J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

More Details from Capt. Samuel Leighton’s Papers

As I looked over the document dealer Seth Kaller’s offerings from the papers of Capt. Samuel Leighton of Kittery, Maine, a few things jumped out at me.

Records of the Massachusetts Committee of Safety say that a total of 91 guns were delivered to Col. James Scamman’s regiment on 30 June and 7 July 1775. The papers for sale include a receipt for four guns dated 4 July. The most expensive of those guns, worth a third of the total, is connected with Henry Foss, who was the Leighton company’s drummer.

Foss also had one of the best signatures in the company, as shown by this document. A few men signed with their marks only, including one, Stephen Nason, who is listed as a corporal. Normally I expect the non-commissioned officers to be able to write, but this man might have been exceptional.

At a council of war on 3 Aug 1775, Gen. George Washington learned that his army’s stock of gunpowder was considerably smaller than he’d understood. I suspect that led to Capt. Leighton’s inventory of “Aminitson” held by men on 12 August. It looks like most of the company had over twenty rounds.

At the end of the year, Col. Scamman didn’t receive a new Continental Army commission. Despite being acquitted in a court-martial, he apparently hadn’t escaped the cloud hanging over him since Bunker Hill. In fact, he continued to argue against those charges in the newspaper in 1776.

Capt. Leighton and many of his men chose not to reenlist. They accepted money in lieu of winter coats and collected their October pay on 29 December. Leighton turned in some ammunition and other supplies and got a receipt on 1 Jan 1776.

And then Capt. Leighton and many of his men went back home to Maine. Leighton was in Kittery on 8 March when he paid Sgt. Josiah Paul. Meanwhile, back in Massachusetts Gen. Washington was overseeing the endgame of the siege from Dorchester Heights.

A family genealogy includes his Samuel Leighton’s commission in the Massachusetts militia dated 16 May 1776. He led a company back to Boston later that year for guard duty and eventually was promoted to major in the state militia, but never again served in the Continental Army.

Among the other Leighton documents is what Seth Kaller calls a list of instructions for infantry formations. It’s actually the section headings of chapter five of Gen. Steuben’s drill manual, titled “Miscellaneous Evolutions.” That was published in 1779, so I assume Leighton or a relative copied it out later in the war, maybe for militia training.


Susan said...

Took a look at the formations list, it's a fabulous document. Reminded me a lot of Pickering's manual, wonder if von Steuben referenced that at all when drawing up his own. I know that Washington had a copy of it in his own library -- and wasn't Pickering an aide to the general during the War? Thanks for this site. Sue

J. L. Bell said...

Pickering was adjutant general and then quartermaster general for the Continental Army during the period that Steuben and his staff produced his drill manual. Pickering's Easy Plan of 1775 was widely distributed at the time. Therefore, it's possible that Steuben and his staff drew on it when composing the 1779 drill manual.

However, I haven't read of direct borrowing on this scale: 51 section heads copied exactly. And people have studied the topic pretty closely. I'll check digital copies to be sure.