Financial Assistance for a Veteran

Peter Kiteridge was born into slavery in Boston, Massachusetts and worked in the household of the Kittredge family, from Andover, Massachusetts. Although slavery is most often associated with the southern colonies, and later the southern states, it was an established institution across the the thirteen original colonies at the time of the American Revolution. Despite being born into the institution legalized in the colony in which he lived, African American Peter Kiteredge cast his lot with those fighting for the cause of independence. The Kitteridge family had as well. Many in the extended family of Kittredges were physicians, and Dr. Thomas Kittredge went on to serve as as surgeon for Colonel James Frye’s regiment (Essex County Regiment) that was raised in Andover. In May 1775, the regiment became part of the Army of Observation. During the war, Peter Kittredge served in Captain William H. Ballard’s company of Colonel James Frye’s regiment. Peter joined the army in 1775 or 1776, according to his memory over thirty years later, and served for five years in the army before later becoming a sailor.

Read more: Financial Assistance for a Veteran
Black Continental Soldier (T. Payton, 1997)

By the early 1800s, Peter Kiteridge was struggling both with his finances and his health. In this letter dated April 26, 1806, he noted that he is a freeman and in need of financial assistance. This document reveals much more about Peter, including the time between when he was a slave and when he went into military service. But the heart of Kiteridge’s letter was his request for assistance from the Selectmen of the town of Medfield. Due to a “complaint” that he had suffered since the war, perhaps the lingering effects of a disease contracted during his time in the service, Peter was unable to continue to work, and he asked for help to support his wife and four children. Because he later signed this petition with an “X” we can assume that his years as a slave left him illiterate. By the turn of the century, however, he was not the only veteran of the Revolutionary War that needed financial assistance. As this generation of servicemen aged, a growing demand for what later became known as veteran pensions increased. Today, veteran pension records, and petitions for assistance such as this, provide scholars a wealth of information on those that lived and served during this turbulent period.

Below you will find the full petition of the Medfield Selectman of April 26, 1806 courtesy of the Gilder Lehrman Collection.

“Gentlemen

I beg leave to state to you my necessitous circumstances, that through your intervention I may obtain that succour, which suffering humanity ever requires. Borne of African parents & as I apprehend in Boston, from whence while an infant I was removed to Rowley and from thence again to Andover into the family of Doct. [Thom] Kiteridge, with whom as was then the lot of my unfortunate race, I passed the best part of my life as a slave. [struck: At the age of twenty five] In the year of our Lord 1775 or 6 & in the twenty fifth of my age I entered into the service of the U.S. as a private soldier where I continued five years [inserted: and] where I contracted a complaint from which I have suffered in a greater or less degree ever since & with which I am now afflicted. After leaving the army to become a sailor for two years; when I quited the sea & resided for some time in Newtown, from whence I went to Natick where I remained for a short time & then removed to Dover where I [struck: remained] [inserted: carried] as a day labourer during the period of seven years. Eight years past I removed to the place where I now live, & have untill this time, by my labor, assisted by the kindness of the neighbouring inhabitants been enabled to support myself and family. At present having arrived [2] at the fifty eight year of my life and afflicted with severe and as I apprehend with incurable diseases whereby the labour of my hands is wholly cut off, and with it the only means of my support. – My family at this time consists of a wife and [struck: three] four children, three of whome are so young as to be unable to support themselves and the time of their mother [struck: has] is wholy occupied in taking cair [sic] of myself & our little ones – thus gentlemen, in this my extremity I am induced to call on you for assistance; not in the character of an inhabitant of the town of Westfield, for I have no such claim, but as a stranger accidently fallen within your borders, one who has not the means of subsistence, & in fact, one, who must fail through want & disease unless sustained by the fostering hand of your care.

I am Gentlemen your mos obedient, most humble servant.

Peter Kiteredge
His X Mark

Attent. Ebenezer Clark
Paul Hifner

To the policemen Selectmen of the
Town of Medfield.
[docket]
Medfield 26 April 1806
[docket]
Peter Kittridge
application –
[address]
To the gentlemen Select
[Men] of the Town of
Medfield – “

Americana Corner

Our monthly recap of what our good friend and fellow historian Tom Hand has written on his blog, AmericanaCorner.

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere
October 26th

The story of Paul Revere and his Midnight Ride is one of the many fascinating subjects of the grand American past. Taking place in conjunction with the Battles of Lexington and Concord, on April 19, 1775, the tale has passed down from generation to generation. Read more here.

Forefathers Gather at Historic First Continental Congress
October 19th

The First Continental Congress was a key link in the chain of events that led to our nation’s gaining its independence from England. The brief convention brought together most of the influential leaders from colonial America to determine an answer to Parliament’s recently enacted Coercive Acts. Read more here.

The Boston Tea Party Takes Colonists Past the Point of No Return
October 12th

The Boston Tea Party is one of the most iconic moments in American history. In some ways, it sealed our fate to separate from England and become our own nation. The road that led to this watershed event began several years earlier with the Townshend Acts. Read more here.

Aftermath of the Boston Massacre
October 5th

The violence on the evening of March 5, 1770, in Boston is known to us today as the Boston Massacre. It was an unfortunate incident that left five people dead and growing anger between American colonists and leaders in England. Read more here.

Review: American Rebels, How the Hancock, Adams, and Quincy Families Fanned the Flames of Revolution

Two of the above three last names are very familiar to even casual observers of American history. John Hancock, whose signature is readily apparent at the bottom of the Declaration of Independence, where it was joined by John Adams and Samuel Adams. Yet, that last name in the title, Quincy, may not be as obvious as should be at first glance.

What is remarkable about these last names? Besides, the simple fact that members with those three surnames played a major role in the road to revolution and surprisingly on both sides of the chasm of loyalties? All could trace their roots to a small town in Massachusetts; Braintree.

“The covenant of liberty that they shared would be sharpened by ambition and envy, polished through friendships and love, and fought for in a revolution fomented by these children of Braintree” (pg. 8).

In that town, from its first inhabiting European settlers, the spirit of questioning accepted decrees took root, matured, and blossomed. And until now, the intertwining vines of those family trees had not been put under the microscope of historic observation until the publication this year of American Rebels, How the Hancock, Adams,and Quincy Families Fanned the Flames of Revolution. Penned by Nina Sankovitch an Illinois native, author of several nonfiction works, and resident of New England, she effortlessly weaves the stories of these families into part biography, part family history, and part United States history. All parts equally important and very well written.

“Even as the fortunes of these children of Braintree diverged, their futures would bring them together again. A shared promise connected them, fostered by the history, the land, and the people of Braintree…” (pg. 8)

One of the highlights in the book is the emergence of the Quincy family into a popular history such as this. One of the unsung heroes of the road to revolution was Josiah Quincy Jr.

“As Reverend Hancock preached, the “solemn covenant….of their Liberty” was not obtained through faith alone but could only be realized through hard work performed by a community together. And this sacred covenant would be protected against any and all usurpers who attempted to take their liberty away.” (pg. 15).

Furthermore, Sankovitch brings to the forefront the role of women in the various families and their impact on the time. The best known is Abigail Adams who is the confidant and intellectual equal of her husband, John. Another is the aunt of John Hancock, Lydia, who constantly watches out for John’s place in society. She is the driving force that will bring to fruition the connection between the Quincy and Hancock families. Or Abigail Quincy, who had married Josiah Quincy, Jr., would never remarry but dedicated the rest of her days to raising their son and preserving his memory and contributions to the cause of America. The anguish of losing her beloved is quite evident:

“I have been told that time would wear out the greatest sorrow, but mine I find is still increasing. When it will have reached its summit, I know not.” (pg. 348).

Highlighted by the quote above, the author brings these historic personas and people to life, capturing the heartache, familial turmoil, ambition, and connections. Just as these families bred revolutionaries, there were sons that stayed loyal to the British crown, including a brother and brother-in-law of Josiah Quincy.

From weaving the families together, to connecting the threads of the evolution of political thought, and showing the personal strains of what the road to revolution looked like, Sankovitch has compiled an easily readable, insightful look into the 18th century world.

Enjoy!

*Book Information*

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (March 2020)

Pages: 416

A Connecticut Response to the Coercive Acts

On December 16, 1773, Bostonians dumped 340 chests holding 92,000 pounds or 46 tons of East India Company tea into the harbor. Due to the distance news had to travel across the Atlantic Ocean and then for the gears of government to crank a response, it was not until March of 1774 that Lord Frederick North, his administration, and Parliament passed the Coercive Acts.

The Coercive or Intolerable Acts as they were referred to in the American colonies were actually four acts in total, including the Boston Port Act, which closed the port to all commerce, the Massachusetts Government Act, restricting town meetings and changed the governor’s council to an appointed body, the Administration of Justice Act, which gave immunity to British officials from prosecution in Massachusetts, and lastly the Quartering Act, ordering colonists to house British troops when demanded.

Side note: A fifth act, the Quebec Act extended freedom of worship to Canadian Catholics and this decree was looped into the Intolerable Acts by the colonists.

Understandably the response in Massachusetts was one of defiance, protest, and angst and the acts are credited with promoting momentum toward independence. What was not truly appreciated by the British government was the outcry from other colonies.

On this date in 1774, the town of Farmington, Connecticut showed what the passage of the Coercive Acts meant. On May 19, a handbill, a small printed advertisement or notice, was distributed around the town inviting the inhabitants to a gathering to honor “the immortal Goddess of Liberty.”

Northwest View of Farmington from Round Hill – John Warner Barber, 1836
Continue reading “A Connecticut Response to the Coercive Acts”

ERW Weekender: Boston Massacre: 250 Years and 1-Day Later

Crispus Attucks. Every American school child learned that name in a social studies or history class in grade school. On the night of March 5, 1770, Attucks, an African-American was one of the six Bostonians that was killed by British soldiers.

Known in American history as the “Boston Massacre” the tragic event was used as fodder by the Sons of Liberty and pro-revolutionary minded individuals to propel the colonies toward rupture with Great Britain.

Continue reading “ERW Weekender: Boston Massacre: 250 Years and 1-Day Later”

Symposium Recap

One week has passed since the first annual Emerging Revolutionary War symposium. Held in conjunction with Historic Alexandria, Virginia at the Lyceum, the theme was “Before they were Americans.”

With a day of lectures, keynoted by Dr. Peter Henriques, professor emeritus of George Mason University the topics ranged from the French and Indian War, to George Washington, to material culture, smallpox, and Boston on the Road to Revolution. The day ended with a panel of historians in a Q&A session.

Over 70 people attended and many joined members of Emerging Revolutionary War and Historic Alexandria at Gadsby’s Tavern, an 18th century tavern with a great connection to American history, including a a ballroom used by Washington to celebrate his birthdays!

Plans are already in motion for the second annual Emerging Revolutionary War symposium to be held in late September of 2020 back in Alexandria, Virginia. Stay tuned to this blog and our Facebook page for information as that day draws near.

In the meantime, check out some of the photos below, taken by ERW historian Rob Orrison, who along with Liz Williams of Historic Alexandria were the driving forces behind making this symposium possible. A big thank you to all who attended and we hope to see you next year!

Disaster on the Eastern Frontier

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historian Travis Shaw.

Part One

I’d be willing to bet that Maine isn’t the first place to come to mind when you hear the word “frontier”. For many Americans I imagine they immediately think of the wild west. Wagon trains of pioneers crossing the prairies, and Native nations like the Sioux and Apache ranging the plains on horseback. A century before the age of Manifest Destiny, however, the region that is now the state of Maine marked the eastern frontier of the English colonies. It was a wild and sparsely settled place, caught between New England and the French colonies to the north. The few European settlers eked out a living from the thin, rocky soil or turned to lumbering and to the sea. They lived alongside and often fought against the region’s original inhabitants – the Wabanaki or “People of the Dawn.” For two centuries the Eastern Frontier was torn apart by war between various European powers and their respective Native allies. Nowhere is this more clearly evident today than in the small coastal town of Castine, Maine.

Castine is located near the mouth of the Penobscot River, more or less in the middle of the Maine coast (Google Maps)
Castine is located near the mouth of the Penobscot River, more or less in the middle of the Maine coast (Google Maps)

Continue reading “Disaster on the Eastern Frontier”

“Elbow Room” for “Uncle Johnny”

On this date in 1777, British General John Burgoyne surrendered to American General Horatio Gates around Saratoga, New York. This victory solidified French support for the fledgling American nation and became one of the turning points in the road to independence.

800px-BurgoyneByReynolds
General John Burgoyne

Out of this momentous occasion came an anecdote about the British general officer. The short story has some truth in it, yet, whether the entire tale is accurate, well, I’ll leave that for you to decide!

Two years prior to the Battles of Saratoga and upon arriving in Boston, Massachusetts, General Burgoyne remarked “Well, let us get in, and we’ll soon find elbow-room” when he was told the numbers of militia besieging British regulars around the town.

After his capitulation, Burgoyne and his forces were marched toward Albany, New York, and multitudes of people turned out to see the vanquished British and German soldiery along the route. One resident supposedly yelled from her homestead doorway;

“Make elbow room for General Burgoyne.” 

Not what he had envisioned in 1775 upon disembarking in North America. Yet, history does not relate what “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne thought exactly about the elbow room he received in the countryside of upstate New York!*

 

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*“Gentleman Johnny” was a nickname acquired by Burgoyne was stationed in London with the Horse Guards, a fashionable cavalry regiment.” 

**Information gathered from A.J. Langguth’s “Patriots” and The Patriot Resource, which can be found here.

“Acts of a Rude Rabble…” General Gage, Lord Dartmouth and Ignorant Orders

Thomas_Gage_John_Singleton_Copley
General Thomas Gage

When one studies British General Thomas Gage and his performance leading up to Lexington and Concord you must step back and put yourself in Gage’s position. A man that believed not only in Royal authority over the American colonies, but also in the basic rules of law. Gage was not anti-American by any means.

 

In November 1763, Gage was placed in overall command of British forces in the American colonies and settles in New York. At this time Gage was well respected by most American colonists. Of course, this all changed in 1774 when Gage was sent north to Boston to become the Royal-appointed Governor of Massachusetts and enforce the highly unpopular Port Bill that closed the port of Boston among other harsh actions. He was walking into a situation that most historians today argue was a no-win situation. Continue reading ““Acts of a Rude Rabble…” General Gage, Lord Dartmouth and Ignorant Orders”

An Account of April 19, 1775

“the Country was an amazing strong one; full of Hills, Woods, stone Walls, & c., which the Rebels did not fail to take advantage of, for they were all lined with People who kept an incessant fire upon us…”

From the diary of Lieutenant Frederick Mackenzie who was part of the 23rd Regiment–the Royal Welch Fusiliers that survived the ordeal of April 19, 1775. He would keep a diary until the early 1790’s and chronicled his experiences in the American Revolutionary War. His account on April 19, of the retreat from Concord is most descriptive. The British did not just take the brunt of the firing as the marched hurriedly back toward Boston and safety, but;

“as we did too upon them, but not with the same advantage, as they were so concealed there was hardly any seeing them: in this way we marched between 9 and 10 miles, their numbers increasing from all parts…”

The column was led by Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith and had been tasked by General Thomas Gage, British military leader in North America, to root out the military supplies being stored in Concord by the colonials. The mission, albeit supposedly secretive, did not remain so for long, and the colonials got word out to the countryside. After initial firing at Lexington Green and then at the North Bridge in Concord, the British had to march back through the countryside, facing arriving militia and minute men.

“while ours was reducing by deaths, wounds, and fatigue; and  we were totally surrounded with such an incessant fire as it is impossible to conceive; our ammunition was likewise near expended.”  

IMG_7229
Modern-day view along Battle Road, the route the British column retreated back toward Boston on (author collection)

Luckily, for Mackenzie and the other struggling British officers and rank-and-file, on a rise in the ground, outside the town of Menotomy, was a relief column, ready to provide a few moments’ respite.