hen studying our family history a common thread is present. Wherever and whenever you look there is almost always a war going on, from the wars of Europe and America in the seventeenth century to the wars of the present day. The calendar seldom says "peace today" and even when it does there is preparation for war. The truth of this is expressed amply in our family history as it is in every other. Our New England ancestors and relatives were in nearly every war I have researched . The Connors' and the Harrisons came to the United States in the mid 1800s so our American history of those families starts there. The others go all the way back to the 1600s in early America.
Two important wars took place in Northeastern America in the seventeenth century; the Pequot War (1636 ) and King Philip's War
(1675 - 76 ) and in both the combatants were settlers on one side and Native American tribes on the other, with one caveat; the Native tribes sometimes joined with the settlers to fight other tribes with whom they had quarrels. William Filley and John Evarts were Connecticut settlers then and undoubtedly took part in these wars. Many Everts ancestors were participants and casualties of King Philip's war. Henry Lyon came in 1650 and so was probably not involved deeply until he moved to Newark in what eventually became New Jersey and soon entered into conflict there.
The Pequot War, the first of the two conflicts, resulted in the virtual extermination of the tribe of that name, but, as I have said, the settlers did not fight alone; they were aided by members of the Poquonock tribe who were being persecuted by the Pequot, so it was not just white against Indian. There were many animosities and frequent raids and clashes among the Native American tribes. The mixed alliance of Indians and colonists was also true in King Philip's War. King Philip is the European name of the chief of the Naragannset tribe who united several tribes against the settlers. His Indian name was Metacom and he was a man determined to be reckoned with and to defend his and his tribes' land and rights.
In both these conflicts the white men were not members of an organized army but rather of a kind of posse comutatis brought together to defend their settlements and led by men like John Smith who had military training. Perhaps because of their lack of discipline, or because they were defending their wives, children, and land, or a combination of both, both sides were ruthless in war. Many in those days did not consider the Indians as fully human, and because of that prejudice "non-Christian" behavior was common, especially in the King Philip's War where native captives were regulary betrayed by those who had made promises to them and were either hung or sold into slavery in the West Indies. The Indians, it must be said, were equally brutal in their treatment of the settlers and killing was not confined to combatants; everyone was vulnerable. During King Phillip's War settlements and farms were burnt and settlers massacred in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Likewise, whole Native villages were wiped out. So, it was an up close and personal kind of war when consequences were immediate and could easily involve the death of whole families, not just soldiers. Unlike European wars which were at that time still confined to limited objectives, these American wars were for survival. Nathaniel Philbrick in his book Mayflower brilliantly pulls together all the various strands and plots that were in place in early New England and dispels notions we may have preconceived from our early schooling; challenging us to view the cast of characters of that time as more typically human than early myths have shown them.
In time, native tribes were driven back or exterminated and Europeans moved west settling new towns, developing trade and clearing more and more land for agriculture. Conflict arose as settlers reached west and contacted French influence on the other side of the Appalachian Mountains. In Europe, France and Britain were engaged in the Seven Years War which then spilled over into America and is known here as the French and Indian War (1754 - 1763). It was during this time that Simon Barnet stowed away on his uncle's ship, a French privateer. That ship was captured by a British ship of the line and taken to Philadelphia, allowing Simon to settle there. His story is told more extensively in another place.
Our Scots - Irish ancestors were not great friends of the British and the war took place further west than the settlements of our British ancestors. Nevertheless, we have some evidence of Crossetts delivering supplies to the army. No combat evidence is available in the various militias called to help the regular army.
Crossetts had bought land in the Hudson River Valley in what was called Turner's Patent. Before they could take possession, war ravaged the area and it was not until after hostilities had ceased that owners could take possession. By that time a few years had passed and sons of the new owners took the land their fathers had bought. The Crossetts were among these early western movers into what is now Vermont and Northern New York.
Soon after this the dissatisfaction of the colonists with their English government came to a head and the die was finally cast when the Declaration of Independence was forwarded to Great Britain. All of our ancestors who were in the country at that time chose sides. Crossetts, Everts, Philleys, Lyons, and other extended families took up arms. I know of two Crossetts, Benjamin of Johnstown and Elihu of Rhinebeck, who remained loyal to the crown and emigrated to Canada. There are Crossett families in Canada today descended from them. All the others joined militia regiments or the regular Continental Army, or sometimes both as their short militia enlistments were up, and they rejoined or moved to State Regiments. As has been discussed in another place, Daniel Everts enlisted as a private and rose through the ranks to become a Lieutenant in the staff of General Putnam. Massachusetts documents record twelve different Crossetts as having served in various regiments, including our direct ancestor Jacob who served in the company of Daniel Shays in the regiment of Colonel Rufus Putnam, a different Putnam from the one just mentioned. Jacob was captured at the Battle of Monmouth but apparently was exchanged because later he is listed as present at Valley Forge in the terrible winter of 1778. New York records show eight different Crossetts in the war, one of them another Benjamin. Simon Barnet was ship's carpenter aboard several privateers during the war and one of the last ships captured by his vessel was the British warship Lion.
Of course, in the line of duty, men sometimes die and some are reported dead when it is not so. One such of the latter was Samuel Crossett who was reported dead after a battle but was later known to have returned home and fathered several children. As Mark Twain said after seeing his obituary in a newspaper, "reports of my death were greatly exaggerated." Sam would agree. This Sam was also reported once as "absent for innoculation". Smallpox ravaged soldiers on both sides and even at this early date efforts were made to innoculate for it. The innoculation was to give the person a less lethal disease; cow pox, survival from which gave immunity to reinfection and to Smallpox as well.
Perhaps three members of the Crossett family died in the Revolution. I say perhaps because the fine details are not known and there may be a duplicate. For instance the original settler Robert Crossett had a son named Stephen born in 1753. He is reported as having died in the Army on September 29, 1776. The Battle of Harlem Heights took place on September 16, 1776 and was a rare early American victory. Stephen could have been wounded in that fight and died later or he may have died of disease; a common occurance.
Another Crossett died near Johnstown, New York and his story is told by Sims in his book Trappers of New York. We see here the animosity and ferocity of the Highland Scots fighting for the British against many Scots-Irish in America:
" On the morning of October 25, 1781, a large body of the enemy under Major Ross, entered Johnstown with several prisoners, and not a little plunder; among which was a number of human scalps taken the afternoon and night previous, in settlements in and adjoining the Mohawk Valley; to which was added the scalp of Hugh McMonts, a constable, who was surprised and killed as they entered Johnstown. In the course of the day the troops from the garrisons near and militia from the surrounding country, rallied under the active and daring Willett, and gave the enemy battle on the Hall farm, in which the latter were finally defeated with loss, and made good their retreat into Canada. Young Scarborough was then in nine months service, and while the action was going on, himself and one Crosset left the Johnstown fort where they were on garrison duty to join the fight less than two miles distant. Between the Hall (farm) and woods they soon found themselves engaged. Crosset after shooting down one or two, received a bullet through one hand, but winding a handkerchief around it he continued the fight under cover of a hemlock stump. He was shot down and killed there, and his companion surrounded and made prisoner by a party of Scotch (Highlanders), troops commanded by Captain McDonald. When Scarborough was captured, Captain McDonald was not present, but the moment he saw him he ordered his men to shoot him down. Several refused; but three, shall I call them men? obeyed the dastardly order, and yet he possibly would have survived his wounds, had not the miscreant in authority cut him down with his own broadsword. The sword was caught in its first descent, and the valiant captain drew it out, cutting the hand nearly in two."
Remembrance Philley served throughout the war and his exploits are traced in his own story. During the war his first wife and two children died, apparently in a fire of unknown cause. Dozens of other relatives were soldiers in this war and are not counted here for lack of resources to document them all. The Daughters of the American Revolution have done a wonderful job in preserving records of many soldiers and their families. Such records are available on-line and from various archives. The hardships suffered by these people in gaining their, and our, independence can only be appreciated at a distance but even at that, it is awe inspiring. Men were away from their homes and farms for months at a time and women were left to fend for their family by taking on the tasks of plowing, milking, harvesting, and all the hard work of farming while also raising children, usually several children. Hannah Philley had four under the age of five. Fortunate was the family who had older children who could take some responsibility for part of the load.
Indeed unfortunate were those whose homes were in the line of fire. Women and children were not spared in the heat of battle, and everything could be lost, leaving the family in very dire circumstances. This was true, not only for the patriot families but also for those who remained loyal to the King. They were driven from their land, killed, and pillaged by the patriot forces and were also called upon by the British to supply soldiers and labor whether they wanted to remain neutral or not. In the south, many slave holding loyalists lost everything they had; their slaves were freed by the British and transported to Canada to resettle along with their former masters. In many ways it prefigured the Civil War which was to follow in a short seventy years. But, before that came the War of 1812, which, if it was not so serious, might almost be seen as a farce.
Fairly fresh from the headiness of new won independence, many American politicians and soldiers eyed the great country to the north that had been recently taken from France by Great Britain. They saw the resources and the relatively sparse defenses of that country and thought making it part of the United States would be possible and profitable. Britain, struggling in Europe with Napolean, were stretched thin. Their navy was very much in need of sailors and so they made the decision to "reclaim" any British citizen found on other ships. This referred mainly to American ships on which, in fact, many British tars shipped rather than "take the King's shilling" or deserted in some neutral port. In a sense, the British Admiralty had a right to claim these men, but Captains frequently behaved arrogantly and often took sailors who were not British just to fill up their crews. This, naturally, infuriated the Americans and bad blood resulted. The interests of wealthy merchants were at stake on both sides and, as is usually the case throughout history, the common soldier and sailor were made to feel their frustration as people called for action against the "insults to their sovereignty". Finally, a British frigate attacked and sank an American merchant ship that refused to be searched. American lives were lost and the public were outraged. Although the British eventually withdrew many of the troublesome orders, impressment was not stopped. The United States declared war and a raid was made on Troy, now Toronto, in Canada. Damage was done but there was no hope of keeping possession and the troops withdrew. This raid in particular led to the later assault on Washington and Baltimore in which British forces burned many public buildings and sent the President and his cabinet scurrying for cover.
The United States did much better on the water. Both at sea and on the lakes the U.S. Navy surprised the British with their equipment, their courage, and their markesmanship. British command of the seas was legendary and the Admiralty and public opinion were each taken aback by the setbacks suffered by their navy. This was the time when the famous U.S.S Constitution (Old Ironsides) was built along with four others just like her. They dominated the action at sea.
Captain Oliver Hazard Perry is remembered for his prowess in fighting on the Great Lakes where, although the ships were smaller, the action was very fierce and death just as final.
Once free of the fight with Napoleon, Britain had more time to apply to the fight with America. Fortunately, they did not have the money. Parliament and a people sick of wartime privation and taxes pressured to find a means of ending the conflict which was done on 24 December 1814 by the Treaty of Ghent. Tragically, news was not quick to travel and British forces; veterans of the Napoleanic war, attacked New Orleans after the treaty was signed, and were very soundly defeated with great loss of life on the British side and almost none on the American.
One product of this war was the National Anthem the lyrics of which Francis Scott Key wrote after observing the unsuccessful British siege of Baltimore. Another was the rising to national attention of Andrew Jackson, hero and commander at New Orleans, and soon to be President. We know that, Connors ancestor Colonel Aranthes Everts served in the war as commander of a fort in the Northwest. The grave of Anthony Blackmar, a Philley ancestor, is marked with a War of 1812 marker. He would have been only a teenager at the time.
The 1840s saw what must be called our most aggressive war begun in order to expand the United States. The U.S. started the Mexican War by violating a previous treaty agreement. No nation could ingnore such a breach and Mexico did not ignore it. I have no records of any Crossetts or other family members in this war. It is mostly known as the training ground for many future Civil War officers such as Robert E. Lee, Ullyses Grant, and others. Of course, not long after this war the uneasy truce between northern and slave holding states broke down and in April 1861 war broke out, not to be done until 600,000 young men had died. Many of our relatives were involved but I can concentrate only on the Crossetts in this space. Records of service for both sides are available on line for those who want to pursue a particular name.
I have record of fifty-eight Crossetts; nineteen confederate and thirty-nine union who fought in the war. Some names are duplicated as men joined different regiments after enlistment in one expired. This is probably not an exhaustive list as Eric S. Crossett is not on it although we know he served.
We know that several southern Crossett families placed great stock in Confederate values and some were slave holders. In one instance it proved very costly to a civilian Crossett, James Paisley Crossett, a farmer and slave holder in Clay County Missouri He was a second generation Crossett and son of a prominent family. With the breakdown of the Confederacy some leaders, fearing for their lives and fortunes decided to leave the country. General Joseph Shelby and General Sterling Price, former Governor of Missouri, were among them. As they fled they were sheltered and fed by James. James' slaves informed the local Union detachment of this and James, given a drumhead trial, was stood against his barn and shot for "harboring the enemy." This left his wife, pregnant and with six children under ten, on a farm with freed slaves. Both Generals Shelby and Price escaped with their men to Mexico where they were rejected for service under Emperor Maximillian who was soon overthrown. Both men later returned to Missouri and took up their lives. Unfortunately, James could not take up his.
The war begun by us against Spain in 1898 can only be described as bogus. Although said to have been started by the Spanish blowing up the battleship Maine in Havana harbor, that accidental tragedy was only used as a convenient excuse for war and to further the policy of those in power to colonize like their European neighbors and expand their commercial interests. There was also a group who wanted Cuba as a state of the union. Just before the Civil War it was touted as a possible new slave state. I can find only two Crossetts engaged in this war, one from California and one from Florida, neither closely related. Action lasted only for a year but was followed by years of harsh and brutal supression of the Phillipine natives whom their then Governor William Taft called "our little brown brothers." These same, very resilient, people were to be crucial to America's victory in the Phillipines only forty years later.
Cuban history just after the war is very interesting. Our late cousin Marcia Hambrick Olshan, has written a wonderful oral history of the time when Seth and Marcia Crossett Smalley and their daughter Eva Smalley Hambrick and husband John and others settled in Cuba and worked to start a citrus growing operation. Hopefully this history will be included in the website shortly.
World War One followed quickly. In America 24 Million men registered for the draft, over 1,100 of whom were Crossetts. How many actually fought is hard to pin down, but we know of one from our family, James Augustus Crossett, my uncle Jim.
He rose to the rank of Sergeant and fought in Europe in 1918 when The United States joined the effort. He was a talented electrician and machinist and I remember vividly the time he took me to the basement where he had a lathe and in no time turned out a top for me made of steel that spun, it seemed, forever.
It is with this war that my military history will stop. Most of the people who read this will know their ancestors who took part in the several wars since WWI. They are many and I thank them all for their service.