Chaplain Abraham Baldwin 1754-1807Leave a Comment
Biography of Chaplain Abraham Baldwin March-29-2013 by Kleber S. Masterson, Jr.
Birth: 22 Nov. 1754 in Guilford (New Haven) CT [Charles Candee Baldwin, The Baldwin Genealogy from 1500 to 1881 (Cleveland, OH, Leader Printing Co. 1881), p. 420].
Death: 4 March 1807, Washington, D.C. [Baldwin, p.420]; buried in Rock Creek Cemetery in
Washington, D.C. [The New Georgia Encyclopedia, www.georgiaencyclopedia.org, History and Archeology, Revolution and Early Republic 1775-1800, People, Abraham Baldwin (1754-1807) hereafter “NGE”)]
Marriage: Never married [Baldwin, p. 420; NGE].
Children: Never sired any children.
Education: Graduated from Yale College in 1722 [Baldwin, p 420]
Military: Heitman indicates the following service for Baldwin: Chaplain 2d Connecticut, 1st February, 1777; Brigade Chaplain 1st February, 1779, to 3d June, 1788 [Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register, Officers of the Continental Army During the War of the Revolution, April, 1775, to December, 1783, p. 72]. Connecticut in the Revolution indicates Baldwin’s appointment as “Chaplain 1st or Parsons’ Brig., succeeding Chaplain Dwight, with Comsn dated Feb. 1,’79. Record cont. in ’81,” [CT Adjutants General, Record of Service of Connecticut Men in the War of the Revolution (Hartford, CT, 1889), p. 144 hereinafter “CMWR”] and, “Cont. as Chaplain and assigned to Second Conn. Brigade in ’81. Served to end of war, June ’83” [CMWR, p. 314]
Cincinnati: An original member, having signed the Institution as “A. Baldwin” with rank of Chaplain [CMWR, p. 373].
Occupation: Educator (developed plan for University of Georgia and served as its first president from 1786 to 1801 [NGE] and Politician (served on Georgia legislature, five terms as Congressman (1789-99) and two terms as Senator (1799-1807) [NGE].
Discussion: Baldwin apparently served as a chaplain with Connecticut forces on a part-time basis during the early stages of the war, and finally in February 1779 he was appointed as a chaplain in Brigadier General Samuel H. Parsons’ brigade, remaining with the unit until June 1783. The duties of a Revolutionary War chaplain were quite extensive. In addition to caring for the spiritual needs of 1,500 or so soldiers, Baldwin assumed a major responsibility for maintaining the morale of the men and for guarding their physical welfare. He served as a political advisor to the brigade commander and subordinate regimental commanders, and helped the soldiers understand the basis for the conflict and thereby heightened their sense of mission and dedication to the Patriot cause. Although Baldwin’s unit did not participate in combat during the last four years of the war, it still played a major role in Washington’s defensive strategy. The Connecticut brigades were assigned to garrison duty near West Point where they helped secure vital communications along the Hudson River and guard this critical base area against British invasions. They performed their mission well; the Continental brigades in the Hudson Valley formed the bedrock of Washington’s main army against which no British general was likely to attack. With his center thus secured, Washington was free to launch successful offensive operations against smaller enemy forces in other parts of the country. The soldiers in Baldwin’s brigade eventually trained for an amphibious attack on the British at New York City late in the war, but the plan was not put into effect. Baldwin’s service as a chaplain proved vital to the Patriot cause. Baldwin’s Connecticut brigade had weathered the darkest days of the war, and in other units the deprivations of the long war exacted a toll on morale, leading to desertions and occasional mutinies in the 1780s. The Connecticut units, however, remained among the most reliable. Thanks in great part to the success of leaders like Baldwin, the troops had been thoroughly educated in the nation’s war aims and the need for extended service. As a result, Connecticut stood firm. [The U.S. Army Center of Military History (www.history.army.mil/books/RevWar/ss/baldwin.htm), hereinafter “ACMH”]. In 1787 Georgia called on Baldwin to serve in the Constitutional Convention, and he helped draw up the Great Compromise, whereby all states had an equal voice in the Senate with two Senators each but the rights of the majority in a house of House of Representatives based on population. His role in this compromise was widely recognized and Baldwin himself considered his work in drafting the Constitution as his most important public service [ACMH].