Sunday, September 4, 2016

James Hyde Sr.

  • Name: James Hyde Sr.
  • Born: March 18, 1761 Stratford, Connecticut
  • Died: October 4, 1834 Strattford, Vermonth
  • Related through: Elvira Wilde
On New Year's Day, in 1777, a young lad of only fifteen years, by the name of James Hyde (or Hide, before he later changed the spelling), enlisted in the Connecticut army from Stratford, Connecticut, the town of his birth. His desire to serve his country on the struggle for independence from England, as his older brother Agur was doing, was so strong that his family could not keep him home, in spite of his youth.

He spent the next summer and fall with the troops along the Hudson River. He then joined the troops in Pennsylvania under the command of General George Washington, and was soon "engaged in the sharp action of Whitemarsh," where the army "lost a number of officers killed and wounded." On December seventeenth of the same year, Washington's army, young James included, made quarters at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, the enemy, under Sir William Howe, being secure in Philadelphia. That winter was one never to be forgotten by James Hyde. Seeing and experiencing the gnawing pains of hunger with food scarce, the snow and cold, the wind howling through the threadbare tents, the damp cold of the makeshift log huts, the sore and bleeding feet when the shoes finally gave way and rags that replaced them would hardly hold together, the itch and resultant sores — from not being able to bathe for so long; but through it all he resolved that he could do it if the others could, if their honored leader George Washington would continue to do his best in their behalf. By the time the Prussian soldier, Von Steuben, came and started drilling and training the troops, the food, clothing and sheltered situation was somewhat improved, and things looked better with something to do besides think of hardships, especially for James, young and energetic, though he sometimes wondered if all this marching and maneuvering was going to serve any good purpose in the future.

Summer approached at last, and Clinton, who replaced Howe, left Philadelphia. James Hyde and his companions were elated when the word came that Washington was ready to "set out in pursuit of Clinton," and they were soon on their way.

"On the night of June 17, the British army, 8,000 strong, . . . was near Manmouth Court-House (New Jersey), . . . It was Washington's plan to strike . . . with an advance of 5,000 men, following with an attack by the main army, . . . He had offered Charles Lee command of this advance, Lee being senior major general in the army. . ." "The morning of June 18 came on intensely hot (and sultry); the thermometer registered 96 degrees in the shade. The British army . . . had passed the court-house . . . when . . . the advance ordered by Washington. . .

"Out across the fields, reeling with heat, they marched, exuberant, foreseeing victory; over a deep ravine on a causeway where swamps steamed in the hot sun; on for a mile, and over another ravine, and then out upon the plain, . .." where the British, "perceiving them, had hastened to give battle. The American lines were beginning to fold (the British) in; . . .  But Lee ordered the Americans to retreat!
"The soldiers, at a loss to understand, disappointed, fretting to be at the red-coats, halted, wiping their brows, cursing. . . Their ground was superb for offense; they outnumbered their foe at this time, and nearly surrounded them; but they must fall back! What could it mean? What sudden and unknown danger forced them their vantage? . . .victory within their grasp, was slipping away from them. Back they turned to the high ravine they had so lately crossed, and so proudly. . . Across the ravine, out upon the fields, hot under the sun, straggled the soldiers of liberty, angry, sweltering; many fell by the side of the way, stricken by the terrible heat. Behind them came the British, making the most of the strange retreat.

Then came Washington, having received word of what was happening, "riding furiously. . . The sight of the commander was terrifying; his face worked with a rage as mighty as his soul; his eyes flashed fire. . ." Hot and fast the words flew" between him and Lee. (It was later learned that Lee was indeed a traitor, planning and working with the British.) The soldiers, "pouring around them, raised a cheer at sight of Washington." After letting know, in strongest terms, that he had expected his orders to be obeyed, Washington "set about restoring order from the confusion."

"The British were coming, not a quarter of an hour away. Hastily with great skill, a line was thrown along an eminence behind the ravine, commanding the causeway crossing it. In a moment the shock came; fiery red over the quivering fields, the British lines advanced. . ."

It was fearful fighting "quietly shepherded by Von Steuben, who thought that "this truly new army fought with as much precision as . . . veteran troops." Others had been skeptical about the value of all that wheeling and marching and pacing on the Valley Forge plateau. "Alexander Hamilton admitted that never until that day had he 'known or conceived the value of military discipline.' "

"Despite the inhuman heat, despite the endless, killing march form Philadelphia, Clinton's men came on and on until the sun or American fire took them out of action. . . By now both sides were staggering with heat and exhaustion. Men died right and left under the touch of the sun or collapsed, helpless, with purling faces while sweat pattered down on scarlet coats, blue coats, or mended thread bare homespun."

These were not happy scenes of which James Hyde was a part. "All through the remainder of the terrible day the English strived to breakdown Americans defence; all through the day the patriots held. Deeds of valor were done on every hand. Molly Pitcher, wife of an artillery-man, while bringing water to the battery saw her husband shot down by his gun. Without hesitation she took his place and fought the gun throughout the battle. . .

Against such spirit the attack grew hopeless. When the sun was sinking in the west, the British broke, withdrawing to the ground where Lee has encountered them early this morning."

"On the morning of the next day the British were gone, marching in the night toward New York. . ," and James Hyde, though he was still a youth, shared with the other Americans a feeling of bitter glory, knowing that if the first plan had succeeded the war might be over instead of just seeing the British go on their way.

James Hyde wintered the next season (1778-9) with his company at Redding, and during the following two years continued to serve wherever his regiment was called.

By the fall of 1781, he was a part of the force commanded by Marquis de Lafayette, and had moved south to Williamsburg, Virginia, preparatory to fighting Cornwallis at Yorktown,

Washington was commander-in-chief of the whole army, which included the Americans under Lafayette, reinforced by several thousand French troops, and with a strong French fleet off shore on the Atlantic.

On October 6 the battle began; with Cormwallis ill-prepared for the attack. "Day in and day out the big guns of the besieged and the besiegers roared and stunned. It was probably the heaviest artillery concentration that the continent had ever known..."

During the evening of October 14th a bayonet and musket assault was made on the foremost British fortifications. "Surprise seems to have been complete, and the enemy works were taken quickly and smartly."

Three days later, with Cornwallis having launched but a weak counter-attack, probably because of his knowledge that he needed, but could get no reinforcements, the morning dawned with the "French and American artillery thundering into fullest action. . . 'The whole peninsula trembles under thundering of our infernal machines,' wrote Dr. James Thacher. . ."

"It must have been difficult for gunners and observers to make out the British works. The haze of a lovely Virginia October day was thickened by heavy cannon smoke, and by clouds of soft earth hurled skyward. Somewhere about ten o'clock . . . the air cleared a little. . . Cannoneers began yelling," pointing toward what turned out to be "one little British drummer" beating the request for a parley. . (then) "A bigger man appeared on the parapet. . .and waved a white handkerchief. There was a moment of stunned unbelief through the American and French lines, though every man must have expected (this) sooner or later."

"Back at Williamsbburg, the commander-in-chief was busily writing letters. Later he meant to ride out and watch the morning's bombardment. . . As he wrote, gunfire down by Yorktown seemed to be slacking off a little, but it was nothing to notice. . . Up to Washington's quarters galloped a sweating dragoon curies with a letter. The Virginian broke the seal, read it, and was on his feet in an instant, staring and staring. . . '. . .Surrender. . .'. . .

"George Washington had rallied swiftly and coolly from many an adverse blow. Now the hand of success had fallen stunning on his back, and the effort must have been almost as numbing as, say, the sight of Charles Lee's unbeaten men in full retreat from Monmouth. But he soon shook off the impact of the news. . . an answer to Cornwallis was approved."

"Couriers went out with this reply, with warnings too commanders in all parts of the allied line. Slowly the gunfire died away. . .Far to the right,"

James Hyde and the other men in the "Massachusetts-Connecticut battalion, worked out into the warn air, peered at the silent British lines, and then stretched out gratefully on the sun, yawning in luxury in spots where a man could not have lived a few hours ago. Throughout the day men walked cautiously, as though afraid that a sudden move, a loud noise might shatter the brittle-seeming hush that hangover the peninsula. . . Night fell and the air cleared. . . Dawn came and the hush was still unbroken and men began to believe in it and in its duration."

"Bright sun on the noon of October 19, 1781, poured down on the fields of the peninsula. . . The allied camps were a boil with men shuttling about as drums beat out their urgent clamor. In the calm air that was rich with the smell of trampled grass and wood smoke and tobacco and oiled leather, company after company formed. . . The fields then began to flow. The long columns" of smartly dressed French troops "swung off toward the road to Yorktown, and halted at its flat western edge, . . ."

"To the east, dabber troops were on the move, (but it was also) dazzling, hypnotic. Swarming men and women stood on tiptoe, trying to catch a glimpse of (the men of who, they had heard or read.) There was a deep murmur from the massed bystanders, a rising tide of welcome and wonder as these people saw their own massed army for the first time."

"Now the army was halting on the east side of the road to Yorktown, facing its French allies with the deserted enemy works looming somber on its right. Drums began to beat, orders snapped out, and right and left the waiting ranks bristled to attention. There were hoofbeats far off to the American left, . . . There on a huge bay horse, gleaming in blue and buff, rode the one man who could have been, the living embodiment of those hard, drab ranks to his right, who could have welded them to the white and blue men on his left. From the beginning George Washington had met every blow, stood up under every, discouragement, every frightening disaster that the army as a whole had known. . . The hoofs clopped on," and, as Washington rode by him, James Hyde's bosom swelled with pride at the thought that he had known this special man.

"Washington took his post at the far right of the American line." "Then from Yorktown, . . . sad drums began to roll," and the British army marched out between the French and American lines, stacked its arms, and at last marched back, empty handed, to Yorktown for further orders.

"On the plains about Yorktown the music was gay and soaring again as the French and American armies filed away, quietly joyous, to their quarters." Thus James Hyde, Private, was part of the last major battle of the Revolutionary War and watched the British army Surrender — an experience that would remain vivid for a long time.

It wasn't until June 8, 1783, however, that he was mustered out of service, the peace treaty negotiations taking all this time. He was discharged at West Point, having been with he army in New York for quite some time. He felt indeed honored that George Washington, him self, signed his release papers (as attested by his application, in 1818, for a Revolutionary Service Pension.)

James Hyde had served his country for six years, being now twenty two years of age. He had seen more than his share of valor and bravery, of death and suffering — and emerged a man. After his release he went to Manchester, Vermont, where his father, Nehemiah Hide, had located. James' brother, Clark Hide, deeded land to him at Manchester in 1785, and his father deeded some more to him there in 1788. In these deeds James is called a tailor. Perhaps he learned this skill during the was years, as possibly an assistant to a tailor in his company, most probably during his long stay at New York before being discharged.

James was married at Manchester, 16 April 1786, to Betty (or Bettsey) Pennock. One child, Heman, was born here in 1788. Soon after this family moved to Stratford in northern Vermont, a "new" town to the white man, James' wife's grandfather, James Pennock, being the first settler just twenty years before. There was still land to be cleared and much building-up to do. In Stratford five more children were born to Betty: James, Roswell, Betsey (who died), Hiram, and Betsey Florinda.

Things were going well for James Hyde: his family was growing; he was able to buy land — also received bounty land for his Revolutionary War service — and through hard work this land supplied his family with the essentials; in addition he was active religiously, in 1798 being among those who founded the Universalist Society in Stratford. His name appears in connection with town affairs, on the grand lists, and on the list of voters. But it seems, in this life the blows must come, and James was no exception. His wife Betty died in February of 1802, when she was but thirty years of age, and their youngest child just a year old. (On her gravestone she is called the wife of "Ensign James Hyde," so James must have been active in local military affairs.)

In August James married Betty's cousin, Eunice Pennock, to help him raise his family of young children. As the years passed Eunice became the mother of twelve boys and girls (Willian Henry, Alpha, Alvira, Emeline, Eunice Maretta, Hannibal, Harrison, Matilda, Edwin, Daniell, Marinda, and Jannette), making James the father of eighteen. Seventeen of these children lived to maturity and raised families of their own, settling in many different parts of the United States. James Hyde recorded his children's births, and the original paper is still preserved in his Pension file.

In 1818 James applied for a pension for his Revolutionary War service, at this time calling himself a farmer. Following is a copy of his 1820 confirmation of his application, which contains much interest: (The original document is entirely handwritten and hard to read.)

"State of Vermont" On this 4th day of July 1820 personally appeared before the County James Hyde 43 Court for the county of Orange said court being a court of record agreeably to the laws ofthis State having the power of fine and Imprisonment &c. James Hyde aged 58 years resident in Stratford in said County of Orange who being first duly sworn according to Law doth on his oath declare that he served in the Revolutionary War as follows he enlisted Jany 1st 1777 in the second Continental Regiment Col Gharles Web commander in Capt Willls Company during the war and was discharged at West Point the 8th day of June 1783 and when discharged was a soldier in Capt Hopkins Company 3 Connecticut Regiment. That he made his original declaration on the 7th day of April 1818 has
received a pension Certificate No. 11236 and I do solemnly swear that I was a resident citizen of the United States on the 18th day of March 1818 and that I have not since that time by gift sale or in any manner disposed of my property or any part thereof with intent thereby so to diminish it as to bring myself within the provision of an act of Congress entitled an act to provide for certain persons engaged in the Land and Naval service on the United States in the Revolutionary War passed on the 18th day of March and that I have not nor has any person in trust for me any property or securities contracts or debts due to me nor have I any income other than what is contained in the schedule hereto annexed and by me subscribed to wit. Ninety acres of land 1 old house 2 small barns 2 yoaks of oxen 1 old and 1 young cow 4 yearlings 30 sheeps and lambs 2 hogs 6 pigs 1 ox cart 1 plough 1 Harrow 1 good chain part of chain 1 yoak and irons 1 pitch fork 1 axe 2 **** some old Iron 1 Grindstone 2 old Tables 9 old chairs part broken 1 5 pail kettle 2 old wheels 1 tub crockery knives forks Iron spoons and other household furniture consisting of articles of small value in all $30.00 I am justly owing $150.00 in all amounting to - - - - - - - - - - - - - $750-- I am by occupation a farmer and unable to pursue it by reason of sickness and being afflicted with the Phthisic I have 11 person residing in my family including myself My wife Eunice is aged 41 years week and feeble having had a large family of children and rather poor keeping my son William is aged 17 years Alvire 14 years Emeline 13 & of a feeble constitution Eunice is 11 years old Hannibal 9 Harrison 7 Matilda 5 Edwin 3 and Daniel 1 Year old

The pension he received amounted to eight dollars per month. This was a help in raising his large family and caring for his "feeble" wife, who lived to be eighty. He continued to farm, as well as buy and sell land, especially dealing with the Pennocks. James Hyde's death occurred on the 4th of October 1834, at the age of seventy-four years, six months, and ten days. His widow died almost twenty years later (January 12, 1859). His grandson, William Hyde, later wrote of him. "He was an active, good man through life, and died with honorable old age."

An additional tribute, by William Morse:
"James Hyde is a fine example of the sturdy pioneers, who made the unkind soil of New England productive, and succeeded by hard work in rearing families, the members of which have spread over the country and made possible by their energy the development of this great country of ours."

Contributed By Bobby Blankenbehler
Compiled 1965, by Myrtle S. Hyde

Sources of Information:
 Descendants of Humphery Hide of Fairfield, Conn., by Willard S.
Morse (written about 1913)
44 James Hyde
 Connecticut Men in the Revolution, pp 162, 331, 353.
The Real America in Romance, Vol. 9, Edited by Edwin
Markham, 1912, pp. 310, 311, 313, 322, 323-330.
From Lexington to Liberty, by Bruce Lancaster, 1955, pp. 327,
329, 334-5, 355, 446, 449-454.
Revolutionary War Pension File of James Hyde, General Services
Administration, Washington D.C.
Manchester, Vermont, Deeds and Vital Records.
Stratford, Vermont, Deeds and Vital Records.
Vermont Historical Gazetteer, by Abby Maria Hemmenway, Vol.
2, 1871, p. 1080.
Private Journal of William Hyde (1818-1874).2