The whole northern country was in a
state of anxious suspense during the spring of 1776, rumors of invasion
increased, and the defeat of the army in Canada rendered the position of
the Coos country very hazardous. On the 18th of June, St. Johns was
retaken by the British, and on the 24th of June the Committees of Safety
from all the towns in the valley met at General Bayley’s house in Newbury
to concert measures for the safety of the country. It was decided to send
messengers to warn all the settlers along the frontier. Mr. Whitelaw tells
the result in Ryegate, thus:
"On the first of July, upon the
alarm coming of St. Johns being retaken by the Regulars, and that Indians
would be sent through to lay waste the country, all the people of Ryegate
moved down to Newbury, where they had more company and foolishly thought
there was less danger, but after staying there about ten days, and seeing
no appearance of danger, they all returned to their respective homes."
William Neilson was the only one of
the colonists who stood his ground. Mr. Mason says that he was returning
from Newbury, with a bag of meal on his back, when he met the Ryegate and
Barnet people as they were going down the hill north of Wells River, men,
women and children. He accompanied his family to Newbury, where he spent
one night, and then declaring that he had "not come all the way from
Scotland to be driven off his land," returned to his cabin. The afternoon
was spent in concealing his valuables—hiding his silver, it is said, under
hills of potatoes—he barricaded his cabin, loaded his pistols, and went to
bed, expecting to be aroused by the attack of the Indians. The sun was
an hour high when he awoke, the
morning was beautiful, and no appearance of the savage enemy was to be
seen. Neilson remained alone in his cabin till the people returned from
Newbury, but afterwards declared that the suspense, with no one within
many miles, in momentary expectation of attack, was an experience which he
would never repeat.
As a matter of fact, a small number
of Canadians followed the trail to the borders of Peacham, but ventured no
further. The tories, of whom there were numbers in Haverhill and Newbury,
seized the occasion to create a panic.
The year 1777 was one of anxiety and
stress to the colonies, as the government of Great Britain had devised
plans, whose execution was expected to crush the insurrection in America,
in one decisive campaign. An army was assembled in Canada, which was
intended to advance by way of Lake Champlain to Hudson river, and form a
junction with the forces of General Clinton, which were to ascend the
river from New York, and thus sever New England from the middle colonies.
It was known all over the country that great preparations were going on in
Canada, and all the Committees of Safety were engaged in raising forces to
oppose them, but it was not known what direction such an invasion was to
It was the opinion of General Bayley
and others, who were intrusted with the defense of the northern frontier,
that the British would invade the country in two divisions, one of which
would descend the Connecticut valley, and thus the settlements in the Coos
Country would be the first to be exposed to the ravages of war. In that
case, our Ryegate colonists, being an outpost, were in great danger.
That this fear was not without
foundation is shown by General Burgoyne’s testimony before the committee
of the House of Commons upon the conduct of the war in America, that if he
had not been strictly bound by his orders to invade the country with his
entire army by way of Lake Champlain, he would have detached a large force
in this direction, and thus divide the militia sent to oppose him, and at
the same time secure supplies in the thriving settlements of the
The alarm of war was early heard,
and on the 22d of February, says the journal of Col. Frye Bayley, an
express came from General Schuyler, to "take every fifth man in the
militia to go to Ticonderoga and re-inforce the garrison." All the militia
in the region assembled on the 24th, at the inn of Col. Robert Johnston, a
building still standing at the south end of Newbury village. On the 26th
the men set out. No record of their names is preserved, and we do not know
whether any Ryegate men were among them, or any who afterward settled
here. Neither do we know how long they were absent, or in what particular
service they were engaged.
In the month of June the army of
General Burgoyne passed over the entire length of Lake Champlain, a
magnificent sight, and on the 29th encamped before Fort Ticonderoga, which
was evacuated on the 6th of July. The invading army consisted of 8000
British and German troops, beside Canadian militia and Indians. At that
place he issued a proclamation, promising rewards to those who joined his
army, protection to those who remained quiet, and extermination to those
who resisted. He also threatened to unloose all the northern Indians upon
the settlements. Many of the savages joined his army but he could not
control them, and their outrages roused the country to resistance.
But it took time to gather the
militia, and secure supplies for their maintenance in a new country, while
in the meantime Burgoyne made his way unchecked to the Hudson, which he
reached on the 29th of July, and expected to form, in a few days, a
junction with Clinton. He had been led to believe that the setlements in
the region now called Vermont, abounded with men who were at least loyal
to the British cause, and who only waited for protection to join the army.
He was also in need of horses, and of supplies for the army, and conceived
the idea of sending a detachment of his force eastward to Arlington and
Manchester, and, if circumstances permitted, across the mountains to
Connedicut River, from which place they were to return by the great road
to Albany. This detachment was to be under the command of Colonel
Frederick Baume, a veteran German officer.
Among the valuable Johnson papers,
owned by the Tenney Memorial Library at Newbury, is one which is believed
to be, by its internal evidence, Burgoyne’s amended draft, in his own
handwriting, of his instructions to Col. Baurne. This unique document,
whose historic value had escaped notice, is, by special vote of the
library trustees, permitted to be printed, for the first time, in this
INSTRUCTIONS FOR LT. COL. BAUME.
The Object of your Expedition is to
try the Affections of the Country, to Disconcerte the Councils of the
Enemy, to mount the Riedesel Dragoons, to complete Peters’ Corps, and to
obtain large supplies of Cattle, Horses and Carriages. The several Corps,
of which the enclos’d is a list, are to be under your Command:
the Troops must take no Tents, and
what little baggage is carried by the officers must be on their own
Bat-Horses. You are to procede from Batenkill to Arlington and take Post
there till the Detatchments of the Provincials under the Command of Capt.
Sherwood shall join you from the Southward.
NOTE. Col Robert Johnston of
Newbury, and his brother, Col. Charles Johnston of Haverhill, were among
the most prominent men in this part of the country during the
revolutionary war. Of the former’s daughters, one married Gen. James
Whitelaw, another, John Scott of Ryegate and Newbury, a third married
William Tice of Barnet, another was the grandmother of the late Gov. C. J.
Bell, of Walden. a fifth daughter married Jonas Tucker of Newbury. His
sons were also prominent men.
Again: you are then to procede to
Manchester where you will take Post, so as to secure the Pass of the
Mountains on the Road from Manchester to Rocking-ham. From hence you will
Detach the Endians and Light Troops to the Northward toward Otter Creek on
their Return, and Receiving Intelligence that no Enemy is in force upon
Connecticut River. You will procede by the Road over the Mountains to
Rockingham where you will take Post: this will be the most Distant part of
the Expedition, (and must be proceded upon with Caution, as you will have
the Defile of the Mountains behind you which might make a Retreat
Difficult.) You must therefore endeavour to be well informed of the force
of the Enemy’s Militia in the Neighbouring Country. (Should you find it
may with Prudence be Affected) you are to remain there (while the Endians
and Light Troops are Detatch’d up the River) and you are afterward to
Descend the River to Brattleborough and from that place by the Quickest
March you are to return by the Great Road to Albany. During your whole
Progress your Detatchments are to have Orders to bring in all Horses fit
to mount the Dragoons under your Command, or to serve as Bat-Horses [i.
e., Pack Horse.] to your Troops, together with as many Saddles and Bridles
as can be procured. (The Number of Horses with those necessary for
mounting the regt. of the Dragoons ought to be thirteen hundred. If you
can bring more fcr the use of the Army it will be so much the better).
Your parties are Likewise to bring in Wagons and other convenient
Carriages with as many Draught Oxen as will be necessary to draw them and
all Cattle fit for slaughter, milch Cows only excepted, which are to be
left for the use of the Inhabitants.
Regular Receipts in the Form here-to
subjoined are to be given in places where any of the above-mentioned
articles are taken—to such Persons as have remained quiet in their
Habitations and otherwise complied with the Terms of General Burgoyne’s
manifesto, but no Receipts to be given to those who are known to be Active
in the service of the Rebels (as you will have with you Persons perfectly.
acquainted with the Abilities of the Country.) It may perhaps be Advisable
to take those several Districts with the Portions of the several Articles
and Limit the Horses for the delivery.
And should you find it Necessary to
move before such Delivery can be made, Hostages of the Most Respectable
People should be taken to secure the Following the next day.
All possible means are to be used to
prevent Plundering as it is probable that Capt. Sherwood, who is already
detatched to the Several and will join you at Arlington will drive in a
Considerable Quantity of Cattle and Horses to you and you will therefore
send in these Cattle to the Army with a proper Detatchment from Peter’s
Corps in Order to Disencumber Yourselves, but you must always keep the
Regiment of Dragoons compact. The Dragoons must themselves ride and take
care of the Horses of the Regiment. The Horses destined for the use of the
Army must be tied together in strings of ten each in order that one man
may lead ten horses. You will give the unarmed men of Peter’s Corps to
conduct them, and any inhabitants whom you can trust. You must always keep
your Camps in Good Provision, but at the same time where there is Pasture
you must have a Chain of Sentinels around your Cattle where Grazing. Col.
Skeene will be with you as much as possible to help you to Distinguish the
Good Subjects from the Bad—to procure the best intelligence of the Enemy
and choose those People who are to bring me the Accounts of your Progress
When you find it Necessary to halt a
Day or Two you will always Intrench the Camp of the Regiment of Dragoons
in Order to Resist an Attack or Affront from the Enemy. (As you will
return with the Regiment of Dragoons mounted you must always have a
detatchment of Peter’s or Fraser’s Corps in front of the Column, the same
as in the Rear in order to prevent your falling into an Ambuscade when you
march through the Woods.) You will use all possible means to make the
Country believe that the Troops under your Command are the advance Corps
of the Army and that it is to pass to Connecticut on the Road to Boston.
You will likewise insinuate that the main army from Albany is to be Joined
at Springfield by the Corps of Troops from Rhodeisland.
It is highly probable that the Corps
under Mr. Warner, now supposed to be at Manchester, will Retreat before
you—but should they contrary to Expectation be able to Collect in great
force and post themselves Advantageously, it is left to your Discretion to
Attack them or not.
Always bearing in mind that your
Corps is too Valuable to let any considerable loss be Hazarded on this
Occasion. Should any Corps be moved from Mr. Arnold’s main Army to
intercept your Retreat, you are to take as strong a Post as the Country
will afford. And send the quickest intelligence to me, and you may depend
on my making such Movements as shall put the Enemy Between two Fire’s or
otherwise sustain you.
It is imagined that the Progress of
the whole Expedition may be effected in about a fortnight. But every
Movement of it Depends on your Success in or obtaining such supplies of
Provision as will enable you to subsist on your return to the Army in case
you cannot get any more. (& should not the Army reach Albany Before your
Expedition shall be completed, I will find some way to send you notice of
it, and give your Route another Direction.)
All Persons acting in Committees, or
any Officers acting in or under the Direction of the Congress, either
Civil or Military are to be made Prisoners.
I heartily wish you Success.
I am Sir your Most Obedient Humble
JN. BIJRGOYNE, Co. GEN’L.
Headquarters Near Saratoga.
Augst. 7th, 1777.
Comparison of this remarkab]e paper
with other copies of Burgoyne’s orders to Col. Baume, reveals some
interesting facts. A volume printed in London, in 1780, entitled the
"State of the Expedition from Canada, by J. Burgoyne," and giving not only
Burgoyne’s testimony before the committee of the House of Commons, but
copies of his letters and orders, gives, in parallel columns, his first
draft of instructions, and in the other the amendments and additions to
this first draft. In the letter, as we give it here, it is precisely as
there printed, and the amendments to the original draft are here indicated
by parentheses. In the volume of 1780, the spelling is corrected, and the
use of capitals conforms to the ordinary usage. In this volume the last
sentence, beginning in the copy we have given, "All persons acting," etc.,
is wanting, as well as the address and signature. In the second volume of
the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1793, is given
the "Qriginal Orders of Genera] Burgoyne to Colonel Baume," "from the
original presented to the
Society by General Lincoln." It
differs here and there from the Newbury copy, and is signed "J. Burgoyne,
Lt-Gen’l., Head Q’rs., Aug. 9, 1777." In the N. H. State Papers, Vol.
VIII., pp. 664-666, a fourth copy is given, which differs slightly from
either of the others, and Dr. Bouton, the editor, says that the
headquarters were at Fort Edward. He does not state where he obtained his
copy. The one owned by the library at Newbury, and bound in the volume of
the military papers of Colonel Thomas Johnson, is certainly a rare and
valuable historical document.
Had these original orders been
carried out, and had Baume been properly supported, the entire Connecticut
valley, from the Coos Country southward, might have been over-run. But
when the troops, under Col. Baume, reached Battenkill, on the 12th of
August, Gen. Burgoyne, by new orders, instructed him to proceed directly
to Bennington, and capture the magazine of military stores at that place.
These later orders led to his
complete overthrow, and, in the sequel, to that of Burgoyne himself.
In August a company under the
command of Capt. Thomas Johnson left Newbury for Lake Champlain and
distinguished itself in the siege of Mount Independence, later being sent
to guard the prisoners taken there, across the state to Charlestown, N. H.
Their muster roll is also lost, but it is not unlikely that one or two
Ryegate men were in it.
On the 6th of October, a company of
forty-one men under command of Capt. Frye Bayley, left Newbury for the
seat of war. In this company Bartholemew Somers of Ryegate was a corporal,
David Reid, John and James Orr, also of Ryegate were privates, as were
John McLaren and Duncan McLain of Barnet. Andrew Brock had been drafted,
but for some reason could not go, and David Reid volunteered to go in his
place. This company arrived at Saratoga too late to participate in battle,
but was able to render very effective service by means of an exploit which
has not received the notice which it deserved. The particulars of this
affair are as narrated by Capt. (afterwards Colonel) Frye Bayley in his
The company which was five days on
the march, had nearly reached Hudson river late in the afternoon of the
last day and were making preparations to camp for the night, when a
messenger on horse back came to inform Bayley that a number of boats
loaded with provisions for the enemy were coming down the river, and that
there was no force at hand to stop them, urging him to come with his
company and attempt their capture. They were supplies of food which had
been collected at very high prices and were intended to relieve the
desperate situation in which Burgoyne had found himself.
Captain Bayley and his small force
had barely reached the bank of the Hudson when they saw the boats
approaching at some distance, fifteen in number, each heavily loaded, and
with no more men than were needed to navigate them. They went down on the
further side of the river, out of musket range, and all passed out of
sight, Bayley having neither bridge or boats to reach the opposite shore.
While the men were debating what to do, a scout who had been sent down the
river, returned with the intelligence that the boats had been moored to
the further bank, under overhanging trees, about a mile below. It was now
dark and Bayley called his men together, and in low tones laid before them
the importance of securing the boats and their contents, and acquainted
them with his plan for their capture. He called for two men to volunteer
to swim the river, reconnoiter the situation, and if possible, secure one
of the boats. Bartholemew Somers of Ryegate and a man from New Hampshire
volunteered for the dangerous service, and the whole company proceeded
down the riverbank till they came opposite the place where the boats were
concealed. The captain directed the two men to tie their clothes to the
back of their necks, and make their way as well as they could in the
darkness to the other shore. The water was very cold, but the men reached
the spot in safety and found that all the boats were tied to trees along
the bank and that the men in charge of them, suspecting no danger, had
gone to a sheltered place at a little distance, where they had kindled a
fire, and were cooking their suppers, leaving only a few men to look after
the boats. Somers and his companion cut one of the boats loose, and
noiselessly re-crossed the river to the place where Bayley and his men
waited under the trees. The boat was unloaded, and as many men as could
get into it were rowed stealthily across the river. Bayley having given
directions in whispers part of the men formed a guard, and the rest
secured the boats, the men who were left in charge having fled, and was
successful in bringing them safely to the other shore. The men who had
been in charge of them were taken by surprise, and ignorant in the
darkness, of the number and position of their assailants, made no attempt
The success of this daring adventure
was a heavy misfortune to General Burgoyne, and hastened his inevitable
capitulation. The circumstance of the capture of the boats is mentioned by
several historians as one of many brave deeds of that campaign.
Mr. Mason says that some years after
the war an attempt was made to find and reward the men who had thus
hazarded their lives, but they were not to be found. Somers had removed to
Barnet, and either did not learn of the search which was being made for
him, or did not value his service as he might have done. The name of his
companion is not preserved.
The delay occasioned by this
adventure prevented the company from reaching the army in time to be of
service, as preparations for the capitulation were being made. After the
surrender most of the men, believing that their services were no longer
needed, without waiting for a formal discharge, started for home, all the
Ryegate and Barnet men were among them This company was attached to Col.
Peter Olcott’s regiment, was in service one month and four days, traveling
The adventure herein related, while
of great service, was not so hazardous as that of Ephraim Webster of
Newbury, and Richard Wallace of Thetford, who swam across Lake Champlain
about a month earlier, with dispatches for General Lincoln.
Ryegate thus adds the narrative of
the brave deed of one of its residents to the innumerable number of
anecdotes relating to the march and surrender of General John Burgoyne in
the great battle year, 1777.
The exigencies of the time required
the building of a blockhouse in Ryegate for the protection of its
inhabitants, which stood, according to the best information we have, on
the farm now called "Fairview," between W. T. McLam’s and the corner of
the road west of it. It does not appear to have been used often for
defense, but was occupied by a family, and the settlers could resort to it
in case of alarm. It is not certain whether it was built by the
inhabitants for their own protection, or by the troops, or as one of a
chain of block houses along the Hazen Road. It remained several years
after the war, and families lived in it.
The blockhouse of those days was a
rude structure of logs, squared and pinned at the corners, and, perhaps,
pinned along their length, in one or two places. It had one strong door,
and a small window. One log all around, about breast or shoulder high from
the floor, would be cut in pieces and pinned to those above and under it.
These cuts were the portholes, and on the outside mere narrow upright
slits across one log, just wide enough to admit the muzzle of a rifle, but
inside the log would be cut away so as to leave the rifleman space to
swing his rifle or musket a foot or two to the right or left. There were
several such loop-holes on each side of the building, and its upper story
projected over the lower one a foot or two to enable the inmates to fire
down upon any persons who should try to set the house on fire.
NOTE. Captain (afterwards Colonel),
Frye Bayley was a nephew of Gen. Jacob Bayley, and a grantee of Newbury,
where he settled in 1763. This farm was the north end of Cow Meadow, and
his house, in which Mr. Learned lives, is one of the oldest in that town.
He was with the army in Canada, and a valuable fragment of his journal
during the retreat, is owned by the Tenney Memorial Library. In December,
1777, he was sent to Canada to negotiate for the release of prisoners,
where he was thrown into prison, and remained a year. He was also in other
important services. He was very prominent in Newbury, but being appointed
sheriff of the county, he removed to Chelsea, where he died in 1827, and
is buried at Newbury. His family is extinct in this vicinity. Two of his
sons were educated at Dartmouth college, and settled in Maryland, where
one became an Episcopal clergyman, and has descendants.
A blockhouse at Newbury, which stood
on the ridge north of the cemetery at the Oxbow, and large enough to
shelter one or two companies of troops, was a much more formidable
structure and was surrounded by a ditch, which maybe still traced. Several
frame houses still standing in this region were surrounded by a stockade,
which was made by standing posts ten or twelve feet high close together
around the house at some distance, thus enclosing the house and yard.
Entrance was had by a strong gate, firmly secured. The house at North
Haverhill, where W. F. Eastman lives, the older part of the one at
Haverhill Corner called the "old Johnston house," in which the late Mr.
Tarleton long lived, and that of Col. Robert Johnston, now a barn at the
south end of Newbury village were protected in this way.
But most of the settlers went
through the war with no other protection than their own stout hearts and
trusty muskets. They came of a race bred to war and its alarms, and were
not going to leave what had cost them so much toil and privation. In those
days every man kept a loaded gun within reach at night and carried it to
the field with him, and in times of special danger, no man ventured far
from home alone, while the women and children were equally brave. Except
by some slight depredations by Indians and tories, no harm came to Ryegate
people during the whole war.
In 1780 and 1781, requisitions were
made upon all the towns for supplies of flour and beef for the army, and
in 1782 the town voted "that the flour paid toward last years provision be
proportioned to the list."
At a special town meeting held at
the home of William Johnson, Nov. 7, 1783, it was voted "That Josiah Page,
William Neilson, Andrew Brock and James Whitelaw be a committee to draw up
a petition to send to the General Assembly to see if they will forgive
them their arrearages of provision and soldiers hire." Their petition set
forth their situation and poverty, and the fact that they were remote from
the scene of actual war, and new to the country. Their petition was