Wednesday, November 11, 2015

William Nelson, Revolutionary War Soldier

I now have six month's access to Fold3 military records and today I was researching my husband's third great-grandfather.

William Nelson, Jr. (sometimes spelled Nielson) was born June 2, 1760 in Fishkill Landing, Westchester, Dutchess Co, NY and died June 27, 1842 in Stoney Creek, Saltfleet Twp, Lincoln Co, Ontario, Canada.

On March 11, 1777 at age 17 he joined the 5th New York Regiment of the Continental Army under Col. DuBois. It was organized in June 1776 from men of Orange and Ulster counties. He may have served with the 5th as a drummer boy at age 16.

As a private his salary was 6 2/3 dollars a month. Records show him 'in the field' starting from March 11, 1777.

Muster rolls records in 1777 show he was present on duty in March, July, September, and December but absent on November 1.

In 1778 in January he was on command but deserted February 1 through 8. In March 1778 he was 'confined.' May through June he was in Peeksville; July 22 through September 12 he was at Camp White Plains “in the field”; August and September he was still at White Plains; November and December 1778 he was on duty in “Scholrry” [Schoharie].

January and February 1779 he was in Cobes Kill; May he was in Johns Town and Canajoharrie; he spent the summer in Easton; and October and November at Morris Town, NY.
He was mustered out on January 6, 1780.

What does this mean?

The 5th New York Regiment under Captain John Johnson and Col. Lewis DuBoys were involved with the Battle of the Hudson Highlands. They were garrisoned at Fort Montgomery in the Hudson Highlands in early 1777. On October 6, 1777 they were attacked by 2,100 British troops. The 5th Regiment, with the help of the militia, held off multiple British attacks before the American forces were overrun, with 98 out of 312 men from the 5th killed or captured. The survivors joined Brigadier General George Clinton in pursuit of the British.

The winter of 1778 was the “Little Ice Age” winter. The troops wintered in Fishkill in brutal conditions, the men scanty clothed and suffering. William deserted February 1 and was apprehended February 8 and spent March in confinement.

The regiment camped at White Plains in the summer of 1778.

The Loyalists and Native Americans attacked and decimated small settlements in Cobeskill and Cherry Valley, NY in July 1778. General Washington was determined to move against the hostile Indians. He wrote General Sullivan that the objective was “the total destruction and devastation of their settlements, and the capture of as many prisoners of every age and sex as possible.” Sullivan was to bring total ruin to the Indian settlements to guarantee America's future security. Sullivan would lead brigades out of Easton, PA and up the Susquehanna Valley while Clinton brought 1,600 men west from Canajoharie, NY to join with them. They would met at an Indian village at Tioga, then march through Iroquois territory. The Sullivan-Clinton Campaign was waged in 1779. The 5th Regiment took part.

Returning to Pompton, NJ they were reviewed by General George Washington.

Luckily, William he was discharged from the service on January 6, 1780. Because the 5th Regiments spent the winter of 1779-80 at Jockey Hollow in Morristown, NJ during the coldest winter on record. The men had to build their own log cabins and furniture. There were a dozen men to a cabin 14x15 feet. Snow storms left six foot snows; there were four storms in February and six more in March. They men had one thread-bare blanket each. Food could not be delivered. Men went for days without bread. They gnawed on birch bark and ate their shoe leather. An officer killed and ate his beloved dog. In 1780 the regiment arrived in West Point for garrison duty.

In 1791 William married Eunice Young and they had five children before immigrating to Saltfleet, Ontario, sometime before 1802 when his son Joseph was born. They had eleven children together, William died at age 82.


In 1842 Joseph's son Aaron was born in Saltfleet but by 1871 was in Michigan were he married Harriet Scoville; their daughter was Charlotte Grace. Grace married John Oran O'Dell and their daughter was Laura Grace who married Herman Bekofske--my father-in-law.