Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Ancestor Spotlight - Elisha Blackman III (1760-1845)



     Elisha Blackman III is my 5th Great-Grandfather. He was born in April 4, 1760 in Lebanon, Connecticut to Elisha Blackman Jr. and Lucy Polly. His family moved to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1773. In 1778, at age 18, he enlisted as a private with the 24th Regiment Pennsylvania Militia in the Company of Captain James Bidlack. He was part of a very inexperienced unit protecting farms in the Wyoming Valley on the Pennsylvania frontier, and on July 3, 1778 was art of a battle that became known as the Wyoming Massacre.

The Wyoming Massacre, by Alonzo Chappell, 1858
    In late June of 1778, the regimental commander Col. Zebulon Butler received word that approximately seven hundred British regulars, Rangers, and Indians under the command of Major John Butler and Chief Sayenqueraghta of the Seneca Iroquois were gathering near Pittston at Fort Wintermute. The militia immediately gathered their families in to several forts and sent word to General Washington requesting reinforcements. A small company of reinforcements arrived from Hanover, commanded by Lazarus Stewart. The British commander, under flag of truce, demanded the surrender of the militia forces, which was refused. Col. Zebulon Butler planned to remain in the fort until reinforcements arrived from the Continental Army. Lazarus Stewart disagreed, and passionately called for the men to launch a preemptive attack on the British. His zeal for battle won over many of the young recruits, and Butler was eventually forced to lead the men in to battle, lest he lose his command.

    On July 3, 1778, approximately 360 militia members marched out of the fort at Wilkes-Barre to face the British and Indian forces. When the British heard the militia troops were on the move, they set fire to their own forts. Seeing this, many in the militia believed the British were retreating and broke ranks to pursue them. But the fire was a trap. The British commander, Col. John Butler, had instructed the Seneca to lie flat in the grass and wait for the American rush. The British and Indian forces flanked the disorganized militia and the result was a massacre. The battle lasted only about a half hour, by which time the remaining Americans scattered. But the Seneca gave them no quarter and hunted down the almost all the militia. Capt. John Butler reported the Seneca took 227 American scalps that day. Two British rangers and one Seneca warrior were killed, but estimates are that no more than 60 of the 360 militia members who marched that day escaped with their lives.

    During the battle Elisha Blackman saw his brother-in-law, Darius Spafford, fall mortally wounded, and he became so intent on avenging the death that it was some time before he discovered that the Americans were losing ground. In the flight from the field he and a companion headed for the river. Indians chased them and called to them to surrender, assuring them that they would not be hurt. Blackman did not surrender, but his companion did. only to have his skull immediately split open with a tomahawk. Blackman strained every nerve to escape, and did so by swimming to Monocanock Island, with the bullets fired by his pursuers whistling about his head. He remained in hiding on the island until after nightfall. The next morning he set out for Wilkes-Barre, and reached the fort shortly before noon. Only eight members of Captain Bidlack's company escaped from the battleground on July 3, 1778.

    After the battle, the settlements in the area were destroyed and the survivors were parolled on their oath that they would sit out the remainder of the war. Elisha Blackman and most of the others did not honor this pledge and within a year. In the Sullivan Expedition of 1779 he served in the Wyoming militia company commanded by Capt. John Franklin. This was a campaign to drive the Iroquois and Loyalists from New York and Pennsylvania in retribution for the attacks in the Wyoming Valley. The expedition conducted a scorched earth campaign, razing all Iroquois villages and farmland. That winter the remaining Iroquois were driven across the Niagara in to British Canada, where many of them starved to death.     In 1780, Elisha joined his parents and the other members of their family, who had moved back to Connecticut. Early in 1781 Elisha Blackman enlisted as a private in the company of Capt. Selah Benton of Stratford, in the 5th Regiment, Connecticut Line, commanded by Lieut. Col. Isaac Sherman, and served till the latter part of June, 1782. He was honorably discharged from the service at Fishkill, New York, and went home to his parents in Lebanon.

    After the war Elisha learned the trade of a tanner and currier, and in 1786, he and his brothers Ichabod and Eleazar returned to Wilkes-Barre. There the three brothers built a log house and opened a tannery. Elisha Blackman III was married January 10, 1788, to Anna Hurlbut (born January 5, 1763), daughter of "Deacon" John and Abigail (Avery) Hurlbut of Westmoreland, CT.

Elisha Blackman
    On March 25, 1790, Elisha Blackman III, was commissioned First Lieutenant of the Light Infantry Company attached to the "1st Regiment of Militia in Luzerne County," commanded by Lieut. Col. Matthias Hollenback. In 1791 Lieutenant Blackman returned to the Wyoming Valley bought a tract of land, which he cleared up and converted into a farm. His wife died there January 6, 1828. He received a Revolutionary War pension in 1835. He resided until his death, which occurred December 5, 1845.




    Elisha and Anna (Hurlbut) Blackman were the parents of ten children:
    1.     Henry, born 28 August, 1789; died 18 October 1842 in Luzerne Co., PA.

    2.     Stephen, born 20 August, 1790; died 28 September, 1790.

    3.     Ebenezer, born 28 July, 1791; married in 1817 to Susan M. Stockbridge; died 4 December, 1844 in Miami Co., OH. 

    4.     Lovina, born 6 August, 1793; died 29 August, 1793.

    5.     Hurlbut born 25 September, 1794; married (1) 18 January, 1821, to Sarah Rollin; married (2) to Mary Telford; died 17 October, 1872 in Miami Co., OH.

    6.     William, born 19 November, 1796; died 14 January 1800.

    7.     Elisabeth "Betsey", born 20 August, 1799; married 27 August, 1823, to Henry Boos; died 28 February, 1858 in Johnson Co., IA. (my line)

    8.     Judge Elisha Blackman IV, born 1 August, 1801; married 22 December, 1828, to Amy Rollin; died 29 February, 1872 in Noble Co., IN. 

    9.     Julia Anna, born 25 April, 1806; married 21 Dec 1808 to Charles Plumb; died 29 Jun 1889 in Luzerne Co., PA.

    10.     Abigail, twin sister of Julia Anna, died 24 April, 1807.

Selected Sources

History of Hanover Township by Henry Blackman Plumb
Grandson of Elisha Blackman, and source of much of the above account of Elisha Blackman's life.
Elisha Blackman Census records, 1800-1840
Elisha Blackman's Commission as Lieutenant in the Pennsylvania Militia

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