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A Soldier's Declaration of Independence

Text by James Leamon
Professor Emeritus, Bates College

Images from Maine Historical Society

In many ways, William Bayley of Falmouth (Portland) remains a mystery. He and his father, John Bayley, signed indenture papers in 1774 for William to become a joyner's apprentice. But only a few years later, William Bayley left the apprenticeship to become a soldier in the Continental Army.

Most of what is known about his war service is revealed in letters he wrote to his mother, Jean Bayley, then a widow. Only one of her letters to him survives.

Bayley's letters suggest the hardships his mother faced when he and her other sons went away, as well as the hardships -- lack of pay and lack of supplies -- soldiers encountered. Even more, Bayley's letters suggest how a soldier declared his own form of independence from his hometown.