Monday, April 2, 2018

New Hampshire Men who Fought the American Revolution

A statue of Gen. John Stark
at the Bennington Monument

Elias Hasket Derby is a name I know from Salem, Massachusetts history.  The first Elias Hasket Derby (1739 – 1812) was a merchant who became one of the first American millionaires through trade with China and the far east.  His ship Grand Turk was the first New England ship to enter China for trade.  His mansion in Salem is now a museum house, and it is across the street from the famous Derby Wharf.  He married Elizabeth Crowninshield, had ten children, and his grandson was the Elias Hasket Derby III who gave the lecture described below.

General Elias Hasket Derby, Jr. was born in Salem, Massachusetts on 10 January 1766, and removed to Londonderry in 1815 (soon after this Derry split from Londonderry, New Hampshire).  He died there on 16 September 1826 and is buried at Forest Hill Cemetery.   He had followed his father’s footsteps into trade, but was a financial failure after a trade voyage to Brazil and London from 1809 – 1811. He was a colonel of the Salem militia, and served in the War of 1812.  He was responsible for fitting out the privateers of Salem that preyed on the British during that war.   After the war he removed to Derry and had a 400 acre estate on Lane Road where he raised merino sheep.  The house is no longer standing.  When General Lafayette came to Derry on 1 September 1824 he stayed with Gen. Derby at his house on Lane Road.  He was married to Lucy Brown, and had six children, including the author of the lecture Elias Hasket Derby (1803 – 1880).   

Elias Haskett Derby, III, was born in Salem on 24 Sept 1803 and was raised in Derry.  He attended the Pinkerton Academy in Derry and the Boston Latin School. He graduated from Harvard College in 1824 and studied law with Daniel Webster.  He was married to Eloise Floyd Strong and had five children.  He died in Boston on 31 March 1880 and is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery. His obituary is on page 198 of volume 35 of the NEHGS Register, along with a short genealogy of his descent from the original immigrant Roger Derby, who arrived in Massachusetts from Topsham, England about 1665.

The Derby family papers are in the collections of the Phillips Library, under the auspices of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts.

The following article was transcribed from the newspaper Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics, Saturday, April 24, 1875, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Volume LXXXV, Issue, 17, page 1


At a late monthly meeting of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, held in Boston, E. H. Derby, Esq. read a paper on “The Services of New Hampshire and her Scotch Colonists in the Heroic Age of the Republic.”  In beginning, he adverted to the courage and resolution of the Scotch who settled the province of Ulster in Ireland, and he then traced a colony of this race to Nutfield, afterward Londonderry, in New Hampshire.  This settlement was for many years a frontier post, but subsequently founded many of the hill towns of New Hampshire and produced brave and hardy men, who were distinguished in our French wars and long conflict with England.  Among these were the partisan Rogers, Colonels Stark, Reed and Cilley, and that Matthew Thornton who signed with so bold a hand the Declaration of Independence.  Had due prominence been given to these men and their associates in our history of the great drama of the Revolution? he asked.  When the news of the battle of Lexington aroused New England, New Hampshire had only seventy five thousand people east of the Connecticut, but she soon hurried to Cambridge two full regiments, both of which took an active part in the battle of Bunker Hill.  Full justice had been done by history to the deeds of Massachusetts and Connecticut in that memorable conflict, but few were aware that a large portion of the original force of Prescott, exhausted by the fatigues of the night or hunger, had left the battle-field or fallen back to a spot on higher ground where Prescott had marked out another redoubt; that the principal part of the American forces who met the first assault consisted of men from the hills of New Hampshire, chiefly under Stark and Reid.  Without detracting in the least from the fame of Prescott, Warren, Putnam and their companions, New Hampshire should have her portion of the laurels won on that well-fought field to form a part of her regalia.  The evidence was conclusive that the number of troops from New Hampshire on the ground at the commencement of this battle under Stark, Reed and Prescott, who fought independently, must have reached a thousand.  If history was correct, there were not at any time more than fifteen hundred engaged.  If such was the case, New Hampshire must have furnished two-thirds of the men that took part in the battle from its beginning to its close, or until they fell at the post of duty.  Under these circumstances, Massachusetts and Connecticut, with less numbers, should not have the major part of the glory of the day.  Mr. Derby presented a vivid sketch of the battle of Bunker Hill remembering the special [illegible] the service of the New Hampshire troops.  He then followed them to the battles of Trenton and Princeton, and the capture of the Hessians.  When the battle of Bennington was fought, New Hampshire had a brigade of three regiments in the field at Saratoga.  They were especially distinguished in one of the battles at Saratoga, where they three times charged and took the British artillery, after losing heavily.  He spoke also of the formation of General Stark’s brigade from the hay-field.  His force was organized with raw recruits in less than a week, and with it he marched for Bennington.  He had neither cartridges nor bayonets, but one bullet mould, and but one small piece of artillery without cannon balls.  With fresh men from the field he attacked a body of regular troops well provided with bayonets and cannon, stormed three intrenchments and killed or captured most of them, although nearly as many in number as his own troops.  In a few hours afterward he attacked and defeated a similar force, and thus cut off the supplies and foragers of Burgoyne, and soon after encamping in his rear, prevented his retreat to Canada.  Such, he said, in closing ere the services of New Hampshire in the four great decisive conflicts of the Revolution. The first taught our militia to face the veteran troops of England, and those veterans to respect their foes.  The second and third contests in the darkest hour of the struggle at Trenton and Princeton turned the tide of war and revived the drooping courage of the country.  The fourth led to the surrender of Burgoyne and led the French alliance, which terminated the war.  The paper of Mr. Derby was sustained by copious notes, giving the authorities he collated.”

This newspaper account made me curious to see if there was a mention of Mr. Derby’s lecture in the NEHGS Register.  Online I found Volume 29 (1875) of the Register, and on pages 119 - 120 this account of the 7 October 1874 quarterly meeting of the New England Historic Genealogical Society at their headquarters on 18 Somerset Street in Boston:

“Elias Hasket Derby, of Boston, then read a paper entitled, “Services of New Hampshire and her Scotch Colonists in the Heroic Age of the Republic”.  He adverted to the courage and resolution of the Scotch who settled in the province of Ulster, Ireland, and then traced a colony from that province across the ocean to New Hampshire, which produced brave and hardy men who were distinguished in the French wars and the American revolution, among whom were the partizan Rogers, and Cols. Stark, Reed, Cilley and that Matthew Thornton who signed the Declaration of Independence.

Mr. Derby produced statistics to show that at the battle of Bunker Hill the troops from New-Hampshire, among who those of Scotch Irish descent were prominent, on the ground at the commencement of the battle, were at least a thousand.  If history be correct, he said, there were not at any time more than fifteen hundred Americans engaged, so that New-Hampshire must have furnished two-thirds of the men who took part in the battle from the beginning to the close.  He followed the New-Hampshire troops to Trenton, Princeton, Saratoga, and other battles where they rendered service. Remarks on this subject were made by the Hon. George W. Warren, Frederic Kidder, Joseph Leeds and the Hon. Thomas C. Amory.” 


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "New Hampshire Men who Fought the American Revolution", Nutfield Genealogy, posted April 2, 2018, ( accessed [access date]).

No comments:

Post a Comment