DRUM MAJOR, 6TH CONNECTICUT REGIMENT
Charles Merriman was born August 29, 1762 in Wallingford, CT, the son of Amasa and Sarah (Ives) Merriman. Little is known about his early years or his education.
When Charles Merriman was 12 years old, according to his daughter Nancy in her Reminiscences, “his feelings of patriotism became so much excited by the stirring events of the day, that he ran away from his father’s house and enlisted as a drummer in the federal army.”
Records show that Charles Merriman enlisted in the Army of the Revolution at Wallingford, New Haven County, Connecticut, in 1777. (One of his payroll records says that he enlisted January 13, 1777, the month that the 6th Regiment Connecticut Line was officially organized per order of Continental Congress. His pension record says that he joined in the spring of 1777.) He was appointed Drum Major in July 1777 and received a monthly pay of £ 2, S 4 (2 pounds, 4 shillings) or slightly more than $9.
The 6th Regiment of the Connecticut Line went into camp at Peekskill, New York, in the summer of 1777. It was often sent on expeditions or put on outpost duty on the lines above King’s Bridge, according to Record of Service of Connecticut Men in the War of the Revolution. The regiment served in the Hudson until October, engaging the enemy in the battle of Forts Clinton and Montgomery on October 6, 1777. Under the command of General Sir Henry Clinton, the British forces captured the two forts on the Hudson River near West Point, New York. The enemy then dismantled the huge chain and boom that stretched across the Hudson to Fort Montgomery and was meant to keep British ships from sailing up the river. This chain was the precursor to the Great Chain -- built in six weeks in 1778 -- that stretched from West Point to Constitution Island. A piece of that Great Chain is still displayed on Trophy Point at West Point today.
Charles Merriman and his regiment wintered in area around West Point during the winter of 1777-78 and so he probably would have been there when the Great Chain was supported by huge logs and stretched across to Constitution Island in the spring of 1778. It must have been some sight to see for the 15 year old! Perhaps he provided drumbeats to support the efforts of the soldiers hoisting the chain?
General George Washington, camped at Valley Forge in a bitterly cold and miserable Pennsylvania winter, still found time to write to General Putnam urging him that “a strong fortress should be erected at West Point, opposite to Fort Constitution.” Charles Merriman is believed to have been one of the 65 musicians who crossed the frozen Hudson River with the rest of Brigadier General Samuel H. Parson’s Brigade to establish West Point as a permanent post in January or February of 1778. His name appears as a Drum Major on a list of musicians at West Point in February 1778.
Charles Merriman is listed on the muster roll of Captain Eli Leavenworth’s Company, 6th Regiment, in Peekskill June 21, 1778, and in White Plains, New York, July 21, 1778, when the regiment encamped with the main army under General George Washington. Muster rolls and payroll records in 1778, 1779, and 1780 show him serving under other captains in addition to Leavenworth -- notably Capt. Joseph Mansfield, Capt. David Starr, and Capt. Samuel Augustus Barker – all serving under Col. Return Jonathan Meigs. The regiment stormed Stony Point, New York, on July 15, 1779, wintered 1779-80 at Morristown, New Jersey, and returned to guard West Point when the treason of Benedict Arnold was discovered.
In January 1781, the 6th Regiment of the Connecticut Line was re-designated as the 4th Regiment. Charles Merriman appears on the Field and Staff Muster Roll of the 4th Connecticut Regiment in June 1782. There are eight payroll entries in his name in the existing records of the 4th Connecticut Regiment.
Charles Merriman, Drum Major, appears on an August 1782 list of the “Connecticut Field and Staff Officers with such Noncommissioned Officers as are not attached to any Company,” serving under Colonel Zebulon Butler.
A Field and Staff Muster Roll of the 2nd Artillery Regiment of New York, dated December 6, 1782, shows that Charles Merriman was appointed as a Drum Major at West Point, New York, on November 25, 1782.
Young Charles Merriman was discharged from the Army on 3 December 1782. He had spent most of his teenage years in the Army.