Maine Genealogy Blog

The Revolutionary War Service of Seth Sturtevant of Sumner

The following first-hand account of Seth Sturtevant's Revolutionary War service was found in a scrapbook kept by my great-great-grandfather, Lemuel Dunham of Greenwood, Maine. It was published in the Oxford Democrat of Jan. 21, 1902.



[In the Oxford Democrat of Aug. 6, you sent out an invitation "to all persons interested, to forward any inscription on a gravestone or monument to the memory of a known patriot during the years 1775-1783," etc. Although not responding to the invitation before, publicly, I have made some inquiry from time to time, in this and other towns, and with what success the following biographical sketch will show. I wrote to my cousin, Mrs. H. B. Maxim, in regard to her grandfather Sturtevant, whom I knew in my boyhood, and she kindly furnished the desired information, for which favor she has my hearty thanks. Further comments are unnecessary, since the article in queation will speak for itself and tell its own story. L.D.]

I was born in Halifax, Plymouth County, Mass., June 4, 1760. My parents were of Scotch descent, and were common farmers, with whom I lived until I was sixteen years old. The Revolutionary spirit ran so high that I entered the service at sixteen, in the year 1776, in Capt. James Harlow's Company at Plympton, of Col. Cary's Regiment of Bridgewater.

I enlisted for five months, marched to New York, was present at the time of the fight on Long Island, made a retreat from New York when the British took the city, Sept. 16, 1776. Served out the five months and received a discharge on the first of December, 1776.

1777, June 6, second enlistment, for three years, Capt. Amos Cogswell's Company, Col. James Wesson's Regiment, Gen. Arnold's Brigade, of Massachusetts. We marched from Boston and joined Gen. Gates' army at Stillwater in the State of New York. Was in the battle of 7th October, 1777, when we gained a complete victory over the Brtish Army under the command of Burgoyne, and was present at the surrender of his army ten days after the battle. This surrender was on the 17 of Oct., 1777. A good haul upon the British boys of over 6000 men.

About the first of November in this year, marched with Gen. Gates' army to Pennsylvania at a place called White Marsh, a long, tedious march. Suffered greatly for shoes, clothes and provisions. Some of their soldiers died on the way and some were obliged to leave on account of their suffering.

At White Marsh we joined Gen. Washington's grand army and soon after our whole army marched to Valley Forge, about thirty miles from Philadelphia, on the Schuykill River, where we built huts and wintered. Gen. Washington divided his men into parties of twelve, and ordered each party to build a hut for its own accommodation. These rude structures, sixteen feet long and fourteen feet wide, with walls six and a half feet high, were built of logs and lined with clay with rough chimneys. The officers' quarters were like these but a little larger. The weather became bitterly cold and the sufferings almost beyond endurance. Both Washington and Congress were powerless to provide new clothing. Our bare feet were through our worn-out shoes, nearly naked from the tattered remains of our only pair of stockings, our breeches hanging in strings, our faces thin from hunger, and a forsaken look on all. The horses died of starvation, and the men harnessed themselves to sleds and hauled their wood and scanty provisions.

Surely we, who enjoy the blessings of liberty, will remember the terrible winter at Valley Forge, 1778.

About the first of April I was transferred from this regiment to Gen. Washington's Life Guard, commanded by the following officers:

Caleb Gibbs, Major, belonging to Mass.

William Livingston of New York, Captain.

William Colfax of Conn., 1st Lieut.

John Grimes of Virginia, 2d Lieut.

____ Edwards of Conn., 3d Lieut.

____ Notch of Virginia, 2d Sergeant.

____ Harris of Conn., 3d Sergeant.

____ Young of Virginia, 4th Sergeant.

____ Jones of Virginia, 5th Sergeant.

Seth Sturtevant of Mass., 1st Corporal.

Ephraim Eddy of Mass., 2d Corporal.

____ Forbes of Rhode Island, 3d Corporal.

____ Randolph of Virginia, 4th Corporal.

____ Law of Conn., 5th Corporal.

All told, one hundred and fifty, rank and file.

Headquarters remained at Valley Forge until the British Army evacuated Phil'a in June and Gen. Washington pursued the British Army and overtook them at Monmouth, New Jersey, on the 28 of June, where a severe battle was fought. Gen. Washington's army had the pre-eminence, causing the British to retreat to Sandy Hook at night, where they went on board of their shipping which carried them to the city of New York.

Seventy-two of the Life Guard, myself among the number, were detached to Col. Morgan's Reg. of Riflemen, as a flank guard at the battle of Monmouth.

Gen. Washington's army then marched up the west side of the Hudson River and crossed the ferry to White Plains, N.Y. I remained in the Life Guard until my three years' enlistment had expired, when I received an honorable discharge. The following is a copy:

Corporal Seth Sturtevant of the Corps of Guard, having served the time out for which he was engaged, is discharged [from] the service of the United States.

Given under my hand at Headquarters, Morristown, this first day of June, 1780.

C. Gibbs, M. C. Guards.

I do certify that Corporal Seth Sturtevant has served two years and three months in his Excellency's, Gen. Washington's, Life Guard, under my command, that during this period of time he hs not been absent from the Guard 24 hours unless on duty.

I furthermore say that he has been vigilant and attentive to every duty of his office, and is worthy of the esteem of his country.

Headquarters, Morristown, New Jersey, June 1st, 1780.

C. Gibbs, M. C. Guards.

Soon after peace was made I married Miss Abagail Cushing of Duxbury, Mass., by whom I had three children in Mass.; one of whom died and I moved my family from Halifax, Plymouth Co., Mass., on to the Province of Maine to West Butterfield, now Sumner, 20th July, 1795. Two years later my honored mother, Joanna Sturtevant, came to live with me. She died May 11, 1815, aged 79 years, and was buried in East Sumner.

1802, Apr. 22d, I was baptized by immersion and joined the Baptist church at Buckfield, May 22d. I had two children born in this county.

I have outlived my wife and all my children but one. I lived in Sumner 55 years.

I am living in Hartford with my only living child, Martha, wife of Capt. Hopestill Bisbee.

I write this statement of my life at the age of 87 years. With the few dates kept while in the service it has been written from memory and without the aid of glasses.

"I wish well to my Country's good."

A true copy.
By Harriett Bisbee Maxim

My grandfather was noble and manly in physique, of quick and strong intellectual powers, of warm, generous impulses, respected by all and beloved by many, and held a large place in the affectionate remembrance of his kindred. Those who were nearest to him he told "to put their trust in Jesus and prepare to meet him in Heaven."

In Hartford, July 11, 1852, Seth Sturtevant, aged 92 years, one month.
A Revolutionary Soldier gone!

Buried at East Sumner, Oxford Co., Me. A slate tablet marks his grave, with name and date of death.

H. B. M.

Lemuel Dunham wrote this in a column for the Democrat in 1908: "Some time ago my cousin, Mrs. Maxim, gave me a brief description of her grandfather Sturtevant, in which she says in part: 'My grandfather's h[e]ight was 5 feet 10 inches, weight 180 pounds. He had a florid complexion, gray eyes, and a nose somewhat on the Roman order....'" In the same column, Lemuel remembered his own grandfather, Moses Dunham of Hartford, as "not 'cast in nature's finest mould,' like Washington, being long favored, with a nose to match; his whole face pitted from the effects of small pox while in the army."

 Published January 6, 2010