“Congress having determined to remove the Troops of the Convention from the neighbourhood of Boston to Charlotteville in Albemarle County Virginia, an Officer of Rank and prudence will be necessary to regulate and conduct their march. I must desire you to undertake this duty. The first division of the troops was to have marched off yesterday, and will be followed by four others, at proper intervals. I would wish you to lose no time in coming up here, as the sooner you set out to meet them, the better. (WGW Vol. 13, November 5, 1778 “Letter to Lt. Col. Bland”)
On November 8th, Lt. Colonel Bland received detailed orders from Washington;
“Sir: You are hereby appointed to superintend the removal of the convention troops from the State of Massachusetts to Charlottesville in Virginia. You will therefore proceed immediately on the shortest route to Enfield, or to where the first division of the troops may have arrived, and announce yourself to the Officer commanding. You will then dispatch Major Jamison, who is directed to assist you in the execution of this duty, to the rear of the troops, to see that the necessary provisions and arrangements are made for the intermediate and successive divisions.
A proper escort of Militia from the State of Massachusetts is to attend the troops to Enfield, at which place they will be relieved by the militia of Connecticut, previous notice being given to have them in readiness. You will take care not to dismiss the old guard till relieved by the new. The Militia of Connecticut are to proceed as far as the North River where they will either be relieved by a guard of Continental troops, or New York militia.
During the march you will have respect to the quarter Masters who are appointed to attend the troops and see that their haulting(sic) places are convenient for cover and accommodation. You will also have regard to the Commissaries, so that good provisions be distributed and at the proper times.
You will accommodate the stages of march to the state of the weather, the condition of the troops, and the nature of the country through which they travel.
You will attend to the complaints which may arise and obviate them as far as possible.
The annexed route will bring the Troops as far on in their march as Fish Kills. You will then be furnished with a new route for your direction thro' the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and to their place of destination in Virginia.
As soon as you meet the first division of the troops it will be necessary for you to give me notice, that I may form a judgement (sic) of the time at which they may arrive at the North river. (WGW Vol. 13, November 8, 1778 “Letter to Lt. Col. Bland”)”
The Du Roi Journal of the march of the German 2nd division notes on November 17th, 1778, as they were passing between Palmer and Wilberham, Massachusetts, that they met an American major of dragoons on the road. This was Major John Jameson of the 1st Continental Dragoons, whom Washington recommended to Lt. Col. Bland as “able to give you very great assistance in conducting the march of the troops (WGS Vol 13: November 5, 1778, “Letter to Lt. Col. Bland).” It is very likely that Lt. Colonel Bland marched with the vanguard, while Major Jameson escorted the rear divisions. Sedgwick’s History of Sharon states that Jameson met up with the Convention Army in Sharon “with a regiment of Continental troops.” (Sedgwick: 1897, pg. 75).
There apparently was some sensitivity expressed in Connecticut, possibly by Governor Trumbull, concerning the need to call out the militia as escorts. Accordingly, on November 17th Washington ordered Brigadier General Enoch Poor to march with his brigade from near Hartford to Enfield, CT and escort the Convention Army through the State to the Hudson River;
“You are to march immediately upon the receipt hereof with your Brigade to Enfield at which place I imagine the first division of the Convention troops will be arrived by the time you get there. It is intended that your Brigade shall guard them from thence to Fishkill… you will be pleased to send your Baggage and Artillery thro' New Milford and Fredericksbg. to Fishkill. (WGW Vol. 13: November 17, 1778, “Letter to General Poor”).”
As was often the case during the Revolution, events preceded more rapidly than Washington’s orders could follow. Bland wrote to Washington on November 13th, 1778 after arriving in Enfield, Connecticut:
“Being detaind by almost two days heavy Rain I did not arrive at this Place before to day, where I found the [British] Convention troops just arrived Under the Command of Brigadier Hamilton, the escort from MA being commanded by Col. Gearish. They are marched in 6 divisions about 700 in each division (PGW Vol .18. pg 131.)”
Washington therefore countermanded his orders to General Poor on November 18th, 1778:
“I received a Letter from Colo. Bland, advising me that the Van of the Convention Troops were at Enfield on the 13th. and would reach Sharon to night; also that proper arrangements had been made and Militia escorts assembled for conducting them to the North river. As matters are so circumstanced and the Troops much more forward in their advance than I expected, I think it best to countermand my instructions to you of yesterday; and that they should come on under the care of Colo. Bland and the Militia provided for the purpose (WGW Vol. 13: November 18, 1778, “Letter to General Poor”).”
Poor had already marched, however. The Du Roi Journal records that the German 2nd division of the Convention Army was met at Enfield at the border between Connecticut and Massachusetts by Connecticut Militia, and that by November 20th they reached Simsbury, where “Brigadier Poor had arrived here with the Brigade before us and took command of the escort. Therefore the militia left us (Journal of Du Roi The Elder: 1911, Pg. 134).”
The British divisions, which passed through Enfield on November 13th, had reached Sharon by the time Poor’s Brigade met up with the German divisions at Simsbury. They would have had militia escorts for their entire passage across Connecticut. In all, it took two weeks for the full six divisions to make the march through the State.
Poor’s Brigade consisted of the 2nd Canadian Regiment (Congress’s Own) under Col. Moses Hazen; the 1st New Hampshire Regiment under Col. Joseph Cilley; the 2nd New Hampshire Regiment under Lt. Col. George Reid; and the 3rd New Hampshire Regiment under Col. Alexander Scammell. According to documentation compiled by Jim Hayden of the recreated 1st NH Regt., the New Hampshire regiments had just been issued new uniforms on November 16th, 1778, including “1105 French made brown coats faced in red with slash style cuffs; white waistcoats and breeches, brown overalls and lead colored stockings (Hayden, 2010).” The 2nd Canadian regiment at this time was likewise uniformed in brown French “Lottery Coats” faced with red. Originally organized on the French model as a regiment with two battalions and four majors, by the summer of 1778 the 2nd Canadian returned 522 men with 33 officers (Everest: 1977, pg. 61). The New Hampshire Regiments in Poor’s Brigade likely contained half this number.
Lieutenant Thomas Blake of the 1st New Hampshire Regiment in Poor’s Brigade recorded in his Journal;
“Nov. 20…General Poor’s brigade marched to Simsbury, where we took charge of the German troops, that were captured with General Burgoyne, they being on their way to Virginia.
Nov. 21…Marched to New Hartford 12 miles.
Nov. 22…Marched to Norfolk 15 miles, but the travelling was so bad that we were obliged to lay still 2 days for our baggage to come up (Kidder: 1868, pg. 46).”
As Poor’s Brigade escorted the Convention Troops from Simsbury to Norfolk, encampments along this route may have artifacts associated with Poor’s Continental Troops.
In the entry for November 20th, The Du Roi Journal notes that while in Simsbury,
“Brigadier Poor was very polite and issued strict orders that none of his officers might go to our quarters, that we might be undisturbed…Instead of an escort of 100 men, a whole regiment turned out. Its commander was rather strict at first, but soon as he was how orderly our men behaved, he left them alone (Journal of Du Roi the Elder: 1911, pg. 134).”
It is possible that Poor distributed his Brigade to cover the three German divisions, if the 1st of these had not proceeded too far up the road by the time Poor reached Simsbury. It is also possible that he only escorted the German 2nd Division, and indeed the militia were responsible for the rest of Burgoyne's convention troops for most of the route.
The Du Roi Journal includes an evocative description of the difficult road travelled between New Hartford and Norfolk that also indicates that contrary to Washington’s wishes, Poor’s Brigade brought their artillery with them on the march.
“It was certainly hard work to take a Brigade of four regiments with six cannon and a lot of baggage 14 miles through the woods, down a very steep mountain, then up again another one still higher and steeper, and so on (Du Roi Journal: 1911, pg 135).”
This can only describe Poor’s Brigade, as the German divisions did not have that many regiments and carried no cannon. It is possible that encampment sites in Simsbury, New Hartford and Norfolk may include relics associated with Poor’s artillery.
The Journal of Du Roi the Elder records that while in Norfolk “Brigadier Poor received orders to go into their winter quarters in Middleborough [Redding, CT] and militia took the place of the escort(Du Roi Journal: 1911,pg. 135)” .
The Journal of Lieutenant Thomas Blake of the 1st New Hampshire Regiment in Poor’s Brigade records the route of march taken from Norfolk to their winter quarters in Redding (Kidder: 1868, pg. 46). Blake records that Poor’s Brigade left Norfolk on November 25th and marched three miles past South Canaan on that day. The following day they marched 15 miles to Kent, and then to New Milford another 15 miles on November 27th. Significantly, Blake’s entry for November 27th suggests that they continued to escort at least some Germans as far as New Milford;
“Marched to New Milford [from Kent] 15 miles, where a party of militia received the German troops(Kidder: 1868, pg. 46).”
If Blake is correct, then this must refer to some of the over 50 German deserters who were reported missing during the march through Connecticut, as contemporary itineraries exist for all three German Divisions of Convention Troops. This possibility of a different route of march to New York for at least some of the German Convention troops will require further investigation to confirm or discount.
The militia bore the brunt of the responsibility for escorting the Convention Troops through Connecticut. The Records of Connecticut Men in Military and Naval Service During the War of the Revolution, published by the Connecticut Historical Society, makes mention of nine enlisted men who comprised a detachment of the Third Troop of the 4th Regiment of Light Horse in the Connecticut Militia who served between 12 and 14 days as an escort to the Convention troops (CHS: 1889, pg. 546.) This suggests that many of them were with the Convention Army from the time the 1st division entered the State in Enfield to the date the final division exited in Sharon.
A petition of Lieutenant Colonel Noah Phelps of Simsbury before the Connecticut General Assembly in May, 1779 attested “that he had the oversight and care of the troops under the convention of Saratoga on their march through this state, and of the guards who escorted them (Hoadley: 1895, pg. 333).” Lt. Col. Phelps served in the 18th Regiment of Connecticut Militia. Congress later directed funds to Connecticut to settle the bills and accounts of a number of militia officers “for services &c. of militia guarding the Convention Troops through said State in 1778, when they marched through Massachusetts to Virginia (CHS: 1901, pg. 188).” These were:
Captain Moses Forb(e)s (appointed in 1777 to command the 6th company in the 19th militia Regiment, which included Bolton, East Windsor, Enfield, and Hartford E. of the river)
Captain Ebenezer Fitch Bissell of Windsor
Captain Lemuel Roberts of Simsbury
Captain Chester Wells of Wethersfield
Captain Warham Gibbs
Captain Isaac Pomeroy of Suffield
Captain William Burrell
Captain Azariah Griswold of Sharon
Ensign John Reynolds (appointed in 1777 to command the 3rd company in the 19th militia
Regiment, which included Bolton, East Windsor, Enfield, and Hartford E. of the river )
Captain Hezekiah Parsons of Enfield
Colonel Noah Phelps of Simsbury
Captain Ozias Pettibone of Simsbury
Lieutenant Colonel Seth Smith of New Hartford
Captain Noah Kellogg of New Hartford
Captain Jonathan Wells of Glastonbury
Most of these officers were from militia companies that may have been called out at the beginning of the Convention Army’s transit of the State. It is not clear which, if any of them were involved in escorting either the German or the British divisions from Norfolk to Sharon. A commemorative plaque erected in 1998 on Sand Rd. in Canaan states that “In the Canaan Area, the Connecticut Militia under the command of Col. Charles Burrell of Canaan Guarded the Prisoners on their way South.”
Those militia who did accompany the vanguard of the Convention Army to Sharon on November 18th, 1778 were initially unwilling to escort them beyond the boundaries of the State. This prompted Lt. Col. Bland to write to Washington on November 13th for an additional escort of Continental troops to convey them to Fishkill on the Hudson River in New York(PGW Vol .18. pg 131.). Washington promptly issued the following General Order;
Head Quarters, Fredericksburg [near Paterson, New York], Saturday, November 21, 1778.
“Five hundred men from the Pennsylvania line properly officered to march tomorrow morning to Sharon to escort the Convention troops to Hudson's River (WGW Vol. 13, November 21, 1778 General Orders).”
Washington replied to Bland that same day;
“Dear Sir: Yours of last evening reached me at day Break this morning. The Continental troops will march from hence in an hour and will have orders to proceed untill they meet the troops of the Convention. I have directed one hundred Men to advance quickly before the rest. You will therefore put the first division in motion as soon as possible after this reaches you, they may march the distance between Sharon and the place where they will meet the Continental troops even without an escort, tho' I hope some of the Militia will from Colo. Meade's letter, be prevailed upon to come as far as Mabbits (WGW Vol. 13, November 21, 1778, “Letter to Lt. Col. Bland).”
“Dear Bland, I find that the Connecticut militia are but a militia; I send you soldiers. Permit me to recommend Major Fishbourn to your notice: he attends as [a volunteer] aid to the detachment, which I flatter myself will not disgrace the American troops. Lieut. Col. [Samuel ]Hay, who commands the detachment, is an Irishman and soldier.” (Bland Papers: 1840, Letter LXVII, pg. 108)
The Du Roi Journal notes on November 26th that the German 2nd division arrived in Sharon where its militia escort left and was replaced by Continental troops ( Du Roi Journal: 1911, pg. 136).
Bland, T, Jr. (1840); The Bland Papers, Being a Selection from the Manuscripts of Colonel Theodorick Bland, Jr. of Prince George County, Virginia, Vol. I, Charles Campbell, ed., E & JC Ruffin: Petersburg, Virginia.
Connecticut Historical Society (1889); The Record of Connecticut men in the Military and Naval Service During the War of the Revolution 1775-1783, Henry P. Johnston, Ed., CHS: Hartford, Connecticut
______1901); Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, Vol. 8, CHS: Hartford, Connecticut.
Du Roi, A. W. (1911); “Journal of Du Roi The Elder, Lieutenant and Adjutant, in the Service of the Duke of Brunswick 1776-1778”, translated by Charlotte S. J. Epping, Americana Germanica #15, University of Pennsylvania.
Everest, A.S. (1977): Moses Hazen and the Canadian Refugees in the American Revolution., Syracuse University Press.
Harrison, RH (1829); “November 21st, 1778 Letter to General Anthony Wayne”, in The Register of Pennsylvania, Devoted to the Preservation of Facts and Documents and Every other Kind of Useful Information Respecting the State of Pennsylvania, Vol III, Pg. 402, Samuel Hazard, ed, WF Geddes: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Hoadley, C.J. (1895); The Public Records of the State of Connecticut from May, 1778 to April, 1780, Inclusive, Case, Lockwood & Brainard: Hartford, Connecticut.
Kidder, F (1868); “Lieutenant Thomas Blake’s Journal” in The History of the First New Hampshire Regiment in the War of the Revolution , pgs 25-56, Joel Munsell’s Sons, Albany, New York.
Sedgwick, C. F. (1877) ; General History of the Town of Sharon, Connecticut from its First Settlement, 2nd Edition, C. Walsh: Amenia, New York.
Washington, G.(2008); The Papers of George Washington; 1 November, 1778 – 14 January 1779, Vol 18; University Press of Virginia
_______ The writings of George Washington from the original manuscript sources: Volume 13 , Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library