The Life of General David Wooster

The following paragraphs were copied from pages 88 - 90 of Genealogy of the Woosters in America, Descended from Edward Wooster of Connecticut by David Wooster, printed 1885 by M. Weiss, San Francisco.


David Wooster 3, was made a Lieutenant in the Colonial forces 1739, the year after he graduated at Yale College. He was then twenty-nine years old. This was the year of the beginning of the Spanish War. From this time on, until the beginning of the Summer of 1776, Wooster served continuously, and with distinction. About this time, on account of persistent annoyances (as John Adams says, because he was a “New England man”) he asked to have his military career in Canada reviewed and investigated by Congress, then in session in Philadelphia. After thorough and long investigation, and the examination of witnesses and correspondence, even his enemies in Congress were forced to unite with his friends and acquit him of every charge. [See Journal of Congress, 17th August, 1776.] He was now sixty-six years old, and, having been absent from his family nearly a year, he asked and obtained leave of Congress to return to his home in Connecticut. Wooster soon after resigned his commission of Brigadier-General in the Continental army and accepted the appointment of Major-General and Commander-in-Chief in the mobilized militia of Connecticut.

But he never ceased to consider himself in the service of the patriotic cause.

He had felt himself neglected [see letter to Schuyler dated 13th Oct., 1775, Appendix], when Schuyler and others, whom he ranked by seniority of commission in the King's forces, and honorable service, were made Major-Generals. But he did not permit such slights, though deep wounds to military pride in all ages and among all peoples, to dampen his patriotic ardor, nor did he hesitate in obedience to military orders from his late subordinates, now promoted over him by political intrigue and sectional influence.

Schuyler not long after shared the same fate, when he was superseded by Gates, by order of Congress, just as he had all things in readiness for the defeat and capture of Burgoyne. It is now well known to military students that Schuyler was a more able general, but less a politician, than Gates.

Wooster had grown gray in the service of king and country. He had served in the English army in the Colonies against the Indians and the French and the Spaniards during part of two reigns; and if he lacked anything it was the ostentation of the young officer and the reckless dash of the inexperienced leader. He did not approve of the attack on Quebec, in which the chivalrous, but ill-advised, badly-armed and inadequately-supported Montgomery gloriously fell. But Montgomery was his superior in command and his personal friend, and he never once suggested, after the failure, that the attack was a military error; never said: “I told you so.” In this he exhibited his chivalrous respect for the brave, who could make no defense from the silence of final sleep.

Wooster again and again, after assuming the chief command on the death of Montgomery, informed Congress and General Washington, and General Schuyler whose headquarters were at Albany, N. Y., and Governor Trumbull of Connecticut, of the absolute necessity of sufficient reinforcements and munitions of war to make the attack and complete the reduction of Quebec before the end of March, 1776 [Montgomery's attack and failure occurred on Dec. 31, 1775], as by that time the English Ministry would have reinforced Quebec with such a well-appointed force that its reduction would be next to impossible and the attempt extremely hazardous.

Yet the Winter of 1776 passed, and March and April, and supplies, ammunition and men were not forwarded in sufficient amount to make the attack with any hope of success.

Quebec had been reinforced, as Wooster had predicted. Congress sent a Commission to Canada to investigate the conduct of the campaign. These Commissioners, neither of whom knew anything of military matters [see their own statement in report to Congress, 7th May, 1776], recommended the recall of Wooster, whom Gen. Thomas (already in command in Canada, but down with small-pox at the rapids of Chambly), asked to take temporary command. They also criticise Thomas' appointment of his own Adjutant-General, as someone had informed them he is unfit for the place, and then criticise General Thomas for giving orders without first consulting his general officers! They recommend the recall of Wooster, which was done a month later, namely, June 3d, 1776.

This was a hard blow to the chivalrous old veteran of thirty-four years' service. He returned, demanded investigation by Congress, obtained it, was acquitted, and then resigned his commission (as already stated), broken-hearted, but not broken in spirit; as his heroic death at Danbury, a few months later, abundantly proved. As Major-General he might have avoided danger, remaining at head-quarters some distance from the scene of conflict; but when he heard the roar of artillery and the thunder of war the fire of youth returned, and shouting above the din of battle, “Come on, my boys! never mind such random shots,” he was struck by a musket ball and fell from his horse mortally wounded.

This occurred April 27, 1777.

Really his was an enviable death. He was trying to save the homes of his neighbors from conflagration, and the military stores of his country from destruction, at the risk of his own life, and for this purpose voluntarily exposed himself to the fire of the enemy, whose forces outnumbered his ten to one.

At once, in the fullness of life, he disappears from contemporary chronicles, after having appeared on almost every page for nearly half a century.

It is to be hoped that some of his descendants will yet write his biography in such an unbiassed manner as to do justice to the memory of this high type of the soldier, patriot and military gentleman of the last century.
Copyright © Kenneth Jennings Wooster
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Last Modified: 10 June 1998; December 18, 2002