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
Articles of Confederation as a
Connecticut and the nineteenth Governor of
Connecticut. He was a major general for the
Connecticut Militia in the
Revolutionary War serving under George Washington.
1 Early life
2.1 Revolutionary War Years
2.2 Post Revolutionary War
3 Death and legacy
6 External links
Coat of Arms of
Oliver Wolcott Sr.
Wolcott was born in Windsor, Connecticut, the youngest of 14 children
born to colonial governor Roger Wolcott and Sarah Drake 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.
Revolutionary War Years
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
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." This
early support for independence led him to important roles during the
war, both as military leader and as member of the Continental
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
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
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. 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."
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
Post Revolutionary War
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 this role came from his
early experience on the northern front of the French and Indian War.
Now he was asked along with Richard Butler and Arthur Lee, to
negotiate a peace treaty with the Six Nations at Fort Schuyler.
Beyond his post war diplomatic role, Wolcott aspired to higher office.
He was elected Lieutenant
Governor of Connecticut
Governor of Connecticut as a
1786, and served in this position for ten years. He was reelected to
the position, holding the office until his death at the age of
Death and legacy
Wolcott died on December 1, 1797, in Farmington, 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."
The Grave of
Oliver Wolcott Sr.
Oliver Wolcott Jr., his son, served as Secretary of the Treasury under
George Washington and
John Adams and as Governor of
Connecticut. The town of Wolcott,
Connecticut was named in honor of
Oliver and his son, Oliver Jr. His home in Litchfield was declared a
National Historic Landmark
National Historic Landmark in 1971. In Torrington,
is a school named after him, The
Oliver Wolcott Technical High School.
In 1798, Fort Washington on Goat Island in
Newport, Rhode Island
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
^ Ellsworth S. Grant, "From Governor to Governor in Three
Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin, Volume 39
no.3, Hartford, July 1974), 65—66.
^ Bruce Stark, "Signers of the Declaration of Independence, State
Governors"," American National Biography Online, 1.
^ Stark, "Signers of the Declaration of Independence, State
Governors," American National Biography Online, 1.
^ Stark, Signers of the Declaration of Independence, State Governors,
American National Biography Online, 1.
^ Grant, “From Governor to Governor in Three Generations,” 68.
^ Edmund C. Burnett, ed., "Letters of Members of the Continental
Congress," vols. 1—3, 5—7 (8 vols., 1921—1936), vol. 1, 163.
^ Grant, “From Governor to Governor in Three Generations,”
^ Stark, "Signers of the Delectation of Independence," 1.
^ a b c Grant, “From Governor to Governor in Three Generations,”
^ Wolcott Papers, vol.1, (
Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford,
^ "Oliver Wolcott". National Governors Association. Retrieved 24
“A Guide to the Oliver Wolcott, Sr. Papers, from 1638-1834.”
Connecticut Historical Society, 2016.
Grant, Ellsworth. "From Governor to Governor In Three Generations,"
Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin, Volume 39 no.3,
Hartford, July 1974), 65—77".
Jensen, Merrill (1978). The Documentary History of the Ratification of
the Constitution: Volume III Ratification of the Constitution by the
States Delaware, New Jersey, Georgia and Connecticut. Madison: State
Historical Society of Wisconsin.
Mahoney, Patrick. "Soldier, Patriot, and Politician: The Life of
Connecticut History.org. CThumanities. Retrieved 30
Stark, Bruce. "Oliver Wolcott". American National Biography
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Oliver Wolcott.
American National Biography Online, Oliver Wolcott.
Biography by Rev. Charles A. Goodrich, 1856
Litchfield Historical Society
National Governors Association
The Political Graveyard
The Peter Force Library at the
Library of Congress
Library of Congress has an important
compilations of pamphlets that were assembled by Oliver Wolcott.
Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut
Jonathan Trumbull Jr.
Governor of Connecticut
Jonathan Trumbull Jr.
Signers of the
United States Declaration of Independence
Physical history of the Declaration of Independence, Memorial
Signers of the Articles of Confederation
Governors of Connecticut
R. S. Baldwin
J. H. Trumbull
R. E. Baldwin
R. E. Baldwin
US Congress: W000