9/6/2005 - General Enoch Poor: 225 years

The City of Hackensack acknowledges General Enoch Poor
on the 225th anniversary of his death.


General Enoch Poor (1736 - 1780)

On September 8, 1780 Poor suddenly died. Two days later he was buried at Hackensack (NJ), with full military honors and with General Washington, Lafayette and other senior American military leaders in attendance. Washington wrote to Congress of Poor's death, saying in part, "He was an officer of distinguished merit, one who as a citizen and soldier had every claim to the esteem and regard of his country." Congress ordered the letter printed for the public, as an indication of respect for Enoch Poor.

Born at Andover (MA); died at Hackensack (NJ).

Poor was a son of a veteran of the 1745 attack by New Englanders on the French fortress of Louisburg. In 1755, aged 19, Poor enlisted as a private to fight like his father against France, and he was a member of the British expedition which removed the pro-French sympathizers of Acadia, Nova Scotia from their homes to more southerly colonies. [The Acadians were scattered along the coastlines of colonies from Maine to Georgia, and shipped to the West Indies and to Europe. The Cajuns of the Louisiana bayou country are descendants of the 1755 forced emigration, and their French dialect and predominately Roman Catholic religion date from the 18th century.]

Poor returned to Andover (MA) after his service in the French and Indian Wars, but he soon eloped with his wife-to-be, Martha Osgood. The couple moved to Exeter (NH), where Poor became a shipbuilder. Within a short time Poor was a prominent local citizen at Exeter; he was one of thirty local men who worked to defuse tensions caused by the new Stamp Acts of 1765, and in 1770 Poor was one of six citizens chosen to enforce a ban on the purchase of British tea, in protest against the Townshend Acts passed by the British Parliament in 1767. These Acts, which included taxes on tea, glass, lead and other products needed by British North American colonists, led to increased smuggling by the colonists, and to increasing calls for representation of the colonies in Parliament. They were a direct cause of the American Revolution.

The citizens of Exeter (NH) ratified non-importation agreements passed by the 1774 Continental Congress; Poor was once again appointed to help enforce the vote. In 1775 Poor was elected to the third and fourth meetings of the New Hampshire Provincial Congress, and on May 24, 1775 he mustered the men of Medford (MA) for service with Colonel John Stark and his New Hampshire men at Boston (MA). On the same day the New Hampshire Provincial Congress authorized the enlistments (for one year) of three New Hampshire regiments. These regiments were to be led by Colonels John Stark, Enoch Poor, and James Reed.

Poor and his regiment did not fight at Bunker Hill, as did Stark and Reed and their troops. Poor's regiment was stationed at Portsmouth (NH) and at Exeter (NH), to repel possible British invasion by water. The day after the Battle of Bunker Hill, Poor and his regiment were ordered to Boston. They arrived June 25, 1775, and were a part of the siege, which led the British to evacuate Boston, on March 17, 1776.

After the British evacuation of Boston, Poor and his men joined General Sullivan's Third Brigade. They were ordered to New York, and then to join the Northern Army for Montgomery's expedition to capture the city of Montreal. Montgomery's Quebec Campaign failed, however. Montgomery was killed (December 31, 1776), and the remnants of his force fell back to Crown Point, and then to Fort Ticonderoga, on Lake Champlain. Ticonderoga was now the main camp for the Northern Army, led by General Gates.

During December 1777 Poor and his regiment were ordered to join General Washington's Continental Army, which had its winter headquarters at Morristown (NJ). On February 21, 1777 Poor was commissioned a brigadier general, and his commend increased from a regiment of New Hampshire men to a brigade including men from Connecticut and New York, as well as from New Hampshire.

In Spring 1777 Poor and his brigade were sent back to Fort Ticonderoga, and to the Northern Army, which was now under the command of General Benedict Arnold. They were moving to the center of military action during 1777.

The British had spent the winter planning a Saratoga Campaign, in which General Burgoyne, marching south with British "regulars" from Canada, would go via Lake Champlain to Albany (NY). At Albany Burgoyne would meet British troops, under General Howe, coming up the Hudson River from their winter headquarters at New York City. A third force, under Barry St. Leger and General Clinton, would come east to Albany from the Mohawk Valley, where they had been mounting a campaign of harassment and intimidation with their Native American allies.

The Saratoga Campaign, if successful, would have pinned the colonial armies between the Hudson River and the Atlantic and would very probably have led to their surrender. But the Saratoga Campaign was not successful. Burgoyne had little trouble coming down Champlain, but when he turned west toward Albany his army was not prepared for the trackless North American wilderness. Burgoyne's Hessian troops were defeated at Bennington (VT); St. Leger attempted a siege of Fort Schuyler (NY), but was unsuccessful and had to retreat; and Howe's forces attempted to offload their ships at Albany (NY), but were forced to return to New York City. Poor and his brigade helped defeat Burgoyne at Saratoga (NY), where Burgoyne was forced to surrender (October 7, 1777). Poor and his men then marched to Albany, where they disrupted Howe's plans and prevented the British from landing.

The surrender of the British at Saratoga, and the failure of the Saratoga Campaign, were decisive points in the course of the American Revolution. Although Poor and his brigade suffered through Winter 1778 with Washington at the Valley Forge (PA) winter headquarters, in Spring 1778 an alliance with France was announced to the ragged troops of the Continental Army, and on May 18, 1778 the young Frenchman Lafayette led Poor and his troops to occupy Barren Hill, close by Philadelphia (PA). Philadelphia was the winter headquarters for British general Clinton, and Clinton sent five thousand troops to capture Lafayette for his effrontery at Barren Hill; but Poor led an orderly retreat, and only nine men and no guns were lost.

Britain's Native American allies were now having second thoughts about their support of the British. The failure of the British Saratoga Campaign, and now the support of the French for the struggling British colonies, was coupled with a realization that the colonies would exact revenge for their treatment against the Six Nations of the Iroquois and other tribes.

In 1779 General Sullivan was ordered to take five thousand troops, including Poor and his brigade, against the Six Nations. A "scorched earth" campaign ensued which was terrible in its ferocity. In late Fall 1779 the Western Expedition rejoined Washington's Continental Army, and the whole Continental Army went into winter quarters; but for the rest of his life Washington and his generals were known as destroyers of home and hearth by the Native Americans who suffered through the Western Expedition.

During winter 1779/80 Lafayette returned to France, but he returned for the next fighting season, in May 1780. Congress rewarded Lafayette with command of a division, and Lafayette selected Poor to train a brigade of light infantry for him. Poor was honored by Lafayette's request, and he carried out his mission; but there was no fighting for these troops during 1780.

On September 8, 1780 Poor suddenly died. Two days later he was buried at Hackensack (NJ), with full military honors and with General Washington, Lafayette and other senior American military leaders in attendance. Washington wrote to Congress of Poor's death, saying in part, "He was an officer of distinguished merit, one who as a citizen and soldier had every claim to the esteem and regard of his country." Congress ordered the letter printed for the public, as an indication of respect for Enoch Poor.

Reference: Henry M. Baker, "General Enoch Poor: An Oration Upon the Unveiling of a Statue of General Enoch Poor, at Hackensack, New Jersey, October 7, 1940". [Granite Monthly, vol. 38 no. 1 (January 1906).] Also, James G. Wilson and John Fiske, eds., Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography, vol. V (1888).

Source: http://hackensackhigh.org/~rkc/hackensack/poor/poorofnh.html