Asa Stearns: A Veteran Honored 200 Years Later

It’s an interesting thing to me that though I never knew my father or any of his folk, I’ve learned that he and many others on that side of my family tree were, like myself, very much interested in family history. They traced their roots, wrote out their lineages, saved newspaper items and obituary clippings, belonged to lineage societies (DAR and SAR), and even wrote books about their family heritage.

They had much to be proud of, as their ancestors were part of the founding of this nation. Most of  my father’s family lines trace back to the earliest settlements of the English in America in the 1600s. Some arrived in Winthrop’s Fleet and there are even Mayflower  passengers in the family tree. As would be expected, there are also many Revolutionary War patriots in my paternal lines. So far, I’ve verified 18 men who served in the War for Independence.

Asa Stearns was my 4th great-grandfather:

    • Asa Stearns m. Lucy Cady (25 Mar 1784)
      • Curtis Jasper Stearns m. Mary Ann Dana (abt. 1836)
        • Sarah Elizabeth Stearns m. Minard H. Garrison (15 Dec 1856)
          • George Byron Garrison m. Virginia Louise Harris (22 Nov
            1888) [my great-grandparents]

In the book, Genealogy and Memoirs of Charles and Nathaniel Stearns (1901), the following information is provided about Asa:

ASA STEARNS (6269), b., July 30, 1758, son of Samuel and Jemima (Hoyt) Stearns, of Worcester, Mass.; enlisted in Col. Ward’s Mass. Regt., the day after the battle of Bunker Hill. He was with the Americans when they were drawn off from Long Island in 1776, and was in the battle of White Plains. He served twenty months in Col. Ward’s Regt., and then joined Col. Cilly’s N. H. Regt., in which he served three years. During the service he was not sick a single day. He was at the capture of Burgoyne, in the battle of Monmouth, and with Gen. Sullivan, at Wyoming, where he suffered excessively from privations. After this, he was at sea in a privateer and helped to capture the “Hannah,” richly laden with merchandise, which was taken into New Haven. After the war, he went to Claremont, N. H., and md. (i). Mar. 25. 1784, Lucy Cady, b., Mar. 30, 1764, dau. of Lieut. Elijah Cady. of Wethersfield, Vt. They lived successively in Wethersfield, Cavendish, Moretown, Waterbury, and Benson, all in Vt. At the last place, his wife d.. Aug., 1825. of a casualty, being thrown from a carriage. He then moved to Chazy, Clinton Co., N. Y.. where he md. (2), Mrs. Phoebe Dunham, then sixty years of age, who d., Mar.. 1849. After her death, until his decease. Feb. 2, 1852, he lived with his dau.. Mrs. Laura (Stearns) Heaton, of Chazy; twelve children.

While some of the information from this book about Asa’s military service is true, some is not.

The Daughters of the American Revolution Genealogy Research System verifies that Asa Stearns served as a private in both the Massachusetts and New Hampshire militias  (Ancestor #: A109274) under Capt. Joseph Fay and Col. Jonathan Ward. It turns out that his father, Samuel Stearns (1720-1776), has also been verified by the DAR as a patriot (Ancestor #: A109431). Samuel was 55 years old when he marched on the Lexington Alarm with Capt. Luke Drury’s Company of Minutemen on April 19, 1775.

The Fold3 website includes numerous documents which verify Asa’s service, including his application for pension in April 1818.

Fold3 Revolutionary War Pension and BountyLand Warrant Application Files

In reading Asa’s own description of his service, discrepancies with the account printed in Genealogy and Memoirs of Charles and Nathaniel Stearns include that Asa states he enlisted in Capt. Fay’s Company in May 1775, which was a month before the Battle of Bunker Hill. There is no mention of serving aboard a privateer.

One thing Asa doesn’t mention is that while with Capt. Scott’s Company, they were encamped at Valley Forge with Gen. Washington that fabled winter of 1776-1777. The website, Valley Forge Legacy, includes an entry for Asa Stearns which also debunks another claim in Genealogy and Memoirs of Charles and Nathaniel Stearns, i.e. he did indeed fall sick.

Valley Forge

In looking into Asa Stearns, I bumped into a cousin who honored Asa’s service to his country in a special way: he commissioned a headstone for Asa’s unmarked grave.

Press-Republican-June 13 1986 Page 6

Press Republican (Plattsburgh NY) June 13 1986 Page 6

Press Republican (Plattsburgh NY) 18 Jun 1986

Press Republican (Plattsburgh NY) 18 Jun 1986

These newspaper items are what tipped me off that Asa was present at the Valley Forge encampment. Mention of service aboard a privateer and “accounts of several acts of bravery” has yet to be verified. I’m trying to discover the titles of these “area history books.”

According to the book, Connecticut Pirates & Privateers (Arcadia Pub., 2015), the Hannah was captured by the American privateer Minerva under the command of Capt. Dudley Saltonstall. Further research is need to discover whether a crew list exists.

The headstone which Bob Elliott had erected to honor Asa Stearns is quite lovely.

Asa Stearns d.1852 headstone

 

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2 Responses to Asa Stearns: A Veteran Honored 200 Years Later

  1. Leanne says:

    Hi, I found your blog while searching for ancestry information on the Stearns family. This entry is well researched and well written and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you for posting it!
    Cheers, Leanne

    • Site Admin says:

      Isn’t it amazing to discover such heroic ancestors in ones family line? As a DAR member, I’m looking forward to “proving” my lineage to Asa … and his father!

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