The following biography of General David Wooster was copied from volume II of the National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans. The second volume had its first printing in 1835 by Monson Bancroft in New York, Henry Perkins in Philadelphia, and O. Rich, No. 12 Red Lion Square, London. The work was "conducted" by James Herring of New York and James B. Longacre of Philadelphia "under the superintendence of the American Academy of Fine Arts."
The books are organized as a series of engravings, each accompanied by a short biography. The engraving of General Wooster was executed by James B. Longacre. I have seen (and bought) copies of it separately. The ones for sale may be from a later printing. The complete four-volume set had later editions and several printings. The last printing was, I believe, in 1872. This biography is an earlyif not the firstbiography in print of General Wooster and is signed with the initials "T. P." I have not been able to identify the owner of those initials. Can anyone help?
David Wooster was born in Stratford, Connecticut, on the 2d
March, 1710, of very respectable parents. Of his early life, little
can be ascertained, as all the family papers were destroyed by
the British when they pillaged the town of New Haven, in 1779.
We only know that he received a liberal education, and graduated
at Yale college in the year 1738. In the following year, when the
Spanish was broke out, he was employed as first lieutenant, and
soon after as captain of the vessel built and armed by the colony, as
Not long after this, he married the eldest daughter of the Rev.
Thomas Clap, president of Yale college, a young lady not less dis-
tinguished for her strength of mind, than for her uncommon resolu-
tion, and he became the father of two children, a son and daughter.
[There were actually four children, but only two survived infancy. KJW]
David Wooster had naturally a military turn, and he soon had---------------------------------------------------------------------
an opportunity of following his inclination, and was first appointed
a captain of Colonel Burr's regiment, which formed part of the troops
sent by Connecticut in the celebrated expedition agains Louisburg,
in 1745. He then proved himself an active and spirited officer, and
bore a distinguished part in the siege and capture of that strong
fortress. He was retained among the colonial troops to keep posses-
sion of the conquest he had assisted in effecting; and he was soon
after selected from among the American officers to take charge of a
cartel-ship for France and England. He was not permitted to land
in France, but was received in England with distinguished honor.
The young American officer, as he was called, was presented to the
king, and became the favorite of the court. The king admitted him
in the regular service, and he was presented with a captaincy in
Sir William Pepperel's regiment with half pay for life. His likeness
at full length was taken* and transferred to the periodical magazines
of that day. The peace of Aix-la-chapelle which took place in 1748,
restored Louisburg to France, and the young American officer to
private life and his family. He was not, however, permitted to
remain long in this situation; the war of 1756 followed, and in this
great contest, Wooster was appointed colonel of a regiment raised
in Connecticut, and afterwards to the command of a brigade, in
which station he remained until the peace of 1763. He then returned
to his family, bearing many marks of his valor and intrepidity.
* This portrait is in possession of an English gentleman residing at Valparaiso. A----------------------------------------------------------------------
descendant of General Wooster accidently met with it there, and had it copied; from
that copy our engraving was made. While on this subject, we will add another in-
cident connected with it. The autograph of General Wooster is a fac simile from
a deed dated May 5th, 1772the only document we could find bearing his signa-
tureconveying to him the whole township of Wethersfield, in Connecticut, contain-
ing twenty-three thousand acres of land, in consideration of five pounds, New York
currency, paid to each of the original patentees, twenty-two in number.Ed.
[The descendant was General Wooster's grandson, Charles Whiting Wooster, who
was a rear admiral in the Chilean navy and found the painting there in 1822. The
portrait, together with the general's sword and the military sash upon which he
was transported from the field at Ridgefield, were donated in 1837 by Charles Whiting
Wooster to Yale College. Yale exhibited them at the centennial exposition in
Philadelphia in 1876, and since then no one has been able to locate them. It is
assumed that they were stolen. Two examples of the "likenesses published in the
periodicals of that day" can be viewed on the Wide World Web. I have links to
them from the main General Wooster page. KJW]
Soon after the close of this war, he engaged in mercantile business
in New Haven, and held the office of his majesty's collector of the
customs for that port. Having in the two preceding wars mixed
much in the world, and formed a numerous acquaintance, both in
Europe and America, and possessing a generous and liberal mind,
his house was the seat of hospitality.
In the great contest between the parent country and the North
American colonies, although an officer in the British regular establish-
ment, and entitled to half pay for life, he did not hesitate to take part
with his native country, and his pen and sword were actively em-
ployed in the defence of its rights.
After the battle of Lexington, he was fully aware that the sword
alone must decide the contest. He, as well as other military men of
experience, at once saw how important it was for the Americans
to get possession of the fortresses of the country, together with the
cannon, arms, and military stores therein deposited. The peculiar
situation of the fort at Ticonderoga, commanding the great pass
between the north Atlantic colonies and Canada, did not escape his
notice. He, therefore, with a few others of a kindred spirit, early in
May, 1775, secretly planned an expedition from Connecticut, to seize
upon and retain that important fortress; and to enable them to
carry their design into execution, they privately obtained a loan of
eighteen hundred dollars from the treasury of the state, for which
they became personally responsible. Such was the secrecy and
despatch in executing this measure, that, on the 10th of May, as is
well known, this fort was surprised and delivered up to Allen and
Arnold, and their brave followers. This step, one of the boldest
taken at that period of the contest, was at the sole risk and responsi-
bility of General Wooster and other individuals. Congress, when
informed of this transaction, recommended that an inventory of the
cannon and military stores found in the fort should be taken, "in
order," as they said, "that they may be safely returned when the
restoration of the former harmony between great Britain and these
colonies, so ardently wished for by the latter, shall render it prudent
and consistent with the overruling care of self-preservation."
The military experience as well as the daring spirit of general
Wooster recommended him to congress, when raising an army of
defence, and among the eight brigadier-generals appointed by that
body, on the 22d of June, 1775, he was the third in rank. The
operations of that year were principally confined to the vicinity of
Boston, and to an expedition against Canada, under the command
of General Montgomery.
During the campaign of 1776, General Wooster was employed
principally in Canada, and at one time had the command of the
continental troops in that quarter. Owing to several circumstances,
the Americans lost in Canada, during this year, all that had been
gained in the preceding. The small pox which unfortunately broke
out among the troops, and the want of medical aid and accommoda-
tions, together with the constant insubordination of the men, may
be assigned among the principal causes.
This rendered the situation of the officers in command peculiarly
trying, and General Wooster, on his return, requested congress to
institute an inquiry into his conduct, while he commanded in
Canada. This inquiry was made by a committee of that body, and
the general was acquitted of all blame.
After this expedition, he returned home, and was then appointed
first major-general of the militia of his state. During the whole
winter of 1776-7, he was employed in protecting Connecticut against
the enemy, and particularly the neighborhood of Danbury, where
large magazines of provisions and other articles had been collected
by the Americans. He had just returned to New Haven from one
of his tours, when he heard on Friday, 25th of April, '77, that a
body of two thousand men sent from New York on the preceding
day, had effected a landing between Norwalk and Fairfield, for the
purpose of destroying the magazines at Danbury, which object they
accomplished the next day.
Immediately on hearing this news, Generals Wooster and Arnold
set off from New Haven, to join the militia hastily collected by
General Silliman. In consequence of a heavy rain, the militia ordered
from New Haven, did not arrive in the vicinity of Danbury, until the
26th, in the evening. The number of the militia thus collected, was
about six hundred men, and with this small force it was determined
to attack the enemy the following morning on their retreat, and for
this purpose a part of the men were put under the command of Gene-
ral Wooster, and a part under General Arnold. General Wooster
pursued and attacked the enemy, regardless of the inequality of
numbers. But being inexperienced militia, and the enemy having
several field pieces, his men, after doing considerable execution, were
broken and gave way. The general was rallying them, when unfor-
tunately for his family and his country, he received a mortal wound.
A musket ball took him obliquely, broke his back bone, lodged within
him and never could be found. He was removed from the field and
had his wound dressed by Dr. Turner, and was then conveyed to
Danbury, where all possible care was taken of him. The surgeons
were from the first aware of the danger of the case, and informed the
General of their apprehensions, which he heard with the greatest
composure. His wife and son had been sent for, and arrived soon
enough to receive his parting benediction. He told them that "he
was dying, but with the strong hope and persuasion that his country
would gain its independence." How gloriously his presentiment has
He expired on the 2d of May, 1777, at the age of sixty-seven.
His remains were deposited in the burying ground of the village,
which he had thus died defending.
Duly sensible of the loss the country had sustained in the death[This biography was composed in 1835, nineteen years before his body was moved and
of General Wooster, and justly appreciating, "his merits and servi
ces," congress, on the 17th of June following, "Resolved," that a
monument should be erected to his memory. They appropriated
five hundred dollars for that purpose, and requested the executive
of Connecticut to carry their resolution into effect; but it has been
neglected, and the bones of the hero lie inglorious in a country grave-
yard, without even a stone to mark the spot.
the Wooster Monument dedicated. KJW]