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First Name: Samuel

Last Name: Parsons

Birthplace: Lyme, CT, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Continental Army (1775 - 1784)

Middle Name: Holden

Date of Birth: 14 May 1737

Date of Death: 17 November 1789 (Presumed)

Rank: Major General

Years Served:
Samuel Holden Parsons

•  Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783)


Samuel Holden Parsons
Major General, Continental Army

Samuel Holden Parsons was born on 14 May 1737 in Lyme, CT.

When he was nine years old, his family moved to Newburyport, MA, where his father became the pastor of the town's new Presbyterian Church. After graduating from Harvard College in 1756, he returned to Lyme and studied law in his uncle's law office. He was admitted to the bar and began to practice law in Lyme in 1759.

With his political connections he was elected to the General Assembly in 1762. He moved to New London, CT, and became a Revolutionary activist to the point that he wrote Samuel Adams suggesting that it was time to form a congress in the colonies and that it was time to discuss colonial independence. He was appointed a Major in the 14th Connecticut Militia Regiment in 1770 and commissioned a Colonel in the 6th Connecticut Regiment in 1775. In June of that year he was ordered to lead his regiment to Boston where he participated in the Battle of Bunker Hill.

After the British retreated from Boston, he was sent to New York and Congress appointed him a Brigadier General. While in New York, he was in the thick of the Battle of Battle Hill and took part in the Council of War when it was decided the American troops should withdraw from the city. After New York, he returned to Connecticut to recruit new forces and participate in defending Connecticut cities from the British forces. He took command of West Point and began rebuilding its fortifications and in 1779 he took command of General Putnam's Division. The discovery of Benedict Arnold's treasonous scheme to surrender West Point was the highlight of this period. Parsons served on the court martial board that sentenced Arnold's accomplice, Major John Andre, to death.

Parsons was promoted to Major General in 1780 and took part in clearing out the British troops that remained in New York. By the time the British surrendered in Yorktown in July 1782, Parsons had been in continuous service for more than seven years, was forty-five years old, broken physically and financially, and he tendered his resignation to Congress.

He was appointed the Chief Justice of the Northwest Territories and, in March of 1788, he and his son departed for the Territory. He set about surveying land and purchasing some parcels for his family. In November of 1789, he wrote his wife that he was about to set out for Lake Erie to survey the Connecticut Western Reserves. Somewhere on the Great Beaver Creek, his canoe must have tipped over and General Parsons drowned. It was not until the following May, that his body was found and buried on the banks of the river on the Pennsylvania side. It was expected that he would be more suitably interred but the exact location was lost.

Death and Burial

Major General Samuel Holden Parsons died of drowning on 17 November 1789. His body was buried on the banks of the river where it was found, but the exact location was lost. There is a memorial in the Mortimer Cemetery in Middletown, Middlesex County, CT, that reads, "In memory of the Honorable Samuel Holden Parsons, who was drowned in the Great Beaver Creek near its confluence with the Ohio River." 

Honoree ID: 2939   Created by: MHOH




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