John Ledyard Bold Adventurer PART TWO

Life after Dartmouth.

When we last visited John Ledyard, he was embarking on a journey down the Connecticut River, from Hanover, New Hampshire to Hartford Connecticut.  It was early Spring, and he was wearing a bearskin, riding in a fifty-foot homemade dugout canoe.

                                                Portrait of John Ledyard

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 As he floated down the river, Ledyard was reading a book, unaware that he was approaching Bellows Falls.  Suddenly, he heard the rushing water, saw the rocks and narrow passage.  He may have died right then and there, however, fate was on his side.  He managed to steer his canoe to shore in time to miss the falls.  Upon reaching shore, he met some people who were amazed at what he was attempting.  Luck was with Ledyard, and the people he met had his canoe pulled around the falls by a team of oxen.

                    1700’s map showing Hartford and the Connecticut River 

Through a combination of luck and skill, John Ledyard  made it to Hartford, and was greeted by a very surprised grandfather, and other spectators who were surprised by the sight of him in the canoe.  His grandfather had received no advance notice about John leaving his studies.  He had however, received letters from Eleazar Wheelock describing John Ledyard’s poor record with regard to attendance and lack of diligence in his studies.

                       Eleazar Wheelock, founder of Dartmouth College 

From Hartford, John Ledyard wandered around Connecticut and then continued on to Long Island, all the while visiting with ministers of the faith, and continuing to explore the possibility of going into theology.  However, he was not very successful in that area, and he decided he would follow in his father’s footsteps and go to sea.  John Ledyard’s father had been a sea captain in the West Indies trade, and had died at age thirty-five.

                            20th century map showing The West Indies

His father had a friend, Captain Devon who hired John as a common sailor on a voyage to the Mediterranean Sea.  Although he set out as a common sailor, was treated more like a friend of the Captain.

         The Strait of Gibraltar,  western entrance to the   Mediterranean Sea

They were to pick up a cargo of mules on the Barbary Coast, and return via the West Indies.  While anchored at Gibraltar, Ledyard left and enlisted as a soldier in the British Army.  Captain Devon found him, and reasoned with him, and the British Army released him to go back on board ship.  Within a year from when he departed New England, he had seen southern Europe, the North African coast, and the West Indies.  Soon he was back in Connecticut, with some knowledge and experience as a sailor.

                                                  London, England

At this point John Ledyard was 22 and basically broke.  He decided he would travel to London and search for some wealthy relatives.  In London, he was able to find a wealthy relative, but they did not believe his story and asked for a letter of recommendation.  Ledyard became indignant, and later, when the relative changed his mind about the need for a letter of recommendation, and even sent money to John, Ledyard refused the money and the meeting.

Captain James Cook

It was at this time that John Ledyard found himself enlisting with the famous Captain Cook for Cook's third and final voyage around the world.  John Ledyard's life was about to become very interesting!

The Ledyard Bridge in a simpler time

Photos courtesy of Dartmouth College Libraries.

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For Part One of this story, go to:

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