RJO’s Ancestors in the American Revolution, 1775–1781
I am satisfied that one active campaign, a smart action, and burning of two or three of their towns, will set everything to rights.
This is one of a series of genealogical pages on my ancestors who served in early American wars, including the Pequot War (1637–1638), King Philip’s War (1675–1676), King William’s War (1689–1698), Queen Anne’s War (1702–1713), Dummer’s War (1723–1726) and King George’s War (1744–1745), the French and Indian War (1754–1763), the American Revolution (1775–1781), and Shays’ Rebellion (1786–1787). Ancestors who belonged to the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts (1637– ) are also noted, and an additonal page presents a special essay on Lexington and Concord and the Nineteenth of April.
The American Revolution (1775–1781)
Hostilities began on 19 April 1775 when British troops marched from Boston to confiscate arms being collected by the local population at Concord. Militia companies through much of southern New England had been alarmed during the night and marched to Concord, driving the British troops back to Boston with heavy casualties, and then surrounding the city. The Americans attempted to displace the British from Boston by seizing Charlestown on 17 June 1775, but the British drove them off in the fiercely-fought Battle of Bunker Hill. American troops laid seige to Boston for the next nine months until the British evacuated the city on 17 March 1776. The evacuation of Boston ended the New England phase of the Revolution, but the war continued in many other theaters until the final surrender of Britain’s Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781. Paul Revere’s Ride by David Hackett Fischer is a brilliant account of the opening of the Revolution and of the Lexington Alarm which was answered by most of those listed below.
EBENEZER BURGESS (23 Sep 1714–21 Dec 1807) — 6G Grandfather
At more than 60 years of age, Ebenezer Burgess of Harvard served as a “Private, Capt. Joseph Fairbanks’s co., Col. Asa Whetcomb’s regt., which marched on the alarm of April 19, 1775, to Cambridge; left place of rendezvous April 20, 1775; service, 2 days” [MSSWR 2: 833].
SIMEON DODGE (26 Mar 1755–25 Dec 1827) — 4G Grandfather
There are two entries in MSSWR [4: 837–838] that appear to refer to this Simeon Dodge, although it is possible the two entries pertain to two different people. The first entry is: “DODGE, SIMEON, Beverly. Private, Lieut. Peter Shaw’s co. of Minute-men, which marched on the alarm of April 19, 1775; service, 2 days.” The second entry is (with square brackets in the original): “DODGE, SIMEON, Beverly. Return of men raised to serve in the Continental Army from Capt. Larkin Thorndike’s, Capt. John Woodbury’s, and Capt. Joseph R[ae]’s 1st, 2d, and 3d, cos. in Beverly, dated Beverly, Feb. 13, 1778; residence, Beverly; engaged for town of Beverly; joined Capt. Billy Porter’s co., Col. Francis’s regt; term, 3 years; said Dodge reported as belonging to 2d Beverly co.; also, Private, Capt. Billy Porter’s co., Col. Benjamin Tupper’s regt.; Continental Army pay accounts for service from Feb. 13, 1777, to Dec. 31, 1779; also, Capt. Billy Porter’s co., Col. Ebenezer Francis’s regt.; subsistence allowed from date of enlistment, Feb. 13, , to time of arrival at Bennington; credited with 40 days allowance; company to march March 12 ; also, Capt. Porter’s co., Col. Benjamin Tupper’s regt.; muster roll for Jan., 1779, dated West Point; also, same co. and regt.; Continental Army pay accounts for service from Jan. 1, 1780, to Feb. 13, 1780.” The Dodge genealogy reports that at Lexington and Concord he was one of those “following the British back to Boston. The pursuit was close, and he saved his life by taking refuge in a cellar” [Dodge 97].
ZACHARIAH FITCH (1 Apr 1734–2 Sep 1820) — 3G Grandfather
Zechariah Fitch of Groton served as a “1st Lieutenant, Capt. Henry Farwell’s co. of Minute-men, Col. William Prescott’s regt., which marched on the alarm of April 19, 1775; service, 11 days; also, Captain, Col. Samuel Brewer’s regt.; engaged Aug. 3, 1776; service, 1 mo. 28 days; also, same regt.; pay abstract for mileage from Ticonderoga home, dated Dec.,—, 1776” [MSSWR 5: 739].
JOB SHATTUCK (11 Feb 1735/6–13 Jan 1819) — 5G Grandfather
Job Shattuck was 1st lieutenant in Capt. Josiah Sartell’s company of Massachusetts militia at the Lexington Alarm, 19 April 1775 [Hambrick-Stowe and Smerlas 60]. (Or in Capt. Asa Lawrence’s company according to Shattuck .) He was later 1st lieutenant in Capt. Henry Haskell’s company of Col. William Prescott’s 10th Regiment at the battle of Bunker Hill, 17 June 1775 (certificate of merit signed by Prescott). He was commissioned Captain 12 February 1776, and served thereafter in the 7th company of Col. John Robinson’s Regiment, Col. Jonathan Reed’s Regiment, Gen. Brickett’s Brigade. Saratoga Campaign: 2nd Co., Col. Jonathan Reed’s 6th Mass Regiment from 16 July 1776 to close of the war. Butler  reports his service as follows: “February 25, 1776, he received a captain’s commission from the Council of Massachusetts, for a short time only, ending on the first of April following. Under this commission, he marched with a company of seventy-five men, exclusive of subalterns and musicians, to Boston, about the time that town was evacuated by the British troops. This service lasted only eight days. In 1776, he commanded a company raised in Groton and the neighboring towns, and marched with them to Ticonderoga and Saratoga, and returned in January, 1777. In July, 1779, he received a captain’s commission from the Council of Massachusetts, of the second company in the sixth regiment of Massachusetts militia, which office, it is supposed, he held till the peace.” “During the whole period of the revolution,” Shattuck writes [122–123],
he spent much time and money, performed very important public services, and at all times exhibited great bravery, energy, and self-sacrificing patriotism. On one occasion, in 1780, finding it difficult to obtain men, he consented that his two sons should volunteer for the service, notwithstanding the demand for labor upon his farm. Ezekiel went to Rhode Island; Job, Jr. went to West Point, and was there when Arnold deserted and André was executed. The father’s conduct on this occasion was so highly approved, that his townsmen “made a bee,” by which some thirty men reaped and gathered about 400 bushels of rye in one day.
SARAH (HARTWELL) SHATTUCK (19 Mar 1738–5 May 1798) — 5G Grandmother
Sarah (Hartwell) Shattuck, the wife of Job Shattuck, “was one of those patriotic women known in her neighborhood as ‘Mrs. David Wright’s Guard.’ A few days after the 19th of April, 1775, it was expected that Leonard Whiting of Hollis, N.H., a noted tory, would pass through Pepperell to Groton; and a number of noble women, partly clothed in their absent husbands’ apparel, and armed with muskets, pitchforks, and such other weapons as they could find, collected at the bridge over the Nashua River, between these two towns, now known as Jewett’s Bridge. They elected Mrs. Wright as their commander; and resolved that no foe to freedom should pass that bridge. Soon Whiting appeared, and he was immediately arrested and searched; and despatches from Canada to the British in Boston were found in his boots. He was taken to the house of Solomon Rogers in the neighborhood, and there detained, securely guarded by the women over night. He was afterwards conducted to Groton, and the treasonable correspondence was forwarded to the Committee of Safety” [Shattuck 130–131].
SOLOMON WOODS (29 Aug 1747–3 May 1783) — 5G Grandfather
The entry in MSSWR [17: 852–53] for Solomon Woods reads as follows (with square brackets in the original): “WOODS, SOLOMON. Sergeant, Capt. Josiah Sartell’s co., which marched on the alarm of April 19, 1775, from Groton to headquarters at Cambridge; service, 3 days; also, 2d Lieutenant, Capt. Shattuck Blood’s 2d (2d Groton) co., 6th Middlesex Co. regt. of Mass. militia; list of officers chosen by the several companies in said regiment, as returned by Jonathan Reed and others, field officers; ordered in Council April 24, 1776, that said officers be commissioned; reported commissioned April 24, 1776; also, 2d Lieutenent, Capt. Job Shattuck’s (2d) co., 6th Middlesex Co. regt. of Mass. militia; list of officers [year not given]; also, receipt dated April—, 1781, for bounty paid Eleazer Green, Jr., by said Woods, Lieutenant, and Class No. 7 of the town of Groton to serve in the Continental Army for the term of 3 years.”
JOSIAH BLOOD (20 Jan 1716/7–Sep 1776) — 6G Grandfather
Died at Fort Ticonderoga, or perhaps at Mount Independence in what is now Orwell, Vermont, on the opposite shore of Lake Champlain, in September 1776. According to Harris [24–25], “Josiah had volunteered in July 1776, joining a regiment of NH Volunteers sent to reinforce the army in Canada. In consequence of the retreat of the continental troops from Canada this regiment went no further north than Ticonderoga. Josiah was not a young man, but in his 60th year when the rigors of war proved too much for him and he succumbed to the ‘feaver and Ague’ shortly after sending this appeal:
‘Camp Mount Independence 4th Sept 1776
‘Loving wife and children,
‘I take this opportunity to inform you that I am in something of low circumstances of health at present and by reason of old age I find myself unable to undergo the fatigues of a campaign therefore I entreat that you would hire a man and send up to take my place as soon as possible & furnish him with a horse so that I may ride home if God should be pleased to spare my life so long. The man that takes my place may have the use of my gun and accoutrements during the term I engaged for. Pray spare no pains or money and I will see that it is paid or order the same paid as my life is at stake if I continue here long. There is no prospect but the army will remain here till our enlistments are out. It is a sickly time at present with the feaver and Ague. So committing myself with my concerns to God and desiring your prayers for me I remain your loving husband and affectionate father till death.
JOB SHATTUCK, Jr. (10 Dec 1758–4 May 1827) — 4G Grandfather
The son of Job and Sarah (Hartwell) Shattuck, he was at West Point at the time Arnold deserted [Shattuck 122–123]. His entry in MSSWR [14: 25] reads as follows: “SHATTUCK, JOB (also given JOB, Jr.). List of 6 months men raised agreeable to resolve of June 5, 1780, returned as received of Maj. Joseph Hosmer, Superintendant for Middlesex Co., by Justin Ely, Commissioner, dated Springfield, Aug. 6, 1780; also, descriptive list of men raised to reinforce the Continental Army for the term of 6 months, agreeable to resolve of June 5, 1780, returned as received of Justin Ely, Commissioner, by Brig. Gen. John Glover, at Springfield, July 8, 1780; age, 21 yrs.; stature, 5ft. 8 in.; complexion, dark; engaged for town of Groton; marched to camp July 8, 1780, under command of Ebenezer Kent; also, pay roll for 6 months men raised by the town of Groton for service in the Continental Army during 1780; marched June 26, 1780; discharged Jan. 1, 1781; service, 6 mos. 18 days, travel (220 miles) included.”
There is some confusion between a father and son both named Thomas Cummings; one or both of them had Revolutionary service from Westford, Massachusetts, but more work is needed to establish the details.
JOSIAH DAVIS (24 May 1753–31 Dec 1837) — 3G Grandfather
Further work is needed to confirm the role of this Josiah Davis, but he is probably the Josiah Davis who served from Townsend in Capt. Henry Farwell’s company of Col. William Prescott’s regiment.
JAMES PRATT (1739?–14 May 1784) — 4G Grandfather
Apparently had service in the Continental Army from Lancaster, Massachusetts, but there may have been two James Pratts in Lancaster at the time and their records may be confused.
THOMAS READ (6 Feb 1732/3– ) — 5G Grandfather
Service from Westford, Massachusetts.
- Butler, Caleb. 1848. History of the Town of Groton, Including Pepperell and Shirley, from the First Grant of Groton Plantation in 1655. Boston: T.R. Marvin.
- Dodge, Joseph Thompson. [n.d.] Genealogy of the Dodge Family of Essex County, Mass., 1629–1894. Madison, Wisconsin: Democrat Publishing Company. [Facsimile edition published by the Dodge Family Association with new pagination.]
- Fischer, David Hackett. 1995. Paul Revere’s Ride. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Gross, Robert A. (ed.). 1993. In Debt to Shays: The Bicentennial of an Agrarian Rebellion. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.
- Hambrick-Stowe and Smerlas
- Hambrick-Stowe, Charles E., and Donna D. Smerlas (eds.). 1976. Massachusetts Militia Companies and Officers in the Lexington Alarm. Boston: Society of Colonial Wars in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
- Harris, Roger Deane. 1960. The Story of the Bloods. Privately published.
- Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the War of the Revolution.
- Shattuck, Lemuel. 1855. Memorials of the Descendants of William Shattuck. Boston: Dutton and Wentworth.
© RJO 1995–2016