Finding Edward Wigglesworth’s Lost Diary

Primary Sources

October 11, 2018
by C. E. Pippenger Also by this Author


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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.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6] 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 Oct11th 1776. at 9 oclock morwere alarmed by the Guard Boats ythe Enemy’s fleet were in sight coming down. the wind at Nat 1/2 past nine the GenArnold order’d me into the Yaul to go to windto 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 standacross 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 yIsland to the main-the Enemy came on with 1. Ship 18. 12 poundtwo 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 Sin 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 CapSummer of the Boston Gondola came by. & at 1 CapSimmons in the Philad. came up and inform’d me that the Enemy had pursued us & taken 1. gondola viz. Capt. Grimes. & that Capt. Ulmore[7] had quitted his D& sunk her. & taken his boat[8]–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 GenArnold sent his Boat on board to desire me to lby 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 GenArnold 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 ColHartley 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. GenWaterbury–arriv’d with all his People. dischon 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 Wlook 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 pleasaWeather after the Rain. expect the Enemy every minute–

Sunday 20th. wind at S.W. fine Wunderstand 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 Wbut cool–went up to see ColBreur & 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–23wind 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 yNight 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 Wlaid 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 NFresh 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 Tyto Independence Mnothing remarkable during that Night

Wednesday 30th. Wind SW clear Wnothing material to Day

Thursday 31st.  Wind W. reiny cloudy WLatter part clear. A party went to 3 mile Point & brought a Quanity of Hay,Oats &________

Fryday Nov1st. 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 Nov2nd. Wind SW. fresh Breeze Snow Squalls. The Committee arrived from Massachusitts State__

Sunday 3Wind. S.W. pleasWthe Committee arrived from Watertown

Monday 4th There is a Repot that the Enemy have left. C. Point–

Monday 4th Wind SpleasWtis confirmed the Enemy have left Crown Point–rec’d her Letter fr my Wife. & one from MJackson & one from MTracy–

Tuesday. 5th W. SE. pleasWnothing remarkable. happen’d–

Wednesday. 6th Calm. & warm W. Nothing material—

Thursday. 7th Wind SW. DrWeather 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 Nrow’d all Day & incamp’d 3 mile below Split Rock–

Saturday. 9th Wind N. thick hazy wbetween 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 Dwind–

Tuesday 12th. Do

Wednesday 13th Wind came to ywestd. got underway. in compwith all the fleet–came to off Point aux Rochie[9] at 2 o’clock

Thursday–14th weighe’d in yMorncame too Riverine laCole[10] at 5 oClock PM–

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–

Sunday 17th. Wind Narrived at Tyconda. 8 oClock morning in 16 Hours from Isle aux Noix[11]

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 ColRoberts. & Major Rogers. arrived at Fort George 1. oClock. night–

Tuesday 19th. fine pleasant WSet out at 10 o’clock on foot arriv’d at Fort Edward. at sunset lodged at DrSmith’s–

Wednesday. 20th. pleasWdin’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 Westwcloudy & cool–MHitchcock and the Doctr. set out for home. GenBrikett & 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 Regarriv’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 Colarrived with– part of the Regt. Greaton’s imbarked for New York–

Saturday 30th. Rainy cloudy Wrpaid off the Regt

Sunday, 1st. DecembWind WestwExpect orders to send Regt. home but they went without Leave–Express arriv’d informing that the Enemy we(re) marching towards Brunswick

Monday the 2Wind WestwpleastWr. 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 pleasWr. being very much fatigued lodged at Tryingham Chadwicks– waiting for company till 9 oclock

Friday the 6th Wind Westwfine pleasWr. lod’g at Emenson’s at the foot of Westfield mountain–

Saturday 7 fine pleasWr. 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

Sunday– 10th


Acct.of Sundry Articles lost on board Royal Savage arm’d Schooner in the Engagement with the Enemy on Lake Champlain 11th. Octr.1776[12]

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.

A page from the Wigglesworth diary. Note in line 6, Capt. Simmons is “in the Philad [Philadelphia].” Click on image to enlarge. (Author)
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.


[1]Mrs. E. Vale Smith (Blake), History of Newburyport; From the Earliest Settlement of the Country to the Present Time with a Biographical Appendix (Newburyport, 1854). 357-359.

[2]Stan. V. Henkels, Jr., Catalogue No. 1464, sale date May 17, 1932.

[3]Personal Communication from Ms. Elizabeth Fuller, Rosenbach Museum and Library, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania per American Book Prices Current, 1932.

[4]Edward Wigglesworth Diary, 1776-1777, Bennington Museum, Bennington, Vermont, Catalog Number 2012.14,

[5]Hall Park McCullough transcription of the Wigglesworth Diary 1776-1777, Diary of Colonel Edward Wigglesworth, September 1776-March 1777, Bennington Museum, Bennington, Vermont, 2009, 163.440.

[6]Robert Maguire and Kevin Graffagnino, Hall Park McCullough: Americana Collector 1872-1966 (University of Vermont, 1988).

[7]This section clearly names Captain Simmons as commanding the Philadelphia and Captain Ulmore as commanding the sunk gondola which was the Spitfire.

[8]It is plausible (but without collaborating evidence) that the comment “& taken in his boat” meant Simmons took Ulmore’s crew onto the Providence.

[9]Probably Point aux Roche on the Western New York shore north of Cumberland Head. The British fleet often rendezvoused there.

[10]Probably the Lacolle River in Canada which empties into the Richelieu River about five miles north of the present U. S. – Canadian border.

[11]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.

[12]Page 32 of the manuscript; this page is written upside-down from the diary.


  • Hi Pip
    Great article and an important discovery.

    My only disappointment with Wigglesworth is that he did not describe the American escape on the night of Oct 13 in more detail. I hoped that as he was leading the fleet through the British fleet he would provide more details and verify the route that they took.


    1. Thanks, Steve. I agree. I’ve always found it fascinating that the things we think are important the diarist may not have considered important. Wigglesworth did that to us twice. First, the escape through the British fleet on the night of October 11th and again when he didn’t tell us why he was held prisoner. Hopefully, sometime somewhere another document will pop up to fill in the blanks-Pip

      1. Hi Steve,

        It’s pretty well documented that the Brits left a gap between the end of their blockade and the New York shore–for whatever reason. The American fleet rowed through this gap and followed the shoreline down to Schuyler’s Island. After that, winds forced them to run up the eastern shore.

        Hope that helps answer your question.

        1. Hi Mike
          It is pretty well documented which route Arnold’s fleet used but as you are aware there are outliers who have argued that they went north instead of thru the British fleet. I was making the point that I wish Wigglesworth had provided more detail about the route. That would have resolved the question in a definitive way.


          1. Ah, yes–the “back-door” run. There are some problems with that notion, however:
            a) the north end of the channel between the island and the mainland features some shoals and a shallow shelf off the island that would have been a challenge to get around in the dark;
            b) given that the top rowing speed of a gundalow is around 1.5 knots (been there, done that on the “Philadelphia II”), it would have added at least four hours of extra rowing for already exhausted crews just to get even with their starting point;
            c) why would they have rowed themselves out into the middle of the lake if not the east shore (there are indications the Brits had boats farther out on the lake watching for just such a move), but then cross back over to Schuyler’s Island a third of a mile from the west shore? (the lake’s about five miles wide right there so add at least another two or three hours rowing);
            d) I know of no Brit or American primary sources that talk about taking that route;
            e) the lanterns hung in the back of the American boats would have been visible to the Brit crews as the Americans pulled away.

            It certainly would be convenient and, as you say, lock in the prevailing theory if some diarist wrote about going south but I don’t think that’s going to appear. Anyone who knows me knows that I love challenging accepted thought but, in this case, I suspect it’s a lost cause.

          1. Ah, yes — thanks for the reminder, Pip. I had forgotten about those letters (for whatever reason, I hadn’t downloaded the info to my Valcour file). I kept thinking something’s missing–I knew I had primary source evidence for a couple of my statements.

            Evidence of shallows at north end of channel (aside from nautical charts): “At 10 o Clock we discovered a small Schooner cruizing between the north end of the said island and the main — Mr Schank desirous of following her, was informed by the Pilot, that there was not water enough for the Ship.”

            Evidence of Brit cruizer running between fleet and east shore:
            Schank received orders for his tender “to cruize between the fleet and the Eastern shore, instead of watching at Anchor the Rebels between us and the Western side as our Commander had ordered.”

  • Thanks, Steve. I agree. I’ve always found it fascinating that the things we think are important the diarist may not have considered important. Wigglesworth did that to us twice. First, the escape through the British fleet on the night of October 11th and again when he didn’t tell us why he was held prisoner. Hopefully, sometime somewhere another document will pop up to fill in the blanks-Pip

    1. Pip et al (whoever al is),

      With regard to being held prisoner while under a flag, there are a couple possible explanations. For one, the Brits did not consider the American army to be legitimate and, as such, not subject to the usual customs and practices of war. As a result, parties headed into Canada under a flag of truce often found themselves detained. Only Gov.-Gen. Carleton’s leniency may well have saved them from permanent imprisonment or execution.

      In addition, an incident earlier in the summer may provide more to the answer. While on a scout near St. Johns in late July, Benjamin Whitcomb shot BG Patrick Gordon who died a few days later (see JAR article, “Infamous Skulkers: The Shooting of Brigadier General Patrick Gordon”). A couple days after that, General Orders included the following:

      “His Excellency Genl Carleton orders that the Commanding Officers of Corps will take especial Care, that ev’ry one under their Command be informed that Letters, or Messages from the Rebels, Traitors in Arms against their King, Rioters, Disturbers of the publick peace, Plunderers, Robbers, Assassins, or Murderers, are on no occasion to be admitted; that sho’d Emmissaries of such Lawless Men again presume to approach the Army, whether under the Name of Flag of Truce, Men, or Ambassadors, except when they come to implore the King’s Mercy, their persons shall be immediately Seized, and committed to Close Confinement, in order to be proceeded against as the Law directs; their Papers and Letters for whomever, even for the Commander in chief, are to be delivered to the Provost Marshall, that, unread and unopened, they may be burnt by the Common Hangman.”

      I have not come across anything indicating any repeal of that order so ….

  • Awesome find! Thanks for your detective work and fine article explaining both the process and holes Wigglesworth’s diary helps fill.

  • I believe my 6th Great Grandfather was the Captain of the Schooner Lee — Capt Israel Davis. He was a merchant from Newburyport and Boothbay and in Wigglesworth’s regiment both at Saratoga and Valley Forge.

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