Saturday, November 06, 2010

Colonel Thomas Knowlton

Colonel Thomas Knowlton.

Birth: Nov. 30, 1740, Ipswich, Essex County, Massachusetts.
Death: Sep. 16, 1776, Harlem, New York County, New York.
Burial: Westford Hill Cemetery , Ashford, Windham County, Connecticut.

Revolutionary War Continental Army Officer. The Father of American Military Intelligence. Born in West Boxford, Massachusetts, when he was eight, his family relocated to a farm in Ashford, Windham, Connecticut (current property of the June Norcross Webster Scout Reservation). In 1755, at fifteen, Knowlton served in the French and Indian War with his older brother Daniel. He enlisted in Captain John Durkee's company, and is known to have joined Daniel on scouting missions into enemy territory.

He served during six campaigns in the war and was promoted to Lieutenant in 1760. He also fought in Israel Putnam's company against the Spanish at the Battle of Havana, Cuba in 1762. By 1762, Knowlton had returned home and married Anna Keyes. He and his wife raised nine children. At the age of thirty-three, Knowlton was appointed a Selectman of Ashford, Windham, Connecticut. Thomas Knowlton is considered America's first Intelligence professional, and his unit, Knowlton's Rangers, made a significant contribution to intelligence gathering during the early Revolutionary War.

Knowlton was killed in action at the Battle of Harlem Heights. The Battle of Harlem Heights was fought in the New York Campaign of the American Revolutionary War. The action took place in what is now the Morningside Heights and west Harlem neighborhoods of Manhattan in New York City on September 16, 1776. According to the Connecticut Society of Sons of the American Revolution, Thomas Knowlton was buried with military honors in an unmarked grave at what is today the intersection of 143rd St. and St. Nicholas Ave. in New York City.

Knowlton's Rangers.

After the American defeat on Long Island, Aug. 27, 76, a small body of select troops was organized for special service along * ^ the lines and placed under the command of Lieut. -Col. Thomas Knowlton of Durkee s Conn. Kcgt. 20th Continental. Col. Knowlton, a veteran of the French and Indian war, had distinguished himself at Bunker Hill and in one or two subsequent exploits during the siege of Boston, and was peculiarly fitted to lead a partisan corps. The detachment in question, known as Knowlton s " Rangers," was composed of officers and men chosen from different regiments, to which they were to return when no longer needed. Knowlton appears to have selected officers whom he knew, which accounts for the large proportion from Connecticut; the men also were largely from the same state. The command was small, not over one hundred and thirty or forty. Its first service gave it no little reputation in the army. After the retreat from New York, Sept. 15, 76 the troops in general being more or less depressed Washington ordered Knowlton to move out early on the 16th from Harlem Heights and ascertain the position of the enemy. Knowlton marched over Bloomingdale Heights, and found the enemy soutposts somewhere along the line of 110th St. on the main road, now Broadway. A skirmish occurred and Knowlton fell back to the American lines, then stretching along 125th St. from vicinity of 8th Avenue west to the Hudson. The British Light Infantry followed him. Washington thereupon directed Knowlton to attack again, turning their right, while other troops attacked them in front and left. A successful engagement followed, the enemy being driven back over the Bloomingdale grounds with loss. In the affair, Knowlton was mortally wounded, and died during the action, greatly regretted. In General Orders of Sept. 17, Washington referred to him as " the gallant and brave Col. Knowlton who would have been an honour to any country."

Knowlton s Senior Captain Stephen Brown, of Woodstock succeeded to the command of the "Rangers," but in a few days returned to his regiment Durkee s. The other captains, so far as the records indicate, were Thomas Grosvenor, of Pomfret, and Nathan Hale, of Coventry. Grosvenor seems to have retired with Brown, and Hale, the "Martyr Spy," was then absent within the enemy s lines. As the next commander of the "Rangers," Washington appointed, Oct. 1, 76, Maj. Andrew Colburn, of Nixon s Mass. Regt. He was wounded before the end of the month and retired. The command devolved thereafter upon Lieut., afterwards Captain, Lemuel Holmes, of Sargeant s Mass. Regt. Upon the withdrawal of the army to White Plains and subsequently through New Jersey, it was proposed either to disband the " Rangers " or have them accompany the main force; but Col. Robert Magaw, of Pennsylvania, then commanding at Fort Washington, on New York Island below King s Bridge, urgently requested their continuance with him as being his main dependence for the security of his outposts. They accordingly remained on the Harlem lines until Nov. 16, 1776, when Fort Washington and the entire garrison were captured by the enemy.

The "Rangers" thus disappear as prisoners. Oliver Burnham, one of the detachment afterwards Judge Burnham, of Conn. writing after the war, says: "We remained until the sixteenth of November in this situation (" near Harlem ") when we were warmly engaged on all sides. We were about two miles below the fort and well sustained the attack until the enemy made good their landing across Harlem River, when we had hard righting to reach the fort. Just as we had reached the gate, the flag went out and surrendered the fort and ourselves prisoners of war."

Library Of Congress.

DECEMBER 22, 1837.

For the relief of the children aiid heirs of Colonel Thomas Knowlton, deceased.

Be it enacted by the Senate anti House of Representatives of the United States of .America in Congress assembled, That the Secretary of the Treasury be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to pay, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, to the children and heirs of Colonel Thomas Knowlton, deceased, who was a lieutenant colonel in the army of the Revolution, and slain in battle on the sixteenth day of September, seventeen hundred and seventy-six, the seven years’ half pay allowed to the widows or orphan children of such officers as should be slain or die in the service, by a resolve of Congress, passed the twenty-fourth day of August, seventeen hundred and eighty; together with such in1terest thereon as would now be due if certificates had duly issued for the same, and had been funded under the act of August fourth, seventeen hundred and ninety.

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