Silas Greene of Decatur
By Stephen Eichler and Gordon Rood.
October 20, 2001
Silas Greene of Rhode Island was an early settler of the town of Decatur, NY. and was a veteran of the American Revolution
The following is a narrative detailing what is currently known about his life. The narrative additionally provides information about Silas’ Revolutionary War regiment, the First New York, its movements and assignments and some details about its commanding officer Colonel Van Schaick and prominent New York political figure General Philip Schuyler.
This work was prepared as part of a larger narrative about the Greene family of upstate New York..
The research on Silas Greene is an ongoing effort and will be updated as new or revised information is obtained.
Silas Green(e) was born in 1752. Available records indicate that he was the Silas Green who was born in West Greenwich, Kent County, Rhode Island on July 26, 1752, the son of John Greene[i] and Ruth Matteson. John was born May 31, 1722; Ruth was born October 16, 1724, the daughter of Henry and Ruth Sweet Matteson. John and Ruth were married in 1747, their children listed as: Elizabeth, Caleb, Lucy, Fear, Silas, John, Clarke. [ii] Another source lists two other brothers, Duty and Philamon Greene.[iii] Silas probably lived in West Greenwich, RI at least until 1761 for his brother Duty Green was born there in March of that year.[iv]
At the outbreak of the Revolution Silas appears to have been living in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. According to the History of Berkshire County (Beers; 1885), his name and the names of several of his brothers and cousins were recorded as enlistees from Lanesboro.[v] After his brief Massachusetts enlistment was over he apparently moved some 15 miles distance to New Britain, Columbia County, New York, where he enlisted, on August 10th 1775, into Captain Hezekiah Baldwin’s Company of the Second Regiment of the New York Line. On October 13th 1775 Silas’ name was recorded in the Company Muster Roll as “On Command” while the company was at Fort George. Fort George, located at the southern end of Lake George, was on the main invasion route from Canada, in an area which had a large population of Tories.
At the start of the Revolution all enlistments were for short periods varying from six weeks to six months. Silas’ early service was no exception for he re-enlisted in 1776, again into Captain Baldwin Company of the New York Line of the Continental Army. During this enlistment Silas served as a Ranger. Rangers were used in the state militias and the Continental Army to catch Tories and patrol the countryside. In the army infantry companies of Rangers were used for raiding and close combat behind enemy lines.
After about nine months Silas enlisted out of Baldwin’s Company with the 2nd Regiment and on March 18th 1777 into a three year service with the 1st New York Regiment of the Line. Silas took advantage of a resolution passed in February 1777 by the New York Provincial Congress allowing any Ranger to transfer out of the ranger service and into a regular NY regiment of the Continental Army. Silas also may have made the transfer because bounty money was being offered by the new commander of the 1st NY Regiment, Colonel Goose Van Schaick. Offering money for enlistments was not a new practice during the Revolution and was used liberally by many units. Colonel Van Schaick had received a sum of three thousand pounds from the New York State treasury to be used for bounty money to attract men to fill the regimental roster of the 1st NY in early 1777. All of the information regarding the 1st New York Regiment comes from History of the First New York Regiment 1775 – 1783 (T.W. Egly, Jr.; 1981) and General Schuyler’s Guard (T.W. Egly, Jr.; 1986) This book and pamphlet have made it possible to follow Silas’ service. Regimental muster and pay rolls on record at the National Archives for Silas Greene, provide information about his assignments, pay, and duties.
The regiment Silas enlisted into would ultimately be viewed as one of the best drilled and disciplined regiments in the Continental Army. Drill and exercises would be part of everyday life. The 1st NY Regiment generally was the largest NY regiment and at one point had over 600 officers and men. According to Silas’ pension files he was a private in Captain John Graham’s company. Graham was a highly respected officer and would be promoted to Major in 1779. As a private in 1777 Silas received $6.66 a month.
Equipping new recruits was always a problem because of the shortage of uniforms, blankets, and tents. Shortage problems were a chronic problem of the Continental Army. While the uniform coats of the 1st New York Regiment were for most of the war blue coats faced with red it is possible that Silas may have been one of the soldiers in the regiment who at least initially continued to wear the uniform coat from his service with the 2nd NY Regiment which was brown faced with red.
In 1777 the British army under General John Burgoyne invaded northern New York in an effort to win control of the Hudson River valley and to ultimately split the colonies in half. In an effort to gather intelligence of British intentions, delay the expected invasion, and protect the local inhabitants, the 1st New York Regiment was one of several units assigned to garrison duty at posts in northern New York, including Fort George, Fort Edward, Fort Ann, and Fort Johnson. Silas Green was most likely stationed at one of these strong points when he first entered the regiment in March 1777. As the British slowly advanced southward from Montreal in the spring and summer the 1st New York and all the American forces made a slow orderly retreat back towards Albany. The 1st NY Regiment had several skirmishes with the British, Tories, and Indians as it fell back. Part of Silas’ company under Captain Graham took part in one such encounter and had several men killed or captured.
Sometime between June 4th and October 4th 1777 Silas was assigned to the regimental guard being formed to protect Major General Philip Schuyler. Schuyler, at that time commander of the Northern Department of the Continental Army traveled extensively between his homes in Albany and Saratoga (present day Stillwater) and to the various military bases in the Northern Department and was believed to be at risk from attacks by local Tories. The guard was made up of soldiers exclusively from the 1st NY Regiment probably because of the close personal ties and trust between Colonel Van Schaick and General Schuyler. The General’s personal guard originally numbered some 24 men and though reduced in number over time it remained with the General until the conclusion of the war. On August 7th 1781 the guard prevented the General from being kidnapped from his home in Albany by Tories. Soldiers chosen to guard General Schuyler seem to have been made up of three types. Some of the guards were skilled tradesmen such as carpenters, masons, and tailors. These skills may have been used at the large camp erected near Schuyler’s Saratoga home which had barracks for 1000 soldiers and was a supply depot for the Continental Army both before and after the Battle of Saratoga. Some of the guards were rather too old for active duty in the field, being 35 plus years old . Finally some of the soldiers were unfit for duty due to being injured or wounded in service. Why Silas was chosen to serve in the guard is unknown. Records show that he served on the guard continuously from mid 1777 up to the time of his discharge from the service in March 1780.
With the siege of Fort Stanwix (also called Fort Schuyler) by the British and Indian forces led by St. Leger in the summer of 1777 and the subsequent battle of Oriskany, the 1st New York was sent in August as part of the relief column under the overall command of General Benedict Arnold. As part of his guard Silas would have remained in the Albany area with General Schuyler. In August 1777 Schuyler was relived of command and spent most of his time during the late summer and early fall at his house in Albany doing what he could to assist the army. Thus Silas probably took no part in the fighting which occurred near Saratoga in September and October 1777. While Schuyler played no active role in the battle he was present at the surrender of General Burgoyne’s British Army. It is likely that Silas Greene would have been present at that event. After the surrender General Schuyler returned to his property in Saratoga which had been destroyed by the British and started rebuilding his home. If Silas had certain trade skills, such as carpentry, he may have been detailed at times to help rebuild the soldiers barracks near Schuyler’s home which were also destroyed.
For the three years Silas served with the 1st NY he apparently spent very little time in close contact with the regiment for his muster and pay roll entries list him as “On Guard” with General Schuyler or “On Guard” at Saratoga. However, in the Spring of 1778 when the 1st NY gathered at Camp Albany, with orders to march south to Valley Forge and join the Continental Army, a requisition record shows that “Private Silas Green received fifty dozen musket cartridges” on April 16th[vi] for his regiment. The Regiment arrived at Valley Forge, PA by May 5th and fought in the Battle of Monmouth, NJ in June 1778. Silas’ muster rolls show that he remained on guard with Schuyler near Albany.
In early 1778 Silas was on furlough when he married Miss Lydia Griffith on February 4th 1778 in the hamlet of New Britain, Columbia County, NY. They were married by the Presbyterian minister Reverend George Throop. Their marriage was witnessed by Lydia’s brother William Griffith who saw service in the state militia during the war. Because of his guard assignment which was generally in Saratoga or Albany Silas may have been able to spend more time with his young wife than was usual for a soldier.
Service on guard for the prominent general and statesmen Philip Schyuler had to be preferable to the garrison duty assigned to the 1st NY Regiment at Ft. Stanwix after its return from the Battle of Monmouth. Life at Ft. Stanwix was dangerous and dull because of the ever present Indians and Tories, the limited supplies of food, clothing, and rum, and the sheer boredom of garrisoning a wilderness fort far from home for over two years.
Silas was discharged from the army on March 18, 1780. And shortly thereafter moved with his wife Lydia to New Bethlehem, Albany County, NY, living there for six months. During this time Silas served as a soldier under Captain James Magee in Morris Graham‘s Levy.
Where he and his family lived between 1780 and 1797 is currently unknown as he does not show up on the New York Census of 1790. Since the records indicate that the Green brothers often migrated together to the same regions, possibly he lived in the Catskill area of NY, as his brothers Clark and Duty were living in Middletown, Delaware County in 1790, Duty marrying there in 1785.
In 1818 Silas applied for a pension from the Unites States government for his service in the Revolution. Since his discharge papers were lost or destroyed Silas submitted with his application an affidavit from Colonel Nicholas Van Rensselaer (1st Lieutenant -Captain Graham’s Company of the 1st NY during the war) which stated that Silas Green had served under Captain Graham, in Colonel Van Schaick’s 1st NY Regiment of the Line and that he “has no doubt of his service from the 18th of March 1777 to the 18th of March 1780 as he has seen his name registered to that effect on the Rolls”.[vii] (See Appendix No. 1 for a brief history of the 1st NY Regiment of the Line)
Silas Green was one of the pioneer settlers of the town of Delhi, Delaware County, NY according to the History of Delaware County, NY (1880), which states that “Silas Green came in 1797 with his brothers and settled on the south side of the river… above the village”[ix]
The following is an excerpt from the town of Delhi, NY Assessment Roll of 1798. It should be noted that the highlighted names match the names of the brothers of the Silas Greene who was born in 1752 in Rhode Island, providing further support for linking our great-great-great-great grandfather Silas with his Rhode Island ancestors.
Occupant Land Owner Type and Size Adjoining Acreage Value
Green, Philaman Robert R. Livingston log house 16X16 Joining Silas Green 90 $ 80
Green, Silas Robert R. Livingston log house 28X14 Joining Wm Denio 50 $ 112
Green, John Robert R. Livingston framed house 24X16 Joining Wm Denio 50 $ 175
Green, Clark Clark, Green log house 20X17 Joining Joseph Dodge 10 $ 30
Green, Widow Widow Green log house 26X13 Joining Joseph Dodge 60 $ 135
The above Greens were also on the State Tax Roll for 1799 and Silas was on the jurors list for 1798-1800 for Delhi.
The 1800 census shows Silas Green in Delhi, NY with 7 males and 4 females in the household.
Sometime after 1800 Silas Green moved to the town of Worcester, NY in southern Otsego County, NY. The 1810 census shows an S. Green in Decatur (formed from part of Worcester in 1808) with 5 males and 2 females in the household.
Map of that part of Decatur where Silas most likely lived. [x]
Decatur NY, named after Commodore Stephen Decatur, was formed from the northern portion of Worcester on March 25, 1808. The surface is made up of numerous hills and narrow valleys with a sandy or gravelly soil. The first settlements were commenced about 1790, at or near the village of Decatur[xi] From the records it is apparent that Silas was not a man of any property or wealth. He probably was like most small farmers of the late 18th and early 19th century who lived on the edge of the wilderness, having a small log house, a few animals, and a small number of personal possessions. In the inventory listed in his pension file, dated 1821, he said that he had “No real or personal estate”, and provided an inventory of his personal possessions including, livestock, farm implements, and household tools:
1 small yoke of cattle 3 cows
2 yearlings 2 calves
6 sheep 1 swine
1 old horse of no value
1 common plow 1 drag
1 hoe 1 old wagon
2 poor axes 1 iron bar
1 very poor fanning mill 1 ... auger
1 hand saw 1 seythe (scythe)
1 30 gallon kittle 1 4-pail kittle with a number of cracks on it
1 pot 1 small kittle 1 spider (type of frying pan) 1 frying pan
1 fire shovel and tongs 1 broken tea kittle
3 pails 1 set of tea dishes
8 tin basins 5 boals
5 earthen plates 5 knives and forks
6 spoons 1 small table
1 meat barrel 1 chest
1 wooden clock 5 old chairs
1 small looking glass
He also stated ” I have due to me the sum of $ 2.65 ...I owe the sum of ($)eighty-one 45 cents besides the sum of $62 for rent which is now due on the place I now live on and that the further sum of thirty-five dollars will be due for rent on the first of May next”.[xii]
It is not known if Silas ever owned any real estate. In 1797 he rented a farm of 50 acres in Delhi, and in his April 17, 1818 pension application said about his farm in Decatur, NY; “ ... I rent a small farm paying a rent of $35.00 per annum.”
Silas Green died February 14, 1835, 83 years old. At the time of his death he had received from his pension of $96.00 a year, $1524.76 in total. His exact burial site is unknown, though presumably it is in Decatur, NY. Silas’ name appears on a memorial plaque that was erected in the town of Worcester in 1928, honoring Revolutionary War veterans of the area.
[i] Some sources claim that Silas’ father was Joseph Greene. The book “Descendents of Joseph Greene of Westerly, RI” (1894) (Greene) may be the source of this idea. Several inaccurate statements have lead to confusion and wrong ancestral suppositions. The idea that a Joseph Greene was Silas’ father is even more questionable when some of the information on the Internet is reviewed. Numerous people have in their Internet ancestry Joseph Greene having three wives, all at the same time, and a total of 26 children. This is just wrong, instead several distinct families were put together under one father.
[ii] The Arnold Vital Records of RI show the children of John and Ruth Greene as; Lucy, Caleb, Fear, Silas, John and Clark. Sons Duty and Philamon Green are not recorded by Arnold.
[iii] Ancestry.Com has several listings of Duty and Philamon as Silas Greene’s brothers but no documentation has been seen on the Internet. However, Philamon Greene is linked with Silas Greene on a tax list and Duty is on the 1790 census near where Silas is believed to have been living,
[iv] Revolutionary War Pension application for Duty Green --- Claim No. S 4300
[v] History of Berkshire County, MA. by Beers, Vol. 1 p. 196
[vi] History of the First New York 1775 – 1783 TW. Egly, Jr. 1981, p. 83
[vii] Revolutionary War Pension application for Silas Green --- Claim No. W. 17031
[viii] History of the First New York 1775 – 1783 TW. Egly, Jr. 1981
[ix] History of Delaware County (1880), USGenWeb, Delaware County, NY
[x] Map of Decatur from 1875. Map has been cropped and edited. Exact location where Silas lived unknown. Beers Atlas of Otsego County, NY. (1875)
[xi] History of Otsego County, New York State Library.
[xii] Silas Green pension file.