A monument in Whittemore Park in Arlington, Massachusetts tells the story of a man who was no doubt one of the toughest and bravest soldiers in the American Revolution.
Samuel Whittemore, born in 1696 in Charlestown, Massachusetts, was a farmer, patriot, and soldier who is officially recognized as the oldest known Colonial to serve in combat against the British in the struggle for American independence. Whittemore had served in the Third Massachusetts Regiment in King George’s War, taking part in the capture of the Fortress of Louisbourg, an important French stronghold, in 1745. There are also reports that he fought in the French and Indian War at the age of 64, and later against Indians resisting White expansion.
While he had served the Crown for many years in these struggles, over time Whittemore grew frustrated with the heavy-handed way the British ruled the Colonies and became an advocate for breaking away from British control. Speaking out in many public meetings, he drew the ire of officials. But Whittemore was not a man to back down from his convictions, as he proved in the early days of the American Revolution.
After the initial battles at Lexington and Concord, British forces returning to Boston were continually harassed by heavily outnumbered American militiamen in hit and run attacks.
When Whitmore learned that a British column was passing near his farm, he grabbed his musket and flintlock pistols and went out to engage them. Opening fire from behind a stone wall, Whittemore killed one British soldier, then drew a pair of pistols and shot two more, killing one instantly and wounding another, who would later die. With his single shot guns now empty, the brave old man drew his sword and attacked. He was no match for the younger, stronger British grenadiers and was shot in the face. When he fell to the ground, several of the British soldiers thrust their bayonets into the wounded man’s body, then they stomped him and beat him with the butts of their rifles. Satisfied that they had killed the crazy old man who would take on so many of them single handedly, the grenadiers marched away.
But it would take a lot more than that to kill a man like Samuel Whittemore! Not only did he survive, but he was loading his weapons to pursue the British and attack again when he was found by militiamen. They ignored his arguments that he was not finished fighting yet and took him to a doctor to be treated. Although he was gravely wounded and part of his face had been shot away, the tough as nails patriot went on to see the Colonies win their freedom. In fact, he lived another eighteen years before dying of natural causes in 1793, at the age of 96.
They just don’t make men like that anymore, and even now, Samuel Whittemore’s courage and determination are still remembered in the Bay State. In 2005 he was officially proclaimed the state hero of Massachusetts.
Note: Thank you, Eric Thomsen, for the use of your photograph in this blog.
Thought For the Day – Our lives are made up of two dates separated by a dash. Make the most of the dash.