In 1779 an Abraham Carley of Claverack (later Hillsdale), New York served as a private in the New York levies. He was in Captain Stockwell’s Company of Militia assigned to the regiment of Lieutenant Colonel Van Rensselaer. Two Abraham Carleys lived in Claverack at that time. They were father and son, one born in 1711, the other in 1756, both from Marlborough, Massachusetts.
I wore a uniform (U.S. Air Force) between the ages of 20 and 44. During those years I was involved in campaigns ranging from Viet Nam to Desert Storm. I particularly enjoy researching the military activities of my ancestors. To gain a better understanding of the hardships endured by our soldiers I read Joseph Plumb Martin’s fascinating story of his experiences during the American Revolution. (A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier, sometimes published as Private Yankee Doodle – a book I recommend without reservation.) Joseph was born in 1760 and began his service in 1776. He served through the entire war yet was only 22 when it ended. War is a young man’s endeavor – even more so then than now. This made me doubt that it was the father serving at age 68. I know I was ready to hang up the uniform at age 44. My gut said this should be an easy call, but my brain said to check the records.
In 1757 Abraham Senior joined the Marlborough Militia Company of Captain (later promoted to Colonel) Abraham Williams and served in the French and Indian War. Captain Williams’s Company was called-out and sent to assist in the defense of Fort William Henry but was halted at Westfield, Massachusetts, when word reached them that the fort had already fallen to the French. They returned to Marlborough.
The Claverack Militia in 1767 includes the name of Abraham Carley, certainly Abraham Senior, as Abraham Junior was only 11 years old. Immediately after Abraham on the list were Moses, Joel, and James – probably other sons of Abraham Senior. Also on this list, but in another column, was Joseph Carly. This list seems to include the entire male population of Claverack at the time.
In the spring of 1779 the State of New York had passed “An Act for raising 1,000 men for the Defence of the Frontiers of the State”. The 1,000 “Levies to be raised by Drafts from the Militia of such Counties as the Governor, with the advice of the Colonels, shall decide.” The militia consisted of every man living in the local district. Levies were a specified fraction of the militia that were drafted to meet certain situations and for defined periods. Portions of the Levies could be assigned to the Continental Line as required. (New York In The Revolution as Colony and State by James A. Roberts, published in 1888,)
Abraham Carley had to have joined the Levies during this spring draft as he was assigned to the company of Captain Levi Stockwell. Captain Stockwell was hardened combat veteran, perhaps best known for his 1777 exploit of slipping out of a besieged Fort Stanwix (with Marinus Willett) in the middle of the night, penetrating the British lines and returning with a rescuing force. By the late summer of 1779 Captain Stockwell had transferred to the Continental Line, accepting the rank of Lieutenant, to join General Sullivan’s expedition against the Indians and Tories operating out of Niagara, New York.
Happily, the correspondence between Captain Stockwell, General Schuyler, and Governor Clinton has survived. (It can be found in Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777-1795, 1801-1804, published in 1900.)
The letter of 24 Apr 1779 from General Schuyler to Governor Clinton mentions the appointment of Captain Stockwell and the planned movement of the expedition along the Mohawk to rendezvous at Canajoharie on 12 May 1779, then to remain in the area to defend the Northern and Western frontiers. Governor Clinton then notified Captain Stockwell to obey General Schuyler’s orders pertaining to the security of the frontier settlements. At the end of his letter the Governor wrote: “And as the nature of this Service & the Safety of the Frontiers require the greatest Exertions I expect the utmost diligence & vigilence on your Part.”
General Schuyler’s letter of 29 Apr 1779 instructs Captain Stockwell to deploy his company “as will best Cover the frontiers against the Incursions of the Enemy”, to station an officer, two sergeants, and 25 privates at Skenesborough, while also deploying scouts on the north side of the Hudson River as well as toward Ticonderoga and both sides of the lake. The scouts were to detect enemy presence, numbers, and movement. They were to report such intelligence immediately so specified appropriate actions could be taken. The situation was obviously dire and the General added this warning – “The disgrace of a surprise must be strictly guarded against, and that you may not Experience one, you will be Extremely vigilant and watchful; not suffering your men to strole from the post or be absent on furlough is Indispensibly necessary.”
Captain Stockwell sent a report on 30 May 1779 from Skenesborough, telling of his arrival at his post on 6 May. He was short of men as few of the promised troops from other brigades had arrived, and requested his other men could join him “as Duty is very Hard here”. His scouts had been busy but had no enemy activities to report. Showing how little some things change – “Sir, I should be glad to no in what form the pay for my men Can be got, whether by proper pay roles, or abstracks to the Pay master; likwise to no, who is my Colonel that I may Communicate to him.”
I hope these fragments of history provide a hint of what Abraham Carley must have experienced during his time in the Levies. Stockwell was a highly respected combat veteran, well aware of the demands and risks facing his levies. It seems unlikely that he would have accepted a 68 year-old man to face such challenges, especially since only a small fraction of the militia was being tasked.
Then there is the rest of the record. A nearly parallel military career trajectory exists between Samuel Mallery and Abraham Carley. They were brothers-in-law, both living in Hillsdale. Samuel Mallery had married Abraham Carley’s older sister, Mary. The records show that both served as enlisted men during the Revolutionary War and as officers after it. (The following records can be found in Military Minutes of the Council of Appointment of the State of New York, 1783-1821.)
In 1777 Samuel Mallery was a Sergeant in 9th Albany Regiment. In 1786 he was a Lieutenant 2nd Class in Colonel Scott's regiment of Columbia County. In 1791 he was a Captain in Colonel Scott's regiment. In 1795 he was a 2nd Major in Livingston's brigade. In 1800 he resigned from the militia.
In 1779 Abraham Carley was a Private in Levi Stockwell's company, Van Rensselaer's corps of levies.In 1791 he was an Ensign in Columbia County in Colonel Matthew Scott's regiment. In 1794 he was removed (no cause cited) from Colonel Scott’s regiment.
If the reader still is not convinced that it was Abraham Carley, Junior, who was in the Levies, there was a law regulating the militia. (New York In The Revolution as Colony and State by James A. Roberts, 1888, page 122)
“10 AUG 1776. Whereas a number of the Inhabitants of this State by removing from one County to another have by that means avoided Military duty in either to the great injury of this State, Therefore be it Resolved and it is hereby Resolved that every person between the age of 16 & 50 abiding & continuing in any County for the space of 14 days be enrolled and appear in the Militia of the County in which he so abided under the penalty of 40s for every day's difference on which he or they shall not be so enrolled once after notice is given him or them by the Officer of the Beat in which they shall reside, Provided always that this Resolution shall not extend to such persons as are in the Service of this State or of the Continental Congress.”
This law could have been presented earlier in this post, but think of how much interesting information might have been missed! Anyone interested in further reading ought to try Walter Edmonds’ rich novel Drums Along the Mohawk.
(Please do not insist that Abraham Carley, Senior, was the Revolutionary War veteran because some of his descendants gained membership in an institution that once had notoriously low threshold of proof required to gain acceptance. On the other hand, any documentation that expands the scope of the exploration is welcome, even if it is contradictory.)