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Mutiny at Fishkill Ends Tragically

The Zachariah Beal Story


Zachariah Beal of Portsmouth New Hampshire enlisted on June 18, 1775 as a Lieutenant and was  commissioned as a Captain on November 7, 1776, given command of his own company of the 3rd  NH Regiment.  He saw action in Canada and was at the Battles of Saratoga in the Fall of 1777 after which Poor's Brigade including three New Hampshire Regiments and the 2nd and 4th New York Regiments. Poor's Brigade was ordered to join Washington's Army at Peekskill, stopping first at Fishkill before reaching winter quarters at Valley Forge in December.  The successes at Saratoga did not stop the men from becoming disheartened, having not been paid in many months. Reports from Fishkill by mid-October through early November mention lack of money and clothing and stores of rice being  destroyed by vermin.  By the first week of November 1777, they are at Fishkill.


Private Joseph Gray also from the 3rd New Hampshire wrote of that fateful day- "a portion of the army, being unfit for duty, were sent into barracks, drawing suitable provisions, and large supplies of New England rum. Not satisfied with their situation, forty of these soldiers, under the exhilarating effects of the intoxicating liquor, mutinied, shouldered their baggage, paraded, chose a corporal for a commander and started for their homes. Immediately information was  communicated to the officers, who ordered Capt. Beal of Portsmouth to persuade them to relinquish their design and to return to their encampment. Capt. Beal girded on his sword in haste, met them and requested them to halt, intimating that he wished to speak with the corporal who commanded them. Talking him [the corporal] aside, he [Beal] drew his sword and ran him through; the corporal at the same instant discharged his piece, which took effect. Both expired before morning."


3rd New Hampshire Fifer Joshua Thorton of Capt. James Gray's Company identified the man in his company who killed Beal as Sanderson of Moultonborough, N. H., [probably John Sanderson Jr.] Israel Putnam writes to Washington on the same day concerning the mutiny, deaths, further actions and a request- “I have got several of them in provost guard, and a general Court-martial sitting for their trial. About twenty of them have made their escape and gone home. I have sent off some light-horse, and officers of the brigade, to bring them back. In order to make peace, and re-enforce you as soon as possible, I am endeavouring to borrow one thousand or fifteen hundred pounds, to give them a month's pay. In the mean time they are curing themselves of the itch. As soon as this operation is over, they will march immediately. This, I acknowledge, is a bad precedent, but it is a worse one to keep troops ten months without pay." Captain Zachariah Beal left a wife Abigail Goodwin Beal and two children. May he rest in peace in Fishkill. ~FOFSD Secretary Judy Wolf  gives special thanks to Eric Schnitzer, NPS Saratoga and Joseph Lee Boyle for aiding my research.


Sources: Israel Putnam to Washington, Fishkill, 7 November 1777, Correspondence of the American Revolution, 2:31-32, courtesy of  Joseph Lee Boyle;   The Beale Family of Maine", written by Stackpole; Stearns, Ezra S. History of Plymouth, New Hampshire Vol. 1 (Cambridge, Mass.: University Press, 1906), 154-55; Five Straws Gathered from Revolutionary Fields (Cambridge, 1901), 20, courtesy of  Joseph Lee Boyle;  History of the Town of Wilton, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire Lowell, Mass: Marden & Rowell 1888.   page 248.  Courtesy of Joseph Lee Boyle; The Farmer’s Cabinet, 22 March 1839, Volume 37, Issue 30, page 1. Joseph Gray narrative, Third NH. Alexander Hamilton to Washington, 10 November 1777, Sparks, Correspondence, 2:33.; Alexander Hamilton to Washington, Harold C. Syrett and Jacob E. Cooke eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, Vol 1: 1768-1778 (Columbia University Press, 1961), 358; Muster Roll 3rd New Hampshire Regiment (1776-80) Folder 28 page 8.