There is no question that there is a Peter Baker, born in Littleton, Massachusetts, who served in the Revolutionary War. He married Lydia Dudley, then moved to New Ipswich NH before settling in Westmoreland NH. He infamously left his family around 1800 when there were small children in the house. It is also quite likely that our ancestor James Baker of Cambria NY was born to Peter and Lydia with recent DNA testing comfirming this link. A separate article has been written that gives an analysis of this part of the story which can be found by clicking here.
The surprise is the extent of Peter’s Revolutionary War service. He lived long enough to apply for a Revolutionary War pension which the US government started to grant in 1818. In his application letter, he states:
“I, Peter Baker, of Mount Holly in the County of Rutland & State of Vermont of the age of sixty two years, being duly sworn, do declare depose & say with in December 1775 at Littleton in Massachusetts, I enlisted into Capt Saml Gilbert’s Company in Col. Prescott Reg’t. of Massachusetts line to serve for one year. That immediately joined my company at Cambridge where we remained until the British army evacuated Boston, when we followed them to New York – that we went into winter quarters in the High Land in New York I believe about three miles north of West Point – I further say that whilst in said winter quarters, about a month before my time of service expired, I again enlisted into Capt Saml Darby’s company in Col John Bailey’s Regiment being the 2nd Reg’t. Massachusetts line to serve for three years. – that I served in said Company & Regiment the full term of reenlistment except nine days which was allowed me to return home when I was discharged at West Point – I have lost my discharge, not considering it of any value – I was at the battle of Monmouth & at the taking of Burgoine – I further say that I am a resident citizen of the U States – that I have resided in Mt Holly aforesaid about five months – that I am poor – and from my reduced circumstances in life I am in need of assistance from my country for support –and further say not. Peter Baker, 6 Apr 1818”
He writes casually about travelling from Boston to New York and being present at the battles at Monmouth and Burgoyne’s capture. However, when one analyzes Peter’s movement, a harrowing story emerges. Due to the large amount of detail to cover, this story will be broken into three parts. First, a top level look of what we know is true. Second, a “best guess” account of Peter’s involvement in the Revolutionary War. Third, all the bare evidence will be presented for those that like to get into the weeds.
Some Details of Revolutionary War Service
First some explanation of military structure. Peter was an enlisted man. He remained a private. Other enlisted ranks include sergeants and corporals. His brother, Joseph, became an officer, specifically a lieutenant. Other officers include captains, majors, colonels, and generals. Soldiers were assigned to a Company led by a Captain, consisting of about 80 men. A Regiment, headed by a Colonel, would lead a series of Companies (around 8). Regiments would be placed in a Brigade, lead by a Brigadier General. Brigades were controlled by a Major General.
Individuals generally signed up for a term of service. Three major recruitment drives occurred, the first being the “8 month” term from April to Dec 1775, following the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Individuals in this service experienced Bunker Hill and remained in Boston. Second, the “year long” service from Jan to Dec of 1776 included the march to New York and the wintering in the Highlands. Third, the “three year” term occurred from Jan 1777 to Dec 1779. It involved the Battles of Saratoga and Monmouth as well as the winter in Valley Forge.
If you know the location of the Company, you likely know the location of Peter Baker. However, Company locations are not often mentioned in the literature. Fortunately, Companies traveled with their Regiment, and the Regiments traveled with their Brigade. So one can infer the whereabouts of Peter and Joseph by using this trick. However, this logic has limits. Soldiers got sick, they got captured, they took leave, they deserted, and they were assigned to other services.
Peter Baker in the Revolutionary War – The Summary View
Peter Baker signed up around December 1775 for a one year tour in Cambridge MA to serve with his brother Joseph Baker in William Prescott’s Regiment. Joseph and their father Joseph Sr had fought earlier in April at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Joseph and Peter marched from Boston to New York in March 1776. They were forced to retreat from New York after the British assault on Long Island on August 1776, eventually wintering in the Highlands of New York, near present day West Point. During the winter of 1776, Prescott’s Regiment disbanded. Peter and Joseph reenlisted for 3 years in John Bailey’s Regiment. This Regiment was involved in the Battles of Saratoga starting September 1777 where they defeated the British. They then marched to Valley Forge for a long, tough winter. In June 1778, Peter participated in the Battle of Monmouth, the last major Battle in the North. Afterwards, Peter and Joseph were assigned back to West Point to keep a crossing of the Hudson River open. Peter was discharged on Dec 1779.
Peter Baker in the Revolutionary War – Best Guess what happened
Peter Baker was part of a family that actively served their country in the Revolutionary War, starting with his brother Joseph Baker and father Joseph Baker Sr. These two men fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill under the command of William Prescott. The Colonists lost this battle, but the British, under the command of William Howe, took heavy losses in their three attempts to win. It showed the Colonists that victory was possible. Prescott with his men continued to defend Boston against further attacked from Howe, whose ships sat anchored in the harbor. Peter joined his brother at Sewell Point in Dec 1775. By then George Washington had taken charge of the army. Eventually, Boston was refortified with weaponry seized from a raid of Fort Ticonderoga. Howe opted to evacuate to Nova Scotia.
Both Washington and Howe focused their attention on New York City. Washington bet that the British wanted to control the Hudson river and split the Colony into two. Washington sent 19000 troops to defend New York City. Prescott’s Regiment made a hasty march to New London CT where they boarded ships to New York. They were then stationed on Governors Island, a small island south of Manhattan Island, where they built a fine fortification. Meanwhile, the British took several months to amass a huge force of 32000 men.
Joseph Baker Sr died on 8 Jul 1776 so speculation abounds that his death may have had something to do with the war. However, note that military activities centered in New York at this time. It is possible he received injuries or got sick due to Bunker Hill. It is possible he marched with his sons to New York in which case he would have died on Governor’s Island. Or maybe he died from natural causes.
Fighting started on Aug 27 with the Battle of Long Island, where Howe stormed Staten Island and forced Washington’s retreat. Washington was out-manned, out-equipped and out-maneuvered. Washington managed to elude outright defeat by sneaking all his troop to Manhattan in a fog during the night. Prescott’s Regiment, located off the main island, was among the last to leave. It must have been a hasty retreat because various reports describe guns, cannons and even clothes left behind. The defeat represented one of several battles where Howe chose not to impose outright defeat. The British viewed the Colonist as wayward children who would eventually behave with the proper punishment. They badly misinterpreted the American resolve.
Peter and Joseph’s Regiment was next reorganized under General William Parson’s Brigade and stationed at Crown’s Point as part of an effort to hold Manhattan Island. Howe launched his next big strike on 15 September against the colonists at Kipps Point. There was chaos at the point of attack. George Washington ordered Parson’s Brigade north to support those troops, but the Prescott’s Regiment also took flight and retreated. Washington became furious. Stories tell of him hitting soldiers, throwing his hat in disgust, calling them cowards. Eventually, much to the amusement of the on-looking enemy, someone led Washington away on his horse to keep him from being shot. In reality, the soldiers were wise to flee; they had no chance of survival.
The Battle of Harlem Heights occurred the next day on 16 September. It represented the sole victory during the NY campaign in that the British were forced to retreat slightly. Many of Prescott’s troop would later claim participation in this battle although they may also be referring to their time at Kipps Point.
Prescott’s Regiment was next positioned at Frog’s Point where they erected another fortification. As a side note, Peter and Joseph were part of a team that could build great fortifications while under duress. This time they successfully prevented Howe troops from landing at the point (It also helped that Howe picked an unsuitable marsh-like spot to land). After five days, the ships pulled anchor and landed north at Pell’s Point to continue their assault.
The retreat from New York continued with the next confrontation at the Battle of White Plain on 28 October 1776. Prescott’s Regiment was located on the east side of the front, while most of the action occurred on the west side. This battle was considered a loss in that Washington’s forces were again forced to retreat, but again losses were minimized. Several of Prescott’s men later indicated they fought in this battle, although their exact involvement remains unknown.
After White Plain, Prescott’s regiment was ordered north to the Highlands to winter. There they built a sizable encampment, later known as Continental Village, where they could house large numbers of soldiers, and store food and armaments. It is also at this time that Prescott finished his term. His regiment was disbanded, and Peter and Joseph were convinced to join the 2nd Massachusetts Regiment better known as Bailey’s Regiment under Colonel John Bailey.
Bailey’s Regiment became part of Learned’s Brigade in the spring of 1777, when General William Learned came out of retirement to serve under the command of Major General Philip Schulyer. They continued to march to forts in upstate New York to counter British General Burgoyne’s powerful army marching from Canada to New York by way of the Hudson River. Bailey’s Regiment would have been part of the effort to slow this march. They fell trees across the few available roads, destroyed bridges, diverted streams and burned fields to deny food to soldiers and livestock. The strategy, while not glamorous, succeeding in weakening Burgoyne.
There were several documented skirmishes. The Colonists, including Bailey’s Regiment, were forced to retreat from Fort Ticonderoga on 6 July after Burgoyne men was able to set up a cannon on nearby Mount Defiance. Some of Bailey’s Regiment also marched on 8 August under the leadership of Benedict Arnold in support to Fort Stanwix, under siege from the British troops of Barry St Leger on their way to merge with Burgoyne. Arnold, undermanned, tricked St Leger into withdrawing with a convincing rumor of inflated troop numbers. In a serious blow to Burgoyne, St Leger’s troops would never materialized.
A little side note here about the Generals. General Schulyer was the pragmatic one. He understood the limitations of his troops as soldiers, but took advantage of their stamina in the wilderness. General Horatio Gates was the politically ambitious one who got Schulyer fired after the retreat at Fort Ticonderoga. General Benedict Arnold was the brilliant one whom the troops most admired. His aggressiveness in battle do not mix well with the cautious behavior of Gates.
All this activity culminated in the two Battles of Saratoga. In the Battle of Freeman’s Farm on 19 September, Gates formed a left wing under Arnold, a center wing under Learned and a right wing. Gates allowed Arnold to wage an assault, which turned out to be aggressive and brilliant, while Gates cautiously held back the center and right wings. As the battle wore on, Arnold appealed for more troops, but Gates waited to the afternoon to release Learned’s Brigade which made them very ineffective. As Wikipedia put it: “They mainly got lost in the woods, and exchanged light fire near the end of the battle.”
Learned played a major part on 7 October in the second battle of Saratoga called the Battle of Bemis Height. This time, Arnold received no command from Gates. Yet when the battle started, he swooped onto the field like a madman and led Learned’s Brigade against the Prussian front, forcing their retreat. Bailey Regiment would have fought in the thick of battle with hand-to-hand combat. When the smoke cleared, Burgoyne was resoundingly defeated. It gave the troops some badly needed hope. It also convinced France to support us. Yet, even in glorious victory, hardship remained. Gates gave zero credit to Arnold for the victory which undoubtedly contributed to Arnold’s later decision to defect. Worse, Bailey Regiment remained unpaid for the last 6 to 8 months, and they refused to march until they somehow got paid for their courage.
Next stop was Valley Forge from Dec 1777 to June 1778. Many men perished in the harsh winter due to factors like rancid meat and a lack of clothing. However, springtime presented an opportunity for the troops to regroup under men like Baron Von Steuben who arrived from Prussia and provided badly needed military training.
These skills were put to the test at the Battle of Monmouth on 28 June 1778, a day of scorching 100 degree heat that claimed the lives of many soldiers. Peter and Joseph fought in General Stirling’s left flank. What a difference from Kipps Landing. Washington and Steuben watched proudly as the Colonists fought with precision against some of Britain’s best troops under General Clinton. This battle, while technically a draw, felt like a victory since the troops demonstrated such skill and since Clinton slinked away from the battle site before daybreak. Monmouth is considered the last great battle of the North.
After Monmouth, life appears to be much quieter for Peter and Joseph, as much of the war action moved away from the North to the South. Bailey’s Regiment was stationed back at the Highlands. Continental Village had been burned down by a British raid in 1778. However, Washington considered it vitally important that the Hudson River remain open. Activity centered at West Point where the troops strengthened the fortifications along the river. It was so vital that Benedict Arnold attempted to pass the West Point plans to Britain as part of his treason in July 1780. Although Peter and Joseph faced little combat, conditions for them remained tough. Men continued to desert due to lack of pay. On a more personal level, Joseph was declared “deranged” on 1 April 1779. Little more surfaces about Joseph Baker after the end to his brave service.
On 23 Dec 1779, after many grueling years of service, Peter Baker completed his contract, and would have walked home to resume the career he left four years earlier.
Peter Baker in the Revolutionary War – All the Details
The above narrative is subject to interpretation since we are trying to follow the movements of Peter and Joseph Baker through the movements of their Regiments and Brigades. There are some omitted events, such as the contribution of Col. Jonathan Reed’s 6th Middlesex Regiment, whose role remains unclear (Reed arrives from Littleton on occasion and appears to be a minor player) . You also have to deal with occasional, small contradictions. So presented here a complete chronology found in a multitude of sources.
|Seige of Boston begins with Battles of Lexington and Concord - the First battles of the Revolutionary War|
|William Prescott's Regiment organized as 10th regiment of the Army|
|Joseph Baker Jr, enlists as ensign in Capt Samuel Gilbert's Company, Col William Prescott's Regiment. Service 92 Days [until 31 Jul 1775]|
|Joseph Baker Sr, enlists as Private in Capt Samuel Gilbert's Company, Col William Prescott's Regiment. Service 73 Days [until 1 Aug 1775]|
|Battle of Bunker Hill with Joseph Baker Sr and Joseph Jr present. 1200 troops under William Prescott defended against 2400 British under William Howe. It took three assaults before colonist lost, but the British took surprisingly heavy loses. A stand-off ensued.|
|Joseph Baker commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant by order of Provincial Congress|
|George Washington takes control of army. Orders Prescott's Regiment to the woods leading to Lechmere's Point, near Cambridge, considered a prime landing spot for the future British attack.|
|Joseph Baker Sr dies. Cause of death not known.|
|Prescott's Regiment stationed at Sewall's Point or Brookline Fort for remainder of time in Boston. This fort did not see much action, but it represented a strong deterrent force with six guns and a large population of soldiers. Total number of officers and men 482. Site now location of Boston's famous Citgo sign.|
|1 Jan |
|Peter Baker enlists for 1 year in Col Prescott’s Regiment, Capt Gilbert’s Company. Peter states in pension file that date is Dec 1775
|Prescott's Regiment combined with other companies to form 7th Continental Regiment, part of Heath's Brigade under General William Heath|
|Siege of Boston ends on "Evacuation Day". Howe decides to move 11,000 troops to Nova Scotia after Boston gets reinforced with heavy artillary captured from the British at Fort Ticonderoga.|
|New York Campaign starts. George Washington orders available troops to NY city. On this date, Prescott's Regiment ordered to march under Brigadier General Sullivan. They left 29 Mar for New London CT where ships transported them to the city. 19,000 soldiers total.|
|Prescott's Regiment ordered to Governors Island to erect a fortification. They did a good job. General Stirling would later write: “Governors Island is more strong and better guarded than any other post of the Army…”|
|British troops start arriving with their version of "shock and awe" 32,000 total troops with heavy armaments and a flotilla of ships.|
|Prescott's troops assigned to Nixons Brigade under General John Nixon.|
|British assault starts. Colonists about to get crushed. On 27 Aug Battle of Long Island was waged. Washington issues retreat. Prescott's Regiment slips out from Governors Island at night on 30 Aug leaving 40 cannons and ammunition, one of the last bases to leave the area.|
|Relieved from Nixon's Brigade and assigned to Parson's Brigade under Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parson. Still part of Main Army. Stationed at Corlears Hook, also known as Crown Point.|
|British landing at Kip's Bay. When invasion started, chaos and panic ensue, including Prescott's Regiment, who had been ordered to provide support. The troops did not have a prayer, but Washington was disgusted as he wrote:
"As soon as I heard the firing, I rode with all possible dispatch towards the place of landing, where to my great surprise and mortification I found the troops that had been posted in the lines retreating with the utmost precipitation and those ordered to support them (Parsons' and Fellows' brigades) flying in every direction, and in the greatest confusion, notwithstanding the exertions of their general to form them into some order; but my attempts were fruitless and ineffectual and on the appearance of a small party of the enemy, not more than sixty or seventy, their disorder increased, and they ran away in the greatest confusion, without firing a single shot."
|Battle of Harlem Heights. Considered the sole victory during the Siege of Long Island, giving the Colonist's some reason to hope. Some of Prescott's Regiment later claim participation.|
|Prescott at Frog's Neck having built a fortification there. Howe lands large force to attack Washington's Army. The line holds. After 5 days Howe forced to relocate to Pell's Point.|
|Parson's brigade assigned to St Mary's Pond. They would remain in area until 9 Nov covering the upper road into Connecticut|
|Battle of White Plains. Part of Parsons brigade participated (Webb's Regiment). Some of Prescott's probably participated (there is a partial list of soldiers that list 10 men from Prescott's Regiment). Colonial troops forced to retreat further north. However, losses were minimal.|
|After battle of White Plains, Parson's Brigade stationed near head of Rye Pond. On 1 Nov, Parson brigade marches on Kingstreet from Rye Pond to Saw Pits (now Port Charles).|
|Parsons has a desertion problem when he write about the "most scandalous practice of desertion and returning home, by which the number of our troops is every day decreasing." His brigade had 3192 on 3 Nov, 1999 on 9 Nov, and 1316 on 24 Nov. Prescott's troop number on 31 Oct: 211 fit for duty, 26 present but sick, 59 absent & sick, 60 absent on command, 376 total excluding officers|
|Parson's Brigade relieved from Main Army and assigned to Highlands Department under Major General William Heath. On 18 Nov, Heath writes to George Washington about troop placement. Prescott's Regiment would be located at "the Gorge of the Mountains by Robinson’s Bridge". Clinton's Brigade (where John Bailey's Regiment could be found) would be stationed at "the Heights above Peeks Kill Landing". The fort near Robinson's bridge would later be called "Continental Village".|
|Capt Samuel Gilbert of Prescott's regiment taken prisoner. Circumstances unclear. Joseph and Peter still likely serving under him. He was exchanged two years later.|
|Battle of Trenton where George Washington launched surprise attack on Hessian troops. Victory improved moral of troops. Washington used victory to help re-enlist troops. Attacking force included John Bailey's 23rd Continental Regiment.|
|Battle of Princeton included John Bailey's 23rd Continental Regiment, part of Clinton's Brigade.|
|Peter and Joseph enlist for 3 years in Capt Samuel Darby's company, John Bailey's Regiment. Pay account indicate 1 Jan start date. Peter Baker writes that he re-enlisted in John Bailey's Regiment "about a month before his time of service expired". So it is possible that Peter and/or Joseph Baker joined John Bailey's Regiment in Nov/Dec. If true, then they could have served in the important battles of Trenton and Princeton. More likely, they made the transition Jan/Feb in Continental Village.|
|Letter from Major General William Heath to George Washington:
"Some Regiments, in particular Prescott’s, have Sixty or Seventy Arms lost, some private & others public property—The Officers alledge that when they left Governor’s Island, they had many Sick, That some Arms were left on the Island—that others were brought over to the City, & that at the Time of the Retreat, Waggons could not be obtained to bring them off, & that they lost even their own Clothing—Others were at the Armourers Shops, and either brought away in a Hurry, & mixed with others, or left behind—Such as were private property they request payment for—Such as belonged to the Public & were so lost, they construe unavoidably lost—As there were a great many Arms lost by different Regiments, in the before mention’d Retreats, under Similar Circumstances, I would beg your Excellency’s particular Direction, as it is a matter of very considerable importance, as all should be treated alike—I have ordered a Stoppage for the public Arms, which have been lost in the before mention’d Instances, until I am directed further."
|Prescott's Regiment disbanded. Washington combines Bailey's 23rd and Prescott's 7th Regiments with elements of other regiments, creating the 2nd Massachusetts Regiment or "Bailey's Regiment" of the Northern Department.|
|Ebenezer Learned comes out of retirement to lead the 4th Massachusetts Brigade, or Learned's Brigade. Stationed in the north to try and slow Burgoine's march down the Hudson. He appears to be working under Major General Philip Schuyler.|
|Major General Philip Schuyler writes to George Washington that half of Bailey's Regiment going to reinforce Fort George; half going to Fort Edward. Total 255 rank and file. He also discusses severe supply shortages:
"I have as yet only been able to march Colonel Bailey’s Regiment consisting of 255 Rank & File—Half of it is to reinforce Fort George and the other half Fort Edward—None of the Militia are yet moved. Should our Troops at Tyconderoga fall into the Enemy’s Hands, I fear they will be able to march where they please, unless a greater Force is sent me than what your Excellency at first intended. I shall be greatly distressed for Shelter for the Militia—If any Tents can be spared I beg your Excellency to order them up and whatever Cartridge paper you can, for we have next to none on this Side of Tyonderoga....If it to be true that we may be so plentifully supplied with fresh Beef as Mr Trumbull positively asserts, his Agents manage badly, for we have none, and hardly any Thing else of the Meat Kind on this Side of Tyonderoga, altho’ I ordered his Deputy to send for Cattle to every Quarter soon after my Return from Philadelphia. If any intrenching Tools can be spared, I wish to have two hundred Spades, and as many Shovels and pick axes sent up, and if any Field Artillery is sent up, be so good as to let it be accompanied by a Detachment of the Artillery, with a Sufficiency of fixed Ammunition. I am Dear Sir most respectfully Your Excellency’s obedient humble Servant Ph. Schuyler"
|Americans forced to evacuate Fort Ticonderoga after Burgoine sets up some huge cannons on nearby mountain. Bailey's Regiment retreats toward Saratoga. Schuyler is blamed, and replaced by Horatio Gates.|
|Learned's Brigade (~700) marched under Benedict Arnold to the relief of Fort Stanwix under seige by Brigadier General Barry St. Leger and trying to prevent him from merging with Burgoyne troops. Arnold created false impression that 3000 men on the way. On 22 Aug, St. Leger took the bait and retreated. His troop were never available to merge with Burgoyne.|
|Joseph Baker assigned with Capt Aaron Jewett’s (3rd) co., Col. Jonathan Reed’s (6th Middlesex Co.) Regiment. According to Wikipedia, this regiment was formed on 27 Sep in Littleton and marched to Saratoga as a reinforcement. Part of Brickett's Brigade, one of five known to be "floating" on Burgoyne's left flank during the retreat to Fort Hardy and Saratoga after the action at Bemis Heights. None of these units saw any significant action, but served to block lines of retreat and limit the range of Burgoyne's foraging parties. Disbanded on 9 Nov. It is possible that Joseph was assisting this regiment during the Battles of Saratoga.|
|Bailey's Regiment in 1st Battle of Saratoga, Battle of Freeman's Farm. Learned's brigade considered not very effective. Working forward in the center of the line, they mainly got lost in the woods, and exchanged light fire near the end of the battle.|
|Bailey's Regiment in 2nd Battle of Saratoga, also called Battle of Bemis Heights. Peter calls it "taking of Burgoine". A great Colonial victory that prevented the British from cutting Colonies into two by way of the Hudson river.
The Americans attacked in three columns under Morgan, Learned, and Poor. The British line broke and rallied repeatedly. As the British retired, [Benedict] Arnold, who held no official command, dashed onto the field and led Learned's Brigade against the enemy center which retreated. He then led Poor's Brigade against British fortifications until he was wounded....Burgoyne lost over 600 men, 10 guns, and a key defensive position. The Americans lost about 30 killed and 100 wounded.
|Continental Village buried by British attack|
|Bailey's Regiment expected to go to Philadelphia to help Washington. However, despite the Saratoga victory, the troops are unhappy as seen in this letter from Alexander Hamilton to George Washington:
"I am pained beyond expression ⟨to⟩ inform your Excellency that on my arrival ⟨here⟩ I find everything has been neglected and de⟨ranged⟩ by General Putnam, and that the two brigades Poor’s and Learned’s still remained here and on the other side the River at FishKill...The two Brigades of Poors & Learneds it appears would not march for want of money and necessaries, several of the Regts. having received no pay for 6 or 8 months past. There has been a high mutiny among the former on this account, in which a Capt. killed a man, and was shot himself by his comrade. These difficulties for want of proper management have stopped the troops from proceeding. Governor Clinton has been the only man, who has done any thing toward removing them; but for want of General Putnam’s cooperation has not been able to effect it. He has only been able to prevail with Larned’s brigade to agree to march to Goshen; in hopes by getting them once on the go, to get them to continue their march. On coming here, I immediately sent for Col. Bailey who now commands Larned’s Brigade, and have gotten him to engage for carrying the Brigade on to Head Quarters, as fast as possible. This he expects to effect by means of 5 or 6000 Dollars which Governor Clinton was kind enough to borrow for me; and which Col. Bailey thinks will keep the men in good humour ’till they join you. They marched this morning toward Goshen."
|Bailey's Regiment begins Valley Forge Encampment. Brutal winter. 2nd Mass entered with 459 men assigned, 297 fit for duty. Left with 392 assigned, 226 fit for duty.|
|A letter from a Committee to Inspect Beef to George Washingtona about rancid meat:
We the subscribers being appointed a Committee to Inspect the Beaf drawn for Genl Learnard’s Brigade, under the Command of Colo. Bailey Commandant, we have examianed the Beaf and Judge it not fit for the use of human beings, unwholesome & destructive to nature for any person to make use of Such fude. Signed Joseph Pettingill Captn, John Wiley Capt., Seth Drew Capt.
|A letter from Col Bailey to George Washington about lack of clothing:
May it Please your Excellency. Lieut. Colonel Bedlam of my Regiment, having lost his Cloaths, in the Siege at Fort Stanwix. The officers & Soldiers of the Regiment, being in great want of Cloathing, Myself & the Major being Present Humbly request, that he may have a furlough, for the purpose of Procuring Cloathing for himself & Regiment. From Your Excellencys Most Obedent Humb. Servt, John Bailey Col.
|Peter Baker assigned to Capt Aaron Jewett’s (3rd) co., Col. Jonathan Reed’s (6th Middlesex Co.) Regiment. It is not yet clear what this assignment meant. Other in the company are also assigned.|
|Ebenezer Learned, who never wintered in Valley Forge, resigns from post citing health problems. Brigade now called "Late Learned".|
|Bailey's Regiment leave Valley Forge a strong fighting force having been trained by Baron Von Steuben who arrived on 23 Feb.|
|Battle of Monmouth. Learned's Brigade were stationed on left flank under Lord Sterling. In "The War of the Revolution", Christopher Ward writes:
"A British attack was aimed at Stirling's wing. The British light infantry, the 42nd Foot, and the famous Black Watch pressed forward and were met by the heavy fire from the guns of Lieutenant Colonel Edward Carrington's battery. British fieldpieces were brought up, and a smart artillery duel ensured. Volley after volley of musketry came from both sides. Stirling, with Washington and Stueben, passed along the American line, encouraging the men. For nearly an hour the guns on both sides pounded their opponents, the muskets rained lead without cessations. The fighting was terrific. The American regiments in that line had been brought up to their positions under the eye of Stueben. Under fire they had wheeled into line "with as much precision as on an ordinary parade and with the coolness and intrepidity of veteran troops." Alexander Hamilton afterwards said that never, until he saw the troops deploy and fight as they did, had he "known or conceived the value of military discipline." It was Steuben's reward to see those result of this teaching."
|In letter from Major General Horatio Gates to George Washington, Late Learned's Brigade under Col Bailey will march to Hartford CT to support the French fleet in Boston if they need help.|
|Bailey's Regiment relieved from the Main Army and assigned to Highlands Department. Building fortresses around West Point to prevent another British attempt to divide the colonies.|
|Joseph Baker discharged from army for being "deranged"|
|Peter Baker receives honorable discharged at West Point.|
|William Heath wrotes: "Early in the morning about 100 soldiers belonging to the Massachusetts regiments [of the West Point garrison] … marched off with intent to go home: they were pursued and brought back: some of them were punished; the greater part of them pardoned." Once back in quarters the individual cases were reviewed, and some of the men received their discharges. The mutineers seem to have asserted that their three year enlistments meant that they only had to serve for three different calendar years, not for three full years from their date of enlistment. Thus, those that had enlisted in 1777 were done, having served for 1777, 1778, and 1779|
Documented Service of Baker Family Men in the Revolutionary War
“Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War”, published in 1891 by the Secretary of the Commonwealth represents the gold standard of Massachusetts Rev War service. The authors combed through all the available military rolls, and attempted to show how they served. Many members related to the Baker family can be found on these rolls
The Pension Files of Other Soldiers
The Federal government allowed survivors of the Revolutionary War to apply for a pension starting in 1818. Spouses also could get a benefit. The files are now online, and many names on the files have been indexed on Fold3 so it is now possible to see what other survivors have to say. The purpose of these pensions is to prove service and hardship so they need to state they have neither income nor any assets. As a bonus, several individuals gave details of their service including battle, injuries, sickness, etc.
When looking back over their service record, one has to wonder why Peter and Joseph Baker did it. Their battle experience looks like a living hell. Would life have been that terrible under continued British rule? Fellow soldiers continuously deserted because they could not justify the continued hardship. By the end of the three year service in Dec 1779, some soldiers, who has a few months left of service, preferred to face mutiny changes rather than remain at West Point. Not only was there a physical toll of marching, fortifying and fighting, but there was a financial toll. Immediately after the positive experience at Saratoga, Learned’s Brigade refused to march because they had not been paid in the last 6 to 8 months. Worst was the mental toll. Joseph Baker was discharged for being “deranged”. Peter shows all the hallmarks of suffering what we know call PTSD by his erratic behavior later in life. For those of us who appreciate all the trappings of July 4th and what it represents, we owe a great deal of gratitude to these men and their sacrifice.
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