Biography of Paul Brigham

Hon. Paul Brigham, son of Paul and Catharine (Turner) Brigham, born in Coventry, Connecticut, January 17, 1746; married, October 3, 1767, Lydia Sawyer, of Hebron, Connecticut; came to Norwich from Coventry, in the spring of 1782, bringing his family with him, all of his children having been born in Connecticut. In 1788, he built the house on ”Brigham Hill,” for many years occupied by his great-granddaughter, the late Miss Louisa D. Brigham. The farm had been previously owned and occupied by Elihu Baxter.

In what esteem Mr. Brigham was held by the people of his adopted state and town, is shown under appropriate heads in other places in this volume.

Captain Paul Brigham in the Revolutionary Army, June-August 1777.

Mr. Brigham served four years as Captain in the Continental Army in a Connecticut regiment commanded, first, by Colonel Chandler and afterwards by Colonel Isaac Sherman. He entered the Army January 1, 1777, and was discharged April 22, 1781. A portion of the time he served under the immediate command of Washington, and was engaged in the important battles of Germantown, Monmouth, and Fort Mifflin. He was enlisted by General McDougal from Coventry, Conn., and his regiment seems to have been largely composed of men from that section of the State.

We have been privileged to read a fragment of a diary kept by Captain Brigham during a part of his army service above the “Highlands,” which does not cover the time when any of the above named battles were fought (at that time the portion of the army to which he was attached was serving on the Hudson River), and is made up of brief mention of incidents of camp life, regimental and brigade drills, marching and counter-marching along the banks of the lower Hudson River near the Highlands where the portion of the American Army to which he was attached was doing guard duty, their immediate object being to prevent Sir Henry Clinton, the British commander in New York, from uniting with General Burgoyne at that time moving south-ward from Ticonderoga. This record shows Captain Brigham to be a good soldier and a true patriot, zealous for his country’s cause and ever interested in promoting the health and well-being of the men of his command. Officers who were in the late war will not fail to note some things that will remind them of their own experience of camp life eighty years later. The record opens abruptly:

Paul. Brigham, Sr., was married to Catharine Turner July 1, 1741. He died May 3, 1746, aged twenty-eight years. His father died when the son was but a few months old.

“June 23d , 1777. Struck tents about 4 o’clock p. m., and began our march back again for Peekskill. Marched back as far as the church and encamped.

“June 24. Colonel Courtland had two men whipped 100 stripes for stealing, each one of which was drummed out of camp.

“June 25. Began our march for the river. I was so much unwell that I got a horse and rode on before the Brigade. Had a sick day, but by night the brigade came to the ferry, where we encamped that night.

“June 26th. Crossed the [Hudson] river. The Brigade marched to the Grand Parade and stayed that night, but I stayed behind with Captain Mattocks at the landing.

”On the 27th the brigade marched and encamped on a high hill one mile above Captain Drake’s battery. I remained so much unwell that I got liberty to go one mile out of Camp to Mr. Graylocks‘, where I stayed 7 or 8 days. Mr. Sill stayed with me.

“July 4th. I went into camp and found we had orders to be mustered.

“On the 5th I went after the Judge Advocate to come and swear a number of men that had not taken the oath. Lt. Brigham arrived with some men that belonged to my company.

“July 9th. This day heard that the enemy had got possession of Ticonderoga. Last night being dark and rainy, 2 prisoners made their escape from the Provost Guard where Captain Mattocks had command.

“12th. To our grief the bad news of our defeat at the Northwest was confirmed. This day Col. Chandler joined the regt.

“Sunday, 13th. News came that our army was retreated to Fort Edward without a tent to cover them.

“14th. I went down as far as Peekskill, and when I returned I learned that Paul Haradon was dead. He was the second man that I have lost out of my Company.

“15th . This day Ensign House came to see me and informed me that my family were well. Had intelligence that Gen. Washington was at Pumpton with a considerable part of his Army.

16th. This day the Regt. exercised, and as Capt. Mansfield’s Company was exercising, one of their field pieces accidentally [exploded]. The fire caught one man’s powder box and blew him up and burnt him very much.

“July 17th. I saw at guard mounting a Negro whipped 100 stripes for aiding and assisting the enemy, in driving off cattle to them. Likewise heard that our troops at Fort Stanwix had taken a great number of prisoners. In the p. m., went on the Grand Parade and saw Cols. Wylye’s and Demming’s Regts. manoeuvre.

“18th. On the Grand Parade I saw 3 men whipped each a hundred lashes for desertion. In the p. m., the Regt. was reviewed by Gen. McDougal and I thought made a very good appearance.

“19th. This morning I went down to Gen. Varnum’s headquarters, to carry a report to Maj. Hoyt. In the evening I was warned on guard.

“20th. I went on Grand Parade and from thence with my guard to the church near King’s Ferry, where I relieved Maj. Johnston. This day Lord Sterling’s Division crossed the river and went up towards Peekskill.

“21st. After I was relieved I marched home. Rec’d a letter from my family informing me they were all well. Gen. Sullivan’s Division crossed the river this evening and encamped on the Grand Parade.

“23d. Lord Sterling had a man hanged as a spy at Peekskill Landing.

“25th. Visited the sick in the hospital and the prisoners in the Provost Guard.

“27th. Last night Samuel Allen of my Company died.

“28th. News from New York that the enemy had gone from there on some expedition.

“30th. Had Paul Haradon’s clothing appraised and delivered to his brother, David H. Had orders to be ready to cross the river next day. Rec’d some shirts for my Company.

31st. Sent our baggage across the river. Rec’d some wages.

Aug.  1st. Capt. Hide and Lt. Adams were discharged the service.

“Aug. 2d . Sent our sick to the hospital and prepared to march. Toward night we marched as far as Verplanks and pitched our tents very late in the evening.

“Aug. 3d. Got ready as soon as possible and crossed the river. Marched about 4 miles but the rain stopped our further march.

”On the 4th had counter orders and began our march back, crossed the river again. A flag of truce from New York arrived as our troops were crossing, to obtain a pardon for Edward Palmer, who was to be executed this day. Returned back and encamped on our old ground. I went up to the hospital to visit the sick, had a wet night.

Aug. 5th. I went back to Verplanks to see how Joseph Kingsbury did, as he was left behind. Found he was a little better.

“Aug. 6th. The camp was visited this morning by Gen. McDougal. About 11 o’clock I went with a number of our officers to a fine dinner at Capt. Hart’s. Returned at evening. The officers were requested to send their pretensions for rank.

“Aug. 7th. Visited the sick in the hospital.

“Aug. 8th. The whole Army went to Gallows Hill to the execution of Edward Palmer. The militia came in to join the army here.

“Aug. 9th. Went to the hospital to visit the sick. Ensign Tilden taken sick. I went out whortleberrying, got caught in a sudden shower and much wet.

“Aug. 10th. Got Ensign Tilden out of camp.

“Aug. 11th. Went on Grand Parade. Saw 2 men whipped for desertion, and one pardoned for sleeping on his post. Went to Gen. McDougal’s to swear to Pay Rolls; in the afternoon on fatigue.

“Aug. 12th. This day the first Regtl. Court Martial was held that ever was held in the Regiment. Some whipping followed.”

The above extracts give us a realistic picture in miniature of the daily life in camp and on guard duty of the American soldier in 1777. Captain Brigham was then in the prime of life, thirty-two years old, but as yet had seen no fighting. The next winter he was to spend with his comrades in misery in Valley Forge, after having had his mettle tried at Fort Mifflin and Germantown the autumn following.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Access Genealogy

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Scroll to Top