Monday, January 7, 2013

Military Monday – Captain David Perry

View of Fort Ticonderoga from Mount Defiance
In addition to my family lines, I’ve also looked into my wife’s ancestors so that I can pass that information on down to my children. One of her most interesting ancestors is Captain David Perry, a participant in the French & Indian War and the American Revolution, and an observer of the War of 1812. He is also one of the few people of the time-period to record a near-death experience.

David Perry was born 8 August, 1741 in Rehoboth, Massachusetts. In 1758, at the age of 16, he took part in an attack on one of my favorite historical spots, Fort Ticonderoga. He was part of the British army, fighting against the French. His description of the battle, which was lost by his side, contains a wonderful quote that shows that even in that time-period, not everyone thought that linear warfare was a good idea:

“It was the first engagement I had ever seen, and the whistling of balls, and roar of musketry terrified me not a little. At length our regiment formed among the trees, behind which the men kept stepping from their ranks for shelter. Col. Prebble, who, I well remember, was a harsh man, swore he would knock the first man down who should step out of his ranks; which greatly surprised me, to think that I must stand still to be shot at.”

Perry continued to fight with the British for the next few years, taking part in battles in Canada, including the taking of Quebec. It was at the end of the war, in 1762, that he had his near-death experience while sick aboard a ship headed for Boston. The most interesting part of this experience, to me, is that he claims to have been shown an image of the Battle of Bunker Hill, more than 10 years before it happened. His description is incredible to read:

“While I was on board that vessel, it appears to me that I died -- that I went through the excruciating pains of the separating of soul and body, as completely as ever I shall again, (and such a separation must soon take place) and that I was immediately conveyed to the gate of Heaven, and was going to pass in; but was told by one, that I could not enter then, but in process of time, if I would behave as he directed, on the set time I should have admittance. It appeared to me that my feet stood on a firm foundation, and that I stood there for the space of about a half hour. In this time there appeared to be a continual flowing up of people, as we suppose they die; and none stopped, but all passed off, one way or the other. Just at my left hand, there appeared to be the opening of a great gulph, and the greater part of the grown people seemed to pass off there. Once in a while one passed through the gate into the Holy City. One person appeared, with whom I had been intimately acquainted, and it appeared to me that I knew him as well as ever I did: it was Doct. Matthews -- [and whether I saw him or not, he died, as I afterwards learned, while I was sick on board the ship]. The one that talked with me, told me about the Revolutionary War, and showed me the British vessels in the harbor of Boston, as plainly as I saw them when they came. And during the first year of that war, I was down there in Gen. Putnam's regiment, and I went on Roxbury hill to see the shipping in the harbor, and they looked exactly as they had been shown to me many years before. This transition (as I firmly believe) from life to death, and from death to life, which took place nearly sixty years ago, is as fresh in my mind now as it was then; and not many days have passed from that time to this, which have not brought the interesting scenes I then witnessed, clearly to view in my mind.”

After the Revolution, Perry moved to New Hampshire, then later to Vermont where he witnessed the addition of the state to the Union in 1791, and the Battle of Lake Champlain during the war of 1812. David Perry died 2 May, 1826 in Ira, Vermont, where many of his descendants still reside.

For more information about David Perry and his adventures, see the Captain David Perry Website, which contains a complete online edition of his book Recollections of An Old Soldier: The Life of Captain David Perry.

No comments:

Post a Comment