Alexander was the eldest son in the Palmer household and the one with the most militant record. He left home as a young man to join an Ulster-Scottish colony at Pelham, about twenty-five miles to the northward, perhaps lured there by the bright eyes of Elisabeth McClem. He married Elisabeth in 1749, bought a small farm, built a little house, accumulated some farm animals and equipment, and held such modest public offices as fence viewer and surveyor.
This is how he became a soldier. In 1755 the French built a fort later to be known as Ticonderoga; Sir William Johnston at once led a British force to try to capture it, and another at Crown Point. He failed to take the forts, but defeated the French under Baron Dieskau in the battle of Lake George, and erected Fort William Henry at the head of the lake. Two years later General Montcalm moved against the new British fort.
Down in Pelham, Captain Robert Lothridge in 1757 recruited a company for Colonel Israel Williamson's regiment, which was ordered to the relief of the threatened Fort William Henry. One of the privates in Captain Lothridge's company was Alexander McNitt. Clerks were always getting names wrong: Alexander's was entered as "McNiett." Williamson's regiment no doubt did its best, but Montcalm captured the fort and held it for a year. Then he went in 1758 to meet Wolfe and lose a battle and his life at Quebec.
Alexander had small part in the campaign and no part in a glorious victory, but he was learning how wars are fought and discovering the fertile country south of Lake George. There in 1769 he joined about twenty-five Ulster Scots and their families from Pelham in a young colony first called White Creek, then New Perth, and finally Salem. Alexander bought a farm there, which remained in the ownership of his family for 177 years. Since his part in the French and Indian War was limited to a single campaign, we shall leave him now and return later to his more exciting Revolutionary record.
William, a younger brother, enlisted at Boston under Captain William Williams on October 10, 1754, and served until November 25. Obviously he couldn't have become a hardened soldier in that short period,
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or fired a shot in anger at a Frenchman or an Indian. Other adventures awaited him. On May 8, 1755, before reaching his twenty-second birthday, he married at Palmer a girl of eighteen: Elisabeth, daughter of Captain John Thomson, one of the earliest and most substantial settlers there. Three children were born before they joined a migration to Nova Scotia to replace the exiled Acadians. The children were Abner, born August 29, 1756; Sarah, born June 30, 1757; and Eunice, born October 21, 1759.
We come next to James, who began the soldier's life on April 10, 1758. At the age of nineteen he was mustered into Captain Daniel Burt's company of foot in Colonel William Williams' regiment, raised for "the reduction of Canada." According to Temple's History of Palmer, the march began late in May when the roads became settled, and the route led by way of the Westfield River to Pittsfield, Greenbush, Lake George, and thence to Canada. Louisburg in Nova Scotia fell to British and Colonial forces in the summer of 1758. There is a tradition in the family that James took part in the siege and suffered great hardships. He was mustered out of service on November 4.
Then on April 10, 1760 he enlisted in Captain Tristram Davis' company "for His Majesty's service for the total reduction of Canada." We lack information as to how long this campaign lasted, or what it achieved. James' third enlistment came on February 17, 1763, when he went to Boston and enrolled in Captain Ebenezer Cox's company. Active duty began on March 27, and lasted eight months and nine days. Enrolling officers entered James once as McKnight, once as McNight, and once as McNitt.
Alexander McNutt, a restless bachelor cousin from Staunton, Virginia, who previously had taken part in an Indian campaign, came up to Palmer and Londonderry during the French and Indian War, intent upon action. At Londonderry he was commissioned a Captain, and in his company he enrolled James, John, and Robert McKnight, all living in the community. Captain McNutt's company served in Nova Scotia throughout the summer of 1760, active duty beginning May 26 and continuing until November 30.
Roger McKnight, another of the Londonderry family, had enlisted on April 3, 1758, under Capt. Jeremiah Green in the township of Boston. His service probably lasted through the summer and may have taken him to the siege of Louisburg.
We have finished now with the French and Indian War, and we return to Palmer to await the early events of the Revolution. In the spring of 1776 the General Court asked Massachusetts towns to express their
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sentiments regarding the stirrings toward independence that occupied the attention of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. A town meeting was called at Palmer for Monday, June 17. Robert Farrel, brother-in-law of Sarah and Mary McNitt, was moderator of the meeting, and Robert Hunter, who had shared a bench with Barnard McNitt in the Presbyterian church, was clerk.
"A very full meeting of ye Inhabitants" gave a positive and stirring answer to the General Court, we learn from Temple's History. The resolutions adopted that day have been called the Palmer Declaration of Independence. After an enumeration of grievances the declaration closes thus:
We, therefore, the Inhabitants of this Town, do believe it absolutely Necessary for the safety of the United Colonies, to be Independent from Great Britain, & Declare themselves Intirely a Separate State, as we can see no alternative but Inevitable ruin, or Independence. -- But as there is a General Congress of the United Colonies, composed of Honourable, wise and good men, who sit at the Head of Affairs, consulting measures which will be most for the Safety and Prosperity of the whole, & have the means of Intelligence and Information in their hands, we submit the whole affair to their wise Consideration and Determination; -- And if they shall unite in a separation from Great Britain, we do unanimously determine and declare we will Support them with our Lives and Fortunes.This is an eloquent paper for a town meeting in a small community. The last sentence, embodying the pledge Jefferson was to use in the National Declaration a few days later, marches with so thrilling a spirit that it might well be read to a crescendo of drum-beats. The Palmer Declaration should silence those who cry plagiarism when plain men in a small community bring forth as their own a document so stirring, evolved from the depths of strong feeling.
The service records of Revolutionary soldiers to follow have been studied with the care made necessary by varieties of surname forms given single individuals on succeeding enlistments. The sources of information are the Archives of Massachusetts and New York, the seventeen printed volumes entitled Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolution, the Roster of State Troops of New York, and the volumes of Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, edited by Berthold Fernow. Anyone wishing to pursue further or to verify any of the records to follow may obtain information by calling at the Department of Archives in the State House at Boston or at the New York State Library in Albany. Revolutionary War records are now in charge of the Archivist of the U. S., Washington 25, who
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has custody of pension records for the early wars, and who also can be helpful in research.
Alexander McNitt of Salem, New York, with a single campaign in the previous war to his credit, was fifty-five years old when the Declaration of Independence was signed, but very much the warrior in spirit. Evidently he was regarded as too old for tough campaigning, but he would not be denied. Since Alexander and his sons were to take part in the war in Charlotte County militia regiments and others, a glance at the organization in and around Salem is due.
Dr. John Williams, born in England, had arrived in the community in 1773, and because of experience and forthright ability had become at once the leading citizen in the neighborhood. He practiced medicine, became an assiduous buyer of lands, and later a county judge. He was instrumental in organizing a regiment of Charlotte County militia and was commissioned its Colonel, as well as regimental surgeon.
From Vol. I of the Documents referred to above we learn on pages 540-541 of the progress of war events at Salem. Colonel Williams' command, called the Dorset regiment, was given its commissions by Act of the Provincial Congress on February 19, 1776; Williams was appointed Colonel, and Alexander Webster of Black Creek was named Second Major.
Line officers for the company raised in Alexander McNitt's Black Creek neighborhood had been commissioned on September 29, 1775: Captain, Alexander Webster; First Lieutenant, John Hamilton; Second Lieutenant, George McKnight. In the following February, as noted in the paragraph above, Webster was promoted to be a Major, Hamilton then was advanced to the post of Captain of the Black Creek company, and McKnight became First Lieutenant.
Perhaps denied a commission as a line officer in the Black Creek company, it is evident that Alexander McNitt organized a company on his own and became its Captain. His unit and others like it were officially designated as the Charlotte County Voluntary Associates. An entry in the records dated June 16, 1778 shows Alexander was still Captain, and Alexander Simson was his First Lieutenant. Captain Alexander served under three succeeding Colonels: Williams, Webster, and Armstrong.
We discover in the records that on June 25, 1778, Colonel John Williams was dismissed for defrauding the Continental Pay Office by false payrolls; he was removed also from the office of Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Charlotte County. Alexander Webster, the Black Creek man, subsequently was commissioned Colonel to succeed Williams.
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Captain McNitt's company was occupied chiefly in breaking up bands of Indians and Tories, and on one occasion it fought and drove away a detachment of these allies invading the Captain's own premises. The company held a strong position in a log barn near the house and road, and its fire was too hot for the marauders. The barn was cherished for decades afterward because of the bullets lodged in the logs.
The busiest period for the militia was the summer of 1777, when Burgoyne was approaching from Canada toward his ultimate defeat and surrender at Saratoga. In anticipation of the coming of the British army of 8,000, including some Brunswick mercenaries, Indians and Tories were raiding for supplies and burning homes all over the countryside, and noncombatants were fleeing southward. A manuscript history of Washington County (originally Charlotte) by Dr. Asa Fitch contains this order found among papers in an iron-bound chest from Jarvis Martin's house, that had been thrown out a window when the house was in flames:
At the Court Martial held at Dr. John Williamses in New Perth [Salem], Ordred that Squire [Moses] Martin deliver to Capn Alex. McNitt 4 pounds of powder and an Equal Quantity of Lead in purpose to kill all the Tories and Drive those Villians away that keeps about Ticonderoga or any way Infests the Lakes. Let him have it Free Gratis.
Evidently Captain McNitt had asked for the ammunition and volunteered to use it. The paper was indorsed on the back thus: "Recd the within pouder. Alexd. McNitt Capt." A frugal amount of ammunition, surely to liquidate the pillaging Tories, but likely a fresh supply followed. The order jotted down by the indignant Scot Alexander Webster, later a Colonel and county judge, indicates that Captain Alexander McNitt led a campaign against the villains infesting Ticonderoga and Lakes George and Champlain before General Burgoyne took Ticonderoga on July 5, 1777.ALEX. WEBSTER, an Eye Witness.
The Governor of New York twice appointed Captain McNitt as one of three Commissioners for Conspiracies to deal with Tories. From a published volume of Governor Clinton's public papers we get this evidence of activity by his appointees in the Salem neighborhood:
New Perth, Charlotte County, Nov'r 25, 1778
Sir, By Virtue of the Act of the 30th June, We, as Commissioners, have Ordred Seth Chase of the County of Albany, Archibald Livingston & James Mount of this County, persons who refused to take the Oath as prescribed by the Aforesaid Act; We, therefore, agreeable to said Act, Inform your(end of page 51)
Excellency that we are about to remove the above named Disaffected persons within the Enemies lines. We only wait your Excellency's Answer, as to what you do or direct us, as to their Exchange for any of the Subjects of this State that May be in the hands of the Enemy.
We are sorry that so many of the disaffected have been sent to Canady, as they have such Opportunities to put their hellish plots in Execution. We are your very obt. & Humble Serv'ts,
ALEX'R WEBSTER, ALEX'D McNITT, EBEN CLARK
Commissioners for Conspiracies.
His Excellency Gov'r Clinton.Vigorous treatment given the Tories often brought protests, because of the angry way in which the Ulster-Scottish Commissioners moved against those who connived with Indians. Abraham Biringer, who described himself as a Swiss, complained to Governor Clinton under the date line "Cambden, Apil 16, 1779," that he had been robbed of his goods and gear by the Commissioners for Conspiracies by leave of General Stark. He named "Left. [Lieutenant] John Barns, Capt. Allexd'r McNute of New Perth, and Ensen [Ensign] John McLong of Cambridge." Later in his communication he referred to "old Alex'r McNite and his son, [and] young Rowin a weafer, from New Perth." There is no evidence in the Clinton papers that Biringer received any satisfaction.
We of modern days who take a kinder view of the Loyalists of Revolutionary times may think the Captain and his fellow Commissioners unduly harsh with the Tories with whom they dealt. There were three classes of Loyalists: 1. The aristocrats, socially allied with Royalist provincial governments, who built fortunes by aid of special favors. 2. Middle class business men and others who conscientiously believed colonial status best or who stood to lose financially through separation from Britain. 3. Men of lower class who joined Loyalist regiments to fight their patriot neighbors, or profited from supplying the invaders, or who, on the frontiers, joined Indian allies in pillaging, burning, and general bushwhacking. Captain Alexander knew men of the third class and fought them with everything he had.
The Captain no doubt was a reader of Tom Paine, for Paine was writing for men like him. We can visualize Alexander with a copy of No. 1 of The Crisis papers in his hands, and imagine the deep stirrings in his mind and emotions as he read the opening paragraph:
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but be that stands it NOW, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this(end of page 52)
consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. . . . "Then a few pages further, the Captain would have found a paragraph of immediate application to his own community, from which whole families were fleeing southward. We can imagine him with the pamphlet in hand, summoning the attention of his fighting men and neighbors:
"Listen to Tom Paine!"
"And what is a Tory? Good God! what is he? I should not be afraid to go with a hundred Whigs against a thousand Tories, were they to attempt to get into arms. Every Tory is a coward; for servile, slavish, self-interested fear is the foundation of Toryism; and a man under such influence, though he may be cruel, never can be brave."And so we perceive the spirit with which old Sandy went out to "Drive those Villians away that keeps about Ticonderoga or any way Infests the Lakes." And he let them have it, "free gratis."
Captain McNitt's company was in service as late as 1781, and officers and men were not paid until 1784, according to a letter of August 9, 1949 from Major General Edward F. Whitsell, Adjutant General in the Pentagon Building in Washington. Referring to Captain Alexander, the letter says:
"His name appears first [in records in Washington] on an abstract for 22 April to 25 April 1778, of pay etc. due to Colonel John Williams and part of his regiment in the county of Charlotte, which turned out on an alarm against the Common Enemy for the defense of the United States, which shows that the abstract was audited 14 April 1784 and states 'Capt. Alexr McNitt received L12:5:9.'Barnard McNitt's youngest son Andrew had removed from Palmer to Murrayfield before the war began; he was a corporal in Captain Oliver Avery's company of Minute Men that marched on April 21, 1775 in response to the alarm from Lexington and Concord that spread
"His name appears on an undated abstract [period following 1778] of 'Certificates delivered out to Colonel Webster's regiment .... which shows certain sums received by himself, [perhaps for various short terms of service].
"His name is also shown on a pay abstract of the different payrolls of Major Thomas Armstrong's regiment of militia in the county of Charlotte for various militia services in the year 1781, and shows the abstract as audited 31 July 1784 and that Captain McNitt's company received L62:0:5."
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like wildfire after the historic engagements of April 19. This service lasted one week, but Andrew had just begun.
Before the week was over he had enlisted again, on April 27, under Captain Hugh Maxwell in Colonel William Prescott's regiment. He appeared again on the new muster roll of the same company on August 1. Then on July 10, 1777 he joined Captain Samuel Taylor's company as a sergeant in a march from Charlemont, Massachusetts, to reinforce the northern Colonial army after the evacuation of Ticonderoga to the British five days earlier. He was discharged from this service on August 12.
John McNitt quite possibly was present at the town meeting that adopted the Palmer Declaration of Independence on June 17, 1776, for only a few weeks before he had been collaborating with his brother Andrew to sell the family homestead. His Revolutionary record was good but a bit difficult to state clearly because of confusing records and the fact of his enrollment at different time as McNitt, McNut, and McNutt.
At page 112 of Vol. XII of the D.A.R.'s Graves of Revolutionary Soldiers Buried in New York State it is said that "John McNitt served as a private for two months under Captain Lallen in Colonel Mosley's Massachusetts regiment," and in "February 1777 enlisted for six weeks in Captain Steward's company of Colonel Wells' regiment." The records in the Massachusetts Archives show "JohnMcNut," a private in Colonel Leonard's regiment, served forty-seven days at Ticonderoga in 1777. This entry may refer to one or the other of the periods of service noted by the D.A.R.; in any case, some of the information is indefinite.
On July 9, 1777 John completed the purchase of 100 acres of land at Murrayfield; on the day after the execution of the deed, he joined his brother Andrew in enlisting in Captain Samuel Taylor's company, Colonel Porter's regiment, for the northward march from Charlemont into the region where Burgoyne was advancing in New York. Their company was discharged from service on August 12, four days before the battle of Bennington. The purpose of the brief campaign, according to the record in the Massachusetts Archives, was to reinforce the northern army after the evacuation of Ticonderoga.
From the same source, confirmed by the D.A.R. account, we learn that John enlisted the last time in Captain Newcomb's company, Colonel Murray's regiment, on July 13, 1780 and served three months. This time he was "John McNutt.". His nephew Samuel McNitt, who had entered his home a short while before at the age of six, related afterward that Uncle John had told him stories of his war experiences, and that he remembered clearly the circumstances when his uncle went away to
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war again in 1780. John continued living on his Murrayfield arm until 1798, when he removed to Cambridge, near Salem.
Carelessness of enrolling officers in assigning the name McNutt to sons of Barnard McNitt prevents certainty in one case where probability exists. The Roster of State Troops of New York lists under the names McNut and McNutt men whose usual names were McNitt beyond doubt, and who were so enrolled in other enlistments; for example, Andrew, Daniel, and John.
Such corroboration is lacking for James "McNutt," who enlisted once in the Salem neighborhood under Captain Long in Colonel Willet's regiment, and again under Captain Starin in Colonel Bellinger's regiment. It is likely this James was the son of Barnard McNitt, who enlisted three times in the course of the French and Indian War.
Thus we have accounted for four sons of Barnard McNitt in the Revolution: Alexander, with three terms of duty as Captain; Andrew, with four enlistments in Massachusetts; John, with four in Massachusetts; and James, with two in New York. We turn next to eight grandsons.
If Captain Alexander was a scrapper, so were his sons Alexander, Jr., Daniel, Andrew, David, and John, all of whom were properly enrolled with the surname McNitt. The younger Alexander was a chip from the old block who served through most of the Revolution as a private in Captain Hutchinson's company in Colonel Williams' regiment, and in Captain Long's and McNitt's companies in Colonel Webster's regiment. That is, he served until the enemy got him. When the British surged back into the lake region in 1780 and recaptured Ticonderoga and other forts, Alexander, Jr. was made a prisoner of war when captured with others at Fort Ann. For two years he languished in prison camps, and then was exchanged as the war was drawing to a close. A later chapter will be devoted to him.
His brother Daniel was a private in Captain Long's company, Colonel Armstrong's regiment, and in Captain Long's company, Colonel Webster's regiment, and a sergeant in his father's company in Webster's regiment.
Andrew served two enlistments under Captain Long, in regiments commanded by Colonels Webster and Armstrong, and one under Captain Livingston in Colonel Willet's regiment. To identify him further: on January 12, 1787 he bought forty-four acres of land from his father.
David McNitt served two enlistments as a sergeant in Captain Long's company, Colonel Williams' regiment. We have no record of him in postwar years. There is no way of documenting David's exact relationship to the Captain, whether as brother or son, but he probably was a son.
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John, later at Norwich, New York, enlisted twice under Captain Long in Webster's regiment, once under Long in Armstrong's regiment, and once under Captain Harrison in Colonel Harper's regiment.
Several of the men so far mentioned were married before the war and had families; when they enlisted in the militia they had times out between campaigns to come home and get in the crops. The Continental Army with long-time enlistments drew younger men with fewer responsibilities. That brings us to the remaining three grandsons of Barnard in the total of eight who served. After accounting for these boys in Massachusetts -- sons of David McNitt -- we shall return to the New York scene.
Adam McNitt enlisted in the Continental Army from Shelburne on January 31, 1781, at the age of seventeen. He had just married Margaret Clark, a girl of fourteen. He entered for three years in Colonel Benjamin Tupper's 10th Massachusetts regiment, and served twenty-three months and three days.
A younger Barnard McNitt enlisted at twenty-one for three years, from the town of Buckland in Hampshire County. This was on January 15, 1781. He was in the course of buying a farm when he enlisted; in a deed dated March 12, 1781, Jonathan Sprague of Buckland sold to young Barnard fifty acres of land for L35. He served twenty-three months and twenty-three days in the 10th Massachusetts.
Finally Barnabas, the third of these grandsons: of him it may be said that he suffered more in name from the carelessness of enrolling clerks than any of his kinsmen. The roll of Massachusetts soldiers and sailors in the Revolution fills many thick volumes, and those wishing to look up McNitts and McKnights may consult Vol. X. There it may be discovered that Bernice McNitt, town of Ashfield, was a private in Captain Samuel Bartlett's company, Colonel James Wesson's regiment, year not stated. He enlisted as an "eight months man." The entry closes with the advice: "See Barnabas McNel."
So we turn to Barnabas McNel and find this: "List of men raised to serve in the Continental Army [year not given] from 5th Hampshire County regiment, endorsed 'Col'o David Field's Return'; engaged from town of Ashfield; joined Captain Bartlett's company, Colonel Wesson's regiment; term, eight months. [See Bernice McNitt.]"
We may reject Bernice and McNel and conclude Barnabas McNitt was a good short-term soldier in the Continental Army, while regretting omission of dates.
All, or all but one or two, of the New York enlistments were in militia companies of Charlotte County. Since this county was on the frontier
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and much of the fighting was with Indians and Tories, there is reason to believe that the militia companies saw considerable guerrilla warfare. Part of the job of these frontier fighters was to obstruct the advance of Burgoyne's army by felling large trees across roads and by foraging for supplies that otherwise might fall into the hands of invaders.
Burgoyne's campaign was designed to cut off the New England colonies from the others, and had it succeeded through the joint efforts of Burgoyne and Clinton, marching northward along the Hudson River, the Revolution might have been lost. Lord George Germain of the British War Office, who was directing the campaign, forgot to send General Howe instructions when in a hurry to get out of London for a weekend, and when Howe finally received, the order on August 16, the bulk of his force was moving against Philadelphia. Sir Henry Clinton was belatedly dispatched to meet Burgoyne, only to learn at Kingston that Burgoyne had surrendered at Schuylerville on October 17 to General Horatio Gates. Clinton set fire to private houses in Kingston and turned back southward.
"Gentleman Jack" Burgoyne had a good time while his campaign lasted, we learn from Morison and Commager in their Growth of the American Republic: he "would make no concession to wilderness conditions; he must have his service of plate, his champagne, and thirty wagons for his personal baggage. Baron Riedesel, the commander of the Brunswick mercenaries, was accompanied by the Baroness, who has left us a most vivid account of the series of splendid picnics that marked her hero's advance." Just before his surrender, we read in Stone's History of Washington County, Burgoyne entertained his staff at a champagne dinner in the commandeered country house of the patriot General Philip Schuyler. On leaving next morning, Gentleman Johnny ordered the house burned. A few days later, a prisoner of war, Burgoyne was graciously received by Schuyler in his Albany town house.
Saratoga was the decisive battle of the war, and the greatest. The American victory persuaded the French King to throw the weight of his forces into the war on the side of the colonies.
So the McNitt brothers and sons in arms made the greater part of their war contribution to the campaign to stop Burgoyne in 1777. They played obscure parts, but all of them capable of bearing arms were in there fighting. Two members of the general clan were accused of giving aid in some form to the British, as we discover in a list of men whose goods were declared forfeited, on page 256 of Vol. I of Documents Relative to the Colonial History of New York. The two named were Malcolm McNight and David McNutt.
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The McNaughtons of the Argyle patent, adjoining the township of Salem on the west, were good patriots too. The Roster of State Troops lists Peter three times: as Peter McNackten, sergeant in Captain Dygert's company and Colonel Clyde's regiment; as Peter McNaghten, sergeant in Captain Little's company, Colonel Fisher's regiment; and as Peter McNaghten, a Lieutenant in the same company and regiment.
It is not difficult to account for soldiers named McKnight who enlisted in Charlotte County and fought under some of the same Colonels as the McNitts. Though of the clan, they were not members of Barnard's family, mistakenly enrolled as McKnights. In all probability they belonged with the Ulster newcomers who had settled in Salem in 1766 as members of a colony led by Dr. Thomas Clark. The Roster includes the names of four: Alexander McKnight, a private in Captain Sherwood's company, Colonel Webster's regiment; George, a Lieutenant in Captain Hamilton's company in Williams' and Webster's regiments; John, a private under Captain Hicks and Colonel Van Schoonhoven; and Thomas McKnight, a private under Captain Visscher and Colonel Van Schoonhoven. Regardless of surname form, all rate the same with us, and it is gratifying to find in this frontier county men named McNaughton, McKnight, and McNitt as brothers in arms in the same regiments. It is safe to venture they didn't know their common kinship.
Mention has been made earlier of a family of McKnights that settled in Berkshire County, Massachusetts long before the Revolution, no doubt closely related to the Alexander McNitt who arrived in Boston in 1720. The Berkshire McKnights took very active part in the Revolution. Their records follow, with their names shown as found in the Massachusetts archives:
JAMES McKNIGHT, sergeant in Captain Peter Porter's company, Colonel Benjamin Simonds' Berkshire County regiment; enlisted April 26, 1777, discharged May 20,1777. Also Second Lieutenant in Captain George Sloane's company, Colonel Simonds' 2d Berkshire County regiment; commissioned July 24, 1778. Served another enlistment with same rank in same company and regiment. Later was First Lieutenant in command of a detachment in Colonel David Rossiter's regiment; entered service October 15, 1780 when his detachment was ordered to Bennington; was discharged October 18, 1780. Entered service again with same detachment and regiment on November 6, 1780 and served three days in a march to Stillwater on alarm from northward.
ROBERT McKNIGHT, private, Colonel Ashley's detachment, entered service July 22, 1777, served twenty-three days in northern department (probably around Saratoga). Enlisted as private September 6, 1777 in Colonel John Brown's Berkshire County regiment, took part in Ticonderoga campaign. Enlisted from town of Washington for nine months on July 20,
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1778, in Colonel Putnam's Berkshire County regiment. As corporal in Colonel Prime's regiment, served from March 6 to September 6, 1780 under Brigadier General Wadsworth; company was raised for defense of Eastern Massachusetts. Private, Colonel Rossiter's Berkshire County regiment, entered service October 15, 1780 on alarm from northward, served three days.
JOHN McKNIGHT, seaman, ship Pliarne, Ebenezer Bradford, master, bound on voyage to South Carolina to Nantes; engaged for service February 10, 1777.
JOHN McKNIGHT, private, Lieutenant Comish's company, Colonel John Brown's regiment, enlisted in Berkshire County August 14, 1777 served at battle of Bennington, discharged August 22, 1777. Private, Captain Joel Stevens' company, Colonel Rossiter's regiment, enlisted October 12, 1781, called out on alarm from Saratoga, discharged October 25, 1781
JOHN McKNIGHT, private, Colonel Hyde's regiment, enlisted October 20, 1781, served nine days at Stillwater.
THOMAS McKNIGHT, private, Lieutenant Colonel Miles Powell's Berkshire Countv regiment, enlisted July 18, 1779, served one month and ten days at New Haven. Fifer, Captain William Ford's company, Colonel John Brown's Berkshire County regiment, enlisted July 21, 1780, served three months, six days. Fifer, Lieutenant James McKnight's detachment, Colonel Rossiter's regiment, entered service November 6, 1780, served three days at Stillwater. Private, Captain Ebenezer Merry's detachment, Colonel Hyde's regiment, enlisted October 30, 1781, served seven days on alarm from northward.
JOHN McNIGHT, enlisted from Williamstown June 29, 1780, discharged December 14, I780, served in the Continental Army.
ROBERT McNIGHT, town of Washington, enlisted in Lieutenant Cornish's company, Colonel Simonds' Berkshire County regiment for nine months from June 9, 1778. Enlisted for three years as private in Continental Army September 24, 1777, served in Captain John Trafton's company in Colonel Henry Sherburne's regiment.
JAMES McKNIGHT, private in Captain David Strout's company, enlisted September 21, 1777 from Berkshire County, served twelve days at Stillwater (on fringe of Saratoga battle).
ROBERT McKNIGHT, private in Colonel John Brown's Berkshire County regiment, enlisted June 30,1777, served twenty-six days in Saratoga campaign.
We must not forget the Londonderry family that sent some of its sons to Canada with Captain Alexander McNutt of Virginia in the French and Indian War. These took part in the Revolution, according to Massachusetts records:
JOHN McKNIGHT, private, enlisted from Cobbosseecontee in Captain Samuel McCobb's company, Colonel John Nixon's 5th Massachusetts regiment, October 7, 1775. Length of service not given.
ROBERT McKNIGHT, enlisted as private at Londonderry May 2,1775, served three months and six days in Colonel John Nixon's 5th Massachusetts regiment.
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ROBERT McKNIGHT, enlisted from Newburyport as private January 29, 1781, for three years in the Continental Army. (May have been same man as next above.)
Branches of the clan in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina made very considerable contributions of men to the Revolutionary war effort, as will appear in later chapters.
The most distinguished service of all was that of Dr. Charles McKnight of New Jersey, son of a Presbyterian minister, grandson of another, and great-grandson of a ruling elder in Antrim. He was a senior surgeon in the American Army who sacrificed his health in hard work; later he was Professor of Medicine and Surgery at Columbia College, and at one time personal physician to General Washington. A later chapter will tell his story.
For temperament and color, my choice from the long list is Captain Alexander, who though fifty-six at the time of Burgoyne's invasion, set a fighting example for his five sons. When the War of 1812 began, Captain Alexander was ninety-one, a bit hazy perhaps, but ready. At the first news of conflict he put on his hat and started down the road. My great-great-grandfather Daniel, then sixty-one, overtook his father and asked: "Where are you going? "
"Why, of course," the old warrior replied, "I was going to town to enlist!"
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