Resource for Historians, Educators, Students and Visitors since 1997
|Guest Contributors... Edwin R. Scollon|
Researching Lake Champlain...
The Valcour Bay Research Project- XII (a)
Doty Cemetery in South Wallingford, Vermont is the final resting place of Revolutionary War soldier and patriot Jonas Holden.
For over two decades, members and associates of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM) have collectively researched the Battle of Valcour Island. Their historians and genealogists have searched through many archives and libraries. Their survey crews and divers have diligently explored the depths of the lake.
Contemporary journals and reports indicated that an American gunboat had sunk during the retreat from the Valcour battle. Researchers were confident this gunboat was still resting on the bottom of the lake. However, due to the separation and confusion of the fleet during its harried retreat, accounts of the vessels’ fates were conflicting. The exact location of the gunboat remained a mystery. Many organized searches were launched throughout the latter half of the twentieth century in an effort to locate it.¹ In 1997 a LCMM survey crew, deploying side-scan sonar, discovered the vessel, intact and upright.
Although the gunboat had been located, its identity was uncertain due to the contradictory contemporary accounts. An LCMM research team, that included Peter Barranco, Russell Bellico, Art Cohn, Robert Maguire and George Quintal, intensified their efforts in an attempt to correctly identify the gunboat². It was during this exhaustive research effort that George Quintal discovered the pension records of Jonas Holden.
Jonas Holden was a farmer from Westford, Massachusetts. Soon after the start of the American Revolution, Jonas became a tireless patriot. He would fight vigorously for the American cause throughout the conflict and witness the British surrender in Yorktown, Virginia.
Mr. Quintal would tell us,
that in his six-year career as a patriot, Jonas would advance in rank from
private to lieutenant; be involved in six major battles, suffering wounds
in three; and march over two thousand miles! Jonas was also among a
detachment of Capt. Joshua Parker’s company that volunteered to reinforce
General Arnold’s Lake Champlain fleet.³
The inscription includes this tribute to the patriot:
Although his entire pension record is extraordinary, it was Jonas’
account of his involvement in the Battle of Valcour Island that would be
of greatest interest to the VBRP participants. During the battle he
had received injuries to his right arm and side when one of the New York’s
cannon accidentally exploded!
Mr. Quintal had discovered an invaluable link between historical record and the Valcour cannon! But that was only the start of what Mr. Quintal would be able to tell us about the broken gun…
Note: Over the winter months of 2002 and 2003, members of the Westford Museum and Historical Society meticulously located, copied, organized and transcribed the Holden pension documents from U.S. National Archive records. They have also made them available through the Westford Colonial Minutemen Website. Many thanks to Marilyn Day, Bob Oliphant, and Webmaster Daniel Lacroix for making this material so readily accessible. Links to the Westford Colonial Minutemen Website are provided below.
¹ Bellico, Russell P. Sails and Steam in the Mountains: a Maritime and Military History of Lake George and Lake Champlain. Fleischmanns: Purple Mountain Press, 1992, 193-201.
² “The Battle of Valcour Island: A Burst Cannon Reflects a Moment in Time”. LCMM: The American Battle Line Artifact Recovery, June 30, 2001.
³ “The Battle of Valcour Island: Research Uncovers New Information about Participants”. LCMM News, (Spring/Summer 2000), 8.
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