Bernardston — Revolutionary Reminiscences
Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.
The records show but vaguely the action of the town during the stirring years of the American Revolution, but they show that Bernardston was prompt and patriotic in dealing with the issues of the day, and in devoting its energies to a noble contribution of men and means in behalf of the common cause.
The committee of correspondence in 1776 consisted of Capt. Elisha Burnham, Aaron Field, Lieut. Joseph Slate, Daniel Newcomb, and Caleb Chapin. In 1778 a bounty of £50 per man was offered for eight months' men. Quite a number of men were fined for failing to enter the service when drafted, and from these fines a fund was raised to pay bounties for three nine months' men early in 1778. Samuel Connable and his son, John, were excused from fine upon the elder Connable's sending his son, Samuel Barnard, into the service for nine months, and he was further repaid the sum of £40, which he had paid the town in fines. It was determined to take a new average in the town with respect to the charges of the war, and that a poll should be estimated at £10, as money went in 1774, and that £166 13s. 4d. of estate of the same money, free of all charges, should be reckoned equal to a poll. The committee appointed to make the average was directed to take into consideration what each man had done in the war, the time he had served, and the wages he received, the bounties he had obtained, the value of the money, and the hardship he had endured, and the extraordinary expense he was at in purchasing necessaries for his subsistence; the fines paid by drafted men and the value of the money when it was paid.
William Fox was allowed the privilege of joining with three other men to make one man to serve as a militia soldier for the term of eight months, and Stephen Webster, Jr., was allowed £63, out of the money collected by fines, for serving as a militia soldier eight months. Joshua Wells, Jr., went out also at this time as an eight months' man, and the west part of the town was instructed to make him "a reasonable satisfaction" for so doing. Joseph Allen, Jr., was likewise permitted the privilege of joining with three other men to make one man to serve eight months.
Aug. 16, 1779, the town placed on record its disapproval of the doings of the convention at Concord in July of that year, and chose a committee to write to the convention called to meet in Concord, October, 1779, giving the town's reasons for the disapproval. It was voted to send a committee to Boston to make a claim in behalf of the town to Samuel Farrar and Jonathan Wright, or any other soldier returned by this and some other town; and it was further agreed to prepare a petition to the General Court asking to be eased of the great burden laid upon them, above other towns in the State, respecting the charge of the war. In December, 1779, it was determined not to do anything touching the resolves of the Concord Convention, and the town also refused to pay the money subscribed to hire soldiers.
In June, 1780, 40s. silver money per month were offered as wages to such as would enlist, and, at this rate, 11 Continental, and 11 militia soldiers were hired. In January, 1781, the bounty offered was £60 silver money for each soldier who would enlist for three years or during the war, £20 to be paid at the beginning of each year for three years. Six more three years' men were sent out in July, 1781, and they were given $10 in silver per man as a bounty. In December, 1781, the town purchased three horses for the army,—one from Lieut. David Rider for £6 14s., one from Ensign John Connabel for £6, and one from Aaron Field for £6.
That Bernardston sent men into the service promptly upon the sounding of the Lexington alarm is evidenced by an entry in the town records under date of May, 1775, resolving that "the town shall provide 16 men, with what have already enlisted;" and later, "those persons who took powder from the common stock last spring in the alarm, and returned home soon after from Cambridge, are to be accountable to the town for the same."
Capt. Joseph Slate, who served heroically through the French-and-Indian war, was plowing on the east side of West Mountain on the day the battle of Bunker Hill was being fought, and, without knowing anything about it, he declared that fighting was going on somewhere, and that he could hear the sounds of the conflict. So impressed was he with this conviction that before nightfall he was en route to Deerfield to satisfy himself, and, there learning that his conjectures were correct, he set out the following day for Boston, where he joined the army. There were, it is said, six Tories in Bernardston at the breaking out of the Revolution, but they were heavily overawed by the patriotic citizens, and wisely kept their own counsels.
There are now living in Bernardston two survivors of the war of 1812,—Hosea Aldrich, aged eighty-six, who went from Bernardston, and David Pratt, aged ninety-one, who entered the service from Shutesbury. The town took no formal action in the opposition to the declaration of war in 1812, although Hezekiah Newcomb and Caleb Chapin were self-chosen delegates to the anti-war convention at Northampton, and claimed to represent Bernardston.
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17 Jul 2005