Honor and Valor – Historical Insights

Does your book provide any new contributions to our understanding of history? Most historians and people with degrees in history ask this of me when they learn of the research behind my books. It’s also an excellent weed-out question for those who like to read, whether it’s narrative-history, biography, or historical novels.

In Honor and Valor, I divide the contributions to historical understanding into two categories:  New Inferences from existing documents, and first tellings of these inferences.

First Tellings:

  • 40 Man Scout: In Chapter 6, I assembled the following:
    • A name by name composition of the forty-man scouting party from the rolls of all five of the regiments under Enoch Poor.
    • A plausible route from Louden’s Ferry to where they were ambushed.
    • Plausible reasons for undertaking the scouting mission in the first place.

The route came from military terrain analysis, and the site of the ambush from the Mohawk perspective was far and away the best option given the terrain, giving the Mohawk warriors cover, concealment, high ground, and placing their adversary in likely swampy lowland terrain. Luck was on my side for identifying men in the scouting party.  They left on September 4, 1777, and returned the following day.  Most regiments took their rolls on the fourth and noted the members as “On a Scout” or “On Command.” The total of such references from all five regiments was forty men.  No additional rolls were taken until January 1, 1778, but those rolls confirmed the results. My narrative of the battle combines the terrain analysis with Thomas Anburey’s account from within Burgoyne’s camp and Gavin Watt’s description that provided casualties on the Mohawk side, which implied the possibility of an attack on the caravan itself – in particular, John Deserontyon’s wounding; he was already wounded and I thought it unlikely for him to lead the ambush.

  • Battles of Saratoga from the perspective of being embedded in Isaac Frye’s company: The descriptions of these battles I’ve read are all akin to a bird’s eye view on a military-style walkthrough description. Those are necessary to form a basic understanding. Read enough of them and one can become rather immersed. But, do so with the intention of putting yourself in the shoes of a specific participant, and now your point of view changes radically, narrowing and becoming grounded, literally. What this person saw, heard, and might have done, minute by minute for several hours.  In particular, I am indebted to the work in Don Troiani’s Campaign to Saratoga – 1777: The Turning Point of the Revolutionary War in Paintings, Artifacts, and Historical Narrative. As a compilation of the most recent historical insights on these battles, it proved invaluable context for the specific accounts offered by members of the New Hampshire regiments in their letters and journals. I walked Isaac’s likely path through those battles Saratoga National Historical Park for an entire day to get the perspective of a six-foot-tall captain attempting to make sense of a chaotic battle over uneven terrain and through clouds of smoke from musket- and cannon-fire. Try putting yourself in a regiment commander’s place – I found smoke to be the first enemy you might face when making decisions to commit your men or to avoid losing your men.
  • The Fever at Valley Forge:  In cursory histories of battles, there is an assumption that because a regiment was present, they fought, and that every man in the regiment participated. Very early in my research, I figured Isaac fought in the Battle of Monmouth based on such thinking.  Instead, I learned he was sick. In Chapter 13, after analyzing the monthly rolls, I was able to piece together a far larger and more significant pattern of sickness in May, June, and July at Valley Forge.  I analyzed all rolls from March through September from the five regiments under Enoch Poor (1st, 2nd, and 3rd NH; and 2nd and 4th NY). Isaac’s company was percentage-wise the hardest hit.  There was no way to give a name to the disorder, or even to assume that it was just one disorder. I suspect the men who came back with William Adrian Hawkins carried it into camp, though Hawkins either avoided it or like Henry Dearborn only had a mild case that wasn’t reported in the rolls; Dearborn noted his case in his journal. An additional theory is all the fordings of the Schuylkill River, which must have been chilly, even in May, may have progressively undermined the men’s immune systems.

New Inferences from Known Documents:

  • Recruiting a Company in 1777:  In Chapter 2, I had to set aside my initial assumption that Isaac traveled around to each town. New Hampshire had organized its militia by county and assigned muster masters who knew the composition of their county’s militia and who might be good candidates for the Continental Army.  Major Abiel Abbott is who Isaac would have relied upon to expedite the recruiting of his company.
  • 24 hours in Schaghticoke: In Chapter 5, I got lucky.  After doing my initial research, I had a good narrative. I  was also in contact with Christina Kelly, the Town Historian for Schaghticoke, NY, starting with a 2011 blog on Major Van Veghton, then sharing Joseph Gray’s narrative for what had occurred.  Christina dug in and found a much richer story, and shared Schaghticoke in the American Revolution: A New Perspective on the Death of Major VanVeghten in August of 2018.  I combine these to tell a full version from Isaac’s narrative perspective.
  • Final Siege at Saratoga and the Surrender:  It seems to me this part of the victory at Saratoga is never told in full, and I enjoyed piecing it together.
  • Captain Beal at Fishkill:  This is important for the build-up of circumstances, particularly the lack of pay for the New Hampshire Continentals. For years, an incorrect account of Captain Beal circulated on the Internet and I am happy to report I can no longer find it.
  • Battle of Barren Hill: Also written from the perspective of those on the ground. This is a plausible telling of these events, as they are not as extensively documented. However, it became clear after piecing together the timeline for regiments learning Von Steuben’s new manual of arms that Captain Daniel Livermore, as senior officer, would likely have had command of the 3rd Regiment as Dearborn and Scammell, who were both in camp confirmed their presence in camp in their writings. There are a long series of untold and remarkable instances where junior officers had to assume command of their regiments due to the senior officers being otherwise engaged. I was glad for the opportunity to tell how Livermore and Isaac likely stepped into larger roles in this instance.



Memorial Day Tribute to Five of a 40-Man Scout

September 4, 1777, Major Henry Dearborn of the 3rd New Hampshire Regiment wrote the following in his journal:

“a Scout of 40 men under Command of Capt. fry of Colo. Scammels Regt. was Surpris’d By a Body of Indians & others Consisting in the whole of about 300. we Lost out our scout 9 men kild & taken–“

Memorial Day has become the time when we reflect on the sacrifices of our country’s soldiers and their families. Researching and writing my books has afforded me opportunities to learn a few stories of such sacrifices that have seemingly gone untold. Last year I wrote on Josiah Parker. This past year I finally sorted out the story of the scouting party Henry Dearborn wrote about.

Early on the morning of September 4, 1777, Captain Isaac Frye of Colonel Alexander Scammell’s 3rd New Hampshire Regiment led a party of forty men selected from the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd NH and the 2nd and 4th New York Continental Army regiments out of their camp by Lowden’s Ferry on the south side of the Mohawk River. After crossing the river, Frye, a New Hampshire Farmer, likely led them along the north side of the river before turning northwest by what is today Alplaus. By early afternoon they were likely near Galway when they were ambushed by the warriors from the Fort Hunter Mohawks, who having been driven from their homes were on their way first to Burgoyne’s camp and ultimately to Canada.

This past summer I was able to use the rolls from these regiments to determine the names of all the men in this scouting party.  It was mostly luck that the rolls were taken on September 5 and 6, listing the men as either on a scout or on command.

Lieutenant Nathaniel McCally and privates Daniel Cook and Daniel Day apparently got separated and did not return with Captain Frye and were listed as missing.  The next date rolls existed for was Jan 1/2, 1778, where I confirmed these men had returned a day or two later. Those January rolls also listed the men who were killed or were listed as missing since the scouting party:

  • Sergeant William Kemp, Morrill’s company, 1st NH
  • Corporal Steven Lovekin, Blodgett’s company, 2nd NH
  • Private Isaac Leeland, Blodgett’s company, 2nd NH
  • Private Andrew Newell, Stone’s company, 3rd NH
  • Private Samuel Page, Gilman’s company, 1st NH

It’s been more than a decade since I learned my 4x great grandfather commanded this scouting party.  It has bothered me that Dearborn’s journal and Anburey’s account were all most of us knew about the events of September 4, 1777.  The names of these men who lost their lives that day while serving in the Continental Army were unaccounted for in any of the histories I’ve read and had eluded me until this year.

This skirmish also claimed the lives of as many as three men in the Fort Hunter party who were led by Odeserundiye (John Deserontyon, aka Captain John), who was wounded during the fighting. Samuel Cooley and Isaac Hill’s brother (I’ve not been able to confirm his first name) are the two names from the Fort Hunter part I’ve found mentioned as being killed. The Fort Hunter party included about 150 men, women, and children.

The full story will be in my upcoming novel, “Honor and Valor”, and I am hopeful of finishing within the year.



Anburey, Thomas 1784. “Travels Through the Interior Parts of America in a Series of Letters by an Officer” William Lane, Leadenhall Street, London, England. p391-398

Brown, Lloyd A. and Peckham, Howard H. 1939. “Revolutionary War Journals of Henry Dearborn 1775-1783” The Caxton Club, Chicago, IL. p104.

National Archives, Rolls of Brigadier General Enoch Poor’s brigade (1st, 2nd, and 3rd NH and 2nd and 4th NY regiments) dated Sept 4-6, 1777 and 1-2 Jan 1778. Accessed from 2014-2018 on http://www.Fold3.com.


Eric Schnitzer, Historian and Park Ranger at Saratoga National Historical Park: A little encouragement goes a long way.  Eric put me on the path to looking at all the September 1777 rolls for Enoch Poor’s brigade.


Progress update 3/12/2019

Nearly two years ago, I published “The War has Begun”.  Six months later I began writing “Honor and Valor” and it feels like I am about two-thirds done with the draft.  The Burgoyne campaign needed “just as bit” more research as Bob Euker famously intoned.  I am writing about Isaac in Fish Kill, NY in November of 1777 now.  He, along with all of the New Hampshire Continentals have endured a hard year and done so with no pay.  On the horizon:  A winter at Valley Forge.

Back to writing,


Here’s a great article, following up on the intersection of Joseph Gray’s narrative and the Van Veghton family’s accounts of the New Hampshire Continental troops assisting in the evacuation of Schaghticoke, NY in August of 1777.

I am re-writing that part of Book 2 in Duty in the Cause of Liberty for the third time now.  Hoping that is the proverbial charm.


How do we accurately know and report what happened in the past? We learned in school that we should consult primary sources- oral histories; diaries; newspaper reporting; birth, death and marriage certificates, etc. – things created by the people who participated in the events. Of course, we know that everyone experiences an event differently, […]

via Schaghticoke in the American Revolution: A New Perspective on the Death of Major VanVeghten — History of the Town of Schaghticoke

Schaghticoke in the American Revolution, Major VanVeghten scalped

Got to love the Internet for providing the basis to connect the threads of history! See my comment proposing the connecting the thread at the end.

History of the Town of Schaghticoke

          In the last post, I related a Knickerbocker family legend that the fort near the Mansion was occupied by Hessian soldiers at the time of the battle of Saratoga. Though I doubt very much that that was true, there is no doubt that there were bands of Tories, Indians, and perhaps Hessians and British roaming through the area during the summer of 1777 before the battle of Saratoga. Major Dirck VanVeghten of the  local militia unit, the 14th Albany County, was killed by one band when he came from Saratoga just before the battle to check on his home in Schaghticoke. One source states that VanVeghten came home on “an intelligence gathering mission.” In either event,  he was accompanied only by Solomon Acker, one of  the soldiers in his company of the 14th Albany County Militia.

            The story of Major VanVeghten really illustrates the great variety…

View original post 662 more words

Reflections on Josiah Parker

Memorial Day was not observed in the years immediately following the American Revolution. Soldiers like Josiah Parker, a militiaman from Wilton, NH, who served during the summer and fall of 1776 at Fort Ticonderoga were not much on people’s minds after the Civil War when springtime memorials to fallen soldiers began occurring.

Josiah’s parents, Henry and Sarah Parker lived up the hill from Isaac and Elizabeth Frye in Wilton in the 1770s. Josiah lived a couple miles away, near where Elizabeth’s parents, Timothy and Elizabeth Holt had settled in the early 1770s.

As I was researching The War has Begun, I had quite a time discovering the backstory for Elizabeth Frye writing, in October, about the need to get Josiah a discharge due to his severe illness. That backstory did a great deal to cement, in my mind, the important roles everyone in communities like Wilton played. Their sacrifices were not just categorical things like hunger, sickness, the economic impact of men being absent from farms, etc.

The Josiah Parker who was Fort Ticonderoga and sick enough to be fearing for his life in the early autumn of 1776, was a husband to Phebe, a father to five children, and Phebe was four months pregnant with a sixth child, conceived in the days prior to Josiah being mustered in early July.

Learning what happened to the widows and families of men like Josiah Parker proved fundamental to my writing. How communities coped and the impacts on each individual rippling into the lives of others such the minister of Wilton’s Congregational meetinghouse, Jonathan Livermore provided the threads to make a fabric that richly showed how a community bore the weight of a revolution.

This Memorial Day, take some time to consider what you’ve learned from a Revolutionary War soldier who was killed or died while serving.


As usual, I am indebted to the work of Abiel Abbot Livermore and Sewall Putnam whose research provided the pieces to this puzzle that matched with those I found in Elizabeth Frye’s letter of October 7, 1776.

Livermore, Abiel Abbot and Putnam, Sewall 1888. “History of the Town of Wilton, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire with a Genealogical Register” Marden & Rowell, Printers, Lowell, MA.

Military Buckshot in the Mid-Eighteenth Century — Kabinettskriege

Reenactors portray Maryland troopsDear Reader,Today, we are going to examine a particular type of ammunition used by eighteenth-century soldiers: buckshot. For those unfamiliar with the term, buckshot consists of smaller projectiles, which spread out after leaving the barrel of the weapon. It is often used in a shotgun today. In the eighteenth-century, German language speakers…

via Military Buckshot in the Mid-Eighteenth Century — Kabinettskriege

Balancing the Balance of Power

On May 5, 1776, General George Washington wrote to Congress. Among the many items was this paragraph:

“I beg leave to lay before Congress, a Copy of the proceedings of a Court Martial upon Lieutenant Grover of the 2d. Regiment, and of his defence, which I should not have troubled them with, had I not conceived the Courts Sentence upon the facts stated in the proceedings, of a singular nature; the small fine imposed, by no means adequate to the enormity of his offence and to be a dangerous and pernicious tendency: for these reasons, I thought it my duty to lay the proceedings before them, in order to their forming such a Judgment upon the Facts, as they shall conceive right and just, and advancive of the Public Good. At the same time I would mention, that I think it of material consequence that Congress should make a resolve, taking away the supposed right of succession in the Military line from one Rank to another, which is claimed by many upon the happening of vacancies, and upon which principle this Offence seems to have originated in a great measure, and this extraordinary Judgement to be founded; declaring that no succession or promotion can take place in case of vacancies, without a Continental Commission giving and Authorizing it.”

In Congress on May 10, 1776 it was resolved:

“That this Congress has hitherto exercised, and ought to retain the power of promoting the officers in the continental service according to their merit; and that no promotion or succession shall take place upon any vacancy, without the authority of a continental Commission.”

Thus, not even his Excellency, General George Washington, would not have the power to promote an officer in the Army he commanded.  An act of Congress would be required. Even in the early days of the American Revolution, the idea of a balance of power was in practice. Washington also knew who held the power over his own commission, and personally, in later correspondence with Congress made recommendations for many of the officers, in addition to forwarding the recommendations from the thirteen provincial congresses that recommended which officers should be commissioned.

These commissions, however, did not arrive immediately. In Isaac Frye’s case, New Hampshire made the recommendation in March 1777, but the commission was not signed until June 1779, more than two years afterward.


George Washington Papers, Series 4, General Correspondence: George Washington to Continental Congress, May 5. May 5, 1777. Manuscript/Mixed Material. https://www.loc.gov/item/mgw447183/.

Livermore, Abiel Abbot and Putnam, Sewall 1888. “History of the Town of Wilton, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire with a Genealogical Register” Marden & Rowell, Printers, Lowell, MA. Page 106 has a transcription of Isaac Frye’s commission to rank as Captain, which was signed by John Jay, President of Congress, on June 16, 1779.

Nathan Weare’s 1777 Ticonderoga Diary was Actually Sullivan’s Expedition in 1779!

As I’ve been writing “Honor and Valor”, book two of Duty in the Cause of Liberty, I have had to get back into research mode. I always look for journals written by the men who were there–these journals have an authenticity historians cannot replicate. In writing about the lead-up to the evacuation of Fort Ticonderoga, I found a reference to the “Diary of Lieut. Nathan Weare Kept at Ticonderoga and During the Retreat, 1777.” Read more

A recent posting on the George Washington’s Mount Vernon site, Committees of Correspondence, got me thinking about how much I’ve depended on the records of such committees for my research. Read more