As I was working on the biography for William McMillan yesterday I found an interesting letter included in his pension. At first I was not sure how helpful it would be, but after reading his description of the time he spent recovering from being thrown off of his horse, “twas a long time before I got well. I was not able hardly to do anything–I begun to think about my Revolution services,” I knew it would be worth looking at.
And it was; he gives a firsthand account of his experience during the battle, as well as describing his treatment as a prisoner of war and his escape from Halifax, Nova Scotia. In the letter he describes where different troops were positioned at Long Island and also mentions how his own company fared: “on the evening of the 26 August we left New York and landed on Long Island . . . my captain was killed first lieutenant was killed second lieutenant shot through hand,” and two sergeants in his company were also killed, “one in front of me [at the] same time my bayonet was shot off my gun. . .” The second page focuses more on his arrival in Boston and his experiences later in the war.
Because the letter was written by McMillan himself and not a clerk, the handwriting was hard to decipher at times. He also used spellings that are not in use today, which I have updated for the quotes above. These two factors made the document challenging to fully understand, but I am working to transcribe the letter. The two pages are attached as images to this post; feel free to take a look for yourself at William McMillan’s own account of what happened at the Battle of Long Island and after.
You can also see how the letter helped in writing his biography by taking a look at it here or by clicking on his name from our Biography page.
This is really cool stuff! Is the pension file something that the Archives has? Do they have this for most Revolutionary War veterans or is it something unique to McMillan?
This pension and all of the others we have used are actually located at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and we have accessed them online through fold3.com. We are using the records here at the Archives as well, but unfortunately the pensions are kept elsewhere. Most of the soldiers we are looking for either did not leave records or their records no longer exist, so finding something this complete was very exciting. William McMillan’s full pension turned out to be 137 pages long, and there was some really interesting information in it.
Very cool! Thanks for the added info!
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