Timothy Bedel

Colonel Timothy Bedel, Bedel’s New Hampshire Rangers

Timothy Bedel was born in Salem, New Hampshire in 1737.

During the French and Indian War he served as a Lieutenant in the New Hampshire Provincial Regiment. He participated in many campaigns including the siege of Louisburg, the capture of Quebec, and the capture of Havana, Cuba.

In 1763, with the war over, Timothy Bedel moved his family to Haverhill, New Hampshire, founded just two years earlier. At this time, the entire northern portion of the Connecticut River Valley was in its infant stages of settlement. As an early settler in the region, Bedel was a grantee of Haverhill and Bath, NH, as well as Newbury, Haverhill’s sister-city across the river in the territory that later became Vermont. Timothy Bedel  was  active  in  the  civic  affairs  of  the  region  from  the  time  he  arrived. He lived in Haverhill for the first six years, moved to Bath in 1769, where he stayed until 1775, when he  returned  to  Haverhill. 

On June 6, 1775, Timothy Bedel, while a member of the New Hampshire Provincial Assembly representing Bath, was commissioned as a Captain and appointed to command a company of rangers to be raised at Coos, New Hampshire. Coos is an Abenaki name for a place variously spelled Cowasuk, Cohos, Coös, or Koes. Coos became a military command located in Haverhill, New Hampshire and Newbury, Vermont where natives gathered to transport people and goods into Canada.

Quickly, the single company Captain Bedel was tasked to recruit grew into a regiment of eight companies. In January of 1776, he was commissioned as a Colonel by both the state of New Hampshire and the Continental Congress. Colonel Bedel’s regiment tasked with protecting the northern frontier of New Hampshire in an area of disputed land Grants between Fort at Number 4 (Charlestown) and Crown Point. Interestingly, a contemporary soldier of the French and Indian War with whom he served, William Stark, an older brother of John Stark, also wanted this command, and when turned down William Stark joined the British Army.

Colonel Bedel’s Regiment joined the Continental Army during the Invasion of Canada. The Regiment saw action at the Siege of Fort St. Jean. When his unit arrived he was the senior regimental commander.

In May 1776, while Colonel Bedel was away, his Regiment was unnecessarily surrendered to a party of British regulars, Canadians and Indians by his second-in-command, Major Isaac Butterfield at the Battle of the Cedars. Eight days later his men were exchanged for British soldiers captured at the St. Jean. The surrender was something of a Continental disgrace: Benedict Arnold, the leading figure in the Canadian expedition, was enraged and immediately brought charges against Colonel Bedel for leaving his post. Even the Continental Congress acknowledged the affair, terming the surrender ‘shameful’ and attributing the responsibility for it to Colonel Bedel, the commanding officer.

 Brought before a court martial, Colonel Bedel claimed that he had not been aware that Arnold’s orders restricted him to the Cedars. He asserted that his orders included instructions to cultivate friendly relations with the Indians of the region. Accordingly, he had left the Cedars, even while suffering from smallpox, in order to meet with a group of Indian chiefs at Caughnawaga that was just a few miles outside Montreal. While there, he received reports that the enemy was advancing on the Cedars. Colonel Bedel considered returning immediately but was persuaded by the chiefs to stop at Montreal first to report the results of the conference. The trip to Montreal actually required only several extra hours, but after leaving that city he became too ill to travel and thus did not reach the Cedars before it was surrendered. At the court martial, Arnold’s influence triumphed over Colonel Bedel’s defense, and Bedel was found guilty of ‘quitting his post.’ As a result, Colonel Bedel was cashiered from the service, along with Isaac Butterfield. The court, however, distinguished between the two men’s crimes: Butterfield was officially incapacitated from ever holding a commission again, while Bedel was simply cashiered. Colonel Bedel’s Regiment was disbanded on January 1, 1777, when enlistments expired.

Timothy Bedel was not done with service though. Within a year, Bedel was engaged in correspondence with Major General Gates, passing along intelligence information that he received from scouts in Canada and agitating for another Canadian expedition He had been cashiered from Continental Service, but could still hold a commission in the Militia. Timothy Bedel served as a First Lieutenant in a volunteer militia company commander by Captain Joseph Hutchins at the Battle of Bennington under Brigadier General John Stark.

In the fall of 1777/1778, the Continental Congress threatened to invade Canada again with Brigadier General John Stark to command the expedition. The Continental Congress rehabilitated Timothy Bedel, commissioned him as a Colonel on November 1777, and authorized him to raise a regiment from the inhabitants of the Connecticut River valley for service in the invasion. The enlistments started in December of 1777. The invasion never was realized and the Regiment was disbanded when the enlistments ran out in March of 1778.

Later in 1778, the idea of an invasion of Canada was again proffered with Major General Lafayette in command this time. Colonel Bedel again was tasked with raising a Regiment for this purpose. This Regiment continued in existence until March of 1779 when enlistments again ran out. The decision to disband the regiment was made against Colonel Bedel’s wishes and he tried, with the help of Brigadier General Moses Hazen, to persuade the Continental Congress to allow him to raise another unit.

The decision to disband Bedel’s regiment could well have been motivated by the desire to reduce the possibility of armed conflict within the ranks of the colonists. Neither the Continental Congress nor the state of New Hampshire wanted to support a regiment which might be used against its own forces relating to the often times strained relations surrounding the creation of the state of Vermont. In addition, the British threat from Canada, which had originally necessitated the maintenance of a regiment of the frontier, had been sharply reduced with the defeat of Burgoyne’s army two years earlier. To the men in Philadelphia and Exeter, Colonel Bedel’s regiment might have represented more of a liability than an asset. If these were the case, the decision to disband it was a natural one.

After the war, Colonel Bedel remained active in the affairs of Haverhill and for a short period entered into a partnership with Moses Hazen evidently for the purpose of speculating in land. Hazen, however, seems to have been the more active partner as he played a role in establishing several new townships in Vermont whereas Bedel restricted his acquisitions to the Haverhill – Bath area. When he died in 1787, Colonel Timothy Bedel was a prominent citizen of Haverhill and moderately well-to-do; his  estate,  after  the  deduction of all debts, was worth more than 7000 Pounds.

Sources: Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army, (Baltimore, 1914), 95; Gavin K. Watt, Poisoned by Lies and Hypocrisy: America’s First Attempt to Bring Liberty to Canada, 1775-1776, (Toronto, 2014); Henry H. Metcalf, Editor and Manager, The Granite Monthly: A New Hampshire Magazine devoted to History, Biography, Literature, and State Process, Volume XLVII (old series) Volume X (new series), (Concord, 1915), 495-505; Guide to the Timothy Bedel Papers, 1763-1787; Selected Wartime Service Records of Colonel Timothy Bedel.