The Hissem-Montague Family
Soon after the Revolution Thomas Hissom and his brothers, John and David, moved to western Pennsylvania. While John remained in Lawrenceville, in Allegheny county, Thomas and his younger brother, David, moved down the Ohio river to what today is Tyler county, West Virginia. While many families quickly forget their past and often make up new stories to fill the void, one branch of the Thomas Hesom family remembered correctly. Emel Bernard "Bud" Hissam told me the story passed down in his family, that of Thomas Hissam of David, the nephew of (21) Thomas Hissom.
"We were always told there were two brothers from Western Penn. who settled in Tyler, County, W.Va. sometime in the early 1800's. We were also told there were two different family trees in Tyler County originating from these two brothers."Bud's family did not, however, remember any further back. This brings me to an interesting email I received from Nicolette Heesom Reichhold that shows a close connection between this Thomas Hissom branch of our family and the Heesom family of East Yorkshire.
"Dear SteveThe Thomas Hisam "born between 1775 and 1785" was (22) Thomas Hissam (1778), the son of our (21) Thomas Hissom.
You may remember I wrote last year about my Heesom family in East Yorkshire. Recently my brother's Y-DNA (FTDNA) had a 35/37 match with an [redacted] whose earliest known ancestor is a Thomas Hisam, born between 1775 and 1785 in Philadelphia, PA. Thomas Hisam's wife is unknown, his son, Thomas J. Hissam was born between 1818 and 1819 in Westmoreland Co. PA and died in West Virginia. I wonder if this fits in anywhere with your John Heesom line?
The Y-chromosone is passed from father to son almost unchanged from generation to generation. DNA matching measures allele values for 37 locations on the Y chromosome. These results can be compared to other individuals to see how closely or distantly you may have shared a common ancestor. For a 35/37 match your odds of sharing a common ancestor at the 10th generation are 80%. Those odds increase to 90% at the 12th generation, and to 95% at the 14th. At some point, of course, we all share a common ancestor.
I trace the Hissem family's first ancestor in America to (18) John Heesom (c1650), of Burlington, New Jersey. He is [redacted] direct ancestor, and mine, at the 10th generation. My paper research shows that the Hissem family of America and the Heesom family of East Yorkshire probably share an ancestor at the 11th generation back, with (17) George Hesom (c1600), of Crofton, West Yorkshire. YDNA testing supports that thesis, at an 85% level of confidence.(21) Thomas Hissom (1750)
Thomas Hissom, the son of Thomas Hesom and Catherina Kleyn, was born in about 1750 in Lower Smithfield township, Northampton county, in northeastern Pennsylvania, on the shore of Brodhead creek, right. The family homestead was a few miles up the creek from present-day Stroudsburg. The region was generally known as Dansbury at that time, for Daniel Brodhead, an early settler.
His birth, unlike that of his older brother John and younger brother William, was not recorded in the Walpack Reformed Dutch church. My guess is that it was recorded in another of the Minisinck Reformed Dutch churches, perhaps that in Lower Smithfield, whose records were lost or have not yet been placed on the internet. His brothers Abner and David also do not have their births recorded.
The Pennsylvania archives do list both a Thomas Hissom and Thomas Heysham, with birthdates of 175?. There are similar entries for William and Abner Hissom.
Thomas, and his elder brother John, were illiterate and could only make their mark, an X, on official documents. However, their little brother, David, could sign his name. My guess is that the difference lay with Thomas Sr.'s second wife, Elizabeth Brink, whom he married around 1765. At that time John was 19 and Thomas 15, thus both were "out of the house" in the sense that they spent most of their time in the field or forest. David, however, was only 3 and a perfect candidate for a little tutorial at the hearth. This would assume that Elizabeth was literate and Thomas Sr.'s first wife, Catherina Kleyn, was not. All of the boys probably learned Dutch, or German, from their mother or step-mother.
When Thomas was five years old the Broadhead creek region was extensively attacked by the Indians. Many homesteads were destroyed and his elder sister, Mary, was abducted.
What in America was known as the French & Indian War, and in Europe the Seven Years War, began in 1755 and lasted until 1763. During this period the generally friendly, or at least not hostile, relations the Pennsylvanians had with the Indians broke down under the provocation of French insurgents and the long simmering anger over the Walking Purchase.
All through the summer and early fall of 1755 there were whispers of alarming disaffection among the Indian tribes. Inflamed by French provocateurs and emboldened by the English General Braddock's defeat in July 1755 by a combined French & Indian force in the west, they saw a chance to win back lost territory.
The thunderbolt finally fell in November with an attack on Moravian settlers on the Mahoning Creek. A few days later the Indians hit the Smithfield community, attacking the farm of Daniel Brodhead, near the mouth of the Brodhead creek. This attack was repelled and the Indians proceeded to the homes of other settlers in the area, burning homes, barns and ricks, and killing and scalping many of the settlers. The region, long used to peace, succumbed to panic and the people fled, seeking safety in the south. It was reported soon after that the river, from Broadhead creek south to Easton, was deserted in the aftemath of the attacks.
Those who chose to stay despite the danger collected themselves together in some one house for a common defense. "After Indians began attacking homesteands in Lower Smithfield Township in Northampton County, for example, nine families gathered at Philip Bozart's dwelling, while "a great Number" of others convened at the farms of two other neighbors. These houses were frequently fortified in some manner and stood as makeshift forts, the main purpose of which was to protect women and children. Thus, even after they heard gun shots at a nearby house, the people at Bozart's house "were afraid to venture to go and see what had happened that Day, as they had many Woman [sic] and Children to take Care of, who it they had left might have fallen an easy Prey to the Enemy." - from "Friends and Enemies in Penn's Woods."
An inscription on a stove plate cast in 1756 memorialized the dreadful times:
"This is the year in which raged the Indian war parties." - from "Sweet Land of Liberty: The Ordeal of the American Revolution in Northampton County, Pennsylvania," by Francis S. Fox.
There is no record that the Hesom family ever saw their daughter, Mary, again. Thomas' father joined the newly formed county militia after these first attacks, but a short time later the family fled the increasing violence in the Brodhead creek area, crossed the Delaware river, and settled in New Jersey. Thomas' father joined the Hunterdon county militia while serving on New Jersey's northwest frontier. This may mean that the family lived in Hunterdon county, the location at this time of the town of Trenton. Within about a year, the situation calming down, the family returned to their homestead.
In 1763 the Indian Pontiac put together a wide-ranging alliance of tribes, some of whom descended again on Northampton county, the outlier of Pennsylvania settlements. Smithfield was struck hard and many cabins were burned and their occupants killed. Refugees once again clogged the trails heading south. Panic spread as far as Philadelphia, where the Assembly met to address the danger. Attacks continued in the Smithfield region into 1764. The defeat of Pontiac in the west, and the effect of an aroused militia, finally succeeded in stopping the attacks, but not before more than 60 settlements had been burned.
There is an excellent old movie, "Drums Along the Mohawk," starring Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert, and directed by John Ford, that gives a good feel to life on the frontier under the threat of Indian attack.
Thomas' youth, like that more extensively portrayed elsewhere for his brother, David, would have involved very little schooling. He did not learn to read or write; in documents signed near the end of his life he used an X. The majority of his education would have been in farming, animal husbandry, and woodcraft, as taught by his father. His religious needs were addressed by the traveling minister who occassionally preached in the Lower Smithfield church. This same minister, a Calvinist, would have also kept him informed of news, gossip, and political events from the wider world.
|The American Revolution Begins
For the first 150 years of the colonies' existence they had been loyal subjects of the crown. Following the French and Indian Wars, 1754-1763, tensions between colonists and the government in London began to rise. The problem was that the colonies had been left alone to govern and protect themselves for so long that they had begun to see this as their right. A clumsy attempt by the King and Parliament to reassert their authority caused a gulf to develop between King and subject.
First, in an attempt to ease tensions with native Americans, George III signed the Proclamation of 1763 which prohibited settlement west of the Appalachian mountains. Frontier farmers, like the Heyshams, felt that their government had betrayed them in favor of the Indians.
In 1764 the Parliament took several measures to raise money to pay off the war debt. These included the Sugar Act, which increased duties on imports and prohibited the import of foreign rum, and a reorganization of the customs system to better enforce current trade laws which had often been ignored in the past. These actions resulted in an increase in smuggling and in bitter confrontations with authorities. At this point, if the King had asked the colonial governments to help him raise money they probably would have done so, after the normal debate, through taxing themselves. As it was, they felt ignored and their rights, as Englishmen, violated.
In 1765 the Parliament passed the Stamp Act. This was a tax on correspondence and legal documents meant to to pay for the defense of the colonies. The colonists, who felt they had already paid for their own defense through their militias, organized a boycott of British goods that forced the repeal of this law in 1766. The Quartering Act, also passed in 1765, required the colonists to house British troops and supply them with food. This raised ancient fears of a standing army. Why, the citizens asked, do you want to quarter troops in our towns when the danger was on the frontier, unless it was to suppress our rights? The Sons of Liberty formed in many towns to fight these laws.
The Townshend Acts, more taxes, were enacted in 1767 and more boycots ensued. Taxation without representation evolved as the key issue in 1768. Customs officers were increasingly subjected to threats and violence.
In March 1770 British soldiers fired on a Boston mob that had been harassing them. Five civilians were killed and six injured. The event was propagandized into the Boston Massacre.
Thomas Hissem married Mary Parker in 1772 - from the DAR "Lineage Book." She was born in 1753 near Carlisle, in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Richard and Martha Parker. This does not gibe with the Parker family information, below. Carlisle is pretty far from Lower Smithfield, at least a hundred miles. How did Thomas and Mary get together?
The DAR book says that Thomas was born in Hempfield township, Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, but that was where he died, not where he was born.
|The Parker Family
The following is extracted from "The Ancestry of John Clyde Parker" by Hester Anderson, Olive Parker, J. C. Parker, and Pat Parker, "Pennsylvania Genealogies" by William Henry Egle, and "A Century and a Half of Pittsburg and Her People" edited by John Newton Boucher.(19) Richard Parker Sr. (c1690)
He was born in about 1690 in Ulster province, Ireland. He married Janet between 1713 and 1715 in Ulster province and then, in about 1725, they emigrated to America. Richard was initially a squatter, simply taking a tract of land near the Presbyterian Glebe Meeting-house on the Conedoguinet [Conodoguinet, Conedouginet, Cannadaguinnet] Creek in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. In 1734 he acquired the land on which he had "resided ye ten years past" by patent. The Conodoguinet settlement was about three miles west of the town of Carlisle. The Conodoguinet creek is a tributory of the Susquehanna river.
Richard and Janet's first three children, John, Thomas, and Richard, were born in Ireland. Their subsequent children, William, Martha, Susannah, and James, were born in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania.
Richard Sr. died before 1750 in Carlisle, Cumberland county, Pennsylvania. Janet survived him by 15 years.(20) John Parker (1716)
(19) Richard Parker Sr. (c1690)
He was born in 1716 in Drumquin, County Tyrone, Ireland, and emigrated to America with his parents in 1725. He married Margaret McClure. His son, Richard, served in the Revolution. Their daughter, Agnes, married William Denny, a carpenter, of Carlisle. Their descendents removed to Pittsburgh.(20) Thomas Parker (1720)
(19) Richard Parker Sr. (c1690)
He was born in 1720 in Drumquin, County Tyrone, Ireland, and emigrated to America with his parents in 1725. He married Eleanor Ferguson. Noted to be "a prominent man on the frontiers during the French and Indian wars, and was an officer in the Provincial service."(20) Ricard Parker Jr. (1725)
(19) Richard Parker Sr. (c1690)
He was born in 1725 in Drumquin, County Tyrone, Ireland, and emigrated to America with his parents soon after. He married Martha in about 1748. He died in August 1774 in West Pennsboro township, Chester county, Pennsylvania. This is in the extreme southeast of the state. His will was proved on 7 September 1774.
"Remarks: Richard Parker of West Pennsborough. [Will dated] 20 Jun 1774. Wife Martha. Three youngest sons, viz., William, Henry and Richard, minors, under age of 14. Other children, John, Alexander, Mary, James and Margret. Exs., John McClure, William Fleming and John Davis, Jr."(21) Mary Parker (1753)
(19) Richard Parker Sr. (c1690) (20) Ricard Parker Jr. (1725)
She was born in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania in 1753. She married Thomas Hissem of Northampton county, Pennsylvania in 1772.(20) William Parker (1727)
(19) Richard Parker Sr. (c1690)
He was born in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania in 1727. His son, Thomas, was a medical doctor who lived in Pittsburgh.(20) James Parker (c1731)
(19) Richard Parker Sr. (c1690)
He was born in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania in about 1731. He married Mary Eleanor Boyd. He died about the end of the Revolution.
Mary Parker's marriage to Thomas Hissem has been documented in "The Parker Family History" and in the DAR Revolution volume 148. Note, however, that in a deposition supporting the pension application of Thomas' younger brother, David, a Jane Heysham claimed to be Thomas' wife and her comments about Lower Smithfield leave the impression that she had been Thomas' wife since he had lived there. Could Mary have been Mary Jane? Or was Jane the true wife of Thomas?
Thomas' eldest son, Abner, was born in 1774, soon after his marriage to Mary. Their next son, Thomas, was not born until sometime in 1778, perhaps substantiating Thomas Sr.'s absence during the early days of the war.
|The American Revolution Begins
In June 1772 a customs schooner ran aground off Rhode Island. Colonists attacked it and set it on fire. In the same year Committee's of Correspondence were formed in several colonies to improve their communications about the evolving situation.
In 1773 a Tea Act took effect taxing imports of tea and granting the East India company a monopoly on the trade. In an atmosphere of accelerating tensions, the Sons of Liberty boarded several ships in December 1773 and threw their tea into Boston harbor. The Boston Tea Party electrified the country and there was a great outpouring of support for the city when the British government closed its port in retaliation in 1774.
In April 1775 the Battles of Lexington and Concord kicked off the revolution.
In May 1775 the Continental Congress resolved to raise an army.
|The American Revolution Begins
The city of Boston, following the Lexington Alarm, had been placed under siege by local patriot militias. This army swelled to over 12,000 men under the revolutionary government of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. In June British forces were able to push American units out of their positions on Breed's Hill, now known as the Battle of Bunker Hill, but at great loss. While a tactical victory for the British it did not affect the siege. An American officer observed, "I'd like to sell them another hill at the same price."
The Army around Boston was then adopted by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia as the Continental Army and George Washington was placed in command. Over the winter, cannon, captured at Fort Ticonderoga, were transported to Boston and placed in strong positions above the city. The British found their position untenable and evacuated the city in March 1776.
In February 1776 the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety suggested that a regiment of expert riflemen be enlisted for the defense of the Province. The flyer, left, was typical of those released to drum up support. A levy of 1,500 men were raised to serve until 1 January 1778. The regiment was divided into 2 rifle battalions, of 500 men each, and the balance in a battalion of muskets. Each rifle battalion, officered by a lieutenant colonel, would consist of six companies. Each company was to consist of one captain, three lieutenants, four sergeants, four corporals, a drummer, and sixty-eight privates. The privates were to be paid six and two-thirds dollars per month and were required to find their own arms and clothing.
Men were enlisted in the Regiment to serve until the first day of January 1778, subject to be discharged at any time upon the advance of a month's pay to each man.
Thomas Hissom enlisted in the 1st Battalion of the Pennsylvania Regiment of Rifle Men, in the company of Casper Weitzel.
The Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment, commanded by Colone Samuel Miles, was formed in March 1776. There were two battalions of riflemen, the 1st Battalion commanded by Colonel Miles, and the 2nd by Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Brodhead. On 9 March Casper Weitzel of Sunbury was appointed Captain of a company which he raised at his own expense from the vicinity of the Forks of the Susquehanna river. It was raised in just six weeks and was composed of 70 men. Its officers under Captain Weitzel were First Lieutenant William Gray, of Sunbury, Second Lieutenant John Robb, and Third Lieutenant George Grant. - from Proceedings and Addresses, "Northumberland County Troops in the Continental Line," Heber G. Gearhart, Northumberland County Historical Society, Volume V, 1933.
Thomas' brothers, William and Abner, later joined the 1st Battalion of Associators, Pennsylvania's early militia. His eldest brother, John, joined a New York regiment while his youngest brother, David, remained at home, too young yet to serve.
Sunbury is in Northumberland county, on the eastern shore of the Susquehanna river, just below the point where the river branches. This is well west of Lower Smithfield; Thomas would have had to hike for several days to get there in order to join up. Note too that none of the other members of Weitzel's company were names familiar from Northampton county. Why would'nt Thomas have joined a company in the 2nd Battalion which was commanded by Daniel Brodhead, a local leader? Perhaps the story might be that Thomas had intended to join his friends in the local battalion, but when the 1st Battalion marched east, into Northampton county, to join up with the other units of the Rifle Regiment, he was shunted to the 1st Battalion to fill a shortfall in its muster.
- Private Thomas Hissom, Active Duty Line, Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment Company of Captain Casper Weitzel, Enlisted 24 March 1776 - From the Pennsylvania Archives, Revolutionary War Military Abstract Card FileThis makes Thomas one of the first to enlist. In fact, only 6 men, including the 4 officers, joined earlier.
Thomas Hissom of Captain Casper Weitzel's company of the Pennsylvania Rifle regiment, commanded by Colonel Samuel Miles, was the second [company] formed in Northumberland county. - from the historical records of Northumberland county, PennsylvaniaSee also History of Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, Chapter 3, by Herbert C. Bell, 1891, for more information.
In the gunpowder era, through the end of the Napoleanic Wars, the standard infantry weapon was the muzzle loading flintlock musket. While it was acknowledged that the rifle was a far more accurate weapon, the time required to load it made it a specialist's weapon.
A Rifle Regiment would have been comprised of sharp shooters, either skirmishers in advance of the main body of the army used to harass the opposing force and break up its unit integrity, or as lone gunmen using guerilla techniques to target sentries and officers.
The rifle was uniquely suited to the American environment of heavy forests which restricted the use of Line regiments in set-piece battles, and to the American spirit of individualism. The rifle was the weapon of survival for the settler and while he came to the army unschooled in drill, he was likely to be a good to excellent shot.
In part due to the demonstrated marksmanship and utility of American militia units using the rifle during the American War of Independence, the British established an Experimental Rifle Corps that was employed during the Wars with Revolutionary France and Napoleon. That being said, repeatedly during the Revolution American troops would break and run when confronted by the unremitting advance of drilled troops with bayonet equipped muskets.
Between March and May men were recruited into the Regiment. Thomas was on a List of "Soldiers of the Revolution Who Received Pay for Their Services," in the Continental Line. This was a unit of the United States Army, not a militia unit of the state.
- Pay Roll of Captain Casper Weitzel's company, 2 June 1776: Thomas Hissom.
- Pay Roll of Captain Casper Weitzel's company, 1 July 1776: Private Thomas Hissom.
"A deserter from Weitzel's company was described in the Pennsylvania Gazette, July 3, 1776, as wearing a "rifleman's uniform of a lead color."" - from "Union County, Pennsylvania" by Charles McCool Snyder.
|Captain Casper Weitzel
Casper Weitzel, Esquire, was a lawyer, practicing at Sunbury, when the war broke out in 1775. As secretary of the county committee, he took an active part in favor of independence. In 1776 he raised a company in and around Sunbury, which was attached to Colonel Miles' regiment and participated in the disastrous battle of 27 August on Long Island. He fought through the British ranks and made his way into camp, with Lieutenant Colonel Brodhead, with a loss of twenty officers and men of his company. Captain Weitzel later became a Major in the local Lancaster county militia. He died in 1782.
I don't know what the regiment did between May, when the whole of the Rifle Regiment was fully raised, and July, but in the latter month the regiment "rendezvoused at Marcus Hook, on the Delaware river below Philadelphia." - from "Northumberland County Troops in the Continental Line." Marcus Hook, the name is a corruption of an old Dutch name, is a port on the Delaware river, at Hook creek, below Philadelphia.
"Private Thomas Hissom, Active Duty Line, Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment [of Colonel Samuel Miles], Company of Captain Casper Weitzel, Enlisted 24 March 1776, Pay 1.17.6 pounts monthly, Allowances 0.10.0 pounds weekly, 3 months, 7 days [service], P/R [presently resident?] Capt. Weitzel's Co, Marcus Hook, 4 July 1776." - from the Pennsylvania Archives, Revolutionary War Military Abstract Card FileMarcus Hook was a gathering place and rendezvous for volunteers from around the state. While the force gathered, a joint land and naval attack was made against British naval vessels in the river, but it proved unsuccessful.
|Colonel Samuel Miles
A native Pennsylvanian of Welsh Quaker stock, Samuel Miles served as a young man in the militia during the French and Indian War. Despite his youth, not yet being 20, Miles rose to the command of a company in 1759 and was appointed Captain in 1760.
By 1761 Miles had left the army, married, and settled in Philadelphia to sell dry goods, rum and wines. He held various elective offices, including in the General Assembly from 1772 to 1774, but took an early and active part in the movement for independence. Once again elected to the General Assembly in 1775, Miles continued to serve there and on the Committee of Safety, until in the Spring of 1776 he helped to raise and command a regiment of riflemen. Dispatched to Long Island, Miles and 159 members of his regiment were taken prisoner near Flatbush on 27 August 1776, having been cut off from American lines by British forces. He was held in New York until his exchange in April 1778. During his imprisonment, he was promoted to Brigadier General for services rendered.
After being released from prison, Miles served as Deputy Quartermaster for Pennsylvania until 1782, was appointed Judge of the High Court of Errors and Appeals in 1783, to the Council of Census at Philadelphia in 1787, the City Council in 1788, and was an Alderman and a member of the Council of Property in 1789. In 1790 he became Mayor of Philadelphia, and continued taking an active role in politics until becoming a Federalist Presidential elector in 1796. In that year, Miles chose to support Jefferson for the Presidency over John Adams, reasoning that Jefferson's attitudes toward France would more likely prevent America from entering war. His stand, however, was not viewed well by his Federalist peers. In 1792, Miles retired to Cheltenham, Pennsylavnia, where he died at the age of 67 on 29 December 1805. He was buried in the First Baptist Church, Philadelphia.
On the 2nd of July the regiment was ordered up to Philadelphia, and on the 4th, one battalion, under Lieut. Col. Daniel Brodhead, ordered to Bordentown, N. J., and on the 5th, the whole regiment marched for Trenton, whence it marched to Amboy, under orders to join the Flying Camp under General Mercer, which it accomplished on the 16th. On August 1st, we find Capt. Weitzel's company in camp at Amboy, New Jersey. - from "Northumberland County Troops in the Continental Line" and "Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, a History." Thomas' brothers' Abner and William were serving in the Flying Camp, so it was a family reunion.
On 10 August Colonel Mile's regiment was ordered over to New York [Long Island] where they were assigned to the brigade commanded by Brigadier General William Alexander, more commonly known as Lord Stirling. On the 12th they were brigaded with Glover's and Smallwood's Regiments. When the British landed, Colonel Miles was ordered to use his regiment to watch their movements. He took up a position near the village of Flatbush where the Highlanders lay, but they were soon replaced by a unit of Hessians. Clearly the American army had little time to organize and no opportunity for training. They were going into battle with a professional army and would suffer in comparison.
|The Battle of Long Island
On 25 August 1776, General William Howe’s British and Hessian army moved from Staten Island to the western end of Long Island. Miles’s Regiment was promptly sent to Long Island to reinforce the American units occupying defenses north of the British landing areas and to observe the British motions. Miles’s Regiment was stationed on the left flank of the American line, to the east, near Flatbush. There were serious daily skirmishes involving Pennsylvania riflemen. The Americans actually fought quite effectively in these skirmishes and caused a fair amount of trouble, especially to the Hessians at Flatbush. A Hessian officer involved in this skirmishing said of the Pennsylvania riflemen, “[they] have some very good marksmen, but some of them have wretched guns, and most of them shoot crooked. But they are clever at hunter’s wiles. They climb trees, they crawl forward on their bellies for one hundred and fifty paces, shoot, and go as quickly back again. They make themselves shelters of boughs, etc.”
Miles had orders to patrol toward the Jamaica Pass. The American left flank was not anchored on any defensible terrain feature, so patrols were sent out to cover this vulnerability. Lieutenant Colonel Brodhead later wrote that they “constantly scouted by Day, which beside mounting a Guard of one hundred men & an advance party of subaltern and thirty [men] to the left of us, was hard Duty for our Reg’t…”
The Battle of Long Island began on 27 August 1776 and, as contemporaries noted, the American's got a “drubbing” and were “prettily taken in.”
Colonel Miles warned General John Sullivan of the danger that the British might attempt an enveloping attack, using the Jamaica Road to advance into striking position, but Sullivan ignored him. At about 7 AM, Miles became aware that the enemy was moving exactly as he had expected. He then started forward, in the direction of Bedford Pass, to intercept them. He had only gone a short distance, however, when he was stopped by Colonel Samuel Wyllys, whose Connecticut regiment (the 22nd Continentals) was guarding the approach from Flatbush. Wyllys, as a Continental officer, outranked Miles, who held only a State commission; and Wyllys refused to allow the Pennsylvanians to go farther. Sources conflict as to exactly what Wyllys wanted Miles to do instead. At any rate, Miles insisted that the main danger lay on the Gravesend-Jamaica road, and finally persuaded Wyllys to let him go to block the point where he was sure that the threat would develop. Striking off across county to the east, Miles led his men in a rapid, two-mile march through the woods, came in view of the road, and saw that he was too late — the British troops had already moved between him and the American lines. It was now about 8 AM, and Miles had arrived just in time to see the baggage train bringing up the rear of Howe’s column [this description of events sounds a bit self-serving somehow].
During this march, Miles’ Regiment had become badly strung out. The 1st Battalion was with Miles himself; but he had lost contact with the 2nd Battalion of the regiment, under Lieutenant Colonel Brodhead. Miles had sent Major Ennion Williams with orders to Brodhead to join the 1st Battalion, but by the time Williams found Brodhead he had no way of knowing where Miles and the 1st Battalion might have gone. Brodhead, however, started off to the east, in the general direction he knew Miles had taken. Anticipating contact with enemy troops, he tried to deploy his men from Indian file into line-of-battle. This plunged the unit into confusion, compounded by the fact that Major John Patton misunderstood the orders and moved off to the right with half the battalion. Before Patton could be recalled, Brodhead caught sight of what he estimated to be four to five thousand enemy troops to his immediate front. In the face of such numbers, he moved the men with him into a wooded area to the left. Seeing some American artillerymen with a fieldpiece and a howitzer trying to unlimber in a wood still farther to the left, he sent a number of his men to support them. As these men were taking position, however, the 22nd Continentals raced through in disorder. Their panic spread to Brodhead’s men, most of whom joined the retreat. Brodhead wrote that he had done “all in my power to rally the musquetry [the 22nd Continentals] & Riflemen [his own men], but to no purpose, so that when we came to engage the Enemy, I had not fifty men, notwithstanding which we after about three Rounds, caused the Enemy to retire, and as the Enemy’s main body was then nearly between us and the lines, I retreated to the lines, having lost out of the whole Battalion, about one hundred men, officers included, which, as they were much scattered, must be chiefly prisoners…”
With his remaining 230 men, Miles attacked the light infantry baggage guard and then tried to fight his way back to the fortified positions in Brooklyn. In the ensuing chaos, his men fought bravely in many small skirmishes, some of which were at least temporarily successful. Miles and 159 men were captured, but a few got back to give Putnam the first word that they had been outflanked.
Unlike Miles, Colonel Brodhead succeeded in reaching the American lines. Some of the men of the other two battalions, Miles’s and Atlee’s, joined him there, and with a composite force he helped drive off an enemy attack. As the British retreated, Brodhead was sent farther to the right to cover the withdrawal of other American units. He observed resentfully that “Here I remained ‘till almost night before I was relieved, notwithstanding the Generals there had a number of Reg’ts who were not engaged, and had had little or no fatigue.”
Note: This excellent account was derived from Wert Family, a genealogy page.
About 700 Continentals were taken prisoner at the battle and among them “more officers than perhaps was ever known in a like number of men.” Among the captured was Colonel Miles. Thomas Hissom escaped death or capture, but his brothers, William and Abner, did not. Both were listed among the missing after the battle, never to be heard of again. Note that many American troops were killed after surrendering. See Captain Weitzel's letter to his brother, below.
After the initial rout General Washington's army had taken positions behind fortifications previously prepared on Brooklyn Heights. General Howe, remembering his losses when he attempted a frontal attack on similiarly prepared positions at Bunker Hill, hesitated. While Howe waited, Washington acted, skillfully removing his army from the island, left, transferring them to New York City, which Congress wanted held.
In the aftermath of the battle and retreat, Thomas' unit took a muster:
"Muster Roll of Captain Casper Weitzel's Company, in the first Battalion of Pennsylvania Regiment of Riflemen commanded by Colonel Samuel Miles. Camp near Kingsbridge, 1 September 1776. . . . Privates - . . . Thomas HissomNote that two of their four officers, William Gray and John Robb, were reported missing after the battle, though Robb rejoined later, as were two of their five sergeants.
Kingsbridge connects the north end of Manhattan Island with the Bronx. There was a bridge at this point which spanned the now-filled-in Spuyten Duyvil Creek. The King's Bridge was part of Boston Post Road, connecting southern Westchester County with Marble Hill, which was part of the island at this time. The rifle regiment was probably guarding the crossing.
- Pay Roll of Captain Casper Weitzel's company, pay due from the 1st day of August to the 1st day of September 1776: Private Thomas Hissom.
Captain Weitzel provided the following particulars in a letter to his brother John,
"Camp near Kingsbridge, sixteen miles above New York, September 6, 1776
Dear Brother: . . . New York is like a wire mouse trap, easy to get in, but hard to get out. You no doubt before now have heard of the drubbing we Pennsylvanians, with the Delaware and Maryland Battalions, got on Long Island, on the 27th of August last; we were prettily taken in. The General Sullivan who commanded on Long Island, is much blamed. I saw nothing of him in the engagement or some days before. The little army we had on the Island, of about five thousand men, was surrounded by fifteen or twenty thousand of the English and Hessians when the engagement began; they gave us a good deal of trouble but we fought our way bravely through them. The number of English and Hessians killed is surprising great, and of ours very trifling; but they have taken about seven hundred of our people prisoners, and amongst them more officers than perhaps ever was known in the like number of men. My Lieut. Gray, Sergeant Gordon, Sergeant Price and sixteen privates are missing. I know of only one killed in my company. The poor fellow was wounded in the thigh, and unable to walk; his name is Speiss; the d—d savage Hessians and English Light Infantry, run their bayonets thro’ him, and two of Captain Albright’s men, who were also badly wounded, and murdered by them. I have this from one of my men who was a prisoner and escaped to me, and imagine the rest are prisoners. James Watt is among them. I came off with whole bones, contrary to my expectations; I was in so much danger that by escaping that, I think it was impossible for them to kill me . . ." from "Pennsylvania in the War of the Revolution, Battalions and Line, 1775-1783," page 191, edited by John Blair Linn, William H. Egle, M. D., Volume I, 1895.
|Washington on Manhattan
Congress had told General Washington that they wanted New York City held. However, to keep his escape routes open to the north, the General placed 5,000 troops in the city, what is today the lower portion of Manhattan, and took the rest of the army to Harlem Heights. Washington had decided by the second week in September that he needed to evacuate the city. Before he withdrew, however, he prepared strong fortifications on the northern plateau of the island, at Harlem Heights, around Fort Washington on the Hudson shore. The remnants of the Flying Camp were amongst the units that manned Fort Washington. Directly across the river, on the New Jersey side, was Fort Lee. Together these forts were meant to command the river and keep the Royal Navy at bay. At this they were largely unsuccessful.
The British occupied New York City, left, on 15 September. On 16 September a small American scouting party came under intense British fire and was forced to retreat with the British in hot pursuit. General Washington ordered a force forward to lure the party of British further onto the plateau of Harlem Heights, while a second force moved around the British right flank to cut them off from the southern plateau and further reinforcement. The British took the bait, but after an intense firefight, they were able to extricate themselves. As British reinforcements came up, General Washington recalled his troops. This battle put much heart back in to the American troops.
"On Thursday, September 19, “the three battalions [of the Rifle Regiment] mutinied, and appeared on the parade [at Kingsbridge?] under arms. After this they deserted in parties with their arms, about two hundred men in the whole, fifty of whom are here now. The rest have taken other roads. Their complaints are want of pay, want of clothes, the want of blankets, the not receiving the particular species of rations. As to their pay, they had the whole to the 1st of August, and some have deserted immediately after having their full pay to the 1st of September. A very great cause of desertion is owing to the loss of their field officers. A party attempted to desert (about thirty) but were prevented by force. A corporal at their head, thrust with his bayonet at Lieut. Lang, which he parried, the corporal is in custody; the same corporal cocked his piece at Ensign Davis, and attempted to fire. One Kelly, of Capt. Brown’s company, and Sergeant Seamell, of Howell’s company, are principal ringleaders.”"- from "History of the County of Westmoreland, Pennsylvania" by G. D. Albert
From a petition "of privates Col. Miles' and Atlee's battalion returned from camp without leave,"; that is, they deserted,
“To the Honourable the Committee of Safety of the Province of Pennsylvania.Thomas was not listed among the petitioners/mutineers. Note that while at least a dozen men in Captain Brown's company were listed as "deserted and returned" in the October muster, none were so listed in Captain Weitzel's unit.
We your Petitioners, Soldiers enlisted for the Province of Pennsylvania, now returned from New York Government, being Willing & Desirous of Letting you Honours know the reason of our returning. Our Commanders told us, the subscribers, that if we went out of the Province that we should be used well, and return in six weeks from the time we left the Province. We were out of the Province upwards of Two Months and not used according to promise. We never had half of our Provisions Given us that was allowed to us by the Honourable the Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania, nor never received any pay for the time we were out of the Province. We lost our Chief Commanders on Long Island, and not knowing who to apply to for Redress when out of the Province we returned to seek Redress, and hope you Honours will take it into your Consideration. Your Petitioners did not leave New York for Cowardice but for bad usage, and we are willing to fight to Defend the Province where we were Inlisted.
Your Petitioners Humbly beg that you would take it into your Consideration." - from "Pennsylvania in the War of the Revolution, Battalions and Line, 1775-1783," page 196.
|The New York City Fire
On 21 September a fire broke out in New York City. Strong winds rapidly spread the flames and engulfed the town. The British immediately speculated that the fire had been set by the rebel army to deny the British a base of operations. Dozens of people were detained by the British for questioning, including Nathan Hale, the American spy, who was subsequently hung.
From a muster taken on 27 September 1776, Private Thomas Hissom, of the Active Duty Line, Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment, Company of Captain Weitzel, was Present in Camp, Company Return. Six deserters "since leaving New York [the city, not the island]" were noted. The company, with the remnants of the Rifle Regiment, moved forward from Kingsbridge to the area around Fort Washington.
"By a return, dated September 27, 1776, signed by Ennion Williams, major, the First battalion had, including field, nineteen officers, sixteen sergeants, three drummers, and one hundred and eighty-two rank and file . . . The three battalions [of the Rifle Regiment] were then in Gen. [Thomas] Miffin’s brigade, and stationed at Mount Washington [in the vicinity of Fort Washington, on the northern part of the island]." - from "Pennsylvania in the War of the Revolution, Battalions and Line, 1775-1783," page 198- Pay Roll of Captain Casper Weitzel's company, pay due from the 1st day of September to the 1st day of October 1776: Private Thomas Hissom.
In October the rifle and musket battalions were reorganized.
"In the action of the 27th of August the rifle regiment and musketry battalion were so broken up that Gen. Washington ordered the three battalions to be considered as a regiment [that is, a single unit] under the command of Lieut.-Col. Brodhead,-- the lieutenant-colonel of the rifles,-- until further orders." - from "History of the County of Westmoreland, Pennsylvania" by G. D. AlbertA subsequent muster showed that the 1st Battalion had been reduced to 220 officers and men from an original complement of 500. The 2nd Battalion had 294 and the musketry Battalion had 163.
"Muster Rolls of Captain Casper Weitzel's Company in the First Battalion of the Pennsylvania Regiment of Rifle-Men now under the command of Lieut. Colonel Daniel Brodhead, Esq., Camp on the Height of Harlem [Harlem is in Upper Manhattan, near Kingsbridge], the 1st Oct. 1776" . . . "who appeared on parade in Camp near Harlem, N. York, under my Command, are bonafide raised for the Defense of the State of Pennsylvania, now in Continental Service"An astonishing 14 of 44 privates were listed as sick [the novice American army was notoriously poor at camp hygiene]. Another 10 were shown as deserters, leaving only 20 "effectives." The unit was still on the plateau, but apparently not in, or considered part of, the fort.
"Private . . . Thomas Hissom, sick in Hospital." - from "Muster Rolls, etc."
On 4 October 1776 another muster was taken yielding,
"Weitzel's Company. — Three sergeants, seventeen privates; sick absent, one drum, seventeen privates; absent without leave, nine." - from "Muster Rolls, etc., 1743-1787"
"On the 5th of October, the Council of Safety determined that the three battalions [2 rifle and 1 musket] should be arranged as follows: two were to be on the Continental establishment, and to serve during the war, the other to be retained in the service of the State until the 1st of January, 1778, unless sooner discharged, and to consist of ten companies of one hundred men each, officers included. This they intended ordering home as soon as the condition of the Continental army would admit of it, as they were by arrangement to keep twelve complete battalions in the Continental service. This regiment was thereafter known as "The Pennsylvania State Regiment of Foot." - from "History of the County of Westmoreland, Pennsylvania" by G. D. AlbertHowever, Thomas was not listed in Captain James Francis Moore's Company, Pennsylvania State Regiment of Foot, when it mustered at Red Bank on 9 May 1777.
"On the 25th of October, they [the Council of Safety] . . . consolidated the companies of Long, Peebles, Weitzel, Erwin, Grubb, Lloyd, Herbert, Nice, Howell and McClellan with the former [of Capt. James F. Moore]." - from "Pennsylvania Archives: Pennsylvania in the War of Revolution"
"But the remains of these battalions thus consolidated followed the fortunes of the Continental army. They served in nearly all the battles of the campaign of 1777." - from "History of the County of Westmoreland, Pennsylvania" by G. D. Albert
In October British forces continued to aggressively probe General Washington's position on northern Manhattan. An amphibious landing, flanking the American position, had been defeated, but the British landed again, at a better location, and it looked like only a matter of time before any chance of retreat was cut off. Before his army could be trapped Washington decided to evacuate his main force from Manhattan island.
He knew that Fort Washington was now untenable and suggested that it too be abandoned, but General Nathaniel Greene, who was in charge of the position, though he was physically across the Hudson at Fort Lee, disagreed and Washington did not press the point. Washington removed the bulk of his troops across Knightsbridge, completing his evacuation by 18 October. Nine days later Washington established a position on the hills around White Plains, on the Bronx river, in Westchester county.
As Washington's army began it's retreat that would end up in Philadlephia, muster reports become infrequent - the first thing armies on the run abandon is paperwork. While there are no further muster reports for Thomas I will assume that he stayed with his unit and completed his enlistment that ended in January 1778. It certainly makes sense that, at a minimum, he stayed with the army during their retreat. Desertion while still on the island would have placed him in the hands of the British. Afterwards the army would be on a retreat that led towards his home. Alternatively, he could have been amongst those who would be returned to Pennsylvania "as soon as they could be spared."
It was at this time that the remaining elements of the Rifle Regiment were placed under the command of Colonel Edward Hand. However, this is difficult to trace because Hand's original unit was also a Pennsylvania rifle regiment, the 1st Pennsylvania Continental Regiment, and the unit names get confused.
An Irishman, Hand joined 18th Royal Irish Regiment of Foot as a surgeon's mate in 1767. In 1772 he was commissioned an Ensign. The Regiment was transferred to America in 1774 and he resigned his commission to practice medicine in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he became active in the local patriot militia, the Associators.
He entered the Continental Army in June 1775 as a lieutenant colonel in Colonel William Thompson's Battalion of Riflemen and in March 1776 he was promoted to colonel of the renamed 1st Pennsylvania [Continental] Regiment. These rifleman quickly became famous for their ability to pick-off British officers. Hand fought at Boston, Long Island, White Plains, Trenton and Princeton. He also took part in the Sullivan expedition to suppress the Iroquois. Promoted to Brigadier, he became George Washington's Adjutant General in 1781 and served at Yorktown. He was one of the better field commanders in the war.
There is a story about Hand's Regiment that bears repeating here. On 12 October the British attempted to flank the American position on the northern tip of Manhattan by landing troops in Westchester county. Hand's men thwarted them.
"Lord Howe landed about 4,000 men at Throg's Neck, October 12th, with the intention of encircling Washington's army and bringing the rebellion to an early end. He was met by Col. Ed Hand's crack Pennsylvania riflemen who destroyed the bridge and causeway leading from Throg's Neck to the Westchester mainland. Howe's men were isolated for six days before they re-embarked and landed at Pell's Point in Pelham Manor on October 18th." - from "The Battle of White Plains Began In Scarsdale" by Anthony F. LazzaraI don't know if Thomas' company was serving with Hand yet at this point.
|The Battle of White Plains
The British followed the Americans to White Plains and there they fought an inconclusive battle which ended in a draw on 28 October. The American army had been flanked by the Hessians, but General Howe failed to follow up on this advantageous position, allowing the Americans to retreat north. The British then seemed to lose interest and moved south, ending this part of the campaign.
In the battle's aftermath General Washington split his army, leaving 11,000 men under General Charles Lee to block a British move into New England, and taking the remainder across the Hudson river, into New Jersey.
|Battle of Fort Washington
The Americans at Fort Washington were now alone. After they refused an offer to surrender, on 16 November 8,000 British and Hessian troops attacked from three sides. They were supported by batteries across the Harlem river and the frigate PEARL. The fort was overwhelmed and 2900 men were killed or captured in the debacle. The American prisoners were forced to march to lower Manhattan to be placed on prison ships in Wallabout Bay for the duration of war. Part of the musketry battalion of the Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment was in Fort Washington and was captured.
The loss had a deep impact on General Washington who would rely less on the advice of others in the future.
A post-war document of the Supreme Executive Council, dated 6 October 1784, notes that a report had been read and approved "Of Edward Barr, Peter Bender, Thomas Heysham, John Brink and Captain Taylor & Capt T. Y. Jane's Comp'y, for arms lost at Fort Washington." The last named man was probably Timothy Jayne, commander of a company of the Flying Camp in which Thomas' brothers, William and Abner, served. This request for compensation may be for arms Thomas lost while he was stationed on Harlem Heights and Mount Washington, or it could be for the weapons lost by his brothers, assuming they made it that far with the Associators.
Also note the use of the surname Heysham in the report above. It is hard to believe this was any other Thomas than our own so that, clearly, Hissom=Heysham at this time.
As Washington's army retreated across New Jersey, a muster was taken at New Brunswick, New Jersey, on 22 November 1776.
"A return made by Major Ennion Williams, November 22, 1776, exhibits the strength of this battalion to be five captains, six lieutenants, nineteen sergeants, three musicians, and two hundred and nine rank and file." - from "Muster Rolls, etc., 1743-1787."New Brunswick is in northern New Jersey, on the Raritan river, just west of Perth Amboy. I don't have a list of the men's names, though it is significant that they only mustered 242 officers and men out of an original complement of 500.
The Americans continued to retreat across the state, stopping at Trenton for a time, but as the British continued their advance, the Americans crossed the Delaware river on 8 December, first making certain to destroy all the boats on the eastern shore.
Hand's Brigade was subsequently engaged in the battle of Trenton on 26 December and of Princeton on 3 January 1777. I believe they served under General Nathaniel Greene throughout this period. Note that in these engagements Thomas' distant relative, Robert Heysham, was involved as a member of the Philadelphia Associators, led by Cadwallader.
|Battle of Trenton
The British went into winter quarters soon after they reached the Delaware river. Fearly little from an enemy that had so recently routed, they spread their force out, quartering their troops in a number of small, dispersed posts.
In the American camp morale was low and enlistments for the militia were due to run out at the end of the year. Washington knew he had to get a victory and decided to recross the Delaware river and make a suprise attack, picking the remote Hessian garrison at Trenton. He decided to make a pre-dawn attack on the 26th. The weather, however, was frightful. Washington's aide, Colonel John Fitzgerald wrote at 6 PM as the troops started across:
" It is fearfully cold and raw and a snowstorm is setting in. The wind northeast and beats into the faces of the men. It will be a terrible night for those who have no shoes. Some of them have tied only rags about their feet: others are barefoot, but I have not heard a man complain."In the midst of the storm, Washington's force attacked in two columns, General Nathanael Greene out of the northeast and John Sullivan from the north. Hand's riflemen were with Greene and quickly moved east to cut the road to Princeton to block the enemy's escape. After the Hessians recovered from their initial surprise they attempted a counter-attack on Greene's position, but Hand's men were able to flank them, spoiling their attack. When their colonel, Rall, was killed the fight went out of the Hessians and they surrendered. By the next day the Washington's force was back across the river, safely in Pennsylvania.
After news of Washington's unexpected victory reached Philadelphia morale quickly recovered and many new militia reported for duty.
|The Second Battle of Trenton and the Battle of Princeton
On 27 December General Cadwallader, who had been unable to land on the Jersey shore on the 26th in support of Washington's attack, reported he was now across, near Burlington, reinforced by militia which was turning up encouraged by the victory. Cadwallader was unaware that Washington had recrossed the river. He moved into the now empty Burlington and then to Bordentown, reporting that the citizens were hastily removing the red rags nailed to their doors as symbols of loyalty to the crown. He entreated Washington to join him in advancing on the British who were in a panic. Washington gathered all the troops he could, including many militia, and re-entered Trenton on the 28th. He set-up a defensive position on high ground, south of the Assunpink creek, and began to entrench.
In the meantime, Geneal Cornwallis had been ordered forward with a large army. Colonel Hand's riflemen were part of a mixed force ordered to delay the British advance until nightfall, allowing the Americans time to finish entrenching. When the French colonel heading the American force decamped, Hand took charge and put on a fine dispaly of maneuver warfare, delaying the British advance on Trenton until sunset.
Washington had built a strong position on the south side of the Assunpink creek which could be approached only on narrow fronts, including a stone bridge. Hand's riflemen poured across the bridge just ahead of the British and took position on the American line, behind Washington's own Virginia regiment at the bridge. In the last hour of twilight the British launched a number of violent attacks, but a withering crossfire by the American's defeated all their attempts with great loss. The British broke off only when it became too dark to continue.
Washington knew that his untrained militia could not be expected to successfully continue to resist and during the night he quietly withdrew his army. A few men were left behind to keep the campfires burning, make entrenchment noises, and keep up appearances, while the American army moved around the left wing of the British force, toward Princeton, outflanking Cornwallis. It was a bold and brilliant stroke. Again the weather helped General Washington when freezing temperatures turned the muddly roads to hard ice.
The next phase of the battle is known as the Battle of Princeton. Now behind Cornwallis' lines the Americans came upon a force of British regulars, led by a Colonel Mawhood, enroute to Trenton as reinforcements. After an initial clash and retreat, the Americans, encouraged by the forward presence of General Washington, regrouped and attacked. Hand's riflemen were on the American right. They flanked the British, forcing their retreat into Princeton. The British sought shelter in Nassau Hall, a college building until, under assault by General Sullivan's artillery, they eventually surrendered.
Cornwallis, meanwhile, discovering that the American army at Trenton had gone, moved his army towards Princeton to crush Washington between the two British forces. General Washington, however determined he had victories enough that day and moved his forces north out of harms way and went into winter quarters in Morristown, New Jersey. General Howe, shaken by the American victories, ordered a withdrawal from New Jersey to a line from Perth Amboy to New Brunswick.
While Washington's army wintered in Morristown, Hand's Brigade lay part of the winter at Philadelphia, taking part in harassing attacks on the British garrisons that still remained in eastern New Jersey. In the aftermath of Trenton and Princeton the American people took heart and their militia began to turn out in force to punish the British for the cruelty of their occupation of the state in November and December of 1776. The Continentals, as directed by General Washington, often accompanied them and inflicted ruinous casualties on British and Hessian foraging parties.
In March 1777 Hand's men moved down to Billingsport, Gloucester County, New Jersey. Here there was a fort, built by the Polish engineer Thaddeus Kosciuszko, that was part of the river defenses of Philadelphia.
Colonel Edward Hand was promoted to Brigadier General on 1 April 1777 and sent to Fort Pitt, tasked to protect western Pennsylvania from Indians and Loyalists. The regiment was reorganized and named the State Regiment of Foot. It was placed under the command of Colonel John Bull, as of 2 May 1777 - from "A Century and a Half of Pittsburg and Her People" by John Newton Boucher and John Woolf Jordan.
"John Robb of Muncy township who had served as second lieutenant in Weitzel's company in Miles' Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment, was appointed captain in the new regiment April 18, 1777. His company was, in large measure, the same as Weitzel's. This regiment served at Brandywine and Germantown, where its losses were sixteen killed and missing and twenty two wounded." - from "Northumberland County Troops in the Continental Line."The regiment was then made up of 11 companies, with Captain Robb commanding the 9th. I suspect that Thomas, if he hadn't deserted, was in this company. Of the regiments enlisted men, 185 had signed up for the duration and 354 had enlistments, like Thomas', that were due to expire on 1 January 1778. The unit served in General Greene's division. The unit was later renamed the 13th Pennsylvania regiment and entered Continental service.
On 9 May 1777 the regiment was mustered at Fort Mercer, at Red Bank, just south of the fort at Billingsport. This was a large earthen fortification located at Red Bank, in New Jersey. It overlooked the Delaware river about seven miles below Philadelphia and, with its twin across the river, Fort Mifflin, protected the approaches to the city. I do not see Thomas' name in the muster sheet.
On 3 June the officers "remonstrated against the appointment of Col. Bull, and threatened to quit the regiment; as Col. Bull was not an officer in either of the battalions, they claimed his appointment ruined their rank." - from the "Pennsylvania Archives." On 17 June the state decided to put "the State battalion, which has been raised chiefly out of the remains of the battalion, lately under the command of Col. Miles, and Col. Atlee" into Continental service. They moved Colonel Bull to adjutant general of the state militia and appointed Colonel WalterStewart in his stead. Stewart had previously been aide-de-camp to General Gates. Colonel Stewart took command on 6 July and led the unit through the battles of Brandywine and Germantown, where its losses were sixteen killed and missing, and twenty-two wounded.
|Battle of Brandywine
During the winter of 1776/77 General Washington had rescued the revolution and given the British in New Jersey a setback with his victories at Trenton and Princeton. However, in the new year General Howe determined to take the city of Philadelphia. On 20 July 1777 Congress received information that a British fleet of one hundred and sixty sail was in the Narrows, on the way to Sandy Hook. On the 22nd, Washington, perplexed as to the destination of Howe, requested that trustworthy persons should be stationed at the Capes of the Delaware to give prompt notice if the fleet should appear in that quarter. On the 30th the British fleet was spotted entering the mouth of the Delaware river, but General Howe, thinking it hazardous to continue up that river, instead moved the fleet into Chesapeake Bay.
By 20 August intelligence had been received that the British fleet was in the Cheseapeake and General Washington gave orders to move the continental Army and the various militia's south. On the 23d the Continental army broke camp and moved for Philadelphia, through which city it passed early the next day, August 24th (Sunday), marching down Front Street to Chestnut, and up Chestnut to the Middle Ferry, Washington himself riding at the head of the column and Lafayette at his side. That evening the army encamped in and about Chester, and the next evening (the 25th) they reached Wilmington.
The British approached in two columns and General Washington realized they intended to outflank his right and cut him off from Philadelphia. He immediately ordered the army north and recrossed the Brandywine river to take up position on high ground at Chad's Ford. The Pennsylvania Line, which included the Regiment of Foot, was located here. On the morning of 11 September Hessian elements of the British army made a head-on attack at the fords, their movements hidden by a thick fog. This however was only a demonstration to hold the American's attention. The British plan was to split their force, sending their main body under Generals Howe and Cornwallis 12 miles north, crossing the Brandywine at an unprotected ford, and turn the American's right flank.
Contradictory intelligence on the British movements had plagued Washington all morning. When news finally reached him that the British were on his right in force he quickly dispatched General Sullivan division and other elements to try to hold them. At this point the battle was lost, the only issue was whether Washington would be able to extricate his army.
The Americans took positions on the heights at Birmingham Meeting House and a bloody battle ensued. Sullivan's force, forming slowly, was broken and driven back. Their withdrawal was covered by Nathaniel Greene's divsion, including the brigades of Muhlenberg and Weedon, Virginians under Colonel Stevens and the Pennsylvanian's under Walter Stewart.
"The conduct of the brigades of Muhlenberg and Weedon and the regiments of Stevens and Walter Stewart being especially brilliant." - from "The American Historical Register"They fought for about an hour, taking stands where they could and falling back when the had to, inching slowly towards the town of Dilworth.
"One of the Pennsylvania regiments, the Thirteenth, command by Colonel Walter Stewart, was attached to the command of General Sullivan [sic] . . . "We attacked the enemy," says Lieutenant James MacMichael of that regiment at Brandywine, "at 5.30 P.M., and we were first obliged to retreat a few yards, and formed in an open field, when we fought without giving way on either side until dark. Our ammunition almost expended, firing ceased on both sides, when we received orders to proceed to Chester. This day for a severe and successive engagement exceeded all I ever saw. Our regiment fought at one stand about an hour under an incessant fire, and yet the loss was less than at Long Island, neither were we so near to each other as at Princeton, our common distance being fifty yards." - from "Major-General Anthony Wayne and the Pennsylvania Line in the Continental Army" by Charles Janeway StilléThis was where the "hottest part of the engagement took place, and the greatest number of troops were engaged." - Ibid.
The extended battle have given Washington time to pull back his army. General Greene held his position until dark when the battle ended. After a week of manuevering by both armies, General Howe slipped into Philadelphia on 25 September.
An interesting point about the campaign just described is that Howe wasn't supposed to take his force south. The plan was for him to link up with General Burgoyne's force coming out of Canada to split the colonies along the Hudson river. Burgoyne was subsequently defeated at Saratoga, a victory that convinced the French to join the war on America's side. Why did Howe take Philadelphia instead? I suspect he was obsessed with a "might have been." That is, at the end of 1776 his armies had been poised on the Delaware river, ready to take Philadelphia at any time. It was only Howe's decision not to press the attack in hope's of reconciliation with the rebels that saved the city. In the subsequent winter campaign, the British were driven out of New Jersey. I think that taking the city in the fall of 1777 was a way for him to wipe out the defeats of Trenton and Princeton.
|Battle of Germantown
After the capture of Philadelphia General Howe encamped his troops at Germantown, north of the city, as a defense against Washington's army. On 4 October the Americans attacked the camp in two columns, supported by militia.
The battle was initially an American victory, but their failure to quickly follow-up allowed the British to regroup, then outflank the Americans, forcing a retreat back to Valley Forge. While the British held the field at the end of the day, the American army felt good that they had met a professional force on an open field and forced their retreat, if only for awhile.
"By a resolution of Congress, November 12, 1777, Col. Stewart's regiment was to be annexed to the Pennsylvania line, and form the Thirteenth regiment. This regiment wintered at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-1778 in Brig. Gen. George Weedon's Brigade of Greene's division. Capt. John Robb became supernumerary July 1, 1778." - from "Northumberland County Troops in the Continental Line." The 13th was in General George Weedon's brigade of Nathaniel Greene's division. That John Robb became supernumerary probably indicates that the company was disbanded at that time.
The American army went into winter quarters at Valley Forge on 19 December 1777. Their suffering over the winter of 1777-1778 was extreme. Food and clothing were scarce, the quarters were cramped and damp, and typhoid, dysentery, typhus and pneumonia swept the camp. On the other hand, this was the period when the novice army became a professional force under the tutelage of such men as Friedrich von Steuben.
Assuming Thomas stayed through to the end of his enlistment on 1 January 1778, he was discharged from the army soon after they arrived at Valley Forge. He would have received a written discharge, but this he probably lost.
In 1778 Thomas was back in Northampton county serving in the militia. From the Pennsylvania Archives, "Soliders Who Served as Rangers on the Frontiers, 1778-1783" : Thomas Heysham.
Thomas' second son, Thomas Jr., was born in 1778 [a January 1778 return + 9 months = October 1778].
From the Pennsylvania Archives, Revolutionary War Military Abstract Card File:
- Private 2nd Class Thomas Hysham Jr., Inactive Duty Militia, 5th County Battalion, 2nd Company of Captain Benjamin Schonover, Class Return, June 1780. The inactive militia was just that. The law required all men 18-53 to sign up, but these were allowed to serve from home. Note: David Hysham was also in the Inactive Duty Militia under Captain Schonover. Thomas is called Jr., I think to differeniate him from his father, still living.
In 1781 Thomas was listed in Lewis Stacker's company of the Northampton county militia, Colonel William Roups Battalion. Others in the company included Jno. Van Etten, Jacob Stroud, Lt. John Fish [see William Hissom on the John Hissom Branch page], and someone referred to as "Est. of Thos. Brink." Timothy Jayne also commanded a company in the battalion.
In a Class Roll of 1782 Thomas Hysham was listed as in the 2nd class, Captain Benjamin Schonover's 8th company. However, from the Pennsylvania Archives, Revolutionary War Military Abstract Card File:
- Private 7th Class Thomas Hysham Jr., Inactive Duty Militia, 5th County Battalion, 2nd Company of Captain Benjamin Schonover, Class List, 18 May 1782. 7th class means that Thomas was in a group that was, at that moment, 7th in line to be called up. As a Private 2nd Class, as above, he was in a group that would be called up after the 1st class. His brother, David Hysham, was mustered with him, listed as in the 5th class.
In March 1782 the government of Lord North fell. Lord Rockingham succeeded as Prime Minister of England and sought immediate negotiations with American peace commissioners. In April talks began in Paris.
In a letter dated 24 April 1783, a Thomas Hissam was included in a list of Householders in Wyoming, a valley on the Susquehanna river, northwest of Lower Smithfield, in Luzerne county, who wished to support the laws of Pennsylvania.
"A List of the Householders of the Different Settlements at Wyoming who wish to Support the Laws of Pennsylvania.A separate list shows those who supported the laws of Connecticut. This reflected the continuing issue with residents from Connecticut who claimed the valley for their state. In 1782 a court found in favor of Pennsylvania. A war between the settlers from the two different states ensued and many of the Pennsylvania adherents fled, possibly including Thomas and his family. On one list, in "The Susquehannah Company Papers," Thomas' name was transcribed as Hissam and on another as Hassham. This particular edition of this work contains neither of those names, however.
Helmes Chambers, . . .
" - from the "Pennsylvania Archives 1783"
On 26 May 1784, Thomas Hysham Junr was mustered in the Fifth Battalion, Northampton militia, serving under Lieutenant Colonel Jacob Strowd [Stroud], Captain Benjamin Scoonhover, Lieutenant John Fish, Ensign Richard Tillberry, and Sergeant John Delong. His brothers, John and David, were mustered with him. Its not completely clear, but I think this muster roll shows David as being in the 2nd class, John in the 6th, and Thomas Junr in the 7th. This makes sense to have the boys called up separately.
The following is also from the Pennsylvania Archives, Revolutionary War Military Abstract Card File, but lists certificate numbers that relate to the Militia Loan of 1784-1785. This loan was established to pay individuals for services and goods provided during the Revolutionary War that had not been reimbursed at that time. These appear to include both services, in the post-war militia, and goods requisitioned.
- Thomas Heysham, Northampton county militia, Certificate 9201, 0.9.0 pounds, issued 10 January 1786.A Private Thomas Hysham is also listed amongst those "Soldiers Who Received Depreciation Pay as per Cancelled Certificates on File in the Division of Republic Records."
- Thomas Heysham, Northampton, Certificate 12,496, 9 pounds, issued 26 October 1786.
- Thomas Hysham, Northampton county militia, Certificate 9847, 1.0.10 pounds, issued 16 January 1786.
- Thomas Heysham, Northampton, Certificate 16518, 3.0.10 pounds, issued 23 February, 1790.
- Thomas Heysham, Northampton, Certificate 16519, 5.19.2 pounds, issued 23 February, 1790.
The 1785 Federal Tax for Lower Smithfield township, Northampton county for married freemen shows Thomas Heysham, Jun'r, with zero acres of land, no horses, 2 cows, no sheep, and a Tax of 1.6.
The 1786 Federal Tax for Lower Smithfield township, Northampton county, Pennsylvania, Archives Third Series Vol. 19 shows Thomas Hisham Jr. with zero acres of land (was he a tenant farmer or worked his fathers land?), no horses, 2 cattle, and a tax of 1 pound, 2 shillings. His father, Thomas Hisham, was just above him on the tax list with 100 acres, 1 horse, 3 cattle and a tax of 2 pounds, 7 shillings.
The 1788 Federal Tax lists show him as Thomas Hissom Jr., with 100 acres, 2 horses 1 cow and a tax of 5.5. Had he inherited the land from his father (who had 100 acres in the 1786 tax list)?
On 13 March 1789 a land survey for 100 acres was recorded in the name of Thomas Heysham in Lower Smithfield. On 18 January 1805 149 1/2 acres were "returned." What does that mean? The patentee was Jacob Strowd. Perhaps he bought the land. For the original document, see Northampton.
Census records still show him living in Northampton county in 1790. In the nation's first census in 1790, a Thomas Hysham Jr. was living in Lower Smithfield township, Northampton county, Pennsylvania. In the household was 1 man over 16, Thomas, 3 boys under 16, Abner, Thomas and ?, and 2 women, Mary and ?.
In about 1793, or soon thereafter, I believe Thomas' father, Thomas Hesom, died. Two 400 acre lots were surveyed for Thomas Heysham Jr. on 26 February 1793 on the "Main Branch Lehigh" river. John and David also had land surveyed in this area at the same time. See Northampton. The plat map, however shows that one of these sections was for Thomas Sr. The other, C93 168, was for Thomas Jr. He had to pay 50 shillings per 100 acres under an Act of the Assembly of 3 April 1792, "An Act for the Sale of Vacant Lands within this Commonwealth" to persons who would "cultivate, improve and settle the same . . ." The only description in the formal letter signed by Governor Thomas Mifflin was "adjoining lands this day granted to Thomas Heysham Sr."
I note that Thomas' son, Abner, appeared in a petition of 1796 by the inhabitants of Luzerne county, in the Wyoming valley northwest of Northampton county. The document's signers were unhappy with the administration of Pennsylvania and were trying to convince Connecticut that it should try to regain sovereignty of the region. This implies that Thomas and his family, including Abner, stopped in Luzerne county enroute to the far western Westmoreland county. Note that Thomas' little brother, David, by his own account, lived in Luzerne county from about 1795 to 1798. I think it probable that all of the brothers moved to Luzerne county at the same time, and that Thomas and John moved on to Westmoreland at about the same time that David moved back to Northampton, for his short stay there.
Thomas, his elder brother, John, and step-brother, Levi Swartwout, then all moved to Westmoreland county, in far western Pennsylvania.
Thomas Hessum was listed in the Tax Lists for Hempfield township, Westmoreland county in 1798. He was renting 100 acres and a house from James Steel.
In the 1800 census for Unity township, Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania as Thomas Hissem. His surname could be read as Hissim as well, this was how it was spelled in the "Index of the 1800 Census of Pennsylvania" by Jeanne Robey Felldin and Gloria Kay Vandiver Inman. Living in the household were a boy under 10 years old, another who was 15 to 25, this would have been Thomas, then 22, and a man 45 and over, our Thomas, who was about 50. Abner, 26, was probably on his own by this time, though I don't see him in the Westmoreland census. The women included two girls under 10, one 10 to 15, and a woman 26 to 44, his wife, Mary. Their youngest son, John, was born in about 1800, probably right after the census was completed. Thomas's elder brother, John, was living in Mount Pleasant township, in Westomoreland county at this time, while his other surviving brother, David, was still in Lower Smithfield.
A plethora of Thomas Hissom's, under various spellings, and Abner were listed in the tax lists for Westmoreland county.
"Hessam, Thos." - page 29This reference is a snippet and I can not see all the dates that are referenced. I assume the earlier pages are for earlier years.
"Hemphill Township, 1805: Hisom, Thos., Sr.
Hison, Thos., Jr." - page 36
"Hemphill Township, 1810: Hesom, Abner
. . .
Hissom, Thomas" - page 40
- from "Tax Lists, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, 1786-1810" by William H. Dumont
In the 1810 census of Hempfield township, Westmoreland county as Thomas Hyssan [Hyland in Ancestry.com] Sr. The spelling is hard to make out and may be Hysin, Hysim, or Hysisn. The Sr. is also hard to make out and may be Jr., except that the ages are wrong for that. On the page previous, separated by just one entry are Thomas and Abner Hysin, which certainly looks like Thomas' two eldest sons. In Thomas Sr's household were one boy under 10, John, and one 10-15, and one man 45 years old or older, one girl 10-15, and one woman who wasf 45 or older. [Census: 1-1-x-x-1-x-1-x-x-1-x-x-x]
Thomas' brother, John, had moved to Pitt township in Allegheny county while David had finally come out west, to East Huntingdon township, Westmoreland county.
The Parker Family History claims that the Thomas Hissem, or Hissom, who married Mary Parker, died in 1815 in Hempfield township, Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania. If that is so, then the following is for a different Thomas, though I have trouble getting my mind around that one. There was, after all, a Thomas Hissam of Hempfield township, Westmoreland county in the 1820 census.
In 1818 Thomas wrote a letter supporting the pension claim of his brother, John.
"County of Westmoreland ofSo, Thomas could not read or write - and neither could John. The clerk who wrote the declaration above wasn't an English major either.
the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Thomas Hissim personally appeared before me one of the Commonwealth Justice of the peace in and for said County who being sworn as the law directs who disposeth and sayeth that John Hissim was a inlisted [sic] soldier in the Company Commanded by John Hamtrainck in the year seventeen hundred and seventy seven. I was with him in the army and seen him on the [Cuntary] on Furlow and [garbled] sayeth that I seen him after the peace was Confirmed and had a discharge from the Redgment [sic] or Company to wich he did belong.
Thomas Hissim X His mark
Sworn and subscribed before me this 21 day of October AD 1818
The 1820 census presents a problem because there are Thomas Hissem's in both Hempfield township and in Tyler county, Virginia. Our Thomas moved to Virginia, but I'm not sure when. It may be that Thomas and his second son, Thomas Jr., who both moved to Virginia, but did so at different times and these are the records of their staggered departure. However, there was a third Thomas Hissem in the 1820 census, also living in Tyler county, which seems to wreck that theory. My only other thought is that Thomas Sr. somehow got counted twice.
Note the relationship of Westmoreland county, in the map below, to Pittsburgh and, down the Ohio river, to Tyler county, West Virginia.
In the 1820 census of Hempfield township, Westmoreland county as Thomas Hissam [Hepurn in Ancestry.com]. The writing is bad and so is the focus on this document. It could be Hessum; the initial "s" is written to look more like an "f", as in the Declaration of Independence. This entry is right below that of Abner Hissam, Thomas Sr.'s eldest son, whose name is equally hard to make out, but it could also be Hessum. In Thomas' household were two men over 45, one girl under 10, one 26-45, one over 45. One person was engaged in agriculture. [Census: x-x-x-x-x-2-1-x-x-1-1-x-1]
In the 1820 census of Tyler county, Virginia as Thomas Hissem, a man over 45 years old. There were ten individuals in the household. This included 3 boys under 10 years old, 2 between 10 and 16, and a man over 45. Who were all of these children? Perhaps we are looking at a multi-family household, everyone living together until they can find or build their own homes and farms. It is possible that John and Levi were the two boys 10 to 16 years old, though they were actually more like 18 to 20. There were also 2 girls under 10, one between 10 and 16, and one woman 26 to 45 years old. Just below Thomas in the census were his son, Thomas Jr., aged 26 to 45 - Thomas Jr. would have been 42, brother, David, and nephew, Jesse Hissem. Another nephew, Levi, was on the previous page of the census.
The Parker Family History and the DAR "Lineage Book" claim that Mary Parker Hissem died in 1822. Her tombstone indicated that she was 73 years old when she died, so she must have been born in 1749, not 1753 as these sources claim. Is her tombstone in Hempfield township or in Tyler county?
Thomas must have remarried for the rest of the citations below about Thomas to make sense.
In the 1830 census of Tyler county, Virginia as Thomas Hisam Sr., 80 to 90 years old, that is, born between 1740 and 1750. Living with him was a woman, 70 to 80 years old. Could this be the Jane Heysham mentioned below? In that case I would guess that this was a second marriage for both of them, Jane having been the wife of a Northampton resident who came west at the same time Thomas did, accounting for her knowledge of Thomas in Lower Smithfield.
Thomas died before 1834 when his widow made a statement on behalf of his little brother, David, below. Thomas Hysham, revolutionary war soldier, is supposedly buried in Little, Tyler county, West Virginia, according to Darrel Fiest, another researcher. His brother, David Heysham, is buried there as well. However, I don't see anyting in FindAGrave.com for Thomas.
The next is confusing unless we assume Thomas remarried. In 1834 David Heysham, Thomas' younger brother, put in a claim for a pension and a bounty land warrant based on his war service. The following is Jane Heysham's [Mrs. Thomas Heysham!?] deposition in support of this claim.
State of VirginiaWho was Jane Heysham? Thomas' wife was Mary Parker Hissem and her tombstone indicated that she was 73 years old when she died. Since she was born in 1753 she must have died in 1826. Could Mary Parker have been Mary Jane Parker?
County of Tyler
This Day personally appeared before me the subscriber a justice of the Peace in and for said County and State aforesaid Jane Heysham, aged Seventy Eight years past [born 1756] (who I hereby certify to be a credible person), who being sworn on the Holy Evangelists of Almighty God deposed as follows, To wit, that in the commencement of the Revolutionary War Deponent resided in Northampton County, State of Pennsylvania. That Deponent was well acquainted with David Heysham (who is the brother of her late husband Thomas Heysham deceased) from the Commencement of the Revolutionary War to the ending thereof and since. That she has seen the said David Heysham's declaration for obtaining a Pension under the act of the 7th June 1832, and that Deponent believes the same to be true as Stated, except in one particular. She thinks that the said David is mistaken about his age, Deponent being confident that he is at the least one year older than he states. Deponent saith that not long after the Revolution broke out the Indians commenced their depredations on the whites in the said county of Northampton aforesaid, which obliged the white to go into Fort in the summer season during the war afterwards. That Deponent [forted?] in Fort Penn and Deponent well recollects that the said David Heysham served several years in the time of the Revolution as a Spy against the Indians from sometime in the Spring until late in the Fall, but from the great lapse of time and consequent loss of memory Deponent is unable to state the precise number of years that the said David served, but to the best of her recollection the said David served four or five or more years from early in the Spring until late in the Fall as aforesaid and further the Deponent saith not.Jane Heysham X Her mark
A magazine of the Daughters of the American Revolution of 1912 had a question about Thomas Hissom.
"Hissom (Hissem). — Wanted, ancestry, with all genealogical data of Thomas Hissom , a private in Caspar Weitzel's Co., ... Thomas Hissem and wife raised a family of seven children — four boys and three girls — all of whom went to West Va."That isn't entirely right, the eldest son, Abner, stayed in Pennsylvania, but it's close. Not surprisingly there are two daughters missing; it's always difficult to track daughters. I assume they were born in the long gap between 1778 and 1800.
Thomas and Mary had the following children whose names we know,
(22) Abner Hissem (1774)
(22) Thomas Hissam (1778)
(22) Catherine Hisem (c1800), perhaps
(22) Levi Hissem (1802)
(22) John Hissem (1804)
(22) Jane Hissam (c1807), who married Leonard Kelch, son of Samuel. Near neighbor of Levi Hissem.