The Response To The Revolution

From the 75th Anniversary edition

Hampton Union

July 23, 1975

The Response To The Revolution

(Courtesy of Hampton Historians, Inc.,
in cooperation with the Hampton Bicentennial Committee)

HAMPTON — What was Hampton’s reaction to "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" 200 years ago?

Very little has been written on Hampton "part in the American Revolution." Joseph Dow, Hampton’s historian, in his work published late in the last century, put together a chapter of bits and pieces gleaned from existing town records (who keeps many records when there’s a revolution going on!), New Hampshire militia payroll records, documents in state and private hands, etc. To these he added Hampton’s participation in many of the provincial and state representative congresses and conventions during the era. It all adds up to: Yes, Hampton, as one of the most populated towns, participated, paid its share of the tax levy and was very much involved in the defense of the seacoast.

The seacoast area of New Hampshire was the center of much of New Hampshire’s population and trade. Hampton, near the Massachusetts border, was also historically tied to our southern neighbor. For it was the only one of the first four settlements (Dover, Portsmouth and Exeter being the others) in the wilderness that owed its existence, or charter, to the Massachusetts General Court.

Like Massachusetts, Hampton caught the spirit of liberty early. In reaction to the Boston Tea Party of December 1773, the townsmen adopted a set of Patriotic Resolves (a copy hangs in the Town Office) warning the British king and Parliament of their "illegal acts" in the colonies.

A Committee of Correspondence was set up in 1774 to keep in touch with other towns on the matters of excessive taxation and the oppression of provincial legislatures. The Patriots’ gunpowder raids on the king’s fort at New Castle in December 1774, precipitated by messages carried by Paul Revere from Boston to Portsmouth, brought armed conflict closer to home.

Four months later, the Minutemen stopped the British at Concord Bridge. The next day, April 20, 1775, the order was given at Hampton for soldiers to proceed to Boston. According to Historian Dow, they set out the same day. But at Ipswich a counter order turned them around and they arrived back in Hampton on the 22nd. Since Hampton lay on the coast, the move was probably intended to provide a coastal guard against British landings. Town, records reveal that 34 men responded to the "Alarm at Lexington Battle" and were paid four shillings a day for four days.

Numerous accountings were sent from the state during the war to sbow what the state paid (or owed) the town or individuals for support of the military. Such entries include: amounts to men for "work on the forts at Portsmouth;" for "suits of clothes" to soldiers enlisting in the New Hampshire Line of the Continental Army; for a "a carriage for a six-pound cannon;" for men standing as "Guardians at the Sea." Many papers are signed by Nicholas Gilman Sr. of Exeter (the Revolutionary Capital), who was the new state’s treasurer.

Gen. Artemas Ward of the newly authorized 14,000-man Massachusetts militia warned the coastal towns in May 1775 of British "cutters" departing Boston Harbor with numerous small boats on deck. This put the towns on guard against invasions

In June, the N.H. Committee of Safety (later in the year, Hampton set up its own Committee) ordered the Hampton Infantry Company to: "man two whale boats ... and keep them constantly cruising off and on the coast, and direct them to acquaint all vessels bound to Piscataqua,, having provisions, salt or molasses on board, that the man-of-war there has orders to seize them; and advise them to get into York, Newburyport, Hampton or Rye, as they judge expedient." Thus, for the first part of the war at least, Hampton’s efforts were directed to defend the coast. A town meeting, held six days after the Battle of Bunker Hill, voted to have four men on guard at the beach every night.

Town records don’t list any Hampton men at Bunker Hill -- where New Hampshire men outnumbered their fellow Massachusetts and Connecticut Patriots combined. However, Eric Small, on the staff of the N.H. ARB Commission, informs us there was at least one man there who claimed Hampton roots.

According to the "New Hampshire Manual for the General Court," No.6 - (1899), one James Cobby (a surname not listed in Dow’s history of early Hampton) of Hampton fought that day, June 17, 1775. He was listed as being on the Massachusetts Rolls in Bancroft’s Company of Bridges’ Regiment. James Cobby survived that battle but Hampton did lose a total of six men in the war.

This, then, brings us to June 1775 which was the last month of Royal government in New Hampshire. John Wentworth, the king’s governor, fled the province (soon to become a free state in a new nation.)

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