Oliver Potter

Capt. Oliver Potter, Col. Warner’s Green Mountain Boys Regiment

Oliver Potter was born in 1730 around Cranston, Providence County, Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. He was the son of William and artha (Tillinghast) Potter. On October 17, 1757, Oliver Potter married to Mary Colvin in Coventry, Kent County, Rhode Island. Mary was reportedly born in Scituate, Providence, Rhode Island, and was the daughter of Benjamin and Eleanor (Burlingame) Colvin.

Beginning in 1749, the New Hampshire governor Benning Wentworth issued numerous patents to land in the Green Mountains, counting on a vague border with New York to at least temporarily make the claims profitable. Settlers, moving in orderly, family-centered groups, took advantage of the new patents and moved into the area, establishing towns that were, although varied in religion and ethnic background, far from a wild frontier. Oliver, Mary, and their family were part of these settlers. In 1770, New Yorkers attempted to use a 1764 royal decision that the land belonged to them to move in Dutch settlers on new patents. Reacting to this incursion, Ethan Allen, a recent immigrant, formed the Green Mountain Boys, a group of men determined to protect their families’ lands, who used intimidation, violence, and harassment to drive off the hated “Yorkers.” Allen and his men successfully evaded the authorities, even posting a mock reward for their enemies in retaliation for bounties posted on their heads.

In early June 1775, Ethan Allen and his then subordinate, Seth Warner, induced the Continental Congress at Philadelphia to create a Continental Army ranger regiment from the then New Hampshire Grants. Having no treasury, Continental Congress directed the New York Provincial Congress to pay for the newly authorized regiment. In July 1775, the unit was granted support from the New York Provincial Congress. As such, on July 27, 1775, New York established the Regiment with Seth Warner in command with a Lieutenant Colonel’s commission.

Oliver Potter was commissioned as a Captain and given command of the second company of Seth Warner’s regiment by resolution of the New York Provincial Congress on July 27, 1775. This regiment participated in the first major offensive of the newly formed Continental Army, namely the invasion of Quebec (then called “Canada”). The goal was to gain an alliance with the French residents to fight for liberation from British rule. The invasion began in August, 1775, with the force capturing Fort St. John in September and assuming control of Montreal thereafter. The fledgling army then attacked British forces in Quebec City in December of 1775, but were buffeted by snowstorms, smallpox, and the arrival of British reinforcements. Many of the Green Mountain boys died at that time, among them Captain Potter, reportedly from smallpox according to his son Noel’s pension. The Continental Army withdrew from Quebec, and the fallen soldiers were left in unmarked graves.

Sources: Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army (Baltimore, 1914), 448; John E. Goodrich, The State of Vermont: Rolls of the Soldiers in the Revolutionary War, 1775 to 1783, (Rutland, 1904), 4-5, 815; Pension of Noel Potter W21991; Selected Wartime Service Records of Captain Oliver Potter.