Beriah Howard was born June 26, 1758 in Sturbridge, Massachusetts to Benjamin Howard (1727-1794) and Hannah Briggs Howard (1698-1776). He was the second son and fourth child of thirteen children. The Sons of the American Revolutionary War application describes Beriah as being five feet seven inches tall with a ruddy complexion and dark hair and eyes.
At just over eighteen years old, Beriah’s first served beginning about September 10, 1776 when he joined troops under Captain Gideon Birt and Colonel Howe. His unit joined the army under General Washington they marched toward White Plains and encountered British troops.
The British forces under General William Howe had recently forced the retreat of the Continental Army from Long Island and then from Manhattan. General Washington withdrew the army further north to White Plains and prepared defensive positions. On October 28, 1776, the British attacked. The battle is considered to be a draw with neither side winning. However, General Washington moved the army further north and the British did not immediately follow. At the end of the battle the army camped north of White Plains. Upon his mother’s death, he was verbally discharged in November 1776 and went home.
After about a year, he again served for five months and 11 days from January 20, 1778 until July 1, 1778 in Colonel Elisha Porter’s Hampshire County Regiment of Militia. His company lead by Captain John Morgan was detached to guard stores and magazines at the towns of Brookfield and Springfield, Massachusetts.
Again, after about another year he served from July 22, 1779 until August 25, 1779, under the command of Captain John Birt. Their unit went to New London, Connecticut guarding stores and provisions before being verbally discharged.
Beriah volunteered again on July 16, 1780 and went under Captain Joseph Browning to West Point on the Hudson River where he was part of the fort’s garrison. West Point at that time was under the command of General Benedict Arnold. During this time he was among a number of troops who were ordered to leave the fort and chop wood for making coal. This was part of General Arnold’s plan to weaken the fort’s defenses before the General handed the fort over to the British. On September 21, 1780, General Arnold had met with British Major John Andre and agreed to turn over West Point. Fortunately, the plot was quickly discovered and foiled. Major Andre was captured, tried, and then hanged as a spy on October 2, 1780.
In June 1781, he volunteered as a substitute for Aaron Ferry and served for a period of seven months in the Militia. He served as a teamster under Captain Metcalf and went from Springfield to Dobb’s Ferry and then to Singsing where he was under the command of Colonel Sheldon.
Beriah’s service is typical of many patriots. They served multiple times but rarely during planting or harvesting seasons.