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house and kept tavern on the height of land on the road
leading from Epsom Village to Pleasant Pond. The place
is now owned by Joseph Lawrence, better known as Law-
rence "muster field."

His home was the common resort of the settlers, pro-
prietors and scouts, and all who had occasion to travel in
this direction. Town meetings were held here until the
new meeting house was built. Jurors were drawn here for
His Majesty's Court;^ training of His Majesty's soldiers,
and many rude frolics and exciting incidents, which have
long passed into oblivion never to be recalled, were enacted
here. His wealth increased, as well as his popularity. He
owned all the land on the north side of the Deerfield line.
He had the advantage of a fair English education. He
served as Town Clerk and his records on the town books
indicate a thorough knowledge of business, a good use of
language, and a style and beauty of penmanship seldom
found at the present day. His last writing on the books,
the year before he was killed, evinced care, accuracy and
precision. He took a lively interest in the affairs of the
colonies and early espoused the cause of the people against
tho arbitrary encroachments of the mother country before
the commencement of the Revolutionary War. His ances-
try, education and experience would naturally lead him to
take sides with the people in defending their liberties,
when assailed by British oppression. Frequent meetings
were held at his house and measures taken to co-operate
with adjoining towns for mutual rights and protection.
For fifteen years the white-winged angel of peace had
hovered over the State, вАФ the most prosperous period in
her history.


The desire to possess real estate, so strong in the
Anglo-Saxon mind, the huge growth of trees, the fertile
soil in the Suncook Valley, attracted the attention of the
emigrant and secured the rapid settlement of Gilmanton,
Pittsfield Chichester, Loudon, Northwood and Deerfield,
with Epsom as a common center.

The "Seven Years' War," that closed in 1760, had com-
pletely aroused the military spirit of the province, and
organizations with experienced officers had been main-
tained up to the time of the Revolution. A new regiment
was then formed, the 12th, comprising men from the
towns of Nottingham, Deerfield, Epsom, Northwood, Chi-
chester and Pittsfield. "Coming events cast their shadows
before." The people were expecting a serious conflict.

The location of McClary's tavern made it a common
resort for the rustic foresters to meet and talk of the diffi-
culties, while the popularity and ability of the jovial land-
lord rendered him the political and military oracle of the
Suncook Valley.

The battle' of Lexington, on the 19th of April, 1775,
sounded the tocsin to arms. Signals flamed from the hill-
tops and fleet messengers transmitted news from town to
town. A swift rider blowing a horn passed through Not-
tingham and reached Epsom on the morning of the 20th.
The alarm found Captain McClary plowing in the old
"Muster field." Like Cincinnatus of old, he left the plow
in the furrow, and hastened to obey the summons. With
little preparation he seized his saddle-bags, leaped into the
saddle, swearing as he left that he would kill one of the
devils before he came home. Jockey Fogg, who was his
servant in the army, used to speak of his horse as a large,
powerful, iron-grey, four-year-old stallion, so exceedingly
vicious that no one could mount or govern him except the
captain. He could spring upon his back and, by the power
of his arm, govern him with the greatest ease.

The sturdy yeomanry of the Suncook Valley snatched
their trusty firelocks and powder horns and started for the


scene of hostilities, with spirits as brave as ever animated
a soldier and with hearts as noble and honest as ever
throbbed in the cause of liberty and freedom. They were
governed by one common impulse and came from blazed
paths and crooked roads that wound through the forests
and thickets. They were all known to each other as
brothers and townsmen. Each soldier represented a house-
hold and they and their cause were commended to the pro-
tection of Heaven at the morning and evening devotions
and in the services of the Sabbath. Donations of food
and clothing were freely sent them by the families at home.
The men from this section reached Nottingham Square at
one o'clock in the early afternoon, where they found Cap-
tain Cilley and Dr. Dearborn with a company of about
sixty, making with themselves about eighty men. Who
would not have liked to have seen those men, some with
broad-tailed black coats, worsted stockings, three-cornered
hats, others in coarse homespun; all with long stockings,
knee and shoe buckles and thick cowhide shoes.? Their
guns and equipments were as various as their costumes.
Some had the old "Queen Anne," that had done service in
the French War; some long fowling pieces; others a fusee;
only one had a bayonet. Powder horn and shot pouch took
the place of cartridge box. If we were to choose a subject
for an historical painting, we would prefer the scene on
Nottingham Square, April 29th, where were paraded the
noblest band of patriots that ever left New Hampshire to
vindicate her honor and protect her liberties. We would
like to hear the roll-call and see a photograph of these
heroes. Without the spirit of boasting, we doubt if ever
one company in the country furnished so large a proportion
of distinguished men or that cost "John Bull" so many
lives or so much money. Many of their names are historic
and come down to us in official records, filling a large space
in our military history. Just reflect who composed this
Spartan band, who not only astonished the nation with
their famous deeds and heroism at the battle of Bunker


Hill, but consider their position and power in after years.
There was Captain McClary, the oldest and noblest Roman
of them all, whose sad fall is familiar to every school boy;
Captain Joseph Cilley of Nottingham, aged 32, soon to be
promoted Major, Colonel and General, serving through the
war with distinction, and in 1786 appointed Major-General
of the New Hampshire Militia; Dr. Henry Dearborn, but
24, to be Captain, then Major and Colonel, then member of
Congress, United States Marshal, Secretary of War under
Jefferson, Foreign Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the
United States Army in the War of 1812; Thomas Bartlett,
afterwards Captain, Member of the Committee of Safety,
then Colonel in the army, and in 1792 Brigadier-General of
the Militia; Henry Butler, but 21, afterwards Captain
under Colonel Bartlett and Major-General of the New
Hampshire Militia; Amos Merrill, first selectman of Epsom,
Lieutenant, then Captain and Major, serving in the army
four years, with honor to himself and town; the young and
chivalrous Michael McClary, who served with credit four
years in the Revolution, then represented the military
spirit of the State for nearly half a century, and as Adju-
tant-General called out the Northern troops in 1812;
Andrew McGaffney, another worthy officer from Epsom;
also James Gray and Nathan Sanborn, both gaining the
position of Captain in the army, and Joseph Hilton of

Captain Andrew McClary was by common consent
the leading spirit of this noble band of patriots, though
there had been no previous organization. There is much
to be written concerning the achievements and adventures
of this distinguished company and many of the able men
composing it, but the most remarkable and thriling inci-
dent in this connection was their famous march to Cam-
bridge. There is not a parallel in the annals of all the
wars in our country and such wonderful power of endur-
ance by a whole company of men excites our surprise as
their patriotism does our pride and admiration, Dr. Dear-


born gives an account of it and Bancroft a passing notice,
and tradition relates it from generation to generation, but
it should be familiar to every son and daughter of New
Hampshire as one of the brightest testimonials of our
devotion to the cause of freedom and independence.
Accustomed as they were to life in the open air and trials
of strength by long journeys, hunting, tramping and
scouting, they knew little of fear and fatigue. Leaving
Nottingham Square at one o'clock in the afternoon, they
pushed on at a rapid pace, as if the destiny of the province
or hopes of the nation depended upon their alacrity and
speed. At Kingston they took a "double quick" or "dog
trot," and followed it up without a halt to Haverhill, cross-
ing the Merrimack River in a ferry boat at sunset, having
made twenty-seven miles in six hours. They halted at
Andover for supper, and then started for a night march
and on the morning of the 21st, at sunrise, they were
paraded on Cambridge Common "spilin" for a fight.
Those from Epsom traveled seventy miles in less than
twenty-four hours and the whole company from Nottingham
fifty-seven miles in less than twenty hours. Did bone and
muscle ever do better? That was the spirit of '76; that
was the kind of stuff the men were made of who lived in
the Suncook Valley at this time.

The part which the soldiers of the Suncook Valley
and adjoining towns took in this memorable fight has
never yet been written, and we propose now to give it in
full. For personal courage and firmness the battle of
Bunker Hill stands among the first in the brilliant events
of the war. When we inquire who were the men that
gained the highest prize of glory in this great contest
which ushered in our nation's birth, we can with honest
pride claim for the men of the Suncook Valley a rich share
of the praise and honor bestowed upon the soldiers of this
memorable battle. The company from this section was not
only composed of men who afterwards became distinguished
in the Revolution, and at the outset made the best march


ever recorded in our military history, but it was one of the
largest and best companies on the field and held a post of
honor in the engagement. The American army, composed
of rustic heroes who had left their implements of husbandry
in the field and seized their firearms and powder horns and
fiocked to the scene of action, holding the British cooped
up in the narrow limits of Boston, was without proper
organization, equipment, ammunition and supplies; in fact,
they had nothing but pluck, a righteous cause and a love of
liberty to sustain their hopes. They were commanded by
General Artemas Ward, an old, incompetent army officer.
The New Hampshire troops who, as the news of the
slaughter of Lexington and Concord spread like wildfire
over the land had rushed to the place of rendezvous,
organized into two regiments and lay entrenched at Med-
ford. John Stark, by unanimous voice, was chosen to com-
mand the first under the rank of Colonel, with Andrew
McClary as Major. The company composed of soldiers
from Pittsfield, Chichester, Epsom, Deerfield and Notting-
ham was commanded by Henry Dearborn of Nottingham,
Captain, Amos Morrill of Epsom Lieutenant, and Michael
McClary of Epsom, Ensign. The British having become
impatient of restraint determined to take the offensive.
The first design in their plan was to move on the i8th of
June and take possession of Bunker Hill which com-
manded the City of Boston and would enable them to
annoy the American lines. Fortunately this design
became known to General Ward and he was urged to antici-
pate the movement and frustrate the plan. He accord-
ingly ordered a detachment of about a thousand men to
march stealthily during the night of the i6th and entrench
themselves on the commanding eminence. At sunset the
men were paraded on Cambridge Common and stood rever-
ently with uncovered heads while President Langdon of
Harvard College offered a fervent prayer and commended
them and their cause to the protection of Heaven. Then
they took up their silent march, passing the narrow neck


of land that connects Charlestown with the main land, and
reached the summit of the hill without being discovered
by the enemy. The bells in Boston tolled the hour of
midnight before a sod was turned. In three short hours
the shadowy folds of night would lift and expose this bold
advance and this brave band to the view and lire of the
enemy, who lay in the harbor. The British ships "Lively,"
"^'Falcon" and "Somerset" lay in the stream between
Charlestown and Bos-ton and from the decks of these
the drowsy cry of the sentinel, "All's well," could be dis-
tinctly heard by those who patroled the shore. The Amer-
icans applied the pick and spade with vigor and threw up
a square redoubt, near the middle of which the monument
now stands. At daylight the enemy, discovering this dar-
ing band of patriots entrenched almost over their heads,
immediately opened a brisk cannonade upon their works;
but, regardless of the flying missiles, the Americans toiled
on until their work was completed, with a loss of but one
man. This bold stand caused an instant commotion
among the startled British, who immediately landed their
forces and attacked the entrenchment to dislodge our men
from their position. All was soon commotion along the
American lines. General Stark and Major McClary came
down to Charlestown in the morning to reconnoitre the
field and made many valuable suggestions in the prepara-
tion for the conflict which it was evident was about to
open. The movement of the British indicated a formid-
able attack, and orders were issued for re-enforcements to
be forwarded to the redoubt. But such was the want of
discipline and the conflict of authority that few reached
the scene of action

The battle of Bunker Hill was a series of blunders
and unequalled heroism. It was fought without a com-
mander, each regiment acting and fighting on its own
hook. Two of the regiments that had been ordered to the
redoubt halted at the neck, which was swept with a con-
tinual discharge of chain and solid shot from the ships of


war. It was at this juncture that the New Hampshire
troops under Colonel Stark came up, hurrying forward to
the aid of their comrades in the redoubt. Each of the sol-
diers had received a gill of powder, fifteen balls and a spare
flint. There were scarcely two muskets alike in the regi-
ment, and the men were compelled to reduce the size of
the balls to suit the calibre of their respective guns. They
had received orders to be in readiness to march about ten
o'clock, and reached Charlestown Neck about one.

It was one of the hottest days of the season and the
men suffered severely from heat and thirst, yet every man
was ready for a tilt with the British regulars. Finding the
way blocked up with the halted regiments. Major McClary
went forward and with his stentorian voice and command-
ing appearance called out to the commanders of these regi-
ments to move on or open to the right and left and let the
New Hampshire boys pass. This was immediately done;
the regiments opened and they marched forward. The fire
across the neck from the British frigates was so galling
that Captain Dearborn, whose company was in front, as he
marched by the side of Stark, suggested to him that they
take a quicker step, but the grim old veteran sternly
replied, "Dearborn, one fresh man is worth ten fatigued
ones," and strode on as coolly as though on parade, and not
a man of his command flinched or deserted his post.

They reached the hill about two o'clock. ::.tark halted
below the redoubt and harangued his men in a few short,
characteristic sentences which were answered by three
hearty cheers from his men. When he arrived he found
the redoubt exposed to a flank movement from the enemy
and, selecting his position with the practised eye of an old
soldier, he led his regiment to the left of the hill and
posted them near a rail fence, cast off of the redoubt
which run down to the Mystic. This was then a hay field,
the grass having been cut the day before. The men seized
the hay cocks and crowded the hay between the rails of
the fence, giving it the appearance to the enemy of a


breastwork, though it afforded no real protection. Captair?
Dearborn's company was posted on the right of the linC;,
which gave them a fine view of the action, and his written
account of the battle throws much light upon the part
borne by Major McClary and his men.

The British had then landed in large forces and were
forming for the attack near the water's edge. While this
was going on Colonel Stark stepped out and, deliberately
measuring off forty paces, stuck down a stick. "There,"
said he, as he returned to the line, "don't a man fire until
the Redcoats come to that stick; if he does, I will knock
him down."

The British regulars, in their gay scarlet uniforms,
presented a formidable and beautiful appearance as they
marched and counter-marched in preparation for the attack.
They at length moved forward with the order and precis-
ion of a dress parade. The column that was to make the
attack upon the rail fence was commanded by General
Howe in person, and was composed of the Welsh Fusileers,
the veteran regiment and the flower of the British army.
On they came, as if flushed with the prestige of one hun-
dred victories. When within one hundred yards of the
rail fence, they deployed into line and opened a regular
fire by platoon as they advanced.

Along the whole line of the rail fence lay the New
Hampshireboys, peeping through the hay, their gunsresting
on the rails, every man a dead shot and knowing his trusty
firelock was good for a Redcoat, but intent on reserving his
fire until they reached the stake; but John Simpson, better
known as Ensign Simpson of Deerfield, being too much
excited to wait, let drive, and this was a signal for a mur-
derous fire along the whole line, so severe that the bold
Britishers were driven back in confusion and disorder.
Simpson, being reprimanded by Stark for firing against

his orders, drawled out, "How in could I help it when

I see them Redcoats within gunshot.'"


The fate of the British in front of the redoubt was
equally disastrous, and their whole line was thrown into
coufusion and compelled to retire before the well-directed
fire of the despised Continentals. They were, however,
rallied by their officers, and being re-enforced again moved
up the hill on the redoubt and upon the rail fence below in
the same perfect order as before. "Don't waste the pow-
der," "Pick off the officers," "Look out for the handsome
coats," Take good aim," and similar remarks were passed
from mouth to mouth in Captain Dearborn's company.
Don't fire until they pass the stick and I say the word,"
said Stark. "Fire low and aim at their waistbands," rang
the clear voice of Major McClary as he moved along the
line, encouraging the men by word and example.

On came the British, making the same imposing display
as before, stepping over their fallen comrades and firing as
they advanced.

An ominous silence held possession of the American
lines, not a shot was fired from the rail fence until the
enemy reached the stick, when, "Fire!" yelled Stark,
and, "Fire!" thundered McClary, and never did a volley
of musketry do more fatal execution.

Almost the entire front rank of the Welsh Fusileers
went down. No troops could stand the fire which blazed
from that rail fence, pouring into their bosoms a storm of
lead which swept them down like the mown grass. The
officers were nearly all picked off. General Howe's aids
were all shot but one. Howe himself made the most vigor-
ous efforts to urge on his men. His long white silk stock-
ings were smeared with blood that fell like rain upon the
tall grass. British honor and British valor were at stake
and cost what it might he was determined to urge them on
to victory. There was but one mounted officers upon the
field during the engagment and as he rode forward to aid
in steadying the wavering columns and urge them to
advance, Captain Dearborn's men caught sight of him and
the captain writes that he heard them say:


"There is an officer on horseback, let's have him."
"Now, hold on, wait until he gets to the knoll; now!"
They fired and Major Pitcairn of Lexington fame fell dead
at the hands of Captain Dearborn's men. Meanwhile the
whole regiment with the rapidity which men practiced in
the use of the gun alone can exhibit loaded and fired, keep-
ing up a continued stream of fire until the Redcoats despite
the efforts of their officers broke and ran, leaving the
ground strewn with the dead and dying.

The Americans, jubilant at their success and carried
away with the tempest of excitement leaped the rail fence
and chased the fleeing regulars until restrained by their
officers and brought back to their post. Their joy and
exultation knew no bounds; they had won a victory and
driven the proud, defiant army of old King George. They
threw up their hands and made the welkin ring with shouts
of triumph, though their tongues were parched with thirst
and heat. They thought the day was won.

Twice scattered before their scathing, well-directed
fire, they had no thought the enemy would rally again, but
Clinton who had viewed the struggle from Copp's Hill in
Boston now hurried over to the scene of action. It would
never do to have it go out to the world that two thousand
well-armed British troops had been routed beyond rallying
before a little band of half-armed Continentals. Being
re-enforced the troops were again formed into line and
marched to the assault, but the Americans had already
exhausted their ammunition, and without bayonets they
could offer but feeble resistance to furious bayonet charges
from the enemy. Those in the redoubt were compelled
to beat a hasty retreat.

The New Hampshire troops retired in excellent order
and covered the retreat of the army. They were the last
to leave the field and Major McClary was in the rear main-
taining order and discipline. During the engagement Cap-
tain Dearborn lost but one man killed and five wounded,
while the slaughter on the British side had been terrible.


Of the regiment of the Welsh Fusileers, but eighty men
escaped unharmed.

As the Americans retreated across the neck, Major
McClary was remarkably animated with the result of the
contest; that it was a conflict with the glorious display of
valor which had distinguished his countrymen, made him
sanguine of the result. Having passed the last place of
danger he went back to see if the British were disposed to
follow them across the neck, thus exposing himself to dan-
ger anew. His son cautioned him against his rashness.
"The ball is not yet cast that will kill me," said he, when a
random shot from one of the frigates struck a button-wood
tree and, glancing, passed through his abdomen. Throw-
ing his hands above his head, he leaped several feet from
the ground and fell forward upon his face, dead.

Thus fell Major Andrew McClary, the highest Amer-
ican officer killed in the battle, the handsomest man in
the army and the favorite of the New Hampshire troops.
His dust still slumbers where it was laid by his sorrowing
comrades in Medford, unhonored by any adequate memo-
rial to tell where lies one of the heroes who ushered in the
Revolution with such auspicious omens.

Major McClary had a splendid physique and soldierly
appearance. With all the bravery of Stark, he possessed
greater mental endowments and culture. With the natural
ability of Sullivan, he possessed the magic power to incite
his men to nobler deeds. With the popularity of Poor, he
was more cool and discreet; in fact, he combined more
completely than either the elements that tend to make a
popular and successful commander, and had his life been
spared he would doubtless have ranked among the most
able and noted officers of the Revolution.

He married, in early life, Elisabeth McCrillis, a strong-
minded, resolute, Scotch-Irish girl, who proved a valuable
helpmeet and capable mother to his seven children. After
her husband's death she kept the tavern and store alone,
assisted at first by her husband's partner in business, John


Casey, and afterwards by her eldest son, James Harvey.
Rumor says she was once published to be married to the
above-named John Casey, but the match was prevented by
the interference of a younger rival and the advice of
friends. After nineteen years of widowhood and the chil-

Online LibraryN.H.) Manchester Historic Association (ManchesterManchester Historic Association collections (Volume 4) → online text (page 4 of 24)