Brookline Historical Publication Society
PUBLICATIONS, NO. 3.
BROOKLINE IN THE REVOLUTION
By MARGARET ELIZABETH MAY.
J. Murray Kay Prize Essay for 1895.*
Early in September of the year 1768, at a meeting of the town of Boston, the selectmen were directed to write to the different towns, proposing to them "that a Convention be held, if they shall think proper, at Fanuiel Hall, in this Town, on Tuesday, the 22nd day of September, at 10 o'clock before noon," to discuss the rights and grievances of the Province. Brookline chose Capt. Benjamin White as her delegate to this convention, and thus began early to take an interest in the trouble arising between England and her colonies in America.
Brookline as a town does not trouble herself again about the affairs of the Province until December 11, 1772. On that day, at a meeting of the "Freeholder and other Inhabitants of the Town, Legally Assembled," it was decided to establish a committee of correspondence with Boston and other towns in view of infringement of rights. This committee consisted of William Hyslop1
, John Goddard, Isaac Gardner, Ebenezer Davis, Benjamin White, Isaac Child and John Harris, men prominent in the town at that time. Shortly after, the committee writes to Boston, thanking her, in the name of the town, for a statement of the "Rights of the Colonies" and a "List of the Infringments of their Rights," and sends to her in return a copy of Brookline's votes and proceedings in regard to the matter. It is stated in this letter that Brookline thinks herself" happy in being always ready to add "her Mite towards withstanding any arbitrary despotick Measures that are or may be carried on to overthrow the Constitution and deprive us of all our invaluable Rights and Priveleges, which are and ought to be as dear and dearer than Life it selfe."
A year later, when it was announced that a number of ships had sailed for America, loaded with tea, which was to be taxed at the rate of threepence a pound, merely to show the king's authority, the town resolved, " 61y, That this Town are ready to afforde all the Assistance2
in our Power to the Town of Boston, and will hartily unite with them and the Other Towns in this Province, to oppose and frustrate this most detestable and dangerous Tea Scheem, and every other that shall Appear to us to be Subversive to the Rights and Liberties of America, and consequently dishonorary to the Crown and Dignity of our Soverign Lord the King. 71y. That whoever shall hereafter presume to import any Teas into this Province while Subject to the odius Duty, shall be considered and treated by this Town as an Enemy to his Country."
One resolve led to another. In July, 1774, the town voted to join the other towns of the Province" in every rational and Justifiable measure to recover and maintain " herInvaided rights."
At conventions, held September 6, at the house of Richard Woodward of Dedham, and September 9, at the house of Daniel Vose of Milton, Brookline was represented by five delegates. A committee, including three delegates from Brookline, was chosen to wait upon Governor Gage and remonstrate against the fortifications on Boston Neck and the insults of the soldiers stationed there.
At the town meeting held September 1, 1774, a committee was instructed "to examine into the State of Said Town as to There Milatary preparations for War, in case of a Suden attack from our Enemies, and make Report at the adjournment of this Meeting." Further it was voted that "Saide Town" would "indemnify and save Harmless any Town officers who shall incur any Penalty by refusing to comply with any Requisitions made to them in consequence of the New Act and Regulations intended to be obtruded on this Province."
The first Provincial Congress was held October 7, 1774, at Concord, and to this assembly Brookline sent Capt. Benjamin White, Mr. John Goddard and Mr. William Thompson as delegates. About a month later Brookline voted to abide by the "Measures that are come into by the Continental Congress."
The most sanguine could no longer hope to avert a war with England. The only thing now, was to be as well prepared for war as possible. The first day of the year 1775, it was decided to have a volunteer company and to pay each soldier who would enlist four pence an evening as "expence money." For some reason this vote was reconsidered at an adjourned meeting, and it was "Past in the Negative not to have any."
All the towns around Boston were now collecting ammunition and all kinds of army stores. Several hundred pounds of gunpowder were stored in a building which stood on Goddard avenue nearly opposite the present Goddard house. The family and a small garrison of soldiers lived on the place, burning their lights every night to allay suspicion, though they knew that one unfortunate spark would cost them their lives. There were also valuable stores hidden in the Goddard woods on the opposite side of the street. After a time it was thought that the tories were becoming suspicious, and the powder and stores were carried one dark night, in wagons, to Concord. Mr. John ard managed the affair, and his son, Joseph Goddard, a boy fourteen years old, drove one of the wagons. The powder taken to Concord that night was used in the battle of Lexington.3
The tories of Brookline are said to have hidden some of King George's cannon in a wild tract of woodland west of Newton street, intending to use them when the right time came. The right time never came, however, and the tories were forced to leave the country at the outbreak of hostilities.
A man named Jackson, who lived near the present site of the Public Library, was one of the firmest adherents to the royal cause. His house was used as barracks for the Colonial troops. This was more than Mr. Jackson could bear, and he sold it to a Mr. Dana of Brighton and moved away. Mr. Dana was also a tory, and had assisted the British in Boston by providing them with meat.
Another loyalist, who lived in Boston but owned real estate in Brookline, was Samuel Sewall, great-grandson of Chief Justice Sewall. At the outbreak of the Revolution, he left this country and took refuge in England. He was proscribed as a refugee, according to the banishment act passed in 1778, and his property in Brookline confiscated and sold by the government at the close of the war.
The place east of the reservoir, now owned by Mr. Moses Williams, was once the country seat of Henry Hulton, Mandamus Counsellor for the British government. He arrived at Boston, November 7, 1767, and was one of five commissioners appointed by parliament to receive and distribute revenues on paper, glass, paints and teas imported into the colonies.
Mr. Hulton was always very unpopular with the colonists, who dared to molest him as early as June, 1770. "A few nights ago," wrote Gov. Hutchinson to a friend, "Mr. Hulton's house in Brookline was attacked. You will easily judge the distress of Mrs. Hulton, Mrs. Burch and daughter. Burch, who has lately moved to Tom Oliver's house at Dorchester, lay upon his arms the next night, and kept his scouts out, but the women being so distrest, both Hulton and he went the day after to the castle."4
Some of the Brookline boys" had formed a little military company and drilled themselves in a way which would have done credit to men. This company met one day and marching against the stronghold of the enemy, namely, the house of tory Hulton, broke the glass in his windows with stones. This performance broke up the boys' company likewise, for it was before the outbreak of hostilities, and their parents, though they must have been secretly proud of their sons' spirit, punished the boys and paid for the broken glass.
Parties of British officers often rode out to Mr. Hulton's house, and their visits were a source of constant irritation to the Brookline people. Mr. Hulton afterward moved to Boston and later went to England. His property was forfeited to the government."
On the twentieth of March, 1775, Gen. Gage ordered Capt. Brown and Ensign D'Bernicre to go to Concord to reconnoitre and find out the state of the provincial magazines. Ensign D'Bernicre gives an account of their adventures on the way, and says: "The twentieth of March, Capt. Brown and myself received orders to set out for Concord, and examine the road and situation of the town; and also to get what information we could relative to what quantity of artillery and provisions. We went through Roxbury and Brookline and came to the main road between the thirteen and fourteen mile-stones, in the township of Weston."
At about eleven o'clock at night on the eighteenth of April, 1775, the same time that Paul Revere started on his famous ride, William Dawes left Boston on the same errand. Riding out through Roxbury and Brookline, he met Revere on the Lexington road and helped him rouse the farmers toward Concord. Dawes probably did not stop to warn the towns as near Boston as are Brookline and Roxbury, and the first intimation of danger which Brookline had was when news came that Lord Percy, with a detachment of one thousand men, was about to pass through the town on his way to reinforce the British at Lexington.
A PLAN OF BOSTON IN NEW ENGLAND, WITH ITS ENVIRONS.
Made by Henry Pelham under permission of Ja. Urquhart, August 28, 1775.
This plan, reproduced in part above, gives a very accurate idea of the roads, streams, marshes and fortifications in Brookline in 1775. Mr. Commissioner Hulton's house (the present Moses Williams place) is on the road to Newton, or Sherburn road, (now Walnut street) at the extreme left. The meeting house (the present Unitarian parsonage grounds) is at the right of Mr. Hulton's. "Sewall's Farm" is above Muddy river and at the right of the road to Cambridge (now Harvard street). "Brooklin Fort" or Sewall's Fort, is at the right of the farm.
The families which lived near what is now the village, hastily packed blankets, provisions and what valuables they could collect on short notice, and hurried off to the upper part of the town for safety.
Lord Percy had started from Boston about nine o'clock in the morning and had taken the same route which Dawes took the night before; that is, he had come along the Neck as far as what is now Providence crossing, then turning had followed Tremont street, past the Craft house, and the Downer house till he came to what is now Harvard square, Brookline. There he had to stop to ask the way to Lexington, of a small boy who was standing by the road to see the Redcoats pass. The boy told him the right road to take, and added undauntedly: "You inquire the way there, but I'll be damned if you ever need to know the way back." Lord Percy kept on up Harvard street, past Coolidge's Corner and the Winchester house, where the soldiers stopped for water, to the river, by the Colleges in Cambridge, to Menotomy, and as far as the turn in the road just east of Lexington.
Lieutenant Mackenzie of Percy's regiment describes the march to Lexington in his diary and says, "We went out of Boston by the Neck and marched through Roxbury, [Brookline], Cambridge and Menotomy towards Lexington. In all the places we marched through and in the houses on the road few or no people were to be seen, and the houses were in general shut up." 8
Three Brookline companies9
responded to the Lexington alarm. One was a regularly organized company
10 of ninety-four men, under Capt. Thomas White, and was not disbanded for twenty-three days after the battle of Lexington. The other two companies, organized on the spur of the moment, were composed of any patriots who cared to enlist, and included almost all the able-bodied men11
of Brookline. These divisions of men were led by Col. Thomas Aspinwall12
and Isaac Gardner, Esq.13
the only Brookline man killed on that day.
of this beloved gentleman from his wife is an illustration of the tenderness characteristic of the Gardner family. His daughter said that" he went up to her and kissed her silently; then, as he reached the door, he turned and looked at her and said, 'Farewell.' 'Oh, Mr. Gardner!' she exclaimed, 'don't say that word.' When he went up to her again - again he silently kissed her, and left the home, never to return." As he was hastening toward the meeting-house green where the companies were assembling, he stopped and asked the wife of Deacon Ebenezer Davis, who passed him in her chaise, to call upon his wife and comfort her.
The three companies set out together for Lexington across the fields15
( but went no further than North Cambridge, for here they met the forces of Colonel Smith and Lord Percy returning to Boston.
When the Brookline men came in sight of the main body of the British, Colonel Aspinwall ordered them to defile over the stone walls. Squire Gardner, with part of his command, concealed himself behind some empty casks at a place called Watson's Corner, and was looking out intently for the advance of the enemy along the main road, when they were suddenly assailed from the rear by a British flanking party. Isaac Gardner fell, pierced by twelve bullet and bayonet wounds. His son, Isaac S. Gardner, a boy of seventeen, who held the position of fifer in Capt. White's company, was near him.
While this skirmish was taking place, Dr. Aspinwall,16
a brother of the Colonel, had regained the College road. There he saw a detachment of Americans, drawn up in line under Capt. Gridley, and feeling sure that the British would not proceed down that road, but across the head of it toward Charlestown, he hastened to remonstrate with the Captain, who paid no heed to his suggestions. Dr. Aspinwall, however, when he saw that he was right and that the British were actually taking the road leading to Charlestown, leaped upon a wall and cried out: 'I There they go, boys! Whoever wants a chance to do some good, follow me!" About half the little company instantly followed and pursued the enemy till dusk, in the neighborhood of Charlestown.
Dr. Aspinwall kept continually in advance. When reloading, he placed himself on the side of a tree nearest the enemy, preferring to trust to the poor aim of his opponents than to the excited zeal of his friends. The Doctor, being blind in one eye, had to aim from the left shoulder, but for all that was an excellent shot. On one occasion, while reloading, his neighbor, Mr. Ebenezer Davis, pointing to a dead soldier said: "That man's arms and accoutrements are yours, Doctor; you shot him." But this time the Doctor could not stop to collect his well-earned fee.
Among the Brookline volunteers was Dr. Downer, another surgeon. This man is spoken of by his contemporary, Gen. Heath, as an "active, enterprising man," and many stories are told of his reckless daring on the nineteenth of April. While passing a dwelling house that afternoon, two British soldiers ran out from the house toward him. Just then one man was shot from behind. Dr. Downer and the other man exchanged shots and missed each other, although only a few feet apart. This exasperated the Doctor. He rushed upon the Redcoat with his gun, and in the scuffle which ensued his opponent was killed.
Once during the afternoon, Dr. Downer came upon a British soldier lying wounded in a barn. The Doctor asked if he wanted his wound dressed, but the man, seizing his gun, rolled over and exclaimed: "Damn yer, I'll dress yer wound for yer!" The Doctor would probably have been killed then and there had not a friend stepped forward and shot the man as he was taking aim.
By the time the British reached Charlestown, the Brookline men, who were pursuing, had become so scattered that no effort was made to return in order. Each man went home "the nighest way he could."
The next morning, according to Dr. Aspinwall's own statement he "went to Lexington with Mr. Heath, to see what had become of Mr. Gardner." They found his dead body under an apple-tree, with so many wounds in it that they concluded it would be very unwise to convey it to Brookline by daylight, and it was carried during the night to one of Dr. Aspinwall's houses,17
near the site of the Episcopal Church on Aspinwall avenue. Squire Gardner's eldest son, afterward Gen. I. S. Gardner, said that he was the only one of his family who ever saw the" dear remains," and when he said this, although forty years had elapsed since his father's death, he was deeply affected.
The second night after the battle the mangled body of Isaac Gardner was secretly buried, in order to prevent the agony of the Brookline people at the sight of it and their irrepressible demonstrations towards the British in Boston, which might have brought direful consequences upon the little town of Brookline. This testifies to the attachment felt for Squire Gardner by his townspeople.
Isaac Gardner was mourned not only in Brookline, but throughout all the Province, where great hopes had been placed in him. The broadside published Friday, April 21,1775, by the "Salem Gazette or Newbury and Marblehead Advertiser," contains the following lines:
"0 Squire Gardner's death we feel,
And sympathizing mourn,
Let's drop a tear when it we tell
And view his hapless urn."
Another version of the story of this patriot's death shows the respect felt for him by his enemies, and also the standpoint from which the British viewed the whole affair. In an old book9
published in England soon after the close of the war, we read "that the groundless and inhuman reflection cast upon I. Gardner Esqr. one of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace who is said to have been killed, fighting against his Sovereign, and is held up as a specimen of New England magistrates, ought, in justice to the deceased, as well as to truth, to be set right. This unfortunate Gentleman was not in arms, but returning to his family from a long journey, and lodged at Lexington the night preceeding the action; early in the morning of which fatal day he set out for home, and on the road, being unarmed, he was barbarously shot in cold blood, by a Scotch grenadier of the King's own regiment, though he begged for mercy and declared solemnly he had taken no part in that days disturbance. He has left a widow and large family of young children, who, it is hoped his most gracious Majesty will provide for."
After the battle of Lexington19
the Americans did what they could to prepare themselves in case of another attack of the sort. April 21, 1775, it was ordered" that the two hogsheads of powder in the possession of Mr. Pigion be lodged with John Goddard, at Brookline, for the use of the American troops." Three days later an officer, with a sufficient guard, was sent "to convoy a mortar and ordinance stores to Mr. John Goddard in Brookline, where the powder is now deposited."20
At the third Continental Congress, held at Watertown, May 31, 1775, Capt. Benjamin White represented Brookline for the third time. This congress discussed, among other things, ways and means of getting supplies for the army, and it was decided to provide coats for the soldiers by requiring each town to supply a certain number. Brookline for her share made forty-three, and was allowed five shillings a yard for the cloth and four shillings a piece for the making. No buttons were required, as they were to be provided later, stamped with the number of the regiment.
On the seventeenth of June, though there were Brookline men enrolled in three different companies, these companies were stationed at various forts around Boston and took no part in the battle of Bunker Hill21
A company of Brookline men under Capt. Timothy Corey22
was stationed at Sewall's Point.
The fort on Sewall's Point, or, as it was sometimes called, the Brookline Fort, was situated on Charles River about where Cottage Farm station now is. It was nearly quadrangular in shape and very strongly fortified, mounting six guns and having accommodations for more soldiers than many of the fortifications of the American army. This fort, with Fort Washington on the Cambridge side, probably saved the country along the river from many depredations, though we never hear of its being fired upon but once.23
July 31, 1775, Gen. Heath says in his "Memoirs:" "A little before one o'clock, A. M., a British floating-battery came up the river within 300 yards of Sewall's Point and fired a number of shot at the American works, on both sides of the river." 24
It is said that when Washington was in command at Cambridge, he made a visit of inspection to the Brookline Fort. Some Brookline boys, curious to see the new commander, were crowding eagerly around, when an orderly roughly ordered them back. Washington beckoned to the boys to come near, and told the orderly to let them see all there was to be seen.
The only other fortification in Brookline was a water-battery, situated on the present site of the Longwood schoolhouse on St. Mary's street. It was of little importance, mounting only two or three guns.
During the siege of Boston there were soldiers quartered in a grove just back of the Sewall's Point fort, now a part of the Lawrence estate. Here, Col. Prescott25
had his headquarters for a time, and here were quartered Col. Gerrish's23
regiment and some Connecticut troops, after the battle of Bunker Hill.
These barracks were employed as hospitals for inoculating the soldiers of the Continental army with the small-pox.26
This, of course, was very annoying to the people and, after remonstrating several times, the town petitioned the General Court, in 1778, to discontinue the hospital. Whether the petition was granted is not stated, but the town was afterward paid damages for the inconvenience she had suffered.
were quartered in the Davis house, near the southeast corner of Davis avenue and Washington street, for a short time while on their way to barracks on Parker Hill. The soldiers are said to have caused the housekeeper much uneasiness by cutting up their rations of pork on her front stairs.
The Hyslop house, now occupied by Col. Lee's son, Mr. George Lee, was used as barracks for Colonial troops; and the family took refuge in Medfield until the war was over. The Ackers family, who lived on the corner of Brighton street (now Chestnut Hill avenue) and Boylston street, had soldiers quartered in their house, but they put up with the inconvenience and shared with the soldiers.
The hill, formerly Mount Walley, afterward Bradley Hill, and now owned by the Goddard Land Company, was one of the outposts of Washington's line of siege which extended thirty miles around Boston, and from here a watch was kept upon the movements of the enemy. There is a tradition that Washington once visited this outpost.
A very good view of Boston could be obtained from several of the hills in Brookline, and great interest was shown by the townspeople in whatever they could see going on in Boston. On Thursday, February 29, 1776, Ezekiel Price wrote in his diary: "Dined at Parson Jackson's28
- from his farm could see Boston and that the steeple of Mr. Howard's meeeting house29
was taken down; it was standing last Tuesday. I then saw it from Roxbury. Great talk of our taking possession of Dorchester Hill in a few days."30
The rumor that the Americans were about to take possession of Dorchester Hill was well founded. Mr. John Goddard, of Brookline, who had been conductor of stores for the American army, was now made wagonmaster-general and given power to impress into the service as many cattle, wagons and men as he needed to help him. He was paid twenty shillings a day for every day of actual service, and all necessary expenses. On that moonlight March night, when the heights were fortified, Mr. Goddard had three hundred teams under his command. Not a word was spoken among the men; goads were used instead of whips to urge on the oxen, being less likely to betray the movement.
Four or five cannon, which had been hidden for some time in Mr.Goddard's barn, were on that night stealthily carried around through Heath street in Roxbury, and placed in position on the Heights. The wonderful success of the enterprise was largely due to the efficiency of Mr. Goddard. Even the Americans were surprised the next morning when they looked up at the Heights and saw what had been done in one night. General Heath says that there probably never was so much work done in so short a time. When Washington left Boston he wanted to take Mr. Goddard with him, and even wrote afterward, desiring his services, but the care of a large family kept Mr. Goddard at home.31
John Goddard, eldest son of this Mr. Goddard, graduated from Harvard in 1777; he studied medicine, but owing to poor health decided to begin business as an apothecary. Obtaining a position as surgeon on an armed vessel, he started to go to Spain to buy his stock, because the war prevented him from getting it in England. On the way the vessel was captured by the British, and all the officers taken as prisoners to the West Indies.32
Here he almost died with fever, and became so thin that when he was convalescent he crawled out through a port-hole of the prison-ship and swam to a vessel bound for the United States. Just before this vessel reached home it was captured and he was again a prisoner on the very ship from which he had escaped. After another severe illness, from which he never fully recovered, he again made his escape, and this time reached home in safety. He arrived in Brookline on a Sunday morning, and found all the family at church except his mother, who was utterly overcome with joy at seeing her son again, when all hopes of his return had long since been given up.
During the siege of Boston both Dr. William Aspinwall and Dr. Downer received appointments as army surgeons. Dr. Aspinwall was first a surgeon of Gen. Heath's brigade, then he acted as surgeon of the hospital at Roxbury. In October of 1775 he was surgeon of St. Thomas' Hospital, and in 1778 practiced with the army in Rhode Island, under Gen. Sullivan.
Dr. Downer was with the army about Boston, going from one point to another wherever there was fighting. Dec. 18, 1775, Gen. Heath wrote: " Our general was ordered with 300 men to prosecute the work begun on Leechmore's Point. It was expected that this would have been a bloody day, and Dr. Downer, one of the surgeons, was ordered down with the detachment, with his instruments, etc., to assist the wounded
Later on the detachment from the Point marched to Cambridge, attended by their surgeon, who had been in waiting all the day, but had no occasion to draw his instruments from their case, or a bandage or dressing from his box." After the evacuation of the British, Dr. Downer went aboard the privateer sloop" Yankee." He worked one of the guns in the cabin below, when two ships loaded with rum and sugar were captured in 1776. "This prize was retaken by the prisoners, and Downer, with the rest, thrown into an English prison. He was removed to become a hospital assistant, and in the course of a year escaped to France. He there joined the" Alliance" for a cruise in the Channel. She secured eighteen prizes.
Downer then sailed for home, but was again captured at sea after the vessel he was in had fought seven hours and a half, lost both her masts, and fired her last round. He was severely wounded by grape-shot, and thrown into Portsea prison, near Portsmouth. He and several others effected their escape by tunnelling a hole forty feet in length under the prison wall, their only tool a jackknife. Downer was rather stout, and stuck fast in the passage until more earth could be removed. Such fugitives as were retaken went to the Black-hole, but Downer's friends helped him to France, and he reached Boston at last, after three years' absence. His grandson's letter, cited in Memorial History of Boston (IV.), states: " He escaped from Halifax prison, was also in Dartmoor and Forten prisons, and served as sailor and surgeon under John Paul Jones in the" Bonhomme Richard." 33
Dr. Downer was commissioned July 9, 1779, as chief surgeon to the forces on the Penobscot expedition up the Kennebec to Canada. He served three months, and was awarded fifteen dollars by the State for the loss of his instruments.
Shortly after the battle of Lexington a number of Brookline men enlisted into the army for three months. In January of the next year Brookline was called upon to furnish ten men for the army. Captain Corey, Colonel Aspinwall and Mr. Craft undertook to find the required men.
On May 20, 1776, Brookline resolved" to advise the Persons Chosen to Represent this Town in the next General Court, that if the Hon. Congress Should, for the Safety of the American Colonies, Declare them Independent of the Kingdom of Great Britain, that we Sd Inhabitants will Solemnly Engage with our Lives and fortune to Support them in the measure."
For all the brave resolution just passed, when in July the call for men for the Canadian service came, the citizens seemed to forget that they had agreed to support their country with their "lives." At three successive meetings the bounty offered to anyone who would enlist was increased. Finally it was voted" that the Men Called for from This Town be Draughted with Liberty to take the Bounty or pay the Fine." Some receipts for these fines, bearing well-known Brookline names, such as Davis, Sharp and Gardner, are still in existence.
In February of 1777 three-years men were called for. In response to this call, induced by a bounty of twenty-four pounds, sixteen men,34
namely, Jeremiah Clark, George Dunlap, Elijah Mills, Charles Winchester, Lambert Smith, Ezekiel Crane, Henry Tucker, Hugh McKoron, Oliver Yan, John Sinclair, John Butler, John Hambleton, Nathaniel Rose and Stephen Eldridge, enlisted into Colonel Wesson's regiment. A vote of thanks was given "to Col. James Wesson for the good service he has rendered the Town by enlisting the aforementioned Sixteen Men for this town," and it was voted further, "that a sum of Six Pounds be paid him as a further acknowledgment for that Service."
About Col. James Wesson, the highest officer Brookline ever had in the Revolution, almost nothing is known in the town. He came to Brookline from Sudbury, probably before the year 1768, for on May 25 of that year he married Ann White, of Brookline. Mr. Wesson enlisted on May 18, 1775, as Major of Col. Laommi Baldwin's regiment, the Thirty-eighth Massachusetts, and was stationed for almost a year now at one and now at another of the forts around Boston?25
(b) In April, 1776, his name appears on the records with the rank of Lt.-Colonel of Col. Laommi Baldwin's regiment at New York. On November 12, 1776, Col. Wesson served as a member of a court-martial"35
at Phillips bury, Pennsylvania. In December of the same year we find him stationed at Trenton, New Jersey, and three days later at Mixfield, Pennsylvania.
In 1777 Col. Wesson was with the Ninth Massachusetts Regiment in Boston until the last of March, when Gen. Heath ordered this regiment to Ticonderoga. Only part of the regiment went, however, and it is probable that Col. Wesson did not go with that part, for at that time Mrs. Wesson was ill in Brookline with the smallpox.36
Mrs. Wesson died April 6; and three weeks later the rest of the Ninth Regiment marched for Ticonderoga.
Col. Wesson, or properly, Lieutenant-Colonel Wesson, took part in the battle of Oriskany, August 6, 1777; on the fifteenth of August he was promoted for his bravery at this battle, and was made Colonel of the Eighth Massachusetts Regiment. While the troops of the Convention were stationed at Cambridge, Col. Henley was accused by General Burgoyne of cruelty toward British prisoners, and was placed in arrest and tried by a military court. Gen. Burgoyne appeared as prosecutor. In his address to the court he complimented the president, General Glover, on his honorable treatment of troops of the Convention on the march to Boston, and paid his respects to Col. Wesson, who had immediate command in the district when the troops arrived in November of 1777.
Col. Wesson fought with credit at Saratoga and at the battle of Monmouth Court-house, June 28, 1778. "In the latter battle our artillery, under Knox, opened an unexampled cannonade, to which the British guns fiercely replied. Col. Wesson, who then commanded the 9th. Massachusetts, was in the front line. Leaning over his horse's neck to look under the cannon smoke which enveloped everything, a ball from the enemy grazed his back, tearing away his clothing and with it fragments of his flesh. Had he remained upright a moment longer he would have been killed; as it was, he remained a cripple for life."37
In describing this battle Gen. Heath says: "It was here that the firm Col. Wesson had his back peeled of its muscles almost from shoulder to shoulder by a cannon-ball."
Some time in the year 1779, Col. Wesson was transferred from the Eighth to the Ninth Massachusetts Regiment, and was stationed that year and the next at West Point and Orange town. He continued to serve in the army till 1781, when he is reported deranged.
The story is told that Col. Wesson was discharged from the army in New York, and rode home on horseback with two other officers. While they were riding along through Connecticut, they came upon a woman and several children in the road. Startled at the sight of the officers she cried out: " Here, children, look out! here come three great Irishmen." Col. Wesson heard what she said and exclaimed, "Damn the woman, but it's the truth, though!" This hardly proves that the Colonel was of Irish descent, but it is quite possible that he knew she wished to frighten the children and he wanted to help her.
After his return from the war Col. Wesson probably remained a citizen of Brookline until 1784, but was a landholder here for some years later. In that year" Amasa Cranson of Marlboro' deeds 130 acres of land in the northeasterly part of Marlboro' to James Wesson of Brookline for 1200 pounds of lawful money." The Colonel moved to his farm in Marlboro' (which by a change of boundary later became a part of Hudson), and died there October 15, 1809.38
He was buried in what is now called Spring Hill Cemetery, in Marlboro', and his grave on the top of the hill is still to be seen, marked by a large slate tablet, which bears this inscription:
Glory with all her lamps shall burn,
And watch the warriors sleeping clay;
Till the last trumpet rouse his urn,
To aid the triumphs of the day.
At a town meeting April 27, 1778, three delegates were chosen to meet the next day at Dedham, with committees from neighboring towns, "to confer and consult together upon a Form of Government lately offered to the People of this State." A month later, when the proposed form of government was read at town meeting "this Meeting consisting of forty-five voters" did "unanimously and absoluty reject the same."
Repeated calls for men to enlist into the army, finally necessitated the choosing of enlistment committees. These committees were to go about and hire men, at the lowest possible rate, to enlist for Brookline. At a meeting held July 3, 1780, the committee was instructed to see how much bounty money could be raised by subscription. This was done, but with apparently very little success, for ten days later it was voted "that Capt. White be desired to Issue his Warrant to warn the Training Band and alarm list to meet to Morrow afternoon at five a Clock in this place39
in order to raise the Remainder of the Town's Quota of Men by draft if they cannot be Raised in any other way be fore that time, and that Notice be given that such persons as shall not attend this meeting be the first Drafted." 40
It is needless to say that there was a full meeting. The first proceeding was to choose committees" to go round among the People present," " to see who will advance money for the purpose of hiring Meen" and "to see if any Incline to Ingage to serve as Soldiers for the Town." At this same meeting a vote of thanks was given to Miss Mary Boylston, for the gift of three silver dollars to encourage those enlisting.
Another method of procuring men to serve in the army, was to divide the town into as many classes as there were men needed. Each class had to provide one man and pay him. In this way eight men were enlisted to go to Rhode Island in 1781, and a year later five men were engaged for three years' service.
In September, 1782, came the last call for men and five men were hired by the town to go to Nantasket. Six months later the town's arms and ammunition41
were given into the hands of the selectmen to be taken care of, and were subsequently sold.
The war was over at last. On the twenty-seventh of February, 1784, Brookline people gathered again on the same hills from which only a few years before they had watched the movements of the enemy in Boston, this time to see the fireworks displayed at Boston in celebration of the conclusion of peace.
SUPPLEMENTED BY EXTRACTS FROM ESSAYS BY BERTHA MAY BOODY AND GRACE WITTER WARD.
Printed in August, 1895