Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Pratt Migration V-Asa in the War VII

Two entries in the "State Papers of New Hampshire" give us our lead as to Asa's next enlistment:
"Pay roll for Capt Benjamin Spaulding's Company of Col Moses Nichol's Regiment raised by the State of New Hampshire & Joined the Continental Army at West Point  1780."
"Asa Pratt, private, time of engagement July 6, 1780---time of discharge Oct 21, 1780"
Then there are some interesting details about his pay and travel:" 3.16 months in service--rate per month f134--amount of wages f473.9-- No. of miles to Spring field 93--no. of miles home 236--travel at 12 s/mile out & 6 s/mile home f126.12--detained rations f10.12--whole amount f610.13"  The symbol looks like an "f" with an "o" at the bottom. Googling "Colonial Currency" shows that New Hampshire money in 1777 was in pounds but in 1780 it was in dollars.
These entries in the New Hampshire State Papers establish without  question that between July 6 and October 21 of 1780 our ancestor Private Asa Pratt was on active duty with the New Hampshire Militia and that his regiment was part of the garrison at West Point with the Continental Army. This means that he was present at the place and time of two momentous events in American history, the treason of Benedict Arnold and the capture and execution of the British spy Major Andre.
Benedict Arnold was an American hero---right up until his betrayal of the Continnetal Army. He had fought bravely and against hard odds in the first yars of the war.(Remember he was at the Battle of Ridgefield when Col. Abaraham Gould was killed). He risked his life and lost a leg leading the invasion of Canada but he was criticized and felt humiliated by Congress for finding him guilty of some misconduct during that operation. He was merely reprimanded by George Washington, who still needed him. He was married a Loyalist wife and felt that he had never been properly appreciated for his fighting record and had been passed over for promotion. He never forgave Congress. In this mood Arnold asked Washington for the commnand at West Point.
West Point in New York was a fortified site on the right bank of the Hudson River at an abnormal S-curve. It's fortifications were was designed by one of the best military engineers of the time, Polish General Thaddeus Kosciusko. It was manned by a small garrison of Continental soldiers throughout the war (plus Asa and his regiment during the fall of 1780). West Point and Constitution Island across the river were critically located and when fortified with artillery and a huge chain strung across the river would defeat any attempt by the British to send warships up the Hudson to isolate New England.
Washington agreed with Arnold's request and placed him in command of West Point. Arnold immediately set about weakening the fort by sending out detachments of soldiers on wild-goose-chase missions (Asa among them?).
Major John Andre was the chief intelligence officer for British commander General Sir Henry Clinton at New York. In May of 1779 Andre received an extraordinary offer from Arnold to surrender  the fort for a fee. Negotiations continued for months. Arnold wanted 10,000 pounds, success or failure. Clinton said no deal unless successful. The negotiations broke down. In May of 1780 Arnold contacted Andre again warning him of a pending French assault on Rhode Island which enabled Clinton to prepare for the French.
 On July 15  Arnold, now being in command at West Point, contacted Andre again asking for 20,000 pounds for successfully delivering West Point. Arrangements were made for Andre to come and meet secretly with Arnold to make the necessary plans.
NEXT: The plot fails and Andre pays the ultimate price.

Emailed Oct. 19

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