The Frozen Drowning of Samuel Holden Parsons

The Frozen Drowning of Samuel Holden Parsons

Samuel Holden Parsons was a Major General in the Revolutionary War from Connecticut.

Parsons was present for many important turning points in the war before going west as a Judge in the Northwest Territory.

His strange, untimely death left many questions.


Samuel Holden Parson

Samuel Holden Parsons was born into a family of ardent Patriots.

A Harvard classmate of John Adams, Parsons had written as early as 1772 to Boston recommending a gathering similar to the Stamp Act Congress...one of the first calls for the eventual Continental Congress.

Samuel had been elected to the Colonial Assembly in Connecticut at a young age, and with the growing hostility between North America and the Mother Country he joined the local militia.


Continental Soldier

Parsons was a Colonel in the militia when word of Lexington and Concord arrived and he soon led his men to the Siege of Boston.

He would go on to play a role in several important battles in the north. These included Bunker Hill, Ticonderoga and Brooklyn.

Additionally, Parsons was the one who recommended Ezra Lee as the pilot of David Bushnell’s submarine.


Major General

Samuel Holden Parsons was promoted to Major General in 1780 and soon thereafter served as a member of the team that sentenced Major John Andre (Benedict Arnold’s accomplice) to death.

Furthermore, when George Washington moved the Main Army south for the Battle of Yorktown, Parsons remained in the north to harass the British and make sure their entire force could not follow the General. 

In 1782, Parsons finally resigned from the Continental Army after seven full years of service.


Northwest Territory

Upon his return to Connecticut, Samuel was hailed as a hero and elected to the State Assembly.

With his finances hurting from years at war, he accepted a position as a justice in the Northwest Territory. He travelled to Ohio where he made some very powerful enemies, most notably Arthur St. Clair

Unfortunately, while surveying the Beaver River in western Pennsylvania during the winter of 1789, Parsons disappeared. His canoe was seen floating down the river along with some of his belongings. The vessel had been destroyed.

Samuel’s body was discovered the following spring, after the icy waters thawed out, and he was buried with the intention of later reinterment. Sadly, the location of Parson’s grave was lost and his current resting place is unknown.


Want to learn about other Founders from Connecticut?

Here are a few you might like:

Pierpont Edwards Organizes the Toleration Party

Silas Deane Convinces France to Supply the Continental Army

Oliver Wolcott is Everywhere

Samuel Holden Parsons was one of the most important Connecticut Founders.

His ‘Life and Letters’ was written a century ago but is still the authoritative source of his life.

If you’d like a copy you can pick one up through the Amazon affiliate link below (you’ll support this site, but don’t worry, Amazon pays me while your price stays the same).

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