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More Loyalists in Connecticut?

by Sarah Morin on 2023-08-22T08:30:00-04:00 in African Americans, Archives, Connecticut, Courts: Connecticut Courts, History, Military | 0 Comments

hand-colored etching of battle scene

Private of the 4th Connecticut Regiment during the American Revolutionary War, Charles M. Lefferts, 1926, courtesy of Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

In July, we discussed the New Haven County Court records that were classified in the subject category “Confiscated Estates and Loyalists” and the challenges presented by this idiosyncratic organization scheme. This month, we examine similar types of cases that were instead placed in the subject category “Militia.”

When quoting from documents, we will use the actual spelling, including transcriptions of individual words as necessary. (For more information about colonial spelling practices, see The Standardization of American English at In certain circumstances, we will add missing letters to abbreviated words or substitute modern spelling in brackets to enhance reader comprehension.

A Brief Review of How the Court Records were Organized

As discussed previously, State Library staff or court clerks removed selected cases in the New Haven County and Superior Court records from their original order and placed them into separate series called “Files” and “Papers by Subject.” In the latter series, records were grouped in the following subject categories:

Admission to the Bar
Appointment of Officers
Confiscated Estates and Loyalists
Conservators and Guardians
Court Expenses
Equity Bills
Executions (meaning the record of when and how a writ was completed, not to be confused with capital punishment)
Justices of the Peace
Meeting House
Partition Land
Revolutionary Pensions

We do not know who made these arrangement decisions or why they made them. Given that this reorganization took place over the course of several decades during the twentieth century, it is not feasible to reproduce or reconstruct the records’ original order. As such, our goals are as follows:

  • Arrange these cases within their designated subject categories in a manner that allows researchers and investigators to access them as efficiently as possible.
  • Provide a guide explaining how subject categories are organized and what they contain.

In this post, we will examine the subject category titled, “Militia.”


Militia contains records from 317 cases and spans primarily from 1777-1778, with a few records dating all the way back to 1712 or as late as 1783. Similar to Confiscated Estates and Loyalists, the vast majority of Militia cases—293 in total—are state prosecutions (under the title “Governor and Company”) against persons for failure to muster—that is, they did not appear when they were drafted to fight on the Patriot side of the American Revolution.

In addition, this category contains two cases where soldiers sued for nonpayment of wages and one case of profiteering. The remaining 21 records are a “miscellaneous” hodge-podge of documents removed from the original order of their cases, including bills of costs, court proceedings, lists or reports, warrants, and witness summons.

Here is a breakdown of the towns that defendants were (or presumed to be) from, and the nature of their prosecutions:

  • New Haven – 97 [87 failure to muster, 5 lists/reports, 2 wages, 1 profiteering, 1 court proceeding, 1 witness summons]
  • Wallingford – 80 [79 failure to muster, 1 list/report]
  • Waterbury – 53 [48 failure to muster, 3 lists/reports, 1 bills of cost, 1 writ]
  • Branford – 24 [failure to muster]
  • Cheshire – 20 [failure to muster]
  • Durham – 11 [10 failure to muster, 1 list/report]
  • Guilford – 11 [9 failure to muster, 2 lists/reports]
  • Milford – 7 [failure to muster]
  • Derby – 6 [failure to muster]
  • Meriden – 2 [failure to muster]
  • East Haven – 2 [1 warrant, 1 list/report]
  • Northbury – 2 [lists/reports]
  • West Haven – 1 [failure to muster]
  • Westbury – 1 [list/report]

This time, New Haven had the most failure to muster prosecutions, with Wallingford coming in a close second.

Militia “Miscellaneous”

multiple pages of paper with handwriting

Court papers from Castor Freeman vs. Waterbury and Watertown, March 1783

Given that the “miscellaneous” materials in Militia are a lot more robust than in Confiscated Estates and Loyalists, here is a brief summary of their contents.

Three court cases concerning matters other than failure to muster:

  • In December 1759, James Atwater Jr. and Henry Bates of New Haven, “two soldiers for the Service of the Wars for that Year” [1757], sued James Peck Jr., also of New Haven, for failure to pay their wages. Although the Court initially found for the plaintiffs and awarded them £10 in damages, the case was continued to the next session, where the Court ruled in favor of the defendant and awarded him the recovery of his court costs.
  • In April 1777, James Prescott of New Haven was prosecuted by the State of Connecticut “for selling a hogshead of Rum to Medad Beecher of s[ai]d New haven for the exorbitant price of twenty shillings per Gallon.” However, the Court ruled the information given was insufficient to support a judgment.
  • In March 1783, Castor Freeman, an African-descended man who was “lately a Servant to Marshall Todd of said New haven now a free Man and a Soldier in the Connecticut Line of the Continental Army,” sued the towns of Waterbury and Watertown for failing to pay his enlistment wages. When the County Court ruled in favor of defendants and awarded them the recovery of their court costs, Freeman appealed to Superior Court. We look forward to learning more about his quest for remuneration when we begin processing these records.

Sixteen lists or reports pertaining to militias or standing armies:

  • Sergeants in Captain John Hall’s company, New Haven, November 1712
  • Choice of sergeants in Captain Merriman’s company, Wallingford, November 1712
  • Sergeants to be established, Durham, May 1714
  • Sergeants in Captain Samuell Hill’s company, Guilford, November 1735
  • Sergeants in Captain Timothy Stone’s company, Guilford, November 1735
  • Captain Josiah Bradley’s return of those [who] refused to go on an expedition to New York, East Haven, August 1776
  • Captain Robert Brown’s return of those [who] refused going to New York, New Haven, August 1776
  • Captain Jared Hill’s/Hall’s return of neglects not marching to New York, New Haven, August 1776
  • Captain Noah Ives’ return of neglects that will not march to New York, New Haven, August 1776
  • Clerks certificate of soldiers who failed to muster, Waterbury, August 1776
  • Lieutenant Isaac Benham’s certified soldiers who failed to muster, Waterbury, August 1776
  • Captain Christopher Alling’s return of neglects/refuses to march to New York, New Haven, November 1776
  • Certificates of soldiers who failed to muster, Westbury, March-August 1776
  • Captain Nathanael Barns’ return of soldiers who failed to muster, Northbury, January 1777
  • Captain Jesse Curtis’ return of soldiers who failed to muster, Northbury, January 1777
  • Captain Thomas Fenn’s certificate of soldiers who failed to muster, Waterbury, March 1777

Five other types of documents:

  • Warrant for soldiers who failed to muster, East Haven, November 1757
  • Writs, grand juror complaints [regarding] soldiers, Waterbury, March 1777
  • Papers relating to delinquent soldiers, New Haven, April 1777
  • Witness summons for failure to muster prosecutions, New Haven, April 1777
  • Bills of costs, Tories cases, Waterbury, March-November 1778

Justifications Offered for Failure to Muster

two pages of paper with handwriting

Justification from Governor and Company vs. Nathaniel Ives Jr., September 1777.

Returning to the most common type of case in Militia, we have 28 instances of documentation for those who offered justification to the court for their failure to muster.

Twenty-three persons (including an individual who was prosecuted twice but is only counted once in the list below) pled illness, injury, or disability:

  • Jonah Cook (Waterbury) “was frequently exersised with a disorder which rendered him unable for labor he was exersised with frequent turns of vomiting so that he was confined to his bed for sum days together.” Verdict: not guilty.
  • Abner Doolittle (Wallingford) had “a R[h]eumatic Disorder in his knee... which Causeth it to Swel & brok[e].” Verdict: not guilty.
  • Enos Gunn (Waterbury) was attested to be “Sick and unfit for service” at the time he was called to muster. Verdict: not guilty.
  • Amasa Hall (Meriden) was attested to be “Not Fit to Serve” at the time he was called to muster. Verdict: not guilty.
  • Archibald Hall (Wallingford) “was Not Able [to] walk without A Staff At that Time when He was [drafted] And Two Month Afterward.” Verdict: not guilty.
  • Jonathan Handy (possibly from Guilford) was excused from service due to “the Circumstances of his Health & Constitution (having just, returned from a long & tedious Campain to the Northward, of upwards of a Year).” Verdict: not guilty.
  • Nathaniel Ives Jr. (Cheshire) was “very Sick with a [Dysentery] which Continued Sever[e] a long time & Finaly left him in a Very bad Steat of health.” Verdict: not guilty.
  • Eldad Parker (Wallingford) was “so far advanced in age and by reason of hard Labour and sundry fits of Sickness” that he was not “fit for to indure the hardships of a soldier in a Camppain.” Verdict: guilty, fined £10.
  • Edward Parker Jr. (Wallingford) was “haveing the Small Pox at the time of the date and was Not able to do Millatary Duty for Some time after.” Verdict: not guilty.
  • Simeon Scott (Waterbury) was “troubled With a Breach in his body from a Chhild” and “Lame of one of his feet by reason of a bad Cut in his foot which by turns is an open Sore & renders him unable to travil.” Verdict: guilty.
  • Samuel Seymour (Waterbury) “Complains of a Trembling at his Brest & feels we[a]k at his Stomack & Many Times Could Do No Labour for a day or Two & he goes often to Doctors for a Remedy & if he cant have a weak Diet it often makes him Sick.” Verdict: not guilty.
  • Nathaniel Silkrigg/Selkrigg (Waterbury) was prosecuted twice. The first time, he claimed “that he was lame at the Time” he was called to muster. The second time, he “complain[ed] of having the Rhumatism” and was “Limping about with a Staff and further.” First verdict: not guilty. Second verdict: guilty, fined £10.
  • Mark Spencer (Guilford), age 40, was “able to Labour in his Shop as a Smith” but was “not able to do any Labour in the field nor to endure any hardship as a Soldier” due to “Indisposition of Boddy & Tenderness of make.” Verdict: guilty, fined £10.
  • Abraham Stanton (Waterbury) “was at that time Unable to Mus[t]er and march on account of lameness.” Verdict: not guilty.
  • Josiah Talmage (Wallingford) was “by reason of Lameness in his Right Knee, the consequence of a Former dislocation he is unable to perform the Duties of a Soldier in Marching.” Verdict: not guilty.
  • Jared Tharp (Wallingford) was “by Indisposition of body he is Not fit for Marshall Service at Present.” Verdict: guilty, fined £10.
  • Benajah Thomas (New Haven) was incapable of “bearing Arms or performing the Duties of a Soldier by Reason of a long continue, increasing Weakness & deprivation of Sight.” Verdict: not guilty.
  • Nathaniel Thompkins (Waterbury) “was at that time unfit for s[ai]d Service on account of Sickness.” Verdict: not guilty.
  • Abner Tuttle (New Haven) was “By reason of a disorder in his Brest, was not Capable of doing the duty of a Soldier when Commanded.” Verdict: not guilty, dismissed without cost.
  • Ard Welton (Waterbury) was attested to be “Sick and unfit for s[ai]d Service.” Verdict: not guilty.
  • Nathan Woodward (Waterbury) “has Lost the use of his Right Eye by Reason of a Cataract and is in Danger of Loosing [yes, they actually spelled it this way!] the other by the Same Disorder.” Verdict: not guilty.
  • Henry Wooster (Waterbury) suffered from a “disorder [that] was then called the Rheumatism” and “was unable to do Millitary Service or to be Serviceable to himself, likewise his Wife was Unwell at that time.” Verdict: not guilty.

Two persons cited caregiver obligations:

  • Thaddeus Nettleton (Milford) “has been a great Sufferer in the Present War, having lost one Son in the Service, & another almost ruined by a long & Tedious Sickness, occasioned by his going into the Service” and “has a large & numerous Family to provide for, & himself not very able to perform the necessary Labour for their support.” Verdict: not guilty.
  • Samuel Stacy (Waterbury) was called to muster when “his wife being near Lying in and very averse to his going he Bargined with Ezra Prindle for the value of twenty Dolers... to be an able Bodyed man... not having any Body to leave the Care of his wife with.” Verdict: guilty.

Three persons claimed extenuating circumstances:

  • Nicholas Russel (Wallingford) was “a good fri[e]nd to the American Caus[e]” but was told “that he might go home about his Business” because “Matthias Hitchcock had turned out for the Class he Belonged to” in his stead. Verdict: not guilty.
  • Elisha Rice (Wallingford) was given “betwen forty & fifty Contenental Hides for to Tan... which if neglected at that Time would inevitibley be [ruined] as he had the whole Care of s[ai]d hid[es].” Verdict: guilty, fined £10.
  • John Wise, Constable of New Haven, was advised “to stay at Home for the imm[e]diate Service of the Town.” Verdict: guilty, fined £10.

For those keeping score (20 not guilty, 8 guilty), the Court ruled in favor of the defendants in the majority of these cases.

Militia vs. Confiscated Estates and Loyalists

To aid in the analysis of Militia and its comparison with Confiscated Estates and Loyalists, here is a table concerning cases, verdicts, and justifications for each category:



Confiscated Estates and Loyalists

Cases 317 117

Failure to Muster






Verdicts 317 117

Not Guilty






Unknown/Not Applicable



Justifications 28 17

Not Guilty






Interestingly, both subject categories contain similar types of cases, but the one with the more neutral descriptive title not only has a greater quantity of cases, but also a higher proportion of guilty verdicts (50-50 vs. 60-40). In addition, it appears that regardless of whether cases were classified as Militia or Loyalist, offering justification improved an individual’s odds of exoneration by the Court.

However, we only found one record with direct evidence of Loyalism in Militia—as opposed to seven in Confiscated Estates and Loyalists—which was the bills of costs labeled “Tories cases” (Waterbury, March-November 1778). But there were a handful of cases in Militia suggesting circumstantial evidence of Loyalism. Within the category, 12 persons were prosecuted more than once for failure to muster, which potentially demonstrates a pattern of draft resistance:

  • Joseph Collins, New Haven, 1777 Nov & 1778 Feb
  • Ephraim Doolittle, Cheshire, 1777 Apr & 1777 Sept
  • Henry Gibb, New Haven, 1777 Apr & 1777 Sept
  • John Morris, New Haven, 1777 Apr & 1777 Sept
  • Jesse Rice, Wallingford, 1777 Sept & 1778 Feb
  • Simeon Scott, Waterbury, 1777 Apr & 1778 Feb
  • Timothy Scovil/Scovill, Waterbury, 1777 Apr & 1777 Sept
  • Nathaniel Silkrigg/Selkrigg, Waterbury, 1777 Sept & 1778 Feb
  • Elisha Street, Wallingford, 1777 Sept & 1778 Feb
  • Joseph Tyler, Cheshire, 1777 Apr & 1778 Feb
  • David Way, Wallingford, 1777 Sept & 1778 Feb
  • Willoughby Williams, Wallingford, 1777 Sept & 1778 Feb

Ten persons had cases in both Militia and Confiscated Estates and Loyalists, which reveals a baffling inconsistency on the part of the catalogers who placed the records into these categories. Especially since several of these individuals are also listed in the State Library’s Loyalist Index:

  • Asahel Andrus, Cheshire, 1777 Apr [Militia], 1778 Feb [Loyalists]
  • Amos Atwater, Cheshire, 1777 Sept [Militia], 1778 Feb [Loyalists]
  • Samuel Barber, Waterbury, 1777 Sept [Militia], 1778 Mar [Loyalists]
  • David Bristol, New Haven, 1777 Apr [Militia], 1778 Feb [Loyalists]
  • Peter Frisbie/Frisby, Branford, 1777 Sept [Militia], 1778 Feb [Loyalists]
  • Noah Griswold, Guilford, 1777 Mar [Loyalists], 1777 Apr [Militia], 1778 Feb [Loyalists]
  • Alvarez Hopson, Wallingford, 1777 Apr [Militia], 1778 Feb [Loyalists]
  • Pennock Howd, Branford, 1777 Sept [Militia], 1778 Feb [Loyalists]
  • Eber Stone, Guilford, 1777 Mar [Loyalists], 1777 Apr [Militia]
  • John Stone, Guilford, 1777 Mar [Loyalists], 1777 Apr [Militia]

A Final Postscript

drawing of stick figure person juggling five puzzle pieces

Image courtesy of sOER Frank, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license, via Wikimedia Commons.

The New Haven County Court records can be likened to a jigsaw puzzle: one that was dismantled, separated into haphazard groups of pieces, and had entire sections that were either lost or discarded over the years. It is also important to remember that in addition to the State Library’s holdings on the legal history of the American Revolution, other organizations in Connecticut also house pieces of this puzzle.

While these records can never be reconstructed in their entirety, we are fortunate to be able to study, preserve, and enhance access to the segments that did survive. Here are additional resources for those who wish to investigate this topic further:

As noted in a previous post, the records for these cases, as well as several of the cases previously profiled in this blog, are currently in the process of being digitized. They will eventually be available for public viewing at the Connecticut Digital Archive (CTDA).

This project is made possible through funding from the Historic Documents Preservation fund of the Office of the Public Records Administrator. We also recognize the past support of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

logo of stylized book and color splashes representing each department with text: CT State Library Preserving the Past. Informing the Future. logo of eagle with text: National Archives National Historical Publications ampersand Records Commission

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