Jesse Morgan (1758-1846)
1777, Groton Connecticut. Twins Jesse and David Morgan have reached the age of 19–a prime age for conscription into the militia that is fighting for American Independence. While nobody has definite information on David’s life, given the story of Jesse, it is likely that he was absent from Groton when the Militia “recruiters” came to round up new “recruits” for the Revolutionary War. See my description of Jesse’s life before and after the War.
Apparently the Morgan family opposed the war, or at least opposed turning their own young son over to the military. But the reluctant soldier became a witness to history. According to his deposition, he saw the hanging of Major Andre,
Jesse was nearby during the Battle of Camden.
And he saw the French Fleet as it sailed out of the Bay of Bristol , Rhode Island.
In 1832 the United States Congress passed a final law regarding the allotment of pensions to veterans of the Revolutionary War. I explored the many changes that were made to the pension law by various Congresses when I wrote about Eva Marie Stahler’s battle to get a pension that had been owing to her husband. (Eva Marie turned out not to be an ancestor–that’s another story.) From researching Eva Marie’s tribulations, I learned much about the frustration that those worthy Revolutionary War veterans went through. If you would like to look at the details (handy if you happen to be researching your own ancestors from the Revolutionary War) follow the link to an explanation of the pension battle.
The First Attempt – January 1833
After the 1832 law passed, Jesse Morgan wasted no time in applying for his pension for service during the Revolutionary War. He was 75 years old when his representative filed case #5770.
In addition to his own testimony, Jesse has a minister and another man from Pennsylvania testify to his character and truthfulness. But Jesse’s testimony is the most fascinating.
The Deposition: First Enlistment
The facts presented in January 1833, say that Jesse Morgan enlisted to fight in the Revolutionary War December, 1777 or January 1778 (he wasn’t sure which). He presents the name of the Colonel, Major and Captain and Sergeant under which he served for a term of three months. At the time of enlistment, he lived in Groton Connecticut, although he later moved to Canaan Township, Wayne County, Pennsylvania.
Unfortunately, he did not receive a written dismissal and has no written evidence or anyone to testify for him. What? he nor his lawyer could not go back to Groton and find someone who also served in the Army at the same time as Jesse?
At this point, I’m thinking that my 3x great-grandfather needed to get a better attorney. Based on what I wrote about Eve Maria Stahler’s case, she started out with an incompetent attorney, but later hired one who was more thorough.
In his deposition, his description of his activities for the next three months comes across as vivid. “Their duty was to guard that place from the British who were then in possession of Rhode Island. They were engaged in no battles or skirmishes with the enemy during the period. Deponent reccollects however, that the British about this time took possession of and burnt a meeting house at Bristol containing stores, baggage, tents and a mortar familiarly called ‘the old sow.’ He helped to bury the bones of the deceased persons who had been laid in the vaults under the meeting house. ”
After three months the company was dismissed at Providence and he returned home.
The Deposition: Second Enlistment
In July 1778 he re-enlisted and names the Captain and Sergeant he served under. Again he remembers vividly the activities of the army. “They joined the company of Captain Cavena at Norwich in the County of New London and after the space of two or three days they marched to Bristol in the state of Rhode Island. The company of Capt. Cavena as also many other companies at that period were detached and stationed along the shores from the town of Bristol to Rhode Island to guard them and keep the British on the Island. The Company of Captain Cavena were engaged in no battle or skirmishes with the enemy. Deponent recalls seeing the French fleet sail off from the Island in a violent storm and also recollected the retreat of General Sullivan during this period.”
At the end of three months, he was again dismissed and returned home.
The Deposition: Third Enlistment
His testimony continues with a third enlistment. In March of 1780, he “together with three other privates who served in a regiment of the Continental line (The particular number of which he does not recollect and has no means of ascertaining) under the command of”: and here he names the General and the Lt. in charge of the army that he joined “below West Point”. From there they marched to Musquito (sic) Hill in the state of New Jersey and thence after a stay of a few months they marched to Potaway in the same state. “While here the Camden battle took place and deponent recollects seeing one John Parker, a wounded soldier, on his return from the battle. After a stay of a few months, they marched to the highlands to guard the invalids and repair the huts for winter quarters. Deponent at this period saw Maj. Andre hung. A Company to which he belonged drew out to procure forage for the Continental forces under command of Captain Daggett. Jesse was serving as forage master. They loaded waggons(sic) and then returned to the highlands having been absent about two weeks. Although deponent had enlisted for the term of six months only he was detained til those were discharged who had enlisted for nine months–on the 22nd day of November. He arrived home on Thanksgiving Day (November 25th).
I have not dug my way through all of the claims he makes, but am trying to track down the geography of Potaway and Musquito Hill New Jersey.
Further, he says from Musquito Hill they marched to “the Highlands”. which means north of New York City along the Hudson River. If they went to the town of Tappan, then he might well have seen Major Andre hung in October, 1780. I can imagine that all troops in the vicinity were rounded up to witness the event.
Descriptions of the Revolutionary War hanging, like the one linked to Andre’s name above, show that it was a memorable event. But after nearly 60 years, might Jesse have confused what he knew with what he actually saw?
The battle of Camden took place in September, 1780, so according to his timeline, he would have been in New Jersey and been aware of that battle.
The Battle of Rhode Island, conducted in sync with the French fleet, took place in July 1778, again in conformity with Jesse’s testimony of his movements. The departure of the French fleet, did indeed take place in bad weather, as Jesse states in his deposition.
In June 1833, Jesse’s appeal was marked INVALID. Further explanation says the evidence (of service) is insufficient, and his name is not found in the files, so he needs proof of his service in 1780. His application did not follow all the rules. The wording suggests that the court is giving Jesse a chance to submit more complete information before a final decision.
If you have read accounts of the Revolutionary War, you know that the record keeping was haphazard at best. An army being cobbled together by farmers and tradesmen who might or might not have had a little training as part of a militia– had better things to do than keep records.
His deposition sounded convincing to me, however the judges probably had been dealing with many fraudulent claims and were determined to follow the letter of the law about evidence.
September 1833. The pension file includes a letter from a man from Groton who testifies that he knew Jesse all his life in Groton and says he was a cooper by trade.
Eldredge Packer testifies that he and Jesse served in the same company of Militia in Groton. In February or March of 1780 three men were drafted from that company, among them Jesse Morgan and Eldridge himself.” Eldredge chose to pay a “transient person” to serve for him. “Morgan kept out of the way for some days but was taken by officer that Morgan compounded the matter and enlisted in the Continental Army for six months being entitled on enlisting to Bounty, as deponent understood and believed at the time. That the draft was for six months to join the American Army…that Morgan was absent from home from the time of his enlistment for many months and deponent always and does now believe that J. Morgan served as a soldier during the absence.”
At this point I notice that the judge in the case is Asa Fish. Significant because Jesse’s wife is Matilda Fish. I don’t know if the judge is related to Matilda, but it is likely. The next witness is also a Fish and I’m thinking that Jesse’s outcome has just gotten rosier.
George Fish’s Story: Dodging the Draft
The story told by George Fish explains why I say this is a Revolutionary War story not to be missed. Keep in mind that Jesse would have been about 19 years old at the time.
George Fish says:
His [Jesse’s] family were opposed to his serving in the army. Because of urging by his family and friends, he avoided the officers who came for him. He avoided the conscriptors for a couple of days, but then they came into the meeting house during services and dragged him out. Even then, he managed to slip away and hide at his father’s house. He was finally “forcibly taken by a guard among whom were Timothy Wightman, Elisha Niles and others now all dead.”
At this turn of events, the family and friends had second thoughts. They were afraid of the consequences, since they were complicit in hiding him, so they now urged Jesse to voluntarily enlist and he did so. George Fish further says that Jesse was absent from home until late in the fall of that year “and I always understood and believed that Jesse Morgan served as a soldier.
He admits that he was not personally present when Jesse was taken from his father’s house, or when he enlisted, but he was very conversant with the affairs of his family and have no doubts of the facts relating to his draft, enlistment and service. He says that Jesse is now 75 years old [accurate given the hearing was 1833]. He knows that because Jesse is five years older than he himself. He also testifies that Jesse Morgan and his family removed more than twenty-five years ago from Groton to the State of Pennsylvania.
George Fish knows all of these things because he is Jesse Morgan’s brother -in-law.
UNDATED The appeal, case #5770, including the testimony of the brother-in-law, failed to convince the court. The claim was rejected because Jesse’s name was not found in the files and he needs two witnesses familiar with his second service. (1780)
I believe this court finding must have happened before October 7 when the attorney presented more information. Three of the letters he presents are dated September, but it is possible the attorney did not have them in hand until early October, as they had to be certified by a Justice of the Peace.
October 7, 1883 Jesse’s attorney sends an eloquent letter and several more pieces of evidence. He stresses that Jesse’s first two 3-month enlistments were in the militia (in service to the Revolutionary War Army) and the 1780 service was with the regular army.
“The old gentleman has been at considerable trouble and expense to procure the testimony required in that letter and really needs the assistance of his country and from what his neighbors and old associates say he really deserves it.”
George B. Wescott, Esq.
Mr. Wescott reminds the court that they have all the testimony of previous presentations, and the records of Revolutionary War service can be found in Washington. Jesse Morgan claims he is entitled to pension for three months service in 1776 proved by his affidavit and that of John Packer. He also claims for at least six months in 1780 proved by the affidavits of Thomas Roach and Benjamin Parker.
October, 1833, the court writes to Attorney Wescott and says that the two witnesses presented [Roach and Parker] are not adequate as they did not have personal knowledge of his service in 1780.
The Final Decision
The culmination of all “the old gentleman’s considerable trouble and expense” appears, with less drama than other contents of the file, on a cover page. Undated, it simply says
Documents of Jesse Morgan an applicant for a pension on rolls Swift regt. from August to 3 December 1780 = 4 mo. 3 days. Can allow for six months only $20.
Amazing! After at least three years of denying that his name appears on the Revolutionary War rolls, someone has discovered that Jesse Morgan actually was listed on the rolls of the Swift regiment in 1780. The “Swift Regiment” under the command of Gen. Herman Swift was known as the 7th Connecticut Regiment I am not particularly surprised that there are no records of the militia service before 1780, but also have not so far been able to find substantiation that Jesse was in Swift’s regiment. However, Swift’s Revolutionary War regiment’s timeline in New York and New Jersey follows Jesse’s sworn testimony.
For a man who came from an obviously pacifist family, Jesse Morgan served his company well and stood on the fringes of some very important events in United States history.
A Note About Research
The bulk of this story comes from:
U.S., Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900 , File #5770, Jesse Morgan, Pennsylvania. The records are compiled by Ancestry.com from records at the U. S. Archives and Fold3.com
United States Census, Canaan, Wayne County Pennsylvania, 1840, lists Jesse Morgan as a veteran. Ancestry.com Roll: 493; Image: 525; Family History Library Film: 0020557
Connecticut Revolutionary War Military Lists, 1775-83 , pg 82, Ancestry.com, Jesse Morgan, Ninth Regiment, Lt. Col’s Company [ Because regiments and companies were frequently renamed it is difficult to figure how this tracks with “Swift’s Regiment”]
James Morgan and His Descendants, pg. 41, Jesse Morgan.https://archive.org/details/morgangenealogyh1992morg/page/28
Pennsylvania Veterans Burial Cards, 1929-1990. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; , 1929-1990; Series Number: Series 1 , Ancestry.com.
Other internet references are linked to their page and were accessed in March 2019.