Lt. William Clark

Continental Army

Lt. William Clark

William Clark

William Clark was born in Coram on September 15, 1746. He was the son of William and Mary (Reeve) Clark. He was married on March 27th, 1774 to Phebe Davis by the Reverend Noah Hammond of Coram. Hammond was the pastor of the Baptist church located on Middle Country Road in Coram. The wedding took place at the home of Reverend Hammond on Mill Road. The marriage would produce two children, William and Hannah.

Clark entered the service in May of 1776, when he was elected 1st Lieutenant in Captain Selah Strong's company, which was a part of Colonel Josiah Smith's Regiment. He would later serve under Captain Ebenezer Dayton of Coram.

Records from the Brookhaven Town Committee of Safety discovered in 1898 show the involvement of Lieutenant Clark. This committee was formed at the suggestion of the Continental Congress. The committee assigned Lieutenants William Clark and George Smith to buy up all the guns they could find in the town, not paying more than four pounds apiece. The committee had been made aware that water, provisions and men were furnished to the "Ministerial Fleet" from Blue Point and nearby places. Captain Selah Strong was ordered to select fifteen men from his company to act as a watch at Blue Point of the proceedings of all unfriendly persons. William Clark was one of those persons chosen, and therefore Nathaniel Roe Jr., was authorized to buy guns in place of William Clarke, who was absent on military duty.

William Clarke was later sent by the committee with a warrant to arrest John Ackerly, Jacob Smith, Benjamin Smith and other Tories who returned from onboard the ships of war and to proceed against their enemy.

After the fall of Long Island to the British, he like many other Long Islanders fled to Connecticut. While in the Continental Army he participated in the Battle of White Plains. At the Battle of White Plains the English General Howe spotted the Americans on three hills. Howe organized an attack on the hill that was most weakly protected. As the British attacked a unit of mounted Dragoons appeared and swept down on the exposed militia. The militia and other nearby units were forced to retreat. Even though British General Howe won a victory, he missed the chance to capture Washington's army, which escaped to New Jersey.

Clark then rejoined his old friend from Coram, Ebenezer Dayton. Together they engaged in privateering, capturing Loyalist ships that were providing English troops with supplies. The Rivington Gazette, a Loyalist newspaper, which supported the English cause contained the following story;

"The head of the Banditti who captured 5 vessels loaded with lumber and produce for the market of N.Y. was Ebenezer Dayton, a noted peddler, who lately lived at Corum. Next in command was Wm. Clark, formerly a rebel Lt., who had taken the benefit of Howe's Proclamation; and after taking the oaths to Government he kept a shop near B. Haven, where, by making private lotteries, &c., he converted his effects into cash, and about 4 or 5 weeks ago eloped to Conn. This party (14 in number) are a species of plunderers distinct from the rebel troops."

In the spring of 1779 Lieutenant Clark was taken prisoner by the British. David Clark, his grandson, claimed that British soldiers and Tories surrounded the family house. That an alarm given by a faithful slave allowed Clark to escape to the dismal swamp, where he was shortly captured. He was put aboard the notorious prison ship Jersey. The British used these prison ships docked in New York Harbor as a place to keep their prisoners. The conditions on these ships were terrible, in the summertime they suffered from a lack of ventilation. In the winter they froze or became ill with pneumonia. Over 12,000 men died in these ships of, diseases such as dysentery, typhoid fever, smallpox, yellow fever, tuberculosis, and other contagious diseases. The food on these prison ships was often putrid, and it was not unusual for the prisoners aboard these ships to receive food that was moldy or stale. When you consider that about 4,300 Americans died in combat during the Revolution, the 12,000 who died on these prison ships give you an idea as to the horror these prisoners faced.

Lt. William Clark
Prison ship Jersey

In the summer of 1779 William Clark was released in a prisoner exchange. He was taken sick and died at the house of Captain Ebenezer Dayton at New Haven. His sickness and death was attributed to fatigue and exposure that he endured and suffered while a prisoner.

Phebe Clark continued to live on the family farm after the war. A record from a ledger kept by Lt. William Phillips, overseer of Colonel William Floyd's estate contained the following entries.

" Dec. 10, 1790
To Pheby Clark
for weaving the summer 3 - 1 - 9
by making 28 barrels sider
at her mill 0 - 12 - 0 "

In April of 1792 another entry in the ledger reads;

" April 1, 1792
Rented out the farm belonging to William Clark Junr.
One part to Stephen Reeves 7 - 0 - 0
The remainder part to myself 9 - 0 - 0 "

In 1794 Phebe remarried Stephen Reeve with whom she had a daughter, Matilda. She would apply for a government pension in 1837 as a widow. Her request was denied as she could not legally prove her husbands service record.

written by
Noah Santorello
Longwood Middle School
April, 2000

The William Phillips ledger can be found at
the Bridgehampton Historical Society.

Click here to see Pension application

Click here to see English Campaign Map

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