Claudius Boatman, intrepid frontiersman and pioneer, is said to have served in “many battles, from France to New York, later in Muncy, Pennsylvania. Served in the French & Indian War and later in the Revolution.” i Two short sentences in the American Compendium of Genealogy summing up the life of an ancestor seem to only pique our interest. What battles Claudius served in during his younger days have not yet become clear, but records have come to light of Claudius’ service in the Militia in New York, first in New Rochelle during the French & Indian War, and later during the early days of the Revolution in Warwick, New York.
In March of 1777, the Boatmans made the arduous journey from Warwick New York to the very edges of Pennsylvania frontier. Their new home in the township of Mahoning, eight miles north of Northumberland town, along the “northeast” branch of the Susquehanna, a bit east of Buffalo Valley. ii While the reasons may always be a mystery, if the Boatmans had thoughts of leaving the politically charged Warwick for a place outside the arena of the war, their hopes were soon dashed.
Days after their arrival, Pennsylvania organized the Pennsylvania Militia, calling for compulsory service of all able-bodied men between 18 and 53 to “repel invaders.” iii Philadelphia fell on September 26, 1777, Washington having been pushed back in the Battle of Brandywine; thousands fled. The English lay on one side of the state, the Indians, driven by a hope of driving off the settlers and having a better chance of keeping thier land with the English, and spurred on by a bounty for scalps, attacked settlers up and down the frontiers. The series of brutal raids and attacks lasted for years. iv
These settlers faced many hardships: brutal attacks, homes and crops burned, harvests spoiled, and families fleeing to what passed for forts, mostly hastily reinforced homes. Times were dire, indeed for our ancestor and his family. The Boatmans, no doubt, did what they could to work their land, poised to flee at a moments notice, venturing back when things were “peaceable” or to harvest and sow.
Claudius and his son-in-law, Comfort Wanzer, appeared as signers on a petition sent from Muncy Hills in August of 1778, asking for troops, magazines and stores of provisions. v Little is known, though, of Claudius’ roll in the Militia prior to joining Captain Thomas Robinson’s Rangers. No doubt he served, but the scarcity of surviving or available records leaves no information about our ancestor, and no first hand account was left by him. (There was a pension application filed by Nancy Boatman, who claimed to be an heir and daughter, although the information appears to be somewhat erroneous.) Claudius is briefly mentioned, however, in the testimonial of Alexander Smith, a Militia solder who served with “Glode” Boatman, and he states Glode was a part of his company. Alexander Smith served under Captain John Nelson. vi
Smith describes the “Great Runaway” as well as the tasks undertaken by the local Militia in defense of the area. These Militia little resembled the troops of Washington: local citizens, men from the area, some skilled, many less so, doing what they could to protect the frontier. They supplied their own clothing, food and arms, (although later, the Rangers as a part of the Continental line received at least one shipment of items from the executive council) and served for weeks at time, rotating off and on. They patrolled the area, according to Smith, for days at a time, accompanied families back to their homes and farms to sow and reap, and were ready to be called in to action as necessary during attacks.
Claudius’ experience must have been highly prized when he was recruited for Robinson’s Rangers circa June of 1780, a new unit formed by Captain Thomas Robinson as part of the quota which Pennsylvania raised for the Continental line. vii The spring of ’81, according to General Potter, “had advanced hostilities,“ viii and in a letter, Potter related the state of the local Militia. ix (see right) On the 15th of June, 1781, Thomas Robinson wrote a letter to the Executive Council about his Rangers, explaining “they had not a sufficiency of money or clothing, blankets they had none.” He hoped the Council would be able to furnish him with clothing and money due to his men. x
Rangers, a subsect of the Militia, generally had longer periods of enlistment than the regular Militia, as a part of the Continental Line, their service was for no less than six months. xi No doubt the 53 year old Claudius, given the hardship of the times, saw this as last resort, an opportunity to not only protect his family and community, but to also provide some means of support. Claudius seems to have been recruited out of Buffalo Valley xii but it’s not clear if the family had just withdrawn to the more populated area for safety, or were there, perhaps, because Claudius, with the Rangers, would be gone for longer periods of time or both.
Moses Van Campen, Lieutenant of Robinson’s Rangers, gives history on the unit: “The summer of 1780 was spent in the recruiting service; our company was organized and was retained for the defense of the frontier service. In Feb, 1781, I was promoted to a lieutenancy, and entered upon the active duty of an officer, by heading scouts; and as Capt. Robinson was no woodsman nor marksman, he preferred that I should encounter the danger and head the scouts. We kept up a constant chain of scouts around the frontier settlements, from the North to the West Branch of the Susquehanna, by the way of the head waters of Little Fishing creek, Chillisquaque, and Muncy, &c. In the spring of 1781, we built a fort on the widow McClure’s plantation called McClures’s fort, where our provisions were stored.” xiii
In April of 1781, Robinson’s Rangers had already been involved, as General Potter stated in his letter xiv in a “sharp engagement at Bald Eagle Creek.” Little is known of that particular engagement, and perhaps it is the same one related by Van Campen, later. Bald Eagle Creek is a 55 mile long tributary of the West Branch of the Susquehanna, mostly in the boundaries of today’s Centre county. It figures a number of times in the following narrative. A few incidents have been found here and there regarding the Rangers over the summer. The fall of 1781 appeared to be somewhat of a lull for the area; Captain Thomas Robinson writes to the Executive Council, “The savages have been quiet for some time. They have done no harm in this country since I have been along with the men to go to the woods to scout. They made their appearance in harvest twice, but did no harm.” xv Lieutenant Van Campen and six men have gone into the Indian country to discover their moves.” xvi
The executive council experienced great difficulty in furnishing supplies, owing to the straitened condition of the State finances, but finally did come through with supplies. On July 1st, 1782, clothing and ammunition for Robinson’s Rangers were forwarded from Philadelphia. The wagon reached Lancaster on the 23rd, and was sent to Middletown the same day. Captain Thomas Robinson acknowledged the receipt of such in Sunbury in September of 1782. xvii
The Rangers operated on the frontier until December of 1782 when the Executive council ordered them to Lancaster at the protest of the community. It was decided to leave a small command with about a dozen privates to protect Fort Rice. xviii Van Campen reports, “We descended the river in boats to Middletown, where our orders were countermanded, and we were ordered to Reading, Berks county, where we were joined by a part of the third and fifth Pennsylvania regiments, and a company of the Congress regiment. We took charge of the Hessians taken prisoner by Gen. Burgoyne. xix About 15 men of Robinson’s Rangers took part in a prank in Berks, which nearly resulted in a whipping; Van Campen stood behind his men.
Van Campen continues: “In the latter part of March at the opening of the campaign in 1782, we were ordered by Congress to our respective stations. I marched Robinson’s company to Northumberland.” After a halt of two or three days, to “wash and rest,” the Rangers were ordered to Muncy, Samuel Wallis’s plantation, to make a stand and rebuild the fort. A small blockhouse was built for the storage of provisions, no doubt, built with “due regard to frugality,” as ordered by the Executive Council. xx As the block house was being built, on the 11th of April, 1782, Robinson’s Rangers were involved in another incident at Bald Eagle Creek.
An interesting tale, this: “Andrew Culberson applied to Captain Robinson for a guard of twenty men to accompany him to Bald Eagle creek, where his brother William had made an improvement and was afterwards killed by Indians…Van Campen was selected to command…and picked his men in this way: Taking a board and placing a piece of white paper on the end of it, he stepped to one side and a few rods and holding out the mark, invited each man to take his station and fire at the mark. If he hit it he would be chosen. His twenty men were soon selected.” xxi We have no way of knowing if Claudius was one of the men involved, although it appears a good part of the company went with Van Campen.
Van Campen, who in his lifetime was involved in a series of misadventures, relates the story, saying “On the 15th of April, at night, we reached the place and encamped…on the morning of the 16th we were attacked by eighty five Indians. It was a hard-fought battle; Esquire Culbertson and two others made their escape; I think we had nine killed, and the rest of us were made prisoners.” Van Campen was finally returned home after much traveling and many exchanges. He makes no mention in his narrative of the fate of the other prisoners. xxii
In August of 1782, Claudius Boatman was affected by his own tragedy, and it the Rangers were in the Buffalo Valley area. In what is known as “The Lee Massacre,” Claudius’ wife, Marie, was killed and his daughter Rebecca partially scalped and left for dead. Accounts of this vary wildly, (and more will be written later on this) but one indicates that Henry McHenry and Thomas Doyle, both members of Robinson’s Rangers, carried Rebecca to Fort Rice. xxiii
It’s said of the Rangers, “Their duties were extremely hard, as they had to “range” up and down the valley from Fort Rice to the Great Island, and they were poorly paid, fed and clothed; and with all their vigilance, several lost their lives, notably Edward Lee sergeant and Robert Carothers, private, while serving as spies near Fort Rice October 24, 1782.” xxiv Lee was killed about two miles from Fort Rice, Robert Corothers was taken prisoner prior to his death. xxv
After Van Campen rejoined the Rangers, in March of 1783, Cap’t Thomas Robinson received orders to march his company to Wyoming, to keep garrison at Wilkes-Barre Fort. The Rangers seemed to have been received at some trepidation by the populace of the area, and looked on with suspicion, the locals feeling that they had been sent there not for their protection, but to curb the Connecticut settlers. Shortly after their arrival, the name was changed from Fort Wyoming to Fort Dickinson, in honor of the President of the Supreme Executive Council. xxvi Van Campen, Ensign Chambers and the company “lay there until November of 1783, when the Army was discharged, and their company likewise: poor and pennyless, they retired to private life.” xxvii
“Happily for the distressed frontier, the independence of the United States was acknowledged by Great Britain, November 30, 1782, and on the 20th of January, 1783, a preliminary treaty of peace was signed. Thus assured of immunity from the harassing experiences of the preceding years, the former inhabitants of Northumberland county began to return, and the arts of peaceful industry were again resumed…” xxviii
Some soldiers received “depreciation” pay to offset the devalued currency they’d been paid with, and Claudius was one of them. Each soldier remaining in service on the line, through 1781 was awarded a sum in Depreciation Pay Certificates which were both interest bearing and negotiable. Some soldiers sold them early, for less than their actual value, others kept theirs. No record remains of how Claudius actually used his, but as they were accepted for land, it’s possible his was used in that way. xxix At the end of the war, soldiers were awarded with Pierce certificates; if Claudius received one, the record has yet to be found. xxx Pay records for Claudius & Claudius, Jr. (and one for Cornelius) show money trickling in very late after the close of the war.
Penniless and poor, indeed, were the residents on the frontier. The economy of the time was depressed and the nation didn’t begin to recover until the 1790’s. Land we had, though, in great quantities, and land was a commodity available after the war. The Revolutionary solder was rewarded with bounty lands, grants or Donation land, depending on how, where and for whom they served.
Ed Carsons, a Boatman cousin, puts it succinctly, “One thing a returning Revolutionary War Veteran was able to obtain as a result of their proven service to country over and above a pension: access to land and a chance to build wealth through their blood, sweat and tears. Supporting our Veterans was an early national commitment just as it was throughout our great history…”
Claudius Boatman received Donation Land, recorded as 200 acres. When or where he used his certificate isn’t known; perhaps it went toward his land in Mahoning, or perhaps later it was used in Pine Creek. In July of 1784, Claudius applied for a Warrant on 300 acres of land in Mahoning, township, agreeing to pay the back interest from the first day of settlement, the first of March, 1777. xxxi
Whether or not the family went back to this land near Mahoning before their move to Pine Creek is unclear, but it seems highly likely they would have; the fact that they filed for the land indicates some attachment to it, and the land would seem to be the main source of support for the family. The “Smith Act” entitled “the right of pre-emption” to those who had, during the war, by their resolute stand and sufferings merited their land. Nearly all of the inhabitants were said to have returned to their lands on which they had made improvements. xxxii
In the meantime, Claudius and Esther were newly married, the war was finally over, and the Boatman family, again, started afresh.
Legends abound, in many family lines, about Claudius Boatman serving with Washington and Lafayette. A Nancy Boatman, in her Pension Application, claimed so as well. So far, I’ve yet to find a correlation. If we have any astute Military minded cousin who would be willing to look more into this – to prove or disprove – I’d love the help. My thoughts: perhaps when Claudius served in Warwick, or later, with the Pennsylvania Militia from the years 1777 to 1781, when it appears Claudius served under Captain John Nelson. Robinson’s Rangers don’t seem to have a record of serving in the areas either Washington or Lafayette are documented in.
I’ve had a lot of fun researching Claudius, and am pleased to share everything I’ve learned, much of it due to other researchers before me – please feel free to use anything on this site – I do ask you to source it, though, so others may find it. And please, share what you know in the same spirit this has been shared – I welcome all thoughts and discussion. mvkirby – I can be emailed directly at email@example.com
Sources and information:
If you have an interest in exploring more about the forts of the area, including Fort Rice, “The Frontier Forts within the north and west branches of the Susquehanna River” gives detail and history.
i The Compendium or the American Genealogy, Volume VII, The standard Genealogical Encyclopedia of the First Families of America, edited by Frederick Adams Virkus, 1942, published by the Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, 1968, page 561
ii Pennsylvania, Land Warrants and Applications, 1733-1952; Provo, Utah, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. Original Data: Warrant Applications, 1733-1952. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania State Archives. Land Warrants. Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, PA.
v History of Lycoming county, Pennsylvania (1892) Author: edited by John F. Meginness — History Publisher: Chicago, Ill. : Brown, Runk, page 130
vi National Archives, Publication Number: M804, Publication Title: Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, Publisher, NARA, National Archives Catalog ID 300022, National Archives Catalog Title: Cases of Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Applications based on Revolutionary War Service, compiled ca 1800 – ca 19125, documenting the period ca 1775 – ca 1900, Record Group: 15, Short Description: Nara M804, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files. State: Pennsylvania, Veteran’s Surname: Smith, Veteran Given Name: Alexander, Pensioner Surname: Smith, Pensioner Given Name: Rebecca, Service: Penn. Pension Number: W.2011
vii Incidents of border life, illustrative of the times and condition of the first settlements…, author Joseph Pritts, publisher J Pritts, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, 1841 page 260
viii History of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania…, Editied by John F. Meginness, Publisher, Brown, Runk, Chicago, Illinois, 1892. page 181
ix History of that Part of the Susquehanna and Juniata valleys, embraced in the counties of Mifflin, Juniata, Perry, Union and Snyder, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Volume 1, author Ellis Franklin, publisher Evertts, Peck and Richards, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1886, page 116
x History of Lycoming county,Pennsylvania (1892) Author: edited by John F. Meginness — History Publisher: Chicago, Ill. : Brown, Runk, 1892, page 182
xii Annals of Buffalo Valley, 1755-1855, Author: Linn, John Blair, Buffalo Creek Valley, Publisher, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, L.S. Hart, page 204
xiii Incidents of border life, illustrative of the times and condition of the first settlements…, author Joseph Pritts, publisher J Pritts, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, 1841 page 260
xiv “History of that part of the Susquehanna and Juniata valleys, embraced in the counties of Mifflin, Juniata, Perry, Union and Snyder, in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania …” Volume 1, Author Franklin Ellis, Publisher Everts, Pecks & Richards, Philadelphia, 1886, page 116
xv History of Northumberland County, author Herbert C. Bell, Brown and Runk, Chicago, Illinois, 1868, page 137
xvi Annals of Buffalo Valley, 1755-1855, author John Blair Linn, Lane S. Hart Printer & Publisher, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1877, page 277
xvii History of Northumberland County, author Herbert C. Bell, Brown and Runk, Chicago, Illinois, 1868, page 137
xviii Selinsgrove Penna Chronology, author William Marion Schnur, B.S., Middleburg Post, Middleburg, Pa 1918, page 74
ixx Incidents of border life, illustrative of the times and condition of the first settlements…, author Joseph Pritts, publisher J Pritts, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, 1841 page 261
xx Selinsgrove Penna Chronology, author William Marion Schnur, B.S., Middleburg Post, Middleburg, Pa 1918, page 75
xxi History of Lycoming county, Pennsylvania (1892) Author: edited by John F. Meginness — History Publisher: Chicago, Ill. : Brown, Runk, 1892, page 189
xxii Incidents of border life, illustrative of the times and condition of the first settlements…, author Joseph Pritts, publisher J Pritts, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, 1841 page 264
xxiii Lock Haven Express, 22 Jun 1966
xxiv History of Lycoming county,Pennsylvania (1892) Author: edited by John F. Meginness — History Publisher: Chicago, Ill. : Brown, Runk, 1892, page 187
xxv History of Northumberland County, author Herbert C. Bell, Brown and Runk, Chicago, Illinois, 1868, page 137
xxvi A History of Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne, Pennsylvania, Ebook
xxvii Incidents of border life, illustrative of the times and condition of the first settlements…, author Joseph Pritts, publisher J Pritts, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, 1841 page 264
xxviii History of Northumberland County, author Herbert C. Bell, Brown and Runk, Chicago, Illinois, 1868, page 137
xxix Depreciation Certificate, Pennsylvania Historical Y Museum Commision, Publication title, Pennsylvania Archives, Series 5, Volume: IV;Chapter: Soldiers who received Depreciation Pay as Per Canceled Certificates on File in the Division of Public Records, Pennsylvania State Library, page 359
xxxi Pennsylvania, Land Warrants and Applications, 1733-1952; Provo, Utah, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. Original Data: Warrant Applications, 1733-1952. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania State Archives. Land Warrants. Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, PA.
xxxii Otzinatchson, a History of the West Branch Valley, author John Franklin Meginness, publisher Williamsport Gazette and Bulletin Printing House, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, 1889, page 667