Soldier of the American Revolution
My ancestor, John Pettit (1764-1840), did not live in Herkimer but served there one year. He married Mary Barnes and settled in Greenfield, Saratoga Co. His description of service from his pension papers reminds me of "Drums along the Mohawk" by Walter Edmonds.
By 1782 John lived in New York, at a place that became Canaan, Columbia County. He enlisted a third time and served under Captain Newell, again under Colonel Willet. This year his company was dispatched to reinforce the beleaguered Fort Herkimer. John's service of 1782, preserved in his pension application, is particularly interesting. The person recording John's application changed the telling from third person to first person, possibly because he became very involved in the story.
Marcie Ward Richie, January 1997
NOTE: if you've had the pleasure of reading pension records, you've noticed that our ancestors and the clerks and lawyers transcribing for some of them didn't necessarily pay attention to conventions of spelling, punctuation, etc. The passage below is an exact transcription from John Pettit's pension records.
..."he was immediately marched to Albany and soon after to Fort Plain on the Mohawk river, from Fort Plain then Stone Arabia near Johnstown. Some time the last of June or first of July, with Lieutenant Bingham and about 20 Stockbridge Indians repaired to Fort Plain in the Evening. Joined Captain Cheny's company of light Infantry under Major Wait of the New Hampshire line and marched the same night for Fort Herkimer and arrived Early next morning. the Fort was Garrisoned by a detachment of New hampshire troops of the line and at this moment the Fort was closely beset by a Superior force of the british and Indians which by the aid of the reinforcement under Major wait was compelled to retire across the Mohawk into the woods. he soon after Joined a part of Captain Newell's Company that was Stationed at a home about three miles below the little falls on the Mohawk river, where were assembled a number of Families for better safety and that some time about the middle of July we were attacked by a host of the Enemy (in comparison to our own numbers) and we were compelled to fight (if not Glory) to save our own scalps, and to secure those under our protection.
The enemy were beaten off after they had Sustained Considerable loss, nor did our little band Escape harmless...
about the last of October under Lieutenant Bingham with three other non-commissioned officers and an Indian Guide he was Sent to Scout and reconnoiter the Country towards lake Ontario for nearly a month and returned to Fort Plain.
Toward the middle of February 1783 Col. Willet's Regiment and the Rhode Island Regiment of the line were detached to take the british Fort at the mouth of the Oswego River on lake Ontario. we marched to Fort Herkimer that being an out Post at that time, from Fort Herkimer we had to take a trackless dreary wilderness for more than one hundred miles and the Snow verry deep and the weather Extremely Cold. the object of the Expedition failed. this applicant was told by the commanding officer, Col. Willet afterwards that the Guides misled us down the lake a number of Miles and these mortified troops were compelled to retrace their steps and return. the men were more or less frost bitten and some severely and some near distraction. the night that was Calculated to storm the fort we marched all night until dawn of the day. Sometimes on the Oswego river and in many places the water was ozzing over the Ice nearly everywhere and the feet were wet and then into the snow and the night was verry cold. And many of the men who survived were Invalid for life. we returned to Fort Plain the last of February or first of March. This applicant was Scarcely recovered from the Small pox when he went out on this Expedition and when he returned he was so badly frost bitten and otherwise disabled as to be unfit for any duty. and the last of April was by direction of his officers sent to Albany and while there was sick with the meazles and after that a general debility and was not able to Join his Regiment until it was disbanded and broken up..."
John Pettit Survivor File 11226, dated 11 Sept 1832
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