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Joseph Spencer (October 3, 1714 – January 13, 1789) was an American lawyer, soldier, and statesman from Connecticut. During the Revolutionary War, he served both as a delegate to the Continental Congress and as a major general in the Continental Army.[1]

Joseph Spencer
Member of the
Connecticut Council
In office
In office
Member of the
Continental Congress
In office
Preceded byOliver Wolcott
Succeeded byOliver Wolcott
Personal details
BornOctober 3, 1714
East Haddam, Connecticut, British America
DiedJanuary 13, 1789 (1789-01-14) (aged 74)
East Haddam, Connecticut, U.S.
Martha Brainerd
(m. 1738; her death 1754)

Hannah Brown Southmaid
(m. 1756; his death 1789)
ParentsIsaac Spencer
Mary Selden
Military service
AllegianceKingdom of Great Britain
United States of America
Branch/serviceColonial Militia
Continental Army
Years of service1758 (British Militia)
1775–78 (Continental Army)
RankMajor general
Battles/wars • French and Indian War
 • Revolutionary War


Early lifeEdit

Spencer was born in East Haddam, Connecticut. Spencer was the son of Isaac and Mary (née Selden) Spencer.[2] He was the great-grandson of Gerard and Hannah Spencer, who were part of the first settlers of East Haddam in 1662.[1]


He was trained as a lawyer and practiced until 1753, when he became a judge. He was active in the militia, serving in King George's War and as a Lieutenant Colonel of the Middlesex militia in the French and Indian War.[3]

Bas relief sculpture on the memorial to Spencer located in East Haddam, CT (dedicated 1904)

By the time the American Revolution began, Spencer had advanced to Brigadier General of Connecticut’s militia, and in April 1775 he led them to support the Siege of Boston as the 2nd Connecticut Regiment. In June, when these units were adopted into the national army, he was made a brigadier general in the Continental Army; he was amongst the first eight Continental Army brigadier generals so appointed.[3]

In 1776, Spencer was promoted to major general in support of William Heath in the Eastern Department.[4] The following year his military career became difficult. He cancelled a planned attack on British forces in Rhode Island and was censured by the Continental Congress. He demanded a court of inquiry and was exonerated, but when the controversy was resolved, he resigned his commission on June 14, 1778.[3]

Spencer first served on the Connecticut Council (or Connecticut State Senate) in 1776. Free of military responsibility, the state sent him as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1779. In 1780, he was returned to the council, and served there until his death.[3]

Personal lifeEdit

August 2, 1738, Joseph Spencer married Martha Brainerd (1716–1754), with whom he had five children.[5]

  • Martha Spencer (1739–1739/40), who died young.[5]
  • Martha Spencer (c. 1740), who married Joseph Cone, Jr. (b. 1735).[5]
  • Anne Spencer (b. 1746).[5]
  • Joseph Spencer, Jr. (1750–1824),[2] who became a surgeon and served as an aid to his father during the Revolution.[1]
  • Nehemiah Spencer (b. 1752)

After his first wife's death in 1754, he married Hannah (née Brown) Southmaid (1730–1808), with whom he had eight more children, including:[1][5]

  • Isaac Spencer (b. 1759), who served as Connecticut State Treasurer from 1818 to 1835.[5]
  • Jared Spencer (1762–1820), a twin who was a Yale graduate and an attorney who married Ann Green (1768–1855) in 1789.[5]
  • Mary Spencer (b. 1762), a twin who married Turner Miner.[5]
  • Seth Spencer (b. 1765)[5]
  • Hannah Spencer (1767–1843), who married Rev. Ichabod Lord Skinner (1767–1852)[6][7]
  • Betty Spencer (b. 1770), who married Selden Warner.[5]
  • Nehemiah Spencer (1772–1839), who married Betsey Swan (d. 1853)[8]

Spencer died on January 13, 1789 in East Haddam and was buried in Millington Cemetery west of the Millington Green section of East Haddam near where he lived. Later he and his wife were re-interred at the Nathan Hale Park of East Haddam and a monument was erected in his honor.[3]


His granddaughter through his son Joseph, Elizabeth Spencer, was married to General Lewis Cass (1782–1866), had been governor of the Michigan Territory and a United States senator from the state of Michigan, and served as secretary of state under President James Buchanan.[5] 5 time Great-Grandchildren James M Reed, Esq, Director & Shareholder Hall Estill, Tulsa OK, Nancy (Reed) Stanton, Macomb, MI & Larry R, Reed, US Immigration Customs Enforcement, Retired.


  1. ^ a b c d Whittelsey, Charles Barney. "Historical Sketch of Joseph Spencer - Sons of the American Revolution, Connecticut". Historian Society of the Sons of the Revolution in the State of Connecticut. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  2. ^ a b Daughters of the American Revolution (1897). Lineage Book - National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Daughters of the American Revolution. p. 227. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e "SPENCER, Joseph - Biographical Information". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  4. ^ "To George Washington from Major General Joseph Spencer, 11 July 1777". Founders Online. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Niles, Hosford Buel (1887). The Old Chimney Stacks of East Haddam, Middlesex County, Connecticut. Lowe & Company, Book and Job Printers. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  6. ^ Fernald, Natalie R. (May 1904). The Genealogical Exchange, Volumes 1-7. p. 26. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  7. ^ Loomis, Elias (1880). The Descendants (by the Female Branches) of Joseph Loomis: Who Came from Braintree, England, in the Year 1638, and Settled in Windsor, Connecticut in 1639. Tuttle, Morehouse and Taylor. p. 121. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  8. ^ Bailey, Frederic William (1896). Early Connecticut Marriages as Found on Ancient Church Records Prior to 1800. Genealogical Publishing Com. p. 85. ISBN 9780806300078. Retrieved 22 September 2017.

External linksEdit