Michigan Society

Sons of the American Revolution

Pvt. Haines French

In 1776, Haines French (son of Patriot John French) appears with the rank of ___ on a pay roll of Captain Samuel Young's Company in Colonel Bedel's Regiment, raised by order of the Continental Congress in defense of the Liberties of America. He joined the Northern Continental Army under General Washington. Haines also appears in that same year with the rank of ____ on a Return of an Independent Company of Rangers in the Service of the United States of America, commanded by Major Benjamin Whitcomb (the Return is dated July 4, 1776).

Whitcomb's Rangers started as a similar provisional unit on the Lake Champlain front in 1776. It gained permanent status as a two-company force on 15 October of that year, and provided reconnaissance capability to the Northern Department until 1 January 1781, when it disbanded at Coos, New Hampshire, as part of a general reorganization of the Continental Army. Most of Whitcomb's men came from New Hampshire and the Hampshire Grants (now Vermont). Benjamin Whitcomb enlisted as a Lieutenant in a regiment of Colonel Bedel's New Hampshire Rangers on 22 January 1776. Whitcomb's company served as a rear guard for the American Army in the Northern Department as the army moved south from Canada after the failed Canadian Campaign.

Because of Whitcomb's extensive experience in the area of the Champlain Valley from his service in the French & Indian Wars, American commanders frequently used him as a scout around Fort Ticonderoga and surrounding areas. On one such mission, Whitcomb shot and fatally wounded the commander of the British First Brigade, Brigadier General Patrick Gordon. As a result of this, the British put a price on Whitcomb's head, and he and his men were vigorously hunted by the British and their Indian allies for the remainder of the war.

On 30 September 1776, because of Whitcomb's prowess as a ranger and scout, General Gates recommended to Congress that he be given command of his own corps of rangers. General Gates' address to John Hancock, President of the Congress stated in part: "...I must now beg leave to recommend Lieut. Whitcomb as a very proper person, to have the Command of Two Independent Companies, of Fifty Men each to be recruited by Himself, and the Officers to be Commissioned agreeable to his Recommendations. I never knew any Man more capable of doing good Service, in the Ranging or Scouting way, than Lieut. Whitcomb, and his Sobriety, Honor, and Truth illustrate his Military Talents. They traveled great distances from their posts at or around Mount Independence and Fort Ticonderoga on the open water by canoe, and over land by foot." (Scouting parties of Whitcomb's men frequently traveled from their posts to over 100 miles north through savage infested wilderness into enemy territory to gather information from the area around Montreal.)

Authorized 15 October 1776 in the Continental Army as Whitcomb's Rangers, an element of the Northern Department, Congress adopted the following resolution: "In Congress Assembled - Resolved, That two independent Companies consisting of fifty Men each, be immediately raised to be commanded by Lieutenant Whitcomb, who should be appointed Captain Commandant - that he nominate the Officers of the said two Companies who are to be appointed, when approved by the commanding Officer of the Northern Department."

Organized in November 1776 at Fort Ticonderoga, New York, to consist of two companies from northwestern New Hampshire, in the spring of 1777, Benjamin Whitcomb's Independent Corps of Rangers began fulfilling their role in earnest. The Rangers quickly built a reputation for their skill at scouting and raiding, primarily in small groups of two to twenty men. Whitcomb's Rangers were with the American Army as it was forced by the British to abandon Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence on 6 July 1777. They marched from Mt. Independence over 20 miles away to Hubbardton, and there fought a successful but costly rear guard action the next day (July 7). While considered a British victory, the Battle of Hubbardton had served its purpose for the Americans by giving the majority of the Army time to escape and regroup.

On August 16, Whitcomb's men were part of an American force that fought a successful engagement at the Battle of Bennington. Some of Whitcomb's men were with Colonel Brown when he made a gallant attempt to retake Fort Ticonderoga on September 17-22, 1777. The attempt failed owing to the sturdy defenses, but it did succeed in destroying the shipping and outer works of the fort, as well as in capturing 225 British and Germans and releasing 100 American prisoners.

At the same time, the main force of the American Army was making its way north to Albany where Whitcomb himself was reportedly the first person to have observed the approaching British army along Bemis Heights. When Burgoyne came up against the American positions at Freeman's Farm on September 19, some of Whitcomb's Rangers served with Dearborne's Light Infantry Battalion and fought the first battle of Saratoga. After the battle, they were assigned to watch Burgoyne's left flank until General Stark could move into position to cut off the British retreat.

Whitcomb was promoted to Major in November of 1777, and the Rangers were eventually assigned to Rutland, Vermont. Whitcomb, being the senior Continental Army officer in the area, served as overall commander of Fort Ranger, and commanded several militia companies, another company of Continental Rangers, and a portion of Seth Warner's Regiment, the only other Continental troops in Vermont.

Disbanded 1 January 1781 at Coos, New Hampshire as part of an army-wide reorganization, orders came from Congress for Whitcomb to send his non-commissioned officers and privates to join the Continental Army and for the officers to retire. An appeal was made to General Washington, but the original orders stood. Most of the rangers became part of the New Hampshire Continental Line. (Lineage taken from "The Continental Army" by Robert K. Wright.)

In 1778, "Haynes" French, Private appears on a muster roll of Captain Nehemiah Lovewell's Company in a Regiment of Volunteers raised by order of Congress for an expedition against Canada, whereof Timothy Bedel, Esq, is Colonel.

In 1781, on 14 April and ending on 2 November, "Haynes" French appears with the rank of _____ on a pay roll of a party of men raised for the defense of the frontiers adjacent to the upper Coos, where Ward Bailey is Lieutenant Commandant.

In 1782, Haines appears on a list under the following heading: "We the subscribers Whose Names are Written Do Voluntarily enlist our Selves as Soldiers in the service of the State of Vermont as a Scouting Party to Scout at and Near the upper Coos to be Commanded by Capt Ward Bailey until the First Day of Dec Next unless Sooner Discharged."

--submitted by J.C. Carlson NSSAR #166455



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