About Holsey Sanford
Holsey, at the age of 15 became a soldier in the Revolutionary War, as a substitute for a brother who was taken ill while in service. He was taken prisioner at Fort Griswold.
Holsey Sanford.....Rank - Private........Annual Allowance - 50.00.........Sum received - 150.00..........Description of Service - Mass. Militia...... ....When Placed on the Pension Roll - September 19, 1833............Commencement of Pension - March 4, 1831............Age - 68.
Battles of New London and Groton
These battles have always made interesting reading, how much more so when an actual participant tells us in his own words about it, as Holsey Sanford does in the following:
I was drawn with sixteen others to join Capt. Adam Shapley?s company in August, 1781, at Fort Trumball near New London on the west side of the Thames River. I remained there till the 5th day of September, 1781, and was on guard that night at about 4 o?clock in the morning. I took my post as sentry to keep lookout on the river and harbor of New London. As daylight began to draw I espied a sail at the mouth of the river. I directly notified the Sergeant of the Guard - by the name of Harding - and as day dawned more sails were in sight and before sunrise sails were in sight, sailing with fair wind for New London. Capt. Shapley was gone to a house at New London, Lieut. Stowe in command gave orders to alarm guns every five minutes till about 10 A.M. Capt. Shapley soon arrived and took command.
The enemy began to land on both shores. The party that landed on the west side of the river took up their march for the garrison and around at about 10 o?clock A.M. We began to fire immediately on their landing and kept it up till they arrived at the garrison called Fort Trumball, and then we received them at the cannon?s mouth which made them halt. We were ordered to spike the cannon and run to the boats, and cross the river. We all crossed except one boat which was taken by the enemy. We crossed under fire of musketry, like hail. The balls skated the water and whistled about our ears. We landed near Fort Griswold and we marched to it immediately commanded by Col. Wm. Ledyard. The lieut. Then called me and another man to return to the boats and get a small keg of rum (which was forgotten). We went and brought it safe to the Fort. I had not eaten anything from 12 o?clock the day before; it then being near noon, we were served with pork and potatoes stewed together, which I could not eat. My mind was on the scene before me in prospect. They kindly gave me a drink of old rum. A soldier by the name of Williams saw that I felt bad and asked me what the matter was and said that I should be killed and that I need not feel bad about it. I remarked that there would be bloody scenes before night.
During this time the enemy that landed on the east side of the river about sunrise and took a slow march toward the Fort and sent a flag of truce to us to know who commanded and was answered that Col. Ledyard commanded and about 20 or 30 minutes after, another flag was seen coming and met by our flag, and made a demand of the surrender of the fort without any terms. If not that, Col. Eyre and Maj. Montgomery will put the garrison to the sword. Col. Ledyard held a council of war and determined to defend it to the last. The flag returned with that answer. At that time the enemy lay about half a mile east of the fort, in sight. About 2 o?clock P.M., we saw the signal made and movement for marching. They marched in solid columns toward the fort. We commenced a brisk cannonade on them till they arrived in about 30 rods of the Fort. They then divided into three divisions and one marched to the north and one to the south sides of the Fort, then they commenced a brisk fire by muskets from each division and soon surrounded the Fort. The middle division continued to march straight forward up to the Fort. I was stationed in front of this division and manned one of the twelve pounders with two other men. We continued to load and fire the round ball, and grape and canister and double headers and shots frequently filling the gun half full or more and several of the last shot made great havoc as they marched in solid columns in front of the cannon?s mouth. The last time we loaded the gun it had become hot and when fired it broke herself looses from fastenings and knocked me down and almost senseless. The men that were with me were gone and not seen by me afterwards. I got up and seized my gun and spear and commenced fighting through the embrasures where they were trying to enter the Fort. Many were butchered in trying to scale the walls. They soon began to enter and cry, NO QUARTER. During the engagement the halyard of the flag was cut away by a ball but soon hoisted again. They declared that we had surrendered when the flag fell and that no quarter should be given. Our number had become reduced to about 80. No reinforcements arrived. Col. Ledyard knew that we must yield or lose our lives and hoping to save the remnant of his men, surrendered to a Lieut. Who on receiving Col. Ledyard?s sword, ran him through with his own sword. He fell and died immediately. We then fought for our lives and cried Quarter, but the officer said "Damn you! We will quarter you, you rebels!"
The fight now became indescribably fierce and bloody, for it was life or death. This scene lasted about ten minutes; many more were killed in that time, till only about thirty were left and taken prisoners. During this time , the laast ten minutes of the fight, I saw Williams with his hand on his breast and the blood running out through his fingers. He fell and died on the spot. I had to flee to the barracks. I was pursued at the point of the bayonet, but the pursuer met another and run him through with his bayonet, and I stowed myself in an upper berth to keep from being stabbed, then an order was heard to stop killing.
Holsey Sanford was a Revolutionary pensioner, as was also Samuel Weeks. By Myron Munson, (he was a local Historian who went around between 1880-1920 and interviewed elderly residents and recorded their stories)
After the war Holsey removed to Hampshire County, Massachusetts, being amoung the early pioneers.
Inscription on headstone - Holsey Sanford Died May 13, 1845 AE 80 YS