Lemuel Cook - Oldest Survivor of the Revolution

Lemuel Cook

While he lived, Lemuel Cook of Clarendon, New York, was the Oldest Survivor of the Revolution. He died on May 20, 1866 at the age of 107 years and was laid to rest with military and Masonic honors. The last year of his life he was also the Last Full Pensioner on the rolls of his country's deliverers, his name appearing there with his comrades from 1818.

In 1862 there were 12 men on the pension rolls of a grateful nation, widely accepted as the only true and accurate record of the last survivors. Eleven of them had lived to be a 100 years old or better; the one who did not is so close that he should be classed a centurion as well. The last roll of our Revolutionary soldiers in the order of their decease and their age is as follows:

Amaziah Goodwin, Alfred, Maine, died 22 June, 1863; 105. Benjamin Miller, Albany, New York, died 24 September, 1863; 100. John Goodnow, Boston, Massachusetts, died 22 October, 1863; 102. James Borman, Missouri, died 10 January, 1864; 102. Samuel Downing, Edinburg, New York, died 16 March, 1864; 102. Jonas Gates, Chelsea, Vermont, died 18 March, 1864; 101. John Pettingill, Henderson, New York, died 23 April, 1864; 99. Rev. Daniel Waldo, Syracuse, New York, died 30 July, 1864; 103. William Hutchins, York, Maine, died 4 August, 1864; 102. Adam Link, Sulphur Springs, Ohio, died 15 August, 1864; 103. Alexander Milliner, Adams Basin, New York, died 15 March, 1865; 105. Lemuel Cook, Clarendon, New York, died 20 May, 1866; 107.

Two more names must be added to this list. On February 14, 1867 the 39th Congress passed Special Act Pensions for Daniel Frederick Bakeman and John Gray. "Special Acts" in their behalf were required because neither man could meet the criteria for acceptance of pensions under the previous Pension Laws of Congress: John Gray because he served less than six months, in the Virginia Troops; and Daniel Bakeman because he could not produce records of his service in the New York Troops. Their pensions were made retroactive from June 1st, 1866.

John Gray of Brookfield, Ohio, died 29 March, 1868, aged 104 years.

Daniel Frederick Bakeman, of Freedom, New York, died 5 April 1869, 109 years. This then is the roll of the Last Survivors and Pensioners for whom there are precise, well-documented records for the vital dates of birth and death as well as their service. It is conceiveable that there may be others; if there are, no records of them exist.

Interviewed for Book
We are also indebted to a Congregational Minister from Litchfield County, Connecticut, the Reverend Elias Brewster Hilliard, who in 1864 set out to interview and record the memories of all of these old soldiers that he could. Rev. Hilliard was not able to talk with all of them before the grim reaper arrived, but did succeed in reaching Downing, Waldo, Milliner, Hutchins, Link and Cook in time. He wrote their words as they spoke and took their pictures. He produced his book "The Last Men of the Revolution" published in 1864 at Hartford, Connecticut by N. A. & R. A. Moore. Today as one reads this marvelous little book the words jump off the page, their voices ringing clear, painting a picture of what they saw and treating us to a first person account of their deeds.

The Reverend Hilliard went to Clarendon, New York in the summer of 1864 and spoke with Lemuel Cook. Lemuel was born at Northbury, Litchfield County, Connecticut on 10 September, 1759, the youngest of the three surviving sons of Henry and Hannah (Benham) Cook. He enlisted at 16 and served "for the War", receiving his discharge at Danbury, Connecticut on 12 June, 1784, signed by General Washington, which he retained all of his life. He married Hannah Curtis after the War and went to Clinton, New York with his two brothers, Selah and Trueworthy, who were also soldiers. Later moving to Pompey, in Onondaga County, New York, he lived there over several years and was a member of Farmer's Lodge No. 166, F. & A.M. as was brother True. In 1821 he moved with his family to North Bergen, New York and to Clarendon, Orleans County where he lived the last 36 years of his life with the families of his seven sons and three daughters who presented him with many great grandchildren during his lifetime. He enjoyed the company of the youngest members of the family in his declining years.

Served Under Washington
Speaking of his service Lemuel relates to Rev. Hilliard:

"When I applied to enlist, Captain Hallibut told me I was so small he couldn't take me unless I would enlist for the war. The first time I smelt gunpowder was at Valentine's Hill. A troop of British horse were coming. 'Mount your horses in a minute,' cried the Colonel. I was on mine as quick as a squirrel. There were two fires - crash! Up came Darrow, good old soul! and said, 'Lem, what do you think of gunpowder? Smell good to you?'"

Mr. Cook was at the battle of Brandywine and at Cornwallis' surrender. Of the latter he gives the following account: "It was reported Washington was going to Storm New York. We had made a by-law in our regiment that every man should stick with his horse; if his horse went he should go with him. I was waiter for the Quartermaster; (Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge) and so had a chance to keep my horse in good condition. Baron Steuben was Mustermaster. He had us called out to select men and horses fit for service. When he come to me, he said, 'Young man, how old are you?' I told him. 'Be on the ground tomorrow morning at nine o'clock,' said he. My Colonel didn't like to have me go. Next morning old Steuben had got my name, there were eighteen out of the regiment. 'Be on the ground tomorrow morning with two days provisions,' said he. 'You're a fool,' said the rest; 'They're going to storm New York'. No more idea of it than going to Flanders. My horse was a bay, and pretty.

"Next morning I was the second on parade. We marched off towards White Plains. Then 'left wheel,' and struck right north. Got to King's Ferry, below Tarrytown. There were boats, scows, & such. We went right across into the Jerseys. That night I stood with my back to a tree. Then we went to the head of Elk. There the French were, they were a dreadful proud nation. They stepped as tho on edge. It was dusty; I peared to me I should have choked to death. One of 'em handed me his canteen; 'Lem,' said he 'take a good horn we're going to march all night.' I didn't know what it was, so I took a full drink. It liked to have strangled me.

" Then we were in Virginia. There wasn't much fighting. Cornwallis tried to force his way north to New York; but fell into the arms of LaFayette, and he drove him back. Old Romchambeau told 'em, 'I'll land five hundred from the fleet, against your eight hundred.' But they darsn't. We were on kind of a side hill. We had plaguey little to eat and nothing to drink under heaven. We hove up some brush to keep the flies off. Washington ordered that there should be no laughing at the British; said it was bad enough to have to surrender without being insulted.

"The Army came out with guns clubbed to their backs. They were paraded on a great smooth lot, and there they stacked their arms. Then came the devil-old women and all (camp followers). One said as they passed where we was, 'I wonder if the d-d yankees will give me any bread.'The horses were starved out. Washington turned out with his horses and helped 'em up the hill. When they see the artillery, they said, 'There, them's very artillery that belonged to Burgoyne.' Greene came from the southard; the awfulest set you ever see. Some, I should presume, had a pint of lice on 'em. No boots nor shoes."

Rev. Hilliard described Lemuel's condition: The old man's talk is slow and deliberate. He recalls the past slowly, but when he has his mind fixed upon it, all seems to come up clear. His frame is large, his presence commanding and in his prime must have possessed prodigious strength. He has evidently been a man of most resolute spirit, the old determination still manifesting itself in his look and words. His voice, the full power of which he still retains, is marvelous for its volume and strength. He still walks, with the help of a cane, and with the aid of glasses, reads his book, as he calls the Bible. He is fond of company, loves a joke, and is good natured in a rough sort of way. Lemuel died of pneumonia almost two years to the day after Hilliard spoke with him.

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Correction: William Hutchings died 2 May 1866 in Penobscot, Hancock, Maine not 4 August 1864.  William Hutchings was the second last living Revolutionary War Soldier living in the nation.

Donna Hoffmann
6th Generation descend from William Hutchings