Archive for December, 2012

Cyprian Collins (b-1733 Goshen, Litchfield, Connecticut d-1809 Goshen, Litchfield, Connecticut) is my 6th great grandfather.  I had not previously done any research on this line of my family and consequently didn’t know much about my Collins family ancestors until now.

Goshen Town Line
 Goshen, Litchfield, Connecticut

     I came across a speech that was given at the Town of Goshen during Connecticut’s Centennial Celebration in 1838. The speech included a mini biography of Cyprian Collins and his family.  From this speech I learned that both Cyprian Collins and his oldest son, Ambrose Collins, served together in the Revolutionary war.

     Specifically mentioned was the second Battle of Saratoga, which occurred at Bemis Heights on 7 October 1777. Cyprian, age 43 at the time, and Ambrose, age 21, were both involved with this battle.

     In a book entitled “The History of the town of Goshen, Connecticut”, I found Ambrose’s account of the events of that day.

     Ambrose Collins was stationed as sentry for the Council of War, which was held on the evening before the battle of the 7th of October, at the marquee of General Gates, and heard the greater part of the conversation among the officers composing the council.  The consultation continued until ten o’clock, with General Gates presiding.

     All but two of the officers were in favor of not attacking the British the next day, thinking that the capture of the enemy might be affected without the further effusion of blood.  But General (Benedict) Arnold was very resolute and rose and told the Council that he should march out his brigade on the next morning and attack the enemy, let the consequence be what it would, and so he did.  In the morning his brigade was paraded and commenced the attack.

The following account of what he saw and took part in on the field is, from Sergeant Ambrose Collins.

     “In the morning of October 7th we heard constant firing but a short distance away.  The company to which I belonged was mustered to receive their rations.  General Arnold came along on an elegant brown horse, and ordered the men to hasten their preparations for action.  We were paraded two deep for the march, the line being between one and two miles in length.  Our march was through some fields that had been cleared, but chiefly through the woods, over logs and among the trees and bushes.  It was not until about noon that our company faced the enemy where they previously been fighting, and many of the dead bodies were lying about.  The Americans being more numerous than the British we were able to extend our lines to the left farther than they, compelling them to retreat in order to avoid being flanked. 

     “We continued to press on, keeping our lines as well as the ground would permit; loading and firing rapidly as possible as we advanced.  Our steps were lively, but we did not run.  I saw no fighting with bayonets.  At one time I saw just before me a British officer sitting and supporting himself by a tree.  I drew up and was about to shoot him, when I thought, the man is wounded, and I let him live.  In the morning I had 24 cartridges, and at night had two or three left.  I was not disposed to fire until I had an object distinctly in view; for I knew that I could get no new supply of ammunition during the day.  It was not windy, and there was a great deal of smoke, but I could generally see the enemy; sometimes close by and then farther off.  We took one piece of cannon, but were soon obliged to retreat and lose it.  This piece was alternately taken and lost three times.  The Americans on the whole advanced, but the firing was deadly, and the men were falling fast on both sides.

Battle of Bemis Heights
Battle of Bemis Heights, 7 October 1777 

 “We came to a small breastwork, made of rails and high enough to shelter men, with openings through which they might shoot.  We drove the British from this to their principal breastworks.  The strong breastworks of the enemy were forced by men under Arnold; the British retreating as the Americans took possession of them.
Bemis Heights Cannon PrettyBemis Heights, Saratoga, New York 

     “This was about sunset, and the men near me who had been in the action all the afternoon were soon ordered to return to the camp.  This order was a welcome one, as were much fatigued. 
      “Our camp was at least a mile back.  In returning to it we passed over the same ground on which we had been fighting. The dead were laying where they had fallen and some of the wounded. They were gathering them up and carrying them off in two horse lumber wagons.  The wounded were taken up and laid or thrown in one on top of the other till the box was full. We heard but little groaning among the wounded, and what we heard we did not notice much, being much fatigued and exhausted and every one had himself to take care of.  It is probable that such of the wounded as were likely to live or were able to call for help had been carried from the field before this.

     “We were hungry and thirsty, having had neither food nor drink since the morning.  When our company reached the camp we got some supper, after which we turned into our tents and slept quietly, each in his blanket all night. We had no straw, but the ground was tolerably dry.

     “On the day of the battle of Saratoga, the American women followed close after the American soldiers, as they were advancing and even exposed themselves where the shots were flying, to strip the dead.  These were doubtless the basest of their sex; such as sometimes follow an army.  I saw one woman while thus employed, struck by a cannon ball, and literally dashed to pieces.   I also saw the women attempting to strip a wounded Hessian officer.  One woman was attempting to get his watch.  He was able to speak, and although they could not understand what he said, he made so much resistance they left him.”

As I mentioned earlier, Cyprian worked bringing needed supplies to the troops. On the night of this battle, he came into camp and immediately began searching for Ambrose. Not finding his son among the living, he assumed the worst, and began the horrible task of searching for his body among the dead. What follows is the rest of the account from the book.

 “He found a body which he thought might be his son’s, and procured a torch light with which he might make a more careful examination.  He concluded it was Ambrose, and with such feelings as only a father can know, was in the act of removing it, when Ambrose came up to him, having heard of the arrival of his father. It would be useless to attempt any description of the feelings of the parties.  Ambrose had been in the hottest of the battle all afternoon and was unhurt.”

Cyprian Collins
Cyprian Collins died on 8 January 1809 in Goshen, Litchfield, Connecticut at the age of 75. He is buried in the East Street Cemetery in Goshen, Connecticut.


Ambrose Collins, 1839, West Goshen
 Ambrose Collins died on 1 September 1839, and is buried in West Goshen Cemetery, West Goshen, Connecticut.

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My mom’s cousin, Mary Hardaway, sent me this photograph of a painting of my 2nd great grandmother, Almira Blake McWhirter.  It is just so beautiful, I had to share it. =)

Almira Blake McWhirter c1871 Vermont, United StatesAlmira Blake McWhirter c 1871 Derby, Orleans, Vermont, United States

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