Richard Douglass

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Captain Richard Douglass (1746–1828) was born in New London, Connecticut in 1746 to Stephen and Patience Douglass. Richard Douglass ran a successful cooper business. Already in 1760 where there more than 40 ships from Brigs to Sloops registered in New London many under the Shaw Family flag conducting business in the East and West Indies as well as such foreign ports at Lisbon, Barcelona, Amsterdam and even as far as Russia in addition to the mother country England. Being a cooper was a valuable trade especially with New London and the Colonies thirst for Bajan (Barbados) Rum.

American Revolution[edit]

At the outbreak of hostilities in the 1775 against Britain, Douglass enlisted in the militia and marched alongside Nathan Hale, William Coit, John and James Chapman, and other New Londoners to Boston in William Coit's Independent Company. It is not yet known if his unit under Chapman participated at Bunker Hill, but it is suspected as William Coit was with a 200-man strong unit that fought at the "fence" with Thomas Knowlton of Connecticut. Chapman eventually served under Knowlton in the elite Army Ranger unit, the first of its kind. Two companies of New London County men were at Bunker Hill including John Tubbs of modern day East Lyme and Christopher Darrow (East Lyme/Montville) then called "Northern Parrish".

It is most likely that according to documentation, that William Coit's Independent Company protected the retreating soldiers from Bunker Hill (Breeds) thwarting any British engagements, thus allowing the survivors to return in safety.

It is known that Chapman's Regiment of Foote or "Company" served under Lyme's General Samuel Holden Parsons then living in New London and participated at the Battle of New York (Long Island) and the defense of New York and eventual retreat to the Highlands. It is thought that Douglass "suffered atrocities of the British" and was taken prisoner, eventually escaping a prison ship in 1776 or 1777. He fought at the defense of Philadelphia, Monmouth, New Jersey, Germantown and Brandywine engagements along with many other Eastern Connecticut men.

It is also possible that he was taken prisoner at Germantown, as many from New London County were, as their poorly-led unit was outflanked. That part of the story is also yet to be told.

He served throughout the war and he was again the victim of atrocities when Benedict Arnold returned in 1781, burning New London and the attack on Ft. Griswold in Groton, which eventually claimed the lives of 83 men on the Groton side and 6 more on the New London side. While Bradley Street was spared the torch, it is possible[according to whom?] that Douglass and his family suffered harassment.

It is said[by whom?] that he enlisted in 1775 and served distinguishably throughout the war, ending service in 1783.

Not much is known of the man as a person, what he looked like or what people like Nathan Hale, William Coit or John Chapman thought of him but his distinguished service makes it likely that he was a good foot soldier and became respected in that area.

Military history[edit]

The service is cited for Richard Douglas (b. 1750, d. 1816) ref. p. 149-150, Douglas, Charles Henry James, Douglas Family Records (1879) not the subject of this article.[1] ( of New London (Provided by the Society of the Cincinnati)

Douglas, Richard (Conn). Private in the Lexington Alarm, April, 1775; Ensign and Regimental Quartermaster in Selden's Connecticut State Regiment, 20 June to 25 December 1776; 2nd Lieutenant 1st Connecticut, 1 at January, 1777; 1st Lieutenant, 1 January 1778; Captain Lieutenant, 11 August, 1780; Captain, 22 August 1780; transferred to 5th Connecticut, 1 January 1781, transferred to 3d Connecticut, 1 January 1783; transferred to Swift's Consolidated Connecticut Regiment, June, 1783, and served to 3d November, 1783. (Died 1828.) At the close of the War with New London nearly burned to the ground and its economy in shambles, it appears Richard Douglass's business began to slowly rebound. Just a few years after the war's conclusion he purchased the land from Timothy Green at the corners of the new Golden Street and Cross Street (now Green's Alley) to build a house. At nearly 40 years of age he removed from Bradley Street, which was known as "Widows Row" from the British attack on New London to this new street even closer to the wharves on Bank Street. His cooper business took place at 102 Golden Street for some time and eventually purchased the plot at 77-79 Green Street (immediately next door) for 117 dollars on June 30, 1801 from Timothy Green then living in Fredricksburg, VA to manage his family business interests there. The house was built a short time after and is one of the few homes of its type remaining in New London.

1801 Richard Douglass House

At the close of the American Revolution in 1783 Richard became one of the founding officers of the Society of the Cincinnati and it is noted in Bryce Metcalf's "Original Members and Other Officers Eligible to the Society of the Cincinnati" (1938) that he served until November 3, 1783. Richard Douglass was a member of the Connecticut Society.

Richard married Ann Jennings, a widow from New Shoreham, Block Island, Rhode Island in 1777 and had 8 children. All lived to their adult years. Ann Jennings from the Champlin stock a well known Eastern Connecticut line of families, well respected and quite obviously a catch.

Richard Douglass' children Alexander b. 1778, Robert, Lucy, and Richard Jr. Alexander eventually became a whaling captain working in the firm of Benjamin Brown of New London as well as for the Williams firm. He purchased property in upstate New York or received it from a war grant from his father's service in the war and eventually retired there after his last whaling voyages in about 1838.

Richard Jr. became a lawyer and moved to Ohio Territory at Chillicote then being populated by many of Eastern Connecticut's citizens and later relocated to Marietta, Ohio and had two sons, Luke Richard and Albert. Richard Sr. died in 1852 in Chillicote, Ohio.

The Benjamin Brown house (ca. 1817) still stands today on Bank Street as a "granite" icon to the Whaling Era. Alexander was the captain to many of the most successful early whaling voyages out of New London. A yet unconfirmed story about him is his ship eventually rescued stranded survivors of the Pequod.


  1. ^ Douglas, Charles Henry James, Douglas Family Records (1879)