Posted: Friday, May 27, 2005 1:00 am
Douglas Wright | 0 comments
Memorial Day is a day of remembrance, a day when we as a nation pay tribute to those who have fought to preserve the liberties we hold dear. As a tradition, we decorate graves and monuments, plant flags, lay flowers on the sod, all to salute those whose service and sacrifice has starred our history and defended our nation and its freedom.
Yet as the distance is stretched from that fateful day in 1776 to our current hour, too often are the original patriots overlooked; those bold men who put down their hammers, plows, sickles and took up arms to fight for the independence of our sovereign nation; those original patriots who are the veterans of the American Revolution.
Back in 1975, Windham native Emma Dumont, a longtime lover of history and Civil War buff, completed a brief history of Windham's original patriots entitled "Heritage '76: Soldiers of the American Revolution." In the book, she documented over 100 soldiers from in and around Windham who fought during the Revolutionary War, either in small militias or as part of the Continental Army.
According to her book and historical texts cited within, many of the Windham men who enlisted to fight in the revolution were either original settlers of the Windham (known as New Marblehead back then) or descendants thereof. Even though they were few in numbers and far removed from the political affairs of Boston, the settlers of Windham felt compelled to act against the tyranny and oppression of the British empire.
As Fredrick Dole writes his book "Windham in the Past":
"Many a hard fought battle by sea and land during the war of the revolution bears honorable testimony to their bravery. Such is the character of the people from whom our ancestors, the first settlers of this town, originated."
Stephen Manchester is renowned as the man who killed Chief Polin of the Presumpscot Tribe. Less known is that fact that Manchester served in the Massachusetts Bay Forces for the entire duration of the American Revolution. Manchester, a Rhode Island native, came to Windham in 1738. He is described by Dole as a valuable addition to the settlement of Windham because he was "adept in all manner of woodcraft and mortally hated the Indians." In 1756, he fired the shot that earned him his fame today. With the death of Chief Polin, the conflict between the Presumpscot Tribe and the settlement subsided, granting the Windham settlers a measure of peace.
It is likewise common lore that Stephen Manchester, at age 58, was the first Windham man to enlist in the Continental Army of the Revolution. In July of 1775, he marched to Cambridge, Mass in Capt. John Brackett's Company where he then served under George Washington until the end of that year. He went on to serve in various other military companies such as Capt. Jonathan Sawyer's in 1776 and Capt. George Smith's Company in 1777. During his 49 months of service, he fought in the memorable Saratoga Campaign, witnessed the surrender of General Burgoyne and spent that legendary winter at Valley Forge. He died in Windham at the old age of 90 on June 24, 1807 and was buried on Dutton hill. His gravesite was later moved to Smith Cemetery in the early 1900s when a monument was erected there in his memory.
Captain Richard Mayberry, son of William Mayberry (the second settler of Windham), settled on his parent's acreage and cared for his parents in their old age. He farmed and is presumed to have worked in the blacksmith trade like his father. When the Revolution came, he joined the Continental Army and was
commissioned Captain of the Fifth Company of the Massachussetts Bay Forces.
In November of 1776, Captain Mayberry enlisted 64 soldiers for the Fifth Company. Ten of those soldiers were Windham settlers: Sergeant Josiah Chute, Corporal Ebenezer Barton and Privates James Jordan, William Mayberry (Richard's son), Robert Millions, John Swett, Peter Smith, Thomas Chute (brother of Josiah), David Mabury and Benjamin Trott. According to "History of Windham" by Thomas Smith, this company fought in the Saratoga campaign as the left wing of General Gates' army. They were at the battle of Monmouth and fought as well in the engagement at Hubbardstown.
Capt. Mayberry's company, along with the rest of the Continental Army, suffered great hardships during the Revolutionary War such as hunger, disease, lack of shelter and clothes. At one time during the war, there were only two pairs of shoes among the 64 soldiers in Mayberry's company. For this reason, Smith says, it was not uncommon for the British to track the American armies "by the blood from their lacerated feet."
When Mayberry returned to Windham after the war, he sold his land and settled in Raymond which was mostly wilderness at the time. In November of 1804, he was killed by a falling tree while clearing the land. His gravesite sits on Leach Hill in Casco.
Josiah Chute, grandson of Thomas Chute (the first settler of Windham), was a sergeant in Capt. Mayberry's company. At the battle of Hubbardton, he was shot in the shoulder with a musket ball and taken prisoner by the British. According to Dole, he managed to escape and "wandered for two weeks in the woods before he got into American lines." He spent the winter at Valley Forge in 1777-78 and then in 1789 he was honorably discharged due to battle wounds. After he returned home to Windham, he was served as officer of the town for many years. He died on his farm in October 21, 1834 and was buried there. A monument in his honor still stands today in what is now known as the Chute Cemetery.
Not to be forgotten are the Windham women who knit, sewed, and weaved clothes for the soldiers of Continental Army. In their husbands' absence, many wives of Windham soldiers conducted business affairs in their absence. As Dole wrote, "They shrunk from no toil and hesistated at no sacrifice, but, with an unfaltering courage, did their part in the darkest hours of the American Revolution."
It is important to note that the above mentioned soldiers of the Revolution, and those recorded in "Heritage '76", only account for the histories handed down to us through the yellowed pages of old grants, town orders, military transcripts and similar annals. It is possible that there are other Windham patriots whose records of service have been lost over the centuries.
Many years ago, Betty Barto, one of the founders of the Windham Historical Society, was contacted by a Kathrine Brown from Massachusetts. Brown had traced back her genealogy to John Gallison of Windham, son of Joseph Gallison. It had long been believed by Brown's family that this ancestor had crossed the Delaware River with General Washington on his Christmas Eve raid of the Hessians. Though there is no documentation of the fact, Barto says that it is possible that Gallison as well as others did cross the Delaware with Washington since many Windham soldiers spent the winter with Washington at Valley Forge.
What is certain is Windham soldiers and settlers' dedication to the Revolution and the ideal of freedom. So, this Memorial Day, as we honor the memory of our many veterans, let us remember to give thanks to those brave men who put their life and liberty on the line to grant us ours today.