Before we leave the subject of Jonathan Hosmers and their roles during the Revolutionary War, we have one more issue to clear up. The youngest Jonathan was remembered on his sister’s gravestone in Woodlawn Cemetery with the statement that he “died at Bennington in ye Servis of his Country In the 18th year of his age.” The easy assumption from the wording of the gravestone is that he was killed at the Battle of Bennington. That, however, could not have been what happened.
Jonathan Hosmer served in Captain George Minott’s company, Colonel Samuel Bullard’s regiment. (Our previous blog post discussed finding sources of information and the difficulty of distinguishing his service from his father’s.) Jonathan enlisted in Massachusetts on August 16, 1777, the day that the Battle of Bennington occurred. Jonathan’s service lasted until October 1, and his pay included 9 days’ travel home, so he clearly was not killed in the battle. One website lists Jonathan Hosmer as having been at Saratoga (apparently based on the fact that Bullard’s regiment went there after Vermont). Was that possible?
To answer that question, we tried to learn more about Captain Minott’s 1777 company. It had been formed in response to an order from the Massachusetts legislature on August 9, 1777 that the towns needed to provide a sixth of their “Able-Bodied Men in the Training Band and Alarm List, now at home” to reinforce the Continental Army. The order stipulated that if men refused to serve, they would be forced to. In the following week, a number of men volunteered for a three-month tour of duty (either because they wanted to or they expected to be drafted). The towns filled the rest of their quota with draftees. Existing records give us no way to distinguish volunteers from draftees. Seventeen-year-old Jonathan Hosmer’s name was on the Acton draft list drawn up by Simon Hunt and among those who joined the company of Captain George Minot/Minott of Concord. Also in the company were Jonathan’s uncle Jonas Hosmer, two years his senior, and others from Acton, Concord, and surrounding towns.
Captain Minott’s Company was part of Col. Samuel Bullard’s Regiment, also known as the Fifth Middlesex County Militia. A useful article by Edward A. Hoyt and Ronald F. Kingsley in Vermont History (2007, Volume 75, No. 2) described the activities of the Massachusetts three-month militia put under the command of General Benjamin Lincoln, (approximately 2,000 men in September, 1777, joined by about 500 soldiers from Vermont and New Hampshire). According to the article, the men gathered in Bennington, Vermont. Some were left on guard duty there while the rest of General Lincoln’s men were moved to Pawlet, Vermont around September 8. In mid-September, the men were divided up, and three groups of 500 were sent on expeditions to “divide and distract” General Burgoyne’s army by attacking the detachments left to guard the British supply line up to Canada. Because speed and surprise were necessary, the groups sent out were not complete regiments; experienced soldiers were mixed with the “inexperienced and less disciplined men.” Records do not seem to list exactly who went and who stayed behind, so we cannot tell whether Jonathan Hosmer went out with one of the expeditions or served on guard duty in Bennington or Pawlet. Most of the men moved on to join General Gates at Stillwater/Saratoga, some around September 22 and others after the expeditions returned to Pawlet at the end of September. Given the timing of his discharge and assuming he did indeed die in Bennington, Jonathan Hosmer probably would not have been among them, though it is possible that he was discharged elsewhere and was on his return trip when he died there.
Jonathan Hosmer was discharged before others in the company; it is likely that he was released early due to illness but died before he could get home. Perhaps Jonas Hosmer, discharged a few days after Jonathan, carried home the news. One can imagine the impact on the family. (It is not surprising that Jonathan’s father, who would have known too well about the effect of war service on those left behind, was chosen later in the war to serve on a committee to provide for soldiers’ families.) There do not seem to be any extant records about Jonathan’s death and burial. Fortunately, his relatives made sure that he was remembered. In 1783, when the family lost Jonathan’s married sister Submit, her gravestone was inscribed with a memorial to Jonathan’s service and his death away from his home.
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