The Hard Service and Sufferings of James Dole

Gary Zaboly’s 2007 depiction of Robert Logan, an aging, poor, crippled, and forgotten Revolutionary War veteran among the well-to-do of Charleston, South Carolina, in 1810. One can imagine a similar scene in the life of the wounded veteran James Dole. (Courtesy Gary Zaboly)

In January 1775, James Dole of Troy, New York, joined a company of minutemen commanded by James Wells. It was armed and equipped in order to be ready in a moments warning. Nothing particularly happened until that May, when the company received orders from the Committee of Safety, Correspondence, and Protection in Albany to march on Ticonderoga and Crown Point. According to Dole, they immediately complied with those orders.[1]

Minutes of the Albany Committee confirm that Captain Wells appeared on July 14, 1775 to inform their board that he had raised this company at the request of Col. Benedict Arnold. Made up of twenty five officers and men, the company had proceeded to Fort Ticonderoga at the written “encouragement” of the Committee. They had served there for a month and remained ready to march when called, which they apparently never were.[2]

Shortly after his brief service with Captain Wells, Dole enlisted for six months in Capt. Joseph McCracken’s company of Goose van Schaick’s 2nd New York Regiment. This company was recruited predominately in Charlotte County (the area north of Saratoga, including western present-day Vermont). Since he lived south of there, he may have been in the area as a result of his aforementioned militia service at Ticonderoga.[3]

While serving at the siege of St. Jean,[4] Dole and his company, plus three others from the regiment, were pulled out and secretly positioned up at La Prairie, near Montreal. They and some other companies would soon be repositioned to join the Green Mountain Boys, commanded by Seth Warner, at Longueil to defend against a pending British counter attack. After a serious firefight, the British forces returned to Quebec.

One of Dole’s fellow soldiers described the route to Longueil as being a bit more circuitous. According to him, in September 1775, his detachment:

… commanded by Capt. McCracken went down the River Sorel through the woods – We crossed the river a little before Fort Chambly & left one half of our men (one hundred) to guard that Fort – The day following, we went to the River, on the north side of it, in order to meet Col. Warners Regiment … .[5]

A member of another company in the regiment explained that they:

… remained at Longuiel near two weeks after [the] battle till Montreal was taken by Montgomery and then crossed the river and Marched to Montreal which was near the middle of November as he thinks remained at Montreal till about the first of December and was then marched with the Company of Capt. Benedict to Chamble about Ten miles from Montreal to keep garrison at that place. The rest of Col. Van Schaicks regiment went with Genl Montgomery to Quebec … .[6]

In the meantime, Captain McCracken’s company, which appears to have only been mustered for a six-month enlistment, was broken up and never went farther into Canada. Members of the company not returning home began to act as free agents by seeking spots in other companies or regiments. Around mid-November 1775, nine former members of the company enlisted in Capt. Theodore Woodbridge’s company of Brig. Gen. David Wooster’s Provisional Connecticut Regiment. Dole himself was listed as a sergeant.[7]

Wooster’s regiment was Connecticut’s short term way of holding onto as many of their troops as possible who wanted to stay in Canada when their enlistments ran out at the end of 1775. Only in existence for four or five months, it also filled a similar need for those individual New Yorkers, like Dole and his mates, whose companies had dissolved or not extended their shorter term enlistments until spring of 1776.[8]

At that time, four of those nine Yorkers from McCracken’s company, Sgt. James Dole, John Dole, Cpl. John Henderson, and Samuel Wiry, would continue with Captain Woodbridge when he recruited a company for Col. Samuel Elmore’s new Continental regiment, which was part of Connecticut’s regimental quota.[9]

Dole described this process:

… his term of enlistment being expired he with others whose time of enlistment was also expired at the special solicitation of General Montgomery again enlisted in a company commanded by Captain Theodore Woodbridge for six months in a Regt raised by General Wooster in Montreal and called General Woosters regiment in which company he followed General Montgomery to Quebec where he remained until the time for which he last inlisted for was expired, when he again inlisted under the said Captain Woodbridge for the term of one year in a regiment commanded by Col. Samuel Elmore ….[10]

According to that company’s muster roll, Dole enlisted on April 16, 1776, and was entered first among the sergeants, so was likely the company’s orderly sergeant. The roll also notes he was sent “On Command to Cambridge.” It is not clear if this was Cambridge, New York (just east of Albany) or Cambridge, Massachusetts. However, come November 28, 1776, it is noted that he supposedly deserted. At present there is no information as to why the company leaders believed he did.[11]

Following the arrival of the 3rd New York regiment in May 1777, Elmore’s regiment left Fort Schuyler for Albany.[12] The presumption is that James Dole was still with the regiment. John Henderson had been promoted from corporal to sergeant, but John Dole had been discharged early on August 24, 1776.[13]

There is an open question of whether Dole was discharged there, or returned to Albany. Simeon Blin, who is the same company, said he was discharged at Fort Schuyler.[14] This could be a mistake in memory. Timothy Lord, of Lathrop Allen’s company initially remembered being discharged at German Flats, in the Mohawk valley, but changed it to Albany.[15] Captain Allen confirmed that Elmore’s Battalion was discharged at Albany.[16]

James Dole, John Dole, and John Henderson, following their service in Col. Samuel Elmore’s Regiment, enlisted in the 2nd Regiment of Light Dragoons. This image by Alonzo Chappel, though showing many incorrect uniform details, is close to what they may have looked like. (Author)

No matter where they were discharged, Wire again enlisted with Captain Woodbridge’s new company in the 7th Connecticut Regiment[17] and the others, somehow, made their way to Wethersfield, Connecticut. There, all three enlisted in the 4th Troop of the 2nd Light Dragoons, on May 7, 1777. Their roll indicates James Dole enlisted as a sergeant and was a farmer by trade. He stood five feet nine inches tall, with a sandy complexion, gray eyes, and sandy hair.[18] Dole himself explained that he first served the dragoons “in the capacity of Sergeant.”[19]

“On or about” October 4, 1777, Sergeant Dole took part in his only major action of the war, the Battle of Germantown. He also took part in a “great number of skirmishes” during his time with the 2nd Dragoons.[20]

Dole served as a sergeant in the 4th troop for about fifteen months, until he was promoted to Sergeant Major on May 12, 1779. This made him the top sergeant in the 2nd Dragoons, even though he retained his sergeant’s slot in the organization of the 4th troop. Dole continued in this position for another year or so, until tragedy struck.[21]

While on a patrol in lower Westchester County, New York, at King Street, Dole was shot in the hip on August 17, 1780. According to Dole, this was a “very severe and dangerous wound.” Unable to continue with the patrol, he was captured by the enemy. The presumption is that he received medical attention, but there is no record of it, nor did he mention it in either of his federal pension application depositions. Dole was exchanged after ten months.[22]

The 2nd Regiment of Light Dragoons was very active in eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, western Connecticut, Long Island, New York’s Westchester County, and other points northeast of New York City. (Author)

After his exchange, Sergeant Major Dole was promoted to Cornet on June 14, 1781.[23] A cornet was equivalent to a 2nd lieutenant in the infantry. For many, moving from the highest rated non-commissioned officer to the most junior company-grade officer position seems a bit of step down, but was not uncommon at the time. Not that this was his reasoning, but after experiencing life as a captive enlisted man, if he was ever captured again, he would be in a better position being an officer.

A year after his promotion to cornet, Dole was advanced to the rank of lieutenant on June 14, 1782.[24] He was rapidly on his way to greater things, but the war ended before getting a promotion to captain. According to his federal pension application, he was discharged in Danbury, Connecticut, on June 3, 1783:[25]

… when the whole army of the United States of America was dismissed! and … though very destitute, the effects produced by the before mentioned wound, hard service and sufferings in the army and ill health resulting from these causes hath rendered him incapable of performing any laborious occupation whatever….[26]

As a disabled veteran, Dole was on a list of disabled officers, soldiers and seaman from New York and other states dated April 26, 1786. The amount of their pensions is not specified.[27] He was also on the Federal 1813 pension list as a New York lieutenant, with an annual stipend of $100.[28] Then, come 1818, the United States Congress granted lifetime pensions to Revolutionary War veterans in need of assistance, but without regard to any disabilities. They had to have served in a recognized Continental military organization or in the United States naval service for nine months or until the end of the war. This allowed Dole, “aged upwards of Sixty five years,” a resident of Troy, New York, a lieutenant from Connecticut, to receive a pension under this law.[29] He was granted a larger pension of $20 per month, plus arrears, as of March 18, 1818, for his service in the 2nd Light Dragoons.[30] In order to receive the larger pension, Dole had to waive all prior claims.[31]

After the war, while a resident of Ridgefield, Connecticut, Lieutenant Dole qualified for and became a member of the Connecticut Society of Cincinnati, the famous fraternal order of former Continental Army officers.[32] He never seemed to transfer his membership to the New York Society,[33] even after returning to Troy, New York, where he filed his Federal pension application.[34]

Dole’s attorney wrote in 1818 that “Mr. Dole was an officer of distinguished bravery and merit in the war of the Revolution but within the last five years has been reduced from affluence to poverty and is now and has been for two years miserably indigent.”[35] Two years later, Dole’s attorney was still arguing for his client. Writing to the Secretary of War, the attorney explained that Dole “after the close of Revolutionary struggle, lived in affluence, & held various places of high trust in the General and State governments … .”[36] Neither of these letters explained how Dole fell on hard times, though his financial situation might explain why he returned to Troy.

In 1820, excluding his clothing and bedding, Dole’s personal possessions included a family bible, a gold watch, a gold pin, a glass ink stand with a sand box, a pair of silver mounted spectacles and case, and a bamboo cane. Their total value was a mere ninety dollars. He owned no real estate.[37]

A wounded combat veteran, James Dole served in the army as a militiaman, infantryman, and cavalryman. He climbed the ranks from enlisted man to non-commissioned officer to junior officer. Including his ten months in captivity, he is a rare example of a soldier who served in the Continental Army for the entire duration of the war.[38] Though we have no current knowledge of how old Dole was when he passed away, by taking so long to get him the additional financial assistance he needed, the bureaucracy of the system nearly betrayed him when he needed it the most.

 

[1] Deposition of James Dole, March 30, 1818, S.43518, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900, Record Group 15, National Archives Building, Washington, DC (National Archives Microfilm Publication M804, Roll 829), hereafter cited as Pensions.

[2] Meeting Minutes, July 14, 1775, Minutes of the Albany Committee of Correspondence 1775-1778 (Albany, NY: The University of the State of New York, 1923), 1:147-8.

[3] Berthold Fernow, ed., Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New York (Albany, NY: Weed, Parsons and Co., 1853–1887), 15:528.

[4] Deposition of James Dole, March 30, 1818, S.43518, Pensions (Roll 829). Neither this, or the second of Dole’s depositions (dated June 6, 1820), in his federal pension file mentions any rank for his early military service. There is also no known muster roll for Captain McCracken’s 2nd New York company. Based on his upcoming service, the presumption is that he served as either a corporal or a sergeant with McCracken.

[5] Deposition of James Henderson, September 11, 1832, S.16148, Pensions (Roll 1251). Fragmentary research had indicated that McCracken’s company was not at Fort Chambly during the campaign. Dole does mention it, but Henderson’s very detailed and extremely illegible deposition breaks new ground.

[6] Deposition of Samuel Thatcher, June 29, 1833, S.11542, Pensions (Roll 2362). Thatcher, a member of Capt. Elisha Benedict’s company, was partially incorrect here, as not all of van Schaick’s 2nd New York regiment was in the forward areas, including Goose van Schaick himself. For more on Benedict’s company see Philip D. Weaver, “Evans and Bean of the Hampshire Grants,” Journal of the American Revolution, allthingsliberty.com/2017/11/evans-bean-hampshire-grants/

[7] Payroll of Capt. Theodore Woodbridge’s Company, General Wooster’s Regiment, November 10, 1775 to February 29, 1776, Rolls and Lists of Connecticut Men in the Revolution 1775–1778 (Reprint, 1901; Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, 1995), 12–13. Doubling as a brigadier general for both the province of Connecticut and the Continental Army, David Wooster had commanded the 1st Connecticut Regiment in 1775, but that had been disbanded at the end of the year. Since he was already in Canada, he was a logical choice to command this new provisional battalion.

[8] Fred Anderson Berg, Encyclopedia of Continental Army Units: Battalions, Regiments, and Independent Corps, (Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1972), 137.

[9] Payroll of Capt. Theodore Woodbridge’s Company, Col. Samuel Elmore’s Regiment, April 16, 1776 to July 31, 1776, Rolls and Lists, 41–42. Muster roll, Capt. Theodore Woodbridge’s Company, Col. Samuel Elmore’s Battalion of Forces Raised in the State of Connecticut, January 11, 1777, Revolutionary War Rolls 1775-1783, War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records, Records Group 93 (Washington: National Archives Microfilm Publications, M246), Roll 27, Jacket 206. The relation between James and John Dole is unknown at this time.

[10] Deposition of James Dole, March 30, 1818, S.43518, Pensions (Roll 829).

[11] Muster roll, Woodbridge’s Company, Elmore’s Battalion, January 11, 1777. Orderly sergeants were the early-war equivalent of first sergeant. The latter rank is still in use today. When a continental soldier deserted during this time period, they were basically absent without leave (AWOL). However, if the soldier was listed as deserted to the enemy, then that would more closely resemble the modern definition of desertion.

[12] Entry for May 10, 1777, Journal of the most Material Occurrences preceding the Siege of Fort Schuyler (formerly Fort Stanwix) with an Account of that Siege, etc., undated manuscript attributed to William Colbreath, Rosenbach Museum & Library, Philadelphia, AMs 1083/27. Published on-line by Schenectady County Public Library, www.schenectadyhistory.org/resources/mvgw/history/064.html.

[13] Muster roll, Woodbridge’s Company, Elmore’s Battalion, January 11, 1777.

[14] Deposition of Simeon Blin, April 20, 1818, S.45292, Pensions (Roll 269).

[15] Deposition of Timothy Lord, May 28, 1818, S.42898, Pensions (Roll 1586).

[16] Deposition of Lathrop Allen, November 6, 1818, W.17208, Pensions (Roll 40).

[17] Roster, Capt. Theodore Woodbridge’s Company in the Continental Regiment Commanded by Col. Heman Swift, Month of August 1777, Revolutionary War Rolls 1775-1783, Roll 21, Jacket 126-1. Wire is shown as enlisting for three years, but was noted as being deserted. Like Dole above, “deserted” did not mean deserted to the enemy. However, unlike Dole it was not supposed. Wire did not come back, as his name is on none of the subsequent rosters in the jacket.

[18] Size Roll of Officers and Men, 2d Regiment Light Dragoons, Col. Elisha Shelton, undated, Revolutionary War Rolls 1775-1783, National Archives Microfilm Publications, M246, War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records, Records Group 93, Roll 115, Folio 12-1, hereafter cited as 2RLD. Elijah Churchill, a carpenter from Enfield, Connecticut, enlisted as a corporal in the 4th Troop on the same day as the Yorkers. Later, Sergeant Churchill became famous for being one of the only three recipients of the Badge of Military Merit, the forerunner of the Purple Heart. He was cited for gallantry in action at Fort St. George on Long Island, New York in November 1780, and at Tarrytown, New York in July 1781. At that time, Churchill was still Dole’s immediate subordinate in the 4th Troop.

[19] 2RLD. Deposition of James Dole, June 6, 1820, S.43518, Pensions (Roll 829). Entry for James Dole, Frances B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army During the War of the Revolution, April, 1775, to December, 1783, Reprint of the New, Revised, and Enlarged Edition of 1914, With Addenda by Robert H. Kelby, 1932 (Baltimore MD: Genealogical Publishing company, 1982), 200. Heitman shows he first enlisted in the dragoons as a private soldier and was promoted to sergeant on February 1, 1778. Beyond Dole’s own words, the size roll of the men of the regiment shows Dole initially enlisted as a sergeant.

[20] Deposition of James Dole, June 6, 1820, S.43518, Pensions (Roll 829).

[21] 2RLD. This was common practice during the period. It also occurred when junior officers were pulled from their companies (or troops when speaking of dragoons) to take on staff positions such as adjutant, paymaster, or quartermaster.

[22] Depositions of James Dole, March 30, 1818, and June 6, 1820, S.43518, Pensions (Roll 829). Lined catalog card, S.43518, Pensions (Roll 829). This card references a list of applicants for invalid pensions returned by the District Court of the District of New York, submitted to the House of Representatives by the Secretary of War on April 25, 1794, and printed in the American State Papers, Class 9, page 95. Dole’s entry explains his disability resulted from being “wounded in his hip by a gunshot” on August 17, 1780 at King Street, New York. King Street was not a city street, but a location that identified an old colonial road that ran roughly along the New York–Connecticut border, about four miles northeast of White Plains. See entry for James Dole, Heitman, Historical Register of Officers, 200, where Dole’s wounding and capture was stated as occurring at the Battle of Camden. This appears to be an extrapolation based on the date of the incident. The 2nd Dragoons were based in the northeastern states and would not have been that far south.

[23] 2RLD. Deposition of James Dole, March 30, 1818, S.43518, Pensions (Roll 829). Entry for James Dole, Heitman, Historical Register of Officers, 200. The Heitman entry incorrectly states the promotion to cornet was in January. This had to have been a misread of period handwriting.

[24] Return of the Names of the Officers in 2nd Regt Lt Dragoons, April 16, 1783, Revolutionary War Rolls 1775-1783, National Archives Microfilm Publications, M246, War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records, Records Group 93, Roll 115, Folio 12-3. Entry for James Dole, Heitman, Historical Register of Officers, 200. This entry mistakenly shows he was promoted from cornet to 2nd Lieutenant on June 10, 1782. In reality Dole was promoted from cornet to lieutenant, the dragoon’s equivalent of an infantry 1st lieutenant.

[25] Deposition of James Dole, June 6, 1820, S.43518, Pensions (Roll 829).

[26] Deposition of James Dole, March 30, 1818, S.43518, Pensions (Roll 829).

[27] Fernow, ed., Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New York, 15:551.

[28] Revolutionary Pensioners: A transcript of the Pension List of the United States for 1813, U.S. War Department, (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co, 2002), 21.

[29] The Pension List of 1820, with new index, U.S. War Department, (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co, 1991), 371. Depositions of James Dole, June 6, 1820, S.43518, Pensions (Roll 829).

[30] Jacket notes for pension application of James Dole, S.43518, Pensions (Roll 829). Dole’s early-war service with the 2nd New York in the firefight at Longueil or with Elmore’s Regiment on the edge of Indian territory at Fort Schuyler did not apply in this case. Their technical classification as state vs. continental troops seems to have fluctuated over time; besides, his service with the 2nd Dragoons was enough to qualify.

[31] Affidavit signed by James Dole, April 13, 1818, S.43518, Pensions (Roll 829).

[32] Additional Names from the Hartford Cincinnati Records and the Books of the Treasurer of the Cincinnati Society in Possession of Yale University, New Haven, The Record of Connecticut Men in the Military and Naval Service During the War of the Revolution, 1775-1783, Henry Phelps Johnston, editor, (Hartford, CT: The Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company, 1889), 376. Dole was listed as a lieutenant in the Dragoons from Ridgefield.

[33] New York State Society of the Cincinnati: Biographies of Original Members & Other Continental Officers, Francis J. Sypher, Jr., (Fishkill, NY, New York State Society of the Cincinnati, 2004), ix-x.

[34] Deposition of James Dole, March 30, 1818 (S.43518).

[35] John P. Cushman to George Boyd, July 9, 1818, S.43518, Pensions (Roll 829).

[36] Cushman to John C. Calhoun, July 6, 1820, S.43518, Pensions (Roll 829).

[37] Schedule of real and personal property of John Dole, June 6, 1820, S.43518, Pensions (Roll 829).

[38] The famous Private Yankee Doodle, Joseph Plumb Martin, only served seven and a half years.

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9 Comments

  • Phil;
    Another good read,

    I’m wondering. If you’d clarify a bit more…

    You spent several paragraphs describing uncertainty regarding the final discharge of Elmore’s regiment and Dole’s status within the regiment in early ‘77. Dole’s 1818 pension application (https://www.fold3.com/image/246/16582123) states that after retreating from Quebec, Elmore’s regiment went to New York and then “was ordered up the Mohawk river to Fort Stanwix”. Dole goes on to state that he remained in the regiment until it was disbanded in April 1777. After that episode Dole states he enlisted into a troop of light dragoons commanded by Captain Epaphras Bull; the 4th Troop, 2nd Regiment Light Dragoons under Col Elisha Sheldon. The story synchs up again at that point.

    There’s a pretty clear handwriting difference between the 1818 application and the 1820 application. The 1820, as evident from accompanying documents, was written by the court clerk, Joseph Seldon. 1820 Omits Ft Stanwix but adds in additional comments regarding Germantown.

    Given the lucid clarity of his 1818 pension application and the correctness of dates and facts; was there a particular reason for discounting his pension statement regarding Elmore’s regiment serving at Ft Stanwix? Might Dole’s Stanwix assertion settle inconsistencies in Elmore’s regiment – particularly if the regiment marched from Stanwix to Albany to be discharged?

    Keep it up,

    • Jim,

      Thank you for your compliment and excellent question.

      At first I was a bit thrown by the question’s detail, as you obviously looked up Dole’s pension file. Though, rather than following my nature and react immediately, I took some time to ponder an answer.

      First of all, in my experience, it is rather unusual for veterans to apply for Federal pensions in front of a court. I have found they more often than not go to local attorneys. So, I commend you for noticing the different handwriting.

      As you point out, the first letter was very detailed. Yet, the second letter lacked details of the disbanding of Elmore’s regiment. I will point out that it also ignored Dole’s admitted service in Capt. James Wells’s company of minutemen in early 1775. Now, why is that?

      Both letters relate to the pension act of March 18, 1818. In the first, where he only needed to document three years of continental service, Dole documented his entire eight years in the army. However, it was not sufficient to document need, which was required. So, he submitted a follow-up deposition where he hit the highlights, focusing on his longest service in the Second Dragoons, details of his financial situation, and a list of his personal property.

      This scenario is repeated in many of the federal pension application records relating to the 1818 pension act.

      (As an aside, keep in mind, as I have documented in previous JAR articles, that service in the early war Yorkers and un-numbered regiments like Elmore’s or Van Schaick’s was sometimes ignored by Federal bureaucrats. They would erroneously consider them as state troops and not continental. Though it did not matter in Dole’s case, this mistake caused many of the applicants to lose pension benefits for many years.)

      It is really that simple.

  • Great research. I live in Howell, NJ and in the Thorp Family Burial Ground is the resting place of Abner Thorp who entered service in his early 40s at the start of the Revolution and remained for the duration. He was in the quartermaster and on his headstone lists he was personal friend of the father of his country. Both Abner and Washington were the same age.

  • Great work..I was not aware of dragoon ncos coming directly from infantry veterans. What a life of sacrifice and purpose!

    ? 3

    • Thank you Al,

      If I am reading your comment correctly, I would caution you not to consider Dole’s example of an infantry NCO joining the dragoons as a practice. My advise is to look at it on a case-by-case basis. What you will often find, when you delve into the original stories of individual soldiers and sailors, is a mixing of not only branches of service and ranks, but states and even armies.

  • Phil, Great article. One correction though: At the time of the AWI Troy did not exist. The site was simply known as van der Heyden’s Ferry and featured a tavern and few other dwellings. It was only after the war that the van der Heydens began promoting their property as a potential town. In the late ’80’s the area was incorporated and given the appellation of “Troy” much to the chagrin of the van der Heydens who wanted the town named after them. (BTW Don Carpentier modeled the “Yellow Tavern” at Eastfield after what he thought the van der Heyden tavern looked like.)

    • Actually you got me there, Pete.
      This was an extrapolation on my part, that I should not have made.
      I went back and verified, in his two pension application depositions, that Dole never mentioned where he was from/living at the start of the Revolution. In the March 30, 1818 deposition he was “of the City of Troy.” In the second, dated June 6, 1820, he explains that his “…family was separated and live in various parts of the country, and for the last six or eight months I have lived with one of my sons in the city of Troy who is poor and has a large family –.” So, based on this, he lived in Troy at least 18 months before moving in with his son. He probably moved to Troy to be near his son, but that is pure speculation. It remains an open question why he moved to Troy from Connecticut, in the first place.

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