Welcome to the History Corner!
Celebrating the rich history of Port Byron, New York, an old Erie Canal village in the Town of Mentz. This site is dedicated to the legacy and heritage of our community as well as a variety of regional historical tidbits. I hope you enjoy your visit and will stop by again.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Last Men of the Revolution

Did you know that Port Byron has a connection to one of the last six surviving soldiers of the Revolutionary War?

Photo of Alexander Millener

The fifth oldest survivor was Alexander Millener, a drummer boy in the Revolution and some of his children moved to Port Byron where they were boat builders.

Alexander Millener was born in 1761 at Quebec, Canada. His mother had married a second time to Florence Maroney, a Sergeant in the Life Guard of General Philip Schyuler. It was claimed that Alexander was to young to serve in the troops, so his stepfather enlisted him under the name Maroney as a drummer boy. There was also a claim that Alexander was of a young age when discharged because his discharge was issued to his stepfather Florence Maroney.

The only muster rolls I could find was for Alexander’s service with the 1st NY Continental Line. However, his pension says that he served about 3 ½ years in Capt. Grahm’s, Col. Peter Gavensvort’s NY Regiment. He then transferred into the 1st NY Continental Line in Capt. Cornelius Johnson, Col. Goose Van Schaick’s Regiment. When looking closely at these muster rolls, it is clear that Alexander served several Captains within Van Schaick’s Regiment. During the period of August to December 1780 he served in both Capt. Nicholas Van Renssalaer and Capt. Benjamin Hick’s Companies and was discharged in 1781. However, he had witness testimony that he served as late as 1783.

Alexander is on record describing his time at Valley Forge, having met General George Washington as well as “Lady Washington”. Valley Forge served as Washington’s Headquarters during his winter encampment from Dec 1777 to June 1778. The website valleyforgemusterroll.org has an Alexander Milliner stationed there for the entire winter encampment period, serving from the State of PA. However, the 1st NY Cont Line served in the Second Division, 1st PA Brigade at Valley Forge, having arrived in June 1778. This Alexander Milliner was a drummer, so this is likely the service record of the same soldier.

I can add from my own ancestor that many soldiers of Col. Goose Van Schaick’s Regiment served at Valley Forge. Joseph Rooker was in Capt. John Copp’s company and his muster roll shows he was in the Hospital at Valley Forge, having recently been promoted to Fife. It would be a romantic notion to think that perhaps these two soldiers met while stationed at Valley Forge, but we may never know, but chances are good that the musicians knew one another.

One interesting thing to note is that Alexander’s step father also collected Alexander’s wages during the time he served with Van Schaick, which by 1780, he would have been 19 years of age. Why his stepfather was collecting his military pay is not known but it is unlikely because of Alexander’s age as other soldiers of that age received their wages directly. It is obvious that Alexander had a long period of service as a drummer in the Revolutionary War.

In 1855 Alexander applied for bounty land while a resident of Homer in Cortland County, NY. At that time he was listed as being 94 years of age, giving him a consistent birth year of 1761. He was awarded 160 acres in Cayuga County. His son James Millener provided testimony. Another unexpected name in the file was Porter Wethey of Port Byron.

You can read more about Alexander’s history from the following articles:

Last Surviving Soldiers of the Revolutionary War

Alexander's Obituary

Alexander is buried at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Rochester, NY

Story to be continued....