GenMassachusetts-L ArchivesArchiver > GenMassachusetts > 1999-10 > 0940464115
Subject: [GM-L] Rev. War Journal by Amos Farnsworth of Groton, MA (cited in 3 books)
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 20:01:55 EDT
Amos Farnsworth kept a journal of his experiences in the Revolutionary War.
I transcribed the Journal and submit it in full below.
Gregory T. Edgar, author of "Reluctant Break with Britain" pub. 1997 by
Books, Inc. (and who autographed my sister, Nancy's copy thusly: "To Nancy
Farnsworth Morin, Nice to meet another descendant of our patriots." Signed:
Gregory T. Edgar, Feb. 22., 1997.
He give the Journal mention in his book, as follows:
p.252 "The estimate of American casualties appears to be confirmed by other
sources, including the diary of one of the participants, Amos Farnsworth:
was not a man of us kil(l)ed. Surely God has a favor towards us. Thanks be
unto God that so little hurt was done us when the balls sung like bees around
p.259 "William Prescott (aged) 49, had a commanding presence about him, he led
men with his quiet but forceful personality, he did not act rashly like
As a lieutenant in the provincial forces under Howe back in 1759, during the
on Nova Scotia's Louisbourg fortress, Prescott's courage, coolness under fire,
and leadership abilities had caught the attention of the British Officers.
offered a commission in the British Army, a rare compliment for a colonist.
refused it and returned to his farm in Pepperell, MA. Later when war against
Britain appeared iminent, he accepted a position as colonel of the local
began drilling the farmers. His sister married a Tory and was very concerned
her brother being taken in arms by the British and because of it losing his
and his life and hung for treason. Prescott's brother-in-law, Abijah
him shortly before the war started at Lexington, to tell him of his sister's
Prescott answered by stating his position firmly: "It is probable that I will
in arms. But I will never be taken alive." "The Tories will never have the
of seeing me hanged." Among those going with Colonel Prescott was Amos
Farnsworth who noted in his Journal:
"Friday, June 16. Nothing done in the forenoon. In the afternoon we had
to be ready to march. At six, agreable to orders, our regiment preadid
and about sunset we was drawn up and herd prayers; and about dusk marched
for Bunker's Hill under command of our own Col. Prescott." (my note: they
Amos Farnsworth's Journal appears complete in the new book published recenly
by author, Elinor Skeate: The History of the Founders of Groton,
Book Two; pp 88 to 90 - and is a transcription by myself, Janice Farnsworth
And I have her autographed message in my copy: "Thanks for your help, Janice,
Elinor F. Skeate."
Subj: Rev. War Journal of Amos Farnsworth of Groton, MA
Subject: FARNSWORTH, Amos Jr.
His Journal of the Revolutionary War
Source: Matthias Farnsworth and His Descendants in America
A Monograph by Claudius Buchanan Farnsworth (of Pawtucket, R.I)
Published privately by the author 1891
Benjamin Farnsworth/Mary Prescott Line: Groton, MA 1600s
Amos Farnsworth Jr. was the ninth child of Amos Farnsworth and wife,
Lydia Longley of Groton, MA.
Amos Farnsworth Jr. was born April 28, 1754. In 1774 he united him-
self with a company of Minute Men organized in Groton, MA under the
command of Capt. Henry Farwell, for the defence of popular rights.
On the 19th day of April 1775 word was broght to Groton of the advance
of the British troops, "Regulars" upon Lexington and Concord. The
company was immediately called upon to meet these "British Regulars,"
though it consisted only of young farmers collected from the fields.
He joined his company and marched that night, expecting to meet the
enemy at Concord. But they were too late to participate in the fight
which took place that day, as the news of the advance of the Regulars
did not reach Groton until their retreat toward Boston. Amos Farns-
worth kept a diary at that time.
Diary of Amos Farnsworth, Jr.
"We marched and came there (to Concord) where some had been killed.
Pulled on and came to Lexington, where much hurt was done to the
houses by breaking glass and burning of many houses, but they were
forced to retreat though they were more numerous than we. And I saw
many dead Regulars by the way. Went into a house where the blood was
half over shoes..
Thursday April 20, 1775
Came to Cambridge in the forenoon. There were some men wanted to go
to Charlestown. I went, for one, and viewed the Regulars and found
they were intrenching on Charlestown Hill.
Friday, May ye 26.
At night I and about ten of our company marched with a party of men,
betwixt two and three hundred, for Noddle's Island, headed by Col.
Nixon. We marched through Mystic, Malden and Chelsea.
Saturday May ye 27.
Went on Hog Island and brought off six horses, twenty-seven horned
cattle and four hundred and eleven sheep. About the middle of the
afternoon went from Hog Island to Noddle's Island and set one house
and barn on fire. Killed some horses and cattle; brought off two or
three cows; one horse. I with five men got off the horse and before
we got from Noddle's Island to Hog Island we were fired upon by a
privateer schooner; but we crossed the river and about fifteen of us
squatted down in a ditch on the marsh and stood our ground; and there
came a company of Regulars on the march on the other side of the river
and the schooner, and we had a hot fire until the Regulars retreated.
But not withstanding the bullets flew very thick not a man of us (was)
killed. Surely God has a favor towards us, and he can save in one
place as well as another. We left the Island about sunset and came to
Chelsea and on Saturday about ten at night marched to Winnisimet ferry
where there was a schooner and a sloop afiring with great fury upon us
there; but thanks be to God that gave us the victory at this time for
through his Providence the schooner that played upon us ran aground
and we set fire to her and consumed her there, and the sloop received
much damage in this engagement. We had not a man killed; but four
wounded and we hope all will recover. One of the four was a Townsend
man belonging to our company. The bullet went through his mouth from
one cheek to the other.
Thursday June ye 1.
There were sheep and cattle and horses we hear, to ye amount of four
or five hundred sheep, twenty or thirty cattle and a number of horses
brought along that our people took from the Regulars off Noddle's
Friday, June 16.
Nothing done in ye forenoon. In the afternoon we had orders to be
ready to march at six. Agreeable to orders our regiment paraded and
about sunset we were drawn up and had prayers and about dusk marched
for Bunker Hill under command of our own Colonel William Prescott. Just
before we turned out of the road to go up Bunker's Hill, Charlestown,
we were halted, and about sixty men were taken out of our battalion to
go into Charlestown, I being one of them. Capt. Nutting (probably
Capt. John Nutting of Pepperell, captain of a company of "minute men"
from that place) headed us down to the town house. We set our sentin-
els by the water side. The most of us got in the town house but had
orders not to shut our eyes. Our men marched to Bunker Hill and begun
the entrenchments and carried it on with the utmost vigor all night.
Early in the morning I joined them.
Saturday June ye 17.
The enemy appeared to be much alarmed on Saturday morning when they
discovered our operations and immediately began a heavy cannonading
from a battery on Cop(p)'s Hill, Boston and from the ships in ye
harbor. We with little loss continued to carry on our work till ten
o'clock when we discovered a large body of the enemy crossing Charles
River from Boston. They landed on a point of land about a mile east-
ward of our entrenchment and immediately disposed their army for an
attack, previous to which they set fire to the town of Charlestown.
It is supposed that the enemy intended to attack us under the cover of
the smoke from the burning houses: the wind favoring them in such a
design; while on the other side their army was extending northward
towards Mystic river with an apparent design of surrounding our men
in the works and of cutting off any assistance intended for our relief.
They were, however, in some measure counteracted in this design, and
drew their army into closer order. As the enemy approached our men
were not only exposed to the attack of a very numerous muquetry but
to a heavy fire from the battery on Cop(p)'s Hill, 4 or 5 men of war,
several armed boats or floating batteries in Mystic River, and a numb-
er of field pieces. Notwithstanding we within the entrenchment and at
a breastwork within sustained the enemy's attacks with real bravery
and resolution. Killed and wounded great numbers, and repulsed them
several times; and after bearing for about two hours as severe and
heavy a fire as perhaps ever was known, and many having fired away all
their amunition, and having no reinforcement although there was a
great body of men nie by, we were overpowered by numbers and obliged
to leave the intrenchment, retreating about sunset to a small distance
until the enemy had got in. I then retreated about ten or fifteen rods.
Then I received a wound in my right arm, the ball going through a little
below the elbow, breaking the little shell bone. Another ball struck
my back, taking off a piece of skin about as big as a penny; but I got
to Cambridge that night.
The town of Charlestown I supposed to contain about 300 dwelling houses
a great number of which were large and elegant, besides 150 or 200
other buildings (these) are almost laid in ashes by the barbarity and
wanton cruelty of that infernal villain Thomas Gage. Oh! the goodness
of God in preserving my life though they fell on my right hand and on
my left. I was in great pain the first night with my wound.
Sunday June 18.
I and Phineas Hubbard came to Mr. Watsons.
Monday June 19.
Mr. Hubbard and I set out for home. Came as far as Lincoln; met our
honored fathers. Got as far as Concord that night.
Tuesday, June 20. We got home.
Note: Here he makes a memorandum that for a considerable time past, he
could not keep up his journal on account of the wound in his arm but
under date of August 14, he says:
"Now I begin to write a littel;" and he proceeds: "Monday August 14.
Set out for Cambridge got there that day: found our company pretty
well." From that day to August 24 nothing of interest is recorded.
On that day he says:
"About twelve o'clock I had my arm dressed. Dr. Hart opened it nigh
two inches down to the bone. About 3 in the afternoon Col. William
Prescott (his cousin) gave orders to march to Sewell's Point and they
marched, but I did not go with them because of my wound."
He remained with the army at Cambridge until Oct. 27 and his diary
contains a record of the doings, in which, in consequence of his wound,
he was an actor only to a limited extent. On that day he was furlough-
ed and sent home, when it was found that in addition to his wound he
had camp fever. He recovered however, but was unable again to return
to the army at Cambridge. I have not thought proper to change a word
of this simple record of what was done under his observation and of
the acts in which he was a participant from the 19th of April to the
17th of June, 1775. His words are better than mine. (Claudius Farns-
Much that Amos Farnsworth observed was not commited to his diary and
this writer remembers listening as a boy to his reminiscences of Bunker
Hill and other acts in the Revolutionary drama in which he was an act-
or. Among other things I heard him say that as the troops under
Colonel Prescott were leaving the entrenchment at Bunker Hill they met
General Putnam who, with a large body of men had remained "nie by", as
Amos Farnsworth expressed it in his diary, but had not participated in
the battle. Amos Farnsworth was very near the two commanders and
distinctly hear the conversation between them. Colonel Prescott began
by sharply asking General Putnam why he had not sent up reinforcements
as he had promised. Putnam answered that he "could not drive the
damned dogs up." To this Colonel Prescott hotly responded: "Then why
did you not lead them up? They would have followed you."
Note: This conversation is re-iterated word for word in the memoirs
of Colonel William Prescott as reported in the Prescott Memorial.
On Tuesday, Dec. 5, 1775, Amos Farnsworth's father and his brother
Benjamin were both drowned by the upsetting of a boat in the Nashua
River, near where they lived and the whole care of the family devolved
on him. Yet, in spite of his wounded and weak arm and the state of the
family, the next year, in the summer of 1776, he volunteered to go to
the defence of Ticonderoga in Colonel Reed's regiment that was raised
in the neighborhood of Groton (MA) for that purpose. He had served
as a corporal at Bunker Hill. He had done so well that he was made an
ensign, equivalent to a second lieutenant, in that expedition. He went
into service in Col. Reed's expedition on the 23d of July and returned
home at the close of the year with his men. While at Ticonderoga he
was engaged in several affairs with the British which he briefly relates
in his journal, but which are not of sufficient interest to repeat here.
He was afterwards while holding a commision as first lieutenant in a
company of Matrosses (commanded by William Swan) in Colonel Jonathan
Reed's regiment, sent with some troops to New Jersey, where notwith-
standing his weak arm, he performed effective service by his bravery
and judgement and by his care of his men, with whom he was always
His first commission as ensign or second lieutenant was in the infantry.
His next commission was in the artillery or "Matrosses" as that branch
of the service was called. His commission as first lieutenant is in
the name of "The Major Part of the Council of Massachusetts Bay in New
England," as the State government had not then been organized, and
Massachusetts was then under an ex tempore government. His commission
as first lieutenant is as follows: Official Document...
State of Massachusetts Bay - The Major Part of the Council of Massa-
chusetts Bay in New England.
SEAL To Amos Farnsworth, Gentleman, Greeting.
"You being appointed First Lieutenant of a company of Matrosses
commanded by William Swan raised in the Sixth Regiment of Militia
in the County of Middlesex wherof Jonathan Reed Esquire is Colonel
to rank as Captain, By Virtue of the Power vested in us, We do by
these Presents (reposing specail Trust and Confidence in your Loyalty,
Courage and good Conduct,) Commission you accordingly. You are there-
fore carefully and deligently to discharge the Duty of a First Lieut.
in leading, ordering, and exercising said Company in Arms, both infer-
ior Officers and Soldiers; and to keep them in good Order and Disipline
And they are hereby commanded to obey you as their first Lieut., and
you are yourself, to observe and follow such Orders and instructions
as you shall from time to time receive from the Major Part of the
Council or your Superior Officers.
Given under our Hands and the Seal of the said State at Boston the
Nineteenth Day of October in the Year of our Lord, 1778.
By the Command of the Major Part of the Council
John Avery, Deputy Secretary
After the close of the war, he was commissioned as "Captain of a
company of Matrosses in the Brigade of Militia in the County of
Middlesex." That company is the old Groton Artillery Company. The
commission bears the signature of John Hancock as "Governor and
Commander in Chief in and over the Commonwealth of Massachusetts."
This company is still in existence. His next commission, signed
by Samuel Adams as Governor, appoints him "Major of a Battalion of
Artillery in the Second Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia
of this Commonwealth comprehending the County of Middlesex," and is
dated July 1, 1794.
The poverty of the people of Massachusetts at the close of the Revolu-
tionary War, and their distress in consequence of it was very great.
Paper money became valueless; many were heavily indebted; taxes were
burdensome; and the way out of their difficulties was obscure. Great
economy in the government was needed and practiced. The military
organizations were reduced to a point lower than was consistent with
with safety. In the year 1786 the "Shay's Rebellion" broke out. The
necessity of having some provision in the laws for the collection of
debts so exasperated some hasty and indebted persons that they did as
has been done in other periods of the world's history, they rebelled.
Job Shattuck of Groton (MA) was one of the leaders in the rebellion.
The cannon of the Groton Artillery Company, then under Major Amos
Farnsworth's command were usually kept in an out-building on his farm.
The first movement made by Shattuck and his associates was one October
night, 1786, to break open the building in which the guns were stored,
drag them across the fields to the Nashua River and pitch them into it,
after which they retired quietly to their homes. The loss of the guns
was learned early the next morning; the course taken with them was
tracked through the frosty grass; they were very soon found, and before
night they were restored to the place from which they had been taken
and a guard was kept over them afterwards until the close of the
Amos Farnsworth had the reputation of being an efficient and very
popular officer. In addition to his military services he was for
several years a deacon of the church of Groton and he served the church
in many business ways until old age diminished his powers. He died
October 29, 1847 at the advanced age of ninety three years and six
months. His wife survived him but a few weeks and died Dec. 11, 1847
aged ninety years.
years.____________________________________________________________________Transcribed by Janice