Reflections on Josiah Parker

Memorial Day was not observed in the years immediately following the American Revolution. Soldiers like Josiah Parker, a militiaman from Wilton, NH, who served during the summer and fall of 1776 at Fort Ticonderoga were not much on people’s minds after the Civil War when springtime memorials to fallen soldiers began occurring.

Josiah’s parents, Henry and Sarah Parker lived up the hill from Isaac and Elizabeth Frye in Wilton in the 1770s. Josiah lived a couple miles away, near where Elizabeth’s parents, Timothy and Elizabeth Holt had settled in the early 1770s.

As I was researching The War has Begun, I had quite a time discovering the backstory for Elizabeth Frye writing, in October, about the need to get Josiah a discharge due to his severe illness. That backstory did a great deal to cement, in my mind, the important roles everyone in communities like Wilton played. Their sacrifices were not just categorical things like hunger, sickness, the economic impact of men being absent from farms, etc.

The Josiah Parker who was Fort Ticonderoga and sick enough to be fearing for his life in the early autumn of 1776, was a husband to Phebe, a father to five children, and Phebe was four months pregnant with a sixth child, conceived in the days prior to Josiah being mustered in early July.

Learning what happened to the widows and families of men like Josiah Parker proved fundamental to my writing. How communities coped and the impacts on each individual rippling into the lives of others such the minister of Wilton’s Congregational meetinghouse, Jonathan Livermore provided the threads to make a fabric that richly showed how a community bore the weight of a revolution.

This Memorial Day, take some time to consider what you’ve learned from a Revolutionary War soldier who was killed or died while serving.

Sources

As usual, I am indebted to the work of Abiel Abbot Livermore and Sewall Putnam whose research provided the pieces to this puzzle that matched with those I found in Elizabeth Frye’s letter of October 7, 1776.

Livermore, Abiel Abbot and Putnam, Sewall 1888. “History of the Town of Wilton, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire with a Genealogical Register” Marden & Rowell, Printers, Lowell, MA.

Balancing the Balance of Power

On May 5, 1776, General George Washington wrote to Congress. Among the many items was this paragraph:

“I beg leave to lay before Congress, a Copy of the proceedings of a Court Martial upon Lieutenant Grover of the 2d. Regiment, and of his defence, which I should not have troubled them with, had I not conceived the Courts Sentence upon the facts stated in the proceedings, of a singular nature; the small fine imposed, by no means adequate to the enormity of his offence and to be a dangerous and pernicious tendency: for these reasons, I thought it my duty to lay the proceedings before them, in order to their forming such a Judgment upon the Facts, as they shall conceive right and just, and advancive of the Public Good. At the same time I would mention, that I think it of material consequence that Congress should make a resolve, taking away the supposed right of succession in the Military line from one Rank to another, which is claimed by many upon the happening of vacancies, and upon which principle this Offence seems to have originated in a great measure, and this extraordinary Judgement to be founded; declaring that no succession or promotion can take place in case of vacancies, without a Continental Commission giving and Authorizing it.”

In Congress on May 10, 1776 it was resolved:

“That this Congress has hitherto exercised, and ought to retain the power of promoting the officers in the continental service according to their merit; and that no promotion or succession shall take place upon any vacancy, without the authority of a continental Commission.”

Thus, not even his Excellency, General George Washington, would not have the power to promote an officer in the Army he commanded.  An act of Congress would be required. Even in the early days of the American Revolution, the idea of a balance of power was in practice. Washington also knew who held the power over his own commission, and personally, in later correspondence with Congress made recommendations for many of the officers, in addition to forwarding the recommendations from the thirteen provincial congresses that recommended which officers should be commissioned.

These commissions, however, did not arrive immediately. In Isaac Frye’s case, New Hampshire made the recommendation in March 1777, but the commission was not signed until June 1779, more than two years afterward.

Sources:

George Washington Papers, Series 4, General Correspondence: George Washington to Continental Congress, May 5. May 5, 1777. Manuscript/Mixed Material. https://www.loc.gov/item/mgw447183/.

Livermore, Abiel Abbot and Putnam, Sewall 1888. “History of the Town of Wilton, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire with a Genealogical Register” Marden & Rowell, Printers, Lowell, MA. Page 106 has a transcription of Isaac Frye’s commission to rank as Captain, which was signed by John Jay, President of Congress, on June 16, 1779.

On the James McGregore Affair

First, it is good to be back to writing after a very busy few weeks at work. While I was away, I realized the calendars from The War has Begun and the current year have aligned, so I have made it my goal to keep this blog in step with the book’s calendar. Thus, Chapter 6, A Lesson in Patience, which featured an unexpected addition to the 3rd Regiment’s staff, in the person of James McGregore. McGregore arrived in the American Army’s camp shortly after the Battle of Breed’s Hill, and shortly thereafter obtained a letter from the provincial congress appointing him as the adjutant of Colonel James Reed’s 3rd NH Regiment.  Read more

Charlestown Ablaze

Charlestown In Flames
Robson Map: Depicts the Battle of Breeds Hill, where Charlestown was burned by the British.

242 years ago on June 17, 1775, Charlestown was set ablaze to drive out three companies of American militia. At the outset of the Battle of Breeds Hill, these militiamen had taken positions on the north side the town. As the ranks of redcoats marched up the slope of Breeds Hill to Warren’s Redoubt the militiamen and fired into their ranks, likely taking a hundred or more out of the battle before the main action got started.

Imagine you are in the militia with these men. It is a sweltering afternoon with the sun high overhead. The British gunships on the other side of town in the Charles River and the battery at Copps Hill in Boston blast a screaming leaden hail of fiery-hot grapeshot at the mostly wooden buildings you have been using for cover and concealment. The gun-smoke blowing on the wind is, by degrees, pushed out by wood-smoke as the temperature in Charlestown rises.

My ancestor, Isaac Frye, was one of these militiamen, serving as a 2nd lieutenant and quartermaster for Colonel James Reed’s 3rd New Hampshire Regiment. During the battle Isaac Frye was assigned to Captain Josiah Crosby’s company along with a number of the men from his hometown of Wilton, New Hampshire.

In The War has Begun, Chapter 5 describes what I imagined it would have been like to be there, marching into Charlestown, taking up positions, and firing on redcoats who were marching by–easy targets, far too easy. It must have weighed on those men’s souls to shoot an enemy who was not facing them. The inferno driving them from Charlestown, to some, must have seemed as if gates of hell had been thrown open.

Burning of Charlestown
Alexander Hogg: View of the Attack on Bunker Hill with the Burning of Charlestown, June 17, 1775

If the illustrations and engravings depicting Charlestown’s fate are true, the flames from the resulting conflagration towered a hundred feet, and the smoke could be seen for dozens of miles.

It took three years to definitively locate Isaac Frye during the battle. The idea was that I could help my oldest son with his 5th grade history project. We decided to figure out where Isaac Frye was during the Battle of Breeds Hill. In the two weeks he had to finish his project, we learned Isaac Frye was in Reed’s regiment, and therefore he was either at the rail fence or there was a chance of him being with Crosby’s company in Charlestown.

About two years later I discovered New Hampshire’s Rolls of the Soldiers in the Revolutionary War, where I learned the composition of Crosby’s company, which included men from Wilton.  The final proof came a year later when I learned there were additional volumes in New Hampshire’s state papers pertaining to the Revolutionary War.  There, I found a record for the men of Crosby’s company who had lost clothing and other articles in Charlestown, and the list included Isaac Frye, who lost a coat and hat.

-CEF

Sources:

Bouton, Nathaniel D.D. 1878. “Provincial Papers. Documents and Records Relating to the Province of New-Hampshire, From 1764 to 1776; Including the whole Administration of Gov. John Wentworth; the Events immediately preceding the Revolutionary War; the Losses at the Battle of Bunker Hill, and the Record of all Proceedings till the end of our Provincial History.” Volume VII. Orren C. Moore, State Printer. Nashua, NH. p 596.

Frothingham, Richard, 1873, “History of the Siege of Boston, and of the Battles of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill. Also, an Account of the Bunker Hill Monument. With Illustrative Documents.” Fourth Edition, Little, Brown, and Company, Boston, MA. p136: Lists Crosby’s company as being in Charlestown.

Hammond, Isaac, W. 1885. “Rolls of the Soldiers in the Revolutionary War 1775, to May, 1777 with an appendix, embracing diaries of Lieut. Jonathan Burton ” Volume I of War Rolls. Volume XIV of the Series. Parsons B. Cogswell, State Printer, Concord, NH

Hogg, Alexander 1783 “View of the Attack on Bunker’s Hill with the Burning of Charlestown.” Engraving after Millar. In Edward Bernard, The New, Comprehensive and Complete History of England. London

Page, Thomas Hyde 1775 “A plan of the action at Bunkers-Hill, on the 17th. of June, 1775, between His Majesty’s troops under the command of Major General Howe, and the rebel forces,”

Robson, T. 1778 “Plan of the town with the attack on Bunkers-Hill in the peninsula of Charlestown, the 17th. of June 1775. Newcastle upon Tyne [Eng.].

Patriots in The War has Begun

Though The War has Begun is a work of fiction, the people and events were real. Part of my work for the book included genealogical research to learn the age and sufficient history of each person. For members of SAR and DAR, I thought a list of patriot ancestors who appear in the book would be of interest.

Main Characters:
Isaac Frye (b. Feb 6, 1748, Andover, MA)
Elizabeth (Holt) Frye (b. Nov 25, 1749, Andover, MA)
Lieutenant Stephen Peabody (b. Sep 3, 1742, Hampton, NH)
Colonel James Reed (b. Jan 8, 1722, Woburn, MA)
Lieutenant Colonel Israel Gilman (b 1729, Exeter, NH)
Lieutenant James Otis (b 1751, Montville, Connecticut)

Minor Characters:
Nahum Baldwin (b. May 3, 1734, Sudbury, MA)
James Blanchard (b. Sep 20, 1742, Dunstable NH)
James Brown (b. Oct 28, 1723, Boston, MA)
Will Burton (b. 1764, Wilton, NH)
Lieutenant Butterfield (???)
Josiah Crosby (b. Nov 24, 1730, Billerica, MA)
James Frye (b. 1709, Andover, MA)
William Goforth (b. Apr 1, 1731, Philadelphia, PA)
James Gray (b. Oct 8, 1749, Newburyport, MA)
John Greele (b. Apr 26, 1759, ?)
Jonathan Greele (b. Apr 24, 1756, ?)
Nathaniel Greele (b. Oct 28, 1744, Hudson, NH)
Thomas Grover (b. Mar 19, 1738, Grafton, MA )
Nathan Hale (b. Sep 23,1743, Hampstead, NH)
Thomas Hartley (Sep 7, 1748, Colebrookdale, PA)
William Adrian Hawkins (b Jan 18, 1742, Bordeaux, France)
Jacob Hind (b. Jan 22, 1730, Shrewsbury, MA)
Elizabeth (Holt) Holt ( b.Jun 1718, Andover, MA)
Hannah (Holt) Whitney (b. Jan 18, 1754, Andover, MA)
Sarah (Holt) Pierce (b. May 31, 1757, Andover, MA)
Timothy Holt Sr ( b.Jan 17, 1721, Andover, MA)
Timothy Holt Jr. (b. May 19, 1746, Andover, MA)
Archelaus Kenney (b. Mar 14, 1758, Middleton, MA)
David Kenney (b. 18 Sep 1760, Middleton, MA)
Ebenezer Kingsbury (?)
Rev. Jonathan Livermore (b. Dec 7, 1729, Westborough, MA)
Samuel Osgood (b. Feb 3, 1747, North Andover, MA 1st Postmaster General of U.S)
Phebe (Greeley?) Parker (b. 1743, ?)
Henry Parker (b. 1705, Dunstable, MA)
Sarah (Farwell) Parker (b. Dec 4, 1706, Dunstable, MA)
Jonas Perry (b. 1747, Lexington, MA)
Samuel Pettingill (b. Mar 16, 1731, Andover, MA)
Sarah (Taylor) Rideout (b. Nov 20, 1748, Wilton?)
Paul Dudley Sargent (b. 1745, Salem, MA)
Nathaniel Sawyer (b. Jul 10, 1750, Dracut, MA)
James Sawyer (b. 1745, Woburn, MA)
Alexander Scammell (b. May 16, 1742, Milford, MA)
Phillip Schuyler (b. Nov 20, 1733, Albany NY)
Levi Spaulding (b. Oct 23, 1737, Hudson, NH)
John Stark (b Aug 28, 1728, Londonderry, NH)
John Stephens (b 1731, ?)
Ephraim Stone (b. Jan 22, 1745, Harvard, MA)
Ezra Towne (b. Apr 30, 1736, Topsfield, MA)
John Trumbull (b. Jun 6, 1756, Lebanon, CT Artist, who painted “The Declaration of Independence” and other well-known paintings of the American Revolution)
Nathan Whiting (b. Apr 6, 1750, Pelham, NH)
Richard Whitney (b. Apr 22, 1743, Oxford, MA)
Isaac Wyman (b. Jan 18, 1724, Woburn, MA)

-CEF

Now Available: The War has Begun

The War has Begun is the first of four books I am writing about Major Isaac Frye in the Duty in the Cause of Liberty series. These books are the product of fourteen years of research about a my ancestor, who served longer than any other as an officer in the Continental Army. A few people in or near Wilton, New Hampshire may have heard of Isaac Frye, for living near or driving on Major Isaac Frye Highway. Wilton named the road in the 1920s among several others to honor the town’s preeminent war veterans. Read more