Roswell Webster (1778, 1850)

Who was he?

Roswell Webster was born in Litchfield, Connecticut in 1778. He was the son of Stephen Webster (a revolutionary war vet who served with the Connecticut militia) and 3rd great grandson of John Webster (a founder of Hartford and one of the first governors of Connecticut). Roswell's father-in-law, Joseph Goodwin also served in the revolutionary war.

Roswell was the 5th of 7 sons. This probably explains why he left Litchfield and headed into the wilderness of mid to western New York and then the Territory of Michigan – he was in search of cheap land.

Roswell moved his family first from Litchfield to Bloomfield, NY (south of Rochester) around 1807. They were there until sometime between 1810 and 1818. By 1818, they were living in Lewiston, NY (north of Niagara Falls). In 1825, Roswell moved the family to Macomb, MI (Michigan was a territory at that time. It didn’t reach statehood until 1837). He took ninety-six acres outside of Washington Township near what is now the village of Romeo.

Note: below, I have included an outline of his direct descendents down to my grandmother, Julia Evelyn Wells.

While living in New York, the War of 1812 broke out. In 1814, at the age of 36, Roswell volunteered. I’m sure that patriotism played a part in that decision, but, around that time substantial bonuses were being offered for signing up. For whatever reason, Roswell volunteered and had a short, but eventful, tour of duty.

His role in the War of 1812

Roswell described his service in a deposition given in the State of New York, Ontario County, January 31, 1820 when he applied for a pension due to disabilities stemming from his war service. In this deposition, he stated that he entered the service of the United States in the detached Militia of the State of New York about the 28th day of August 1814 and was stationed in Buffalo, NY. On or about the 8th day of September, he volunteered and crossed the Niagara River into Fort Erie, Canada (just across from Buffalo – see map below). The company he was with was under the command of Capt John Markham in the regiment commanded by Lt Col Caleb Hopkins - Gen Peter B Porter's Brigade.

On the 17th day of September 1814, he was a part of a sortie made against British cannons that were pounding Fort Erie. During that sortie, Roswell received a wound (a musket ball) in the left side and was taken prisoner. He remained a prisoner for several days but made his escape from the enemy hospital and rejoined his company. Roswell continued in that company until the 8th day of November 1814 when he was honorably discharged due to his wound and resulting disability.

The following book excerpt talks about that sortie.

Those interested can purchase this book on

The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict

Donald R. Hickey

University of Illinois Press; Urbana and Chicago; 1989

Page 189

Having failed to take Fort Erie by storm, the British mounted three heavy batteries about 500 yards north of the post, hoping to bombard it into submission. Brown, who had resumed command even though he was still recovering from wounds sustained at Lundy's Lane, was advised by his subordinates to evacuate the fort, but he preferred to try to knock out the British guns. His plan was "to storm the batteries, destroy the cannon and roughly handle the brigade upon duty, before those in reserve could be brought into action."

Two assault forces were formed. One consisted of 1,200 men, mainly New York militia, under Peter Porter; the other was a brigade of regulars under James Miller. In a driving rainstorm in the middle of the night on September 17 (1814), the American troops surprised the British and after severe fighting overran two of their batteries, spiked the guns, and then retired. The engagement was costly to both sides. The British suffered over 600 casualties, the United States a little over 500.

An American officer later described this sortie as "the most Splendid achievement" of the campaign. General Brown was particularly delighted with the courage and discipline shown by the militia, who so often in the past had been a disappointment. "The militia of New York," he said, "have redeemed their character. They behaved gallantly." The sortie from Fort Erie was the last in this series of bloody but indecisive engagements on the Niagara front. Fort Erie was evacuated and blown up on November 5 (1814). The battles of Chippewa and Lundy's Lane and the two engagements at Fort Erie contributed to the nation's military tradition by demonstrating that American troops could hold their own against British regulars in close combat. But Brown's invasion had nonetheless been blunted, and despite the carnage little of strategic importance had been accomplished.

Map of the Buffalo, NY and Fort Erie, Canada area

An interactive version of this is available on Yahoo! Maps

Outline of Descendants for Roswell Miah Webster

..... 1 Roswell Miah Webster
         b: 1778 in Litchfield, Litchfield, CT
         d: 14 Sep 1850 in Romeo, Macomb, MI
..... + Clara Goodwin
         b: 26 Jul 1781 in Litchfield, Litchfield, CT
         m: 26 Jul 1801 in Litchfield, Litchfield, CT
         d: 24 Mar 1874 in Romeo, Macomb, MI
........... 2 Anna Webster
              b: 1808 in E Bloomfield, Ontario, NY
              d: Nov 1838 in Washington, Macomb, MI
........... + Henry Van Kleeck
              b: 22 Dec 1805 in Rensselaerville, Albany, NY
              m: 1828 in Dryden, Lapeer, MI
              d: 13 Jun 1887 in Almont, Lapeer, MI
................. 3 Julia Ellen Van Kleeck
                    b: 1833 in Romeo, Macomb, MI
                    d: Aft. 1920
................. + Nelson R Wells
                    b: 1816 in NY, m: Abt. 1850 in Dryden, Lapeer, MI
                    d: 23 Jan 1882 in Moore, Sanilac Co., MI
....................... 4 Orson Roscoe Wells
                          b: 27 Jul 1863 in Dryden, Lapeer, MI
                          d: 01 Aug 1942 in Centralia, Lewis Co., WA
....................... + Hannah Huldah Hall
                          b: 28 Oct 1866 in Washtenaw, MI
                          m: 1884 in Moore, Sanilac, MI
                          d: 04 Dec 1940 in Centralia, Lewis Co., WA
............................. 5 Julia Evelyn Wells
                                b: 29 May 1895 in Moore, Sanilac, MI
                                d: 29 Dec 1969 in Vancouver, Clark, WA
............................. + Lee Kirkpatrick Sr.
                                b: 30 Sep 1891 in Cantril, Van Buren Co., IA
                                m: 09 Aug 1915 in Kalispell, Flathead Co., MT
                                d: 06 Jun 1971 in Vancouver, Clark, WA