Keene NH, Bunker Hill, and American Independence

In the History of Keene New Hampshire, 1874-1904  Frank H. Whitcomb (1904) reports the response of the people of Keene to the battle of Lexington. Samuel Bassett, my 4 times great grandfather, was among the first 23 men to respond and fight for American Independence.

Patriots had assembled military stores at various places, including Concord Massachusetts and General Gage, the British commander meant to destroy those weapons. But the colonists had an active grapevine, and kept close tabs on the British. So when the redcoats marched toward Lexington and Concord, the people of New Hampshire were ready to go to the aid of Massachusetts and fight for American independence.

War for American Independence

Revolutionary War Re-enactment at Sturbridge, MA Photo by Lee Wright.

On Tuesday, April 18, at 11:00 p.m., the British crossed the Connecticut River and as the dramatic story is told in the History of Keene New Hamshire,

The lanterns were hung in the steeple of Christ church on Copp’s hill.  Paul Revere crosssed Charles river in a boat five minutes before the British sentinels received the order to allow no one to leave Boston, mounted a fleet horse and sped away to Lexington, rousing the people as he went.  Other messengers hastened in all directions, bells were rung and neighbor sent word to neighbor.

Before Sunrise American citizens had been slain at Lexington, and minute-men and other patriots were flocking to the scene of action.  The tidings were caught up by relays of swift horsemen and fleet runners on foot…and carried to every township and every log cabin.

When the news reached Keene, 90 miles from Lexington, by a rider coming through the woods on a bridle paty, a meeting was called on the Green the afternoon of Thursday, April 20. A commander was chosen, and altogether thirty men marched for Lexington including Samuel Bassett, fifer.

Promptly at the hour [sunrise] on that Friday morning, the 21st of April, 1775–the men were there and immediately marched off down Main street…[on the] road to Boston.

Samuel was twenty-one years old.

Chapter 7 of the History of Keene, entitled “Keene in Revolution” starting at page 171, tells the details of what the men of Keene did during their march to Boston and the battles of Breed’s Hill and Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775.

American Independence at Bunker Hill

In this map, you can see The New Hampshire Regiment commanded by Starks on the first day as they attacked Breed’s Hill. Map from WIki Commons.

Col. Stark’s regiment, including the Keene men under Capt. Stiles, was in the front of the charge on Bunker Hill, and according to the History of Keene, a report to England from General Gage said “If a monument is to be erected upon that battle ground to an colonel, it should be to Colonel Stark of New Hampshire, whose services in the strife were more important than those of any other man bearing that title.”

Part of the report of the details of movements of the New Hampshire troops toward Bunker Hill is credited in the book to a statement by “Samuel Bassett of Keene, fifer in Stiles’s [sic] company, who was with the detached party.”

He carried his musket in the action and states that he discharged five or six rounds and received a flesh wound in his thigh (so slight that he was not reported wounded, as is often the case in battle), after which several minutes elapsed before the retreat began.

Samuel is also listed in the roster of Stile’s company transferred to the command of Massachusetts Col. Dudley Sargent on August 1, 1775.  There he is identified as a “Freamer,” a word I have been unable to track down. But since he is listed immediately following the Drummer, I assume it is another way of saying Fifer.

The Keene men were mostly dismissed at the end of their eight-month term of duty in October, 1775.

In December, since they considered the British evicted from rulership but there was not yet a written set of regulations for the country, the people of Keene wrote their own Resolutions. You can see what their main concerns were. (Although they used much more flowery language.)

1. Appoint 3 good men to enforce the resolutions.

2. Establish fines for profanity

3. Fine anyone loitering or tippling instead of working.

4. Fine or publicly whip anyone who smites another person or abuses or destroys property of another person.

5. If anyone brings tea into town intending to sell it, they must surrender it until “the minds of Congress are fully known.”

6. Each member of committee has power to enforce the resolutions.

7. An officer will be appointed and given power to bring trangressors to the committee.

And all masters and heads of families have the responstibility that their “children, servants, and others [I suppose that includes wives?] not trespass against these “particulars.”

And they voted to hire a minister.

The records also show that in 1775, “Samuel Bassett and Aaron Willson, by the aid of a bee, excavated the canal from the pond on West Street to a point on the river about a hundred rods below.”  This enabled the building of a saw mill and a grist mill (owned by other men). [Can anybody tell me what a ‘bee’ would be?]

On April 12th 1776, all able-bodied men of Keene were asked to sign a statement supporting the Continental Congress–

“….that we will do the utmost of our Power at the Risque of our LIves and Fortunes with ARMS oppose the  Hostile Proceedings of the British Fleets and Armies against the United American COLONIES.”

Samuel Bassett was one of the 133 men of Keene that signed the Declaration. The thirteen who refused to sign (mostly wealthy men of the town) were also listed.

American Independence Day Fireworks

American Independence Day Fireworks

On July 4th, when the citizens were ready to celebrate the new American Independence, they erected a Liberty pole and a nine year boy climbed the pole to affix the flag.  The following September (they had been in recess when Independence was declared), the legislature enacted a statement making the former colony the STATE of New Hampshire.

The legislature of the new state voted to raise two regiments of men, and Samuel Bassett volunteered the 6th Company of the regiment commanded by Nahum Baldwin of Amherst. They took part in the battle of White Plains in October.

In May 1777, he marched with 112 men under Col. Bellows to TIconderoga, but the threat was over when they arrived, and they were dismissed in late June.

If you want the entire 3-chapter history of Keene’s involvement in the Revolution, I suggest you read the detailed History of Keene, made available on line by the Keene Public Library. And on Monday, I’ll be sharing Samuel’s own account from his pension record.

How I am Related

  • Vera Marie Badertscher, the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, the daughter of
  • Vera Stout Anderson, the daughter of
  • Hattie Stout Morgan, the daughter of
  • Mary Bassett Platt Morgan, the daughter of
  • William Bassett, the son of
  • Samuel Bassett.
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