The Daughters of the American Revolution GRS System lists an unusual death entry for Benjamin Graves of Connecticut. It reads: “Death: 9-6- 1781 WOUND REC IN BATTLE.” In other words, according to previous applications to the Daughters of the American Revolution, Benjamin Graves died 6 September 1781 of wounds received in battle. 6 September 1781 was the date of the British attack on Groton, Connecticut and the Battle of Groton Heights.
Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park offers a list of those killed and wounded. Benjamin Graves is not listed on it. So how accurate is the DAR entry?
According to the entry, Graves was a militia private serving under “Capt. Holmes.” The Connecticut Church Record Abstracts indicate that he was baptized in East Haddam in August 1734. There’s no indication of his age at the time. If he were born in 1734 – unlikely given his sister was baptized at the beginning of 1735 – he would have been 47. That was in the possible age range for a militia private, who were generally only called up for short periods.
Who was Captain Holmes? It’s not entirely clear. Portions of the East Haddam town meeting minutes, which had appeared in the 1884 History of Middlesex County, have been transcribed to the website of the Connecticut Sons of the American Revolution. Those minutes do mention a Capt. Eliphat Holmes.
According to the pension file Captain Holmes filed in 1818, he resigned from the Army in 1780 due to ill health. He had been in command on the Continental Line, which would have placed him out in the field for long periods. Militia service, which placed him closer to home, may not have been entirely out of the question. It is unclear, however, why he would not have referenced it in his pension application.
Record of Service of Connecticut Men in the I. War of the Revolution lends credence to the argument that Captain Holmes was Eliphat Holmes. This work, which is used as a standard reference for documenting Connecticut Revolutionary War military service, includes a muster from 1776 for the Company of Captain Eliphat Holmes of East Haddam. Among those listed is Benjamin Graves. The description of the unit suggests a militia unit that could have been called up in periods of concern.
Was it called up in 1781 – and did Benjamin die during its service? The unit is not listed in Record of Service for 1781, but that in itself is not a surprise. Unless the militia was called out for long periods, the details were often not recorded. The East Haddam militia may have been at Groton Heights in 1781.
However, there are suggestions that Benjamin may not have been there. Ancestry‘s “Connecticut, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1609-1999” collection includes an estate administration for a Benjamin Graves dated 1777 and guardianship bonds for several Graves children dated 1778. Neither confirms Benjamin’s death in 1777. The administration papers, as they survive, may be a continuation of the estate of Benjamin Sr, who died in 1770. The guardianship bonds do not name the children’s father, leaving open the possibility that they are unconnected.
How would we discover more? We could start by ordering those early DAR applications to see how they documented Benjamin’s death.