Our Ancestors
Members of the Twin Falls Chapter are very proud of their American Revolution ancestors.  Here are the stories of two of them . . . Thomas Mellen was a private whose description of the Battle of Bennington appeared in the book "The History of Newbury, Vermont," published in 1902.  Mellen was born in Londonderry, New Hampshire, but had moved with his family to Newbury soon after the war.  During the war he served in the Lexington Alarm, the Battle of Bunker Hill ("being stationed at a very dangerous part of the rail fence"), the Battle of Bennington, and other campaigns.

At age 92, Mellen was interviewed by a pastor who was preparing to give a speech for a special ceremony -- a cannon captured at the Battle of Bennington was to be placed in Vermont's General Assembly building.  At the time Mellen told the story, he was living in a one-room building behind his son's house on the farm, where he spent most of his time working and reading.  The pastor described it as "the plain tale of a soldier" and said, "When I visited him, though upward of 92 years of age, he was so far from being bald or bowed that you would think him in the Indian summer of life."

Mellen was also described as "a hard working man, in person he was below the medium height, very erect and active, and when past 80, still sang well, with a fine tenor voice.  When he was 81, he made a sleigh with his own hands, in which, the next winter, he traveled to . . . the battlefield of Bunker Hill and the unfinished monument."

Excerpts from the narrative of Thomas Mellen regarding the Battle of Bennington:

"I enlisted at Francestown, N.H., as soon as I learned that [General John] Stark would accept the command of the State troops; six or seven others from the same town joined the army at the same time.  I received a horn of powder and run two or three hundred bullets; I had brought my own gun.  Then my company went on to Manchester; soon after, I went, with a hundred others, down the valley of Otter Creek; on this excursion we lived like lords, on pigs and chickens, in the houses of the Tories who had fled.  When we returned to Manchester, bringing two hogsheads of West India rum, we heard that the Hessians were on their way to invade Vermont.  Late in the afternoon of rainy Friday, we were ordered off for Bennington in spite of rain, mud and darkness.

"Between two and three o'clock the battle began.  The Germans fired by platoons, and we were soon hidden by the smoke.  Our men fired each on his own hook, aiming wherever he saw a flash; few on our side had either bayonets or cartridges.  At last I stole away from my post and ran down to the battle.  The first time I fired I put three balls in my gun; before I had time to fire many rounds our men rushed over the breast-works, but I and many others chased straggling Hessians in the woods; we pursued until we met [Lt. Col. Henrich von] Breyman with 800 fresh troops and larger cannon, which opened a fire of grape shot; some of the grape shot riddled a Virginia fence near me; one shot struck a small white oak behind which I stood; though it hit higher than my head I fled from the tree, thinking it might be aimed at me again.  We skirmishers ran back till we met a large body of Stark's men and then faced about.

"I soon started for a brook I saw a few rods behind, for I had drank nothing all day, and should have died of thirst if I had not chewed a bullet all the time.  I had not gone a rod when I was stopped by an officer, sword in hand, ready to cut me down as a runaway, who, on my complaining of thirst, handed me his canteen, which was full of rum; I drank and forgot my thirst.  But the enemy outflanked us, and I said to a comrade, 'we must run or they will have us.'  In a few minutes we saw [Seth] Warner's men [a small Vermont militia] hurrying to help us; they opened right and left of us, and one-half of them attacked each flank of the enemy, and beat back those who were just closing round us.  Stark's men now took heart and stood their ground.  My gun barrel was at this time too hot to hold so I seized a musket of a dead Hessian, in which my bullets went down easier than my own.  Right in front were the cannon, and seeing an officer on horseback waving his sword to the artillery, I fired at him twice; his horse fell; he cut the traces of an artillery horse, mounted him and rode off.  Soon the Germans ran, and we followed; many of them threw down their guns on the ground, or offered them to us, or kneeled, some in puddles of water.  The enemy beat a parley, minded to give up, but our men did not understand it.  I came to one wounded man flat on the ground, crying water or quarter.  I snatched the sword out of the scabbard, and while I ran on and fired, carried it in my mouth, thinking I might need it.  The Germans fled by the road and in a wood each side of it;many of their scabbards caught in the brush and held the fugitives till we seized them.  We chased them till dark.  We might have mastered them all, as they stopped within three miles of the battlefields; but Stark, saying he would run no risk of spoiling a good day's work, ordered a halt and return to quarters.

"My company lay down and slept in a corn field, near where we had fought -- each man having a hill of corn for a pillow.  When I waked the next morning, I was so beaten out that I could not get up till I had rolled about a good while.

"After breakfast I went to see them bury the dead.  I saw thirteen Tories, mostly shot through the head, buried in one hole.  Not more than a rod from where I fought, we found Capt. McClary dead and stripped naked.  We scraped a hole with sticks, and just covered him with earth.  We saw many of the wounded who had lain out all night.  Afterward we went to Bennington, and saw the prisoners paraded.  They were drawn up in one long line; the British foremost, then the Waldeckers, next the Indians, and hindmost the Tories."

Joseph Elder Esq. came from Ireland prior to the Revolutionary War and is described in Eager's history of Orange County, NY:  "During the Revolution he was a young man and some militia troops to which he belonged were ordered to the north. At a fixed time they were to be at Newburgh or New Windsor, and transported up the river on board a sloop provided for the purpose. Mr. Elder, for some cause, did not arrive at the place of rendezvoux till too late to take his passage, the sloop had left with a fair wind and out of sight above Danskammer. Go he must or be called a Tory, and there was no recourse left him but to try the distance on foot. Elder, young, patriotic and of an iron frame of body, buckled on his knapsack, shouldered his musket and started.  Though the sloop made a good passage for those times and had the best of the start, Elder beat her to Albany by several hours. . . .

The farm on which he lived was quite stony though, when cleared, the land was kind and productive, and Elder, like the rest of his neighbors, converted his useless stones into wall to fence his farm. In building these he scarcely ever used a team to gather and convey the stones to their destination. We have seen him with a large leather apron girt about his loins, holding the end gathered up in one hand, while tumbling the stones into it with the other, and when full raise himself erect, and without apparent effort, carry them off to the wall and put them in place. . . . He was industrious and eminently robust and powerful.  Looking on his muscular and giant frame, he reminds one of ancient Milo, who could lift a grown bullock over an ordinarily high fence. . . .

Mr. Elder had received but a very limited education, yet possessing strong natural good sense, he was fitted to discharge the duties of the various town offices to public satisfaction.  He was many years a magistrate of the town, and if he erred at any time, the fault was of the head and not the heart, for he was proverbially an upright and honest man."


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