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Historic Deerfield Receives Important Gifts of Porter Family Materials, Giving First-Hand Account of American Revolution

Hand-written orders from George Washington, Benedict Arnold, Among the Collection of Papers

Deerfield, Mass. (February 5, 2018) --- Historic Deerfield, Inc., recently received the gifts of important materials from the years of the Revolutionary War from Samuel and David Cooley, relating to their family, the Porters of Hadley, Massachusetts. The manuscripts will be housed in the Memorial Libraries at Historic Deerfield.  The papers come from two brothers, Eleazar Porter (1728-1797) and Elisha Porter (1742-1796).
 
"This joint gift embraces the stories of brothers," said Philip Zea, President of Historic Deerfield. "The generous gift of heirlooms by Sam and Dave Cooley as well as the revolutionary stories through paper and artifacts of Eleazar and Elisha Porter."
 
Eleazar Porter was a graduate of Yale University who practiced law in Hadley, and also served as Justice of the Peace, a Judge of Probate, and a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. Elisha Porter was a Harvard College graduate who served in the Revolutionary War as the colonel of the Fourth Hampshire Regiment (Western Massachusetts), participating in the battles of Bunker Hill and Saratoga, and serving in Canada and New London.  Elisha was charged with escorting General John Burgoyne of the British Army to Boston after his surrender at Saratoga.
 
These important papers were kept in private hands, descending through the family, until now. Elisha's papers provide an intimate view of the Revolution from an officer just outside the limelight who had a front row seat to history. Elisha Porter's papers contain important letters, including a February 10, 1776, letter signed by General George Washington at Cambridge instructing Colonel Porter to move his regiment north to Canada via Fort Number Four and Onion River in relief of Montgomery/Arnold's failed expeditions. There are also letters signed by general officers Philip Schuyler, Baron de Woedtke, David Wooster, Timothy Danielson, and a dispatch with the signature of Benedict Arnold. Porter's 1781 commission from the State of Massachusetts-Bay bears the bold signature of John Hancock. In addition, the materials include correspondence with local dignitaries, broadsides, muster rolls, and receipts regarding equipping troops.
 
Also included in this gift are rare parts of the uniform of Elisha Porter, including the epaulettes he had made in 1778. The receipt for the epaulettes is included in this collection.
 
Eleazar Porter's papers provide valuable insight into local court proceedings in pre-Revolutionary Hadley. The papers include writs, orders, summonses, and receipts for various cases heard before him as a judge.
 
These papers are a fascinating resource for any scholar of the Revolution, as well as local historians.  Historic Deerfield plans to have these materials on view in the future, and they can be accessed by researchers via the Memorial Libraries at this time.
 
   
About Historic Deerfield, Inc.
Historic Deerfield, Inc., is dedicated to the heritage and preservation of Deerfield, Massachusetts, and the Connecticut River Valley. Its museums and programs provide today's audiences with experiences that create an understanding and appreciation of New England's historic villages and countryside.


 
 
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Epaulettes, American, made from imported British or European materials, 1778. Part of a military uniform worn by Colonel Elisha Porter (1742-1796) of Hadley, Massachusetts, an important example of late 18th-century officer's uniform owned and worn in the Connecticut River Valley. 2017.30.8, Historic Deerfield. Gift of the Cooley Family, Hartford, Connecticut, direct descendants of Col. Elisha Porter.