This is an original pay voucher authorizing the payment of 269 Pounds, 5 Shillings to Colonel William Worthington, commander of the Connecticut 7th Militia Regiment dated October 30, 1779. This document also contains the signatures of several other famous men of Connecticut who served with distinction during the Revolutionary War in both the military and in state government.
The history of the Connecticut Militia began in May 1665, when the separate colonies of New Haven and Connecticut joined to form the colony that would become the state of Connecticut. Each colony had laws that required military training from its residents. In 1702, these laws required that all men from age sixteen and sixty, except certain professions, had to participate in regular training and to bear arms. Local militias were organized as companies and the size of these companies varied with as few as twenty-four militiamen. Each company drew is members from a designated area or town. The Connecticut 7th Militia Regiment, commanded by Colonel Worthington, was formed by men from the cities of Haddam, Guilford, Killingworth, and Saybrook.
By October 1739, Connecticut had an established thirteen regiments of militia and this number remained constant through 1767. Between 1767 and 1771, the Connecticut assembly authorized the formation of three new militia regiments, the 14th, 15th, and 16th Regiments. In May 1774, the assembly formed the 17th and 18th Regiments and, during the October 1774 Assembly, four additional regiments, the 19th through the 22nd, were formed.
When the Revolutionary War began, Connecticut recruited its first line regiments for service in the Continental Army from the militia. As Connecticut line regiments formed and demand grew, the assembly created additional militia regiments, adding the 23rd through the 25th and, by taking troops of horse from foot regiments, the assembly created five regiments of light horse.
In December 1776, the assembly formed the existing militia regiments into six militia brigades, each commanded by a brigadier general.
As noted, this pay document was for Colonel William Worthington. Worthington was promoted from Lieutenant Colonel to Colonel and given command of the 7th Connecticut Militia Regiment in May 1777. Serving under Worthington in the 7th was Sylvanus Graves as Lieutenant Colonel until his resignation in October 1779, when he was replaced by Abraham Tyler, and Edward Shipman as Regimental Major. From 1776, Colonel Worthington and his 7th Regiment were part of the Second Brigade, which was under the command of Brigadier General James Wadsworth and, later, Brigadier General Andrew Ward. In addition to the 7th Regiment, the brigade also consisted of the 2nd, 10th, 23rd, and 28th Regiments.
Colonel Worthington and his regiment were called to active service a few months before this pay order was made during what has been called Tryon’s Raid. In 1778, with General George Washington and British General Sir Henry Clinton eyeing each other for an opportunity to attack to advantage in New Jersey and New York, Clinton developed a plan to try and force General Washington to move his forces from behind prepared defenses so he could defeat the Continental Army in a decisive action. His first attempt was an expedition in May 1779, in which he seized Stony Point, New York, and Verplanck’s Point, New York. Although General Washington did move some troops in response, Clinton felt Washington’s position was still too strong, so he then decided to dispatch British Major General William Tryon to raid the coastal communities of Connecticut.
General Tryon assembled a force of 2,600 men and embarked them on ships on Long Island Sound. One division was commanded by Brigadier General George Garth, consisting of the 54th Regiment of Foot along with companies from the Royal Fusiliers, Foot Guards and Hessian Jagers. The second division would be led by General Tryon and consisted of the Hessian Landgrave Regiment, the Royal Welch Fusiliers and the King’s American Regiment, a loyalist unit. Tyron’s force sailed from New York on July 3, 1779, and reached New Haven, Connecticut on July 5th. General Garth’s division quickly occupied New Haven and then destroyed public stores and destroyed the town’s armaments and all ships in the harbor. Tryon’s division landed at East Haven, Connecticut, where it met stiff resistance from local militia units, but Tryon was able to take Black Rock Fort. Tryon’s forces destroyed barns filled with grain and burned local manor houses.
Tryon’s expedition reembarked on the fleet of ships on July 6, 1779, and sailed for Fairfield, Connecticut, arriving on July 8, 1779. The inhabitants of Fairfield abandoned the town and Tryon’s forces destroyed 54 barns and 47 storehouses, and burned 83 homes, two churches, a schoolhouse, the courthouse and the local jail. After a night ashore, Tryon’s forces sailed across Long Island Sound on July 7th and spent two days resupplying at Huntington, New York.
Tryon then sailed again for Norwalk, Connecticut, arriving late on July 11th. The two divisions rested until daylight on July 12th, and then, having landed on opposite of the harbor, moved towards the town, easily dispersing the local militia forces. Tryon attacked the village of Norwalk and destroyed most of its residences and businesses. Tryon then returned to Huntington, New York and returned to New York City on July 14, 1779.
Tryon reported losses of 26 killed, 90 wounded and 32 missing. American casualties were reported as 23 killed, 15 wounded and 12 captured. Tryon’s raid, although a tactical success, was a strategic failure as it did not lead General Washington to displace his forces so General Clinton could effect his plan of decisively defeating the rebels in the field.
Known in Connecticut history as the “New Haven Alarm of 1779,” numerous regiments of the Connecticut militia mobilized to counter General Tryon’s attacks. Colonel Worthington and most of his militia companies mobilized in response to these raids. Undoubtedly, Colonel Worthington and his Minutemen responded to other threats on the state as well as serving as a source of men for the Connecticut Line who served directly under General Washington in the Continental Army.
In addition to Colonel Worthington’s signature acknowledging receipt of the pay order, this order is also signed by Finn Wadsworth, Samuel Wyllys, and John Lawrence. Finn Wadsworth, from Farmington, Connecticut, was appointed major of brigade to General James Wadsworth and served in that capacity until 1779. He was then made a member of the Connecticut Pay Table Committee, which was responsible for military expenditures during the Revolutionary War.
Samuel Wyllys was born on January 7, 1739. In 1775, he was appointed lieutenant colonel in Colonel Joseph Spencer’s 2nd Connecticut Regiment. On July 1, 1775, Wyllys was promoted to Colonel and commanded the 2nd Regiment until January 1, 1776, when the 2nd was reorganized as the 22nd Continental Regiment. Colonel Wyllys remained in command of the 22nd Continental Regiment, serving during the Siege of Boston until the British evacuation on March 17, 1776, and then he and his regiment marched with George Washington to New York. Wyllys saw action during the Battle of Long Island and served in the New York vicinity until the end of 1776.
From 1777 until 1791, Colonel Wyllys commanded the 3rd Connecticut Regiment in the Continental Line under General Samuel Holden Parson. He also served as an Auditor of pay for Connecticut Militia units during this period. Colonel Wyllys was discharged from the Army, along with his regiment, on January 1, 1781. Before the end of the Revolutionary War, Wyllys was appointed Major General of the Connecticut Militia. Wyllys later served as a representative in the Connecticut General Assembly and as Connecticut Secretary of State from 1796 until 1809.
This document is also signed by John Lawrence, Esquire. Lawrence was born in 1719 and served as Treasurer of the State of Connecticut from 1769 until 1789.
This is a beautiful example of a pay order for a well-known Connecticut Minuteman who commanded a regiment of Connecticut Militia during the Revolutionary War. This example also contains the signatures of other prominent men from Connecticut who served with distinction both in the military and in state government during the war.