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Notes on the Captains of the Vessels in the Battle of Valcour Island under Brigadier General Benedict Arnold

Part 1f:
Job Sumner- Boston Gondola, Benjamin Rue- Philadelphia Gondola

by Stephen Darley


Job Sumner, the grandfather of Senator Charles Sumner, was born in Milton, Massachusetts on April 23, 1754. He was the son of Seth Sumner and Lydia Babcock. He entered Harvard College in 1774 but joined the army shortly after the Lexington Alarm, in April of 1775, as a private in the militia company of Captain John Bradley from Milton. Job Sumner was subsequently promoted to an Ensign, first in the company of Captain Moses Draper in 1775 and then in the Gardner’s Massachusetts Regiment in 1776. In a letter dated April 2, 1778, Benedict Arnold states that on July 1, 1776 he “appointed Capt Job Sumner to command an armed vessel on Lake Champlain”. The Boston was one of the gondolas burned at Ferris Bay by Arnold on October 13th.

Sumner was appointed as captain of the 3rd Massachusetts Regiment commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Loving on January 1, 1777 and served in that regiment through 1779. By an Act of Congress on April 7, 1779, his rank of captain took effect on July 1, 1776, the date of his appointment by Arnold. He was Captain in Colonel Greaton’s Massachusetts Regiment from January 1 to December 31, 1780, and was commissioned as a Major on March 3, 1783 in Jackson’s Continental Regiment where he served until June 20, 1784.He had a reputation of being “an attentive and intelligent officer” and was appointed after the war to settle the accounts of the United States with the State of Georgia. Job Sumner was in charge of the guard of Major John Andre in 1780 and his company escorted Washington into New York after the British evacuation in 1783. 

Sumner never finished college but he was awarded an honorary degree from Harvard in 1785. Sumner was an original member of the Society of the Cincinnati in New York State. He married Esther Holmes from Milton, Massachusetts in 1775 and they had one son. He died of poison in New York City on September 16, 1789 at the age of thirty-seven, and is buried in St. Paul’s Churchyard. His epitaph reads: “And this Tomb contains the remains of Major Job Sumner of the Massachusetts Line of the same army, who died in this city, September 26, 1789, aged 33.”[11]


Benjamin Rue was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania on January 22, 1752. As of 1774, his occupation was listed as a painter and glazier. In 1775, he enlisted in Phillip De Haas Regiment of the 1st Pennsylvania which marched under Montgomery to Canada. His pension application states that he was given the command of a schooner “in the River St. Lawrence, a publicly armed vessel, with the rank of captain. That he continued in the aforesaid vessel in that capacity until the army evacuated Canada.”

Rue’s pension application states that he returned with the army to Fort Ticonderoga and “was immediately placed in command of a gondola in the fleet on Lake Champlain & still retained the rank of Captain.” Benedict Arnold confirmed that appointment in a letter dated November 27, 1776, which says: “This is to Certify that the bearer, Benjamin Rue, late commander of a Gondola, in the service of the United States, on Lake Champlain, has behaved himself as an officer and a Gentleman, and deserves the esteem and applause of his County for his good conduct and bravery in the late engagement against the Enemy’s Fleet.”

Almost immediately following the Valcour battle, Rue went to Philadelphia where he helped raise a company of artillery that was in the Battles of Trenton on Christmas Day of 1776 and Princeton in January of 1777. On April 1, 1777, he was given command of a vessel in the Delaware River on which he served according to his application “until the close of the war.” In 1785, Rue purchased a house on 8th Street in Philadelphia and by 1899 he was living in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. In 1806, Rue was operating a tavern in Warren County, Ohio, called Cross Keys. He died on September 2, 1823 in Lebanon, Warren County, Ohio and was buried with full military honor for his actions during the Revolutionary War.

There is a more detailed biography of Captain Benjamin Rue in the Bratten book on pages 138-145. Because of its discovery and subsequent raising from the depths of Lake Champlain in 1935 by Lorenzo F. Hagglund, the Philadelphia is the best known vessel in Arnold’s Lake Champlain navy. After it was raised, Hagglund salvaged the Philadelphia and took it on an exhibition tour. Many years later in 1960, Hagglund conveyed the remains to the Smithsonian Institution where it is on display today. In 1991, the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum constructed an exact duplicate of the original gunboat, which they call the Philadelphia II.[12]


[11] Arnold to Board of War, January 26, 1779. Papers of the Continental Congress,, image 436105; Heitman, 527; Mass. Soldiers & Sailors, Vol. , 256; A.B. Muzzey. Prime Movers of the Revolution Known by the Writer. Boston: D. Winthrop, 1882 , 222; Hamilton D. Hurd. History of  Norfolk County, Massachusetts. Philadelphia: J.W. Lewis & Co., 742-3; Family Tree of Job Sumner, John Robert Kippat. Churchyard Literature: a Choice Collection of American Epitaphs. Chicago: S.C. Griggs & Company, 1877, 117.

[12] John R. Bratten. The Gondola Philadelphia & the Battle of Lake Champlain. College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2002; Family Group Sheet, Benjamin Rue,; Benjamin Rue Pension Application, S40370; Information to the author on Benjamin Rue from David Berry.

Date this page was last edited: 1/23/2016

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