Tag Archives: Lenox in the Revolutionary War

Revolutionary War for Enlisted Men from Lenox

joseph plumb martin
Book Cover of Joseph Plumb Martin’s Tale of Being an Ordinary Soldier

We know of no eye-witness accounts of Revolutionary War service by Lenox enlisted men.  However, Joseph Plumb Martin from Becket gives a fascinating and colorful picture of what life would have been like for all the brave and long suffering ordinary soldiers of the Revolution.  Joseph Plumb Martin wrote of his experiences in “Ordinary Courage.”




Why and How Joseph Enlisted

Joseph, working on his grandfather’s farm, explains how he came to enlist:

“I remember the stir in the country occasioned by the Stamp Act, but I was so young that I did not understand the meaning of it; I likewise remember the disturbances that followed the repeal of the Stamp Act until the destruction of the tea at Boston and elsewhere.  I was then 13 or 14 years old and began to understand something of the works going on.  I used to inquire a deal about the French War, as it was called, which had not been long ended; my grandsire would talk with me about it while working in the field…” (Ch. 1)

In the same chapter he describes the sense of local tension and alarm:

“I was ploughing in the field about half a mile from home (which would have been Connecticut – where his grandfather lived), about the 21st day of April (1775) when all of a sudden the bells fell to dinning and three guns were repeatedly fired in succession down in the village….The regulars are coming in good earnest, thought I.”

At first, Joseph has no interest in enlisting but then:

“This year there were troops raised both for Boston and New York.  Some from the back towns were billeted at my gransire’s; their company and conversation began to warm my courage to such a degree that I resolved at all events to ‘to a sogering'”

However, his grandfather did not give him permission to enlist (he would have been only 15) and:

“Many of my young associates were with them; my heart and soul went with them, but my mortal part must stay behind.  By and by they will come swaggering back, thought I, and tell me of all their exploits….”

In July 1776 Joseph got his wish when his town was required to provide enlistees for the defense of New York.  Upon being told that the British had been reinforced by 15,000 men he reports, “I never spent a thought about numbers; the Americans were invincible in my opinion….”

Joseph’s Account of the Kip’s Bay ‘Affair’ and the Retreat from New York

Joseph has a laconic story telling style that would become classic yankee.  He speaks of battle as things getting “warm,”  and constantly makes sarcastic comments about food (and was probably hungry almost all the time.) Although many of his stories of duty in Westchester and New Jersey tell of indifferent patriots or tories, here he paints a picture of interactions between both friends and foes while on the march:

“I found myself in company with one who was a neighbor of mine when at home and one other man belonging to our regiment; where the rest of them were I knew not.  We went into a house by the highway in which were two women and some small children, all crying most bitterly.  We asked the women if they had any spirits in the house; they placed a case bottle of rum upon the table and bid us help ourselves.  We each of us drank a glass and bidding them good-bye betook ourselves to the highway again.  We had not gond far before we saw a party of men apparently hurrying on in the same direction with ourselves.  We endeavored hard to overtake them, but on approaching them we found they were not of our way of thinking; they were Hessians.” (Chap. 2)

And in this retreat he tells (as he will in all the future campaigns) of the inadequacy of rest and food:

“I still kept the sick man’s musket; I was unwilling to leave it, for it was his own property, and I knew he valued it highly, and I had a great esteem for him.  I had enough to do to take care of my own concerns: it was exceeding hot weather, and I was faint, having slept but very little the preceding night, nor had I eaten a mouthful of victuals for more than 24 hours.”

And he gives a personal account of the hopes of the enslaved to be freed by serving with King George:

“The man of the house where I was quartered had a smart-looking Negro man, a great politician.  I chanced one day to go into the barn where he was threshing.  He quickly began to upbraid me with my opposition to the British.  The king of England was a very powerful prince, he said–a very power prince; and it was a pity that the colonists had fallen out with him; but as we had, we must abide by the consequences.  I had no inclination to waste the shafts of my rhetoric upon a Negro slave.  I concluded he had heard his betters say so.  As the old cock crows, so crows the young one; and I though, as the white cock crows, so cross the black oe.  He ran away from his master before I left there and went to Long Island to assist King George; but it seems the King of Terrors was more potent than King George, for his master had certain intelligence that poor Cuff was laid flat on his back.”

(This may refer to death by small pox which was rampant — particularly among the former slaves who enlisted with the British troops.)

Why Joseph Re-Enlisted for the Duration of the War

By 1777 the rage militare of 1775 had all but disappeared.  It was now apparent the war would be a prolonged affair and that the ‘sogering’ Joseph had looked forward to was more hunger and exhaustion than glory.

Nonetheless, like soldiers throughout history, Joseph re-enlisted because his friends did — and perhaps we can speculate–because he was young and wasn’t sure what else to do.

The Suffering of the Continental Army

(From Chapter 3)

“One of my mates, and my most familiar associate who had been out ever since the war commenced, and who had been with me the last campaign, had enlisted for the term of the war in the capacity of sergeant.  He had enlisting orders, and was every time he saw me, which was often, harassing me with temptations to engage in the service again.  At length he so far overcame my resolution as to get me into the scrape again, although it was at this time against my inclination, for I had not fully determined with myself, that if I did engage again, into what corps I should enter.  But I would here just inform the reader, that that little insignificant monosyllable–No–was the hardest word in the language for me to pronounce, especially when solicited to do a thing which was in the least degree indifferent to me;  I could say Yes, with half the trouble.”

And he gives us an account of the army’s war on smallpox:

“….with about 400 others of the Connecticut forces, to a set of old barracks a mile or two distant in the Highland to be inoculated with the smallpox.  We arrived at and cleaned out the barracks, and after two or three days received the infection….I had the smallpox favorably as did the rest, generally.”

And he describes the growing hardship of his squad:

“Their whole time is spent in marches (especially night marches) watching, starving, and in cold weather freezing and sickness. If they get any chance to rest, it must be in the woods or fields, under the side of a fence, in an orchard or in any other place but a comfortable one, lying down on the cold and often wet ground, and perhaps, before the eyes can be closed with a moment’s sleep, alarmed and compelled to stand under arms an hour or two, or to receive an attack from the enemy; and when permitted again to endeavor to rest, called upon immediately to remove some four or five miles to seek some other place, to go through the same maneuvering as before; for it was dangerous to remain any length of time in one place for fear of being informed of by some tory inhabitant (for there were plenty of this sort of savage beast during the Revolutionary War.)…..”

He recounts more on the lack of provisions:

“In the cold month of November without provisions, without clothing, not a scrap of either shoes or stockings to my feet or legs, and in this condition to endure a siege in such a place as that was appalling in the highest degree.”

Joseph’s suffering goes on throughout the war – and often in situations where surrounded by plenty.  He rightly resents the lack of sacrifice of the civilians who claimed to be patriots.

It is interesting to note that there was no such thing as an “American” yet.  Joseph refers to the Pennsylvanians as foreigners.

Peace and Prosperity – Not

When the war ended in 1783 Joseph was still only 22 years old.  He had had little education and is grandfather’s farm was gone.  After a brief stint teaching school among the Dutch settlers in the Hudson Highlands, he made for Maine in response to rumors that land was available on easy terms.  Like most of the common soldiers of the Revolutionary War, he mustered out with little except whatever tattered clothes he had on his back.

Settling near the mouth of the Penobscot River, he married, had children and lived another 66 years.  He was apparently well thought of by his fellow townsmen — elected to the board of selectmen seven times.  However, he never prospered and, like many veterans of the war, received scant reward for his service.  In 1797 he finally received title to 100 acres of land in the Ohio territory, but he was already in Maine and owed for the land he had settle on there.  His bounty land was assigned to a land agent for whatever cash could be raised.


Ordinary Courage, The Revolutionary War Adventures of Joseph Plumb Martin, Fourth Edition, Edited by James Kirby Martin, Published by Wiley-Blackwell, 2013 (e edition)

The Revolution Came Early – 1774 – to the Berkshires

Although no shots were fired, the Revolution in the Berkshires could have been said to have begun in 1774.  The revolt of 1774  was a demonstration by Berkshire and Litchfield County colonists (some estimates are as high as 1500) blocking the meeting of the Berkshire County Court in Great Barrington on August 15.

Sketch of Unknown Origin of Colonists Reacting to the Stamp Act
Sketch of Unknown Origin of Colonists Reacting to the Stamp Act

This could easily have erupted into open warfare.  The size of the crowd (whatever the actual number) was huge for the sparsely populated Berkshires, it had been planned, and included carrying off some important individuals who disagreed with the protestors.


Since the end of the French and Indian Wars (1763), the English Parliament had tried (and  largely failed) to collect taxes and tariffs from the American colonists to help pay the cost of maintaining their newly enlarged North American empire.   Much of the American resistance to these taxes and tariffs was in the form of what, in modern parlance, would be called a boycott.  The latest of these, the Boston Tea Party in December 1773 (dumping tea in Boston Harbor rather than paying the tariff)

Boston Tea Party - December 1773
Boston Tea Party – December 1773

touched off a series of reprisals which included

  • appointment of a new governor who was also head of military operations – and who was no longer paid by the elected representative body
  • prohibition of town meetings except for the annual election of town officers or unless an agenda was approved by the royal governor
  • moving authority to appoint and pay judges from the elected representatives to the royal governor.

Technically the 1774 Great Barrington protest was a refusal to let the judges appointed by this new mandate be seated to hold court.  As is so often the case, there was more to the protest than the stated objection.

  1. It was critical to have judges the county property holders felt they could trust — and for them that meant having recourse through their elected representatives.  Courts were important to early Berkshire County; with court decisions often making the difference between poverty and plenty.  Everyone, even those with a profession such as the attorneys who came to these courts had a farm. Property was the primary source of wealth and boundary disputes were common.   It was a hand to mouth existence and the currency that land holders had to have to pay taxes and buy manufactured goods was almost non-existent.  Consequently, there was a great deal of borrowing – sometimes with the very land that was the property owners means of earning a living – pledged as collateral.
  2. The elimination of town meetings was a lightning rod for these colonists who had been self governing for generations.  They had important local issues to discuss – roads, schools, fencing – as well as wanting to have the opportunity.
  3. Even though Berkshire County was still remote, they had organized themselves and were in regular communication, through the Committees o Correspondence, with Boston and the rest of the North American colonists.
  4. Lacking a visiting governor or, as was the case in Boston, a standing British army,  the meeting of the County Court was the only face of the royal government in this frontier area.

So, the Berkshire protesters definitely didn’t want judges that had no tie to their elected representatives but they also were, in retrospect, well on the road to Revolution.

For More Information

An excellent paper prepared by Ryan Bachman for History 499:  The Western Massachusetts Agrarian Revolt of 1774, Dr. Peretti on December 12, 2011, “Popular Rage:  The Background to the Closing of the Berkshire County Courthouse.”





Azirah Egleston

Azirah and Hannah Eggleston from D. Wood Book_NEW

He was born in Sheffield in 1757,  son of Seth Eggleston and Rachel Church Eggleston. Like many of his generation, his father was born in Westfield and emigrated west – as his father may have done before him. Many Revolutionary War veterans were 3rd or 4th generation descendants of the Puritans who had landed in Boston in the 1630’s.

About 200 Lenox residents are listed on the Revolutionary War rosters. Not all would have served as long as Major General Paterson or Major Egleston, but it was clearly a town with strong patriot sympathies.

Azirah must have been very committed to the Revolution since he enlisted as a Private in April 1775 at age 18 and participated in many crucial battles and left the service as a Major.

Continue reading Azirah Egleston

114 Main St., Cook House – 1790

114 Main St., Cook House - 1790
114 Main St., Cook House – 1790

From Surveys Completed 2011-2012 by the Lenox Historical Commission


This Federal style building has two stories, a standing-seam metal roof and has been significantly altered. There is a five-bay, center entrance. It is wood frame; gable roof with two early gabled dormers; brick endwall chimneys, one each side. The house has wood clapboard siding; Roman-arched attic and dormer windows. There is a door surround with arched transom and 2/3rds-length sidelights; large two-story rear ell with expanded and an enclosed porch on the right side. The 1893 Sanborn Map depicts an articulated front porch extending nearly the full width of the house as well as a rear porch.

There is a large two-story addition off the original rear ell added by 1939 and a front entrance porch with slender Doric columns, c.1950. There are stone and concrete foundations; a wood picket fence around the front and side yards with large yard with open lawn areas, mature trees and shrubs, and stone sculpture.


This house appears to have been built as a farmhouse by the Cook family (Labeled “Henry Cook” on 1854 Clark Map).

Richard Sands Tucker of Brooklyn, N.Y. purchased the property in 1866, and resided here with his wife Margaret. After his death in the 1880’s his widow rented out the house for several years, and then sold it to Henry Sedgewick.

Caroline Katherine Carey (Miss Kate Carey) purchased the property in 1928 and established a Lenox brand of the Berkshire County Home for Aged Women. Common name was Meadow Place.

Since 1992 the home has been owned by Nathan B. Winstanley and used for offices for his firm.


1854 Clark Map, 1893 Sanborn Map

Old Form B

Town Assessor’s Report.

Tucker Manuscript

Lenox Assessor’s database 2012

7 Main St., Maj. Gen. John Patterson House – 1783


7 Main St., Major General John Paterson House - 1783
7 Main St., Major General John Paterson House – 1783

From Surveys Completed 2011-2012 by Lenox Historical Commission


This Federal style building has two stories, an asphalt shingle roof and has been minimally altered. It is a 5-bay, center entrance construction. It has wood frame; clapboard siding with a hipped roof with molded cornice with dentiled band below. There are 2 brick end-wall chimneys, painted white. It has a symmetrically organized front façade and an intact entrance porch with pediment, pillars and pilasters. The front door surround has a 4-light transom. There is a large 2-story rear ell with hipped roof, an exposed foundation, and entry at the basement level. It has a left side wall chimney and a 1-story rear extension on its right side. The building has a stone foundation.

A five-bay, hipped-roof Federal house with a center entrance and end wall chimneys. It is one of the few houses of this period to survive in Lenox Village (others are 74 Walker St., 83 Main St., and 9 Cliffwood St.) This is the largest and most impressive of them, although it is restrained in ornament, and reflects the position held by the Paterson family.


This house was built for Major General John Paterson, a friend, counselor and comrade of General George Washington, and led the Berkshire troops. John Paterson was the Berkshires’ most distinguished soldier in the Revolutionary War, and led troops in most of the major battles of the war. He was an advisor to George Washington crossed the Delaware with him. Through most of the war he held the rank of Colonel, but before leaving the service of the United States Army he was appointed full Major General.

Major General Paterson did not occupy this house for long, for in 1790 he retired to Lisle, New York, where he died in 1808. The house passed to his daughter, Hannah Paterson, and her husband Major Azariah Egleston. Egleston, who had served under Paterson and also participated in most of the major battles of the revolution. Egleston later served as Justice of the Peace and state senator. The house remained in the Egleston family through the 19th century, although later generations used it as a summer residence. The building was purchased by the Lenox National Bank in 1968 and has operated as a bank since 1971.


Lenox: Massachusetts Shire Town, David Wood, 1969

Lenox and the Berkshire Highlands, R. DeWitt Mallary, 1902

Dictionary of American Biography

Inscription on Paterson-Egleston Monument

Lenox Assessor’s database – 2011

Lenox Library Reference Section (Invoice from William Walker Esq to Simeon Smith)

Revolutionary War Heroes: Major General John Paterson

More than 225 men from Lenox participated in the Revolutionary War and those they left at home sacrificed as well.  So there was no shortage of heroes from Lenox.  However several stand out — particularly Major General John Paterson.

Sketch of Maj. General John Paterson from the Connecticut Sons of the American Revolution Website
Sketch of Maj. General John Paterson from the Connecticut Sons of the American Revolution Website; From the Monmouth Battle Monument at Freehold, NJ

John Paterson was born in 1744 in New Britain, CT (then called Farmington) of another John Paterson who died of yellow fever while fighting for England in the Carribean.  His ancestors are said to have fled from Scotland to escape the tyranny of James II.

Son John graduated at age 18 from Yale in 1762 – the same year his father died in Havana.  He came home to settle his father’s estate, look after his mother and sisters and study law.  He became a justice of the peace shortly after he started practicing law and supplemented his income by teaching school.  He married Elizabeth Lee, also of Farmington, in 1766.

It is not clear why John Paterson moved his family (including his father in law) to Lenox in 1774 but here’s what his biographer and grandson has to say (page 7 The Life of John Paterson):

“It may have been that among the people living there was a General Joseph Paterson, whose name appears on the town records of Lenox as early as January, 1765, or it may have been his desire to be on the frontier.  He became at once identified with the interests of that town, and his abilities as a leader of men were soon recognized.  Almost as soon as he arrived he was chosen Clerk of the Propriety.”

This would be the first of a lifetime of civic responsibilities assumed by John Paterson in Lenox and in his future home in New York.  In July 1774 he represented Lenox at the Berkshire convention to discuss the non-importation agreement and to the state government meeting in Salem under the auspices of the Committees of Correspondence — and in protest of the royal government.

By April 20th, 1775, news of the Battles of Lexington and Concord had come to Lenox via express couriers who had ridden all night.  Paterson and the recruits he had assembled from Lenox and the rest of the county were ready — by the next morning they were armed, equipped and on their way to Boston.  They may have been responding to an earlier alarm – but they had certainly been prepared to carry out their role as Minute Men led by John Patterson.

Continue reading Revolutionary War Heroes: Major General John Paterson