Digging into Richard Fortune’s Whole Story Part II

Ancestry.com, 1 of 3 Images

Ancestry.com 2 of 3

Researching history about slavery and freedom in Suffield Connecticut has evolved into a powerful and important partnership of public history. With help from an independent genealogist from the Suffield Historical Society combined with help from the National Mall Liberty Fund in Washington, DC, I was able to examine more information about Richard Fortune. The National Mall Liberty Fund DC sent us a URL of an amazing and far-reaching text, Forgotten Patriots, published by the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution in 2008. Here’s a URL for the text; wait a few moments for the URL to load on your computer. You can then perform searches of key words. Searching Suffield will help you find the information about Richard Fortune as well as a “Titus” from Suffield as well as two other African-American soldiers we know more information about, Cesar Negro and Titus Kent. http://www.dar.org/sites/default/files/media/library/xpublications/Forgotten_Patriots_ISBN-978-1-892237-10-1.pdf

Click here for a pdf that shows the DAR Sources for Richard Fortune in the important text, Forgotten Patriots.

Simultaneously, a member from the Suffield Historical Society, sent us a most important clue about a letter written by General Israel Putnam’s son who testified to Richard Fortune’s long service, which included Fortune signing up again for service.

Again, below is  from a classmate who found the National Mall Liberty Fund link that my classmate discovered in the winter: http://libertyfunddc.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/HARTFORD-COUNTY-BACKGROUND-AFRICAN-AMERICAN-REVOLUTIONARY-WAR-RESOLUTION.pdf  See page 5 of 5 of this pdf published by the Liberty Fund organization.

The genealogist from the Suffield Historical Society clues also lead us more to the eastern Connecticut story of Richard Fortune. Our initial search discovered his alias as well as someone from eastern Connecticut writing a letter on his behalf when Richard Fortune sought his pension in 1818. Our slide show presents that information: https://caisctpbl.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/suffield-academy-students-present-at-suffield-historical-society-meeting-on-april-18th/

If any reader knows more about Richard Fortune or has a suggestion for a source that will help our research, please leave a comment on this post. I will get an email notifying me of your comment and look forward to learning more.

Below is my first attempt at transcribing the letter; please comment any suggestions where I have a question mark by a word or let me know if I made a mistake with a word.

Jabez CLARK, esquire Brooklyn 1818
Sir I received a line from you on Saturday last request on info regarding the services of Richard fortune, a black man in the army of the Revolution. This man has the commencement of the war was slave, belonging to general Putnam. In December 1775 he was ordered by his master ??? And entered as a soldier in Durkus(?) Regiment as that time ??? For the continental? He was taken from the regiment into the family of his master as a servant and continued with him until April 1777 remaining in the Munster rolls, and drawing pay as a soldier in that regiment. Some time in April 1777 under the promise of freedom as the close of the war he enlisted again in the same regiment and continued as a servant in general Putnam’s (family?) till about the first of April 1779 when he was discharged from service. When I state his services in General Putnam’s family it is to be understood his military family in Corps where he served with such fidelity and good conduct as to obtain?? An honorable discharge from the army had also from (?) Claims of his master.
I state these facts from my own knowledge having hear myself an aide de camp to (?) General Putnam and services in his family most of the (?)(?) In service in the time of the Revolution
I am respectfully (?)
Your servant (?)
David Putnam


2 thoughts on “Digging into Richard Fortune’s Whole Story Part II

  1. Kim Landon

    I think that the letter was written to “Jabez Clark”. Here is what I found about him online:

    102 M ii. Jabez CLARK Hon., of Windham, CT was born on 2 NOV 1753 and died on 11 NOV 1836, at age 83.

    This is copied from a genealogy of Clarks at http://www.unyg.com/content/view/22/45/

    It all fits, even the Esquire. Apparently he was a lawyer.

    The letter was written in 1818 in response to a previous inquiry. Here is a probable reason why the inquiry was made:

    “The Law of 1818 provided that every indigent person who had served to the war’s close, or for nine months or longer, would receive a pensions. When the law was rewritten in 1820, many names were removed from the pension rolls because they were not indigent.”


    This would suggest that Richard Fortune was indigent and the request for information about his service record which resulted in this letter was made to try to qualify him under this new law.
    I am thinking that that Mr. Clark was an official hoping to relieve the town of his charge but it could be that Richard Fortune turned to him for legal help, particularly if like most slaves he was illiterate.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kim Landon

    The name of the regiment in the body of the letter is “Durkee’s Regiment. Here is some
    information about it from Wikipedia:

    20th Continental Regiment
    Active 1776
    Allegiance Continental Congress of the United States
    Type Infantry
    Part of Connecticut Line
    Engagements Battle of Trenton
    Battle of the Assunpink Creek
    Battle of Princeton
    commanders Colonel Benedict Arnold

    American Revolutionary War units of the United States

    The 20th Continental Regiment was a unit of the Connecticut Line in the 1776 establishment of the Continental Army. It was often referred to in records as Durkee’s Regiment, after Colonel John Durkee, its commanding officer for most of its existence, or incorrectly as the 20th Connecticut Regiment. The regiment was posted in New Jersey during the early stages of the New York and New Jersey campaign. The regiment retreated with George Washington’s army in late 1776, and then participated in the Battle of Trenton. Some of its men chose to overstay their enlistment and also saw action in the Battle of the Assunpink Creek and the Battle of Princeton in early 1777.

    The first colonel of the regiment was Benedict Arnold, but he never actually commanded the regiment, as he was in Quebec at the time of its creation, and he was soon thereafter promoted to brigadier general. John Durkee was its first lieutenant colonel, and was promoted and made the regiment’s colonel in August 1776.

    Connecticut Historical Society. The Record of Connecticut Men in the Military and Naval Service During the War of the Revolution, 1775-1783, p. 160.

    Liked by 1 person


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