Windham Life and Times July 16, 2021

Margaret Smith Simpson’s grave next to her husband John Simpson, who were both Revolutionary War soldiers. The John Simpson cellar hole on Marblehead Road in Windham,

Windham’s Female Revolutionary War Solider

Margaret Smith Simpson

    I had previously written about Deborah Sampson, a woman who fought as a man in the Revolutionary War. It seemed she was a unique case, but apparently that is not so, as the story of Margaret Smith Simpson will illustrate. There are also stories of many other women who fought. In fact, once you dig deeply into who fought in the Revolutionary War, away from the conventional retelling, the omission of certain of the participants is just amazing. And this leads to the cancel culture of today, who see the War of Independence as only a white man’s enterprise; nothing could be further from the truth and this huge misunderstanding of history has been brought about by a lack of intellectual curiosity. The fact is, if you had been on the battlefields, and looked down the lines of soldiers fighting in the War of Independence, you would have seen the thousands of black faces of the brave African American men that served. Also, Native Americans, and even as we shall see the faces of patriot woman. The service of Margaret Smith Simpson, is a story that should be told to your daughters and the story of Black Revolutionary War soldiers should also be told. If you cancel this American history, you cancel their stories.

    At one time in Windham, there was a couple, living on what is now Marblehead Road, and both husband and wife were veterans soldiers of the Revolutionary War. Let that sink in a moment. They both had been continental soldiers.

     Margaret Smith was the daughter of Francis Smith, who settled “in that part of  Salem that was once Windham.” When the dispute arose of over the meeting-house many families with kith and kin in Windham were trapped in Salem. In fact, over the years, many of these families petitioned to be returned to Windham. The reason why this is important to our story is because of the petition of 1777, which was voted down by the residents of Salem. It says; “to see if the town of Salem…will allow certain men with their respective families to be annexed to the town of Windham…They had enlisted and fought with the regiment of continental troops from Windham, still they were taxed in Salem. They then drew up a petition to the State of New Hampshire which stated in part, “We have always associated with and been connected to them as brothers, but have never associated with the inhabitants of Salem…” I use these facts in order to rest my case; Margaret Smith Simpson should be considered Windham’s female Revolutionary War hero, not Salem’s. The border line between Salem and Windham was not finally settled until after the commission of 1807 which determined the line. Margaret Smith along with many other Scots-Irish family members were part of the expedition to Canada in 1775-6. Obviously the people she fought with her knew she was a woman, and she fought as a woman, not disguised as a man. This distinguishes her from other woman patriots.

     The invasion of Canada was a perilous affair. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia; “In September 1775 rebel General Richard Montgomery led American forces on the first major offensive of the war, seizing the forts at Ticonderoga and Crown Point in northern New York, and Fort Chambly in Québec. With 1,700 militia troops, Montgomery then captured Fort Saint-Jean outside Montréal in November – prompting Carleton to abandon Montréal and flee to Québec. The Americans occupied Montréal without a fight on 28 November.”     

    “Meanwhile, a second American invasion force led by General Benedict

Arnold managed, despite hardships, faulty maps, near starvation and desertions, to bring about 700 men through the Maine wilderness to the St. Lawrence River and to the fortress of Québec. Arnold waited outside Québec until December, when Montgomery joined him with 300 additional men”

     “During a snowstorm on 31 December, the Americans assaulted Québec, which was defended by a garrison of 1,800 British soldiers and militiamen under Carleton. The Americans attacked from two directions. Arnold and his men penetrated some distance into Lower Town, but Arnold himself was wounded in the ankle and carried away from the fighting. His forces later surrendered under counterattack.

Montgomery’s force was repulsed after the general and his leading officers were killed by rifle fire in their initial assault on the other side of Lower Town. In total, 60 Americans were killed and 426 wounded at Québec. On the British side six were killed and 19 wounded.”

     “Under Arnold’s command, the remaining uncaptured Americans tried to maintain a siege of the town through the winter, but it was ineffective. The group was easily routed when the spring thaw brought 4,000 British troop reinforcements led by British General John Burgoyne. The Americans abandoned Montréal on 9 May, 1776 and the remains of the force was defeated at Trois Rivieres in June. The survivors then retreated to New York, ending their invasion.”

     Margaret Smith was the daughter of Francis Smith who purchased his farm in Windham in 1755. He married Margaret Smiley of Windham. John Simpson, was a Revolutionary War solider who had two fingers shot away by cannonball at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Morrison says, he was a well to do farmer and one of the wealthiest men in the southerly part of town.” Margaret Smith was Simpson’s second wife who died on October 22, 1809 at 49 years of age. This would have made her about 17 years old at the time she joined the army to fight in the American Revolution. She was in the same company as her brother Solomon. The Simpson cellar hole on Marblehead Road is marked. I think we need a new American flag to mark her grave in the Cemetery on the Hill, where she is buried next to he husband

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