Milton’s Winter Soldier, Part One

By Muriel Bristol | September 19, 2018

On a warm April day, an older Milton man, Enoch Wingate, stood before Judge Richard Dame in the Strafford Court of Common Pleas in Dover. He had a tale to tell, or, in proper legal parlance, a “declaration” to make.

On this seventh day of April 1818 before me the Subscriber, one of the Judges of the Court of Common pleas for the County of Strafford in the first District in the state of Newhampshire, personally appears Enoch Wingate aged Sixty four years, resident in the town of Milton in the county of Strafford and state of Newhampshire aforesaid, who being by me first affirmed according to law doth on his solemn affirmation make the following declaration in order to obtain the provisions made by the late act of Congress intitled An act to provide for certain persons engaged in the land and naval Service of the united states in the revolutionary war.

That the said Enoch Wingate inlisted at Rochester in the state of Newhampshire in the company commanded by Captain William Rowell in the Newhampshire line Second Regiment commanded by Col. Hale in the month of April or May 1777.

That he continued to serve in said Corps in the Service of the United States untill the 22 day of June 1780, when he was discharged from said Service at Dover in the State of Newhampshire having Served three years for which he enlisted.

That he was wounded in retreating from mount Independence, rejoined the army at Bemis heights, was at the taking of Gen. Burgoyne’s Army, marched to Pennsylvania, was in the Battle of Monmouth in 1778, was with General Sullivan in the Indian Country. –

And that he is in reduced Circumstances and stands in need of the assistance of his country for support. And that he has no other evidence of his said service except the discharge hereto annexed.

Solemnly affirmed to be true and declared before me, the day and year aforesaid.

Outside, after court, I caught up with him near a tavern. Sire Wingate, you certainly saw a lot of hard service. I’d like to hear about it. It’s a warm day. Here, have a seat in the shade, let me get you a nice, cool cider.


Enoch Wingate was about twenty-three years old when he walked from the Milton-to-be part of Rochester into Rochester as-is. It was a late April morning in 1777. He probably went to participate in a militia training day. These were festive occasions – a sort of holiday almost – featuring muster gingerbread, hard cider, rum, music, and, of course, some militia drills and training.

Colonel Stephen Evans of the Fourth New Hampshire Militia Regiment sent his sergeants out from Exeter. He wanted men for the New Hampshire Line regiments. The Continental Line was a reorganization of the existing state regiments into Continental regiments. General Washington had sought – begged really – for longer enlistments and a more professional structure.

The New Hampshire Line would consist of three Continental regiments  manned with New Hampshire’s quota of volunteers or, if there were not sufficient volunteers, New Hampshire’s draftees. The older New Hampshire state regiments were the base on which these new regiments would be built. For instance, the 8th New Hampshire Regiment became the core of the new Second Regiment, New Hampshire Line. The new enlistment terms would be for three years, rather than one or less.

Likely, Wingate had read (or heard read) Thomas Paine’s recently-published polemic Common Sense. It began:

THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. …

The sergeants were persuasive too. The Rochester militiamen had all seen newspapers that told of General Washington’s victories last winter at Trenton and Princeton over the British and their Hessian mercenaries. The sergeants pointed out that most of those soldiers’ enlistments had expired already. Who would now fill the ranks? Who will preserve our liberty? New Hampshire needs you. (And there is that enlistment bounty too – £20).

Wingate was one of the twenty-three Rochester men (and one from Wolfeborough) that enlisted that day. His younger cousin (or brother), Daniel Wingate, Jr., signed up too. Col. Evans recruited for the First Regiment, but the two Wingates ended up in Captain William Rowell’s Eighth Company, in the Second Regiment, New Hampshire Line.

In a week or two, all that they had to settle their affairs and make their goodbyes, they marched. From Rochester, they likely marched next either to Exeter, the capital, or to Portsmouth, where their guns awaited them. The Continental Congress had purchased three thousand French muskets. The Mercury delivered a partial shipment from Nantes, France, to Portsmouth that very same month. Those muskets would be enough to outfit some, if not all, of the New Hampshire Line regiments.

The men called them “Charlesville” muskets, because they were made at the armory in Charleville-Mézières, France. They were the newer model, the 1766 one, not the older 1763 model. (There would be a 1777 model next). They fired a smaller 69-caliber bullet versus the British Brown Bess’ 75-caliber. The ammunition was lighter to carry. The muskets were lighter also than the British Brown Bess muskets while still having good stopping power. They were accurate out to 110 yards against a mass of men. The ramrod had been redesigned. They were long and sleek, with a bayonet way out on the business end.

Wingate’s had a walnut stock and its State, battalion, and serial number were stamped on the barrel: NH 2 B No. – well, forty-one years on, he forgets the exact number – 500 something.


But how came you to be wounded at Mount Independence? For that matter, where is it and what happened there?

Aah, I could tell you something about that, he said, while looking into his empty mug.


To be continued in Milton’s Winter Soldier, Part Two


References:

Colonial Quills. (2012, October 7). Muster Day Gingerbread. Retrieved from colonialquills.blogspot.com/2012/10/muster-day-gingerbread.html

Independence Hall Association. (1999-2018). The Crisis by Thomas Paine. Retrieved from www.ushistory.org/paine/crisis/

National Archives. (n.d.) Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files (NARA microfilm publication M804, 2,670 rolls). Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Society of the Cinncinati. (2010). New Hampshire in the American Revolution. Retrieved from www.societyofthecincinnati.org/pdf/downloads/exhibition_NewHampshire.pdf

Wikipedia. (2018, August 9). Charleville Musket. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charleville_musket

Author: Muriel Bristol

"Lady drinking tea"

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