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Last Survivors Of The Revolution
In the misty memories of six centenarians recorded in 1864, the great war lives again
April 1958 | Volume 9, Issue 3
Mr. Hutchings’ connection with the war of the Revolution was but limited. He enlisted at the age of fifteen for the coast defense of his own state; and this was the only service in which he was engaged during the war. The only fighting which he saw was at the siege of Castine, where he was taken prisoner; but the British, declaring it a shame to hold as prisoner one so young, promptly released him. …
The father of Mr. Hutchings had … in 1768 removed with his family from York to Penobscot, being one of the earliest settlers there. … They were finally beginning to live comfortably when the British took possession of the neighboring town of Castine, and drove his father from his home, who fled with his family to Newcastle, where he abode till the close of the war, while William remained to fight the foe. … Mr. Hutchings has been throughout life an early riser and a hard worker; not particularly regular in his habits. He smokes regularly, and uses spirituous liquors moderately. His mind is still vigorous, though his body is feeble. He is deeply interested in the present conflict. Speaking of General Grant and his prospects of success in his campaign against Richmond, he concluded by saying, “Well, I know two old folks up here in Maine who are praying for him.”
Lemuel Cook is the oldest survivor of the Revolution. He lives in the town of Clarendon (near Rochester), Orleans county, New York. His age is one hundred and five years.
Mr. Cook was born in Northbury, Litchfield county, Connecticut, September 10, 1759. He enlisted at Cheshire, in that state, when only sixteen years old, served through the war, and was discharged in Danbury, June 12, 1784. The circumstances of his service he relates as follows:
“The first time I smelt gunpowder was at Valentine’s Hill (West Chester, New York). A troop of British horse were coming. ‘Mount your horses in a minute,’ cried the colonel. I was on mine as quick as a squirrel. There were two fires—crash! Up came Darrow, good old soul! and said, ‘Lem, what do yon think of gunpowder? Smell good to you?’
“The first time I was ordered on sentry was at Dobbs’ Ferry. A man came out of a barn and leveled his piece and fired. I felt the wind of the ball. A soldier near me said, ‘Lem, they mean you; go on the other side of the road.’ So I went over; and pretty soon another man came out of the barn and aimed and fired. He didn’t come near me. Soon another came out and fired. His ball lodged in my hat. By this time the firing had roused the camp, and a company of our troops came on one side, and a party of the French on the other; and they took the men in the barn prisoners, and brought them in. This was the first time I saw the French in operation. They stepped as though on edge. They were a dreadful proud nation. When they brought the men in, one of them … told how they had each laid out a crown, and agreed that the one who brought me down should have the three. When he got through with his story, I stepped to my holster and took out my pistol, and walked up to him and said, ‘If I’ve been a mark to you for money, I’ll take my turn now. So, deliver your money, or your life!’ He handed over four crowns, and I got three more from the other two.”
Mr. Cook was at the battle of Brandywine and at Cornwallis’ surrender. Of the latter he gives the following account: “It was reported Washington was going to storm New York. … Baron Steuben was mustermaster. He had us called out to select men and horses fit for service. When he came to me, he said, ‘Young man, how old are you?’ I told him. ‘Be on the ground to-morrow morning at nine o’clock,’ said he. … We marched off towards White Plains. Then ‘left wheel,’ and struck right north. Got to King’s Ferry, below Tarrytown. There were boats, scows, &c. We went right across into the Jerseys. … Then we were in Virginia. There wasn’t much fighting. Cornwallis tried to force his way north to New York; but fell into the arms of LaFayette, and he drove him back. We were on a kind of side hill. We had plaguey little to eat and nothing to drink under heaven. We hove up some brush to keep the flies off. Washington ordered that there should be no laughing at the British; said it was bad enough to have to surrender without being insulted. The army were paraded on a great smooth lot, and there they stacked their arms, Then came the devil—old women, and all (camp followers). One said, ‘I wonder if the d—d Yankees will give me any bread.’ The horses were starved out. Washington turned out with his horses and helped ‘em up the hill. When they see the artillery, they said, ‘There, them’s the very artillery that belonged to Burgoyne.’ Greene come from the southard: the awfullest set you ever see. Some, I should presume, had a pint of lice on ‘em. No boots nor shoes.”
The old man’s talk is very broken and fragmentary. He recalls the past slowly, and with difficulty; his articulation, also, is very imperfect; but when he has fixed his mind upon it, all seems to come up clear. … He has voted the Democratic ticket since the organization of the government, supposing that it still represents the same party that it did in Jefferson’s time. The old man’s health is comfortably good. Altogether, he is a noble old man; and long may it yet be before his name shall be missed from the roll of his country’s deliverers.