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Holsey Sanford

Birthdate: (79)
Birthplace: Old Saybrook, Middlesex, Connecticut Colony
Death: May 13, 1845 (79)
Huntington, Hampshire County, Massachusetts, United States
Place of Burial: Huntington, Hampshire County, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Daniel Sanford and Ruth Loveland
Father of Louisa Rude

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Immediate Family

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 prisoner 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.

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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 last 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 among the early pioneers.

Inscription on headstone - Holsey Sanford Died May 13, 1845 AE 80 YS


Mrs. Louisa Sanford Rude, daughter of Mr. Holsey Sanford, furnishes the following regarding her father: —

"He was a son of Daniel Sanford of Saybrook, and was serving as substitute for his older brother John, an enlisted member of the garrison at Fort Trumbull, who being tired out and his clothes badly worn wished to go home for rest and have his clothing repaired. The officer in command accepted the younger brother as substitute for a few weeks, commencing the latter part of July, he having trained with the minute-men of his town, though not yet sixteen years old.

"On the morning of September 6th, the enemy were seen lying off the harbor. The garrison made all possible preparation to resist, but many faces were ashy pale, they were so few in number, and not armed and disciplined to resist so strong a foe, but every man was at his post.

"They soon took to their boats and joined those at Fort Griswold. He had a slight wound on the knee from a ball, and though not otherwise injured he was stained with human blood from head to foot. He described the killing of Colonel Ledyard as an eye-witness, seeing him present his sword by the point and fall by the thrust of it. "He with others then fled to the barracks, where many were killed; his life was saved by an officer who ordered off a man who had made a thrust at him with a bayonet. Being carried to New York as a prisoner, he was confined in the prison-ship until after the surrender of Cornwallis, and then exchanged.

Mr. Sanford was born October 10, 1765, and died in 1845, when the local paper gave a short sketch of him as one of the defenders of Fort Griswold. He was twice married, and had five sons and six daughters, two of whom, Miriam Sanford Searle of Easthampton, Mass., and Louisa Sanford Rude of Huntington, Mass., are still living."

Source: The Battle of Groton Heights: a Collection of Narratives, Official Reports, edited by Charles Allyn, pages 222-223

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Holsey Sanford's Timeline

October 10, 1765
Old Saybrook, Middlesex, Connecticut Colony
May 13, 1845
Age 79
Huntington, Hampshire County, Massachusetts, United States
Huntington, Hampshire County, Massachusetts, United States