Thursday, December 28, 2006

Chapter 8 - Hammond/Tubbs Family History

Lebbeus Hammond
Revolutionary War Soldier &
Indian Fighter

Lebbeus Hammond is my great (x5)grandfather on my grandmother’s side of the family. Great grandpa Lebbeus was without any doubt one of the most interesting of my ancestors. His family was among America’s earliest pioneer families. Lebbeus fought in the American Revolutionary War along side his father, his grandfather, his brother, his father-in-law and brother-in-law, and his friends and neighbors. They fought for their land; they fought against the weather and against disease, and they fought the British and the Indians. As you will soon see, we are fortunate that Lebbeus Hammond survived these many hardships. This is his story.

Lebbeus Hammond was born in 1754 in the Town of New London, Connecticut. His great-great-grand grandfather Thomas Hammond, Jr. had emigrated from England to America with his parents, brothers and sisters in 1636. Lebbeus’s father and grandfather had lived and worked their farm in the New London area since the early 1700s. By the time that Lebbeus Hammond was born, his family had lived in America for 118 years.

In 1753, an association was formed in Connecticut, called the Susquehanna (Land) Company, the object of which was to plant a colony in the Wyoming Valley (on the Susquehanna River near the present day City of Wilkes-Barrie, Pennsylvania), a region claimed by Connecticut by virtue of an ancient but somewhat questionable Charter granted to it by the English Crown in the 1600s. As it goes, this same land was also claimed by Pennsylvania under a Charter granted to William Penn. This dispute over the land was to lead later to numerous small battles between these two factions until it was finally settled in the courts in 1800.

In February 1769, the Susquehanna Company finally sent its first group of forty Connecticut settlers into the Wyoming Valley. They were followed in the spring of 1769 by another two hundred families and over the next few years the tiny settlement more than doubled its population of Connecticut borne Yankees. It was sometime during this period of 1769 to 1773 that the entire Hammond family immigrated to the Wyoming Valley in northeastern Pennsylvania. The fertile farm land in the valley was expansive and available and obviously attractive to a farming family from Connecticut where new farm land was becoming scarce and unaffordable. Unfortunately, the Pennsylvanians who lived primarily in southeastern Pennsylvania from Philadelphia to Lancaster County, were very upset with Connecticut’s claim to what they considered was their land. What resulted was a series of armed conflicts between the two groups lasting from 1770 until the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. This period of armed skirmishes is referred to by historians as the Pennanite-Yankee Wars. While there were no major battles fought during this period, it is likely that Lebbeus Hammond’s father and his father-in-law, Lebbeus Tubbs, were involved in some of these skirmishes. They were of course, farmers fighting as militia to protect their land. They were not trained military personnel. The outbreak of the Revolutionary War put a stop to everything, as the people and governments of both colonies had matters of much greater importance to attend to than disputes about inconsiderable settlements.

In 1776, at the start of the Revolutionary War, Lebbeus Hammond was only twenty-two years old. He was married to Lucy (Polly) Tubbs who was four years his junior. They had one child, Polly, who was about eight years old. Lucy’s father, Lebbeus Tubbs (age 46), her brothers, Samuel (age 21) and Lebbeus, Jr. (age 14), and her grandfather, Samuel Tubbs (age 77) were farmers in the Wyoming Valley. Lebbeus Hammond’s father, Amariah (age 57), also lived and farmed in the valley with his family as did Lebbeus’s two brothers, Dudley (age 19) and Jason (age 9.) They were all to be involved in the Revolutionary War and it was to change their lives forever.

At first, the war seemed to be of little consequence to this Wyoming Valley community that now numbered nearly three thousand. They were united in thought and action in their support of the new Continental Congress, but at first it seemed that the war would pass them by. However, by the end of 1776, companies of able bodied men in the community were being formed and sent to join other troops on the Connecticut line fighting with General Washington. From what I have been able to determine, none of the Hammond’s or Tubbs’ joined these troop companies that were sent out of the area in late 1776. There is evidence that Lebbeus Tubbs, Jr. eventually fought with the Connecticut militia, although it seems unlikely that he enlisted as early as 1776 at the age of only 14. The departure of the two companies of able bodied men, a total of 162 men, left the community almost defenseless. Suspicion and fear of Tories in the area now forced the community to start building defensive forts in the various Wyoming Valley communities along the river. Forty Fort, named after the original forty settlers, was strengthened and enlarged during this period. This was to be the fort in which the settlers of Wyoming Valley were to retire in the event of an attack.

In the summer of 1777, the Indians of the Tribes of the Six Nations receded from their agreement of neutrality and joined into the service of the forces of the King to fight against the Americans. This was a serious matter for the people living in the Valley of Wyoming. They were isolated on the western border of the colonies only miles from Indian country. Indians had been a problem for the Americans in the area long before the founding of this Connecticut colony. The early settlers had after all, chased the Indians away from their ancestral lands and the tribes were ready to raise the war-cry, and satiate their appetites for vengeance, rapine and blood. With the start of the war and the combining of the British and the Indians forces, the threat to their community was real and imminent. The Seneca Indians, the most dreaded of the Iroquois Tribes, were massed in force in an area in what is now part of Elmira, New York along the Chemung River. In June of 1778, the Indians were joined by a force of British troops and Tories from Fort Niagara, and together they proceeded to make their way down the Susquehanna River towards Wyoming. These troops consisted of around 400 British troops and Tories and around 500 Indians.

Aware of the advance of the invaders the Wyoming citizens prepared for the worst. A militia was quickly gathered consisting of every available man possible, including grandfathers, their aged sons and teenage boys, and even some women. Most of the able bodied men were away fighting with Washington. These troops mustered at Forty Fort along with the women, the small children, and the disabled. Lebbeus Hammond along with his brothers, his father, and his uncle were privates in this small untrained militia. Lt. Lebbeus Tubbs, Hammond’s father-in-law and his eldest son, Samuel, were also in the militia. Lebbeus Tubbs’ elderly father and all of the family wives and children were in the fort. In total, the Wyoming troops numbered approximately four hundred. The British and Indians outnumbered them by more than 2 to 1.

On July 3, 1778 at about 4:00 PM the two forces met for battle two miles north of the fort. It was a foolish decision on the part of the Wyoming militia to engage in battle rather than negotiate a surrender. The actual battle lasted about one half hour at which time the militia retreated and then panicked in a mad race for their lives. The Indians outflanking the militia, raced in with a furious fervor and tomahawked and scalped the men of the militia using the skills learned from many years of warrioring. The killing went on for hours. Lebbeus Hammond’s father and uncle were killed on the battlefield. Lt. Lebbeus Tubbs and his son were fortunate to escape as were the brothers of Libbeus Hammond. Private Lebbeus however, was captured after dark with a dozen other men and dragged to an area that would go down in the history books as “Bloody Rock.” There under the supervision of a mad half-breed Indian woman named Queen Esther, sister of Catherine Montour, (daughter of a French officer and an Indian women), the slaughter began. Using a maul and tomahawk alternately as she passed around the ring, singing the death-song, she deliberately dashed out the brains of her helpless victims in consecutive order.

Fortunately for all of us as descendants of the young Lebbeus Hammond, seeing that there was no hope, Lebbeus and a friend shook off the Indians who held them, and, with a desperate spring, like wild deer they fled into the woods and safety. The Indians pursued them immediately but after a long chase they were able to hide in the brush and shake their pursuers. Lebbeus Hammond was slightly wounded during his miraculous escape.

The Battle of Wyoming and the massacre that followed was a disaster for the Americans. Of the 400 Americans that were engaged on the battlefield, more than 75% were killed or wounded. The British officially reported that they suffered casualties of only three deaths and eight wounded. The British troops and Indians then focused their attention on Fort Forty. With no choice, the fort surrendered the next day on July 4, 1778. The women, children, and old men were stripped of supplies and weapons and forced to leave the fort. They fled in panic into the nearby mountains. Unfortunately, without supplies and shelter, many of the women and children perished, as did Lebbeus Tubbs’ elderly father. The Indians meanwhile plundered and burned the entire community. On July 8, 1778, the British army and most of the Indians retired from the area and slowly thereafter the survivors returned. Lebbeus was reunited with his wife and child and the other survivors of what historians later referred to as the Wyoming Massacre.

In the middle of the summer of 1779, General John Sullivan marching with almost half of General Washington’s army, invaded the Finger Lakes region of New York State and destroyed all of the major Indian villages in the area including the village of Catherine Montour, sister of our mad half-breed Indian queen. Her village was in the area of what is now the Village of Montour Falls, located a few miles south of the present day Watkins Glen, New York. The village is named in her honor as is the nearby creek (Catherine Creek) and the surrounding valley (Catherine Valley). There is no record of Lebbeus Hammond’s involvement in this campaign, although I have no doubt that he would have taken great pleasure in the destruction of her Indian village. General Sullivan’s army was to have continued on and attached Fort Niagara, however the plans were changed and the army returned through Pennsylvania to rejoin with the troops of General Washington.

Unfortunately, our tale of Lebbeus Hammond’s encounters with Indians is not over. He was to face one more trial.

On March 27, 1780, only two years after his escape from the Bloody Rock incident, our Lebbeus Hammond was once again captured near his home by marauding Indians. Shortly after he was captured, tied down, and left alone, the Indians returned with two more prisoners, a Thomas Bennet and his young son, Andrew. Their prospects now were anything but agreeable. They traveled north with their capturers for three days being provided with little to nothing to eat. They were heavily burdened with the luggage belonging to the Indians. They were worn out and resigned to give up and die. At night, they were “pappoosed,” or tied down with poles laid across them with an Indian at either end. At midnight of the third night, after all but one of the six Indians had fallen asleep, Bennet was untied, claiming he was sick and needed to relieve himself. While he was left alone he was able to snatch a war-spear and hide it under his long, great coat. At one o’clock, all of the Indians got up and untied Lebbeus and young Andrew to allow them to relieve themselves as well. Two hours later, all of the Indians but one had fallen back asleep. The three prisoners were left untied and guarded only by one tired Indian. What occurred next lasted less than two minutes. Thomas Bennet drove the war-spear into their Indian guard. Lebbeus grabbed a nearby ax, and buried the head of the ax in the brain of the closest Indian. He then turned around and with another blow drove the ax into the side of the neck of a third Indian. Young Andrew killed a fourth Indian, and Thomas skillfully flung a tomahawk forty feet into the back of one of the two remaining fleeing Indians. One Indian escaped and he was able to alert only a few hours later other members of his Indian party. They immediately started up a chase to recapture their escaped prisoners. Fortunately, Thomas Bennet was a skilled woodsman and four days later, being constantly chased through the mountains by their pursuers, they returned to their Wyoming settlement and safety. The Bennets and Lebbeus Hammond became instant heroes. Not only was Lebbeus already well-known for his exploits at Bloody Rock, he had again escaped death at the hands of Indians. His reputation as an Indian fighter was assured.

Seven years later in 1787, Lebbeus Hammond and his family and the Tubbs family left the Wyoming Valley. Their old enemy, the unfriendly Pennanites, had moved into Wyoming in large numbers. There were land claim problems. It was time again to move on. They traveled northwest up the Susquehanna River headed for a new wilderness frontier in the valley of the Chemung River. They finally stopped and settled down in an area now know as Southport, located just south of Elmira, New York. History records them as the pioneer families in the area. Lebbeus Hammond had finally found his home and he was to remain in Southport for the rest of his life. He died on July 12, 1826. His wife Lucy, died on April 17, 1844. They are buried side by side in the Fitzsimmons Cemetery in Southport, New York. We visited their graves on August 22, 2005. Lebbeus’s grave was barely legible. There was however, a metal plaque next to his gravestone that clearly identified our grandfather Lebbeus Hammond as a veteran of the American Revolution.

The Hammonds daughter, Mary (“Polly”), married John Sly who also was a veteran of the Revolutionary War. Their grand-daughter, Mary Catherine Sly, married Charles Henry Spaulding. In turn, their great-great-grand-daughter, Helen Spaulding, married my grandfather, Charles S. Baker. The Slys, the Spauldings, and my grandfather, Charles S. Baker, are all buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, New York. And that is family history.

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