|The Revolution and After
1. On the Eve of the Revolution
By the time John Padget arrived in New York, the storm-clouds of the American Revolution were already gathering. This would be the last great historical event in which almost every Padget ancestor of the time would participate, and it seems like a fitting climax to our story. So it may be useful to pause at this point, in order to take stock of what each Padget ancestor was doing just before the Revolution -- in 1773, say -- and of what would become of them afterwards.
In Reading, the Pennsylvania Germans were prosperous and comfortable. The members of the second generation, who had come to America as infants or young children, might still be called by their German names in the church records, but their public names were already being Americanized. They appear to have been eager to become full-fledged Americans, and all three Padget ancestors of this generation would serve in the Revolution.
Henry Christ -- who had been born as Johannes Heinrich Christ, Jr. -- was in his early fifties in 1773 and was an innkeeper and prominent citizen. Jacob Graul, about ten years younger, was also an innkeeper, having purchased a tavern in 1762. Jacob's first wife had died in 1770, and a few months later he had married Henry Christ's seventeen-year-old daughter, Catharina.
Christopher Schreffler was much younger, in his early twenties. He was a weaver and at some point became an innkeeper as well. (In those days, when inns served as centers of public life, being an innkeeper was considered a respectable and socially useful occupation. Really.)
A generation later, Jacob Graul's son and Christopher
Schreffler's daughter -- both of them born in the course of the Revolution
-- would marry and move to Northumberland County, north of Reading.
The towns of Western Massachusetts were not nearly as prosperous as Reading, and most of the Padget ancestors in this area were neither wealthy nor well educated, although their enthusiasm for the Revolution was probably all the greater as a result. Shortly after the Revolution, many of them would take advantage of the availability of land on the frontier to head out to New York State and make new lives for themselves.
Peter Ingersoll, the son of Moses Ingersoll and Catharina Van Slyke, may serve as an example. He was forty years old at this time and kept an inn in Great Barrington, which is still active today as a bed-and-breakfast. The History of Great Barrington says of him, "His education was apparently very limited, and aside from his services in the first campaign of the war . . . he seems to have occupied no very conspicuous place in connection with town affairs. But the alacrity with which he raised a company and joined the army at the very beginning of hostilities, with the services which he rendered, entitle him to our grateful remembrance and to a place in the town history."
Nathaniel Lee was in his middle thirties and had been working as a blacksmith since his arrival in Great Barrington. His daughter Lavina would marry Peter Ingersoll's son Moses towards the end of the Revolution and they would move to New York in the 1780's, as would Nathaniel Lee and Moses Ingersoll's two brothers.
Isaac Preston and Abigail Dewey happened to be living at this time with Moses Ingersoll's brother Thomas, who was married to Abigail's sister. Isaac would die shortly after the Revolution, and Abigail and her children would join yet another brother-in-law in moving to Chenango County, where her daughter Anna would marry John Padget, Jr.
In New Marlboro, Davenport Adams, the son of Charles Adams and Judith Hyde, was in his early twenties. He was married at about this time to Elizabeth Tracy, the daughter of David Tracy. John Dodge was only in his late teens in 1773 and may still have been living with his father in Brookfield. However, it is recorded that he married Abigail Ross in New Marlboro in April 1775.
John Scott, Jr. of Blandford and his wife had recently had a baby boy whom they named Silas. Philemon Lee and Priscilla Sprague were married in 1773, and their daughter Sarah would be born a few years later After the war, both families would move to Unadilla, New York, where Silas Scott and Sarah Lee would be married. Their daughter, Almira Scott, would marry John Padget, 3rd, and would name her son Silas Padget after her father.
Josiah Smith had moved from Tyringham to Great Barrington in 1770 and had also become an innkeeper there. But he appears to have been of a more responsible and civic-minded stripe than Peter Ingersoll, serving, for example, as a town selectman in 1775.
There were two more Padget ancestors who arrived in Great Barrington a little later, when the town was starting to shed its backwoods image and become a place where forward-looking and dynamic men could prosper.
Walter Pynchon was a relatively obscure member of what was still a powerful and socially prominent family. He would serve as Assistant Deputy Quarter Master General in Springfield during the early years of the Revolution -- which seems to mean he was engaged in providing supplies to the army -- but would move to Great Barrington before the end of the war. There he would become administrator of Josiah Smith's estate when Josiah died in 1782, and would eventually take over ownership of the inn and marry Josiah's daughter, Polly Smith.
Samuel Rosseter was just a little boy in 1773.
He was of an old Connecticut family, but his own father had died two years
earlier and Samuel was raised in poverty. After the Revolution he would
struggle hard to improve his circumstances, would marry Lucy Hall of Middletown,
CT (from whom so many of her descendants received the name Lucy) and would
eventually become a leading citizen of the revitalized, 19th century Great
Finally in Richmond, New Hampshire, Maturin Ballou's
wife Lydia died in this year, leaving her husband to care for their eleven
children. I do not know whether it was for this reason or because of religious
convictions, but the Reverend Ballou was the only Padget ancestor of his
generation who did not serve in the Revolution. However, Joseph Slafter
of Guilford, Vermont did serve. Some time after the war, he and his family
would wind up in Chenango County, New York, along with the family of his
daughter Ruth and her husband, Stephen Ballou.
2. Padgets in the Storm
In 1774, the Revolution was already on the horizon. Following the Boston Tea Party in December 1773, the British Parliament had passed a bill closing the Port of Boston until the tea was paid for. The news reached Boston on May 10, 1774, and sparking immediate outrage. Two days later, a town meeting presided over by Samuel Adams (third cousin once removed of Davenport Adams) recommended that all the colonies suspend trade with Britain.
On June 6, Dr. Joseph Warren (first cousin of John Dodge's mother, Elizabeth Warren) published an agreement for Massachusetts merchants to boycott British goods. This "Solemn League and Covenant" was considered by a committee back in Berkshire County, among other places, and adopted in full.
As the news of what was happening in Massachusetts spread, discontent with British rule became widespread in the colonies. On July 2, 1774, the leading citizens of Reading, PA gathered at the courthouse to select representatives to a Provincial Congress in Philadelphia. These representatives, of whom Henry Christ was one, would have the task of naming delegates to the Continental Congress. Henry would be named as representative again the following year.
In October 1774, the Massachusetts Assembly, which
had been disbanded by the British some months earlier, reconstituted itself
as a Provincial Congress under the presidency of John Hancock (a distant
Padget cousin by way of both Sprague lines) and began organizing the militias
of various Massachusetts towns into companies of Minutemen, to defend against
the British as needed. Berkshire County quickly raised two such companies.
As everyone knows, the expected fighting did break out, on April 19, 1775, with the Battles of Lexington and Concord. The event had been well prepared for, and the news traveled fast. Great Barrington was over a hundred miles away, but word reached it by the very next day. The Minutemen proved so true to their name that they set out for Boston on April 21, John Dodge among them. Captain Peter Ingersoll took only a few days more to gather an additional company, and set out on April 24.
Very shortly, a militia army of 15,000 men had established itself all around Boston and was besieging the British. Some of the volunteers, like John Dodge, left as soon as the immediate crisis was over. (Since he had apparently been married just a few weeks earlier, we can hardly blame him.) Others, like Peter Ingersoll, enlisted for more extended service.
Back in Great Barrington, the citizens were anxious to establish a reliable network for transmitting information of events at Boston. A group of them agreed to take turns riding to nearby towns for the latest news and reporting it back to the tavern of Josiah Smith.
News could also travel in other ways than by horseback.
When the Battle of Bunker Hill was fought on June 17, 1775, Josiah's daughter
Polly was a little girl of nine. She lived to be 91, and towards the end
of her very long life, she would recall seeing the men of Great Barrington
pressing their ears against the ground to hear the sound of the artillery
coming from the other end of the state. John Dodge's cousin, Dr. Joseph
Warren, died in that battle, and although he is not much remembered today,
at the time he was widely mourned and venerated as the first great martyr
to the American cause.
The British finally evacuated Boston on March 17, 1776 (a date which present-day Bostonians honor each year by holding a St. Patrick's Day parade), and George Washington was able to bring the bulk of the army down to New York City. Some of the Minutemen from Berkshire County were still among them, possibly including Peter Ingersoll. Additional troops joined as well, including three companies of riflemen from Pennsylvania. One of these was under the command of Henry Christ of Reading and numbered Jacob Graul among its members.
But the British were organizing a massive counter-stroke. General Howe spent all summer landing troops around New York City, then on August 27 attacked the Continental Army in the Battle of Long Island. The Americans were unprepared and their leadership incompetent. Two hundred American soldiers were killed and nearly a thousand captured, including Jacob Graul and many of his fellow riflemen. The prisoners were held on British prison ships, where they were badly mistreated, but they were released the following January.
George Washington had not been in command during the battle, arriving only when it was all but over. He now took charge fully and preserved his army with a brilliantly executed retreat. It was in the course of these events that Nathan Hale (who was the great-grandson of Rev. John Hale by his second wife, and thus a half-second cousin twice removed of John Dodge) was executed by the British as a spy, proclaiming, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."
Washington came up against the British again at
the Battle of White Plains, on October 28. This was a hard-fought battle,
and Washington finally lost, but he continued his successful retreat. Troops
from Berkshire County participated in this encounter, so Captain Peter
Ingersoll may have been there.
In 1777, the focus moved back north, because of the British General Burgoyne's attempt to cut off New England from the rest of the colonies by controlling the Hudson River. He brought his troops down Lake Champlain in June and captured Fort Ticonderoga at the beginning of July, sending the American soldiers in the area scrambling towards Fort Edward.
This "Fort Edward Alarm" brought out the Minutemen of Great Barrington like nothing else since the start of the war two years earlier. Abraham Dodge set off on June 30 and Davenport Adams on July 8. So many of the able-bodied men in Great Barrington were gone that it was impossible to hold a town meeting, only the town clerk being left to record that "the people were gone in the Larrum to Fourt Edward."
John Padget was at Fort Edward as well. He appears to have served throughout the Revolution in the Sixth Regiment of the Albany County Militia, which fought many skirmishes with Indians and Tories along the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers in order to keep the British from establishing a base in that area.
The Minutemen were called upon again the next month, when the New Hampshire militia wiped out a strong British foraging force at the Battle of Bennington on August 16. It seems unlikely, however, that any of the Great Barrington troops arrived in time to actually participate in the battle. John Dodge, for example, enlisted only on August 15, and Davenport Adams not until August 17.
By this time, Burgoyne had fallen victim to a truly amazing foul-up. The Secretary for the Colonies who had approved his invasion plan -- which called for General Howe to move his army from New York City to Albany to join Burgoyne -- had also, just a few weeks later, approved Howe's own plan for an attack on Philadelphia. The result was that Burgoyne was completely without the support he expected, making possible an American victory at the First Battle of Saratoga, on September 19.
Once again the troops from Great Barrington, John Dodge and Moses Ingersoll among them, had enlisted only on the day of the battle and arrived after it was over. But this time their enlistments were for a one-month period, so they were still present for the decisive victory in the Second Battle of Saratoga, on October 7. This was one of the great American victories of the war, leading to Burgoyne's surrender ten days later and ultimately to France joining the war on the side of the Americans.
The Sixth Regiment of the Albany County Militia -- presumably including John Padget -- participated in the Second Battle of Saratoga as well.
Lucie Panshin's files included some notes on this
event which appear to be in the handwriting of her Aunt Vesta. They read,
"Captain Peter and Moses Ingersoll were with Gen. Gates at the battle of
Saratoga. It is a matter of tradition in our family that they stood near
when Burgoyne surrendered his sword to Gen. Gates."
After the victory at Saratoga, New England quieted down, but Washington was still busy battling General Howe all across northern New Jersey and around Philadelphia. This fighting ended in December, when Washington went into winter quarters at Valley Forge. Although the action would resume in New Jersey the following spring, the British were now increasingly pulling back their forces in the north in order to concentrate on the south.
Henry Christ, after his one adventure at the Battle
of Long Island, spent the rest of the war in less violent pursuits. In
1777 and 1778, we find him as a Justice of the Peace, calling out the militia
to guard a store of gunpowder, administering oaths of allegience and seizing
the arms and clothing of those who refused to take them, and being paid
for enlisting men. He was also wagon-master general of Berks County, and
supplied 350 wagons to the troops at Valley Forge.
After 1777, the Minutemen of Berkshire County would go out only on occasional alarms. John Scott, Philemon Lee, and Nathaniel Lee all appear to have seen service just for such limited purposes.
The only one of these alarms which was more than trivial was the battle at Stone Arabia, in New York, on October 19, 1780. A group of raiders, comprised of British, Tories, and Indians, had been attacking forts and towns. The militia were called out to deal with them, but they attacked too rashly, expecting support from some regular troops which did not come, and were soundly defeated. Moses Ingersoll was part of this attack, and possibly also John Dodge and Davenport Adams.
One year later to the day, Cornwallis surrendered
at Yorktown, and the war was essentially over.
3. In Conclusion
If the first century of Padget history in America was marked by religious disputes, and the second by involvement in world events and political struggles, the third would be dominated by personal and economic affairs. Education would be a recurring theme, as farmers' sons or grandsons pulled themselves up by their bootstraps to become teachers, lawyers, and doctors.
In this process, the conflicts and great events of the past would fade into a uniform blur. The differences and disputes between yeomen and aristocrats, Puritans and dissidents, or accused witches and their accusers would be forgotten. Horace Padget and Lucy Adams and their children would be proud of their New England heritage in a patriotic sort of way, but it seems almost as though they had forgotten just why it was important.
That is why, in this account, I have tried to bring back some of the roughness of real history, to recall the conflicts and failures, and to emphasize the quirky and often serendipitous nature of historical events.