Military Figures

William Beaumont

William Beaumont (1785-1853) was born in Lebanon but moved to upstate New York with his family when he was a child. After teaching and shop-keeping, Beaumont apprenticed to a Vermont doctor and was licensed in June 1812. In September 1812 he volunteered as an army surgeon and served with the 6th US Infantry in General Dearborn’s aborted invasion of Canada. He also served during the attack on York, Canada, and the actions on the Niagara River, before being assigned to duty in military hospitals. Later he served in General Wilkinson’s expedition along the St. Lawrence and at the Battle of Plattsburg in September 1814. His journals offer much detail on military practices during the war. Beaumont resigned from the army in 1815 and practiced medicine at Plattsburg before rejoining the army in 1820. His observations on the visible digestive processes of a badly wounded voyageur, whom Beaumont treated at Mackinac, Michigan, in 1822, are considered the first American effort at the science of physiology. Dr. Beaumont later retired to St. Louis, where he died.



Henry Burbeck

Henry Burbeck (1754-1848), the son of a British artillery officer, was born in Boston and served with distinction as an artillery officer through the Revolutionary War. Discharged in 1784, Burbeck rejoined the army in 1786, commanding at West Point, serving in Georgia, commanding General Anthony Wayne’s artillery during the Northwest Indian War, 1792-94, overseeing American control of Fort Mackinac, Michigan, and commanding there, 1796-99, and serving as colonel of the Regiment of Artillerists, 1802-14. At the beginning of the War of 1812 he commanded the artillery defenses of New York Harbor. In June 1813 he arrived at New London as commander of the Second Military District to provide federal command over Connecticut militia. Since Connecticut claimed exclusive control of its own militia, Burbeck dismissed the militia on orders of the secretary of war in July, just as New London appeared on the verge of attack. Burbeck then requested a temporary force from Governor Smith. Burbeck was able to work with state and militia officers until 1814, when he was transferred and replaced by Jacob Kingsbury. Burbeck retired from the army in June 1815 and settled in New London, where he remained a close friend of Captain Charles Bulkeley for more than 30 years.



Thomas Humphrey Cushing

Thomas H. Cushing (1755-1822) was born in Massachusetts and served as an officer in that state’s forces through the Revolutionary War. In 1791 Cushing was commissioned in the US Infantry, serving as the army’s adjutant general and inspector general through much of the period 1798-1813. He was promoted to brigadier general in 1812. He was assigned to replace Jacob Kingsbury in command of the forces in Connecticut in July 1814. He retired from the army in 1815, and upon Jedediah Huntington’s retirement he became the New London collector of customs. He died at New London in 1822.





Samuel G. Goodrich

Samuel Griswold Goodrich (1793-1860) was born in Ridgefield and worked in stores in Danbuy and Hartford until 1811. As a militiaman, Goodrich was on duty at Groton for two months in the summer of 1813, an experience he recounted in his memoir, Recollections of a Lifetime (1857). After the war Goodrich became a bookseller and publisher in Hartford before moving to Boston, where he published the magazines The Token and Merry’s Museum, and many books, including Illustrated History of the Animal Kingdom. He wrote children’s books under the name Peter Parley. Goodrich served in Massachusetts government and was appointed US consul to France, 1851 to 1853.





Jeremiah Holmes and wife

Jeremiah Holmes (1782-1872) was born in what is now North Stonington and spent several years with relatives in Norwich, New York, after his father died. He went to sea in 1800, was imprisoned when the ship he was in traded illegally on the coast of Brazil, returning home by way of Lisbon. After a West Indies voyage he sailed on a whaling voyage to the west coast of South America, then joined a British whaler. A French privateer captured the whaler, and in July 1804 Holmes ended up on the island of St. Helena and was impressed aboard HMS Trident. After three years on HMS Saturn and several other British warships, where he learned to handle cannons, Holmes escaped and returned to America in 1807. He settled in Mystic and married Ann Denison (1784-1873) in 1809. He then engaged in transatlantic trade and coasting trade on the Southern coast, sometimes as mate under Captain Simeon Haley. In June 1813, Holmes helped arm the grounded sloop Victory in the Mystic River and drive off attacking British barges. In March 1814 Holmes commanded the private armed boat Young Hornet, which made unsuccessful attempts to attack HMS Endymion and La Hogue with torpedoes (floating mines) off New London, and later in Vineyard Sound. With the support of his wife, he also managed the guns of the defensive battery on Pistol Point in Mystic. During the Battle of Stonington, he arrived on the second day and assumed command of the two 18-pound cannons defending the village, driving off British barges and severely damaging HMS Dispatch. When Mystic celebrated peace in February 1815, Ann Denison Holmes loaded and fired a cannon to remind the men of the women’s contributions. After the war, Jeremiah Holmes owned and commanded many vessels out of Mystic.


William Hull

William Hull (1753-1825) was born in Derby and graduated from Yale College in 1772, then studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1775. He served with distinction as an officer during the Revolutionary War. After the war he moved to Massachusetts. In light of his Democratic-Republican politics, President Thomas Jefferson appointed Hull as governor of the Michigan Territory in 1805. Hull negotiated the purchase of much Indian land, which increased Tecumseh’s militancy in the west. Early in 1812 Hull was ordered to raise a combined militia and Regular Army force to occupy Fort Detroit for a possible invasion of Canada. The British received news of the outbreak of war before Hull did and were prepared for Hull’s invasion. Learning of the fall of Fort Mackinac, and facing an apparently overwhelming force of British and Indians threatening massacre, Hull retreated to Fort Detroit, then surrendered it without firing a shot on August 16, 1812. A court martial convicted Hull of neglect of duty and cowardice and sentenced him to be shot—the only US general sentenced to death. President Madison pardoned him, and he retired to Massachusetts where he attempted to justify his actions. William Hull was Captain Isaac Hull’s uncle and adoptive father.



Jirah Isham (1778-1842) was born at Colchester and graduated from Yale College in 1797. Admitted to the bar in 1800, he began practicing law in New London. As a major general of Connecticut militia, he commanded the state troops at New London. Isham later served as New London mayor.


Jacob Kingsbury (1755-1837) was born at Norwich and joined the army in the 1780s. By 1808 he was colonel of the 1st US Infantry. Because he was stationed at Fort Detroit in 1812, Kingsbury was ordered to raise a force to support William Hull’s invasion of Canada. However, Kingsbury was ill in the east and could not participate in what turned into Hull’s embarrassing surrender of Detroit. Kingsbury returned to service in the west until he was reassigned to Connecticut to replace Henry Burbeck as federal commander over Connecticut militia. As a Connecticut native and Federalist, Kingsbury had good relations with Connecticut militia officers, but in the summer of 1814 he was replaced by the more senior Brigadier General Thomas Cushing. Kingsbury was discharged from the army as it contracted in size after the war, and he retired to Missouri.


General Henry Leavenworth

Henry Leavenworth (1783-1834) was born at New Haven but moved with his father to Vermont as a child. He read law and practiced in upstate New York before taking a commission in the US Army in April 1813. Leavenworth and his well-trained troops fought bravely at Chippewa Plain and Lundy’s Lane during General Winfield Scott’s invasion across the Niagara River in July 1814. After the war Leavenworth remained in the army and was assigned to the west, where he became an interpreter and negotiator with the Plains Indians. In 1823 he commanded the American forces in the Arikara War, the first conflict with the Plains Indians. In 1827 he established the post that is now Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Henry Leavenworth died after falling from his horse during a buffalo hunt, four days before news of his promotion to general arrived.




Peter Buell Porter

Peter Buell Porter (1773-1844) was born at Salisbury and graduated from Yale College in 1791. After studying law at Litchfield, he moved to upstate New York where he practiced law, engaged in local politics, and served on the Erie Canal Commission. Elected to Congress as a Democratic-Republican, 1809 to 1813, he was one of the “war hawks” who pushed for the declaration of war. During the war he served as quartermaster-general of the New York militia and then raised a brigade of militia, including a contingent of Iroquois, which he commanded skillfully at the battles of Chippewa Plain, Lundy’s Lane, and Fort Erie, for which he received a gold medal from Congress. In January 1815 Secretary of War James Monroe had him prepare to suppress any violence that might arise in New England as a result of the Hartford Convention. After the war he served on the commission to affirm the boundary between the US and Canada. He served briefly as US secretary of war, 1828-29, before retiring to his home along the Niagara River, where he died.



Amos Stoddard (1762-1813) was born in Woodbury and served as an artilleryman in the Continental Army late in the Revolutionary War. After the war he studied law and practiced in Massachusetts. In 1798 Stoddard returned to the army and received a commission as an artillery officer. In 1804, after the Louisiana Purchase, he served as the first civilian and military commandant of Upper Louisiana. Promoted to major in 1807, Stoddard then revised the army’s drill manual for artillery, which he completed in 1810. Serving as an artillery commander in the west, Stoddard helped build and arm Fort Meigs on the Maumee River in Ohio. During the first British siege of the fort, on May 1, 1813, Stoddard was wounded by an exploding shell while commanding the fort’s artillery. He died four days later.


William Trumbull Williams (1788-1870), the son of William Williams, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and a grandson of Governor John Trumbull, was born at Norwich. He became a prominent shipping merchant and militia officer in Norwich. By 1812 he was general of militia in southeastern Connecticut, and he ordered out militia reinforcements during the threat to New London in 1813 and the Battle of Stonington in 1814. After the war he was a prominent supporter of religious and philanthropic efforts, including the founding of Norwich Free Academy and a church mission to the Mohegans.