent state (meeting at Windsor), calling for their support for men and supplies.  The next day, Warner’s men fought a skirmish outside the French Lines with the loss of one of his lieutenants.  On 3 July, Colonel Warner led 800 militia into the fortifications, driving ahead of the 40 head of cattle and numerous sheep.  Warner’s force totaled about one-fifth of the garrison.  Two days later, St. Clair decided to abandon Ticonderoga and Mount Independence with an evacuation to be completed by the evening of 6 July.  Several of Colonel Warner’s men served under Colonel Ebenezer Francis (Massachusetts) in his rear-guard maneuver.  During the withdrawal, Warner positioned himself near the rear as St. Clair’s force marched east into Vermont.  Eight hundred British regulars under Brigadier General Simon Fraser rigorously pursued them.[7]

Battle of Hubbardton

During the late afternoon of 6 July, the main body of St. Clair’s retreating force passed through the small frontier settlement of Hubbard Town (Hubbardton), some twenty miles from Mount Independence.  St. Clair directed Warner to set up his picket line, Castle Town, six miles from Hubbardton.

Warner served in command of around 1,100 of his regiment plus a handpicked body of men from Colonel Francis and Colonel Nathan Hale’s 2nd New Hampshire.  Warner also shepherded a few hundred sick, lame, and lazy stragglers.  He had those men set up camp in a small valley below the main supply route into Hubbardton, but Warner’s primary bivouac area occupied the high ground above the MSR.

General Fraser attacked Warner’s stragglers at around 0700 on 7 July and scattered them.  The shouting and rifle fire alerted the main resistance group, who were ready to engage Fraser’s force when they appeared on Monument Hill’s side.  The tactical advantage moved back and forth until German troops arrived to support the British under Major General Friedrich Adolf Riedesel.  As the combined German and British force was overwhelming, Colonel Warner was compelled to withdraw over Pittsford Ridge.  Colonel Francis was killed by rifle fire.  Overall, American forces suffered 41 killed, 96 wounded, and the loss of 234 men, mostly stragglers, taken prisoner.

British and German forces lost 60 killed with 148 wounded.  According to the standards of late 18th-century warfare, the British won the Hubbardton fight, but from a modern tactical analysis, Warner demonstrated the value of a well-organized rear guard action.  In any case, Colonel Warner’s resistance convinced Fraser to suspend his pursuit of the American’s main body.

Battle of Bennington

Following the Battle of Hubbardton, Colonel Warner assumed responsibility for the security of the frontier north of Manchester, Vermont.  General Gates ordered Warner to seize cattle and carriages and arrest Loyalists.

By early August, Major General Benjamin Lincoln (Massachusetts) and Brigadier General John Stark (New Hampshire) agreed to attack General Burgoyne’s force from the rear of his column.  Warner retained command of Vermont and Massachusetts militia units (as part of Warner’s Regiment).  Lincoln and Stark began their expedition from Bennington on 13 August.  Shortly afterward, Stark learned that a force of Loyalists from Brunswick and Canada (and their Indian allies) under Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum (800 men in total) approached his route of march.  Although Stark served in overall command, Colonel Warner helped devise the American battle plan.

On the afternoon of 16 August, Vermont rangers swung around the Germans and attacked a hilltop fortification from the west.  Commanding the left wing of Stark’s aggressors, Warner attacked the Loyalist Redoubt on the east side of the Walloomsac River (a few miles from Warner’s home).  An American victory seemed assured when six-hundred German troops appeared under Lieutenant Colonel Heinrich Breymann.  Although exhausted, Vermont rangers under Warner re-energized his attack and forced the Germans into a rapid withdrawal.  Stark’s force took credit for 207 enemies killed in action and 700 taken prisoner.  Stark prepared a glowing report of Warner’s performance to General Gates.

Burgoyne’s surrender

The battle was a major strategic success for the American cause and is considered part of the turning point of the Revolutionary War.  Its effects were several: it reduced Burgoyne’s army in size by almost 1,000 men, led his Native American supporters to largely abandon him, and deprived him of much-needed supplies, such as mounts for his cavalry regiments, draft animals, and provisions, all factors that contributed to Burgoyne’s eventual defeat at Saratoga.  The victory galvanized colonial support for the independence movement and played a crucial role in bringing France into the war on the rebel side.

Seth Warner and his regiment participated in a raid upon Ticonderoga and Mount Independence.  The action is generally referred to as Brown’s Raid (after John Brown of Pittsfield, Massachusetts).  Brown was a former Continental officer who had served with Warner during the invasion of Canada.  On 18 September, American and British officials released their prisoners: 293 British and 118 Americans.

Colonel Warner continued to serve under Brigadier General Stark in operations north of Saratoga (present-day Schuylerville, New York).  The Americans crossed the Hudson River on the morning of 13 October and occupied a narrow pass between a marsh and a hill (now called) Stark’s Knob.  The Americans taking this position meant that General Burgoyne had lost his opportunity to retreat and surrender to the Americans.

After Saratoga

General Gates thought it might be a good idea to re-invade Canada, but he was alone in that thinking, and the idea came to nothing.  In March 1778, newly independent Vermont named Seth Warner as Brigadier General in the State Militia.  This move placed Warner in a difficult position within the Continental Army, but it may not have mattered because Warner’s health was getting worse by the day.  His absences from duty increased over time.  Six months later, Warner was seriously wounded in an ambush by Indians.  A month later, Loyalist Major Christopher Carleton led a series of raids along the shores of Lake Champlain, burning towns and settlements along Otter Creek in Vermont and taking members of the local militia prisoner.  His raids destroyed supplies for 12,000 American militia — enough to support a four-month field campaign.[8]  Carleton’s raid was so devastating that Warner retired from military service.

In failing health, Seth Warner returned to his home in Woodbury, where Warner died on 26 December 1784 — aged 41 years.  Warner died financially insolvent, leaving his widow destitute.  In time, the State of Vermont awarded 2,000 acres to his wife.  It was called “Warner’s Grant” and remains uninhabited.

Seth had nine siblings — three of whom were medical doctors.  Dr. John Warner was also a captain in Herrick’s Rangers during the Revolutionary War; Daniel Warner, who served with Seth, was killed during the Battle of Bennington.  His wife was Miss Esther Hurd (1748 – 1816), and the couple had four children, all of whom survived to adulthood.

Sources:

  1. Peterson, J. E.  Seth Warner.  Dunmore House, 2001.
  2. Ketcham, R. M.  Saratoga: Turning Point of America’s Revolutionary War.  Holt Publishing, 1997.
  3. Littlefield, G. E.  The Centennial History of the Battle of Bennington.  Self-published, 1877.
  4. Chipman, D. and L. W. Clark.  Memoir of Colonel Seth Warner.  Middlebury, 1848.

Endnotes:

[1] Texas was not the first independent republic to become a U.S. state.

[2] Young Wentworth was a colonial-era spoiled brat whose father coddled him throughout his formative years.  American-born, he was tossed out of Harvard and was sent to Boston to apprentice under his uncle.  He didn’t return to New Hampshire until after his father died in 1730. 

[3] The end of the war found many Loyalists in permanent exile, mostly in Atlantic Canada. More important to the new nation were the hundreds of Loyalists who remained silent during the war and were allowed to live in comparative peace.  These men formed a conservative force in the politics of the new state, some of which managed to rise to the heights of post-war politics.

[4] The Vermont Republic operated for fourteen years before petitioning the United States for admission in 1791 as the fourteenth state.

[5] Remember Baker was murdered and decapitated and his remains mutilated by Indians near the Richelieu River on 19 August 1775. 

[6] These were the guns Henry Knox later hauled to Boston during the winter of 1775/1776.

[7] General Horatio Gates relieved both Schuyler and St. Clair of their duties and ordered courts-martial alleging dereliction of duty.  A court-martial acquitted both generals but neither again served in a combat command.  

[8] Carleton (1749 – 1787) was English-born and orphaned at an early age, raised by his uncles in Canada.  He joined the British army as an ensign at the age of 12 years.  For several years, Carleton lived with the Mohawk Indians, learning their language and customs — which made him a good military leader of Indian mercenaries.  


About Mustang

Retired Marine, historian, writer.
This entry was posted in American Frontier, American Indians, American Military, British Colonies, Colonial America, Feuds & Rivalries, Founding Fathers, History, Massachusetts, New England, New France, New Hampshire, New York, Pioneers, Politicians, Revolution, Vermont. Bookmark the permalink.

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