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Subject: Chelmsford at the Battle of Bunker Hill - Hist. of Chelmsford by Rev. W. Waters.
Date: Wed, 19 Jul 2006 22:26:01 EDT
Chelmsford at the Battle of Bunker Hill
Source: History of Chelmsford, Massachusetts by Rev. Wilson Waters, M.A.,
Printed by the Courier-Citizen Company, Lowell, Massachusetts, 1917.
Chelmsford men took a prominent part in the battle of Bunker Hill on June
It was on the previous day that Capt. John Ford volunteered to carry from
to Bunker Hill a message from General Artemas Ward. It was necessary in
ing this to pass within range of the British guns while crossing Charlestown
Realizing his peril, General Ward ordered him to dismount and cross on foot,
to escape observation. "But he ran the risk, and passed and repassed on
While at Bunker Hill he warned Colonel Prescott that from the movements of
enemy it was evident that they were preparing to attack the Americans upon
hill and urged the necessity of immediately casting up breastworks and
"When the dawn of light revealed to the astonished Britishers the American
on Breed's Hill, Captain Ford, who was now in command of the Chelmsford
which consisted of sixty men, was stationed with the army at Cambridge under
Artemas Ward. When the preparations for the battle began, the gallant
who had no taste for inactivity, obtained permission from General Ward to
draw his company privately and march directly to the scene of action, to
force the troops. They marched across Charlestown Neck, which was being
cannon from the British ships (a tradition given by Deacon Otis Adams is that
some wavered and one or two turned back) and were proceeding down Bunker Hill
when they were met by General Putnam, who ordered Captain Ford with his
to draw the cannon, which had been deserted by Capt. Callender, and left at
foot of the hill, into the line. The Captain at first remonstrated on the
ground that his company were ignorant of the management of artillery, many
having never seen a cannon before, but finally obeyed and moved with the
and the General himself to the rail fence which they reached just before the
began." It was here that Joseph Spaulding of Ford's Company, being unable
strain his impetuosity, began the battle by firing the first gun.
It was from the hand of General Putnam that he received a blow on the head
and the General threatened to cut down with his sword the next offender who
to risk the waste of another musket charge. It is related that Spaulding
declared that he killed Major Pitcairn, and Farmer's Geneological Register so
states. It is thus recorded in the Chelmsford church records. He may have
at the Major, who, having been twice wounded, again placed himself at the
his forces, and fell with four musket balls in his body. He did not die on
Capt. Knowlton and the Connecticut troops were also stationed with Colonel
the New Hampshire troops at this part of the defences. The right wing of
army, under General Howe, was directed against the rail fence for the
turning the flank of the Americans, and cutting off their retreat from the
As the enemy advanced to the attack, the artillery manned by a portion of
company opened upon them with great effect, some of the shots being directed
Putnam himself. The muskets were ordered to reserve their fire until the
within forty yards, and again, until the whites of the enemies' eyes could
It was at this time that Spaulding and then some others fired, while the
to destroy the fence which obstructed their advance. When the word was
fowling-pieces mowed down their victims with fatal celerity and the enemy
to retreat, "leaving on the ground," as Colonel Stark related, "where but
before the mowers had swung the scythe in peace, the dead as thick as sheep
in a fold."
When upon the third assault of the enemy the fortunes of the day were
the Americans were obliged to retreat from the redoubt, the force at the
where some reinforcements had been received, maintained their ground with
ness and intrepidity, and successfully resisted every attempt to turn their
This line indeed was nobly defended. The force here did great service, for
the main body, who were retreating in disorder from the
p.227 THE WAR OF THE REVOLUTION.
redoubt, from being cut off by the enemy. When it was perceived that the
under Colonel William Prescott had left the hill, these brave men gave
with more regularity than could have been expected of troops who had been no
under discipline. Captain Ford behaved with great spirit in the engagement.
Thirteen men of his company were wounded. Benjamin Pierce (afterward General
Pierce and the father of President Pierce) was a member of his company. He
wards related that when Putnam ordered Ford to man the cannon, the latter
ed his company in a very animated, patriotic and brave strain, which was
istic of the man." The men then seized the drag-ropes and drew the cannon
rail fence. One of these pieces burst after being fired eleven times. The
continued until all the ammunition was spent.
There is a tradition that, when the first man in Ford's Company fell, his
rades, then for the first time under fire, were seized with panic; but
one of Ford's officers began to sing "Old Hundred" in a firm voice and this
reassured the men that they gave no further sign of panic. It is related
just as the ammunition of the Americans was exhausted and orders were given
retreat, a British officer mounted the breastworks and with a flourish of his
sword, exclaimed, "Now my boys, we have you." Hearing this, Captain Colburn
Dracut, Mass., picked up a stone, about the size of a hen's egg, and,
it with all his might, hit the officer in the forehead, knocking him down
wards. The Captain and his men then hastily retreated with the rest of the
From a Paper by Miss Josephine H. Earl.
Capt. Ford's company belonged to the regiment of Col. Ebenezer Bridge. This
ment on the morning of the battle of Bunker Hill had not yet left their
Cambridge. It shows the impatient disposition of the man that becoming
restive at the
delay, he gained permission to lead forth his company alone and proceeded to
Hill. It is related by one of his historians that while at Bunker Hill, the
the battle, Capt. Ford warned General Prescott that it was evident that the
were preparing to attack the Americans upon the hill and urged the necessity
immediately throwing up a breastworks. Prescott, who had not feared such an
yielded to the persuasion of Capt. Ford and before morning, the
completed without which the Americans could not have held their ground or
immortal glory of that day. Mr. Chase in his article pertinently asks,"Is
too much to claim a share of that glory for the brave and sagacious Capt.
John Ford married Sarah Barker of Methuen. They were blessed with eleven
of whom lived to manhood and womanhood. Sarah Ford the eldest, born in
1767 married John Corliss of Chelmsford, afterward of Haverhill, N.H. The
Deborah & Prudence lived unmarried and died on the old homestead. Elisha
Ford who was
a civil engineer spent many years in the service of the Locks and Canals
Co., and helped
to build the Pawtucket bridge, the wooden structure that preceded the
present bridge. He
was captain of the militia of the Town of Chelmsford and represented the
town of Lowell
in the General Court in 1828. John Ford died November 6, 1822 aged 84 years
buried in the Pawtucketville Cemetery.
A return of the company of the 7th Regt. of Militia in the County of
Capt. John Ford, Commissioned June 11, 1775 - Chelmsford.
In a Muster Roll of Capt. John Ford's Company in ye 27th Regt of Foot in the
Army, these officers are given:
John Ford, Captain
Isaac Parker, Lieut.
Jonas Parker, Ensign
Moses Barker, Sergt.
Parker Emerson, Sergt.
Daniel Keyes, Sergt.
Jonas Pierce, Sergt.
John Bats, Corp.
William Chambers, Corp.
William Cambell, Corp.
Benjamin Berritt, Corp.
William Ranstard, Drummer
Barzilar Lew, Fifer
[Massachusetts Archives Vol 55 p. 49.
Return of Capt. John Fords Company in Col. Bridge's Regt
June 15, 1775.
John Ford, Capt.
Isaac Parker Lieut.
Jonas Parker, Ensign.
Men's Names Age Day Inlisted Town they belong to Completion
Sgt. Moses Barker 36 April 25. Dracutt Light
Sgt. Parker Emerson 30 April 25. Chelmsford Fresh
Sgt. Daniel Keyes 37 April 25. Chelmsford Fresh
Sgt. Jonas Pierce 25 April 25. Chelmsford Fresh
Cpl. John Bates 28 April 26. Chelmsford Dark
Cpl. Wm. Chambers 25 April 25. Chelmsford Light
Cpl. Wm. Cambell 37 April 25. Chelmsford Dark
Cpl. Benj. Berret 42 April 25. Chelmsford Light
John Keyes 26 April 25. Chelmsford Fresh
Alex' Davidson 27 April 25. Tewkesby Dark
John Chambers 27 April 26. Chelmsford Light
Samuel Briton 18 April 25. Chelmsford Dark
Moses Barker, Jr. 16 April 25. Dracutt Light
Benjamin Pierce 19 April 26. Chelmsford Light
David Chambers 26 April 27. Chelmsford Light
Ebenezer Shed 25 April 25. Chelmsford Dark
Samuel Wilson 21 April 25 Chelmsford Light
Jonathan Sprague 19 April 25. Chelmsford Light
Nathaniel Foster 20 April 26. Chelmsford Dark
James Dun 23 April 27. Chelmsford Light
Isaiah Foster 22 April 25. Chelmsford Light
Benja. Parker 22 April 27. Chelmsford Dark
Enoch Cleaveland 19 April 27 Chelmsford Light
Benja. Butterfield 18 April 27. Chelmsford Light
Samuel Haywood 17 April 26. Chelmsford Dark
Moses Esterbrooks 30 April 27. Chelmsford Light
Robert Aynger 42 April 28. Billerica Light
Elijah Haselton 25 April 29. Tewksbury Dark
John Glode 25 April 28. Chelmsford Dark
Jesse Dow 21 April 29. Methuen Dark
Joseph Spaulding 20 April 25. Chelmsford Dark
Francis Davidson 23 April 26. Chelmsford Dark
Oliver Cory 18 April 28. Chelmsford Dark
Samuel Marshel 23 April 29. Chelmsford Dark
Joseph Chambers 21 April 26. Chelmsford Dark
Nathaniel Hunt 20 April 29. Tewksbury Dark
Reuben Foster 23 April 27. Chelmsford Light
Joseph Spaulding Jr. 19 April 27. Chelmsford Light
Noah Foster 18 April 27. Chelmsford Light
Jonas Spaulding 19 April 29. Chelmsford Light
Solomon Keyes 23 April 29. Chelmsford Light
Isaac Barret 22 April 25 Chelmsford Light
Benja. Farley 17 April 25. Chelmsford Light
Timothy Adams 18 April 29. Chelmsford Light
Josiah Fletcher 18 April 28. Chelmsford Light
John Parker 20 April 26. Chelmsford Dark
James Chambers 16 May 2. Chelmsford Light
Silas Parker 17 April 29. Chelmsford Light
Benja. Haywood 21 April 28. Chelmsford Light
Robert Richardson 33 May 4. Chelmsford Light
Berzillia Lew 30 May 6. Chelmsford Negro
William Rowell 25 May 6. Sandown Light
William Ranstard 14 May 6. Boston Dark
Thomas Bowkell 25 April 27. Chelmsford Light
William Brown 23 April 25. Dracutt Light
James Alexander 26 April 28. Chelmsford Dark
Solomon Farmer 21 April 28. Chelmsford Dark
William Brown May 29. Enlisted into the Train
James Alexander May 29. Enlisted into the Train
Solomon Farmer May 29. Enlisted into the Train
Thomas Bewkell June 25, 1775, Deserted from camp in Cambridge.
[Massachusetts Archives, Vol. 55. p.54.]
Another roll Vol. 56. p. 179 dated September 25, 1775 has the same names as
Note: Mr. Henry S. Perham once expressed to the write the opinion that the
on the forgoing roll might be erroneously given for Chamberlain.
This was the first enlisted company of Chelmsford men and was stationed at
from April 25, 1775 to February, 1776.
Roll of Chelmsford Minute Men who participated in the
the Battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775.
Capt. Ford, Commander
H. S. Perham, Capt.
J. A. Bartlett, Liet.
J. C. Hobbs, Ensign
Asa H. Webber
Rev. E. FitzGerald,
Sergt. E. G. Nickless,
Sergt. 0. N. Thissell
Robt. Fletcher, Sergt.
c. E. Parkhurst .
Sergt. Isaac Dutton
A. G. Green, Corp.
C. A. Parker
N. P. Dadmun, Corp.
C. H. Hall
E. B. Kittredge, Corp.
Milo J. Proctor, Corp.
Geo. F. Reed
Herbert H. Emerson
J. H. McFarlin
A. C. Thissell
J. H. Willis
John H. Lane
Henry B. Hunt R.
A. W. Allen I
G. W. Butterfield.
E. R. Marshall
C. D. Tichnor
E. H. Warren
Otis Adams, Jr.
Geo. P. Mansfield
A .H. Park
H. F. Ebert
Luther C. Upham
Gee. E. Hall
I. L. Putnam
Willie Adams, Fifer
Jas. H. Hazen
Additionally names to Roster of Chelmsford men at the Battle of Bunker Hill
These names below are supplied from the October Return
These men were undoubtedly at Bunker Hill with the others,
as there were practically no enlistments between the dates
of these rolls:
[Massachusetts Archives, Vol. 16, p. 57.]
Chelmsford men who were wounded in the Battle of Bunker Hill as given by
Col. Ebenezer Bridge.
Lieut. Col. Moses Parker
Capt. Benjamin Walker.
*The last name is from Bridge's Diary.
Transcribed by Janice Farnsworth
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