SUMMARY - Recollections of An Old Soldier - the Life of Captain David Perry (1741-1826)

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Revolutionary soldier by A. Chappel

of Perry's Life and Recollections
D.G. Jones, M. Mus.
© 1998-2012

See :
Capt. David Perry: Provincial Soldier, American Patriot.
[ To order a hard copy of Recollections click here. ]

jumpavid Perry was born August 8th,1741, in Rehoboth, Bristol, Massachusetts, a third generation colonial of English extraction, and was christened on the the 18th of October in the Second Congregational Church of Rehoboth at Palmer's River. His father Eliakim was also baptized at that time and his mother Sarah renewed her covenant.*  
When his mother died in 1748 from a sudden illness, Perry went to live with her brother _ Lt. David Joy of Rehoboth.  "Uncle David" Joy treated him with great kindness, both then and in later life during his lengthy recovery from typhus.  At the age of fourteen, young David Perry was apprenticed as a tanner and shoemaker to David Walker in nearby Dighton, Massachusetts. From Dighton he enlisted into the Massachusetts provincial forces, serving in four campaigns in the French and Indian War (known globally as the Seven Years War). This war was the final struggle between France and England for control of North America. In New England in Perry's day, it was referred to as the "French War".
Two-thirds of Perry's memoir deals with his service in that war, a war that had been eclipsed by the American Revolution and all but forgotten by the time Perry was writing. Fighting under the British flag, Perry first saw action in 1758 at age sixteen. Less that impressed with the strategy of standing in line formation like chessmen to be shot at, he afterward volunteered and fought as, a provincial ranger — the guerrilla or irregular arm of the British/Colonial forces. As a ranger, he was part of the backwoods action of the British army that took Quebec in 1759, the decisive victory of the war. Writing of his experiences, Perry gives a vivid, sometimes graffic account of a different form of war. The fall of Quebec to British forces set the course of world history for the next two-and-a-half centuries; in his small way, Perry helped to raise Britain to global dominion just a few short years before he helped sever his homeland from the mother country.
After the "French War," Perry married and raised a family in Killingly, Windham, Connecticut, from whence he served twice during the Revolution: first, at the Siege of Boston in 1775 as second lieutenant under Capt. Joseph Elliot in Co. 8 of the 3rd Regiment of Foot, Gen. Israel Putnam commanding (he was discharged in September of that year, possibly due to illness); and second, at Providence, Rhode Island, during the winter of 1776-77 as a first lieutenant under Capt. John Ely in the 4th Battalion of the the State Regiment of Connecticut, Gen. Joseph Spencer commanding.* While at home from the service, he was active in encourging other soldiers to enlist, even paying their bounty at times despite his own poverty.
Although one source states that he was with Washington at New York, a careful reading of his Recollections and information in military records confirm that he was not.* Neither was he at Valley Forge, as some internet sources have recently reported.
In 1779, Perry moved his family to Plainfield, Sullivan [then Cheshire County], New Hampshire, where he served as selectman for nine years and militia officer for eight, accepting a captain's commission in 1785, two years after the Revolutionary War's end.  In 1790, he was one of many who helped create the state of Vermont, of which he became a resident in March, 1797 — six years after its admittance into the Union.  It was in Chelsea, Orange, Vermont during the winter of in 1818-1819, while approaching the venerable age of eighty, that he wrote his Recollections of An Old Soldier as an inheritance to bequeath to his posterity.
It was probably early in 1822 that Perry, his manuscript in hand, contacted the printer, young Simeon Ide, at his pringing office in Windsor, Vermont. Struck by its simplicity and truth, Ide printed it before May, charging Perry nothing since the old soldier had nothing to pay, and reserving any profits for the printing of other memoirs of Revolutionary War soldiers if they should but step forward. Apparently none did, making Perry's memoir a rarity indeed. In February 1822, prior to its printing, Perry registered his copyright to the book, if not in Windsor (the most likely place) then in Rutland; it was in these two shire towns alternately that federal court for the district of Vermont was then held and court business transacted.
Between late 1821 and early 1823 Perry moved to Ira, Rutland, Vermont, where, with his wife Anna, he lived out his remaining years, residing in the home of his youngest son Nathaniel Green Perry. On May 2, 1826, he died there and was buried in Riverside Cemetery a few short steps away.  His account chronicles:

1. Provincial involvement in King George's War (his father Capt.[?] Eliakim Perry and uncles Abner Perry and Lt. David Joy, participated in the taking• of the fortress at Louisbourg,• Cape Breton Island,• Nova Scotia or Acadia• under Gen. Pepperell•).

2. Abercrombie's unsuccessful assault on Ticonderoga• (1758) during the French & Indian War• (also known as the Seven Years'War• and known at the time as the "French War" [1756-1763]).

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3. The provincial rangers' activity at the Siege ofQuebec City (1759) during the French & Indian War.

4. The New England Planters' colonization of the Minas Basin area, Nova Scotia (1760) after the tragic British deportation of the FrenchAcadians.•

5. Ground preparation for Citadel Hill in Halifax, Nova Scotia; and the Battle of Signal Hill• in the recapture of St. John's, Newfoundland (1762) -- the last battle of the French & Indian War (Seven Years' War).

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6. The Siege of Boston during the Revolutionary War (1775), and Connecticut militia service under Gen. Joseph Spencer at Providence, R.I. during the winter of 1776-77.

7. The American victory of Commodore Thomas Macdonough• on Lake Champlain• during the Battle of Plattsburgh, NY, in the War of 1812.•  

The first-hand account of Hazen's Rangers at the Siege of Quebec is indeed rare. Details of the Provinicial Rangers' activity at the recapture of Signal (Flagstaff) Hill in Newfoundland are recorded nowhere else.  His near•-death experience on 1762 is worthy of profound consideration and is remarkable for its relative antiquity, particularly in pre-dating the Revolution. With the turmoil surrounding the War of 1812 still fresh in his mind, he concludes his memoir with a condemnation of disunity and an eloquent admonition to future generations that has stunning implications for those living today.

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