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"Finding Connecticut regts. by capts.' and/or cols.' names?" Topic

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Skeptic28 Dec 2017 4:01 p.m. PST

Apparently, one of my ancestors from Connecticut enlisted three times as a fifer. Testimony in support of his pension application mentions the names of company captains and sometimes colonels, but not the regiments themselves. How might I identify the regiments as we know them?

1. For a year from May 1776 onward, he was in a Captain Derby's company, which participated in the New York campaign;

2. Throughout 1778, he was in a Captain Smith's company in a Colonel Jacobs' regiment, which served in Rhode Island. Apparently, he returned in a red uniform faced with blue (reversed colors?);

3. From Aug. to November 1781, he was in a Captain Bowker's company of a Colonel Webb's regiment.

There is this book, however…


Wikipedia and an entry in the above book suggest that his 3rd term of service may have been with the 3rd Connecticut Regiment of 1781.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP28 Dec 2017 4:47 p.m. PST

I'd concur on 1781. Samuel Webb's Additional--later the 9th Connecticut--had become the 3rd Connecticut in January reorganization of that year, and the remaining personnel of Charles Webb's 2nd Connecticut also went into the new 3rd.

I can't find a field-grade Continental officer with last name Jacob. Might be state line?

For 1776, it's a brute force solution, but look up "Derby" in Heitman's "Historical Register of the Officers of the Continental Army." There can't be that many Captain Derbys (Derbies?) in 1776, and Heitman will tell you what regiment each served in that year. (Yes I own a copy of Heitman, but it's in the garage, and it's pitch black and well below zero here. Nudge me in the morning, and I might have a look.)

Skeptic28 Dec 2017 5:41 p.m. PST

Thank you, Robert! Further to your suggestion, I found both PDF and text copies of Heitman online.

No listed officer would seem to have had the last name of Jacob. It could be that that was the colonel's first name, or that some combination of rank and name might have been mis-recalled. Sadly, and as expected, Smith was a common last name! This one seems likely, however, assuming that his rank was remembered correctly, and that my ancestor did not enlist out-of-state. If so, it might have been the 8th Connecticut (of 1778):

Smith, David (Conn). Captain of

Elmore's Connecticut State Regi-
ment, 15th April, 1776; Captain 8th
Connecticut, 1st January, 1777 ; Ma-
jor, 13th March, 1778 ; Brigade-Major
and Brigade-Inspector, 13th May,
1779, to 13th July, 1781 ; transferred to
5th Connecticut, 1st January, 1781 ;
transferred to 2d Connecticut, 1st
January, 1783, and served to 3d June,

However, they would not seem to have been in Rhode Island?


Continental forces

1st Rhode Island Regiment (an African American unit)
2nd Rhode Island Regiment
4th Massachusetts Regiment
13th Massachusetts Regiment
Webb's Additional Continental Regiment
Jackson's Additional Continental Regiment
Sherburne's Additional Continental Regiment
1st Canadian Regiment
Eight militia regiments from Rhode Island
One militia regiment from Connecticut
Langdon's Company of Light Horse Volunteers
Peabody's New Hampshire State Regiment
Hale's Regiment of Militia
Nichols' Regiment of Militia
Evans' Regiment of Militia
Four artillery regiments


Skeptic28 Dec 2017 7:19 p.m. PST

Hmm, further to additional reading, I believe that he may have started-off in a Mass. regiment, and could have been in a Mass. regiment in 1778, too…

The names of the lt. and col. suggest that his first enlistment was with Prescott's [Mass.] Regiment, later the 7th Continental Regiment.

The details re. his second enlistment mention that he enlisted in Shirley, Mass., in a Capt. John Smith's company. They marched to Boston in Feb., where they remained until the spring, when they marched to Rhode Island and were attached to a Col. Jacobs' regiment. From there, they went to Greenwich, and spent some time at Butts Hill Fort. Later, after the French fleet departed, they entrenched near Newport, from where they and some reinforcements repulsed an enemy attack. They then retreated back to Greenwich in Sept., where they stayed at least until December.

Might this be the Captain John Smith?

Smith, JohnKilby (Mass). 2d Lieu-
tenant 6th Continental Infantry, 1st
January to 31st December, 1776 ; 1st
Lieutenant and Adjutant 13th Massa-
chusetts, 1st January, 1777; Captain,
12th February, 1778 ; transferred to
6th Massachusetts, 1st January, 1781 ;
transferred to 2d Massachusetts, 12th
June, 1783, and served to 3d Novem-
ber, 1783. (Died 7th August, 1842.)

So, the 13th Mass., perhaps? Shirley, Mass. is in Middlesex County, too.


robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP28 Dec 2017 7:22 p.m. PST

I looked at David Smith myself, but I was doing too much guesswork.

Hmm. Well, search Heitman for "Captain Derby" when you get a chance. That may provide a Colonel, and that may suggest something. Even when there is no official continuity from one year to another, there is a strong tendency of soldiers to clump, so if you know what regiment someone served in in 1776, you can get a pretty good idea where to look for him in 1777-78.

Apart from the militia regiment in Rhode Island, Webb's Additional will eventually be added to the Connecticut Line, and evidently Sherburne's Additional had a Connecticut contingent--and eventually, be merged with Samuel Webb's Additional, and so to the 3rd Connecticut of 1781.

Might also be worth looking at uniforms in the appropriate Osprey, to see who in Rhode Island wore blue faced red--or red faced blue: every now and then you find a Continental regiment in a red coat, and musician's coats were not always reversed.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP30 Dec 2017 4:54 a.m. PST

Heitman came through, Skeptic! Not "Derby" but Captain Robert Durkee of Connecticut! It was an independent company known as the Wyoming Valley Company, which is why there is no colonel listed.

You have to keep in mind the wonders of period spelling, and that most pension applications would have been dictated to someone.

Skeptic30 Dec 2017 7:14 a.m. PST

Thanks again, Robert! As mentioned in my corrected post, that ancestor was actually from Shirley, Massachusetts. In that enlistment, there was also a Lt. John Williams, an Ensign Jenkins, and a Col. Prescott. I will check for "Durk…" entries from Mass., yet is it likely that a company which was passing through a town in another state might have continued to recruit?

Yes, that's what I was thinking, on top of any recall effects, and besides any errors in transcription from the application to the manuscript of the 1890s' genealogy, whence to typesetting.

There was this Capt. Derby of Mass.:

Derby, Samuel (Mass). Captain
of Scauimon's Massachusetts Regi-
ment, May, 1775, to .

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP30 Dec 2017 1:02 p.m. PST

Ah, but all the Massachusetts regiments of 1775 disband in December and are replaced by the 1776 "Continental" regiments in which Samuel Derby does not appear to have served.

More detail might help. You say he was "from" Shirley, MA. As in born there and known to have enlisted from there? Or living there when he put in for his pension?

Anyway, state residency got you militia service, or you might be conscripted based on it. No one turned down a volunteer for regular service because he lived in another state, and there were regular complaints by the states with stingy enlistment bounties that those who paid decent ones were somehow poaching "their" men.

Still no joy with Captain Bowker. There was a Colonel Jacobs in the Massachusetts militia in 1778, but that doesn't get your ancestor to Rhode Island.

Skeptic30 Dec 2017 4:45 p.m. PST

Well, a partial match by officer may be better than none. Supposing that he was honest, one might assume that he did go to where he claimed to have gone. The question is with which units as we know them?

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