His story deserves to be told…

Battles are often remembered for the major military figures involved and how the actions that took place on the battlefield contributed to the greater outcome of a war.  Usually when discussed today, battles are described in terms of tactics, commanders, and remarkable feats of heroism.  Casualty numbers are generally known, and people understand very well that war can have a dramatic effect on the lives of soldiers and their families.  But very little information tends to survive from the 18th century, especially the French & Indian War, to really describe what the effects of war were on individual soldiers, let along who they were as individuals.  Here is an example of one such soldier’s story, a story that deserves to be told.

Abraham Tyler was born September 23, 1739 in Scarborough, Maine.  He was an illegitimate son of Abraham Tyler (1712-1807) and Mary Sawyer (1714 – ).  Abraham grew up in Scarborough and in the spring of 1758 at the age of 18 joined the ranks of Captain John Libbie’s Company of Colonel Jedidiah Preble’s Massachusetts provincial regiment bound for a planned invasion of Canada.  Tyler and his company reached the British camp at the south of Lake George in the early summer awaiting orders for the embarkation of the army.  On July 4, 1758 the army of 17,000 British regular and American provincial troops set sail down the lake towards Ticonderoga.  The army landed on July 6th.  Two days later on July 8th the largest military force assembled in American to that time attacked the French army at their breastworks a half-mile from Fort Ticonderoga.  On that day Abraham Tyler experienced first hand, and for probably the first and only time, the horrors of battle.  In the early afternoon several hours after failing British efforts, the order came for the Massachusetts troops to “run to the breastork and get in if [they] could.”  The provincials were met with a storm of French musket fire so intense that one soldier reported “a man could not stand erect without being hit any more than he could stand out in a shower without having drops of rain fall on him, for the balls come like hands full.”  In the rush towards the breastwork, Tyler was struck by a ball in his right arm above his shoulder giving him a debilitating injury; an injury that would apparently plague him for the remainder of his life.

By the end of the day, the British had suffered tremendous casualties; nearly 2,000 men killed and wounded.  The army retreated up the lake to their camps at the south end of Lake George.  Eventually, many soldiers including Abraham Tyler were released from their duty due to the severity of their wounds and they made their way back home.

In the following winter Abraham Tyler submitted a petition to the Massachusetts House of Representatives seeking compensation for the expenses associated with his journey home after Ticonderoga.  His petition provides rare insight into just what happened to Tyler, his struggle to get home, and the long-term effects of the wound he suffered during the ill-fated attack on Ticonderoga.

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Province of the Massachusetts Bay

To His Excellency Thomas Pownal Esqr To the honorable his Majesty’s Council and the honorable the House of Representatives humbly sheweth Abraham Tyler that your Petitioner was a Soldier in Capt Libbeys Company & Colo Preeble’s Regiment in the Service this last Summer & was in the battle at Ticonderoga, where your Petitioner received a shot which broke his right Arm above the Elbow; that while your Petr. was sick of his Wounds at the Lake, there being no hospital Stores there, he was obliged to take up eighteen shillings of the Sutler & sixteen Shillings of the Quarter -master & expended the further Sum of thirty Shillings in cash & all for necesarys; that your Petitioner was at the further expense of twenty six shillings & eight pence for his horse to come home; that your Petitioner has suffered greatly by reason of the Wounds aforesaid & is in danger of loosing & has Lost the use of his Arm and a great part of the bone is intirely gone so that your Petitioner has no prospect of being able to do any thing for his support for a long time as his Wound is not yet healed up; Your Petitioner therefore humbly prays that Your Excellency & Honours would grant him the money which he expended & also such further relief as to you in your great Wisdom Shall Seem most sutable to the damage he has Suffered & will always continue by reason of the wound aforesaid and your Petitioner as in duty bound shall ever pray.

Abraham Tyler

[Transcript of the original petition in the collection of the Massachusetts State Archives, Vol. 78, pp. 159-160.]

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On February 2, 1759 the House resolved to pay Tyler “the sum of Eight pounds ten shillings and eight pence in Consideration of his Expenses & Sufferings.”  His expenses were reimbursed and it appears the additional four pounds were awarded in consideration of his suffering.  This was however a one-time payment and not an annual pension.

By about 1768 Abraham married Martha Smith (1740-1807).  They had at least one child, a daughter, Sarah born in 1768.  To what degree Tyler’s arm eventually healed is unknown.  While his father and several relatives are documented as having served in the American Revolution, there is no indication that Abraham served.  It is likely that the after effects of his wound were debilitating to the point where it was impossible for him to use a musket and fight during the Revolution.

Abraham and his wife Martha continued to reside in Scarborough, Maine where Martha died on March 24, 1807.  Two years later Abraham married his second wife Sarah Trundy Jordan on January 21, 1809 and the two apparently lived happily until Abraham’s death June 26, 1816 at the age of 76.

Abraham Tyler’s story is just one of many that Fort Ticonderoga preserves.  These are the people who made history at Ticonderoga.  It is important that the memory of what they did never fade.  It is also important that we always remember that Ticonderoga had a profound effect on a great many lives and and those effects changed many families forever.

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Blog Post by Christopher D. Fox, Curator Fort Ticonderoga

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