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The Discovery of Harvey's Lake

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Benjamin Harvey's
Discovery of the Lake

Chapter 6

Harvey and Son Reunited

In the Spring of 1782, Elisha Harvey managed to communicate with his father at Plymouth, and latter being thus informed as to his son’s whereabouts, immediately took steps to have him restored to liberty and permitted to return home.

The surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown in October, 1781, was virtually the end of the war between England and America, and during the spring and summer of 1782 the main part of the American army lay along the Hudson river from Peekskill to Newburg (where Washington had his headquarters) watching Sir Guy Carleton to his British forces still in the occupancy of the City of New York and its vicinity.

Harvey's Lake BicentennialEarly in May, 1782, Maj. General Henry Knox, Chief of Artillery on the staff of General Washington, and Governor Morris, some years later United States Minister to France, were appointed commissioners on the part of the United States to arrange a general exchange of prisoners; but the difficulties in the way were so great that no satisfactory arrangements could be affected. In May, 1782, Col. Zebulon Butler, then in command of the 4th Regiment, Connecticut Line, stationed at ‘Camp Highlands,’ near West Point, on the Hudson, paid a visit to his family at Wilkes-Barre. Benjamin Harvey immediately consulted him with reference to procuring the release of Elisha Harvey, and the following plan was finally determined upon:

Capt. Alexander Mitchell of the New Jersey Line being at this time in command of Fort Wyoming, and Adam Bowman being still held a prisoner there under the sentence imposed by the court-martial in 1780 it was agreed by Colonel Butler and Captain Mitchell that Bowman should be delivered into the custody of Benjamin Harvey. He, carrying certain documents to be furnished by Colonel Butler, would convey the prisoner to Montreal and exchange him for Elisha Harvey, who, it will be remembered, had been one of the militiamen who captured Bowman.

What authority these officers had for making this arrangement is not known, but the fact remains that in the latter part of June, 1782, Benjamin Harvey set out from Wilkes-Barre on horseback, having in custody, mounted upon a second horse belonging to himself, the prisoner Adam Bowman. They journeyed over the mountains to the Delaware, and thence to Esopus (now Kingston) on the Hudson. Here they turned northward, designing to travel the direct route to Montreal, via Lake George and Champlain.

In due time the travelers reached Saratoga, which was one of the American outposts. Here they were stopped by the officer in command of the post, who took Bowman away from Mr. Harvey and sent him in charge of guards down to West Point, a distance of about 120 miles. The officer claimed that the authority by which the prisoner was being conducted to Canada was both too informal and insufficient, or was wholly illegal.

Benjamin Harvey accompanied Bowman and his guards to West Point, and then crossing the Hudson went in hot haste to the Connecticut camp, a mile and a half distant, to inform Colonel Butler as to the condition of affairs. Arriving at the camp of the 4th Regiment he found that the Colonel had set out for Wilkes-Barre the day before, on leave of absence. As soon as possible Mr. Harvey started for Wilkes-Barre, where he arrived on Sunday, July 21st. Colonel Butler had arrived there on the 19th.

Mr. Harvey attended to some necessary matters at his home, and on July 29th left Wilkes-Barre for West Point, bearing a certificate from Colonel Butler reading as follows:

These certify the ADAM BOWMAN now a prisoner of War to the United States of America was taken by the inhabitants of Westmoreland and brought to the garrison sometime in 1780 when I commanded this post and upon application made to me by Mr. Benjamin Harvey for the prisoner to send him to Montreal and exchange for his son then and yet in captivity—which request I granted and Mr. Harvey at his own expense did take the prisoner from this place to Saratoga from the above purpose and I have been informed that he has for some reason been sent from there down to West Point or its vicinity—and should yet request that Mr. Harvey may be indulged with the prisoner for the purpose of redeeming his son.
(Signed) Zebn. Butler.
Col. 4th Connect. Regt.
Wyoming, July 29th, 1782,

To the officer in whose custody the prisoner may be.

When Mr. Harvey was nearing West Point, he determined that he would go on up the river to Newburg and present his case to General Washington. The General, after reading Colonel Butler’s “certificate,” and asking for fuller information concerning the case, sent Mr. Harvey in charge of an orderly with a note to General Knox. The latter ordered that Adam Bowman should not be redelivered into the custody of Mr. Harvey, who, the next day started for Canada provided with proper passports. The journey was made by the two men without further interruption, and Montreal having been reached, the exchange of Elisha Harvey was affected—not, however, without the unpleasant experiences and annoying delays. Father and son set out their homeward journey as soon as possible, Elisha riding the horse which had been used by Adam Bowman.

Capt. John Franklin, at his home in Wilkes-Barre, recorded in his diary the date of September 10, 1782: “Mr. Harvey returned from captivity. Sent home on parole.”                  

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