Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Timothy Bedel Papers and Andrew Park Pamphlet Finding Aid

The Swain Report, Number 18

The Timothy Bedel Papers and Andrew Park Pamphlet

by David Swain


In the wilds of the Canadian woods, near the St. Laurence River, the fledgling American Continental army, having taken possession of Montreal and seeking to subdue Quebec, sustained a small but psychologically painful defeat in May 1776. The Cedars was a Continental military outpost between Montreal and Quebec. When a small British force surprised its defenders, the officer in charge surrendered his force of over 400 men. Timothy Bedel, commander of the post’s force, was absent at the time but was court-martialed anyway. Andrew Parke was a lieutenant in the British contingent that “conquered” the post.

This report summarizes two related microfilm collections in the David Library. One is the Timothy Bedel Papers, which include little about The Cedars disaster itself but much on other aspects of Bedel’s extraordinary life, as well as the lives of certain of his correspondents. The second is a political pamphlet published in 1777, written partly by Andrew Parke, that provides information and perspective on both The Cedars encounter leading to the American surrender and the subsequent exchange of prisoners.

Timothy Bedel Papers

Biographical Information

Timothy Bedel (ca 1740-1787) was born between about 1737 and 1740 probably in Salem, NH, a town located in the SE corner of New Hampshire near the Merrimack River. He probably was brought up in this area. By 1760, he was involved militarily in the New Hampshire colonial militia and British army during the French and Indian War. During the early 1760s he was assigned to siege duty in places as divergent as Montreal, Canada and Havana, Cuba. In 1762, the British commissioned him in the field as a captain of foot. During this period, his military unit marched through the upper Connecticut River valley (between present-day New Hampshire and Vermont), and he was attracted to it as a location for frontier settlement (and land development/ speculation) after the war.

In 1763, he moved his family to Haverhill, which had been founded two years before. It remains a tiny town today, located on the NH side of the Connecticut River, with Barre, VT to the west and the White Mountains to the east. Soon, he began acquiring multiple properties in Haverhill, in Bath up the river to the north, and in Newbury, across the river in what later became Vermont. He was a founding settler and shareholder of both Haverhill and Newbury. Between 1769 and 1775, he lived in Bath. In both Haverhill and Bath, he became active in regional civic affairs. In 1775, he was representing Bath in the NH Provincial Congress in Exeter.

As the revolutionary movement was spilling over into violent conflict, the Provincial Congress commissioned Bedel a colonel of rangers on June 6, 1775. In September, he was ordered to march his three companies of rangers to Canada, where, under the command of General Richard Montgomery, he participated in the siege of Fort St. John’s (today, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, south of Montreal, then an important defensive position for Montreal, on the Richelieu River). The successful siege, which lasted from September 17 to November 3, opened the way for the fledgling Continental army to capture Montreal without resistance, ten days later.

After marching with Montgomery’s army into Montreal, Bedel returned home to recruit additional rangers, while the army moved on toward Quebec. In early 1776, Bedel returned to Canada with eight new companies—and was given command of the military post called The Cedars, 43 miles upstream from Quebec. That May, a series of mistakes, errors in judgment, and bad luck led to surrender of the post to a party of British regulars, Canadians, and Indians. The surrender was seen by the Continentals as a major and “shameful” disgrace, when only quick, successive victories appeared likely to bring ultimate success to the fledgling revolutionary war cause. General Benedict Arnold pressed charges against Bedel, who had been absent from his post when the attack came.

At the court martial, the actual, inconclusive evidence concerning Bedel’s absence from The Cedars failed to be convincing against the influence of General Arnold. Bedel was found guilty of “quitting his post” and was cashiered from the service. Bedel’s second-in-command, Isaac Butterfield, who had actually surrendered unnecessarily, was also cashiered and was prohibited from future commissions.

By 1777, Bedel was “rehabilitated” somewhat, corresponding with General Horatio Gates on intelligence matters, especially in relation to the Indians. He went back to active duty in the Saratoga campaign as a low-ranking officer in a NH militia regiment. By November, the Continental Congress had (re)commissioned him as a colonel and empowered to raise a regiment of volunteers, which he recruited in Coos County, the most northerly county in NH. (Coos, sometimes spelled “Co’os” in the manuscript, and more accurately spelled “Coős,” is pronounced “Cou-us.”)

Congress intended to use Bedel and his volunteer regiment in another campaign against Canada, scheduled for early 1778. Actually, Bedel was an active and vocal proponent of a second Canada invasion and fully anticipated playing a significant military role, as well as expanding his land settlement/development/speculation activities into Canadian territory. After some confusion in the American command, in which the Marquis de Lafayette was involved, the invasion plans were abandoned, and Bedel was ordered to keep his regiment in Haverhill, ready for action to defend the frontiers of northern NH.

Meanwhile, in June 1778 Bedel again became embroiled in controversy, this time concerning pay and rations for his regiment, which, General John Stark was convinced, was smaller than reported. In this case, vocal support from the committees of safety, who wanted his regiment in NH to defend their state, helped protect him, and he remained in charge of his regiment in Coos territory.

Then, in April 1779, before it had a chance to help invade Canada or to engage in any other real military action—and against Bedel’s wishes—the regiment was disbanded by Congress. Apparently politics, military and/or congressional, caught up with him again.

The politics of geography may also have played a role. Behind Bedel’s active support for another Canadian invasion was a strong independence urge he shared with many of his neighbors—not independence for the United States or for the State of New Hampshire but independence from New Hampshire. His and his compatriots wished to create a large new state, in the far northern Connecticut River valley, comprised of lands now in the States of New Hampshire and Vermont as well as Canada.

(By 1777, Vermont had already declared itself a separate “republic,” which it remained until becoming the 14th State in 1791. The motivation of Vermonters was, however, more limited than Bedel’s. They wanted to forestall the aggressive expansionist policies of New York, which wished to annex this territory.)

Both the New Hampshire and Continental governments were threatened by the emerging independence movement to which Bedel subscribed. Their support for an armed regiment in the Coos region led by Bedel began to appear to them less an asset against the British (especially after Burgoyne’s defeat) and more a liability against their own authority (from possible armed conflict with a far-north breakaway state). At any rate, Bedel’s regiment was disbanded. (It’s interesting to speculate that, had this separate state been established and joined the Union, it might have been named Coős.)

Through the rest of the war, Bedel remained interested in another Canadian invasion, if only to enhance his opportunities to acquire land in Canada. However, the opportunity never arose, and he spent the rest of the war—and the rest of his life—In Haverhill, tending his business interests.

After the war, he remained a prominent, moderately wealthy citizen of Haverhill, continuing to be active in both civic affairs and land speculation, until he died in 1787.

Bedel’s colleagues:

As revealed in the microfilmed correspondence and other sources, Bedel’s associations with several close friends became intricately intertwined with his military and business activities. The most important were Jacob Bayley and Moses Hazen. These colleagues were neighbors of Bedel in the Haverhill/Newbury area. They were also high-ranking military officers in the Continental army, and, in Hazen’s case, shared with Bedel an active interest in land speculation in the upper Connecticut River valley and Canada.

Jacob Joshua Bayley (1726-1815) was a native of New Hampshire. His military career began as a captain and later colonel in the French and Indian War. Following the war, in 1763-1764, he was a founding settler and shareholder in Newbury, along with Timothy Bedel and several other Bayley family members.

During the Revolutionary War, Vermont commissioned him a brigadier general of the militia in 1776. His first assignment was on the early construction of what became known as the Bayley-Hazen Military Road (see below for more). Later the same year, he became Commissary General for the Continental army’s Northern Department. Like Bedel, he had connections with the northern Indian tribes, especially the St. Francis, through whom he provided intelligence during 1777 on the British army’s movements to Generals Schuyler and Gates. He also commanded a regiment in the Saratoga campaign.

During and after the war, Bayley remained active in Vermont (republic) politics. Apparently, however, he did not speculate in land and did not become wealthy. He died at the age of 89 in 1815 in Newbury (by now in the State of Vermont), with modest financial means.

In the microfilmed documents, Bedel’s correspondence with Bayley is found mostly during the years 1777-1779.

Moses Hazen (1733-1803) was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts Bay colony (on the Merrimack River; not to be confused with Haverhill, NH on the upper Connecticut River). He led a larger-than-life life that interrelated closely with Bedel’s.

Hazen served as a ranger in the French and Indian War, including service in the Fort St. John’s area. In 1758, he received a commission as first lieutenant in the militia. In 1761, he purchased a commission as first lieutenant in the British army.

Following the war, Hazen settled on the Richelieu River, near Saint-Jean, south of Montreal (the location of the British Fort St. John’s), and began speculating in land sales. (His rocky relationship with his partner-speculator Gabriel Christe is another complicated story.)

Meanwhile, Moses’ brother John had settled at Haverhill, NH, and several Hazen family members joined the Bayleys and Timothy Bedel as founders of Newbury, VT. Moses owned shares in both towns.

As the Revolutionary War began, Moses Hazen, still technically active in the British army, provided intelligence of Continental army movements in 1775 to British authorities in Montreal. When the Americans besieged Fort St. John’s, Hazen was captured and imprisoned as a suspicious person. By the time he was released 54 days later, he had determined to change sides.

Hazen’s opportunism led to a commission as colonel in the Continental army as well as (partial) indemnification against damages to his property around Saint-Jean during the siege of Fort St. John’s. In 1776, under General Benedict Arnold’s command, Hazen was the officer who ordered Timothy Bedel and his 390 men to fortify The Cedars—with disastrous consequences for the Continentals.

Like Bedel, Hazen had a knack for becoming embroiled in controversy, and as with Bedel, General Arnold was his nemesis. In this case, the charge was disobeying orders, and Hazen was cleared at his July 1776 court martial, but Arnold kept after Hazen until Arnold himself was exposed as a turncoat in 1779.

Hazen remained in the thick of Revolutionary War battles through Yorktown, serving and commanding effectively. In 1781, he was promoted to Brigadier General. While still on duty after the war, he mis-stepped again, unintentionally helping to precipitate the “Asgill” Affair.

Although he lost his Canadian lands because of the Revolution, he retained his American landholdings, and was awarded a land grant at Troy, NY for his military service. In later life, he apparently continued his speculative and litigious ways.

The Bayley Hazen Military Road: When Moses Hazen invested in Haverhill/Newbury in the 1760s, he became interested in developing a road between there and his holdings south of Montreal. This was the germ that, during the early years of the Revolutionary War, developed into the so-called Bayley-Hazen Military Road project. Hazen, Bayley, and Bedel, shared the dream of a large independent state in the northern Connecticut River region. For them, the road would open up the region for political unification as well as economic development.

Hazen led the political lobbying effort for the project, with the other two assisting. Of course, they had to “sell” the road as a military necessity, part of their strategy to encourage a second Continental invasion of Canada. At times between 1777 and 1779, Hazen, Bayley, and Bedel all used troops under their command to work on constructing the road. By 1779, however, General Washington, who had never supported another Canadian invasion, shut down the incomplete project. Today, parts of the original route are paved over by modern roads in Vermont.


From what is known about it, Timothy Bedel’s life seems fraught with both contradictions and uncertainties:

-- Contradictions: He apparently favored the American revolutionary cause. Yet he also apparently favored revolutionary action to establish a new state and to include Canadian territory within it. As a military man, supposedly unquestionably loyal to the regime for which he fights, he must have felt the tug of these conflicting revolutionary causes. Perhaps his personal struggle helps explain some of the anomalies in his military career. The contradictions help make Bedel’s life interesting and a promising target for research.

-- Uncertainties: The historical record only incompletely reveals the complex reality of Bedel’s life and military career. The microfilmed papers in this collection contain only a portion of this record, but an important one. For researchers, the real life of Timothy Bedel remains largely unexplored territory. Specific questions raised by the New Hampshire Historical Society include:
• What was his role at The Cedars?
• What was the situation behind his court martial?
• Why was he commissioned again in 1777 after being cashiered in 1776?
• Was he guilty of defrauding the government as Stark claimed?
• Why was his regiment disbanded?

Bedel’s life was not unique in these respects. The incompletely understood lives of Moses Hazen and Jacob Bayley also reveal strange twists and turns, as well as uncertainties and questions. In addition to learning more fully about Bedel’s own life, additional research may bear fruit concerning the complex interrelationships among these three men and the broader movement for an upper-Connecticut-River-valley state and land development.

Microfilmed Documents

The David Library’s copy of the microfilmed Timothy Bedel Papers (original manuscripts are at the New Hampshire Historical Society) are contained on a single reel of 16mm microfilm. The images are all negatives. In general, the documents are difficult to read, with, thankfully, some exceptions. If the images were positive, their readability would not necessarily be better and might be worse. The readability problem does not appear to be the result of the microfilming process itself. However, since the microfilm is 16mm rather than 35mm, the images cannot, on a normal microfilm reader, be “blown up” to large enough size to help decipher some of the more difficult handwriting.

The microfilm frames are numbered above each image, providing some guidance through the entire reel of 673 frames.

The microfilm reel begins with a helpful six-page, typewritten, biographical introduction, which was one of several sources for the biographical summary above.

Following that on the reel, the NHHS has provided an annotated summary of the contents, which is very useful.

The contents may be more generally summarized as follows:

-- Correspondence with some account papers interspersed (1771-1785) (frames 20-392)
(Note: The correspondence manuscripts are organized into five folders that are identified in the microfilm reel. The label for each folder indicates the inclusive years of correspondence contained therein. However, the documents within each folder are not consistently organized chronologically.)

-- Copies of printed correspondence from the American Archives, fourth and fifth series, and Saffel’s Records of the Revolutionary War (1775-1779) (folder 6, frames 393-488)

-- Miscellaneous documents, including accounts of Generals Gates, Washington, Bayley, Wooster, Montgomery, and Arnold plus the Marquis de Lafayette; accounts of companies in Bedel’s regiment; and a letter by Bedel concerning a Canadian expedition (folder 7, frames 489-511)

-- War rolls, including pay rolls and muster rolls for companies in Bedel’s regiment (1776-1778) (folder 8, frames 512-540)

-- Bedel’s commissions (1762-1777) (folder 9, frames 541-546)

-- Inventories of Bedel’s estate at the time of his death, including claims against the estate and memoranda of land deeds (folder 10, frames 547-587)

-- Deeds for Bedel’s land in Bath and Haverhill (1763-1786) (folders 11 and 12, frames 588-673)

Using the annotated contents included at the beginning of the microfilm reel provides more specific guidance about the contents of each of the collection’s 12 manuscript folders. This report does not replicate that level of detail but does focus on certain items and trends, including reference to some of the more readable specific documents that seem of particular interest:

-- The first microfilmed document (frame 18) is a statement sworn to a justice of the peace by Joshua Bayley (son of the Revolutionary War general?) in the State of Vermont on November 10, 1821. Its content is not readily readable.

-- The first item of correspondence (frame 20) is an order dated June 6, 1775, from the Committee of Safety in Exeter, NH to Captain Timothy Bedel of Bath, empowering him to enlist a company of volunteers.

-- The next item (frame 21) is identified as two “speeches to Indians” by Colonel T. Bedel apparently delivered in 1775. The first begins “Brothers of the Seven Tribes in Canada Attend:” The second begins “Brothers Attend:” Bedel gained a self-enhanced reputation of being an expert on Indian relations. His use of this expertise is documented several times during his military career.

-- Frame 23 is a resolution of the New Hampshire colony, dated August 29, 1775, sending Colonel Timothy Bedel with his companies of New Hampshire rangers to Canada to join General Schuyler’s army.

-- The correspondence does not include letters dated soon before, during, or soon after the May 1776 disaster at The Cedars. Documents in the correspondence from 1776 are mostly accounting papers and receipts. Exceptions are two letters probably written by Bedel from Crown Point, one dated July 9 and the other July 12, 1776, the latter to General Gates. The correspondence also appears not to provide much direct information on Bedel’s subsequent court martial.

-- Correspondence with General Gates begins with a letter by Gates to Bedel dated November 15, 1777 from Albany. By this time, Bedel was also communicating with Colonel Moses Hazen. A number of the letters from 1777 are copies written onto separate sheets that, combined, amount to a letterbook but include both incoming and outgoing correspondence. Other military correspondents during 1777 include General Philip Schuyler and General Jacob Bayley.

-- Frame 101 contains a typescript of a letter by Gates to Bedel dated October 4, 1777 (as Burgoyne was about to surrender at Saratoga on October 17), in which Gates proclaims that “The Enemy are at their last gasp….” and thanks Bedel for helping enlist Indian assistance for “Our Noble Cause.”

-- In February, March, and May 1778, Bedel was communicating with Lafayette, partly about construction of a new fort, probably at Fort St. Johns, for the new campaign against Canada that was soon aborted (frames 115, 117, 468).

-- In November 1778, Bedel exchanged letters with General Washington (frames 167, 173).

-- On January 26, 1786, the US government compensated Bedel £2,129.12 for expenses related to the Indians in 1775-1777 (frame 327). The amount was calculated in Pounds Sterling, not American dollars.
In this regard, an interesting table is found among the letters (frame 275). It lists the “New Hampshire State of Depreciation” for “Continental Paper” monthly from January 1777 ($100 = $100) to June 1781 ($100 = $72,000). The highest level of depreciation was reached between January and May 1781 ($100 = $75,000).

-- Three military commissions given to Bedel are documented in the microfilmed papers: Captain of a Foot Company, October 2, 1762; Colonel in the NH Rangers, June 6, 1775; and Colonel in the Continental Army (signed by John Hancock), January 22, 1776 (frames 541-546).

-- The inventory of Bedel’s estate, completed after his death on February 24, 1787, lists total values of £6,941.12.2 for personal property and £10,970.2.2 for real property. Still, financial values were being calculated and reported in Pounds Sterling (frames 574-566).

-- More than 30 real estate deeds are included among the microfilmed documents (frames 588-673), dating from 1767 to 1786, all for properties in Bath and Haverhill, NH. They include deed transfers for both purchases and sales by Bedel. It seems likely that Bedel owned property in Newbury (VT) across the Connecticut River. However, deeds for such properties are not found among the microfilmed deeds.

A sizeable proportion of Bedel’s correspondence was carried on with generals (and a colonel) in the Continental army. Approximate dates of microfilmed letters are as follows: General Montgomery (August to November 1775—Montgomery lost his life at Quebec on December 31); General Gates (July 1776 to August 1779); General Schuyler (August 1775 to February 1776), General Bayley (February 1777 to January 1779); Colonel Hazen (1778 to December 1784).

Much of this correspondence appears to pertain to military matters. However, with Hazen in the 1780s and perhaps with Bayley earlier, the correspondence was personal, and the subject pertained to private matters in the Haverhill-Newbury area, including matters of land purchases and sales.

Andrew Parke Pamphlet

Lieutenant Andrew Parke served under Captain George Forster in the British army contingent that briefly besieged the Continental army’s outpost called The Cedars in May 1776, then received the surrender of the Continental soldiers, and subsequently guarded the prisoners of war. (By the time the pamphlet was published, Parke had been promoted to captain.)

Little seems to be known of Parke’s life except that by 1777, he was back in England participating in the printing of a political pamphlet designed to denigrate the “rebels,” honor the British army, and arouse the British citizenry in support of the war to defeat the rebels.

The pamphlet was given a typically (for the time) lengthy title: “An authentic narrative of facts relating to the exchange of prisoners taken at the Cedars: supported by the testimonies and dispositions of His Majesty’s officers, with several original letters and papers. Together with remarks upon the report and resolves of the American Congress on that subject: London, Printed for T. Cadell, 1777.”

The microfilm copy of the pamphlet in the David Library was made from a copy of the original printed pamphlet held by the Houghton Library of Harvard University.

The opening paragraph of the pamphlet leaves no doubt that it was written as propaganda: “The unnatural rebellion of the North American Colonies against the parent state, must afford great concern to every sensible mind, feeling for the prosperity of the British empire, or the distresses of mankind….” It quickly goes on to vilify the American Congress and its members for what the author maintains is a maliciously inaccurate account of The Cedars affair and its outcome—especially as it relates to the British treatment of its prisoners of war following the American surrender.

The bulk of the 50-page pamphlet contains text of the offending proclamation by the American Congress plus text of a lengthy statement signed by four British officers who had served under Captain Forster at The Cedars, including Andrew Parke, who appears to have been the author or at least scribe for the four. This statement, which fills pages 20 through 38 of the pamphlet, contains a description of the siege, surrender, and treatment of prisoners—from the British perspective. It is presented as a “simple narrative drawn up and signed by the gallant officers employed in reducing the rebel force at the Cedars….” The pamphlet also contains several supporting documents, including British General Carleton’s orders concerning prisoners and a letter from a French priest (in French followed by English translation).

From the perspective of historical research, the pamphlet seems most useful as a statement of:

-- A strongly worded public position in support of the king and against the rebels, who are pictured as British citizens illegitimately run amok in an internal dispute against legitimate royal power.

-- An opening salvo in a lengthy debate—between Americans and British as well as within America and within Britain—over the legally and humanely proper treatment of prisoners of war during the Revolutionary War.

-- A typically (for the time) insensitive portrayal of Britain’s Indian allies as “savages” whose “less civilized” (i.e. more brutal) approach to the treatment of prisoners allowed the British to see themselves as comparatively magnanimous and civilized, while their allies (and perhaps not only they) were perpetrating what the Americans saw as uncivilized treatment—and didn’t care to distinguish between British and Indian behavior. In other words, the British excused their Indian allies for not following European rules of military conduct in relation to prisoners of war, while the Americans accused both Indians and British (because the British commanded the Indians) of violating the rights of prisoners.

Between quoted letters, documents, and texts, the pamphlet “speaks” through an unidentified, anonymous expositor. Perhaps this text also was written by Andrew Parke. However, the pamphlet gives no indication of this.

The pamphlet closes in the same propagandistic tone with which it began. Referring to the members of the American Congress, the expositor insists that “This set of restless and designing men, from motives of private interest, emulation, and envy, have beguiled the multitude into general animosity, hatred, and revenge against the parent state; they have discarded truth…and cheated the people of their liberties and happiness, by leading them to believe, rebellion (the source of misery) would produce unconstrained independence. What charm then can turn this mockery, this grimace of enthusiastic liberty, into sentiments of humanity and candour; or what arguments convince the republican friends of America, how impossible it is, for the weak wiles of the wolf, to overcome the generous strength of the lion?”

The purple prose of this pamphlet is instructive in its own right and in its own way. However, despite its title, it does little to elucidate facts concerning either the surrender at The Cedars or the treatment of prisoners thereafter. Nor does it shed much new light on the life of Timothy Bedel, on his actions during The Cedars incident, or on his court martial that followed.

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