Spy at Ticonderoga, A Patriot of 1776
|A Spy at Ticonderoga by Clavin Fisher follows the fictional adventure of three boys as they set off on the Ticonderoga Adventure of 1775.|
"A Patriot of 1776. To such we are indebted for our Independence."
Maj. Gen. Noah Phelps(1) (born January 22, 1740, descended from the immigrant William Phelps) settled in Simsbury, Connecticut, where he was "an active and influential man. He was a Yale graduate, a justice of the Peace, judge of Probate for twenty years, and was a Delegate to the Convention of 1787 to ratify the Federal Constitution."
Revolutionary War service
Noah Phelps was one of four who organized a "Committee of War for the Expedition against Ticonderoga and Crown Point." The committee considered the advisability of taking Fort Ticonderoga, then occupied by the British, and in which there was stored a large amount of heavy artillery and other war implements.
Capture of Fort Ticonderoga
Capt. Phelps, Barnard Romance, Ephraim Buell, and Capt. Edward Mott composed this committee, Capt. Mott acting as chairman.
"£300 was raised from the Public Treasury though guaranteed by several patriotic gentlemen. This fund was placed in the hands of Capt. Phelps and Barnard Romance, with the request that they should go north and press forward this project. This resulted in the great and bloodless victory the taking of Fort Ticonderoga." During April - May 1775, they traveled to Fort Ticonderoga with the intention of capturing it.
"It may be interesting to his descendants to know the part Capt. Phelps acted as a spy. At the southern part of Lake Champlain, Capt. Phelps was sent out to reconnoiter. He stopped over night at a farm house some little distance from Fort Ticonderoga. Some British soldiers occupied rooms adjoining Capt. Phelps, where they were having a dinner party. Capt. Phelps heard them discuss the condition of the fort, and the position taken by the rebels, as they styled the people. Early the next morning Capt. Phelps visited the fort disguised as a peddler."
"Pretending that his object was to get shaved, he avoided suspicion, and had an opportunity to ascertain the construction, strength, and force of the garrison. And he had the good fortune to elude detection, though as it afterwards appeared, his presence had began [sic] to excite mistrust before he left the garrison."
"While returning through the fort, the commander accompanied him talking with him about the rebels, their object and movements. Capt. Phelps seeing a portion of the wall in a dilapidated condition, remarked that it would afford a feeble defence against the rebels, if they should attack in that quarter. The commander replied, " Yes, but that is not our greatest misfortune. All our powder is damaged, and before we can use it, we are obliged to dry and sift it."
"Capt. Phelps soon after left the fort, employing a boatman to take him down the lake in a small boat. He entered the boat in full view and under the guns of the fort. He requested the boatman to exert himself and terminate the journey as soon as possible, the boatman then requested him to take an oar and assist, This the Capt. declined to do, being in full sight of the fort, by saying he was no boatman. After rounding a point that intercepted a view from the fort, the Capt. proposed taking an oar, which he did, and being a strong active man as well as a good oarsman, he excited the suspicion of the oarsman by his efficient work, who remarked with an oath, 'You have seen an oar before now, sir.' This excited the suspicion of the boatman at the time that he was not a good and loyal citizen, but fear of superior strength prevented an attempt to carry him back to the fort. This he confessed to Capt. Phelps after the surrender of the fort. Capt. Phelps returned safely to his command, reported the information he had gained [to General Ethan Allen], resulting in the great and glorious victory before referred to." (2)
About this time Mr. Phelps raised a company mostly at his own expense, and was appointed Captain.
Phelps was Captain in Colonel Ward's Regiment of the Continental Army, raised in Connecticut, to serve one year from May 1776 and which took part in the battles of Trention and Princeton. At the end of the term in 1777 he re-enlisted in the Continental Service. He was promoted to Lieut. Colonel of the 18th Connecticut Regiment in May 1778 and in May 1779 promoted to command the same Regiment.
Later he acted as Commissary (or quartermaster) for Connecticut. On August 14, 1775, George Washington wrote [Connecticut] Governor Jonathan Trumbull that he had ordered General Phillip Schuyler to ship lead ball found at Ft. Ticonderoga and Crown Point. He asked the Govenor to send it to the 'care of Commissary Phelps at Albany", and wrote that Phelps should be advised of the shipment and directed to forward it by the "best and most expeditious way to General Washington." On August 21, The Committee of Safety drafted and sent a letter to Phelps advising him of the pending shipment for use of Washington's army near Boston. After the war he was chosen Maj. Gen. of Militia.
Noah Phelps was clearly a leader within the Simsbury community. He chaired the town meeting that passed the articles of confederation in January 1778, and in November of 1787, the meeting picked him and Daniel Humphrey Esq., as delegates for the Convention of the State of Connecticut, set to convene in Hartford in January and vote on whether or not to adopt the federal constitution. They were directed to oppose it, but "one of the delegates though voting as instructed by the town, took occasion to state that his personal convictions led him to favor the proposed constitution."(3) This might or might not have been Phelps. He held a variety of important positions, including Surveyor of lands in 1772 and 1783, Justice of the Peace for Hartford County in 1782, Judge of Probate in 1787, and Major-General of the Militia, 1796-1799.
He died in Simsbury 4 Nov., 1809, honored and respected. On his tombstone is inscribed: "A Patriot of 1776. To such we are indebted for our Independence."
Noah's brother Elisha built the Phelps Homestead in Simbury, Connecticut. now operated by the Simsbury Historical Society. Noah's son, Elijah, b. 16 Nov., 1779, built what is now known as the Simsbury 1820 House.
Related LinksPhelps Tavern Museum and Homestead
Maintained by the Simsbury Historical Society
Noah Phelps Papers
From the University of Michigan
Elijah Phelps Home
Now a private hotel and guest house
(1) Excerpted from The Phelps Family of America and Their English Ancestors, (Save $201 by ordering through us.) Two volumes. By Judge Oliver Seymour Phelps and Andrew T. Servin. (Eagle Publishing Company of Pittsfield, Mass., 1899) Vol. I, p 204.
(2) Phelps, Noah Amherst. History of Simsbury, Granby and Canton, From 1642 to 1845. (Hartford: Press of Case, Tiffany and Burnham, 1845). p 94-95. From William L. Clements Library The University of Michigan, Noah Phelps Papers . http://www.clements.umich.edu/Webguides/NP/PhelpsN.asp (January 2003)