Robert Braford was born February 19, 1753 in Windham County, Connecticut. He married Sarah Cornish December 24, 1773 in The Congregational Church of North Canaan in Litchfield County, Connecticut. The newlyweds left Connecticut for Berkshire County, Massachusetts to begin their life farming and raising a family. Their first child, a daughter, was born in 1775.
Robert responded to the call for War service volunteers and enlisted in the Massachusetts Line on January 1, 1776, committing to one year of service. He was assigned to serve as a Private in Captain Asa Barns Company commanded by Col. Paul Dudley Seargent. His first deployment was joining the Continental forces Surrounding Boston.
The Siege of Boston, beginning April 19, 1775, was the opening phase of the Revolutionary War. Colonial troops succeeded in surrounding Boston, effectively blocking land access to the city occupied by British General Gage and his army garrisoned there. Following the battles of Lexington and Concord, military actions were limited to occasional raids, minor skirmishes, and sniper fire. Robert probably encountered little direct action. General Gage evacuated Boston on March 17, 1776, moving his troops by ship to Nova Scotia.
Col. Seargent’s Regiment was next ordered to join General Washington’s forces in the battle for New York City. The Regiment was involved in the battles of Harlem Heights and White Plains. British General Howe was successful in driving General Washington out of New York City. The British controlled New York Harbor for the remainder of the War, using it as a base for expeditions against other targets.
Following the New York defeat, Washington and much of his army, including Col. Seargent’s Regiment, crossed the Hudson River into New Jersey. They continued to retreat all the way across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. The army was shrinking due to enlistment periods, poor morale, and desertions. It was here that Washington and his troops crossed the cold and icy Delaware River on December 25 and 26, 1776, leading to the Battle of Trenton, New Jersey.
The Battle of Trenton was a small but pivotal battle, taking place on the morning of December 26. Following the river crossing, Washington led the main body of the Continental Army, surprising the Hessian (German) troops garrisoned at Trenton. After a brief encounter, nearly the entire Hessian force was captured with negligible losses to the Americans. This dramatic victory was an inspiration to the Colonial army and the American Colonists in the war with Great Britain.
Robert Braford was discharged January 1, 1777 in Trenton and returned home to Berkshire County, Massachusetts to care for his young wife and infant daughter. By 1781, Robert and Sarah had a family of two sons and two daughters.
In 1781, Robert volunteered for a regiment recruited from Berkshire County to serve a three-month enlistment. He was assigned to Captain Clark’s Company in the regiment commanded by Col. Barnabas Sears. He served from July 18, 1781 to November 2, 1781, and was detached for service on the Mohawk River in New York, a tributary of the Hudson River. The Mohawk River was strategically important for transportation during the War to avoid land travel over the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains. The Mohawk River Valley was a significant wheat producing area, utilizing the river to ship grain and flour to Albany New York and beyond to replenish Continental army food supplies.
Battles along the Mohawk River continued throughout the course of the War with victories trading back and forth. The resident Mohawk Tribes remained loyal to the British. The numerous settlers in the area were divided between British loyalists and American Patriots. Skirmishes amongst these groups were frequent and bloody. By the end of the War, most of the loyalists and Mohawk people had migrated or were forced into southeastern Canada.
Robert returned to his home in Berkshire County to continue life with his wife and family. In 1799, Robert moved his wife and nine children to Washington County, New York and then on to Cayuga County, New York. Their tenth and last child was born in New York.
Robert applied for a pension in 1818 following an act by Congress authorizing pensions for Revolutionary War veterans. Upon filing his application, his service record could not be found, as his surname is often confused with Bradford or Brayford. He was required to swear an affidavit declaring his service record and deposed by local authorities to verify the record. Two soldiers Robert served with also filed affidavits and were deposed by local authorities to further verify his record. Robert was awarded an annual pension of $96 payable $8 monthly. He died June 24, 1826. No burial record has been found.
Robert's wife, Sarah, continued to live in Sempronius, New York with members of her family. She was an invalid, somewhat deaf, and suffering from “fits,” probably an epileptic condition. She required constant care.
On July 4, 1836, Congress enacted legislation authorizing pension benefits for widows of Revolutionary War Veterans. Sarah applied for a pension and was required to furnish a copy of her marriage certificate from the church where they were married in Litchfield County, Connecticut. She was also required to find two witnesses to attest to her marriage. The witnesses were subjected to depositions by local authorities. She was finally awarded a pension of $20 annually and arrearages of $260. Sarah died March 14, 1840 at the age of 82. No record of her burial has been found.
--submitted by Jim Biener, NSSAR #193055