Abel Spicer was born on June 1, 1760, and was the 8th child and 4th son of John and Mercy (Chapman) Spicer. Abel was trained to be a blacksmith, but took up teaching and farming instead. He was married three times, first to Sarah Park, who died in 1815, then to Elizabeth Morse, who died in 1817. Finally, he married Sarah Rose, who was a distant cousin, and 15 years younger.
Abel was a member of the local militia in the town of Lebanon, and was recruited a total of three times for active service during the Revolutionary War. The first time, in 1776, his employer, Ebenezer Tisdale, objected to Abel’s leaving, so he paid the recruiter $10, which at the time was used to hire another recruit in Abel’s place.
In 1778, he was recruited again, and joined the 17th Regiment of the Continental Troops. He was sent to Providence, Rhode Island to assist in what was known as “Sullivan’s Expedition”. He was itching to get into action, but the regiment arrived too late to be of any assistance. He was discharged a short time later after helping set up fortifications around Providence.
He enlisted again during 1780 into the 9th Connecticut Regiment, which assisted with the fortifications and defenses of West Point, New York. Shortly after he arrived, Benedict Arnold hatched his plan to give the plans of West Point to the British. The 9th Connecticut was the regiment which apprehended Arnold’s accomplice, Major John Andre of the British Army, and exposed Arnold, although Abel was not directly involved. Abel also took part in removing the chain that was placed across the river to prevent the British from sailing up the Hudson River and cutting New England off from the rest of the colonies. He also set up log cabins, for the men he called “The Old Soldiers” to use as barracks. He was discharged from this tour on December 14, 1780.
In March of 1781, he signed up for a third tour of duty, this time with what he called “an armed row galley”, which patrolled Long Island Sound, capturing two British ships, and narrowly avoided capture by several others. It was apparently a privateer, one of several dozen employed by both the Continental Congress and the State of Connecticut to patrol Long Island Sound.
Abel was never paid a dime for his service in the Revolution. In fact, when Congress passed a pension act for veterans of the Revolution, Abel was denied a pension because the government claimed that his total service time did not add up to six months. His compiled service record indicates that his total service time was 5 months and 12 days, only 19 days short of six months. In reality, Abel did meet the six month requirement, but the government could not verify his time on the galley in New York Sound, and his application was denied.
Abel himself provides very few details of the time spend aboard the galley. By the time of his pension application, he had forgotten the name of the vessel, and all of the crew. While he provided ample witnesses for his services in the Continental Army, he could find nobody to serve as a witness for his service aboard the galley. Therefore, he couldn’t provide enough evidence for the Government to verify his service.
Abel returned to Connecticut after the Revolution, and bought a farm in Preston. He also took up teaching, and was named to the District School Committee in Preston, where he served for 19 years. He had 9 children with Sarah Park. Elizabeth and their only child died as a result of childbirth in 1817. Abel and Sarah Rose had another two children. By 1840, he was living in Preston with Sarah, and their daughters, Elizabeth and Rachel, as well as possibly his daughters Eunice and Mary , along with a young boy, possibly a grandson, who was under ten years old at the time.
Abel’s health began to fail him in the 1840’s. He drew up a will in 1841 in which he states that he is “not very well in body”. He expected to die shortly, but lived long enough to add a codicil and witnesses signatures to the will in 1843. He died in 1847. Sarah and Eunice kept up a determined effort to get some recognition from the government for Abel’s service in the war, but they never succeeded.
Susan Spicer Meech and Susan Billings Meech, in “History of the Descendants of Peter Spicer”, indicate that Abel served aboard the Continental Frigate “Confederacy” as well, but I believe that this may be in error. I am not sure that Abel actually served aboard the Confederacy. His Revolutionary War Pension application, filed in 1832, indicates that he served aboard an “armed row galley” for a period of about three weeks. He lists March 1781 as a date for the start of the cruise, and never refers to the name of the vessel. According to his letter, the ship never left Long Island Sound. The Confederacy was a frigate, a considerably larger ship that a galley, and it left New London in 1779, bound for Delaware. It never returned to New London, and was captured by the British in February, 1781, one month BEFORE Abel signed on to his ship. In addition, Abel’s compiled service record makes no mention whatsoever of serving in the Continental Navy.
The rolls of the Confederacy do list an Abel Spicer and a Nathan Spicer. Both were sons of Peter Spicer III. It is my suspicion that Peter’s sons, Nathan and Abel Spicer (this Abels’ 2nd cousins) actually served aboard the Confederacy.
Connecticut Vital Records – Barbour Collection REF F 93 C7, Repository: New England Historical Genealogical Society, 101 Newbury St Boston, MA
Revolutionary War Pension File of Abel Spicer US Archives Microfilm of Original documents, Microfilm Roll R9995, Repository: US Archives – Trapello Road, Waltham, Massachusetts
History of the Descendants of Peter Spicer, A Landholder in New London Connecticut, as Early as 1666, and Others of the Name, Susan Spicer Meech and Susan Billings Meech, History of the Descendants of Peter Spicer, A Landholder in New London Connecticut, as Early as 1666, and Others of the Name, (Copyright 1911 , CS/71/S75/1911, Repository: New England Historical Genealogical Society, 101 Newbury St, Boston, MA).