@William Scott of Peterborough, NH

Started by Sue Douglass on Sunday, December 26, 2010


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12/26/2010 at 3:43 PM

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I haven't figured out if I've gotten the right William Scott in my tree, but found this- does anybody have this tree correctly, and have you found the ancestor, Alexander Scott?

Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Volume 44
By Massachusetts Historical Society

Two William Scotts Of Peterborough, N. H.

In the Revolutionary War there served to the credit of Peterborough, New Hampshire, two William Scotts. They were first cousins and both were residents of the town. Each was a captain, and one of them rose to the rank of major and subsequently to lieutenant-colonel by brevet. One served in the First New Hampshire regiment of the Continental line, the other in Colonel Jackson's Massachusetts regiment of the Continental line. In all local, regimental and other histories the records of these men both during and subsequent to the war are very much mixed; the services of the one being often accredited to the other, and vice versa. Both were in the army through the entire war and rendered honorable and even brilliant service. In the interest of historical truth the tangle should be straightened out.

The first of these William Scotts, hereinafter to be called "Major Scott," was born in the province of Ulster, probably in or near Coleraine, Ireland, in 1744, and was the son of Archibald Scott, who never came to this country. When his family went on board ship for America, the father declared he would "not go anywhere where he could not touch bottom with his stick." The son arrived in this country in 1760, and went immediately to Peterborough. November 17, 1760, he enlisted into

Captain Silas Brown's company of Colonel regiment and

served five months and seven days. Upon his discharge he returned to Peterborough, where he resided until 1775. At the outbreak of the Revolution he was keeping store, then the only one in town. On hearing of the march of the British into Middlesex County, which was on the morning of April 19, he melted his leaden weights into bullets and joined the Peterborough men who started for Cambridge about noon of that day. Reaching the scene of war, he set about recruiting and in three days had a company of 63 officers and men, all from his own town or from those in its immediate vicinity, and was assigned to Paul Dudley Sargent's regiment. Colonel Sargent was from Amherst, New Hampshire, but held a commission from Massachusetts. In May or early June, he was sent with his company to Hog Island, near Boston, and from there crossed to Noddle's Island and carried off a number of cattle and horses from under the enemy's fire. On the same evening a British armed schooner, sent to annoy the American forces, was so harassed by the American shots that the men quit the decks of the vessel, and it drifted on the ways of Winnisimmet Ferry and British barges were sent to extricate her. Scott, in command of a party of soldiers, waded into the water and under a brisk fire of the enemy set the ship on fire, burning it to the water's edge. Major Scott brought off his men in safety.

He commanded his company in the battle of Bunker Hill, losing nine men in killed and wounded. The company was enlisted to serve to December 31, 1775. Major Scott was recommissioned captain and on July 7, 1776, was assigned to a regiment under Colonel Sargent, and so served until November 8, 1776. April 5, 1776, he was appointed judge-advocate of a court martial, of which Colonel Sargent was president. He was member of another in the following month, and in June was again judge-advocate of a third court martial, ordered by General Washington for the trial of military offenders. On November 8, 1776, he was comm1ssioned captain in Colonel John Stark's, afterward Colonel Cilley's, regiment of the Continental New Hampshire line, and served to the end of the war, never having been Absent or having a furlough, so far as the records show. He was in the retreat of the army from Ticonderoga, and in a skirmish at Bloody Pond, near the outlet of Lake George, commanded the "forlorn hope." Ordered to abandon his position because the troops were not in readiness, he directed his men to retreat three steps, and then held his ground until the line of battle was formed.

At the battle of Bemis Heights, September 19, 1777, he was wounded in the hand, the ball entering his left hand near the thumb, passing slantwise across the palm and cutting off the small bones and sinews of the hand. His little finger was amputated, and when the wound healed the power of flexion and extension of the fingers was almost wholly destroyed, The major and lieutenant-colonel of his regiment were killed in the action, and on the following day Scott was promoted major of the command.

A year later he was in the battle of Monmouth. After the battle a mutiny broke out in one of the regiments and in quelling it Major Scott was wounded by a bayonet thrust, the bayonet penetrating to the lumbar vertebrae. The soldier was court-martialled and sentenced to be shot, but through Scott's intercession General Washington pardoned him. In August and September, 1779, he was with General Sullivan in an expedition against the Indians. A battle was fought with the Indians and Tories, commanded by Brandt, and by Colonels Butler and Johnson, near Elmira, New York, on the 29th day of August, and the enemy was defeated. In a personal encounter with an Indian chief, Major Scott secured the Indian's long rifle, which was handsomely mounted in silver, and brought it off the field as a trophy. It is now in the possession of one of his descendants. In March, 1783, he was in command of his regiment, and October 10 of that year was promoted lieutenant-colonel by brevet. He retired from the army when it was disbanded late in 1783, after eight years and eight months' continual service. He had not been absent from his regiment during the entire term, either from wounds or any other cause, had taken part in every battle and campaign of his command, and carried on his person, so his family said, the marks of thirtysix wounds.

When he entered service he was married and had two children, one a boy of ten years, the other also a boy, much younger. The latter was placed in charge of a family in Athol, this State, where he was cared for during the war. As soon as he had organized his company at Cambridge he sent for his elder son and made him his waiter, the boy acting in that capacity until.

January 1, 1778, when he enlisted in the army as a musician and served three years. In 1781 he was made fife major of the regiment.

In leaving the army, Major Scott went to Albany and then to Schenectady, where he opened a store. Two years later he removed to Greenfield, Saratoga County, New York, and took up land and for the rest of his life was a farmer, though unable to perform manual labor. His hands were so deformed by wounds that they resembled birds' claws more than human hands. He was the first supervisor of his adopted town, held a commission as justice of the peace for many years, and when the Society for the "Promotion of Useful Learning" was organized in Greenfield in 1797, he was chosen its first president, and his son John, its first secretary. He was of a kindly disposition, generous to a fault, interested in public affairs, and was fond of having his army comrades about him. He died in Greenfield, New York, in 1815, aged seventy-one years. His brethren buried him with full masonic honors, on the very spot where with his comrades he slept the first night of his arrival in the wilderness which was to be his future home, in the Bailey Cemetery, Greenfield, New York.

The other William Scott owned a farm in Peterborough at the beginning of the war. He was the son of Alexander Scott, and was born in Townsend, Massachusetts, in 1742. Enlisting

into Captain Silas Brown's company, Colonel regiment,

March 6, 1760, he was discharged December 8 following. Re-enlisted into Captain Farrington's company, regiment, June 2, 1761, and served till January 1, 1762; total service in the French and Indian War being one year and over three months. When he heard of the Lexington battle, he was on a journey stopping in Groton, Massachusetts. Starting at once for the scene and overtaking the enemy, he was in season to give them a parting shot as they were crossing the Charlestown ferry into Boston. He assisted his cousin, Major Scott, in recruiting a company at Cambridge, in April, 1775, and was commissioned a first lieutenant. In the battle of Bunker Hill he was severely wounded. He was sent to the Hill on the night of June 16, to assist in the construction of the redoubt. Early in the action his leg was broken by a grape shot, but he continued to fight, and encourage his men, and when he could stand no longer, sat on the ground and pared bullets to fit the guns of his soldiers. When the enemy were within a few feet of him he attempted to retreat, but getting hit by four more balls in his body and limbs, he fainted from loss of blood, was taken prisoner and carried to Boston. When the British evacuated the city in the following March, his wounds were partially healed, but he was placed in irons, taken to Halifax and thrust into jail. In the following July, with several of his companions, and equipped with a gimlet, bayonet and an old knife, furnished by a friend outside, they broke jail by digging out under the walls, and took to the woods, where they separated. Six of them, including Scott, reached Tours, at the head of the Cobecut River, in three days, and procuring a boat sailed away. Four others, who escaped with them, took the road to Windsor, but were recaptured and returned to jail. Captain Scott and his companions reached Boston about July 25, and as soon as he was able, he rejoined his regiment, Colonel Sargent's, in the following September. He was among the prisoners taken at Fort Washington, November 16, 1776. The night after the surrender, not desiring another fifteen months' captivity, tying his sword to his back and his watch to his hat band, he made his escape by swimming the Hudson River and got safely to the Jersey shore. To escape the British frigate stationed off the fort he had to swim nearly twice the width of the river.

He was commissioned captain, January 1, 1777, in Colonel Henley's, afterward Colonel Henry Jackson's, (Mass.) regiment, and served until the spring of 1781. He was attached to Lafayette's command, and when the latter was ordered to Virginia in the spring of that year, being unable on account of his wounds to make so long a march, he resigned his commission. He soon after entered the naval service, on the ship Deane, as a volunteer, and served until May 31, 1782, when he left the army and navy after seven years' service.

On receiving his commission as first lieutenant in April, 1775, he sent for his son John, a lad of ten years, to come and be his waiter boy. This son remained with the army until July 24, 1777, when he enlisted into Captain Fox's company of Colonel Henley's, afterward Jackson's, regiment, and served three years. His brother, David Scott, two years older, also enlisted into the same company and regiment, July 18, 1777, and served until October 6, 1782, when he died from camp fever.

After leaving the army, Captain Scott bought a farm in Groton, Massachusetts, but soon lost it and then went to Litchfield, New York. His daring courage through which he saved nine persons from drowning on the river at New York, in 1793, has been told too many times to be repeated. He had lost all his property, and with a large family of children, the four youngest being under seven years of age, and his wife dead, he was in the direst poverty. General Knox, the Secretary of War, who knew his worth, appointed him, in 1794, deputy storekeeper at West Point. The following year he was on the suite of General Lincoln, who was sent by the government to Detroit to make a treaty of peace with the Indians. A year later he was connected with a party surveying lands on the Black River near Lake Erie. They were attacked by lake fever and Captain Scott returned with a part of the sick to Fort Stanwix. Not able to find any one willing to go back for those who had been left behind, he decided to go for them himself. His physician warned him that if he did he would never come back alive. "I think I shall," was the reply, "but if not, my life is no better than theirs." He went and returned with the sick, but contracted the fever himself, and died at Litchfield, New York, ten days later, on September 19, 1796, aged fiftyfour years.

The father of Captain Scott served a short time in the army in 1780. Thus there were from this one family three generations in service at the same time. The grandfather, son and two grandsons gave a continual service of about twenty years to the colonial cause.

One event in the life of both Major and Captain Scott throws strong light upon the sufferings and hardships of the Revolutionary soldiers, both during and after the war. It largely grew out of the currency, and goes far to explain why it was that in Shays's Rebellion the soldiers were foremost among the malcontents of 1784, 1785 and 1786. In 1775 Captain Scott owned a farm. After the capture of Fort Washington he went home on furlough, sold it and took a note in payment, payable at a future day. When it was finally paid, he did not realize enough to pay for the horse he lost at Fort Washington. At the close of the war he received his pay and commutation in public securities. With part of these he bought a farm in Groton, paying part of the price down and loaning the other part to a friend. The securities turning out worthless, he lost his farm and all he had paid on it; the friend failed and so he lost his loan. He was thus left penniless, with a large family of motherless children on his hands. Unable to support his family, in 1790 he applied for a pension, first to the State of Massachusetts and then to the general government. Owing to the unsettled state of affairs between the State and national government, the application drifted along until 1794, when by returning his commutation money he was allowed a pension of twenty dollars per month, which he enjoyed only a year and a half. Major Scott's case is best stated by himself in his application for a pension. He says:

It was with peculiar pain your Petitioner was obliged to address your august body in New York, January 17th, 1794, constrained thereto from motives of misfortune and distress. He has struggled with difficulties year after year, in hopes that each would be the last, but has been disappointed and finds his embarrassments thicken and become more complex; in the exigency he is again compelled to apply for relief.

That he is among that class whose hardships are exceedingly disproportionate to any other citizens of America, let recurrence be had to the final settlement with the army invalids, unfit to return to their usual labor, to support themselves and families, debts necessarily contracted must be paid; those securities the only resource; of which to discharge a debt of one pound required eight. This or a gaol was the only alternative; the former has been preferred by every person of honesty.

That the Commutation under such circumstances was an adequate compensation for eight years' hard service (to those who have been so unfortunate as to have lost the use of their limbs and have their constitution ruined) cannot be supposed, at best it only leaves them upon a footing with those who have never received a wound and what is still worse is to exist as objects of obloquy in the vicinity of those unprincipled men who deserted and bore arms against their country and are now enabled through the Liberality of their Master to live-in affluence; while many of those who aided in conquering them are suffering under the most distressing penury.

That your Petitioner having received several wounds in defense of the country humbly submits the premises to the consideration of your Honourable Body, not doubting but his peculiar situation will entitle him to relief.

The application failed, and it was not till 1807 that his claim was allowed. He was then placed on the pension roll at the rate of twenty-five dollars per month under the Act of Congress of April n, 1806.

The patriotism of this family, to which both Major and Captain Scott belonged, deserves recognition.

In 1775 there were living in Peterborough, or had lived there until within two years of that date, the following Scotts, all descendants of one man, whose name was Alexander Scott:

1. John, aged about 69 years (never married).

2. William, aged about 60 years, and his sons, William, aged 19, Thomas, aged 23, and David, aged 26 years.

3. Alexander, aged 65 years, and his sons, James, aged 20, Alexander, John, aged 24, William the Captain, aged 33, and William's sons, David, aged 12, and John, aged 10 years.

4. William, the Major, aged 33 years, and his sons, John, aged 11 years, and Lewis, aged 1 year.

Fifteen in all, one of whom was a cripple and another an infant. Of the thirteen remaining, twelve were in the American army and their combined service amounted to more than forty years.

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