Washington's winter at Valley Forge is viewed today as perhaps the greatest test of willpower of the fledgling American government and their quest for independence from Britain. One of our ancestors is listed on the rollcall for Valley Forge.
On September 11, 1777 British, and American troops met and fought at the Battle of Brandywine. It was a defeat for the Revolutionary Army enabling the British to occupy Philadelphia, the American capitol. Congress had fled to York where the seat of government was established. Valley Forge was chosen as the location for the winter encampment of 1777 - 1778 because it was located near the main road between Philadelphia and York.
Last Name: LOWING First Name: SAMUEL Suffix: Rank: PRIVATE Rank Type: RANK AND FILE Ethnicity: Brigade: RI BRIGADE Company: CAPTAIN THOMAS ARNOLD'S State: RI Regiment: 1 RI Division: 1ST DIVISION Monthly Muster Roll Status December 1777: NAME ON ROLL WITHOUT COMMENT January 1778: ON COMMAND February 1778: ON COMMAND March 1778: ON COMMAND April 1778: ON DUTY AT RADNOR May 1778: June 1778:
When the 1776 enlistments were about up, the RI General Assembly voted to raise two regiments numbering 1,430 men combined The recruiting did not go well. In spite of additional bounties offered, by February 1777, only 50 men had enlisted in the two regiments. As veterans of 1776 returned home, the situation improved a bit.
By March, the two regiments had a total of about 400 men. (Various excuses have been advanced to explain this poor showing. RI had an estimated 1,200 men serving on ships, mostly privateers, and another 1,800 serving in the state's brigade, keeping an eye on Newport).
General Washington ordered the 1st and 2nd RI to join him despite the lack of strength. On Washington's suggestion, Christopher Greene was appointed commander of the 1st RI. Because he was still a prisoner at this time (he was captured during the Arnold expedition to Quebec), Lt. Colonel Comstock was put in command until Greene could join his unit.
Upon arrival in the American encampment, the RI regiments were brigaded with the 4th and 8th Connecticut and the four units were placed under the command of General Varnum, who used some political clout at home to get a promotion to brigadier.
During the summer of 1777, the two RI regiments peaked in strength at 600 men combined. At this point, Christopher Greene managed to join his regiment. In October and November of 1777, the RI units fought in the battle at Red Bank. After the battle, Greene evaded the British and got the two RI units back to Valley Forge for winter camp.
In camp, the RI offlcers, concerned about the very low numbers in the ranks, came up with the idea of raising a regiment from slaves. Washington wrote Gov. Cooke of Rl asking his opinion of the scheme. The governor expressed cautious optimism and said 300 men could be expected. So the troops of the 1st RI were transferred to the 2nd RI, numbering 400 as a result. This regiment served at Monmouth under Lee.
Greene and his staff were sent back to RI to raise a black regiment to fill the ranks of the depleted 1st RI. The General Assembly voted that every able bodied Negro, Mulatto and Indian slave could enlist for the duration of the war. Bounties and wages would be the same as those of free men. Once enlisted and approved of by the officers of the regiment, the recruits would be free. At this time, there was a Black and Indian population of 3,331 in Rhode Island. The scheme, which did compensate owners, produced less than 200 men. Seeing how expensive the plan was becoming, the Assembly cut off recruiting of slaves on June 10, 1778.
This incarnation of the 1st RI first saw action in the battle of Rhode Island in August 1778. The Continental troops that fought in the battle (1st and 2nd RI; Sherburne's, Webb's and Jackson's and Livingston's) remained in RI for the winter of 1778-79. On October 25, 1779, the British evacuated Newport, RI.
All the Continental units in RI were ordered to march. However, at the last minute, the 1st Rl was told to stay in the state and guard the wharves and streets of Newport. The 1st RI remained home into 1780. In July of that year, Rochambeau arrived in Newpon with 4,000 French troops. An officer with Rocharnbeau, von Clausen, provides us with a description of one of the Black soldiers wearing a cast-off French waistcoat with long sleeves and red cuffs, as well as the waved helmet with bluish plumes.
In October of 1781, Congress reconstructed the army again. The 1st RI, the 2nd RI, and Sherburne's battalion were all merged into one regiment called the 1st Rhode Island. Greene maintained command, with subordinates Jeremiah Olney and Ebenezer Flagg. Sherburne, Isreal Angell and Ward were all forced to retire. The merger took place at West Point. Although authorized for 650 men, the actual strength was about 450 men.
In May of 1781 the 1st RI was stationed along the Croton River, north of Manhattan. On the 14th, a raiding party of Delancey's refugees surprised the Rhode Islanders at two points. To make the story shorter, Greene and Flagg were killed. Lt. Colonel Jeremiah Olney assumed command. Coggeshall Olney and John Dexter were promoted to major and made his subordinates. Though the official designation was still the 1st RI, it became known as Olney's battalion.
The 1st RI was one of the first to head south to Yorktown. It was brigaded with New Jersey troops under Colonel Dayton, and placed in Lincoln's division. Stephen Olney's light infantry detached from the regiment and were given to Lafayette's Division of Light Infantry. In February of 1782, the regiment numbered 31 offlcers and 413 men. The regiment was disbanded in November 1783 when Congress decided to consolidate all regiments with less than 500 men and the state refused to spend additional recruiting money. e; those voting did so without organization, and the campaign was lost to Talmadge. Eastmanville folks took good care to get set off from Talmadge before the next town meeting.
The judiciary branch of the settlement of Ottawa county was not neglected. Four justices of the peace were elected in each township, who each, for himself felt that the entire responsibility rested upon him to see to it that the path of each citizen was made straight, and that he walked therein, and there was more litigation per capita then than there ever has been since, each justice and constable feeling that he was not elected for ornamental purposes only. Many ludicrous scenes in court might be- mentioned, but time and space will not permit. Conspicuous among the elements of litigation was the so-called Church & Dalton mill, at Sand Creek. This proved to be a source of revenue to two old attorneys at Grand Rapids, Moore and Abel, and a vexation to the settlers around; they being few in number, were quite too frequently called from home, as jurors, to decide upon the contentions of the two owners of the mill. This mill was built at Sand Creek about the year 1838 or 1839, by B. Church, a Seventh Day Baptist, who resolved that his property should not labor on Saturday, and James Ualton, a Catholic, who resolved that his property should labor on Saturday, but not on Sunday. This was the first bone of contention between them, but led tomany others. The difficulty was partially compromised after awhile, by an arbitration, in which Amos Robinson was the principal arbitrator. He determined that each man should use the mill the alternate week; but that did not stop the litigation, which continued without abatement until both parties were very much impoverished, and was only terminated by a separation of the parties. Mr. Dalton abandoned his property and went to Chicago, where he has since remained. Both parties having cut their pine, the mill went into disuse, and 'was swept away a few years ago by the flood. Abel and Moore each lost the pearl of great price, and both abandoned the practice of the law soon after.
At the time that Georgetown was organized, in 1840, it embraced four townships, those that are now known as Jamestown, Zeeland. and Hiendon. Jamestown was organized about 1849. Jamestown took its name from three James's—James Skeels, the second supervisor, James Brown, and James M. Conkwright. The land, although mostly located by specu lators, in 1835 was mostly put on the market, and was rapidly settled by emigrants largely from Ohio. The first settler in Blendon was Booth Kinney. who settled on Dec. 12, about the year 1845, now dead. Afterwards a family by the name of Woodruff,—Milton, and Henry,—who settled on the same section. This town settled very slow. Stoors & Wyman built a mill in southeast pnrt of the town somewhere about 1850. The town was organized in 1856. First town meeting held at the house of Booth Kinney. Albert Vredenburg was the first supervisor. Zeeland was set off from Georgetown and attached to Holland, and was after organized, and one D. Young was the first supervisor: this was about 1850. The heads of families of the settlers as early as 1840 are now nearly all dead. Henry Griffin, J. V. Harris, Samuel Hart> Thomas Woodbury, Daniel Rieley, and Mrs. H. Steel are the only survivorswho first settled Talmadge.
Hiram Jenison, Luman and Lucins Jenison, S. Yeomaus, L. Burdsly, Edward F. Bosworth, and Freeman Burton are the only survivors of the residents of Georgetown, in 1840, at the time of its organization. The settler* of that day endured many trials and privations, such as are incidental to a: new country. The western portion of the county, and particularly on the south side nf the river, was regarded valueless for agricultural purposes, and had been a great drawback to the settlers in the eastern part of the county, owing to the malaria rising from low lands, causing much sickness, from which very few, if any, of the older settlers were able to escape. It was not unfrequently the case that whole families were found sick with the ague and burning fever at the same time, and no one able to offer a draught of cold water,—and frequently these families resided many miles from other settlers. The mdsquitoes and fleas were intolerable.
The contrast in the appearance and comforts of this county in 1840 and the present day is very great.