J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

General Folsom and General Sullivan

Yesterday I quoted the New Hampshire general Nathaniel Folsom’s complaint to the government back home about Col. John Stark refusing to acknowledge his authority in late June 1775. (Image of the Stark statue here courtesy of the webcomic The Adventures of Brigadier General John Stark.)

Stark had been on the siege lines for about two months by that point. He had arrived as a militia captain, but his regiment reorganized itself as part of the New England army, and he apparently felt he answered directly to Gen. Artemas Ward.

Then for some reason Stark decided he would recognize Folsom’s authority. On 1 July, the New Hampshire government replied to Folsom’s good news:
It gives us great Pleasure to find by yours of 26 [sic] last month that a reconciliation had taken place between you & Col. Stark: We doubt not you’ll use your utmost endeavours to keep up a good Harmony among the Troops
One day later, Gen. George Washington arrived from Philadelphia with commissions for all the Continental Army generals. And representing New Hampshire in that group was…John Sullivan.

Sullivan and Folsom had been their colony’s representatives to the First Continental Congress. Sullivan went back for the second, which put him in great position to point out that (as far as the Congress knew when it was drawing up commissions) there was no general from New Hampshire, and he was available. Hint, hint.

On his first full day in Cambridge, Gen. Washington acknowledged Folsom’s presence in his general orders:
It is ordered that Col. [John] Glover’s Regiment be ready this evening, with all their Accoutrements, to march at a minutes warning to support General Falsam of the New Hampshire forces, in case his Lines should be attack’d.
After all, Washington had met Folsom as a peer at the first Congress. He couldn’t just ignore the man. But he didn’t have a Continental commission for him. Awkward.

Sullivan arrived in Massachusetts on 10 July. Ten days later, Washington told the Congress that “General Folsom proposed…to retire.” Apparently the New Hampshire officers had worked out some arrangement among themselves, which doesn’t show up in any official document.

Folsom returned to New Hampshire, where in August the colony’s legislature voted to make him the sole general of its militia. Sullivan and Stark remained with the Continental Army.

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