June 13, 1778

Written by Isaac from Valley Forge

The second of the two surviving letters of Isaac Davenport was written at the very end of the Valley Forge encampment. Washington’s Continental Army had spent the winter training for a new campaign. As Davenport predicted, the British evacuated Philadelphia – for New York, not Boston – and Washington’s army left Valley Forge within days of this letter. Washington engaged and defeated the British at the Battle of Monmouth in New Jersey on June 28, where Davenport was presumably engaged along with the rest of his unit, the 3rd Dragoons.

Three months after writing this letter, Isaac Davenport was with a detachment of dragoons in Bergen County, New Jersey, north of New York City. Late on the evening of Sept. 27, while encamped in houses and barns, they were surprised by British troops. The event became known as the “Baylor Massacre,” after George Baylor, the dragoon’s commander. Isaac Davenport was killed. He was 22.

In 1967, an excavation uncovered the skeletal remains of six soldiers killed at the Massacre and hastily buried in a tanning vat. One of the skeletons was that of a robust adult male who was fully dressed when he was buried. Scholars believe that the silver buttons and silver neckstock buckle – hallmarked by a Boston silversmith whose shop would have been a convenient place to visit from Dorchester – found with this skeleton suggest that it was that of Isaac Davenport.

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