|REVOLUTIONARY WAR / BATTLES
Almost 60 members of the family can be documented as taking part in the Revolutionary War. Evidence is more than welcome if you know of other Parmelees, not listed among the Patriots and Loyalists, who participated.
From the Lexington Alarm to the Surrender of Cornwallis, members of the family were there.
This list of individuals who participated in battles and skirmishes has been compiled from records of the Daughters and Sons of the American Revolution, land grants, muster rolls, service records and pensions. The photographs are from my own visits to the battlefields, along with an occasional personal aside.
Note: Some of the remarks in the pension records do not correspond with history; bear in mind that these are the recollections taken 40 years or more after the war by old, sometimes infirm men.
Lexington Alarm (Wednesday, April 19, 1775) -- British troops out of Boston traded the first shots of the war with the local militia assembled on the Green shortly after dawn. Reports of the fighting immediately spread. Col. Joseph Palmer of Watertown, Mass., scrawled an urgent announcement of the events and summoned express rider Israel Bissel to deliver the news down the Boston Post Road leading to New York. After his first horse dropped dead from exhaustion in Worcester, Mass., and he was supplied a new one, Bissel headed south into Connecticut, shouting the news in every town he passed through. He reached New London about 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 20, caught a nap and a bite to eat and obtained fresh horses. Leaving at midnight, he rode due west. He woke the town of Saybrook at 4 a.m on Friday, April 21. Guilford heard the news at 10 a.m., and Branford and New Haven at noon. In his wake, bands of young men took up muskets and began making their way to Boston by horse or on foot, including Charles of Durham, John and Hiel of Killingworth, Nathaniel and Simeon of Guilford and Jeremiah of New Haven. Bissel rested overnight in New Haven and then resumed his ride, reaching Fairfield by 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 22. He rode into New York City at 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 23, with news that emptied churches, rang bells and prompted spontaneous demonstrations, riots and looting. At the conclusion of the battles of Lexington, Concord and the Battle Road back to Boston, the 1,800-man British expeditionary force had casualties of 73 dead, 174 wounded and 26 missing, captured in most cases. The Colonials, who numbered about 3,700, lost 49 dead, 41 wounded and 5 missing. Also taking part was Asa of Richmond, Mass.
Battle of White Plains, N.Y. (Monday, Oct. 28, 1776) -- Samuel and William fought here; one member of their militia unit "well remember[s] seeing Gen. Washington standing in front of the line when the enemy was firing cannon at us."
Battles of Trenton (Wednesday, Dec. 25, 1776) and Princeton, N.J. (Friday, Jan. 3, 1777) -- Driven out of New York by the British and forced to retreat to the west bank of the Delaware during the late summer of 1776, the American cause was at a low ebb. In the harsh winter Washington was faced with the annual crisis of the expiring enlistments in the Continental Army. He resolved to attack the Hessian position at Trenton before his army dispersed. Washingtons plan was to cross the Delaware at three points with one force under Lt. Col. Cadwallader, a second under Brigadier Ewing and himself in command of a third force -- which included Phineas -- which would cross the river above Trenton and attack the Hessian garrison of 900 troops in the town. The American force paraded Christmas afternoon and set off for the ice-choked Delaware where they embarked in a flotilla of small boats, pictured above. About 11 p.m. a heavy snow and sleet storm broke. Washingtons force reached the east bank about 3 a.m., took the sleeping Hessians by surprise, and withdrew to the west bank. Between Dec. 29 and 31, Washington persuaded his men to stay on another six weeks and brought them back across the river into Trenton. There he learned that Maj. Gen. Charles Cornwallis was at Princeton with 8,000 British troops and about to advance on his American force of 1,500. Washington set out to meet the British. On a wet and muddy Jan. 2, Cornwallis advanced, driving the American force back to Trenton, back through the town to their positions on the south bank of the Assunpink. British attempts were made that evening to cross the creek and force the American lines, but in the face of stiff resistance, were postponed to the morning. Washington resolved to move before his army was overwhelmed. In the middle of the night, the Americans left fires burning and marched off east and then north toward Princeton. As the troops marched over the new road through dense woods, a cold wind set in, freezing the muddy roads and aiding movement. At dawn on Jan. 3, the American forces routed three regiments under Cornwallis at Princeton. Washington then took up positions on high ground at Morristown -- in which James took part -- leaving the Americans in control of all of New Jersey, except for New Brunswick.
Battle of Bennington, Vt. / Hoosick Falls, N.Y. (Saturday, Aug. 16, 1777) -- A British army under Gen. John ("Gentleman Johnny") Burgoyne advanced south down Lake Champlain and the Hudson River Valley in an effort to split New England from the rest of the Colonies. On Aug. 11, an 800-man raiding party under German Lt. Col. Baum left Ft. Miller on the Hudson bound for the Connecticut River Valley for additional horses and food and to recruit Tories. Baum met his first resistance Aug. 13 and settled in two days later near Bennington to request reinforcements from Burgoyne. Col. John Stark's American force of 1,800 men was nearby. After the rain ended on Aug. 16, Stark resolved to defeat Baum or die trying. Stark's complicated plan for a double envelopment was unlikely to succeed, but Baum had spread his forces thin. Col. Herrick led a force from the south on the British rear guard on the Walloomsac River. Herrick succeeded and continued toward Baum's redoubt. An American force of 200 to 300 men under Col. Moses Nichols came in from the north and attacked Baum's hilltop redoubt. Indian allies of the British fled, leaving Baum's dismounted dragoons to fend for themselves. Sounds from the battle signaled Stark with his 1,200 men to attack the fortified Tory camp along the river. The Tories fled, leaving only Baum in his redoubt. Baum's dragoons ran out of ammunition and tried to break out with their swords, but when Baum was hit, his men gave up. A relief column under Col. Breyman arrived soon after the fighting but it was too late to save Baum. The disorganized Americans routed Breyman. About 200 British troops died and another 700 were captured. The Americans had a total of 70 casualties, including Rufus, who was killed. Today a tall monument sits atop the battlefield, left photo. I visited the site in 1997.
Battle of Brandywine, Chadds Ford, Pa. (Thursday, Sept. 11, 1777) -- Maj. Gen. William Howe had brought his 6,000-man army by sea to the Chesapeake, intending to capture the capital of Philadelphia. Gen George Washington marched south to Wilmington, Del., and attempted to delay the capture of the city falling back before the British and Hessian army. On Sept. 9, Washingtons 8,000-man army took positions behind the Brandywine Creek at Chads Ford [now Chadds Ford]. The creek flowed through undulating countryside with steep cliffs in places and heavily wooded hills. Below Chads Ford the flow became narrower and faster so as to be uncrossable. Forces under Col. Moses Hazen -- including Jeremiah -- were posted at the distant Wistars and Buffingtons fords, to the north. Light infantry and picquets were posted to the west of the creek to give warning of the British advance. Around noon, the first British, Hessian and Loyalist troops marched to the ford, took position along the hills on the west bank and he began to cannonade the Americans across the river. Meanwhile, the second British column under Howe and Cornwallis turned north to cross the creek some miles upstream of the Chads Ford, and then encircle the Americans rear right flank and cut them off from the Philadelphia road. Washington was advised of the British encircling movement by Hazens distant troops, but discounted the warning for some hours, convinced that the main attack was to be a frontal assault over Chads Ford. It was not until early afternoon that he was finally persuaded that the main British movement was to his right rear. During that time he began an assault across the ford but withdrew it. The American right wing met the retreating Hazen, who formed his troops on a hill at the Birmingham Meeting House. Howes regiments formed three columns and attacked the Americans. Finally convinced of his mistake by the sound of the bombardment, Washington dispatched reserves to support his right wing, but by that time the American troops were in retreat. The battle ended with the American army withdrawing up the road in considerable confusion to Chester, Pa., and the British encamped on the battlefield. Nightfall saved the Americans from greater loss. British casualties totaled 600 dead and wounded while the Americans counted 900 -- including Jeremiah who was wounded and died the following spring -- and 400 others taken prisoner.
Battle of Monmouth Court House, Freehold, N.J. (Sunday, June 28, 1778) -- After a council of war with his advisors, George Washington decided to avoid a major confrontation with troops under British Gen. Sir Henry Clinton and instead to send a small number of troops to harass the enemy's right and left flanks. Gen. Charles Lee, was reluctant to attack, but he and his advance force were drawn into battle by British forces. In the confusion of battle, Lee ordered a retreat. An angry Washington directed Lee and "Mad" Anthony Wayne to fight a delaying action, while he took command of the Continental troops and organized them in a defensive position. For the rest of the day, the two armies clashed in the oppressive heat, finally withdrawing after 5 p.m. from exhaustion. Washington planned to resume the battle on the next day, but Clinton and his men slipped away shortly after midnight, undetected by Washington's army. Other American heroes also present at Monmouth were Marquis de Lafayette and Molly Hayes, known today as Molly Pitcher, who brought water to her husband and his fellow gunners as they fired their cannon. Returning from fetching water, she discovered that her husband had fallen in battle. She took his place as a gunner for the rest of the battle. James was involved in this battle.
Alarms at East Haven and Fair Haven [now part of New Haven], Conn. (Monday, July 5, 1779) -- British troops aboard a fleet of 48 ships off Long Island Sound under command of Gen. William Tryon launched a series of raids on Connecticut coastal towns in the hope of drawing Gen. George Washington north. Some 5,000 British marines, sailors and foot soldiers launched a two-pronged invasion the beaches on either side of town. They were first met with resistance by the Governor's Foot Guard artillery company and a sizable number of Yale students who marched to West Bridge, the road leading to West Haven. Once the British overcome that first wave of resistance, they marched toward Westville to capture and destroy a powder mill. Unable to overcome the Colonial resistance, British soldiers then advanced toward the center of New Haven, what is now Broadway. The fighting was fierce at Ditch Corner, where Whalley and Dixwell avenues come together. At Broadway, British troops began destroying and burning property. At Chapel and York streets, the British positioned cannon and fired down the streets several times. Finally, the British reached the town's center and settled on the Green. Meanwhile, another body of British soldiers was landing east of the harbor, near what is now Lighthouse Point. After overcoming some resistance, these British troops made their way along the shore by Morris Cove and a small fort at Black Rock, raiding farmhouses along the way. Along the way, some British troops got as far as East Haven and eventually troops from the east side of the harbor crossed the Quinnipiac River and marched to the Green. The next morning Gen. Tryon assembled his troops and withdrew from New Haven to attack and burn Fairfield and Norwalk. They left behind a plundered town with 27 New Haveners dead and 19 wounded. Listed on a return of the officers and soldiers who responded to the Alarm at East Haven were Asahel, Bani, Daniel, Giles (absent), Hiel, James, Joel and Samuel (absent) -- all of Killingworth -- and John of Guilford. The DAR cites Abraham of Goshen, Conn., for patriotic service for responding to the Alarm at Fair Haven. Three members of our family filed with the Connecticut General Assembly for losses at the hands of the invaders: Widow Sarah, for 8 pounds, 17 shillings, 2 pence; her brother-in-law Hezekiah, for 109 pounds, 5 shillings and 1 penny; and a cousin, Jeremiah, for 18 pounds, 17 shillings. Indemnification was in the form of rights to land in Ohio's Western Reserve. No action in the war involved more members of our family than this event.
Battle of Kings Mountain, S.C. (Tuesday, Oct. 10, 1780) -- John took part in the battle, and afterward, he stated in his pension application, he was ordered to assist in guarding Tory prisoners who were marched to Wilkes Courthouse and Guilford Courthouse.
Battle of Camden, S.C. (Tuesday Aug. 15 and Wednesday, Aug. 16, 1780) -- Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates' forces from the North were threatening the British in South Carolina who were under Maj. Gen. Charles Cornwallis who had just returned to Charleston. Lord Rawdon's 1,500 British regulars and 500 militia advanced from Camden to meet the Americans -- 1,500 Continentals and a like number of militia -- and took a position on a creek northeast of town. On Gates approach, Rawdon fell back to Camden. On Aug. 14, Cornwallis joined his troops in Camden, determined to attack Gates and literally ran into the American troops as both sides were attempting night advances for assaults the next day. The battlefield lay between two swamps which narrowed the front and secured the flanks. Gates ordered his left wing of militia to attack the opposing British units. As they began to move forward, the British launched a counterattack along the whole line. Ill-trained and largely without bayonets for close-quarter fighting, the American militia retreated leaving British forces to turn on the flank of the American right wing where the Continental units were putting up a stiff fight. Maj. Banastre Tarletons cavalry finally attacked the American right wing in the rear causing the units to break. The British cavalry pursued the retreating Americans for some 20 miles. John stated in his pension application that after this battle his company retreated toward Salisbury, N.C. Gates left the battlefield with the first of the militia and ridden a considerable distance before drawing rein, leaving his subordinate commanders to fight on with the right flank and destroying his reputation in the process. The British lost 324 killed and wounded; American casualties were 1,000 killed and wounded and 1,000 lost as prisoners. The battle ensured the British hold on South Carolina for the time being.
Raid on New London, Conn. (Thursday, Sept. 6, 1781) -- British generals eager to distract Gen. George Washington, who was marching south, tried to create a diversion by attacking this important Northern supply center and destroy "Rebel pirate ships." Residents were awakened at sunrise with the news that a large force of British Regulars under turncoat Benedict Arnold had landed on both sides of the mouth of the Thames River and were coming upon them fast. They could do nothing but flee. A number of rigged ships in the harbor caught a favorable breeze and escaped upstream, but the rest were trapped. Arnold's 800 men met only scattered resistance as they set about torching the stockpile of goods, naval stores and ships. Nearly all the town -- 143 buildings -- were consumed. Hiel was present at the raid.
The Fall of Ft. Griswold, Groton Heights, Conn. (Thursday, Sept. 6, 1781) -- Woods and swamps slowed the British force of 800 under turncoat Benedict Arnold that landed opposite New London, on the east side of the Thames River. A battalion of New Jersey loyalists responsible for moving the artillery could not keep pace with the Regulars who came within striking distance of the fort at 10 a.m. Meanwhile, the fort had been garrisoned with about 150 colonial militia and local men under the command of Col. William Ledyard. He and his officers, expecting reinforcements, elected to defend the post against the superior force. The British commander,Col. Eyre, sent forward a flag demanding surrender. Ledyard refused. The demand was made again and Eyre threatened that if he were forced to storm the fort, no quarter would be given to its defenders. The response was the same. British troops nearing the ditch were met with an artillery barrage that killed and wounded many, but the seasoned and disciplined troops continued their charge. Some tried to gain the southwest bastion but they were repulsed and Eyre was badly wounded. Under heavy musket fire, another group dislodged some pickets and by hand-to-hand combat reached a cannon and turned it against the garrison. Another party led by Maj. Montgomery charged with fixed bayonets. They were met with long spears and the major was killed. A few of the Regulars reached the gate and opened it, allowing the enemy force to marched in, in formation. Ledyard ordered his men to stop fighting, but some action continued on both sides. Americans hold that after Ledyard gave up his sword in surrender he was immediately killed with it and that a massacre ensued. They claimed that fewer than 10 Americans had been killed, but when the massacre was over, more than 80 of the garrison lay dead and more than half of the remainder severely wounded. The British version makes no mention of a massacre or the manner of Ledyard's death. The entire battle, Connecticut's last in the war, had lasted 40 minutes. Hiel took part in this conflict.
Battle of Eutaw Springs, S.C. (Saturday, Sept. 8, 1781) -- By midsummer, the Continentals under Gen. Nathaniel Greene had gained virtual control of South Carolina. Greene believed that if he could destroy Stewart, he could end the British threat to the South once and for all. In Greene's ranks was Francis Marion, better known as "The Swamp Fox," on whose life Mel Gibson's movie "The Patriot" was based. (Marion's tomb is a few miles east of Eutaw Springs, on Highway 45, near Pineville, S.C., at the former home of his brother, Gabriel, which was known as "Belle Isle.") British forces regrouped at Orangeburg, S.C., under Lt. Col. Alexander Stewart and began their march to Charleston. Greene's 2,100-man army had camped Sept. 7 on the River Road at Burdell's Plantation, just seven miles from Stewart's 2,300-man army, camped near a three-story brick house with a high-walled garden, in tents on both sides of the small road at this cold spring on the south banks of the Santee River. The day of battle dawned fair and intensely hot, but the Americans, on short rations and with little rest, advanced in early morning light toward the springs. At their approach the surprised British left their uneaten breakfast and quickly threw lines of battle across the road in a wooded area. Heavy firing soon broke out. At first, the American center caved, but while opposing flanks were fighting separate battles, Greene restored his middle with Continentals. The whole British line then began to give, but Stewart quickly pulled up his left-flank reserves, forcing the Americans to retreat under fire. The encouraged British rushed forward in disorder; whereupon Greene brought in his strongest troops. The British fled in every direction and the Americans took over their camp, believing they had won. After eating the deserted breakfast, the Americans began plundering the British stores of food, liquor and equipment and ignoring their leaders' warnings and commands. Maj. John Majoribanks, on the British right flank and pushed far back into the woods near Eutaw Creek, realizing the Americans' disorder, and fell upon them. Soon other British troops pounded at their right and left, and the stunned Americans fled the camp. After more than four hours of indecisive battle under a merciless sun, both armies had had enough. Greene collected his wounded and returned to Burdell's Plantation. John stated in his pension application that after taking part in this battle he helped guard prisoners taken to near Salisbury, N.C. Stewart remained the night at Eutaw Springs but hastily retreated the next day toward Charleston. The gallant Majoribanks, wounded and on his way to Moncks Corner, died in a Negro cabin on Wantoot Plantation. He was buried beside the road, but when waters of manmade Lake Marion were to cover that area, his body was removed to their present resting place, right photo, at Eutaw Springs Battlefield. The total casualties came to 1,188, many buried where they fell. This last major battle in South Carolina broke the British hold in the South and denied needed aid to the North. I visited the battlefield around sundown one day in November, 2003.
Surrender at Yorktown, Va. (Friday, Oct. 19, 1781) -- The Americans and French marched out of Williamsburg, Va., and arrived before Yorktown on Sept. 28, forming a semicircle around the entrenchments and putting the British under siege. Maj. Gen. Charles Cornwallis, expecting a relief force to sail in from New York, decided to remain in Yorktown rather than march south to the Carolinas or attempt to reach New York. His first move was the inexplicable one of abandoning a line of four redoubts that dominated the British positions. The Americans immediately occupied the empty redoubts and began siege operations on the eastern side of Yorktown on Sept. 30. By Oct. 9 the Americans were close enough to began an artillery bombardment. On Oct. 14, the Americans and French stormed two redoubts in front of their trenches and the position of the British in Yorktown became untenable. The British carried out a sortie on Oct. 16 in which several guns in the two redoubts were spiked. On the same day Cornwallis attempted to pass some of his troops across the York River to Gloucester, but was thwarted by a storm. With no sign of relief forces and with inadequate supplies of artillery ammunition and food, Cornwallis army marched out of Yorktown and surrendered on Oct. 19. Jeremiah stated in his pension application that he took part in the siege. About 8,000 British surrendered to the Americans and French as British bands played "The World Turned Upside-Down." Casualties during the siege had been 500 British, 80 Americans and 200 French. After the surrender, American and French officers entertained the British officers to dinner -- except for Maj. Banastre Tarleton. The Americans refused to dine with him due to the atrocities committed by his troops in North and South Carolina.