This is one of my favorite scenes from Windham because we all pass by the old “Windham Auto Inn” and the pretty house behind it travelling on Range Road. Rural Oasis says, “By 1924 most of the boardinghouses had closed. Then when the automobile became popular, John V. Mackenzie opened the Windham Auto Inn on Range Road in 1934” (1924?). The inn finally closed in 1947..” From the back of the post card it appears the Windham Auto Inn actually opened much earlier than this since it was dated April 8, 1929. E. Land says, “This is a view of part of the house. We have a very nice room twin beds and private bath. Have been on the go every minute. The food is excellent; and I intend to enjoy the change…” The property is now three condos and the house behind it is still there. What are those posts on the front lawn?
So I loved my grandmother Edith Dinsmore very much, as well as her sidekick sister, my Aunt Anne. That’s us at Hampton Beach with her dog Trixie. Her love for my grandfather must have been pretty deep because it took her from Somerville MA to Pinedale Wyoming. My grandparents lived first in a tent then a small log cabin. After a few years in Wyoming, practicality brought them back to Windham.
I learned about what a sea-breeze was from her when I was five; the means of ruing a perfectly sunny New England day! One of my grandmother’s and Anne’s favorite treats with breakfast was Baked Honey Brown Sugar Grapefruit. My grandfather would cast aspersions on the concoction, calling it their “Hollywood Breakfast,” as in “there they are again, enjoying their Hollywood breakfast!” They were married for over fifty years so either love or tenacity must have endured in their marriage. THE HOLLYWOOD BREAKFAST: “Have a bubbly sweet start to your day with this simple breakfast recipe that’s both beautiful and delicious:” 2 halved grapefruits; 1 Tbsp melted butter; 2 Tbsp dark brown sugar; 2 Tbsp honey; salt to taste. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly brush each grapefruit with melted butter. Pour 1/2 Tbsp of honey then sprinkle 1/2 Tbsp of dark sugar over each grapefruit. Don’t spread. Let it melt while baking. 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes. https://simpleseasonal.com/recipes/baked-honey-brown-sugar-grapefruit Need a break from your significant other. Just prepare yourself a “Hollywood Breakfast.”
Deborah Sampson Gannett: Revolutionary War Patriot
Deborah Sampson Gannett: Revolutionary solider. First female to serve in the U.S. military.
So…I am probably the last person in the world who has not heard of Deborah Sampson Gannett. I’m pretty well read, so imagine my surprise when I discovered the story of a woman from Massachusetts who disguised herself as a man so that she could serve in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.
We might never have known about the heroism of Ms. Gannett but for the fact that she petitioned the State of Massachusetts for a military pension. “XXIII. Resolution on the petition of Deborah Gannett, granting her £34 for services rendered in the Continental army. “On the petition of Deborah Gannett, praying for compensation for services performed in the late army of the United States. Whereas, it appears to this Court that the said Deborah Gannett enlisted under the name of Robert Shurtliff in Captain Webb’s company in the 4th Massachusetts Regiment, on May 20th, 1782, and did actually perform the duty of a soldier, in the late army of the United States, to the 23rd day of October, 1783, for which she has received no compensation; and whereas it further appears that the said Deborah Gannett exhibited an extraordinary instance of female heroism, by discharging the duties of a faithful, gallant soldier, and at the same time preserving the virtue and chastity of her sex unsuspected and unblemished, and was discharged from the service with a fair and honorable character therefore, Resolved, That the treasurer of this commonwealth be, and hereby is, directed to issue his note to the said Deborah for the sum of thirty-four pounds, bearing interest from October 23, 1788.” She was the only woman to earn a full military pension for participation in the Revolutionary army.
The Mount Vernon website states that Gannett was “born on December 17, 1760, in Plympton, Massachusetts, Sampson grew up in poverty. Her father abandoned the family when Sampson was five. She was sent to live with relatives until the age of ten, when they could no longer afford to care for her. She was then forced to become an indentured servant to the Thomas family in Middleborough, Massachusetts. As an indentured servant, she was bound to serve the Thomas family until she came of age at eighteen. In exchange for serving them, she was given food, clothing, and shelter. Once she was free, she supported herself by teaching and weaving.” According to Wikipedia; “In early 1782, Sampson wore men’s clothes and joined an Army unit in Middleborough, Massachusetts under the name Timothy Thayer. She collected a bonus and then failed to meet up with her company as scheduled. Inquiries by the company commander revealed that Sampson had been recognized by a local resident at the time she signed her enlistment papers. Her deception uncovered, she repaid the portion of the bonus that she had not spent, but she was not subjected to further punishment by the Army. The Baptist church to which she belonged learned of her actions and withdrew its fellowship, meaning that its members refused to associate with her unless she apologized and asked forgiveness.”
“On May 23, 1782, at the age of twenty-one, Sampson disguised herself (again) as a man named Robert Shurtliff and enlisted in the Continental Army under the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment. She and the other new recruits then marched from Worcester, Massachusetts to West Point, New York. While at West Point, Sampson was chosen to serve as part of the Light Infantry Troops–– the most active troops in the Hudson Valley from 1782 to 1783. To be inducted into the Light Infantry Troops, soldiers had to meet specific requirements. They needed a height of at least 5’5” and had to be physically able to keep a fast and steady marching pace. They were referred to as “light” infantry because they traveled with fewer supplies and took part in small, risky missions and skirmishes.”
“Sampson spent most of her time in the army in the Lower Hudson River Valley Region of New York, which was then known as Neutral Ground. Neutral Ground spanned throughout what is today Westchester County in New York and was termed ‘neutral’ because it sat, unclaimed, between British-held New York City and American-held Northern New York. Neutral Ground was a lawless land filled with both Patriot and Tory raiders who terrorized the local citizenry.” George Washington spent much of his time in the Hudson River Valley just north of Neutral Ground in Newburgh. “Sampson fought in several skirmishes. During her first battle, on July 3, 1782 outside Tarrytown, New York, she took two musket balls in her thigh and sustained a cut on her forehead. She begged her fellow soldiers not to take her to a doctor out of fear her sex would be discovered, but a soldier put her on his horse and took her to a hospital. A doctor treated her head wound, but she left the hospital before he could attend to her leg. She removed one of the balls herself with a penknife and sewing needle, but the other was too deep for her to reach. She carried it in her leg for the rest of her life and her leg never fully healed.” “After the war ended, Sampson returned home and married a farmer, Benjamin Gannett, in 1784. They had three children and adopted a fourth. In 1792, she successfully petitioned the Massachusetts State Legislature for back pay for her service in the army and was awarded 34£. In 1797, she petitioned Congress, claiming disability for the shoulder wound she received during the war. Her petition ultimately failed. However, starting in March 1802, Sampson began a lecture tour of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York.” “Sampson embarked on a year-long tour, delivering lectures about her sensational experiences as a soldier. Sometimes, she would dress in full military regalia during these speeches. But there is reason to suspect that Sampson inflated some of her accomplishments, as the newly unearthed diary makes clear.” “After the lecture tour, Sampson petitioned Congress again. This time, her petition succeeded. On March 11, 1805, she was placed on the pension list for disabled veterans. She continued campaigning Congress for the entirety of the money she was due until she was denied the remainder of her pay on March 31, 1820. Deborah Sampson Gannett died in Sharon, Massachusetts on April 29, 1827, at the age of sixty-six.”
She is one of the earliest examples of a woman serving in the United States Military.” Her headstone in Sharon honors her as “The Female Soldier.”
Jessie Serfilippi The College of Saint Rose https:/www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/deborah-sampson/
An official record of Deborah Sampson Gannett’s service as “Robert Shirtliff” from May 20, 1782 to Oct 25, 1783 appears in the “Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War” Volume 14 p.164 series
We know very little about the lives of the African American slaves and free-men that once lived in Windham. We have some idea about Pomp and Jeff, who are buried on the Cemetery on the Hill, because of log-books and journals that record when they were leased out by their owners to do work for other residents of the town. We know what their masters were paid and we know to some degree what they did for work. There is one African-American slave for whom we know quite a bit. Her name was Dinah and her life was outlined in Morrison’s genealogy of the Hemphill family. I looked for more information about her in the Dunstable history but could find nothing. One problem is that so many African American female slaves were named Dinah; the reason why I could not ascertain. Dinah was the daughter of Jacob in the Old Testament and means “judged, avenged or vindicated,” in Latin.
Captain Nathaniel Hemphill: Morrison Says, “He is called captain in town records; he was probably a captain of the training-band. His is one of the most interesting, prolific, and remarkable families of the town.” He was born on May 11, 1737. He married Agnes, the daughter of Robert Park on December 28, 1764. “They were the parents of eighteen children. I believe the largest family ever raised in town.” He was a signer of the Association Test and served as a Selectmen and Moderator for many years. “This good man was a slave-holder. As his family increased, he and his wife saw the necessity of having more household assistance, so they went to Boston and purchased a colored girl named Dinah, paying forty dollars for her, which was probably cheap, and brought her home. She was a faithful friend and servant. She assisted much in taking charge of the children. Seating herself in a chair with a large bowl in her lap, which held the broth or the pudding, with the little ones gathered in a circle around her, she would ladle out to each the appointed share. Dinah was probably freed by the adoption of the state constitution in 1784, but remained for several years after that date with the Hemphills. The good housewife would go to market and purchase articles for the family. On one occasion the articles for each was mentioned, but Dinah’s portion was not alluded to, though it was the intention to procure articles for her. She was deeply grieved to be thus neglected, and exclaimed, “Me nothing! Me nothing!” Mrs. Hemphill went to market, purchased the several articles, and Dinah’s too; but when she returned Dinah had departed, to return no more as a member of the household. She went to Dunstable, found some of her own people, and was married…she possessed and affectionate, confiding, trusting nature. The kind master who had gone down to the grave, the good mistress and dear little ones were not forgotten; and years after she returned and visited the family bringing her own flock of little ones…” Dinah had named her own children after the names of the Hemphill children.
“Mr. Hemphill was an active and strong man, of probity and worth, a wise old man, and possessed in an eminent degree that rarest and most uncommon qualities which we call good common sense. He was cut down in full strength of his vigorous manhood. His death was sudden. He was taken severely ill with lung-fever, and in two to three days it was evident that he must die. As the hour was at hand, he called his wife and large family of children about him. And in an unfinished invocation commended them to the God of the widow and the fatherless, in this his last prayer: ‘Lord, look down in mercy on this little squadron before Thee. Take them into thy heavenly care and protection; make them to remember Thee their Creator in the days of their youth…Lord I can say nothing!’ With this petition in his heart and the
sentence unfinished upon his lips, his soul left the earthly tabernacle, and followed the winged petition to God.” He died Nov. 10, 1796 at 59 years old.
“By the death of her husband, a double share of responsibility and burdens fell upon the widow, but she did not shrink from them. With great mental strength and physical endurance, she managed unaided the affairs of her large family for eighteen years. She had ten daughters, and each had a spinning wheel,—like all their Scotch neighbors. The flax was prepared, and she and her ten daughters in one large room, which also served as the kitchen, spun their linen thread. They would thus work for three months, when the thread would be gathered together . The webs of linen cloth, bleached and whitened, would be arranged and ready for sale, and at two o’clock in the morning, on horseback and alone, Mrs. Hemphill would start for market at Salem, Mass., some thirty or forty miles distant. The children were generally alone during her absence. The journey to market took one day,—one day to trade, and one to return. While at market she would buy the articles for family use, for the succeeding three months, bringing mementos to each, thus adding to the joys of all. In this manner she bore her burdens and managed her family, and prospered. When her daughters were married, each was generously provided for by the mother…”
While Morrison’s story of Dinah and the Hemphill is sympathetic and sentimental in its character, nobody should believe that slavery in New England was benign. One story from the town of Dunstable history will make this point clear: Robert Blood was a slave owner in Dunstable MA. On September 10th, 1756 he sold a five year old slave girl named Dinah to John Abbott of Andover.
Dunstable, September ye 10th, 1756.
“Received of Mr. John Abbott, junior of Andover, Fourteen pounds
Thirteen shillings and Two pence. It being the full value of a Negrow
Garl, Named Dinah, about five years of Age of a Healthy Sound Constitu-
tion, free of any disease of Body and I Do hereby Deliver the Same Garl
to the said Abbott and Promise to Defend him in the Improvement of
her, as his Servant forever. Witness my hand, “
Temple Kendall.. The paper has this indorsement : — Oct. 28, New Stile, 1756.
This day the Within Named Girl was Five years old.”
“Robert Blood lived on the place now occupied by Dexter Butterfield, and many stories are told of his peculiarities. He is said to have called an Indian doctor to prescribe for him in a case of sickness; but fearing lest the medicine might contain poison, he administered it to his negro boy, who died from its effects. The place of his burial is called to this day ” Negro Hill.” (Imagine being so monstrous as to test a possibly poisonous medicine on a little boy.) A sheriff once came into church to arrest Mr. Blood, who, seeing his pursuer, raised his handkerchief to his nose as if it were bleeding, and quietly left the meeting. On being asked’ afterwards why he left the church so suddenly, he said, ” The sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.” (Job 1, 6.) His wife was a noted swimmer, and frequently swam across the Merrimack River. She was, however, drowned at last, as it is said, among the lily-pads of Massapoag Pond.”
The Thanksgiving Sermon of Rev. Calvin Cutler – 1835
Free speech is a cherished ideal in America. That being said, there are always people in power who find this right inconvenient to their machinations. It was true with the issue of slavery in 1835 and it is true in America today with tech titans and their government allies working in tandem to muzzle free speech. When people start demanding that certain voices be silenced, you can be sure that those shouting the loudest at people to shut up, are the ones dreaming of ways “ of stamping a boot on a human face forever” as George Orwell so eloquently wrote. In America, prior to the Civil War, it was the defenders of the institution of slavery that demanded that the Abolitionists shut up! Today, those same shrill voices are demanding that certain segments of our society do the same; they are telling those they oppose, that they have no right to speak with the same virulence as those defending the evil of slavery in the 1830’s. In Calvin Cutler’s Thanksgiving sermon, he the speaks on the twin evils of slavery and the suppression of free speech.
OUR LIBERTIES IN DANGER, A SERMON PREACHED IN WINDHAM
NEW HAMPSHIRE, ON THE DAY OF ANNUAL THANKSGIVING NOV. 26, 1835
Rev. Calvin Cutler
II COR. 3: 17. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, There is Liberty.
“…Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty: liberty to do the will of God without constraint, freedom of access in prayer, and the full development of all human powers in their proper and lawful exercise. Such is the effect of the gospel on individuals; and when the spirit pervades the whole community, the that community will enjoy just that kind and degree of liberty which is best adapted to promote the happiness of human society and the glory of God.”
I propose first, to inquire into the meaning of liberty; and secondly, to show by what means liberty is infringed and destroyed…”
“If the laws are made to bear with unequal severity on different portions of the community, there is evidently a defect in them; and just as far as there is oppression on one individual, without a counterbalancing safeguard to the whole, the law is unjust…But if without crime a man is oppressed, immured in prison, or bound down to involuntary servitude, his civil liberty is invaded; for it is a curtailment of natural rights, which the good of the community does not require. ‘Civil liberty, therefore is the not being constrained by any law but what conduces on a greater degree to the public welfare.’ It is obvious, also, that in different forms of government there are different degrees of liberty, and that government is the freest where the laws are most equal, and individual liberty is best secured. Or in other words, that government is the best where equal rights are best maintained,”
“An object so desirable, however, cannot be effected, to any great extent, nor for any considerable length of time, except by the restraining and sanctifying influence of the gospel…and all that is needed even now to render this land another Paradise, is for the gospel to pervade the whole community and sanctify every individual. Then there would be ‘no breaking in, nor going out and no complaining in our streets;’ but perfect liberty to do the will of God, and promote the happiness of man…and it is this degeneracy in respect to moral principle, which endangers our liberties as a nation. When the spirit of the Lord is grieved, and the restraining influence of the gospel is resisted, then the civil liberty much be abridged, and public safety endangered.”
Infidelity, in its Protean forms of licentiousness, endangers our liberties, and is liable to destroy our free institutions. This is apparent, for example, in the extensive and profanation of the Sabbath. No nation have ever been able to maintain their liberties without the Sabbath. France tried the experiment, and just as soon as the Sabbath was abolished, the floor-gates of violence were thrown open, anarchy and death spread through the nation. And nothing could restore order but the strong arm of military despotism. And yet, with the fatal experiment before us, our own nation are fast verging to the same vortex, by annihilating the Sabbath…”
Another method by which this licentious, anti-republican spirit shows itself, is the prevalence of Intemperance. When moral principle and sobriety are so far banished from the public mind, that elections of rulers can be carried in may sections by the maddening bowl of intoxication; when it comes to pass that half a million freeman can willingly be enslaved and led on to any desperate act by the influence of intoxicating liquors, and when the very manufactory of drunkenness is encouraged and sustained by the law…”
Another method by which infidelity is striving to thwart the peaceful reign of the gospel, and to destroy the blessings of a free government, is the prevalence of Moral Pollution,—a violation of the seventh commandment,—in breaking down the institution of marriage, and thereby surrendering the cords that bind society together…”
“…Another evil which endangers our liberties, is the existence of Slavery, by which one sixth of the nation is treated as non-entities—denied the privilege of reading the bible—men turned into brutes—human souls made chattels, to be bought and sold, and used for the gratification of irresponsible masters; who, contrary to out Bill of Rights and the first principles of free government, have seized and bound their fellow men in cruel bondage. Well was it said by Mr. Jefferson, that God has no attribute by which he can take sides with such oppression. The spirit of the Lord is not in this system of wrong and outrage upon the inalienable rights, and therefore it cannot stand any longer than God, to show his wrath and make his power known, endures with much long-suffering this flagrant usurpation of his prerogative. When our fathers of New England gave their sanction to a recognition of slavery in the union of States, they seem to have left God as was Israel in Canaan, when the Gibeonites came to them with mouldy loaves of bread and clouted shoes, under the pretense of a long journey. It was then, however, a day of comparative ignorance in respect to the enormity of this evil. But Slavery is a monster so selfish and infernal, and has become so gigantic in stature, that it will not bear to be examined, no suffer its features to be exposed, without gnashing its teeth, and scattering scintillations of wrath form its eye-balls. But here in the nation, with all its deformity—a standing memorial to our shame and hypocrisy. And giving the lie to our Bill of Rights in the face of all the nations on earth. When the nation hold as self-evident truths, ‘that all men are created equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ one sixth of this very nation have these inalienable rights wrested from them by violence; they are deprived of liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and subjected to the condition of the brute creation. And what is most appalling, the great majority love to have it so. Yes, the great majority even of the free States, say, by their conduct, to the slave masters, ‘hold on to your victims of cruelty for the present, —we will stand by you and defend you, and keep off the fanatics, who are so visionary and insane as to call slavery a sin, and use arguments to persuade you to let go of your deadly grasp upon the poor innocents.’ Is there no danger that our liberties will be infringed and destroyed, when the nation by their practice give the lie to their profession; when they deal in oppression and uphold the oppressor? Is there no reason for alarm, lest He who hears the cry of the poor and pleads the cause of the oppressed, give the nation up to a reprobate mind to work out their own destruction?”
“I am aware that many suppose we have guaranteed to the South the privilege of trampling on the necks of one sixth of the nation; of treating them as brutes and chattels, and therefore have no right to say anything on the subject. But the fact is, the Constitution does not bind a nation, nor any portion of it, to hold slaves; nor does it bind any portion of the nation to refrain from exposing the enormity of the system. It does not seal our lips from discussion, nor from the free use of the press and mail on this, more than any other subject. We have the same right to discuss and write, and print, on the subject of slavery, as we have on the subject of intemperance, or gambling, or any other evil. The truth is, if slavery with all it abominations were blotted out this day, there need not be a syllable of the Constitution altered. It might remain obsolete, without abridging the freedom of any man. But in that same Constitution the freedom of speech and the press are not only recognized and permitted, but guaranteed to every man in the Union; and this liberty cannot be abridged or taken away without altering the Constitution, and turning it into an instrument of despotism. The Constitution says expressly, that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or, prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of people to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances.’ The Constitution of the several States guaranties the same, those who propose to ferret out and expose untold abominations of slavery, do not ask to have the Constitution changed: and I have often wondered why those who forbid discussion, and would even by violence stop the freedom of the press, do not first demand the Constitution be so altered that no citizen shall be permitted to use his tongue of his pen to effect any reformation whatsoever.”
“Here every man who would put a stop to the discussion of slavery out to begin…But it ought to be known, that no man or body of men have a legal right to abridge the freedom of speech respecting the giant sin of slavery…”
As you continue to read the rest of this sermon on free speech and slavery, reflect just a little on our current time, and how similar the themes are to our own circumstances and the muzzling of our free speech now. It’s truly eerie how history rhymes! The slave-owners, the elites, and the wealthy all wanted the abolitionist movement crushed. They didn’t want anybody discussing the inconvenient truth that it slavery was immoral and inconsistent with the freedoms exposed by the constitution. Their solution, the same with all tyrants, was an attempt to shut down free speech.
“…and this liberty cannot be abridged or taken away without altering the Constitution, and turning it into an instrument of despotism. The Constitution says expressly, that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or, prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of people to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances.’ The Constitution of the several States guaranties the same, Those who propose to ferret out and expose untold abominations of slavery, do not ask to have the Constitution changed: and I have often wondered why those who forbid discussion, and would even by violence stop the freedom of the press, do not first demand the Constitution be so altered that no citizen shall be permitted to use his tongue of his pen to effect any reformation whatsoever.”
“Here every man who would put a stop to the discussion of slavery ought to begin…But it ought to be known, that no man or body of men have a legal right to abridge the freedom of speech respecting the giant sin of slavery, till the bulwark of our liberties be first demolished; and least of all are those men to be accounted true republicans or supporters of free institutions, who would disseminate the false impression that Congress have no authority to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia and the Territories, or that we have no right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
“The most fearful indication of the speedy downfall of our free institutions, is the recent adoption of mob-law to prevent the freedom of speech respecting slavery. In this the troubled elements of infidelity, licentiousness, and oppression, are shaken together, and, like the burning lava of a volcano, seem ready to bury our liberties beneath their own ruins. Buy why is this enormity to be so sacredly guarded from all inquiry? Is it past all doubt, that it is right to trample in the dust and traffic in the sinews and souls of two millions and a half of our brethren, in this land of freedom? We have supposed that liberty of speech and free inquiry was our inheritance as a free people. But now we are peremptorily forbid to discuss or expose this system of wickedness. We must be tongue-tied, and not raise a note of remonstrance nor utter a sigh for this abomination, upon penalty of having our dwellings demolished, and our lives exposed to violence.”
“How is it, brethren—are we freemen ourselves, or are we slaves? Are you ready to become the supple menials of the South, and neither speak nor feel only as slave-masters or their agents, the mob, give you leave? Are you ready—are the freemen of the free States ready, to bow their necks under the yoke of tyranny, and be whipped mutes?…But it is said that slavery is a political question, and therefore the moralist and the Christian have no right to meddle with it. Just as though wrong and outrage and cruelty and blood were all right in politics, and no man has a right to expose any abuse or lift his voice of remonstrance to any measure but the unprincipled demagogue and political aspirant. How strange that men of integrity and character can be duped in this manner; and instead of maintaining their rights or pleading the cause of liberty, can turn apologists for a system of oppression and despotism which outrages all the principles of free government, and condemn the propagation of the doctrine that ‘slavery is a sin, and therefore ought to be abandoned.’”
“Those who propagate this doctrine advocate no use of physical force;—we do not wish to legislate for the South;—we do not wish to alter the Constitution, nor do we countenance insurrection among the slaves. But we do wish for the privilege of using moral means to persuade the slave-masters to let go their hold upon the necks of their brethren, or at least to persuade the free States to wash their hands from this pollution and crime, by the abolition of slavery and the slave trade in the District of Columbia. We claim the constitutional right of thinking and discussing and writing, on this subject as well as any other;—and we shall never relinquish this right so long as we are freemen in a free country.
“The great contest between liberty and despotism in this country has fallen upon the Abolition Question. On this alter our liberties seem about to be immolated. And now it is at every man’s option whether to cast his influence into the scale of liberty or of lawless oppression. If you put down freedom of speech and of the press on this subject, then you put it down on every other. Every man, either in high station or low, in the ranks of the political demagogues or in the church of God, who frowns upon liberty of speech and would muzzle the press, is tying his own tongue, and preparing fetters of brass for his own feet. Every citizen is called to chose, between resisting the exorbitant demands of slave-owners on the one hand, and bowing his neck to the iron yoke of despotism on the other. There is no constitutional law to prevent any man from talking, writing, and publishing, on this or any other subject.
“On this point the exasperated southerners and their apologists are lame. What can be done to take away the liberty of speech from abolitionists? Can they be put to silence by argument? Why is not this expedient tried? Evidently for the reason, that the oppressor and his advocate know discussion will tend to the downfall of slavery. It cannot survive free discussion, and therefore we must be gagged. The most summary way of doing this has been supposed to be to create a general sentiment against all discussion, public meetings and condemnatory resolutions. These give countenance to mobs, who carry out in practice and character the anti-republican sentiments of the resolutions. If proof of this were needed, I might point to the Capital of our own State, where inflammatory resolutions were passed one night to put down free discussion, followed by a mob the next night for the same object. See also the same course of things in Boston, ‘the cradle of liberty,’ in Utica, and in many other places, Are our liberties in no danger when resort if had to brute force to deprive citizens of their lawful privileges? When this modern Vandalism is set on foot and countenanced by men of influence and character, and when even good men can apologize for such acts of violence, by laying the blame on those who are the innocent occasion of them? ‘We are opposed to mobs,’ say some of the sapient editors, ‘but then the abolitionists are so imprudent and fanatical, that they provoke the public indignation, and they must take the consequences. If they would keep still they would not be molested.’ How magnanimous! How republican! What greater countenance could the most savage banditti ask of any man than this? …This is letting lose the ‘dogs of war’ upon every man who uses moral means to redress grievances or reform abuses. To find this lawless, time-serving policy advocated in the nineteenth century—in this republican America, by even religious periodicals, shows our liberties to be on the brink of a precipice.. But it is said the abolitionist are so unpopular and offensive that they ought to be put down. That they are unpopular and offensive is admitted; but were not laws made for the very purpose of protecting the rights and privileges of those who are unpopular and offensive?”
A popular man does not need the protection of law. No one will molest his rights. But when public sentiment turns against him, then he needs protection, and every good citizen ought the supremacy of the laws for his protection. Those who are now trimming their sails to the wind of popular favor, and feel themselves safe, ought to bear in mid that the wind may suddenly shift, and unless they now support the supremacy of laws for the protection of the unpopular, they may yet fall into the tender mercies of an infuriated mob. And above all the ought the poor and laboring man of this country to be jealous of their rights, and maintain their liberty of speech. If these be taken from them, they will have no alternative but to swear silence under their rich task-masters. It is lamentable to see many of this class duped and led on by interested and unprincipled demagogues to trample in the dust and destroy their own most precious privileges. Is there any prospect of preserving the Union by the combined energies of infidelity, avarice and lust to lay the abolitionists on the alter of burnt sacrifice? Will it appease the wrath of heaven? Is the spirit of the Lord in the whirlwind of popular fury which is now sweeping over our country? It is despotism of the meanest character. Better be under the Autocrat of Russia or the Emperor of Austria, than lie at the popular fury in a republican land, without the protection of law. But suppose the reign of anarchy should succeed for a time, and by intimidation or the offering of ten thousand human hecatombs on the alter of despotism, the cause of Abolition should be crushed. Would it continue to slumber? Must not the question come up? Must not the nation meet it, with all its perplexing and exciting difficulties? It surely must come sooner r later; the nation must canvass it, and put it away by deep repentance and humiliation. God is against this system of cruelty; —conscience, humanity, the love of liberty and patriotism, is against it. Discussion cannot be suppressed.; the press cannot be muzzled. Our of an abundance of the heart the mouth will speak. God himself will plead the cause of the oppressed. The tempest of human passion may gather and blacken and lower; the thunders of the South may utter their voices, and the North may mutter their response, but inquiry and discussion will go on, till our land is freed from licentiousness, oppression and cruelty.”
“Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty: liberty to ‘sigh and cry for the abominations of the land’—to plead the cause of the oppressed—to ‘remember those who are in bonds as bound with them’—liberty to pray for out country, and to use moral means for her salvation. And if this liberty can be enjoyed only under threats of prisons, or at the burning stake, then be it so. God will raise up helpers to such a cause.”
Is it not time to remonstrate and to give the alarm, when our constitution is trampled in the dust,—when a premium is set upon the scalps of its citizens because their opinions are offensive to tyrants and oppressors;—when burglary, abduction and assassination are encouraged, and when rulers even cease to be a terror to evil doers? Where are out liberties— our safety? Shall we therefore harden out hearts and hold out peace? Who can tell whether we have come to the kingdom for such a time as this? If we together hold our peace, deliverance will come from another quarter, while we perish with the workers of iniquity. If God be with us, we will pray for out country; we will expose her sins; we will defend discussion and free inquiry. Nor will we envy the responsibility of those editor and ministers of religion, from whatever motive they act, who strive to suppress free inquiry and to keep the people ignorant of their dangers and duties, in the present solemn crisis of the nation. While this nation is approaching the whirlpool— while the wind howls, the ocean heaves, and her frail bark is already broken by the violence of the waves, it becomes every man to apprize himself of her danger—and not only be at his post, but to look to Him in humble prayer, who can guide her through the storm to the haven of riotousness and peace…”
“…This is the subject of devout gratitude, and this is our confidence while we live in this world of wrongs and wickedness, ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very special help in trouble.’ We know he will bring good out of evil, order out of confusion, and cause the wrath of man to praise him…The gospel will prevail to restore to all men their inalienable rights, and to protect the enjoyment of liberty…. ‘The triumphing of the wicked is short.’ While therefore we rejoice this day in the bounties of the year, let us especially rejoice in the future but certain triumph of truth over error, and liberty over all that molests and or destroys the rights of men…Let every man reflect on the guilt and provocations of this nation; let him review the gross impositions and cruel injustices practiced against the aborigines of this country; our hypocritical professions of liberty, while one sixth of the population are in cruel bondage… Let the wicked rage and the people imagine a vain thing, but we rejoice in the Lord, and praise him for his long suffering and patience towards our beloved country…”
The Abolitionists | Anti-Slavery Societies | Underground Railroad.
Quakers, protestant clergyman, individual abolitionists, and free blacks all worked together and provided assistance and support to the African-Americans traveling on the Underground Railroad from the South, through New England and into Canada. They defied and broke the laws of the federal government, which supported the institution of slavery, in order to assist the self-emancipated blacks. Opinion was divided in New England and many parishes broke apart over disagreements over slavery. The federal government and its power and reach supported the southern slave owners in working to capture and return escaped slaves. In fact, the federal government and the powerful elites who supported slavery, worked to clamp down on freedom of speech by maligning and arresting those people in the United States who were advocating for the end of slavery. You see, at the time, cotton was the biggest export of the United States, closely followed by sugar and tobacco. All were run with slave labor and produced huge profits for the planters and the government.
Wilbur Siebert, in his book about the Underground Railroad in Massachusetts says, “Anti-Slavery Societies were being formed throughout Massachusetts one hundred and eighteen towns and cities having one or more of them by the year 1837.” Windham formed its Anti-Slavery society in April 8, 1834. Morrison says, “William Lloyd Garrison, the apostle of this crusade, started a paper called the Liberator Jan, 1, 1831 and advocated immediate and unconditional emancipation of the slaves in the country. He gave his first talk in Boston MA., at the Park Street Church, July 4, 1829. It caused intense excitement. ‘Benjamin Chase the historian of Chester said, ‘Ecclesiastical bodies passed resolutions denouncing abolition and, and religious newspapers and theological quarterlies published long and labored articles defending slavery from the bible.’ George Thompson, the celebrated English champion of human rights, was mobbed in Concord, N.H., Oct. 21, 1835, and about five thousand gentlemen of wealth and influence turned out in a mob and quelled a meeting of the Female Antislavery Society in Boston. Politicians and clergymen vied with each other in their devotion to slavery, and in an effort to squelch the emancipation movement.”
Morrison continues, “An American Anti-Slavery Society was formed, ‘The Liberator’ found its way to Windham, and Deacon Jonathan Cochran and others were its readers before 1834. They became convinced of the monstrous wickedness of human slavery, and never ceased their opposition to the same…” The Anti-Slavery Society was founded in Windham on the early date of April 8, 1834, which was an auxiliary to the National Anti-Slavery Society. The object of the society was, “by all means sanctioned by law, humanity and religion, to effect the abolution of slavery in the United States…”
One interesting account of how the self-emancipated were transported is told about Israel How Brown, who…”had a market wagon, with high sides and a false bottom on which he placed straw for his passengers. The wagon was then filled with garden produce for the Fitchburg market. He started on his trip of twenty-three miles at three o’clock in the a.m., and was only once delayed by officers of the law. They discovered nothing however, for they did not require him to unload. Mr. Brown is credited with having transported more than a hundred refugees.”
The Underground Railroad had five major routes out of Massachusetts. One route out of Boston, went to Medford, “where their were friends of the runaway. Thence it extended to Woburn and finally crossed the Merrimac east of Lowell to Dracut or ‘Black North…’” Black North was a settlement of African-Americans in Dracut MA., “not far from the New Hampshire boundary.” “A large community of emancipated slaves of wealthy landowners settled here early in the eighteenth century. According to Fred Coburn, the historian of Chelmsford and Lowell, this settlement afforded shelter to the escaped slaves who passed that way. Their next stops were at Pelham and Windham, both in New Hampshire, the former being but four miles north of Dracut and the latter an equal distance farther on.” Another branch ran from Woburn to Reading, northeastward, which was on the main line to Andover, South Lawrence, and across to North Salem, New Hampshire.”
“Straight up the ‘pike’ two miles north of Andover Hill was the thriving manufacturing center of Frye Village, now Shawsheen Model Village of the American Woolen Company. There William Poor and his sons had a flourishing wagon factory, Elijah Hussey, a sawmill, and William C. Donald an ink factory. Being pronounced abolitionists, these men had separated from South Church and organized the Free Christian Church in 1846. The Donalds, Poors, Fryes, John Dover and John and Peter Smith—all members of the new church—contributed generously to the fund for fugitive slaves. William C. Donald, Elijah Hussey, Joseph W, Poor, and perhaps others could be counted on to speed the black wayfarers on their journey. When Mr. Poor heard a gentle rap on his door or other subdued sign in the night, he dressed quickly, went out, harnessed his mare Nellie into a covered wagon and started out…” with his African-American passengers, most probably headed for North Salem, New Hampshire. “On the top of a hill at that place were several large excavations, lined and covered with slabs of stone, which had furnished retreat for the neighboring inhabitants when the Indians were on the war path, but which now afforded refuge to fugitive slaves. Mr. Poor was always back in time for breakfast.”
So which Windham resident or residents sheltered self-emancipated slaves? The most like candidates are one or all of the following: Rev. Calvin Cutler, Jerimiah Morrison, Deacon David Campbell, and Deacon Jonathan Cochran, whom Morrison says, “those who were the most active leaders in the movement.” Among the Anti-Slavery Society members in Windham besides those mentioned above, were Rev. Samuel Harris, Deacon Jacob Harris, Deacon Theodore Dinsmoor, Deacon Samuel Anderson, Giles Merrill, Dr. Daniel L Simpson, David Campbell, 2d, John Hills, J.A. Burnham, Stephen Fessenden, and many others.”
The emancipated slaves might have stayed in New England were it not for the Fugitive Slave Act passed in 1851. The numbers of runaways remained in New England in comparative peace and contentment until the enactment of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 sent them in a mad rush to Canada.” “runaways were being brought into New Bedford at least as early as 1819…” By 1851 the African-American inhabitants of New Bedford numbered between six and seven hundred.
“Rev. Hiram K. Wilson, a Worcester man, went to the region of Ontario on the east side of Detroit River as a missionary among the fugitive slaves, and in the winter of 1856 took a census of them, He reported their number at 35,000. By 1860 it was reported their number had increased by 10,000, which was probably too low an estimate.” “Those aiding fugitives were also liable to prosecution and heavy penalties…The Anti-Slavery enterprise from south to the North, of the slave population continued to pour in a swelling flood, in spite of the masters. The love of freedom proved to be stronger than the fear of death, and ‘dangers in the most frightful shapes’ had been dared to achieve liberty. This was one of the triumphs of the Abolitionists…”
Next week, A fiery anti-slavery sermon and impassioned Defense of the cherished American civil right of freedom of speech.
Nicholas Vicksham (Vixtrom, Vintrom) was an African–American from Windham NH., who fought in Captain James Carr’s Company as part of Colonel Poor’s Regiment (later Hale) during the Saratoga campaign.
Joseph Cutshall-King in a Post Star article from March 2, 2020 says “American patriot blacks fought at several key engagements in Burgoyne’s campaign. The Battle of Hubbardton, Vermont, on July 7, 1777, is a case in point. Simeon Grandison of Scituate, Mass., fought at the battle, but it not known with what regiment he served. Asa Perham (also spelled Purham and Pearham) served and fought that day with Col. Nathan Hale’s 2nd New Hampshire Regiment, as did Nicholas Vintrom. Vintrom also spelled Vixtrom, who was captured by the British, but survived. The Battle of Hubbardton by Col. John Williams notes the presence of four black patriot soldiers at that battle. Titus Wilson of Peterborough, N.H., fought with Col. Cilley’s Regiment. Wilson was wounded and captured, and died that same day…”
“You’ve probably surmised that black patriots, such as Minutemen Peter Salem and Cuff Whittemore, fought at so many of the pivotal Revolutionary battles. For example, both Salem and Whittemore faced Burgoyne twice: once at Bunker Hill in 1775 and again at Saratoga in 1777. I’ll end with a recounting of Whittemore’s bravery. Whittemore fought at Saratoga, where British forces captured him. Brought to Burgoyne’s tent, he was ordered by a British regular to take Burgoyne’s horse, as if to hold the reins like a groom or some such thing. Whittemore did, indeed, take Burgoyne’s horse, but not as ordered. Instead he mounted it and, amidst whizzing musket balls, sped off to freedom on Burgoyne’s own steed! Whittemore added an ultimate insult to the overall injury of defeat Burgoyne would suffer at Saratoga.”
Battlefield.org summarizes the battle at Hubbardton this way: “During the 1777 Saratoga Campaign, there were several crucial limited engagements that played a role in slowing down General John Burgoyne’s 8,000-man invasion force as it made its way south from Canada to rendezvous with other British forces near Albany, New York. One of those places was Hubbardton located in present day Vermont. The British attacked the American rear guard, which had abandoned Fort Ticonderoga without firing a shot after the British placed cannons on the hills overlooking the fort. With Fort Ticonderoga made untenable, General Arthur St. Clair ordered the fort evacuated on July 5, 1777.”
“With intelligence in hand that the Americans had left their defensive position at Fort Ticonderoga and were headed south, the British opted to take advantage of the situation. Burgoyne’s adjutant, General Simon Frasier, pursued the Americans, catching up with them on July 7 at Hubbardton. Elements of Saint Clair’s rear guard had encamped at Hubbardton and were taken by surprise by the British, reinforced by a detachment of Brunswick Grenadiers and Jägers led by General Friedrich Adolf Riedesel. The Americans put up stiff resistance, and almost succeeded in turning the British flank, only to have the Brunswick Grenadiers arrive on the field, singing Hymns as they crashed into the American flank, staving off a British defeat. Joining in the fight for the Americans was Colonel Seth Warner, a grizzled Veteran of the French and Indian War and his band of Green Mountain Boys. These were the Americans who provided the heavy fighting on the American side.”
“While many Americans were taken prisoner and marched back to Fort Ticonderoga for confinement, the bulk of Saint Clair’s army was able to escape further south along the Hudson. The result was a British tactical victory, but an American strategic victory.” According to Battlefield.org, 2,230 troops were engaged in the battle, 1,200 Americans, 1,030 British. There were 557 casualties: Americans: 367– 41 killed, 96 wounded, 230 missing or captured. British: 190– 49 killed, 141 wounded. I have the names of four African-Americans at the Battle of Hubardton including our Windham man, Nicholas Vicksham: “Four black American soliders took part in the Battle of Hubbardton: Titus Wilson (Willson), Peterborough, NH., Col. Cilley’s Regiment. He was wounded, captured and died at Hubbardton on the day of the Battle. Simeon Grandison, Situate Massachusetts, regiment not known, Asa Perham, Col. Hale’s regiment. Nicholas Vintrom (Vixtrom) Col Hales’s regiment, captured July 7, John Rees, in his book “They Were Good Soliders” mentions a fifth African-American at Hubbardton, “Scipio Bartlett enlisted in Colonel Ebenezer Francis’s Regiment in February 1777 and fought at the Battle of Hubbardton in Vermont that July, where Colonel Francis was killed. Bartlett added this postscript: ‘I further on oath declare that I was emancipated at the commencement of the Revolutionary War and was a free man during my whole term of service… I am a Black man—but free—and of the age of sixty-six years…’” So at least five African-American’s fought at Hubbardton.
Unfortunately, we know very little about Nicholas Vicksham, as his name is spelled on the marble plaque in the Windham Museum, memorializing his service in the Revolutionary War. We don’t know whether he was a freed black or a slave since both lived in Windham. Morrison records that in July 14, 1776 that, “We the subscribers acknowledge that we have each of us received the sum of six pounds sixteen shillings lawful money from the selectmen in Windham in behalf of the town as a reward to serve on the Continental army for the space of five months: Allen Hopkins, John McCoy, John Jobe, (Joel?)William Dickey Sergt., James Gilmore, David Davidson, Samuel Dinsmoor, Robert Dinsmoor, Nathaniel Hemphill and Nicholus Vickstrum.” The fact that “Vickstrum” enlisted with slave-owner, Nathaniel Hemphill, leads to questions with no answers…was Vickstrum a slave of Hemphill’s or a free man? We also know from the regimental roles that he was 28 years old, stood five foot ten inches tall upon enlistment and that he received a twenty dollar bounty. Here is what we do know from Morrison: “Windham May 8, 1777.—There is enlisted out of Windham, William Darrah, Robert Stuart, in the Continental Army to serve for three years. Enlisted with Lieutenant Cherry, John Joal (Job?), and Nicholas Vicksham.” (“On November 8, 1776 Ensign Cherry was commissioned a Lieutenant in Capt. James Carr’s Co. in 2nd New Hampshire Regiment, Col. Nathan Hale commanding.”) “Lieutenant Cherry, from Londonderry was in Capt. James Carr’s company of Colonel Nathan Hale’s Second NH. Regiment. Morrison says, “Vicksham, was taken prisoner at the battle of Hubbardton, and was never heard from afterwards.”
We know little of the other commanders at Hubbardton. Colonel Ebenezer Francis was like Warner a huge man with some military experience, for he had commanded a regiment at the siege of Boston. He commanded a Massachusetts regiment at Hubbardton, was killed at the head of his men, and buried by the Hessians. Colonel Francis was a fine example of the patriotic citizen-soldier. He died-as every true soldier would wish to die-in the forefront of the battle his face to the foe. “No man died on that field with more Glory than he yet many died and there was much Glory.”
“Colonel Nathan Hale was still somewhere down the hill near Sunker Brook with a remnant of his regiment, including Captain James Carr’s company, (Vicksham’s Company), Captain Caleb Robinson, and several stragglers and invalids. Despite being taken by surprise, Hale’s men had done their best to delay the crush of redcoats. However, as a fighting unit they ceased to exist, the men, faced with overwhelming odds, had slipped into the woods and continued the fight individually and in small groups…” According to another account, “…Colonel Nathan Hale, at the first onslaught of the enemy, retired with his regiment, as many of his men were sick and exhausted; he was overtaken on the road to Castleton and surrendered. Colonel Hale was bitterly criticized for his action and asked for a court martial, but before it could be granted, he was taken prisoner and died on Long Island. He was thirty-seven years old.” It is likely then this is how Nicholas Vicksham was captured by the British at the battle. What we also know is he never returned from the war and likely perished in captivity. Hadden’s version confirms
Ethan Allen’s statement, that Hale surrendered to ” an inconsiderable number of the enemy ;” for Allen, in writing of the affair at Hubbardton, says: — “It was by this time dangerous for those of both parties who were not prepared for the world to come ; but Col. Hale being apprised of the danger, never brought his regiment to the charge, but left Warner and Francis to stand the blowing of it, and fled, but luckily fell in with an inconsiderable number of the enemy, and to his eternal shame, surrendered himself a prisoner.” A letter, evidently written by a member of Col. Cilley’s New Hampshire Regiment (which was on the retreat from Ticonderoga, but not in the engagement at Hubbardton), dated Moses’ Creek, July 17th, 1777, and indorsed, ” Letter from Cogan to Gen’l John Stark,” &c., to be found in vol. 8, of the New Hampshire State Papers, page 640, gives a very graphic account of the disorder and confusion attending the retreat from Ticonderoga. Although his regiment was not in the action, Cogan writes as if he had been ; and undoubtedly many, who had straggled from their regiments, were with the rearguard.
“Our situation puts me in mind of what I have heard you often say of Ticonderoga. Such a Retreat was never heard of since the Creation of the world. I was ordered about five of the Clock in the afternoon to draw forty-eight Rounds per man :afterwards, nine days allowance of provision which I completed about 2 of the clock in the morning, and about the time I got home the Tents were struck, and all was ordered to retreat ; but it was day light before we got below your old house \ such order surprised both officers & soldiers ; then they wished for General Sullivan to the Northern army again ; they left all the Continental clothing there ; in short every article that belonged to the army ; which if properly conducted might be easily saved. Surely we were fifty thousand times better off than General Sullivan was in Canada last year ; our men was in high spirits, and determined to a man to stick by the lines till they lost their lives, rather than quit so advantageous a Post ; Drove us a long two or three & thirty miles that day, till the Rear Guard got to Bowman’s Camp; the men being so fatigued were obliged to stay, and were attacked in the morning by the Regulars, who travelled all Night, and just got up by the time we were beginning to march in a disorderly manner; our men being in confusion, and made no great of a Battle. But some behaved & some did not. Col°. Reed acted his part very well. Col°. Hale they said did not. Col°. Hale is either kill’d or taken. Little Dwyer behaved like a lusty fellow & died in the Bed of Honor ; as nearly as I could conjecture, we had odds of a thousand that attacked them ; our main body was within six miles of us, the Indians took & killed a vast number of our men on their Retreats ; then was hurried at an unmerciful rate thro’ the woods at the rate of thirty-five miles a day, oblidg’d to kill oxen belonging to the Inhabitants wherever we got them; before they were half-skinned every soldier was obliged to take a bit & half Roast it over the fire, then before half-done was obliged to March, — it is thought we went 100 miles for fear of seeing a Regular (I mean out of the way) there never was a field officer consulted, whether we should retreat or not, which makes them very uneasy ; so that the blame of our Retreat must fall on our Commanders; never was soldiers in such a condition without cloaths, victuals or drink & constantly wet. Caleb* and I are just as our mothers bore us without the second shirt, the second pair of shoes, stockings or coats, — but however its all in the Continent. Caleb does vastly better than he ever did with you. Col. Cilley is very fond of us. Indeed, I suppose we are pretty diligent for the most part. Give my compliments to Peggy, Arch & Jenny & Martha.
” I am Respects Yours,
“N. B. The officers lost their Baggage, writings & all. The
Rear Guard were mostly Invalids, and our Gen” took away
the main Body, and even refused to send assistance when the
Cols, begged him to do it.”
“Indorsed — ‘Letter f.om Cogan to Gen’ John Stark,’ “
*” Caleb was the eldest son of Gen. John Stark. — Ed.
“Although Hale was the official commander of the 2nd New Hampshire Regiment, he was delayed in joining Warner because of the large number of sick, disabled, and stragglers, who St. Clair had assigned to his regiment. (In the entire Northem Army, 532 men were listed as “Sick, Present,” or roughly eighteen percent of the rank and file as of June 28, 1777. These were the men who made Hale’s fob so difficult. G.W. Nesmith states in his book New Hampshire at Hubbardton that Hale was six miles behind the other American troops. Finally, when Francis arrived about 4 p.m., Warner took command of the entire rear guard. Upon Hales’s arrival at the bivouac area that aftemoon, the three commanding officers gathered at the log cabin of John Selleck, which stood at the junction of the military and Castleton roads at what is now East Hubbardton. “
“Colonel Hale perhaps had one of the most difficult parts to play in the Battle of Hubbardton. General St. Clair had placed him in charge of the invalids, walking sick, wounded, and stragglers, including some who were intoxicated, from the retreating Northern Army in the forced march from Mount Independence. By the time they finally reached Hubbardton late on the afternoon of July 6, this unorganized group may have numbered three hundred. They were from all ten of the regiments in St. Clair’s rapidly retreating army.”
“When Colonel Hale finally came up with his group, Warner, now in overall command of the reinforced rear guard, assigned them to an area well west of the military road and along Sucker Brook, downstream, where they could clean themselves up and rest. They were attached to Captain Carr’s company of Hale’s 2nd New Hampshire Regiment, already in place as an outpost to secure the extreme left flank on the west. This position was near the site of the Old Manchester Farm road, a likely approach by the British.”
“A number of the soldiers were recovering from measles and were very weak. Ebenezer Fletcher, a fifer in Carr’s company, writes, “Having just recovered from the measles and not being able to march with the main body [Northern Army] I fell in the rear.” Some no doubt suffered from dysentery, diarrhea, hangovers, and other troop disorders, as well as the aftermath of measles. The day was reported as excessively hot, and the distance marched was well over twenty miles at a grueling pace. After seeing to his group of sick and exhausted men, Hale reported to Warner at the Selleck cabin on the south side of Monument Hill.”
“The next morning, July 7, about 7:00 Captain Carr’s company and the group of sick and stragglers were surprised by the British as they attacked across Sucker Brook. Ebenezer Fletcher, continuing his narrative, reported the opening of the battle as he observed it first hand:
“The morning after our retreat, orders came very early for the troops to refresh and be ready for marching. Some were eating, some were cooking, and all in a very unfit posture for battle. Just as the sun rose [down deep in a valley, with steep hills to the east, this could well have been about 7:00], there was a cry “The enemy are upon us.” Looking around I saw the enemy in line of battle. Orders came to lay down our packs and be ready for action. The fire instantly began. We were but a few in number compared to the enemy. At the commencement of the battle, many of our party retreated back into the woods. Capt. Carr came up and says, “My lads advance, we shall beat them yet.” A few of us followed him in view of the enemy. Every man was trying to secure himself behind girdled trees, which were standing on the place of action. I made shelter for myself and discharged my piece. Having loaded again and taken aim, my piece misfired. I brought the same a second time to my face, but before I had time to discharge it, I received a musket ball in the small of my back, and fell with my gun cocked…’
“Fletcher hid himself under a tree but was discovered by the British after the Battle, brought into camp, and treated well by two doctors who told him that he had some prospect of recovering. It appears to have been this relatively isolated unit and Hale’s group of sick and stragglers out on the extreme west or left flank that were surprised, suggesting strongly that enemy scouts and Indians “took of [off] a Centry . . .” during the night, as was reported by Captain Greenleaf. The Indians had captured or tomahawked the sentry or picket so that the British attack, which came later, came without warning. As explained by Fletcher, these troops withdrew, firing at the British from behind trees as they did so. They withdrew into Warner’s sector and across the Castleton road, where they were defeated, with many killed and wounded and with many prisoners taken by the pursuing and overrunning British troops under Lindsay and Acland.”
“The location of Colonel Hale during this early phase of the battle is not clear. Since he was still responsible for the sick and stragglers group in Captain Carr’s area, and since Carr was one of his subordinate company commanders, it would appear that he would have exercised early morning responsibilities there, and no doubt he did so, and may have been midway between his regiment on Monument Hill and his group of invalids and stragglers down at Sucker Brook when the British attacked.
“In any event, Hale had placed his understrength 2nd New Hampshire regiment under the temporary command of Major Benjamin Titcomb, his second in command. Titcomb brought the regiment to Monument Hill while Hale was struggling with his sick and straggler group in the rear. Titcomb was assigned the northern sector of the hill, on the American right flank, the first to face the British assault.”
“On July 7, shortly after 7:00, as Warner and Francis were assembling for marching, Titcomb had not yet assembled Hale’s regiment when the British attacked. One soldier there testified that “the action began on Francis’s right, which soon gave way.” It is likely that Hale’s troops, temporarily under Titcomb, had not as yet formed for marching and were the ones who initially gave way. But although they were in greater disarray than the other two regiments, the 2nd New Hampshire men apparently recovered and held out as long as the other two commands, suffering more disabling wounds than the other two combined. After withdrawing behind the high log fence, elements reorganized, and in company with Francis’s troops attacked the British left flank that had become exposed. The Americans were bringing pressure on the British left and were about to get behind them when the Germans attacked them from the front, flank, and rear. At this point the Americans disengaged and scattered east toward Pittsford ridge.”
“Since Hale’s men did not leave any description of the action in their sector, our presumption of activity is based upon the pension records of disabling wounded among Hale’s men and the killed, as well as upon Bird’s statement that Hale’s men were on the right flank. That Hale had a dual mission there can be no doubt, which may explain the several conflicting accounts as to his actions and locations.”
“Hale and about seventy men were surrounded after the battle and captured when threatened by a ruse. Hadden, recognized as the authority on Hale, wrote, “As proof of what may be done against Beaten Battalions while their fears are upon them, an officer and 15 men detached for the purpose of bringing in Cattle fell in with 70 Rebels, affecting to have the rest of the party concealed and assuring them they were surrounded [by a larger number], they surrendered their arms and were brought in [as] prisoners.”
“By the time Hale and his men were captured, the firing had ceased. Certainly, a detachment would not be looking for cattle in the vicinity of a battlefield when the shooting was in progress. Hale and his men, many of whom were seriously wounded, were like the rest of the retreating Americans trying to reach a road or trail across the mountains toward Rutland. There can be no doubt that Hale acted to save the lives of his men. Actually, the feigning of a larger concealed force was more a reality than a deception when we consider that von Breymann’s 1,000 Germans had just arrived at the very close of the most violent phase of the Battle.”
“In Travels through the interior parts of America, Thomas Anburey, a member of Burgoyne’s army wrote about the action with Colonel Hale: “The Indians under the command of Captain Frazer, supported his company of marksmen (which were volunteer companies from each regiment of the British) were directed to make a circuit on the left of our encampment, to cut off the retreat of the enemy to their lines: this design, however, was frustrated by the impetuosity of the Indians who attacked to soon, which enable the enemy to retire with little loss. General Phillips took Mount Hope, which cut off the enemy…”
“During the battle (at Hubbardton) the Americans were guilty of such a breach of military rules, as could not fail to exasperate our soldiers. The action was chiefly is the woods, interspersed with a few open fields. Two companies of grenadiers, who were stationed in the skirts of the woods, close to one of the fields, to watch the enemy did not outflank the 24th regiment, observed number of Americans, to the amount near sixty, coming across the field, with their arms clubbed, which is always considered to be a surrender of prisoners of war. The grenadiers were restrained from firing, commanded to stand with their arms, and show no intention of hostility: when the Americans got within ten yards, they in an instant turned round their muskets, fired upon the grenadiers, and rum as fast as they could into the woods; their fire killed and wounded a great number of men, and those who escaped immediately pursued them, and gave no quarter….” “…we laid upon our arms all night, and the next morning sent back the prisoners to Ticonderoga, amounting to near 250. A very small detachment could be spared to guard them, as General Fraser expected the enemy would have reinforcements from the main body of the army…He told the colonel of the Americans (Hale), who had surrender himself, to inform the rest of the prisoners, that if they attempted to escape, no quarter would be shown them, and that those who might elude the guard, the Indians would be sent in pursuit to scalp them…”
Barzillai Lew was born on November 5, 1743, in Groton MA to Primus and Margaret Lew. Barzillai (pronounced BAR-zeal-ya) was often called “Zeal” or “Zelah.” His parents were free African-Americans who owned their own farm there. His father Primus was a musician who served in the French and Indian War. Barzillai also served in the French and Indian War with his father. Barzillai wed Dinah in 1768, whose freedom he needed to purchase for $400 before they could be married.
Lew, living in Chelmsford, was listed as a fifer/drummer in Captain John Ford’s Company, in Colonel Ebenezer Bridge’s 27th Massachusetts Regiment on May 6, 1775. He was listed as 30 years of age, occupation cooper, a negro from Chelmsford, and a fifer and drummer. He was one of 150 African Americans who fought at Bunker Hill, on June 17, 1775, “which represented about 5% of the Patriot’s forces there.” “He is said to have played the tune “There’s nothing Makes the British Run Like Yankee Doddle Dandy.”
“There were quite a number of the sons of Africa fighting side by side with their countrymen of the white race at Bunker Hill, several of whom were conspicuous for their bravery, among them Salem Poor, Titus Coburn, Alexander Ames, Barzillai Lew, and Cato Howe each of whom received a pension. This fact is established by the painting of Colonel Trumbull, who witnessed this battle from Roxbury and reproduced it upon canvas in 1786. He reproduced several Negroes in the front ranks fighting valiantly, with visible results.”
Lew also participated in the Successful raid at Fort Ticonderoga in 1775 that brought the cannons back to Boston that drove the British out in 1776.
After Bunker Hill, Lew joined Dracut’s Joseph Bradley Varnum’s regiment, which marched to Ticonderoga in 1777. He was in Varnum’s regiment when the British general John Burgoyne surrendered to American forces at Saratoga, New York in 1777. “Varnum wrote in his diary. ‘Zeal is a fifer and fiddler for the grand appearance the day that Burgoyne’s Famous Army is brought in’”. He was also cited for bravery “The powder horn he carried throughout the war now sits in an African-American history museum in Chicago.”
After his service in the American Revolution, Lew returned home and the family moved from Chelmsford to Dracut. “With wages from his military service, Barzillai and Dinah purchased a large tract of farmland on the far side of the Merrimack River on today’s Totman Road in Lowell’s Pawtucketville neighborhood (Pawtucketville was part of Dracut until 1872). They built a house near Varnum Avenue on Zeal Road named for Barzillai (now called Totman Road.) . (Zeal being Barzillai’s nickname.) Lew not only farmed, but he was also a cooper (barrel maker) sometimes for the Middlesex Canal Company. Together, Lew and his wife Dinah had thirteen children. Together, Lew and his wife Dinah had thirteen children. Zadock (1768) Amy (1771), Serviah (1773), Eucebea (1775), Barzillai II (1777), Peter (1779), Rufus (1780) – impressed at sea by the British in 1808, Eri (1782), Dinah II (1784), Zimri (1785), Phebe (1788), Lucy (1790) and Adrastus (1793).The family was active in the Pawtucket Church on Mammoth Road not far from their home. Lew passed along the family’s musical gift to his children and the family was active in the church’s choir. It should also be noted that the church organized the first anti-slavery meeting in the area in 1832.” “Barzillai, Dinah, and several of their sons and daughters sang and played wind and stringed instruments all over New England. They were noted throughout the 19th and 20th centuries as well-educated, skilled, and talented musicians. It was said “no family in Middlesex County from Lowell to Cambridge could produce so much good music.’ They formed a complete band in their family and were employed to play at assemblies in Portland Maine, Boston Massachusetts and other large cities and towns, as well as commencement exercises at several New England colleges.” “A long line of musicians and entertainers followed in the Lew family, and the patriarch Barzillai became so well known historically that Duke Ellington honored him with a piano composition, Barzillai Lew, recorded in 1943 on the Hurricane record label.”
They kept an elegant coach and fine span of horses and came on the Sabbath to the Pawtucket Society Church in as much style as any family in the town of Dracut. Dinah Bowman Lew may have been the first African-American woman pianist in American history. Barzillai Lew died in Dracut on January 18, 1822, at 78 and was buried in Clay Pit Cemetery. Years later, Dinah Bowman Lew petitioned and received from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts a pension for her husband’s military service in the American Revolution.”
Adrastus Lew, Zimri’s son, married Elizabeth Freeman of Derry, New Hampshire in 1844. They purchased and cleared a piece of woodland off Riverside Street in the Pawtucketville section of Dracut (now Lowell) and built a house which still stands on Mount Hope Street. In 1912, at the age of 91, Elizabeth Freeman Lew recounted in an interview with the Lowell Sun: “The house where I live was, one of the houses which in slavery times, formed one of the underground railroad where runaway slaves would come for shelter and protection on their way to Canada. Those were terrible times.” Adrastus and Elizabeth had five sons and one daughter. James, moved to Cambridge, formed a popular dance band, and served as the music advisor to the Cambridge School Committee. William and Fred had a successful dry-cleaning and dyeing business in Lowell.”
Harry “Bucky” Lew, the great-great grandson of Barzillai Lew, was the first black man to play professional basketball in the United States. Like generations of Lews, Bucky Lew was a talented musician and played a violin solo at his graduation from Pawtucketville Grammar School. In 1902, at the age of 18, he was recruited to join Lowell’s Pawtucketville Athletic Club “P.A.C.” of the New England Professional Basketball League. His teammates considered him one of the best double dribblers in the league, which was still legal. The team manager hesitated to put Lew in the game, but the local press put pressure on the team to play Lew. He got his first chance after a series of injuries to other players resulted in being allowed on court.
“Years later “Bucky” Lew was interviewed by Gerry Finn for the Springfield Massachusetts Union on April 2, 1958 about that first game. “I can almost see the faces of those Marlborough players when I got into that game,” said Lew, who was seventy-four when the article was published. ‘Our Lowell team had been getting players from New York, New Jersey Pennsylvania and some of the local papers put the pressure on by demanding that they give this little Negro from around the corner a chance to play. Well, at first the team just ignored the publicity. But a series of injuries forced the manager to take me on for the Marlborough game. I made the sixth player that night and he said all I had to do was sit on the bench for my five bucks pay. There was no such thing as fouling out in those days so he figured he’d be safe all around.'”
“It just so happens that one of the Lowell players got himself injured and had to leave the game. At first this manager refused to put me in. He let them play us five on four but the fans got real mad and almost started a riot, screaming to let me play. That did it. I went in there and you know . . . all those things you read about Jackie Robinson, the abuse, the name-calling, extra effort to put him down . . . they’re all true. I got the same treatment and even worse. Basketball was a rough game then. I took the bumps, the elbows in the gut, knees here and everything else that went with it. But I gave it right back. It was rough but worth it. Once they knew I could take it, I had it made. Some of those same boys who gave the hardest licks turned out to be among my best friends in the years that followed.”
“The finest players in the country were in that league just before it disbanded and I always wound up playing our opponent’s best shooter,” Lew said. “I like to throw from outside but wasn’t much around the basket.”
“Of course, we had no backboards in those days and everything had to go in clean. Naturally, there was no rebounding and after a shot there was a brawl to get the ball. There were no out-of-bounds markers. We had a fence around the court with nets hanging from the ceilings. The ball was always in play and you were guarded from the moment you touched it. Hardly had time to breathe, let alone think about what you were going to do with the ball.”
“Lew has never been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. His daughter, Phyllis Lew, had been trying to get her father included since the 1970s”
I have been pouring over the local histories of Andover, Dunstable, Dracut, Nashua and others and have been totally astounded by the rich African-American history contained in these local accounts. Blacks were a vibrant part of many local communities, but we also have to remember that many were also marginalized, subject to segregation and ill-treated. It was pointed out to me that they were denied access to many of the advantages of white society; most could not vote and they were denied access to higher education. Massachusetts ended slavery in 1788, but racial segregation in transportation did not end until the 1840’s and schools in 1855. Some might argue that segregation continued in Boston up until the 1970’s.
After the Revolutionary War, the cities and towns of New England became the home to the newly freed African-Americans, many of whom earned their freedom by serving as soldiers. There are also accounts before the Civil War of unscrupulous men kidnapping these free men in order to sell them in the South.
The Lew family of Dracut is of particular interest and I will write more about them next week. They were able to rise above the prejudice and succeed in many endeavors. What has truly amazed me, is the large number of African-Americans that served (and served with their masters) over the course of the war, and some of whom were lauded for the bravery and courage. I’ve read over the lists of hundreds and hundreds, of African-American and also Native-Americans in, “Forgotten Patriots…” a DAR Publication, who fought in the American Revolution.
My ancestor, Robert Dinsmoor was at Charlestown during the Revolution, I now understand that when he was facing down the British, there were many black men fighting bravely beside him. The Oxford African American Studies Center says, “According to one estimate, approximately five thousand black Americans took part in the fight for independence. Although many of these patriots, both free and slave, are remembered for their service, far more are unknown.”
Glenn Knoblock, who has written extensively about African-American history in New England, says that, “What buried much of New England’s African American history was the refusal by local and even regional historians (at places like Harvard), who either refused to recognize that slavery existed in the region, or if they did recognize it, painted it as a benevolent type of slavery. Interestingly, in New England, it was taught that slavery did not exist here for many years, well into the 1950’s.” Check out his book, “Strong, and Brave Fellows, New Hampshire Black Soldiers and Sailors of the American Revolution, 1775-1784.”
And I have found the name of a least one African-American from Windham who served in the Revolutionary War and I will write about him in a future column.
So lets begin with one of the most well known African-American patriots; Salem Poor. He was a black Revolutionary War solider who fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill. There are some disputes among historians about his role in the battle, but I have found eyewitness accounts from the time are often the most reliable. He was cited for his bravery to the Massachusetts Legislature, by his fellow townsmen from Andover, Massachusetts. Surely he was a hero in the battle.
In “Historical Sketches of Andover, (Baily)” Poor’s role in the battle is described by the men who witnessed it. “There is a tradition in regard to the bravery
a negro servant in the battle, which is also confirmed by the State records. The story goes that “Salem Poor,” a slave, owned by Mr. John Poor, shot Lieutenant-colonel Abercrombie. As that officer sprang on the redoubt, while our men were in retreat, and exclaimed, ‘The day is ours,’ Salem turned and took aim and fired. He saw the officer fall. The record in the Archives is as follows : —”
Recommendation of Salem Poor, A Negro, for Bravery.
“To the Honorable General Court of Massachusetts Bay.
The subscribers beg leave to Report to your Honorable House, which we do in justice to the Character of so Brave a Man that came under our observation. We declare that a Negro Man called Salem Poor, of Col. Frye’s Regiment, Capt. Ames’ company, in the late battle at Charlestown behaved like an experienced officer as well as an excellent soldier; to set forth Particulars of his conduct would be tedious. We would only beg leave to say, in the Person of this said Negro centers a Brave & Gallant soldier. The Reward due to so great and Distinguished a Character we submit to the Congress.” Cambridge, Dec. 6, 1775 Jona Brewer, Col; Thomas Winon, Lt.-col; Wm. Prescott, Col; Epheraim Cary, Lieut; Joseph Baker, Lieut; Joshua Reed, Lieut.”
“On 17 June 1775, Abercrombie led the grenadier battalion in their charge of the redoubt on the Americans’ left wing at the Battle of Bunker Hill. During the assault on Breed’s Hill, he sustained a large gunshot wound on his right thigh from an African soldier named Salem Poor, although there is probability that it was friendly fire. After removal from the Bunker Hill battleground, he was treated at a hospital facility in Boston. He succumbed to his wound a week later at the residence of British Military engineer John Montresor.”
After the war, Poor was able to purchase his freedom, he married, three times, lived for a time in Rhode Island, and ended up in a Boston Almshouse in 1793. He died in 1802 at the age of 55, and is interred at Copp’s Hill Burial Ground in Boston. There were 28 slaves in Andover MA. according to the 1754 Slave Census.
Beside the wall on the Cemetery on the Hill in Windham, in the south-east corner, in unmarked graves, lie the remains of Windham’s early black residents. I am probably one of the few people who is aware of their resting place. They had names like Jeff and Pomp and most were owned as slaves. Some were literate, all were hard-working and capable, entrusted with important tasks, and by their very presence here contributed much to the early town of Windham. They rest from their labors in the same ground as the Dinsmores, Morrisons, Parks, Cochrans and others, but only the African American’s resting place remains unmarked. It has always been my hope and wish that the town would see fit to erect a granite monument in this unmarked space, to preserve the memory of these important African Americans. It would be an appropriate way of showing that black lives do matter in Windham. As Leonard Morrison so elegantly wrote in his history of Windham, in 1883; “In the grave they find perfect equality, which they never found when living. In its unbroken silence there is no distinction between white and black, bond or free, cultured or ignorant, and the quietness of peace resteth over all.” As I will show in the coming weeks, many African Americans were far from “ignorant” and some could write more eloquently than most whites during the same time period.
Morrison explains that, “this town had never been largely populated with colored people. Near the commencement of the present century, a family of negroes lived in a house which stood on the road from George Copp’s house, over the hill to Isaac Emerson’s. Rose, Pomp, and Jeff, three negroes, lived in town. Rose lived at Squire John Dinsmoor’s (the John Kelley place), (the brother of Robert Dinsmoor, the Rustic Bard). Jeff died at Squire John Nesmith’s (Horace Berry’s place). When he went to church he did not go inside, but sat on the porch. Pomp died in town. They were all buried in that part of the original cemetery on the hill, in the southeasterly corner, near the highway.” According to a Windham census from 1773, there were 13 slaves in Windham in 1773.
“In New England of 1776, 2.3% of the total population was African. This compares to the middle Atlantic states where 12.4% of the population was African and in the deep South where 39.2% of the population was African.” While the numbers are much lower in New England, there still was a large black presence and many of that population were slaves. Diversity in Colonial Times, April 21, 2008.
According to Leonard Morrison, “Slavery was never legalized, or established by authority of law in New Hampshire; but as it existed in other colonies it crept in here, was tolerated, and regulated by law, so that Indian and negro servants or slaves were owned and held as property.* They were taxed as other property. In 1728, each negro, mulatto, or Indian slave being male was assessed at 20 pounds; each woman slave was excluded…Rev. Nathaniel Bouton, D.D. compiler of the Provincial and State Papers of New Hampshire, thinks that by the adoption of the first and second clause of the Bill of Rights in the constitution of the State, virtually and in effect slavery was abolished in New Hampshire.”
“In 1775 the number of ‘negroes and slaves for life’ in New Hampshire was 657; in 1790, six years after the adoption of the Constitution, 158; by 1800, 8; by 1810, 0; in 1830, 3; and 1840, 1,—mistake of census taker.
“While such is the history of the institution in the State, we shall have brief notices of its existence in Windham. Allusions are occasionally made of ‘slaves’ upon the reords of the town. In 1767, there were four slaves in town; in 1773, there were thirteen, five males and eight females. September 15, 1775, the number of negroes and slaves for life were thirteenth.”
“In 1785, Windham voted the use of pew 36 in the church for negroes, if their masters would pay rates.” I wonder in old Jeff was ever invited in, felt comfortable enough to enter, or had a master willing to pay for his pew so that he could abandon the porch and make his way inside the house of God to pray?