Colonial boy soldier
The links between Joseph Plumb Martin and Milford start early. Reverend Ebenezer Martin (1732-1795) was Born in Hampton, Windham, CT, and was a graduate of Yale.
Yale existed partly due to the efforts of Rev. Andrew, teaching many Yale students at Milford in the early days and First Church remained active with Yale throughout the eighteenth Century. The Reverend Martin met his wife at Milford: Susannah Plumb, a descendant of Robert Plum, one of nine persons added to the 11/20/1639 roll of 44 Milford “free planters” (but he was not a free planter). Other notable Plumbs of Milford were John Plumb, Sr. who built the first Mill on the Indian River (Rose’s Mill) in 1707. It operated until 1815 when much of the site (Quarry Road) was sold to the Milford Marble Company. They produced “Verde Antique,” a green Marble for the US capital.
The Reverend Ebenezer was the founding minister of the First Congregational Church at Becket (MA) from February 23, 1759 until his removal on October 12, 1764. Joseph Plumb Martin had been born at Becket, November 21, 1760. Young Joseph recalls that his father “often got in trouble for speaking his mind too freely.” Despite a Yale education, an out of work Puritan minister who spoke his mind may have had difficulty making ends meet. His parents provided Joseph an education but, when he was just seven [possibly six], they sent him to live with Susannah’s more affluent parents in Milford, Joseph Plumb and Susanna Newton.
From 1774 young Joseph knew of the strain between the colonials and the British but intended to keep out of it, at least until after the battles in Massachusetts in 1775:
“During the winter of 1775-1776, by hearing the conversation and discussion of the good old farmer politicians, I collected pretty correct ideas of the contest between this country and the mother country. I thought I was as warm a patriot as the best of them. The war was waged; we had joined issue, and it would not do to “put the hand to the plow and look back.” I felt more anxious than ever to be called a defender of my country.”
That spring, uniformed recruiters with fife and drum came to the center of this little hamlet promising adventure and pay to all patriots who would sign up. Joseph was as patriotic as any and with the pressure of his peers enlisting sought to do the same. Grampa forbade it but under his threat to run away and join a naval privateer he was allowed to join the army. Better on land than sea, thought his grandparents.
Joseph was, perhaps, still not totally committed. In June 1776, at just fifteen and a half, he signed up for just a six month enlistment with the 5th Connecticut State Militia. He was assigned duty in New York where on August 27, 1776 Martin fought at the Battle of Long Island, a/k/a Battle of Brooklyn or Brooklyn Heights. It was the first major battle after the Declaration of Independence. In numbers involved, it was the largest battle of the entire conflict, and the first battle for an army of the now “United States.” Ultimately it was a serious defeat which only the hesitance of General Howe and an early morning fog prevented it from being the total destruction of Washington’s escaping army to Northern Manhattan. Many took ill in the fall of 1776, including Martin:
“It now began to be cool weather, especially the nights. To have to lie as I did almost every night (for our duty required it) on the cold and often wet ground without a blanket and with nothing but a thin summer clothing was tedious. I have often while upon guard lain on one side until the upper side smarted with cold, then turned that side down to the place warmed by my body and let the other side take its turn at smarting, while the one on the ground warmed, thus alternately turning for or six hours till called upon to go on sentry ... and when relieved from a tour of two long hours at that business and returned to the guard again, I have to go through the operation of freezing and thawing for four or six hours more…”