5 Replies Latest reply on Aug 25, 2020 11:06 AM by Sara Brower

    Trying to determine where Martin McNary enlisted



      Martin McNary served in Captain Elias Stillwell's Company in the 1st Regiment, Connecticut "Line".  The published roll shows him paid from June 1 to Dec 31 1781 (Record of service of Connecticut men..., p. 319-20).  The service record card file (on Fold3) shows him enlisted June 1, 1781 and has a number of roll extracts showing in the 6th of the 1st.   The service file says he deserted 1783, but his pension file has a 1783 affidavit showing that he had provided a replacement soldier at West Point.  His statements in the pension file (also on Fold3; S42953 ) are generally consistent with the service record, though a few times he gave different details he did specify several times that he had been in Stillwell's Company.


      This Martin McNary lived out his days at Fishkill, New York and died in adjacent Philipstown in 1825.  He is commonly believed to have been the son of Martin McKenery, a Scots-Irish adventurer who served in the F&I War and lived at Middletown and later at Haddam, Conn.  A 1785 letter by the elder Martin mentions that he had a son Martin, his oldest, age 25 and a blacksmith.  Martin gave the ages of 9 other children in that letter and all of them can be verified from town and church records to have been accurate, most exactly correct and a couple of them within less than +1 year.  This son Martin's implied birth in 1760 was 3 years before his father Martin's only marriage of record, which was in Middletown 1763 to the widow Mehitabel (Johnson) Blake.  A letter written by a grand-daughter of the elder Martin in 1875 says that the son Martin grew up in Colchester (some 20 miles to the east) among his mother's people (Bettis family).


      The Problem

      I do find records at Colchester for the Bettis family and for an (illegitimate) child that may have the younger Martin.  But there's no real evidence linking the Fishkill Martin and Colchester, or the Bettis family, or the older Martin.  And there are conflicts that raise doubts: there are very persuasive age-at-date records for both, and the calculated birth year for Martin "of Fishkill" is 4 years earlier than that of Martin "son of Martin".  And Martin "of Fishkill" was a farmer and there is no evidence that he or any his sons ever was a blacksmith.   And the elder Martin is known to have had several relatives from abroad visit him at Middletown, suggesting a real possibility that the Martin who wound up in Fishkill was a close relative (e.g. a nephew) but still someone other than his acknowledged son.


      So I find so far that the common belief that Martin of Fishkill was the son of Martin of Middletown to be unproven and doubtful.


      The Question

      Is there any record that can show where exactly Martin McNary was (what town) when he enlisted at the beginning of June 1781?  Absent a record specific to him, is there any record showing orders that may have sent Stillwell to specific places in Connecticut to recruit, or giving the actual location of Captain Elias Stillwell on any dates around June 1 1781?


      More About Stillwell's Company

      I understand from the published sources that the Connecticut Line, mostly deployed in the Hudson Valley of New York, was being reorganized around the time that Martin signed up.  The old 3rd and 4th Regiments were consolidated into the new 1st.  In earlier years many of the rolls listed the soldiers' home towns but that does not seem to be the case in the 1781 reorg.  I found 11 of the 48 men listed in the roll of Stillwell's Company (as published, evidently from end-of-1781 payroll) listed in Captain Allin's Company under Colonel Wyllys in the old 3rd Regiment of 1779.   It seems a number of survivors from Allin's Company were transferred to Stillwell's command.  Six of those 11 men were from Colchester.


      I have the impression that company-level officers were sent "home" from the Hudson Valley to Connecticut during the reorganization to enlist more men to fill out the roster.  That's why I'm imagining that maybe the Martin who did enlist on or about 1 June 1781 may have been standing in some particular town in Connecticut at that moment.


      What it Would Mean

      If the Martin who enlisted in Stillwell's was at/of Colchester, it would be the key to building the first chain of evidence connecting the Martin who was at Fishkill to anything specific about the family history of the elder Martin... it would be very significant.


      If he was at Middletown, it would weigh less... it would tend to show there was some connection but not say much about the question of "son or nephew".

        • Re: Trying to determine where Martin McNary enlisted
          Lisha Penn Navigator

          Dear Mr. Shanley,


          Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!


          We searched the National Archives Catalog and located 3 file units:



          These 3 file units are digitized and available for your review on the Catalog.


          Also in the Catalog, we located the Population Schedules for the 1790 Census; 1800 Census; 1810 Census; and 1820 Census in the Records of the Census Bureau (Record Group 29). Digital images 1790, 1800, 1810 and 1820 census records are not available yet in the Catalog but are digitized and available on Ancestry. From 1790 to 1840, only the head of household is listed by name; other household members are merely counted in selected age groups.


          Using Ancestry, we located All Military Results for Martin McNary; a possible 1790 Census listing for his father; Martin McNary’s 1790 Census as head of household; Martin on the 1800 Census; on the 1810 Census; and on the 1820 Census. We also located Martin McNary in North American Family Histories; his Death in 1825 and his father’s death in 1809 with the same surname and lists his mother Mehitabel Blake.


          There may be a fee for using Ancestry. Instead, you may view these records online at one NARA's facilities for free via a NARA PC. For the nearest NARA location, please consult our web page at https://www.archives.gov/locations/. Also, some of the images from Ancestry are available for free on Family Search at https://www.familysearch.org/en/.


          For additional information about Martin McNary’s father, we suggest you contact The National Archives of the United Kingdom, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU, United Kingdom. The website is http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/.


          We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your family research!


          2 people found this helpful
            • Re: Trying to determine where Martin McNary enlisted

              Dear Lisha Penn,


              Thank you for your efforts and your reply.  I tried to make clear the extent of the research I have already done, but I think I might have been more specific.  As it happens I have already studied and extracted relevant facts from every single one of the sources you linked, as far as I can determine (the links to Ancestry.com in your message only work from a NARA site as they go through the institutional portal; so I'm not sure exactly what you were linking to for "his Death in 1825" but I do have that information).


              Still, I am happy to say that I have found your reply somewhat helpful, as I was not aware that the RW pension and service files were now available online through the NARA catalog. I had been accessing them through Fold3, and I will be pleased to cite them direct to NARA instead and also to use the images from NARA that do not have Fold3's terms of use hanging over them; thank you!


              Yet I must be clear, my question is entirely unanswered, the answer does not lie in any of those sources, I have already studied them.


              I'm looking something like a record of orders to Captain Elias Stillwell sometime not long before June 1781 that would tell me where he was sent at that time; or a record of Stillwell's movements that would tell me exactly where he was on 1 June 1781; or a record of enlistments that would tell me either in what town in what state Martin McNary was physically located when he signed up, or what town in what state got "credit" for his service.


              thank you,




              PS.  "For the record", the matter of his supposed father, whom you mention in a couple of those links, is what is at issue here.  Also, the War of 1812 service is that of the son of the man who served in 1st Connecticut in the RW.

                • Re: Trying to determine where Martin McNary enlisted
                  Lisha Penn Navigator

                  Dear Mr. Shanley,


                  Thank you for posting your follow-up request on History Hub!


                  We were unable to locate any records in the National Archives Catalog pertaining to orders given to, or troop movement and location, of Captain Elias Stillwell in June 1781. We were also unable to determine the town in Connecticut where Martin McNary enlisted for military service during the Revolutionary War.


                  Unfortunately, most records in War Department custody were destroyed by fire on November 8, 1800; and later many of the remaining Revolutionary War records were lost during the War of 1812. In 1873, Secretary of War William Belknap purchased for the Federal Government the papers of Timothy Pickering, who had been a member of the Board of War, Adjutant General of the Continental Army, and Quartermaster General; the papers of Samuel Hodgdon, Commissary General of Military Stores for several years during the war; miscellaneous contemporary papers; and some minor groups of records and single record items.


                  Under authority of an act of March 2, 1913 (37 Stat. 723), the War Department made photographic copies of Revolutionary War records in the custody of public and private institutions in Virginia, North Carolina, and Massachusetts. These records in NARA’s custody form what is known as the War Department’s Collection of Revolutionary War Records (Record Group 93) that was transferred to the National Archives in 1938.


                  We hope this is helpful.


                  1 person found this helpful
                    • Re: Trying to determine where Martin McNary enlisted

                      Hello Lisha,


                      Thank you for your further efforts regarding my query, and for the background information on the loss of records.


                      In light of the document losses and so understanding that records that could directly answer my question most likely do not exist, I have re-assessed the available records and reached the conclusion that


                      "it is likely that when he enlisted Martin McNary was already in New York, presumably in the Fishkill area, and likely that he enlisted at the 'Connecticut Village' (winter quarters), which was about 8 miles south of Fishkill".


                      I will provide, “for the record”, some notes on how I have reached this conclusion. Also, I will mark this as "answered", on the belief that this is about as good as the case will get; but welcome any additional info that may develop on the case later.


                      thank you,







                      Several lines of evidence contribute to the notion that Martin McNary was in New York, not Connecticut, when he enlisted in June 1781.  The Record of Connecticut Men In the Military and Naval Service During the War of the Revolution (Henry P. Johnston, ed.) includes a narrative of the organization and deployments of the "Second Formation" of the Connecticut Line (1781 - 1783)  [https://archive.org/details/waroftherevolution00recorich/page/301] and payroll lists for the year 1781 including that of Stillwell's Company [https://archive.org/details/waroftherevolution00recorich/page/319].  From these I understand that the new 1st Regiment (which would have included Stillwell's Company)  was encamped on the Hudson River from late December 1780 until about 21 June 1781.  Only seven men joined Stillwell's Company during 1781 but after the beginning of January.  Six of those men enlisted in an 8-week period from 31 January to 26 March.  Four of those men can be associated with specific towns in Connecticut (mostly from DAR Patriot Index) and they came from a relatively small area in the northeast part of the State.


                      That is consistent with the idea that some officer(s) were detached from winter quarters for a recruiting trip to Connecticut.   Although we lack evidence for 1781 per se, there is support for the notion that this duty was at least somewhat routine in the years before and after: in field and staff rolls from 1780 [officers of the Connecticut 3rd recruiting in Connecticut during April 1780: https://www.fold3.com/image/246/7743312] and in the company level rolls of 1782 [Revolutionary War Rolls, Connecticut 1st Regiment (1781 – 1783) (NARA M246, Roll 4), Folder 18, Page 2. Partly legible annotation appears to show Stillwell himself was in Connecticut, recruiting, ca March 1782.  At Fold3 (with paid membership)  https://www.fold3.com/image/246/11450089 .  Also, Folder 16 Page 2, Roll of Captain Spaulding for March 1782, shows Lt. Andrew Griswold “in Connecticut on recruiting Service”: https://www.fold3.com/image/246/11449105 ] .


                      However, Martin McNary was not among these six: he alone enlisted on 1 June 1781, months later than any of the other men in the Company.  The regiments marched south from winter quarters less than 3 weeks later; it seems likely that any officers who were sent home on recruiting assignment would have returned to the Hudson Valley by June.


                      And, there is reason to believe that Martin was in New York prior to his enlistment.  After an extensive review of many census (and other) records, I have estimated the years-of-birth for six of Martin’s children.  Four of them were born in the early 1780s, all of them apparently in New York State, two of them definitely in Dutchess County; and the first of these births occurred in probably late 1780 or in 1781. 


                      It seems it must be true that Martin was married around, and probably a year or so before, the date of his enlistment in June 1781.  Martin’s 1st[?] wife was certainly named Catherine [Dutchess County Deeds 21:144] and she is said without identifiable evidence to have been named "Kate Snider” [earliest known ‘source’ the published account of W. P. McNary, first in 1878 (very rare book) and reprinted circa 1907: https://archive.org/details/mcnaryfamilywith00pitt/page/n315 ].  There are indications (e.g. the extent and accuracy of family details) that he (W. P. McNary) got information by mail correspondence with some of Martin’s immediate family (his son Joseph, or Joseph's widow or children) and so there is some reason to think this name may be correct even though there is no early source. 


                      If Martin’s wife was indeed born a Snider, she was surely from New York and surely not from Connecticut.  There were many Snyders (variously spelled) in the Hudson Valley, but not a single record of the name can be found in Connecticut in the entire 18th century (using searches at Ancestry.com , etc. etc.). 


                      In summary, on best evidence at this time, Martin had married by 1780 or 1781, his wife was apparently from New York, his children from 1781 or so and on were all born in New York, and he was not part of the small group of men who appear to have been recruited from Connecticut into Stillwell’s Company in the winter of 1781. 


                      The regiment was in the Hudson Valley when Martin McNary enlisted, and it is likely that he was already in New York and just walked down the road to the ‘Connecticut Village’ and signed up there.

                • Re: Trying to determine where Martin McNary enlisted
                  Sara Brower Newbie

                  Dear Mr. Shanley,

                  Have you searched government documents for Dutchess County - deeds, wills, loose papers/Ancient Documents?  Also try contacting the Dutchess County Historian, William P Tatum, III, who has a background in Rev War research. Here's the link https://www.dutchessny.gov/Departments/History/Department-of-History.htm .

                  The "Ancient Documents" for Dutchess County have been digitized on the county website.


                  Hope this helps.