“He was at the Battle of Bunker Hill”: the Battle and the Greens of Massachusetts.

BunkerHill2014-05-21 This post focuses on two companies engaged in the Battle of Bunker Hill. Captain John Black’s Company part of Jonathan Brewer’s Regiment and Captain Abel Wilder’s Company part of Ephraim Doolittle’s Regiment. The post searches for the experience of the Green Family. Two brother’s, Israel and Nahum Green, had sons as part of the battle. Israel would reap a terrible toll from the field of Charlestown. The research centers on the following questions: How heavily were these two companies engaged, and where most likely did they stand? The description of the attack has been relayed time and again. Little time is spent on the movements of commanders, instead, focusing on the testimony of individual soldiers.  To give the briefest account of the battle, Peter Brown’s letter is the most compelling:

  Read a Letter dated Cambridge June 28, 1775, from Peter Brown of Westford to his Mother in Newport. He was in the Battle of Concord : imediately enlisted into Col Prescotts Reg[iment] is Clerk of a Comp[any] and was in the Lines on Bunkers hill in the Battle of Charlest[own]. He says : Frydy the 16th of June we were ordered to Parade at 6 o’clock with one Day’s provisions and Blankets ready for a March somewhere, but we did not know where. So we readyly and cheerfully obeyd, the whole that was called for, which was these three, Col. Prescotts, Frys & Nicksons Reg …. About 9 o’Clock at night we marched down on to Charlest[own] Hill against Cox Hill in B[oston] where we entrenched, & made a Fort of about Ten Rod long and eight wide, with a Breast Work of about 8 more. We worked there undiscovered till about 5 in the Morn and then we saw our Danger being against 8 Ships of the Line & all Boston fortified against us. (The Danger we were in made us think there was Treachery, & that we were brot there to be all slain, and I must & will venture to say that there was Treachery, Oversight or Presumption in the Conduct of our Officers. ) And about half after 5 in the Morn, we not having above half the Fort done, they began to fire, I suppose as soon as they had Orders, pretty briskly a few Minutes, and then stopt, and then again to the Number of about 20 or more. They killed one of us, and then they ceased till about 11 o’Clock and then they began pretty brisk again ; and that caused some of our young Country ppl to desert, apprehending the Danger in a clearer manner than the rest, who were more diligent in digging & fortify[ing] ourselves against them. We began to be almost beat out, being tired by our Labour and having no sleep the night before, but little victuals, no Drink but Rum . . . They fired very warm from Boston & from on board till about 2 o’Clock, when they began to fire from the Ships in ferry Way, & from the Ship that lay in the River against the Neck to stop our Reinforcem[ents] w[hich] they did in some Measure. One Cannon cut off 3 Men in two on the Neck of Land. (Our Officers sent time after Time after the Cannons from Cambridge in the Morn[ing] & could get but four, the Cap[tain] of which fired but a few times, and then swang his Hat round three Times to the Enemy, then ceased to Fire.) It being about 3 o’clock there was a little Cessation of the Cannons Roaring. Come to look there was a matter of 40 Barges full of Regulars com[ing] over to us : it is supposed there were about 3000 of them and about 700 of us left not deserted, besides 500 Reinforcem[ent] that could not get so nigh to us as to do any good hardly till they saw that we must all be cut off, or some of them, and then they advanced. When our Officers saw that the Regulars would land they ordered the Artill[ery] to go out of the fort & prevent their Lands if possible, from which the Artill[ery] Cap[tain] took his Pieces & went right off home to Cambridge fast as he could, for which he is now confined & we expect will be shot for it. But the Enemy landed & fronted before us & formed them selves in an Oblong Square, so as to surround us w[hich] they did in part, & After they were well formed they advanced towds us in Order to swallow us up, but they found a choaky Mouthful of us, tho’ we could do noth[ing] with our small Arms as yet for Distance, & had but two Cannon & nary Gunner. And they from B[oston] & from the ships a fir[ing] & throw[ing] Bombs keep[ing] us down till they got almost round us. But God in Mercy to us fought our Battle for us, & altho’ we were but few & so were suffered to be defeated by them, we were preserved in a most wonderful Manner far beyond Expectation, to Admiration, for out of our Reg[iment] there was about 37 killed, 4 or 5 taken captive, and about 47 wounded. … If we should be called into Action again I hope to have Courage & strength to act my part valiantly in Defence of our Liberties & our Country, trusting in him who hath yet kept me & hath covered my head in the day of Battle, & tho’ we have lost 4 out of our Comp[any] & our Lieutenant’s thigh broke & he taken Captive by the cruel Enemies of America, I was not suffered to be toutched altho’ I was in the fort till the Regulars came in & I jumped over the Walls, & ran for about half a Mile where Balls flew like Hailstones, & Cannons roared like Thunder. But tho’ I escaped then it may be my Turn next. So I must conclude with my prayers for your Welfare & wish’ you the best of Bless[ing] I still remain Your dutiful Son Peter Brown  (Brown qtd Stiles 595-596)

Below the Mystic River and above the Charles River, a spit of land presses out from the mainland held still by a narrow passway called a neck. Provincial forces moved onto the hills of Charlestown and began to dig. For some time they had been forming a redoubt, a place of piled earth and desperate hope. This occupied Breed’s Hill. To protect the left flank there was a “rail fence” of stone and rail, it was reinforced with freshly mown grass. This fence pointed toward the Mystic River which emptied into the bay. Men from Connecticut and New Hampshire, mostly, defended this portion. The space between the British landing and the defenses was various and uneven:

On its slopes were the stone walls, rail-fences, and orchards, that were used to such terrible purpose. The ground between it and the British landing-place was obstructed by other fences, a morass, and brick-kilns. These natural obstacles were more formidable than the redoubt. They broke the British advance, and in and about the brick-kilns the enemy’s loss was particularly severe. The stone and rail-fences, filled between with hay, proved the impregnable point of the American line. The British, after being twice repulsed, and with horrible carnage of the choicest troops on the field, abandoned the effort to carry it. It was the last portion of their line held by the provincials, and covered their retreat. (Drake 11)

THE GREEN SONS

Nahum’s sons, Uzziah Green and Irijah Green, belonged to Abel Wilder’s company (Mass 838 and 844 ).  Historians have made a cursory assumption of the extent to which Wilder’s Company’s participated: “The records tell us that 300 men or about 90 per cent of Col. Doolittle’s regiment commanded by Maj. Willard Moore of Paxton, Col. Doolittle himself being absent, were present at the battle of Bunker Hill. As Maj. Moore was himself mortally wounded we may well believe that the regiment was hotly engaged….” (Caswell 405). Uzziah makes explicit mention of Bunker Hill in his pension (Pension file S21776).  While Irijah does not mention Bunker Hill in his extensive pension, it is not uncommon to elide specific battles (Pension file S39630).  Sickness and guard duty are other possibilities.  While many accounts do not give any fatalities to Doolittle’s regiment (Stiles 587), they in fact lost three besides Major Moore (Memorial 96).

For Nahum’s brother, Israel, accounts differ as to how many sons fell. Family researchers in the 1850’s record two sons lost at Cambridge. Lucas and Zeeb Green were both part of Black’s Company in Brewer’s Regiment. Within Brewer’s Regiment seven were killed, eleven wounded. Lucas Green was among those killed.  Older research claims two other brothers fought. James Green is thought to have been a Major of “minute men;” he received a wound at Bunker Hill, which would later kill him. It was said Nathan Green fought along side his brothers, surviving Bunker Hill and rising to Lieutenant. He would die at the battle of Monmouth. I have yet to find a mention of James’s or Nathan’s deaths besides in the work of the genealogists Vinton and Greene. They are not mentioned in Memorial or Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors. A possible explanation for James is that he lasted long enough not to be included in the battle’s fatalities. Zeeb lived on through the war, the only son of Israel’s to do so.  Similarly to Irijah, Zeeb does not mention Bunker Hill himself, but the battle and the death of Lucas are mentioned in the pension by his widow, Sarah (Pension file W21211).  The fact that Sarah mentions Lucas but not James is the most problematic to past assertions.

Captain Black’s company along with Brewer’s regiment was between the redoubt and the “rail fence” to the North. It was the most exposed piece of ground in the defenses.  The following excerpts attempt to give some estimation of the various Companies’ exposure, as well as their position on the Hill:

JONATHAN BREWER’S REGIMENT

Black’s Company

Basaleel Myrick, of Black’s Company, states”the whole Regement was employed in erecting the Works on said Hill and was engaged in the Battle” (Pension File W19904). Basaleel testifies in his brother’s pension: “I know that my said brother Joseph was present and engaged in said battle in which Capt. Black was wounded” (Pension file S9048). Joseph Myrick gives the most detailed account of part of Black’s company’s experience:

…in April 1775 an Expres came to Barry County of Worsester State of Massachusets to notify the minit men the next morning they marched to the comp which was formed at Cambrige which was the headquarters the greater part of the company inlisted to serve until january 1776 the next week the Capt came home to inlist men to fillup the company which was 62 men from said town comanded by Capt John Black in Coln Jonathan Brewers regament an intimate aquaint[ance] of General Putnam in the French war another Boto[Boston?] fiting man as himself the day of the battle on bunkers hill between twelve and one O clok we marched on the hill then Gen Putnam came and led us into the fort on Breeds hill to releave Coln Prescott whoo had erected it the night before about that time a floating battery went from the [Somenset?] a sixtyfour gun ship that lay in the ferry way she went up near the brig which was the only place our men cold go into charlestown or out General Putnam thought she might have men and guns to land to prevent our men from crosing orddered an officer of our company to take some volenteers to go and prevent it thirteen of us volenteerd and went with him to [march?] hear the ship kept a continual fireing at us and the men that were comeing on it is said in history that oing[owing] to the inatention of our army we let the Brittish in to set the town on fire it was not the case there was a boat sent from Boston to the end she imediately throwed a carkace on the roof of the meatinghouse which set the whole town on fire except some old building east end of the town they sent some boats from the ships which lay of their and set them on fire by hand after the buildings began to fall the ship made a signal for the floating battery to come back she did and went around Charlestown into Mystick river and joined two more who were fireing at the brig then our buisnes was done [we?] left there singlely and up on to the hill and there I met two men leading a wounded man unable to walk they wanted me to asist them and so as we had crost the brig our men were a coming down the hill and the British after them. (Pension file S9048)

John Hill of Black’s company: “I was in the Battle at Bunker Hill.” He goes on, “in the Regiment commanded by Col Jonathan Brewer the Lieutenant Colonel was Buckminster and He was wounded in his shoulder at the Battle of Bunker Hill June 17 1775” (Pension file S19333).

Whiting’s Company

In a detailed account of his service which included Lexington, James Gay as part of Daniel Whiting’s Company says, “he was marched from Prospect Hill to Bunker Hill to assist in building a Fort that while engaged in building said Forth the Battle of Bunker Hill took place in which your applicant was engaged” (Pension file W25617/BLWT89503-160-55). Aaron Whiting, as part of Daniel Whiting’s Company, mentions being at Bunker Hill. Aaron Whiting and Josiah Richards in Thomas Morse’s application only mention being stationed on Prospect Hill. Thomas Morse was in “no battle” (Pension file S30595, Pension file S17779).

Stubbin’s Company

Timothy Catlin, part of Stubbin’s Company, “was in the battle of Bunkerhill, went on the night before with Col Rapott, [assigned?] in throwing up the breastworks was in the [hottest?] of the battle, near Samuel Warren [was?] killed, saw him fall was wounded in my face, now was [then fear?]” (Pension file S16074) Susan Child, daughter of Reuban Childs, reports her father to have been “…wounded in the battle at Bunker Hill” as part of Stubbins Company (Pension file S29068). Daniel Rider-“at the time of Bunker hill battle Captain Joseph Stubbins company was detached during the battle to guard the neck below Charlestown and Cambridge” (Pension file S11302).

Harvey’s Company

Moses Clark part of Captain Harvey’s Company in Brewer’s Regiment: “I was on the march towards Bunkers Hill on the day that battle was fought we arrived there just after the battle ended, while our men were carrying away the wounded” (Pension file W16537).

Hastings’ Company

Eliphalet Hastings states he, “was in the battle of Bunker hill, commanded a company in Col Jonathan Brewer’s Regt in the Massachusetts line, had twenty-nine killed and eleven wounded besides myself out of seventy-nine in that action, had my right arm and collar bone shot to pieces” (Pension file S32788).

Bullard’s Company

Moses Hill was in Captain Bullard’s Company- “was in the Battle of Bunker or Breeds Hill I marched on to the hill while Charleston was in flame” (Pension file S16415). Nahum Wight served as a Seargent at the time of battle in Bullard’s Company- “at the battle of Bunker hill [Wight] was wounded by a musket ball in the thigh” (Pension file W26141). John Ware a Sergeant in Benjamin Bullard’s Company served with another brother, “was at the battle of Bunker Hill on the seventeenth day of June in the year aforesaid and was on the Hill before the British troops ascended in to the attack” (Pension file S18640). John Coolidge as part of Benjamin Bullard’s company, “I was in the battle of Bunkerhill on the 17th of June–Capt. Prescott was an active officer on said occasion,” he goes on, “Gen. Putnam was active on Bunkerhill–the Regiments were not regularly organized and I cannot name them” (Pension file S12546).

Gray’s Company

Robert Gray “was engaged in the battle of Bunker hill in some small skirmishes,” likely under Capt. Issac Gray (Pension file S18846).

 EPHRAIM DOOLITTLE’S REGIMENT

    It is not known exactly where Wilder’s company was stationed, although Wheeler’s company of Doolittle’s regiment was on the extreme right flank, closer to Charlestown (Frothingham 39-40). Most likely Wilder’s company stood within the redoubt. The petitions for lost equipment gives some indication as to the proximity to action.  For a soldier to lose a gun, as will be seen with Zeeb and Lucas, is for that soldier to be in a desperate moment: 1BunkerHillMap

Jones’ Company

Captain John Jones lost, “one gun, two Blankets, two Coats, one Cutlas…” (qtd in Gardner 22).

Wheeler’s Company

According to Polly Flint, Asa Church under Wheeler was engaged in the battle :”I have frequently been told that the said Asa Church was in the battle of Bunker hill under Capt. Adam Wheeler , [ord]…after the Battle it was said, that said Wheeler was closely shot at, that the waistband of his small cloths[sp?] was shot off and the said Church tied them up and they removed the contest” (Pension file W22746).

 John Holden, Leicester, Doolittle’s Regt. Capt. afterwards in the army. In his statement and letter to the treasurer he says : — Early in the morning Putnam came to our Regt. stationed the night before near Prospect Hill, and ordered it on to the Hill by 9 o’clock. We went, and soon took post on left of Col. Stark by rail fence. During the action I often saw Gen. Putnam come up to our Regt. ; he appeared very actively engaged in the action. One of the Regt. got down behind a haycock ; Gen. Putnam rode up and cried, ‘Gods curse him ! run him through if he won’t fight !’ gave him one or two blows with his sword and drove him into the ranks.  (Swett “Notes to The Sketch of Bunker-Hill Battle” 11, Pension file S33323/BLWT927-200)

Captain Wheeler lost, “three Guns and one Coat” (qtd. in Gardner 24).

Wilder’s Company

William Clement, a resident of Royalston and in Wilder’s Company, testifies, “…the regiment were ordered into tents in Charlestown where he was stationed until the Battle on Bunkerhill which Battle he was in. Doolittle’s Regiment being the sixth that marched on to the Hill” Clement goes on, “Genl. Putnam he well remembers in the Battle of Bunker Hill” (Pension file W16910). John Norton, a resident of the town of Royalston, enlisted in Abel Wilder’s Regiment: “I was in the battles of Bunker Hill, Harlam Heights, Trenton, and Princeton” (Pension file S30004). Daniel Pike, again a resident of Royalston, states:

…on the morning of the 20th April 1775, the news arrived at said Royalston that the British troops had left Boston and were on their way to Concord that he together with about twenty of his townsmen immediately started and marched thirty miles that day and learning that the British had returned to Boston they marched to Cambridge where they with the troops from the adjoining towns formed into Companies he served during that Company as an Ensign in the Company of Capt Wilder…he was in the battle of Bunker’s hill his Reg was led on in that engagement by Major Moore the Col being [out sick?] Maj Moore was killed in that engagement. (Pension file S22441)

Captain Wilder’s Company lost, “…three Guns, one Drum, one Blanket” (qtd. in Gardner 24).  The three men all came from Royalston, the home of Nahum Green and his sons.

Leland’s Company

From the similarity of the testimony it appears Leland’s Company joined Wheeler’s on the right flank.

Sam’l Jones, Sudbury, Doolittle’s Regt. [ This gentleman, and the next witness of E. Sudbury, are well known by Dr. Bigelow the distinguished Botanist, as witnesses of the highest respectability.] Was at the rail fence ; saw Gen. Putnam and spoke with him, he encouraged us very much, and rode up and down behind us, his horse was all of a lather, and the battle was going on very hotly at the time. […] Our cannon were brought down behind the rail fence; ‘I recollect with perfect distinctness they were fired a number of times.’ (Swett “Notes to The Sketch of Bunker-Hill Battle” 11, Pension file S30516)

David Brewer testifies, “John Leland of south Holliston was my Captain until after the Battle of Bunkerhill when a Gentleman by the name of Jacob Miller took the command of the company and the said John Leland was sent home as a [cow]ard” (Pension file S4974).  The script is difficult to read.  I believe Brewer wrote “coward”, which, if not the sentiment, at least the action seems to be reinforced by family historians:

At the commencement of the Revolution, John was found among the defenders of his country, and at the battle of Bunker Hill, he held a captain’s commission, and led his company into the bloody conflict.  Soon after, however, he became entirely convinced that he was ill suited to military life, resigned his commission, and returned to his farm. (Sherman Leland 220)

Leland would go on to become a minister.

doolittlePage 155

Taken after the battle on Winter Hill, this roll shows Leland’s name struck through and Jacob Miller assuming command.

Oliver’s Company

According to Philip Ballard, part of Oliver’s Company did not reach the hill: “the troop to which I belong did not engage in the battle [Bunker Hill] – I saw at this time Charlestown burnt by the enemy” (Pension file S29609). For Thomas Baker as part of Captain Robert Oliver’s Company “continued here until within two or three days of Bunkerhill Battle when he removed with the body of the Regiment about one mile directly on towards Charlestown and there remained until the 17th day of June when he was ordered and marched to the field of Battle and was in and served through the Battle of that day called the Bunkerhill Battle” (Pension file S12097). Captain Oliver’s Company lost, “one Gun, one Pistol, one Gun Lock…” (qtd in Gardner 23).

Holman’s Company

Silas Church, a corporeal in Capt. Jonathan Holman’s company, was stationed at Lechman’s Point and “was not in any battle” (Pension file S11998). Captain Holman lost “one Coat, one Blanket, one Gun” (qtd. in Gardner 21).

Fletcher’s Company

Edward Turner and Joshua Whitcomb were part of Joel Fletcher’s company. Turner’s son relates the story of Joshua Whitcomb: “that [Edward Turner] was in the battle of Bunker Hill, I will remember when he came home of his relating the death of one his townsmen, Joshua Whitcomb. As they began to retreat they went to get over a rail fence, a ball passed through Whitcomb’s heart”. Turner would later die of the small pox in Albany in 1777 (Pension file W22457). Caleb Bryant, was in Fletcher’s company: “I was in the latter part of the battle on Bunker Hill when Major Moore of our regiment was killed” (Pension file S30286). Captain Joel Fletcher’s Company lost, “three Guns, Blankets three, three Cartuch boxs, 1 Powder Horn” (qtd in Gardner 21).

 THE BATTLE

When the Green boys of Doolittle’s Regiment woke the morning of June 17th to march, they did so to a common man’s tune: “Few notices appear of individuals of this regiment [Doolittle’s]. Robert Steele, a drummer, stated in 1825 that he ‘beat to ‘ Yankee Doodle ‘ when he mustered for Bunker Hill on the morning of the 17th of June, 1775” (Frothingham 84).

Map of Charlestown by Lt. Sir Thomas Hyde Page

Map of Charlestown by Lt. Sir Thomas Hyde

The first attempt by the British forces, formed in three lines, was to turn the far left flank.  The British guns advanced and opened fire at about half-past three o’clock, followed by the troops, who moved slowly forward, and occasionally halted, in order to allow the artillery to make some impression. The day was very fine and very warm, and the attacking columns were encumbered with full marching equipment. They had occasionally to pull down fences in their way, and the grass, high and fit for mowing, also impeded them. In the soft ground, in the neighborhood of the brick-kilns, some of the guns became unable to advance, and were halted. British accounts say their troops received here a very destructive fire. Arriving within musket-shot of the American works, the troops commenced firing, receiving in return only a few scattering shots, until they came within about seventy yards.  The British retreated from the killing field. The death of Major Moore, who commanded Doolittle’s Regiment, occurred on the second attack, which occurred shortly after the first. British General Howe quickly reorganized his retreating forces and attempted the same approach. Historian Frothingham gives this account of Moore’s death:

 On the second attack he received a ball in the thigh, and while his men were carrying him to the rear another ball went through his body. He called for water, but none could be obtained nearer than the Neck. He lingered until the time of the retreat, when, feeling his wounds to be mortal, he requested his attendants to lay him down, leave him, and take care of themselves. He met with a soldier’s death. (Frothingham 84)

Some time passed before the British made a third attempt. The town of Charlestown was now in flames from British shelling. The British sent for reinforcements and waited. There were troops and artillery at the “Neck” that would not cross despite the orders from General Putnam. The “Neck” was rife with cannon shot and was a place of exposure. Reinforcements were few in number. Among those that did come was Seth Washburn’s Company:

 When the company reached the Neck, the shot from the British frigate were sweeping across it ; and the captain, halting his men, addressed a few words to them ; told them that they saw the danger before them ; that if any of them wished to avoid it, or was afraid to go forward, they might then go back. No one left the ranks ; and, after a moment’s pause, the captain said cheerfully, ” Then we’ll all go together.” The whole company started upon a full run across the Neck, to avoid the balls from the frigate as well as they could. As they ascended the hill, they saw the houses in Charlestown on fire, and met numbers bringing off the wounded from the field. Near the summit of the hill they saw an American officer swinging his sword, and beckoning them to come in that direction ; which they obeyed. The men, at this time, had about fifteen rounds of cartridges each. As they came in sight of the British troops, and were moving steadily on towards the breastwork below the redoubt, a ball struck the cartouch-box of the captain, …. The company rushed forward as soon as they had surmounted the hill, and took their station at the rail-fence, and began firing as fast as they could. The enemy, by this time, had mounted the redoubt; and, in about twenty or thirty minutes after the company had entered the action, the order was given to retreat. …in this retreat, they showed nothing like panic. Sergeant Brown received a shot in his thigh, and another in his foot, which disabled him from walking. The captain, who was the last to leave the ground, finding him in this condition, and being an athletic though not a large man, took the wounded man under one arm, and his musket (with his own) in the other, and carried him till he was out of immediate danger. He there left him, and hurried on till he overtook Brown’s brother Perley and Jonathan Sargent (another of the company), and sent them back for the wounded man; whom they brought off in safety. Daniel Hubbard wore a cue, braided in two strands, which hung down his back. As he passed by, Mr. Craige saw him dodge his head ; and it was afterwards found that a musket-ball had cut off one of these strands so close to his head as to graze the skin. Kerley Ward of Oakham, one of the corporals of the company, was wounded in the arm ; and Sergeant Grossman, in the leg. Abner Livermore had the cord of his canteen cut off by a musket- ball while retreating ; and, as it fell, it rolled a considerable distance towards the enemy, who were firing and pressing upon the left flank of the company. His brother Isaac, seeing the disaster, and knowing what the canteen contained, stopped, with the exclamation, ” It will never do to lose that rum!” and, running after the canteen, picked it up, and brought it off the field, in the face of the fire from the British. Samuel Sargent, another of the company, was less fortunate in saving his liquor. While stopping to prime his gun, a musket-ball struck his canteen, and, passing through one end of it, lodged in the other, which rested upon his hip. (Washburn 304-306)

On the third attack the British field artillery directed against the weak point in the defenses: “On their right the artillery soon gained its appointed station, enfiladed the line of the breastwork, drove its defenders into the redoubt for protection, and did much execution within it by sending its balls through the passage-way” (Frothingham 59). Israel Green’s sons received this fire and held till the general retreat. Adjutant Waller was part of the Royal Marines 1st Battalion 47 Regiment gives a description from the British perspective:

Two companies of the first battalion of marines, and part of the 47th regiment, were the first that mounted the breast work ; and you will not be displeased when I tell you that I was with those two companies who drove their bayonets into all that opposed them. Nothing could be more shocking than the carnage that followed the storming this work. We tumbled over the dead to get at the living, who were crowding out of the gorge of the redoubt, in order to form under the defences which they had prepared to cover their retreat. […] We killed a number of the rebels, but the cover they fought under made their loss less considerable than it would otherwise have been. The army is in great spirits, and full of rage and ferocity at the rebellious rascals who both poisoned and chewed the musket- balls, in order to make them the more fatal. (Waller qtd in Drake 29)

Most of the casualties occurred at the taking of the redoubt and the retreat. Lucas Green was most likely wounded at this conclusion to the battle: “As the Americans, after expending all their ammunition, were escaping from their defenses, he was shot by the enemy through the body, and died in his brother Zeeb’s arms, at the early age of eighteen” (Vinton 423, Mass. 824-826). Most accounts say that Lucas was wounded and died later, or that instead of being within the “Killed” column he is listed as “Dying of Wounds” (Memorial 95). Zeeb later petitioned for the loss of a gun at Bunker Hill. The loss of a gun by a soldier only speaks to the the intensity of those final moments when the provincial forces lost the ground.

 AFTER THE BATTLE

A letter by Abel Wilder gives us the best approximation of what Nahum’s two sons experienced:

 Charleston Encampment, June ye l8th, 1775.

Dear Wife:

These Lines are to inform you that I am pretty well, though I have had a poorly two or three days. Friday night I was quite poorly. Doctor Wait said I must have a Vomit ; but I told him as there was a battle expected Satterday, I would not take it, lest I should be charged of taking it on purpose. But I took some tincture, which answered a good purpose. And according as was expected, a very hot Battle insued Satterday after noon. Our people had built a fort on a hill in the town of Charleston, and the Regulars landed upwards of two thousand men on said hill ; and our Regiment on the hill ; and they fired upward from four or five Ships, the north battery, and two or three field pieces , but blessed be God, there was not many killed by them. But presently they advanced up near to us, and I fired nineteen times, and had fair chances, and then they was too hard for us, and we retreated. The bals flew very thick, but through the Divine protection, my company was all preserved but one, Phinehas Nevers, who is missing, and Samuel Bradish, badly wounded. But men are in good spirit. I remain your true and loving husband, Abel Wilder. (qtd Marvin 88)

The British had taken the wounded Nevers to Boston as prisoner, where he died (Marvin 88). [Nevers is also given as being in Prescott’s Regiment under Captain Dow (Gilmore 118, 127)] Wilder was a pious man.  If Uzziah and Irijah heard a speech from their commander, before or after, it was inscribed with religious meaning:

Prospect Hill, Charleston, June 29th, 1775.

Dear Wife :

I received a letter from you yesterday, which informed me that the family was well, and you as well as you could expect, which gives me satisfaction. I hope you will be patient under common infirmities, and even if God is pleased to lay greater upon you than is common under your present circumstances. I shall not forget you, neither at the throne of grace, nor in common meditations, though I would not be understood that I am uneasy, for since it is the will of God that I should be here, I am entirely content to serve him in this way. I had almost forgot to tell you that I am well. I am as well as usual, but Abel is not well ; he took physic last night, and is better to-day. As to the judgments of heaven, I am glad that you take a suitable notice of them, and wish every one might. But alas, there are some here that appear neither to fear God nor regard man ; though blessed be God, there are not many such. We have been without a chaplain ever since we came down here, until about a week, but now we have one, Mr. Emory, who preached last Sabbath, and prays night and morning. And Col. Doolittle, who I was afraid was heedless, takes good care to have men attend, and attends himself with constancy and steadiness, which gives me pleasure. * * * * Those from your true and loving husband, Abel Wilder  (Marvin 90)

After the war, Uzziah, Irijah, and Zeeb all made their way to Vermont with much of the Green family. Their memory of the carnage grew tinctured with ceremony year after year. James Bailey was in Black’s company Brewer’s regiment, and may give some hint at the lasting feeling of these men towards the war.  In an inventory of Bailey’s estate for his pension, forty-five years after the battle, he says: “Last but not least in my estimation is my old musket the companion of my better days [through?] a seven years campaign for the independence of my country” (Pension file W16180).

Family Note:  There were other distantly related Greens on Bunker Hill. Lemuel Green, a grandson of Capt. Nathaniel Green was wounded at Bunker Hill (Greene 51-52). Elias Green was part of Seth Washburn’s company and so made the dangerous crossing of the “Neck” and aided in the retreat (Mass. 802). Elias was a much more distant cousin to Uzziah. Seth Washburn’s granddaughter Sally married Jared Green Jr., nephew to Uzziah and Irijah.

 Works Cited:

Bradford, Alden. A Particular Account of the Battle of Bunker, or Breed’s Hill on the 17th of June, 1775: By a Citizen of Boston. Boston: Cummings, Hilliard, & Co., 1825. Web. GoogleBooks. Accessed 24 December 2013.

Caswell, Lilley B., Cross, F. W. The History of the Town of Royalston Massachusetts. Royalston: Town of Royalston, 1917. Web. Archive.org Accessed 27 December 2013.

Frothingham, Richard. Battle of Bunker Hill. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1890. Web. GoogleBooks. Accessed 27 December 2013.

Gardner, Frank A. “Colonel Ephraim Doolittle’s Regiment.” The Massachusetts Magazine. vol 2. Salem: Salem Press, 1909. 11-29. Web. Archive.org Accessed 1 May 2014.

Gilmore, George. A Memorial of the American Patriots Who Fell at the Battle of Bunker Hill, June 17th 1775: With an Account of the Dedication of the Memorial Tablets on Winthrop Square, Charlestown, June 17, 1889, and An Appendix Containing Illustrative Papers. 4th ed. Boston: Printed by Order of the City Council, 1896. Web. GoogleBooks. Accessed 28 December 2013.

Greene, Samuel S. Genealogical Sketch of the Descendants of Thomas Green[e] of Malden, Mass. Boston: Henry W. Dutton & Son, 1858. Web. Archive.org Accessed 28 December 2013.

Leland, Sherman. The Leland Magazine, or a Genealogical Record of Henry Leland and his Descendants. Boston: Wier & White, 1850. Web. GoogleBooks. Accessed 21 May 2014.

Marvin, Abijah Perkins. History of the Town of Winchendon (Worcester County, Mass.,): From the Grant of Ipswich Canada in 1735, To the Present Time. Winchendon: By the Author., 1868. Web. GoogleBooks. Accessed 28 December 2013.

Massachusetts Commonwealth. Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War. vol. 6 Boston: Wright & Potter, 1899. Web. Archive.org. Accessed 27 December 2013.

Stiles, Ezra. The Literary Diary of Ezra Stiles, D.D., LL.D. ed. Franklin Bowditch Dexter. vol. 1. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1901. Web. GoogleBooks. Accessed 27 December 2013.

Swett, S. History of Bunker Hill Battle with a Plan. Boston: Munroe and Francis, 1826. Web. Archive.org. Accessed 21 May 2014.

Vinton, John. The Vinton Memorial: Comprising a Genealogy of the Descendants of John Vinton of Lynn 1648. Boston: S. K. Whipple and Co., 1858. Web. GoogleBooks. Accessed 26 December 2013.

Washburn, Emory. Historical Sketches of the Town of Leicester, Massachusetts, During the First Century from its Settlement. Boston: John Wilson and Son, 1860. Web. GoogleBooks. Accessed 26 December 2013.

Doolittle’s Regiment:

Pension file S12097, Baker, Thomas, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 42, Image 395 File S12097, page 3. April 15 2014.

Pension file S29609, Ballard, Phillip, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 45, Image 543 File S29609, page 3. April 15 2014.

Pension file S4974, Brewer, David, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 118, Image 186 File S4974, page 3. April 15 2014.

Pension file S30286, Bryant, Caleb, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 135, Image 135 File S30286, page 3. April 15 2014.

Pension file W22746, Church, Asa, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 184, Image 251 File W22746, page 7. April 15 2014.

Pension file S11998, Church, Silas, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 184, Image 622 File S11998, page 3. April 15 2014.

Pension file W16910, Clement, William, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 194, Image 315 File W16910, page 4. April 15 2014.

Pension file S39630, Green, Irijah, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 374, Image 520 File S39630. April 15 2014.

Pension file S21776, Green, Uzziah, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 375, Image 567 File S21776, page 4. April 15 2014.

Pension file S33323/BLWT927-200, Holden, John, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 435, Image 155. File S33323/BLWT927-200, page 5. April 15 2014.

Pension file W20155, Ingersoll, Ebenezer, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 461, Image 568 File W20155, page 3. April 15 2014.

Pension file S30516, Jones, Samuel, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 481, Image 518 File S30516, page 8. April 15 2014.

Pension file S30004, Norton, John, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 618, Image 337 File S30004, page 6. April 15 2014.

Pension file S22441, Pike, Daniel, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 654, Image 312 File S22441, page 3. April 15 2014.

Pension file W22457, Turner, Edward, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 816, Image 186 File W22457, page 6. April 15 2014.

Brewer

Pension file W16180, Bailey, James, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 38, Image 509 File W16180, page 5. April 15 2014.

Pension file S16074, Catlin, Timothy, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 171, Image 198 File S16074, page 3. April 15 2014.

Pension file S29068, Childs, Reuban, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 182, Image 444 File S29068, page 8. April 15 2014.

Pension file W16537, Clark, Moses, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 190, Image 293 File W16537, page 4. April 15 2014.

Pension file S12546, Coolidge, John, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 217, Image 199-200 File S12546, page 3-4. April 15 2014.

Pension file W25617/BLWT89503-160-55, Gay, James, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 352, Image 70 File W25617/BLWT89503-160-55, page 7. April 15 2014.

Pension file S18846, Gray, Robert, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 373, Image 168 File S18846, page 4. April 15 2014.

Pension file W21211, Green, Zeeb, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 375, Image 725 File W21211, page 5. April 15 2014.

Pension file S32788, Hastings, Eliphalet, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 407, Image 604 File S32788, page 4. April 15 2014.

Pension file S19333, Hill, John, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 426, Image 661 File S19333, page 4. April 15 2014.

Pension file S16415, Hill, Moses, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 427, Image 140 File S16415, page 4. April 15 2014.

Pension file S30595, Morse, Thomas, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 601, Image 769 File S30595, page 8. April 15 2014.

Pension file W19904, Myrick, Basaleel, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 608, Image 833 File W19904, page 5. April 15 2014.

Pension file S9048, Myrick, Joseph, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 608, Image 869 File S9048, page 4-5,9. April 15 2014.

Pension file S11302, Rider,Daniel, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 690, Image 213 File S11302, page 3. April 15 2014.

Pension file S18640, Ware, John, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 838, Image 334 File S18640, page 7. April 15 2014.

Pension file S17779, Whiting, Aaron, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 862, Image 561 File S17779, page 4. April 15 2014.

Pension file W26141, Wight, Nahum, Revolutionary War, HeritageQuest.com, Series: M805, Roll 866, Image 343 File W26141, page 6. April 15 2014.

Opening image:  The attack on Bunker Hill with the burning of Charlestown, June 17,1775; National Gallery of Art. Web. National Park System.Accessed 21 May 2014.

Redoubt image:  Gentleman’s Magazine. “Redoubt and Entrenchment on the Heights of Charles Town, commonly called Bunker Hill, opposite Boston, attacked and carried by His Majesty’s Troops, June 17, 1775.” September 1775.

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5 thoughts on ““He was at the Battle of Bunker Hill”: the Battle and the Greens of Massachusetts.

  1. I am a direct descendant of Zeeb Green and his son Horace Green MD. Dr. Horace Green was the Father of American Laryngology. Dr. Green authored many medical texts. Dr. Green’s probang was crafted from whale bone. Whaling was a common practice in the Hudson River Valley area after the Revolutionary War. Dr. Green’s practice was located in Ossining, New York.

    • Thanks for the comment. Very interesting. Admittedly, I had to look up what a probang was. Many of the Greens moved to Vermont initially, and I’ve always been curious how sympathetic they were to Shay’s Rebellion.

  2. Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.

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