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Samuel Parsons

Major General

Served 1776 - 1782

Francis Marion - A Klos Family Project - Revolutionary War General

 

Samuel Holden Parsons, soldier, born in Lyme, Connecticut, 14 May, 1737; drowned in Big Beaver river, in either Pennsylvania or Ohio, 17 November, 1789, was graduated at Harvard in 1756, studied law under his uncle, Governor Matthew Griswold, was admitted to the bar in 1759, and settled in Lyme, Connecticut He was in the state assembly for eighteen consecutive sessions, and among other important services settled the boundary of the Connecticut claims on the border of Pennsylvania. He was one of the standing committee of inquiry with the sister colonies in 1773, and originated the plan of forming the first congress, which subsequently met in New York city, and was the forerunner of the Continental congress. He was appointed king's attorney the same year, removed to New London, Connecticut, and was a member of the committee of correspondence. Since 1770 he had been major of the 14th militia regiment, and on 26 April, 1775, he was appointed colonel of the 6th regiment, stationed at Roxbury, Massachusetts, until the British evacuated Boston, and then ordered to New York. While on a journey to Hartford he met Benedict Arnold, who was on his way to Massachusetts and obtained from him an account of the condition of Ticonderoga mid the number of its cannon.

Taking as his advisers Samuel Wyllys, Silas Deane, and three others, on 27 April, 1775, Parsons projected a plan to capture the fort, and, without formally consulting the assembly, the governor, or the council, obtained money from the public treasury with his companions on his own receipt. An express messenger was sent to General Ethan Allen (q. v.) disclosing the plan, and urging him to raise a force in the New Hampshire grants. Allen met the Connecticut party at Bennington, Vermont, and took command. It had been re-enforced by volunteers from Berkshire, Massachusetts, and subsequently captured the fortress. The fifty British soldiers that were taken prisoners were sent to Connecticut in recognition of Parsons's services.

He participated in the battle of Long Island in August, 1776, was commissioned brigadier-general the same month, served at Harlem Heights and White Plains, and subsequently was stationed at Peekskill, New York, to protect the important posts on North river. He planned the expedition to Sag Harbor, and re-enforced Washington in New Jersey. He was in command of the troops that were stationed at the New York Highlands in 1778-'9, and in charge of the construction of the fortifications at West Point. In July of the latter year he attacked the British at Norwalk, Connecticut, and, although his force was too weak to prevent the destruction of the fort, he harassed the enemy until they retired for re-enforcements, and finally were compelled to abandon the attempt to penetrate the state any farther.

He was one of the board that tried Major John Andre. General Parsons was commissioned major-general in 1780, and succeeded General Israel Putnam in command of the Connecticut line, serving until the close of the war. He then resumed the practice of law in Middletown, Connecticut, was appointed by congress a commissioner to treat with the Miami Indians in 1785, and was an active member of the State constitutional convention in 1778, and the same year was appointed by Washington the first judge of the Northwest territory. He removed to the west, settled near Marietta, Ohio, and in 1789 was appointed by the state of Connecticut a commissioner to treat with the Wyandottes and other Indian tribes on Lake Erie, for the purpose of extinguishing the aboriginal title to the Connecticut western reserve. On his return to his home from this service his boat overturned in descending the rapids of Big Beaver river, and he was drowned.

It has recently been discovered, in a letter that is preserved in the manuscript volume of Sir Henry Clinton's original record of daily intelligence, now in the library of Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet, of New York city, that General Parsons was in secret communication with Sir Henry Clinton, and that one William Heron, a representative from Fairfield in the Connecticut legislature, was the intermediary to whom Parsons wrote letters which, with the knowledge of their author, were sent to the enemy's headquarters. Under date of 8 July, 1781, he wrote :

"The five regiments of our states are more than 1,200 men deficient of their complement; the other states (except Rhode Island and New York, who are fuller) are nearly in the same condition. Our magazines are few in number. Your fears for them are groundless. They are principally at West Point, Fishkill, Wapping Creek, and Newburg, which puts them out of the enemy's power, except they attempt their destruction by a force sufficient to secure the Highlands, which they cannot do, our guards being sufficient to secure them from small parties. The French troops yesterday encamped on our left, near the Tuckeyhoe road. Their number I have not had the opportunity to ascertain. Other matters of information I shall be able to give you in a few days."

This letter was sent by Heron to Major Oliver De Lancey, to whom Heron wrote that he had concerted measures with Parsons by which he would receive every material article of intelligence from the American camp. Parsons's treason is also corroborated by Revolutionary  papers of Major John Kissam, of the British army. General Parsons published a valuable and interesting paper on the "Antiquities of Western States," in the 2d volume of the "Transactions". of the American academy, and left a manuscript history of the Tully family in Saybrook, including an account of their first settlement in America (Boston, 1845).

Samuel Holden's son, Enoch Parsons, financier, born in Lyme, Connecticut, 5 November, 1769; died in Middletown, Connecticut, 9 July, 1846, received a mercantile education, and became a noted accountant. He was appointed by General Arthur St. Clair register and first clerk of the first probate office in Washington county, Ohio, in 1789, but returned to Connecticut the next year, and, settling in Middletown, was high sheriff of Middlesex county for twenty-eight years. In 1817 he was appointed by Governor Oliver Wolcott to arrange for an adjustment of the Revolutionary claims of Connecticut with the United States government. For many years he was president of the Middlesex national bank.


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