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This is the culmination of over ten years of research, for all ancestors of Capt. Antoine Paulint to see the places he had visited and influenced, and to learn more about the unique history of our Revolutionary ancestors. Coincidentally published on July 4 after putting it off for too long.
I think every child at one point or another has a school assignment to research their family tree. Talk about where their grandparents came from, if they had any relatives on the Mayflower, which ones served in the military, etc. I had to do this assignment at some point in junior high, and luckily had a family tree passed down through the generations. It started in the early 18th century and went through the end of the 19th century, which I thought was a good start for an assignment I had no other information for. There was one name on it that really intrigued me, Captain Antoine Paulint, b. 1737, d. 1813, Revolutionary War veteran. He was my 5th-great-grandfather and I wanted to know more. Unfortunately, it was at a time where I wasn’t old enough to drive a car and Google was still years away from its beginning as a research project.
Years later, in 1999, my paternal grandmother died. She had become estranged from the family over 50 years earlier, but had no other living relatives, so my family was contacted to clean up her personal belongings. She was a packrat. Kept everything from 10-year-old Economist magazines to every single pair of shoes she ever owned. She also kept photo albums containing family pictures dating back to the 1910s. In one of those albums was a newspaper clipping advertising a book, written by a cousin in 1940, entitled Memoirs of Captain Antoine Paulint – the same name that had intrigued me in my childhood. I had to get a copy of that book. After a significant amount of time searching, I finally obtained a copy from the Library of Congress.
This book was definitely the key to everything I have found out about him since. I went a little overboard with the genealogy research. I joined every message board I could and made some contacts with other relatives. I first wanted to know where his grave was, if it still existed. None of my newfound distant relatives had ever been to his grave or even knew exactly where it was. We did know that it was somewhere near Corbeau (later Coopersville), New York. Captain Paulint was awarded 900 acres of land on Lake Champlain for his service in the Revolutionary War. He laid out the town of Corbeau on his land. Memoirs indicated that since there was no Catholic cemetery yet, he was buried on Hiram Shute’s farm, somewhere in this area. I acquired an 1869 atlas of the Champlain area that included Coopersville. Near the Chazy river was a plot labeled “H. Shute”, and a rectangle labeled “cem.” right above it. At this time, GlobeXplorer was the only place on the internet to get good satellite imagery. I overlaid the satellite photo over the atlas, and it looked like the cemetery was indeed there. Good news.
I had also acquired, from a distant relative, an old (before 1869) picture of the Peltier home in New York. I really wanted to find this house too, but the family had already moved to Carrollton, Missouri by the time the atlas was made and I could not find their land in the atlas. From Memoirs, I learned that this brick home was built in 1843 across the street from Lake Champlain and near the Paulint household. Memoirs recalls one incident during the War of 1812 when an American boat was sailing up the shore of the lake. They recognized the Revolutionary War officer sitting on the porch of the Peltier home and fired their guns in salute, which was returned by the veteran. He died only a few months later. At least now I had an area I could search, but it would be another eight years before I finally made the trip to upper New York.
Following the Footsteps
The French Wars. Antoine departed France in 1755. He was sailing with the Marquis de Montcalm, who was to take command of the French army in New France (Canada). The French had begun construction of Fort Carillon (now Ticonderoga) around this time, on the southern shores of Lake Champlain, New York, and close to the northern shore of Lake George.
In July of 1758, with construction not quite complete, a British force of 15,000 troops was advancing on the fort under General Abercrombie. In contrast, the French force consisted of only 3,857 soldiers. In the last ten hours before the attack, in the heat of the July sun, the French furiously cut down trees and dug trenches to fortify their positions. The British attacked starting around one in the afternoon. M. de Montcalm stood in the center, exposed, directing the defense. Antoine was on the right flank under Chevalier de Levis. The British attacked and were pushed back six times before finally retreating around sunset, by a force less than a quarter of their size. It was a very memorable event for Antoine, one that he loved to share with his grandchildren.
The following year, 1759, Montcalm’s army returned to Quebec to defend it from the British. Montcalm was wounded on the Plains of Abraham and later died. Canada had fallen to the British, and the Paulint family lived in a delicate peace in St. Denis, northeast of Montreal.
The American Revolution. In the fall of 1775, the American Congress authorized the invasion of Canada. The Paulint family, along with every other French family in Canada, was implored to defend Canada alongside the British. But General George Washington, knowing that the French still bore a grudge against the British, wrote a letter to the French Canadians asking them to join the American cause. It worked. Antoine Paulint was commissioned a Captain in the Independent Company of Canadian Volunteers on November 20th, 1775. Two months later, his company was annexed to Congress’ newly formed Second Canadian Regiment, under Colonel Moses Hazen. Fortune did not favor the American occupation in Canada, and they were forced to retreat in the summer of 1776, families included. The retreat was so hectic that Antoine’s only son, Amable, was left behind. He was later found being entertained by British soldiers (probably acquaintances since they had lived together for so long), and eventually met up with his family. In June they arrived at Crown Point.
Crown Point had been damaged by fires years earlier, and was unsuitable for the refugees to stay at. They continued south to Fort Ticonderoga, formerly Fort Carillon, the scene of Antoine’s significant victory 18 years earlier. The family had most likely arrived here just in time to hear the news of the Declaration of Independence.
In November, the family arrived at the American depot of Fishkill, New York, for winter quarters. New York City was under British control and Fishkill was under constant threat of an attack by the British.
For the next 5 years, Captain Paulint fought alongside General Washington. Not belonging to any specific State, his regiment was called “Congress’ Own”. They were also known as “Hazen’s Infernals”, as an attribute to their loyalty and fighting qualities. Moses Hazen, his commander, was a Ranger during the previous wars and fought against Antoine. But now they fought together with Washington at Germantown, Brandywine, and the final battle at Yorktown. They quartered with him during the infamous winters at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, and Morristown, New Jersey. In the summer of 1779, Antoine led a scouting party into Canada to gather intelligence prior to Washington’s abandoned invasion of Canada. A detachment from Antoine’s company was even on duty during Benedict Arnold’s execution. General Marquis de Lafayette was with the army as well during much of this time. Antoine and Lafayette were from the same region of southern France, and Antoine spoke of their acquaintance fondly, indicating a close bond between the two. His regiment was chosen by Lafayette to lead the charge on the right flank of the attack on Yorktown. It was an intense battle, but it resulted in the taking of one of the two final outposts before the British surrender.
After the War. The Paulint family remained homeless refugees in Fishkill after the war. In 1786, surveys in upstate New York were nearing completion for the lands to be given to Canadian refugees. The family, having fought against the British since 1775, could not return to Canada. In 1786 they finally took land near Champlain township, a couple of miles south of the Canadian border and on the shores of Lake Champlain. It was around this time that the Peltier family, acquaintances of the Paulint family during their time in St. Denis, arrived near the Paulint’s land. One of the sons, John Peltier II, married Antoine’s daughter Francoise. Here they lived, built houses and churches, and raised their families for almost one hundred years.
My Return from New York
For some reason I just still wasn’t satisfied with my knowledge of the family after the visit. In fact, my research was more intense than it ever had been after I got back. In Memoirs I read of a Father Ferdinand Farmer, a Catholic missionary who had visited the refugees after the war. He took part in births, baptisms, marriages, and deaths, and had many records. He baptized a few of the Paulint children who had been denied religious service during the war. I found a paper on Fr. Farmer written by historian Dr. Robert Selig. The paper starts off with an excerpt from a 1783 George Washington letter to Colonel Lewis Nicola stating that “Five officers, Viz Major Martlett, Captains Paulint, Marna and Caulesage and Lt. Victor, with fourteen Men and nineteen Women, and forty six Children are returned Monthly as Canadian Refugees in fish Kill and its Vicinity and draw Provisions from the Public.” The letter further instructs Colonel Nicola to report back to Washington on the condition of these refugees, so that a determination of their assistance and benefits can be made. Washington referred to Antoine by name, had he personally helped the family?
On October 18 1781, the day before the British surrender, Congress passed a resolution stopping allowances to Canadian refugees. It contradicted a resolution five years earlier, entitling provisions for those who had to flee Canada after offering their services to the failed American invasion. Due to a slow-moving bureaucracy, they continued to receive limited assistance until 1783. Antoine was one of the authors of a letter from the refugees to General Washington, in which they explained their situation, and it prompted Washington to write the following letter to Congress. Knowing it was not in his position to dictate what Congress should do, Washington instead showed his extreme disagreement with their handling of the situation regarding the refugees.
Head Quarters, July 16, 1783.
Sir: Your Excellency’s Letters of the 3d and 8th are received. The Judge Advocate was gone on by my Directions, before the hint you gave me in that of the 3d. It would seem there has been some capital neglect, or Miscarriage in the transmission of the Act of Congress of the 12th of May. I never had the least Intimation of it, until the 7th instant, when I received it from the War Office. Baron Steuben is furnished with my Letters and Instructions, and will depart on his mission, as soon as possible.
The inclosed Memorial was handed to me, from some Officers of Hazens Regiment, Refugees from Canada; anxious for their Relief from the most distressing Situation, and finding myself without the Means or the power of doing it, I beg leave to refer their Circumstances to the particular Attention and Regard of Congress; these with many others are the Men, who as they will say, have left their Country, their friends, their Substance, their all, in support of the Liberties of America; and have followed our fortunes thro’ the various Scenes of a distressing Contest, untill they find it to have terminated in the happiest manner for all, but themselves. Some provision is certainly due to those people who now are exiled from their native Country and habitations, without any mention made of them in the Treaty, any Stipulation for their return, or any Means for their Subsistence in a country which their Arms have contributed to secure and establish. When Congress recollect the Encouragements, the promises and Assurances, which were published by them and their Orders, in Canada, in the Years 1775 and 6, I am persuaded they will take into their most serious Consideration the Case of those unhappy persons who placed Confidence in those proclamations, and make ample amends by some effectual provision for their Sufferings, patience and perseverance. I would not presume to dictate. But if Congress cannot procure funds for their Compensation and Subsistence from the ample Confiscations which are makg within the different States, I would think a grant could be made to them from the unlocated Lands in the interior parts of our Territory and some means advanced, to place them on such a Tract; this perhaps might prove satisfactory, and would enable them to form a Settlement which may be beneficial to themselves and useful to the United States. I will say no more, but repeat my recommendations of their case to the grateful remembrance of Congress, and beg, that a speedy Attention may be given to their Application, which I have advised them to make without Delay.
Finding myself in most disagreeable Circumstances here, and like to be so, so long as Congress are pleased to continue me in this awkward Situation, anxiously expecting the Definitive Treaty, without Command and with little else to do, than to be teazed with troublesome Applications and fruitless Demands, which I have neither the means or the power of satisfying; in this distressing Tædium, I have resolved to wear away a little Time, in performg a Tour to the Northward, as far as Tyconderoga and Crown point, and perhaps as far up the Mohawk River as fort Schuyler. I shall leave this place on Friday next, and shall probably be gone about two weeks, unless my Tour should be interrupted by some special recall. One Gentleman of my Family will be left here, to receive any Letters on Commands, and to forward to me any Thing that shall be necessary.
With great Respect and esteem I have the honor to be&c
To his excellency Elias Boudinot President of Congress”
Showing his respect for my ancestors, for all that they had given up for this country, I believe that with this letter Washington put the nail in the coffin to ensure that my family was taken care of. Four months later they received back-pay and would shortly receive lands in New York.
What’s Next. Each new source I find leads me to five more. I think that there is a lot of neglected and hidden family history waiting to be found in old journals and records. There is so much more to write but I will have to save it for the next round of locations I visit. There are many other sites up north I was unable to visit due to time constraints. In the future I plan on venturing into Canada to visit St. Denis, where the family made their home before fleeing. The Depot at Fishkill, not in the park system, is under threat of disappearing. And one of these days I’ll make it up to Yorktown, only a three hour drive, to see where Antoine led one of the final attacks of the Revolution and secured America’s independence.
Everest, Allan S. (1976). Moses Hazen and the Canadian Refugees in the American Revolution. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press
Library of Congress. (n.d.). George Washington Papers. Retrieved from http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/gwhtml/
Moore, Suzanne E. (1996). The Living Stone: A History of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Parish, Coopersville, NY. Plattsburgh, NY: Northeast Printing
Reed, Adela Peltier. (1940). Memoirs of Antoine Paulint. Los Angeles, CA: San Encino Press
Selig, Robert A. (n.d.). Father Ferdinand Farmer’s French-Canadian Connection. Retrieved from http://www.docstoc.com/docs/document-preview.aspx?doc_id=20638319