Monday, March 4, 2013

Military Monday ~ Revolutionary War Surgeon: Luther Waterman

Luther Waterman Revolutionary War Pension File pg 1

Dr. Luther L. Waterman was my 4th Great-Grandfather.  He was christened 25 March 1753 in Norwich, New London, Connecticut, and was the son of David Bassett Waterman and Anne Bartlett, both of Connecticut.

Luther entered the Revolutionary War in 1775 as Surgeon's Mate under Doctor Spaulding in Colonel John Durkee's Connecticut Regiment, where he served nine months.  In 1776 he served as Surgeon in Colonel William Bond's Continental Regiment.  In 1777 he joined Colonel Webb's Continental Regiment.  He served as Surgeon under Colonel Webb for one year.

According to Luther's Pension File, he was at the Siege of St. John's and was present at the following battles:  Isle aux Noix, White Plains, Stamford, Horseneck and Rye.

On January 1, 1778 at Franklin, New London, Connecticut, Luther married Phebe Barker, daughter of Dr. John Barker and Phebe Hyde.

Luther and Phebe had nine children:

  1. Samuel Waterman (1778-1857)
  2. Erastus Waterman (1780-1859)
  3. Child Waterman (died 1784)
  4. Jerusha Waterman (1786-1867)
  5. Phebe Waterman (1789-?)
  6. Asher Waterman (1791-1875) [my 3rd great-grandfather]
  7. Eusebius B. Waterman (1795-?)
  8. David Bassett Waterman (1798-1851)
  9. Lucinda A. Waterman (1803-1879)

The conditions for both surgeons and patients during the war must have been appalling.  According to the article Surgeons and Butchers by Elizabeth Rorke at,

"…Revolutionary War surgeons did a notable job of attempting to save lives. Most were competent, honest, and well-intentioned, but conditions and shortages in medical supplies placed an overwhelming burden on them. Besides caring for those wounded in battle, the camp surgeon was responsible for caring for the camp's diseased soldiers. The camp surgeon was constant alert for unsanitary conditions in camp that might lead to disease. He spent a good deal of time aiding patients rid their bodies of one or more of the four humors. Common diseases suffered by soldiers were dysentery, fever, and smallpox. Most illnesses were caused by unsanitary conditions in camp."
If you'd like to learn more about the Revolutionary War, the website The American Revolution is an excellent resource.  It contains information about battles, people, commanders, events, and more.

Luther Waterman passed away on September 9, 1807 in Cazenovia, Madison, New York. He is buried in the Union Cemetery, in Cazenovia, Madison County, New York.

I love military records and have found some fascinating and unexpected documents in Luther Waterman's pension file.  I will be sharing more from his pension file in future posts.

Thanks for reading!


© 2013 Copyright by Jana Last


  1. What a great bit of research you did there tracing a relation back to the revolution.

    1. Hi Bill,

      Thank you, but I can't take the credit for the research. I found out about my 4th great-grandfather, Luther, in some amazing genealogy books on the Waterman Family by Donald Lines Jacobus.

      Thank you so much for stopping by!

  2. I have the pension record for my 5th great grandfather who served in the Revolutionary War but have never really studied it. Thanks for the reminder to pull it out and get to work on it. Are you going to apply for membership into DAR?

    1. Hi Debi,

      Aren't pension files amazing? I just love them so much! They can be so full of interesting and valuable information.

      I have thought about applying for membership into the DAR, but haven't pursued it yet.

      Thanks so much for stopping by! I really appreciate it.

  3. This is so cool, Jana! Think of all the fun you can have researching what a Revolutionary War surgeon saw and did. The little snippet you quoted is fascinating. Can't wait to hear more from his pension file!

    1. Hi Shelley,

      Oh yes! The experiences of the surgeons (and the patients, I might add) must have been horrendous. I read about how they had to amputate limbs, which I didn't include in this post, and it sounded just terrible.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  4. I bet he saw some horrible things. While I'm not a medical person, I do enjoy looking at hospital tools and doctors' equipment at museums. You have to wonder how anyone survived an injury.

    1. Hi Wendy,

      Yes, I bet he did see some horrific things! Funny you should mention the survival rate of injuries at that time. From the same article I quoted in this post, it stated that of the patients who had limbs amputated, only 35% survived the procedure. Wow! And what gets to me too is that sometimes they wouldn't even have anything to dull the pain. The unfortunate patient would just bite down on a wooden stick. So thankful for modern medicine today!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. This is a different branch of your family than those I'm used to reading about! The Watermans lived in my state, Connecticut, and those Revolutionary War battles would have occurred near our town. Stamford is not far down the turnpike from us.

    Surgeons in those days were so hard-pressed to do anything for the poor soldiers. In Patrick O'Brian's long series of novels about Jack Aubrey and his sea voyages, his companion Steven Maturin is a surgeon. Wonderful books. That's the source of any "knowledge" I have about 18th century medicine.

    1. Hi Mariann,

      You really do live in an historic area! I'd love to visit New England someday.

      Yep, I need to branch out and share more from the other branches of my fammily tree. :)

      I feel so sorry for the patients during that time period.

      Thank you so much for stopping by!




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