Col. Edward Wigglesworth took part in some of the most consequential actions of the American Revolution, but, like so many such men, we know little about him. Happily, Wigglesworth left a diary which was once presumed lost, but has now has been found. The manuscript provides more details concerning Wigglesworth’s extraordinary military career.
A Brief History of the Wigglesworth Diary
Wigglesworth was born January 4, 1742 and grew up in Newburyport, Massachusetts. After graduating from Harvard in 1761, he worked for the mercantile business of Jackson and Terry, which was based in Newburyport. During his employment he served as a ship captain in the Caribbean trade.
On June 24, 1776, at age thirty-four, he was commissioned a colonel by the “Council of the Massachusetts Bay in New England” and placed in command of a Militia Battalion (6th Continental Regiment of Massachusetts). His battalion was ordered to Fort Ticonderoga, which was then in the midst of furiously preparing for a British assault up Lake Champlain. Ticonderoga and Crown Point were being reinforced, and a new stronghold, Mount Independence, was under construction across the lake from Fort Ticonderoga. In Skenesborough (now Whitehall) Patriots were hurriedly building a fleet to counter British movement on the lake.
Colonel Wigglesworth was an experienced mariner, a skill set much needed but rarely found in that northern theater. General Gates appointed Wigglesworth third in command of the American fleet, then under the command of Benedict Arnold, himself a former merchant captain. Wigglesworth joined the fleet on September 9, 1776, and participated in the Battle of Valcour Island, October 11-13, 1776. After the near complete destruction of the American fleet, he escaped to Fort Ticonderoga and resumed command of his battalion, which was disbanded November 30, 1776. In January 1777, Wigglesworth was appointed colonel of the 13th Massachusetts Regiment. He served in several battles and was present at Valley Forge. Like many other officers he exhausted his financial reserves and resigned from the army in 1779. He returned to Newburyport and ultimately was appointed tax collector for the port. He held this post for many years prior to his death on December 8, 1826.
The Diary of Colonel Edward Wigglesworth was first described by Mrs. E. Vale Smith (Blake), who published portions of the manuscript in her History of Newburyport in 1854. In a biographical sketch of Colonel Wigglesworth, she quoted excerpts from his diary and summarized other diary segments. Following Smith’s publication, for the next seventy-eight years, the diary was presumed lost. It apparently stayed in the hands of the Wigglesworth family heirs, however, until 1932.
In that year the Wigglesworth diary was offered for sale in an auction by Stan. V. Henkels, Jr., a Philadelphia literary and art auctioneer. A portion of the diary containing Wigglesworth’s description of the Battle of Valcour Island was printed in the sale catalogue (No. 1464, sale date May 17, 1932). There were twelve Wigglesworth items for sale in this catalog, including Gen. Horatio Gates’s appointment of Wigglesworth as third in command of the American fleet.
After the Henkel’s auction, the diary again disappeared and was presumed to be either in the hands of a private collector or lost. In fact, it had been purchased from the auction by a wealthy Vermont resident, HallPark McCullough, a Wall Street lawyer, philanthropist, and one of the founders of Bennington College. McCullough, throughout his life, was a collector of early Vermont memorabilia. He paid $230 for the Diary. At his death in 1966, McCullough’s collection was divided between The University of Vermont and the Bennington Museum and Library. The Bennington Collection was not cataloged until an archivist began examining it around 2000. The Wigglesworth diary was cataloged in 2009 and listed online in late 2017. The registrar confirmed there are no other Wigglesworth documents in the collection.
In March 2018 the author found the online listing, visited the library, photographed the entire diary, and transcribed it from the photographs. (Prior to the author’s request, no one had asked to see the Diary.) The Museum’s registrar clarified the history of the diary during the years it was thought to be lost, and told the author they also held a typewritten transcription made by Mr. McCullough. There are only minor differences between the McCullough transcription and the author’s; the advantage of digital magnification resolved any discrepancies were resolved by the author.
The University of Vermont portion of McCullough’s collection was cataloged, and a description published as the Hall Park McCullough Collection in 1998. It is housed in the Special Collections Department of the Bailey Howe Library, Burlington, Vermont. The collection at the University of Vermont contains no documents related to the Battle of Valcour Island.
The complete diary is paper bound, thirty-four pages including front and back covers. The narrative describing the Battle of Valcour Island and events through December 1776 is fourteen pages. The remainder of the bound document consists of Wigglesworth’s expenses traveling between Newburyport and Fort Ticonderoga, officers’ signatures acknowledging receipt to pay their troops, etc. While the various receipts are of interest to Revolutionary war scholars they are not relevant to Wigglesworth’s narrative. The only exception is an itemized list of his personal possessions and their value which were lost when theRoyal Savagewas burned by the British on October 11, 1776.
Here, published for the first time, is the complete text of the diary, and the list of items from theRoyal Savage. The diary is on pages 5 thru 19 of the bound book, describing the Battle of Valcour Island and events until Wigglesworth’s Battalion was disbanded in December 1776.
The Wigglesworth Diary
Cumberland Bay Lake Champlain – Fryday Octr 11th 1776. at 9 oclock morg were alarmed by the Guard Boats yt the Enemy’s fleet were in sight coming down. the wind at No at 1/2 past nine the Genl Arnold order’d me into the Yaul to go to windd to observe thier motions I returned at 10. & inform’d him they were round the Island of Valcour. in half an hour they began to fire upon the Royal Savage who had gone to Land. for at my return: the three galleys and two schooners were under sail standg across the Lake between the Island & Main the Royal Savage had the misfortune to run aShore by missing Stays. The Genlthen ordered the Galleys & Gondolas to form the Line which they did quite across from ye Island to the main-the Enemy came on with 1. Ship 18. 12 poundr two schooners of 16 guns each 1. Bomb and a floating battery of 22. Brass 12 and 24 pounder. when their ensued a most terrible fire without& 18. flat bottom’d boats carrying each 1.18 & 24/ poundrbesides howitzrwhen their ensued a most terrible fire without the least intermission till 1/2 past five PM. when the Enemy drew off. our fleet rec’d considerable damaged. & we had about 50 killd & wounddwhich we carried on board the Hospital Sloop. who did not engage_ _. _. _ ______________
Upon Consultation with Genrls. Arnold and Waterbury. I was order’d to get under way. as soon as twas dark. & show a Light aStern for the Gondolas. in order to retreat up the Lake as far as possible it being calm. we row’d but cleared the enemy without being discovered–at 12 oclock the wind breezed up at So in the morning
on Saturday 12th. I found my Self up with Schulers Island. at 10. came to anchor under Ligonier Point to wait for the fleet & stop our leaks & secure our Mn.mast which was shot in too– & at sunset the Hospital Sloop and the Revenge Schooner. were abreast of us. & the other two Galleys about 2 Legs. to Leeward. at 12 night Capt Summer of the Boston Gondola came by. & at 1 Capt Simmons in the Philad. came up and inform’d me that the Enemy had pursued us & taken 1. gondola viz. Capt. Grimes. & that Capt. Ulmore had quitted his Do & sunk her. & taken his boat–I immediately got underway. & stood up along Shore but the wind comg. to the Southwd. I was obliged to stand over to the Eastwd.
in the morning on Sunday 13th. the Hospital Sloop and the Revenge were ahead. & the two galleys in the Rear & the rest of the Gondolas rowing up in shore. & the Enemys fleet in chase of us the wind deying away. They came up with us fast wind fresh W. at No. at 9 oClock Genl Arnold sent his Boat on board to desire me to ly by for the fleet. which I did by stretching across the Lake at 10. AM the Enemy began to fire upon the two galleys. in the rear. about. against Split-Rock. I soon discovered that the Washington. Galley. In which was Genl. a Waterbury had struck & that Genl. Arnold was engaged with the Ship & two Schooners. & that he could not get clear. I thought it my duty to make Sail & endeavor to save the Trumbull Galley if possible. About 1 oclock Genl Arnold run his galley ashore with 4 other Gondola’s & blew all up. we the doublemann’d our oars & made all the Sail we could. which by throwing over our Ballast we got off clear. with 1. Gondola. the Revenge & Hospital Sloop. which were we sav d. as the Lee Cutter was missing we suppos’d her taken. which with 1. Gondola and the Washington were all the Enemy got Possession of–. I came to anchor at Cr Point took in some Provisions in for Colo Hartley as he was preparing to leave that Place. & arrived at Tyconderoga at Sunset. went aShore waited on Gates & inform’d him of our Affairs & that I believed Genl. Arnold would be in the morning. which he accordingly was.
Monday 14th. Employed in putting the Galley in the best State of Defence. Genl Waterbury–arriv’d with all his People. dischd on Parole–.
Tuesday 15th employed as before. sent Guard Boats down the Lake. to give Intelligence of the Coming of the Enemy.
Wednesday 16th. Wind still at So.& very warm. expect the Enemy the first fair Wind
Thursday 17th. Wind at N.E. rainy Wr look for the Enemy every minute, keep the guard boats at 3 mile Point. to look out. & make Signals
Fryday 18th Wind N. E. small Breeze & rainy Wr. the Boats made no Discoveries. the Boats were order’d to carry a flagg to distinguish ymfrom any other boats–
Saturday, 19th. Wind NW. fine pleasat Weather after the Rain. expect the Enemy every minute–
Sunday 20th. wind at S.W. fine Wr understand the Enemy are preparing to come as soon as possible
Monday. 21st wind at N. N.W. fresh Breeze. If the Enemy don’t take advantage of this wind–shall think they are not ready. past 3 oclock no Vessels in sight.– at 4. the guard boat came in fired an Alarm. & said there were 12 Canoes at dark sent a boat to Putnam’s Point return’d. said she saw a number of Lights. expect the Enemy before morning: but they did not come
Tuesday 22nd Wind NW. fine pleasant Wr but cool–went up to see Colo Breur & Carleton. Return’d at Sunset immediately rec’d the news that the Indians had scalp’d a man just beyond the Bridge. & took 2 Prisoners–
Wednesday–23d wind SSW. fresh Breeze nothing material happen’d to the Guard Boats Blew very hard till 12 oclock. night–
Thursday. 24th. wind W. small Breeze & very warm for the Season.–Sent a Boat down the Lake in ye Night as far as 5-mile Point discover’d some Canoes. rowing down the Lake. returned
Fryday. 25th. wind. W. still continues remarkable warm & pleasant–sent Letters home by Mr. Whitridge of Danvers, by whom I inclos’d 20 Dollars to my wife, which he promis’d to deliver at Major (Illegible) at Danvers. for the Sum of 3/-
Saturday 26th Wind SW & rainy Wr laid a boom across from the Jersey Battery. hauled the Galley’s down to cover Boom
Sunday 27th. Wind SE the Boats discovered nothing down Lake At 4 PM the Enemy’s Boats to the number of 4 or 5 appeared in sight but upon 3 or 4 Boats of ours rowing down they made off.
Monday 28th. Wind No Fresh Breese expect the Enemy every minute joyn’d the Regt. & manned the Lines at our Alarm Post at Dawning–at 9AM alarm’d by our Gaud Boats coming in, soon after 4-5 of the Enemy’s Boat came in sight, one of them came so nigh our Batteries fir’d a few shot upon which she returned__
The Army under Arms all Day nothing happened at Night
Tuesday 29th. Wind at NW. & quality complet’d Bridge across Lake from Fort Tya to Independence Mt nothing remarkable during that Night
Wednesday 30th. Wind SW clear Wr nothing material to Day
Thursday 31st. Wind W. reiny cloudy Wr Latter part clear. A party went to 3 mile Point & brought a Quanity of Hay,Oats &________
Fryday Novr 1st. Wind W. pretty cool_ nothing remarkable down the Lake ColoDaton’s Regt. arrived from Fort Stanwick & Part of 2 or 3 Regts. of Militia from N. Hampsure & the Grants__
Saturday Novr 2nd. Wind SW. fresh Breeze Snow Squalls. The Committee arrived from Massachusitts State__
Sunday 3d Wind. S.W. pleast Wr the Committee arrived from Watertown
Monday 4th There is a Repot that the Enemy have left. C. Point–
Monday 4th Wind So pleast Wr tis confirmed the Enemy have left Crown Point–rec’d her Letter fr my Wife. & one from Mr Jackson & one from Mr Tracy–
Tuesday. 5th W. SE. pleast Wr nothing remarkable. happen’d–
Wednesday. 6th Calm. & warm W. Nothing material—
Thursday. 7th Wind SW. Dr. Weather rec’d Orders to prepare to go to St. Johns a flag of Truce–set out at 5 oclock with Lieut Evans and a frenchman Prisoners lodg’d at CPoint
Fryday. 8th.. Wind No row’d all Day & incamp’d 3 mile below Split Rock–
Saturday. 9th Wind N. thick hazy wr between Valcour & the Main saw the Ship & Schooner & Gondola went on board the Ship to deliver our Prisoners: but were detain’d Prisoners ourselves–
Sunday 10th. Wind still at No
Monday. 11th Do wind–
Tuesday 12th. Do—
Friday 15th at 10 oC weigh’d and run a Ground about a mile from Riverine laCole _______
Saturday–16th Wind. Westwd. cold Squally Wr. just informed that I’m to be sent back immediately–
Monday 18th Wind. Westwd. pleastset in company with Genls Gates– Arnold. and Brickett. for Fort George. on our way to Albany. Left Regt. to follow under Commd. of Colo Roberts. & Major Rogers. arrived at Fort George 1. oClock. night–
Tuesday 19th. fine pleasant Wr Set out at 10 o’clock on foot arriv’d at Fort Edward. at sunset lodged at DrSmith’s–
Wednesday. 20th. pleast Wr din’d– McNeil’s, Saratoga–lodg’d at Bemis Stillwater–
Thursday 21st Fine pleast and warm morning arrived at Albany at Night. lodg’d at Mrs. Hilton’s near the City Hall–
Friday 22nd Wind Westwd cloudy & cool–Mr Hitchcock and the Doctr. set out for home. Genl Brikett & Col Poor arriv’d. Bought a horse at 50 Dolls.
Saturday 23dWind Northwdcloudy
Sunday 24th. Calm & warm Rainy WrCol Poor’s & De’Hass’s Regts march’d to their respective homes. –
Monday 28th Wind at SW. fresh cloudy prepare to set out for Newberry to Day– to morrow–. At 12 oclock head the disagrrable news that the Enemy had landed on the Jersey shore–which determined me to wait for the Regt
Tuesday 26th W.N.W. pleasant weather Colo. Greaton’s Regt arriv’d from Tyconda
Wednesday 27. Peterson came to town nothing remarkable
Thursday 28. fine pleast. morning paid Capts. Fairfield & Pillsbury. 1000D Dollars cash for recruiting money.
Friday 29th Colo arrived with– part of the Regt. Greaton’s imbarked for New York–
Saturday 30th. Rainy cloudy Wrpaid off the Regt—
Sunday, 1st. Decembr Wind Westwd Expect orders to send Regt. home but they went without Leave–Express arriv’d informing that the Enemy we(re) marching towards Brunswick
Monday the 2d Wind Westwd pleastWr. Colos Brewer & Carleton arrived
Tuesday 3d. Wind. No. Cloudy the Generals sail’d for the York Army G. Brickett went over the Ferry
Wednesday. 4th Cress’d the Ferry at 10 ½ Clock– left Brewer & Carleton Prentice &c at the Ferry din d at (Scudock?) Millers– lodged at Sharp’s Noble Town–
Thursday 5th Fine pleast Wr. being very much fatigued lodged at Tryingham Chadwicks– waiting for company till 9 oclock
Friday the 6th Wind Westwd fine pleast Wr. lod’g at Emenson’s at the foot of Westfield mountain–
Saturday 7 fine pleast Wr. lod’d’ at Palmer Scott’s–
Sunday 8th Cloudy Wrfirst part prov’d a fine Day lod’g’d Jone’s at Worcester–Monday–9th Wind W. NW. pretty cold Squally Wr
1. Suit of Regimental Clothg.
Super f. Broad Cloth. . . . £10, , 10–
9. Shirts new (Shirts xout) @24 10, , 16–
6. Hankerchiefs @ 6/ . . . . 1, , 16–
2. Broad Cloth Jackets @ 26/ each. 2, ,–>
1. Linnen Vest and Breeches @ . . 1, ,–
2. Pr.Knit Breeches @ 24/ each… 2, , 8–
3. Blankets @ 12/ . . . . 1, ,16–
Jones’s military Guide @ , ,12–
7. Pr.Jersey knit worsted hose. 3, ,10
1. Pnew shoes @ 12/ . . . . . . , ,12
Cash 12 Dollars . . . . . . . . . 3, ,12
£ 38, , 12, ,–
1. Silver spoon @ 15 . . . . . . 15
£ 39, . 7
1. Pr.Double Barll.Pistols . . . . 4, ,16, ,–
1. (D?) Vest and Breeches , , , ,, 1, , 8–
£ 45, ,11–
1. Great Coat . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3, ,10.
49, , 1
The discovery of the entire Wigglesworth diary is significant not only for its historical value; but because it also resolves some major issues and controversy surrounding the previously published diary extracts. The first controversy surrounds the events on Saturday, October 12. Mrs. Smith did not publish the entire diary entries from that day. For that date she states, “In the morning on Saturday, 12th, I found myself up with Schuters Island. At 10 came to anchor under Ligonier Point to wait for the fleet & stop our leaks & sew our Mn. mast which was shot in two.” The Henkel’s catalog did publish the day’s full entry. In the Henkel’s version it states that Captain Simmons in the gondola Philadelphia at Schuyler Island conversed with Colonel Wigglesworth on the Trumbull at about 1 AM. It has always been known that Captain Simmons commanded the gondola Providence not the Philadelphia, which was sunk at Valcour Island. It had been assumed a typist incorrectly transcribed the word Philadelphia. That is not true; in the original diary Wigglesworth clearly abbreviates Philadelphia and not Providence. Since he was extremely busy between the 11th and 13th of October, it is highly probable Wigglesworth wrote his account after the battle, and forgot Simmons commanded the Providence and not the Philadelphia. In his October 11 entry, Wigglesworth wrote the phrase “when their ensued a most terrible fire without” and then crossed it out and then inserted the same exact phrase in the following line, supporting the idea that the diary was written some days after the fact (the Henkel’s transcription does not include Wigglesworth’s crossed out phrase). Although there may be other explanations, this appears the most logical.The second also surrounds Saturday, October 12. The Henkel’s transcription states “At 12 night Capt. Summer of the Boston gondola came by & 1 Capt. Simmons in the Philad. came up & informed me the Eney had pursued us & had taken 1 gondola, viz., Capt. Grimes & that Capt. Moore had quitted his D. & sunk her & taken his Boat.” Unfortunately, the typist making the transcription made a severe error in typing “Capt. Moore.” Valcour scholars have always been confused by this statement because no one named Captain Moore was ever associated with command of any vessel in Arnold’s fleet. For many years the scholars have searched in vain for an additional reference. Wigglesworth’s diary clearly states that Captain Ulmore sank his gondola. Captain Ulmore was Captain of the Spitfire which sank in Lake Champlain and still lies in perfect condition on the bottom today.
While these are the two most important controversies resolved by the diary there are other minor points which are also resolved. For example, the Journal of Bayze Wells states that Wigglesworth joined the fleet on September 9, 1776. The Wigglesworth diary in a separate entry states that Wigglesworth joined the fleet on September 6. The difference is probably accounted for by the time it took Wigglesworth to sail to Arnold’s fleet.
Sadly, Wigglesworth never explained why he was taken prisoner by the British. The answer to that question can only be pure speculation.
Author’s Note: It is extremely important that we all support the raising of the Spitfire as proposed by Art Cohn and the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, before it is destroyed by the Quagga mussel invasion occurring now in Lake Champlain. We hope to publish another article in JAR enlisting your help to save the Spitfire.
Acknowledgments: The author gratefully acknowledges his co-author James L Nelson. A special thanks to the following for their assistance and guidance essential to bringing this document to publication: Art Cohn, Emeritus Director Lake Champlain Maritime Museum; Ernie Haas, James K Martin; Ms. Nichole Russell, Public Services Manager, Special Collections Department, Library University of Glasgow; Ms. Callie Raspuzzi, Registrar Archives, Bennington Museum;Ms. Elizabeth Fuller, Rosenbach Museum and Library, Philadelphia; Don N. Hagist and the JAR staff.
Edward Wigglesworth Diary, 1776-1777, Bennington Museum, Bennington, Vermont, Catalog Number 2012.14, bennington.pastperfectonline.com/archive/35DE0164-32EE-463B-90DB-454513270615.
Wigglesworth does not state whether he was returned to Fort Ticonderoga by one of the schooners (Maria or Carlton) or the Inflexible. Sixteen hours from Isle aux Noix to Fort Ticonderoga is a rapid passage.