Elijah Clayes

Captain Elijah Clayes, 2nd New Hampshire Continental Infantry

Elijah Clayes was born September 5, 1744 in Framingham, Massachusetts. He was the third son and child of James and Abigail (Gleason) Clayes. At some point he removed to Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire and married Abigail Pepper. He was appointed as a First Lieutenant in Captain Jonathan Whitcomb’s Company of Colonel James Reed’s 3rd New Hampshire Regiment on April 23, 1775. He fought in this capacity at the Battle of Bunker Hill. He was commissioned as a First Lieutenant in the 2nd Continental Infantry Regiment (the temporary designation for the 3rd New Hampshire) on January 1, 1776. First Lieutenant Clayes was transferred to the 2nd New Hampshire Regiment, Continental Line on November 8, 1776 and promoted to Captain with duties as Company Commander.

At the Continental Army’s encampment at Valley Forge, Captain Elijah Clayes is listed as commanding the 4th Company of the 2nd New Hampshire Regiment, Continental Line under the command of Colonel Nathan Hale. He is further marked as “Present” for December 1777-April 1778 and “On Furlough for May and June of 1778.

On his company’s muster roll at Camp Eastown dated October 10, 1779, covering the period from June to September 1779 inclusive, he is reported ‘Wounded at Sunsbury.’ Captain Elijah Clayes died November 30, 1779 of wounds received at the Battle of Chemung. The Battle of Chemung occurred near what is modern-day Elmira, New York, near the state’s southwestern border with Pennsylvania. The Battle was part of Major General John Sullivan’s Indian Expedition of 1779. The battle resulted in a victory for Continental forces against a combined force of Loyalists and Indians commanded by Captain Walter Butler and Chief Joseph Brant.

An obituary was written for Captain Clayes in the Providence (RI) Gazette dated January 1, 1780 that details:

Sunbury, November 30, 1780 – This morning at 6 o’clock departed this life, by a wound received at Newtown, in defense of his country, the 29th of August last, against the savages – the brave, worthy, and respected Capt. ELIJAH CLAYES, of the second New-Hampshire regiment, regretted by every officer who had the pleasure of his acquaintance; his social virtues endeared him to his countrymen, and his patriotic zeal was excelled but by few. From the beginning of this contest, he has invariably manifested himself to be a Christian and a soldier; his mind was possessed of every noble and generous thought, such as ever constitute the gentleman; His constant deportment while living, caused him to be universally esteemed, and, now dead, to be greatly lamented.

The same evening his funeral was attended by the officers of the garrison, and a number of worthy inhabitants, when his body was committed to the silent grave, with military honors, and every other possible mark of respect.

Sources:  Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army (Baltimore, 1914), 159; John Foote Norton, The history of Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire, from 1752-1887, (New York, 1888); Mary Harrell-Sesniak, 500+ Revolutionary War Obituaries and Death Notices, (Houston, 2010), 34-35; John B. White, Genealogy of the descendants of Thomas Gleason of Watertown, Mass, (Haverhill, 1909), 103; Selected Wartime Service Records of Captain Elijah Clayes.