Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Niles Helm and the American Revolution

 Here is a bit of a story about one of my ancestors that fought in the revolution.  There are others.  I am grateful to all those who served and who serve today.

On the night of December 10, 1777, the British under Sir James Wallace landed
near his home in South Kingston, Rhode Island. Awakened by the
firing of musketry, he seized his arms and went out with other
members of the militia to meet the enemy. However, the British
advanced with such force that the militia was routed, and Niles
returned to his home just in time to remove his wife and
children before the British set his house on fire and destroyed
all his property. Three months later, in March , 1778, he was
drafted in South Kingston to serve a tour of 30 days under
Captain Stephen Babcock, guarding points along the coast. A
year later, in the spring of 1779, he was again drafted to
serve a similar tour of duty, during which the British
attempted a landing with a view to forage and plunder. They
were attacked by Nile's unit and driven off, with much
difficulty. Nile's next tour of duty was with General Sullivan
when he attempted in conjunction with the French fleet to expel
the British from Newport. Niles was first drafted at Newport
for 20 days, subsequently extended to 40 days. His unit,
initially stationed at South Kingston, was subsequently
transported by boat to the north end of Rhode Island to join
the main army. The army remained there for about 15 days, when
it retreated back to Butts Hill. The retreat began near
evening, with a guard of 500 men left to cover its movements.
This guard remained through the night and became lost in the
fog the next morning when it attempted to rejoin the main body
of troops. It was attacked and "much harassed" by the British.
Subsequently a general battle ensued between Butts and Turkey
Hills,  beginning about 8 o'clock in the morning and continuing
until mid-afternoon, when the enemy asked for a truce to bury
their dead. General Sullivan granted the request and sent back
word to the British Commander that "before the next morning he
would bury them all." The enemy became alarmed lest their
retreat should be cut off, and the night after the battle
retreated back to their fort near Tommony (?) Hill, which
enabled General Sullivan to affect his retreat without further
molestation. During these actions, Niles was in the right wing
which was partially engaged with the enemy and fought through
the day.  Several days later he was discharged and returned
home. Niles then enlisted for 6 months under Captain John
Weeden, who was in charge of a gun defending the Beacon light
on Little Rest Hill in South Kingston. Besides these tours of
duty, Niles, as was the custom of most of the able-bodied
population in those days, turned out as a volunteer for several
days at a time, sometimes to defend or unload vessels, or
"repel predatory incursions of the enemy."
In his pension application he states that two brothers were in
regular service during the war; Peleg, a sergeant, and William,
a lieutenant.

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