Col Jeremiah Wadsworth 1743-1804Leave a Comment
Biography of Col. Jeremiah Wadsworth by Charles Edward Brinley II 2-March-2012
Birth: July 12, 1743 (Hartford, CT) to Rev. Daniel Wadsworth and Abigail Talcott, daughter of Gov. Joseph Talcott.
Death: April 30, 1804. Buried in the Ancient Burial Grounds in Hartford.
Marriage: Mehitable Russell ( b. 1734 in Middletown, CT; d. 1817). Married on September 19, 1767.
Children: (1) Harriet – b. July 9, 1969. (Can find no reference to marriage and none to a child.) (2) Daniel – b. August 8, 1771. On June 26, 1794 Daniel married Faith Trumbull, daughter of Jonathan Trumbull. They had no children. He was the founder of the Wadsworth Athenaeum on his parents’ property on Main Street in Hartford, CT. (3) Catherine – b. June 19, 1774. She married Nathaniel Terry on March 14, 1798 and had 8 children. (4) Jeremiah Wadsworth, Jr – b. June 29, 1778, d. August 11, 1779.
Education: Clearly he was well educated. Yale and Dartmouth Colleges issued honorary degrees for his interest in the promotion of literary institutions.
Military: On April 26, 1775 the Connecticut Assembly appointed Jeremiah Wadsworth a commissary under Joseph Trumbull, who had been elected Commissary General to supply the revolutionary forces raised in Connecticut. In December, 1776 Wadsworth was appointed Commissary of Supplies for the State of Connecticut to receive and issue purchased supplies. On June 18, 1777 the Continental Congress elected him Deputy Commissary General of Purchases, in which position he served until his resignation in August, 1777. On April 9, 1778 Congress, with the urging of George Washington, appointed Wadsworth to the position of Commissary General of Purchases. He held this office until year-end 1779. In 1780 Jeremiah Wadsworth was approached by the French to act as an agent for its commissary. Subsequently he was given responsibility to supply all French troops. He, with John Barker Church (a.k.a. John Barber) as a partner, remained in that position until the French army left U.S. soil in December, 1782.
Cincinnati: Original member, admitted July 7, 1784. Subsequently represented by Henry Wadsworth Whitney, GGG GS 1935-____ (CT); then by Charles Edward Brinley, GG-GS (_______); then by John Brinley Muir, GGG-GS (____-1980); currently represented by a Hereditary Member who joined the Society in 1980.
Occupation: Founder of the Bank of North America in Philadelphia. Founder of the Hartford Bank. Director of the United States Bank.
President of the Bank of New York. Promoter of the Hartford Manufacturing Company (wool manufacturing). In 1794 established the first partnership for insurance in Connecticut. Introduced fine breeds of cattle from abroad. Engaged in agricultural research. Member of Continental Congress in 1787 – 1788. Member of Connecticut Ratification Convention in 1788. Member in the First (1789 – 1791), Second (1791 – 1793) and Third (1793 – 1795) Congresses . Elected as member of Connecticut State House of Representatives in 1795.
Member of State Executive Council 1795 – 1801. Big Tree Treaty Commissioner, appointed by George Washington, to negotiate treaty with Seneca Tribe, NY., 1797.
Discussion: Jeremiah Wadsworth’s father died when he was four years old, and he was placed in the charge of his uncle, Matthew Talcott, a ship-owner in Middletown, CT. At age 18, reportedly to improve his health, he went to sea as a sailor on one of his uncle’s ships. By ten years later he had risen to the rank of captain, engaged in West Indies trade. Whether in his commissary duties for the state of Connecticut, or subsequently for the Continental Army, he earned a good reputation for his performance. In June 1777, Congress appointed Wadsworth as Deputy Commissary General under Joseph Trumbull. During that year Congress reorganized the commissary department and wrote new rules, ignoring Trumbull’s recommendations. That summer Trumbull resigned, as did Wadsworth in August, 1777. Congress’ rules turned out to be a system failure, which was a prime reason why the Continental Army suffered such deprivation at Valley Forge in the winter and spring of 1777-78. By late 1777 the tide in Congress starting to turn against its 1777 enacted program, and by early 1778 there was wide Congressional recognition of the need for change. Congress decided that Jeremiah Wadsworth was the person for the Commissary General of Purchases position. In April, 1778 Wadsworth, having met with Congress in York, PA, and having reviewed proposed changes to the program was elected to the position. The new program provided for a commission system for purchases, similar to the provisions Trumbull had unsuccessfully sought. George Washington was pleased with his performance and was a supporter. However, as 1778 progressed Wadsworth encountered several problems. The combination of spiraling prices, weakening Continental currency, funding shortages by Congress and loss of purchasing “credit” (which Congress had indicated it would remedy but did not) made it increasingly difficult to purchase the needed provisions. Again the Continental Army experienced significant shortages. That fall a drought made the situation even worse. And, to make the matters worse, controversy arose, fed by concerns about the commission system. Congress finally accepted his resignation as of December, 1779. In early 1780, Lafayette approached Wadsworth to engage him as an agent for the French commissary. The French leadership recognized that, with its unfamiliarity of our language and our country, it needed help. His role was subsequently expanded to supply all French troops and he Was an acting commissary general. The French entered into an extremely lucrative contract with him. He joined with John Barker Church (a.k.a. John Barber), and together they performed very well for the French in an arrangement that lasted until the end of the war. In 1783, Wadsworth travelled to Paris to present an accounting and to settle accounts. The French expressed sincere appreciation and gave him a jewel for his wife as further thanks. The several books describing his service are all highly complementary of him, noting his services as “incalculable.” In World War II, the U.S. Liberty Ship “SS Jeremiah Wadsworth” was named after him.
Sources: “Jeremiah Wadsworth, Federalist Entrepreneur” by John D. Platt (copyright 1955); “Commissary History” – Chapter 6 “Organization if the Commissariat”; Connecticut Military; “Historical Register of the Officers of the Continental Army During the War of the Revolution”’ “Society of Cincinnati Officers In the Revolution”; Sons of the American Revolution website; Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress; Connecticut Historical Society website; History.com website; The Historical Marker Database website; Special Studies – “Supplying Washington’s Army” by Erna Risch; “250 Years of Wadsworth Family History”