In researching my books I learn some of the details about little-known soldiers of the American Revolution who made the ultimate sacrifice. Each year when Memorial Day nears, I try to carve out time to share those stories. This year I chose two who chose to fight for American Independence from Great Britain.

I began learning about Aaron Oliver and Ezra Fuller while researching Honor and Valor because they were soldiers who enlisted in the Continental Army company my great-great-great-great-grandfather, Isaac Frye, captained. In early 1777, the regiment was recruiting and I wrote about how Isaac recruited from the towns near his home in Wilton, New Hampshire.

My habit before writing is to research the histories of the men who served in the Continental Army with Isaac Frye. Early in my research, I found the enlistment documents for Isaac Frye’s company. The first was signed by enlistees who gathered in Wilton, New Hampshire on April 1, 1777. Aaron Oliver and Ezra Fuller were present and they enlisted as private soldiers in the Continental Army for a term of three years. Their signatures are indicated in the image with red arrows.

I research genealogical information for each soldier. I found Aaron Oliver was born on 25 August 1750 in Malden, Massachusetts, and that he was married to Abigail Townsend and they had three sons, Luther, Ezra, and Aaron Jr. In 1777. They were living in Temple, New Hampshire when Aaron enlisted. Ezra Fuller was younger, born in 1757 in Lynn, MA; he was not married. He lived in Mason, New Hampshire when he enlisted.

As I continued my research, I found two unexpected references for Aaron Oliver. The first was a Daughters of the American Revolution publication, Forgotten Patriots, African American and American Indian Patriots in the Revolutionary War, A Guide to Service Sources, and Studies; and the second was Glenn A. Knoblock’s African American Historical Burial Grounds and Gravesites of New England. Forgotten Patriots provides that Oliver was of mixed heritage, “mulatto”. That got me curious and I searched for the names of all the men in Isaac Frye’s company. Ezra Fuller was included as “African American”. Knoblock provides additional history about Oliver and uses his case to illustrate the practice of “warning out”, a practice where towns ousted unwanted or burdensome people from dwelling within their boundaries.

I learned a good deal more about Oliver and Fuller from town histories and several of the muster rolls Isaac Frye and the officers of his company made each month. Several facts that applied to Oliver and Fuller have stuck with me.

  • They were born, and died, as free men.
  • Each could sign his name and therefore I presume could read and write – something three in ten of their white counterparts could or did not do.
  • The monthly muster rolls show Oliver and Fuller were not segregated within Captain Frye’s company. The rolls list the men in groups of five by their “messes”, meaning those who shared meals and tents. Frye’s rolls show messes were initially determined alphabetically. All men in the company were equals in pay, misery, risk, and soldierly duties.

Despite these inferences, I found no specific references to the character or accounts of either Oliver or Fuller in any diaries, journals, or contemporary writings. Their service was as exemplary as any other private soldier in the Continental Army.

Aaron Oliver’s Service

As the Continental Army evacuated from Fort Ticonderoga in early July of 1775, Oliver and two other men, Ensign Samuel Leeman, and Private Jonathan Foster were assigned to guard the baggage and invalids. Thus, these three were caught in the Battle of Hubbardton. Leeman was killed and Foster escaped to the east but was unable to rejoin the company until later. Knoblock provides that Oliver was taken prisoner, and taken to and held in the British prison ships at Wallabout Bay in New York. Oliver’s health deteriorated and he was released from captivity and returned home to Temple in April 1778. Isaac Frye’s muster roll for November 1778 has a notation of Oliver dying on April 30, 1778. At his death, Aaron Oliver was twenty-seven years of age. In December of 1778, Oliver’s widow, Abigail, was warned out of Temple – the town would or could not support them.

I found that fact troubling for having learned Josiah Parker’s story, and after his passing, the Town of Wilton, of similar size and means, appeared to support his widow Phebe and their children until Phebe married recently widowed John Greele a year and a half later.

It is also troubling that I have never found evidence that Aaron Oliver was ever paid or that his widow, Abigail, received any compensation for his service.

Ezra Fuller’s Service

Ezra Fuller served in the place of Deacon Amos Dakin, who may also have paid his town or state bounty, a bonus for enlisting. Fuller was apparently very ill at the time Captain Frye’s company marched to Fort Ticonderoga,, as Fuller does not appear on the rolls until joining the company in September after the Battle of Freeman’s Farm. Fuller apparently fits into the company and marches with them into the Battle of Bemis Heights in which he is wounded.

Fuller spends several months recovering in Albany and is among the first to march from there to Valley Forge to join his company at some point between the muster rolls taken on April 4, 1778 and May 2, 1778. However, Fuller is immediately listed as sick. He was apparently taken to one of the hospitals in the area. Because he was not with the company and Captain Frye was also sick, but remained in the camp at Valley Forge, his disposition was unknown. He is listed on the monthly muster rolls as sick at Valley Forge through April of 1779. However, I found a record indicating he died on July 14, 1778 – he was just twenty-one or twenty-two years old. On August 28, 1782, Ezra Fuller’s father, David Fuller, was given his son’s pay.


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