Revolutionary War

Polansuwe Susehp Neptan

Pay Roll of Indians in the Defence of Machias
Image of Pay Roll of Indians in the Defence of Machias. The Bangor Historical Magazine, Vol. 4., Bangor. Benjamin W. Porter, Editor and Publisher, 1888-1899. Page 168.

Polansuwe Susehp Neptan (Passamaquoddy translation of his Christian name Francis Joseph Neptune) (c1735-1834) was a member of the indigenous Passamaquoddy or Sipayik Tribe whose ancestral home covered more than 3 million acres in northern Maine into neighboring New Brunswick, Canada. The Passamaquoddy ranged throughout those acres, hunting and fishing according to the season, and travelling the river networks to trade with other tribes in New England and Canada.

In 1777 General George Washington asked the Tribe to aid American colonists in their fight against the British, promising them continued access to their ancestral land. That promise, coupled with the intermarriage of some Passamaquoddy with French colonists, convinced nearly 200 to ally with the American cause. This included both Neptan and his father, whose Christian name was Chief Jean-Baptiste Neptune.

Legends of Polansuwe Susehp Neptan’s exploits during the war indicate that he was a key combatant in the First Battle of Machias. Documents do show that the indigenous troops proved key in protecting the eastern-most coast of Maine from British ships, particularly in the 1777 Second Battle of Machias, a British assault from land and sea.

When Neptan’s father died the following year, the son became chief. After the war, Chief Polansuwe Susehp Neptan travelled to Boston to remind the Americans of the role of the Passamaquoddy during the war and of Washington’s promises regarding their territory. The United States did not fully honor its promises. By the time of Neptan’s death at age 99, the Passamoquoddy Tribe no longer had access to their ancestral lands, but were relegated to 100 acres at Pleasant Point and 23,000 acres at Indian Township. Two centuries after the start of the Revolutionary War, Federal courts revisited the promises made to Neptan and his people. Finally, in 1980, Congress passed the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act, “a good faith effort on the part of Congress to provide the Passamaquoddy Tribe, the Penobscot Nation, and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians with a fair and just settlement of their land claims.”

To hear  an 1890 cylinder recording of the Revolutionary War song performed by French-speaking Passamaquoddy Tribe member Peter Lacoute, go to Passamaquoddy People.


Peleg Tallman

Eleanor Tallman received a Revolutionary War veteran’s pension after the death of her husband, Peleg Tallman, rank Yeoman, U.S., Revolutionary War Pensioners, 1801-1815, 1818-1872 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2007.
Peleg Tallman (1764-1841) was born in Rhode Island, one of at least five children of Peleg and Sarah (Soule) Tallman. When he was only eight, his mother died and his father remarried.

According to family tradition, at the beginning of the Revolutionary War Peleg’s father, a shipwright, was building ships in “the Lakes”—possibly Lake Champlain on the New York/Quebec border. Peleg, though only twelve years old, left home to join the war effort. During that conflict, boys his age often served aboard warships as powder boys, moving gunpowder from the hold to the guns during battle. Peleg’s own recollections and Revolutionary War pension records support this.

During the American Revolution Peleg served on five different American privateers and was captured four times by the British. On his fourth ship, the Trumball, he went into battle, replacing his wounded superior officer at command of the after guns. Grape shot from the enemy shattered his shoulder-blade and destroyed his shoulder joint, necessitating amputation of his left arm. He used his time as a prisoner of war and convalescing from his serious injury to educate himself.

After the war, Peleg had matured into a tall, vigorous man. He continued to sail, as shipmaster of merchant vessels. In 1790, able to support a family of his own, 26-year-old Peleg married Eleanor Clark. They would have a large family–ten children. They owned a farm in Woolwich, as well as a large, three-story house in Bath overlooking the Kennebec, on the site that is now Bath’s waterfront park.

Peleg Tallman continued in the shipping business, building and operating his own sailing ships. Though he had little formal education, the prosperous man was appointed to the Board of Overseers of Bowdoin College in 1802. He was also a politician, serving in Massachusetts and Maine statehouses, as well as in the U. S. Congress. He was President of banks in Wiscasset and Bath, and he owned a great deal of property, including both commercial and private real estate. At his death, the boy sailor and self-made man was said to be the richest man in Maine.

(With thanks to Alan Baughcum)


John McManus

The last line above lists Revolutionary War pension payments to Corp. John and Elizabeth McManus from March 1836 to March 1844. Digital image from the National Archives; Washington, D.C., via
Image: The last line above lists Revolutionary War pension payments to Corp. John and Elizabeth McManus from March 1836 to March 1844. Digital image from the National Archives; Washington, D.C., via

John McManus (1759-1843) was just a young boy when his family emigrated from Ireland to Brunswick, Maine. Just out of his teens, he enlisted in the Continental Army to fight for American independence from Great Britain. He survived the war and lived out his very long life on Rocky Hill in Brunswick.

A death notice published May 17, 1843, in the Brooklyn Eagle described his service:

Brunswick, Maine: John McManus 83y. He served in the army of his country, as a soldier nearly 4 years, was at the surrender of Burgoyne, served under General Sullivan in the Mohawk County, and received a wound at Cherry Valley, which rendered him lame during life.

For stories of other River Road Revolutionary War veterans go to: Rocky Hill Revolution.


Francis Heuston

Image: Francis Heuston tombstone, photo by Barbara A. Desmarais, 2017.
Image: Francis Heuston tombstone, photo by Barbara A. Desmarais, 2017.

Francis Heuston (1765-1858), an African American from Nantucket Island, served on a Revolutionary War armed vessel while still a boy. After the war he was a sailor on coasting vessels, settling in Brunswick where he bought a sizeable farm. Heuston married Mahitable Griffin of Bath, Maine.

Widely known for his character and wisdom, Heuston voted in every election. As an active member of the Vigilant Committee of Bath, an abolitionist group, Heuston, his wife, and their children operated a way station on the Underground Railroad. He died in 1858 at the age of 93, seven years before the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States

In 2014 the portion of his farm set aside for a family burying ground was recognized by the National Park Service as a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site.

Heuston Burying Ground is not open to the public but more information about Francis Heuston and his wife, Mahitable Griffin, is available at Revealing Hidden Stories.


Deborah Sampson Gannett

Sampson, Deborah Rev War
Drawing of Deborah Sampson Gannett, Revolutionary War Army veteran. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., native number LC USZ 61 202.

Deborah Sampson Gannett (AKA Robert Shurtleff) (1760-1827) was born in Plympton, Massachusetts, daughter of Jonathan and Deborah (Bradford) Sampson Jr. When Jonathan was lost at sea, her mother indentured her seven children to other households. When Deborah completed her term with farmer Benjamin Thomas, she worked as a weaver during the winter and as a teacher in summer sessions.

In 1781 she enlisted in the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment, disguised as a man named Robert Shurtleff. She began as a scout assigned to observe the strength of British troops and material on Manhattan Island in New York. She led raids, captured prisoners-of-war, dug trenches at Yorktown, and survived canon-fire. In June 1782 she was one of the leaders of an expedition resulting in one-on-one fighting with Tories. She was shot in the left thigh and gashed by a sword at her temple. She removed the pistol ball herself to avoid detection. Unfortunately, in 1783 her gender was discovered when she was hospitalized during an epidemic in Philadelphia. Nevertheless, she was honorably discharged from the Army in October that year.

In 1785 she married farmer Benjamin Gannett. They would have three children, Earl, Mary, and Patience. In 1802 she left the farm for a year to lecture about her war experiences, sometimes dressed in military uniform.

Three official documents recognized her service as Robert Shurtleff; two of them included her own name.

The first was a discharge letter from Col. Henry Jackson certifying the service of Robert Shurtleff. The second was a resolution passed by the Massachusetts Legislature in 1792 awarding her backpay for her Revolutionary War service.  The last official document was the 1805 order by the War Department that placed Deborah Gannett on the Revolutionary War pension list, backdated to include and additional 2 years’ pension.

Another document, though not issued by a governmental department, is equally unusual. In 1909, a descendant of “Deborah Sampson” was approved for membership in the Sons of the American Revolution.

For stories of other women veterans go to: Womens Memorial.