Oliver Wolcott Sr. (November 20, 1726 December 1, 1797) was an American politician. He was a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence
and also of the Articles of Confederation
as a representative
and the nineteenth Governor of Connecticut
. He was a major general for the Connecticut Militia in the Revolutionary War
serving under George Washington
Wolcott was born in Windsor, Connecticut
, the youngest of 14 children born to colonial governor Roger Wolcott
and Sarah Drake Wolcott. His elder brother was Erastus Wolcott
. He attended Yale College
, graduating in 1747 as the top scholar in his class. Upon graduation, New York
Governor George Clinton
granted Wolcott a captain's commission to raise a militia company to fight in the French and Indian War
. Captain Wolcott served on the northern frontier defending the Canadian border against the French until the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle
. At the end of the war, he moved to newly settled Goshen in northwestern Connecticut to practice and study medicine with his brother Alexander. He then moved to Litchfield and became a merchant; he was appointed sheriff of the newly created Litchfield County, Connecticut, serving from 1751 to 1771. He married Lorraine (Laura) Collins of Guilford, Connecticut on January 21, 1755. Their children were: Oliver (who died young), Oliver, Jr., Laura, Mariann, and Frederick.
American Revolutionary War
Wolcott had two careers during the war years as one of Connecticut's principal delegates to the Continental Congress and also a militia officer. He participated in the American Revolutionary War as brigadier general
and then as major general
in the Connecticut militia
. As a representative in the Continental Congress, he was a strong advocate for independence.
Early in the growing struggle with Great Britain, Wolcott made it clear that the colonists would not give up their rights and privileges. In February 1776, he stated: "Our difference with Great Britain has become very great. What matters will issue in, I cannot say, but perhaps in a total disseverance from Great Britain." The early support for independence led him to important roles during the war, both as military leader and as member of the Continental Congress.
Wolcott saw extensive militia service during the American Revolution. On August 11, 1776, Connecticut officials ordered him to march the Seventeenth Regiment of militia to New York and join George Washington
's army. Upon arriving at Washington's camp, Connecticut Governor Jonathan Trumbull
appointed Wolcott brigadier general in command of all the state's militia regiments in New York. He led 300—400 volunteers from his brigade to help General Horatio Gates
and Benedict Arnold
defeat Burgoyne at the Battle of Saratoga
In May 1779, Wolcott was promoted to major general in command of all Connecticut Militia. That summer, he saw combat in protecting the coastline from Tryon's raids.
[Grant, "From Governor to Governor in Three Generations," 69.]
He was largely unsuccessful in his combat with Major General William Tryon
. Over the course of the war, he showed great disdain towards his opposition, describing the British in his memoirs as "a foe who have not only insulted every principle which governs civilized nations but by their barbarities offered the grossest indignities to human nature."
The Continental Congress
appointed him Commissioner
of Indian Affairs
, and he was elected to the Congress in 1775. He became seriously ill in 1776 and did not sign the Declaration of Independence until some time later.
At the beginning of the Revolution, Congress had made Wolcott a commissioner of Indian affairs to persuade the northern Indian nations to remain neutral. His qualifications for that role came from his early experience on the northern front of the French and Indian War. He was asked, along with Richard Butler and Arthur Lee
, to negotiate a peace treaty with the Six Nations at Fort Schuyler
Beyond his postwar diplomatic role, Wolcott aspired to higher office. He was elected Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut
as a Federalist
in 1786 and served in that position for ten years. He was re-elected to the position, holding the office until his death at the age of seventy-one.
Death and legacy
Wolcott died on December 1, 1797, in Litchfield, Connecticut
He is interred at East Cemetery, in Litchfield, Connecticut
. Historian Ellsworth Grant remembers Wolcott's Revolutionary war efforts in stating that, "It is doubful if any other official in Connecticut during this period carried so many public duties on his shoulders."
Oliver Wolcott Jr.
, his son, served as Secretary of the Treasury
under Presidents George Washington
and John Adams
and as Governor of Connecticut
. The town of Wolcott, Connecticut
bears his name.
in Litchfield was declared a National Historic Landmark
in 1971. In Torrington, Connecticut
there is a school named after him, The Oliver Wolcott Technical High School
In 1798, Fort Washington on Goat Island in Newport, Rhode Island
was renamed Fort Wolcott
. Fort Wolcott was an active fortification until 1836. It later became the site of the United States Naval Torpedo Station
His descendants include Congregationalist minister Samuel Wolcott
, D.D.; Edward O. Wolcott
a United States Senator
; and Anna Wolcott Vaile
who established the Wolcott School for Girls
A Guide to the Oliver Wolcott, Sr. Papers, from 1638-1834
" Connecticut Historical Society, 2016.
* ttp://www.colonialhall.com/wolcott/wolcott.php Biography by Rev. Charles A. Goodrich, 1856Litchfield Historical Society
at the Library of Congress
has an important compilations of pamphlets that were assembled by Oliver Wolcott.
Category:Connecticut militiamen in the American Revolution
Category:Militia generals in the American Revolution
Category:Continental Congressmen from Connecticut
Category:18th-century American politicians
Category:Signers of the Articles of Confederation
Category:Governors of Connecticut
Category:Signers of the United States Declaration of Independence
Category:Yale College alumni
Category:People from Windsor, Connecticut
Category:People from South Windsor, Connecticut
Category:Burials in Connecticut
Category:Lieutenant Governors of Connecticut
Category:Federalist Party state governors of the United States
Category:Military personnel from Connecticut
Category:Members of the American Antiquarian Society