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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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Gravestone of James Reed

My recent postings about Col. James Reed of New Hampshire and his regiment brought a message and photo from Boston 1775 reader Robert J. O’Hara. I decided to adapt them into a guest blogger posting, letting me rest in peace on new material for another day.

James Reed is buried in the Laurel Hill Cemetery in Fitchburg, under a fine large stone carved in John Dwight’s workshop in Shirley. He might have become as well known as his fellow New Hampshireman John Stark, but the year after Bunker Hill he became ill, possibly with smallpox, and this left him almost totally blind. He retired to Keene, and then eventually to Fitchburg, where he lived in a house on the lot now occupied by the Fitchburg City Hall. He died there in 1807.

Born at Woburn 1723
In the various Military scenes
In which his country was concerned
from 1755 to the superiour conflict
distinguished in our history as the
He sustained Commissions.
In that Revolution, at the import-
ant post of Lake George,
he totally lost his sight.
From that period to his death he
receiv’d from his country the
retribution allowed to pensioners
of the rank of
Brigadier General.
died at Fitchburg
February 13th 1807.

Please visit this webpage for more information and photos about Fitchburg’s cemeteries.

Thanks, Bob! 


Bob said...

I'm glad you found the photo of interest, and I hope others will too. The stone is a fine example of the work of stonecarver John Dwight of Shirley -- one of his "luxury models." The 1806 Samuel Jones stone in Concord is a very near match, as is the 1809 John White stone in Dorchester.

I've been transcribing a number of early Fitchburg stones, and preparing brief genealogical and biographical sketches of the people named. I append below the biographical sketch of General Reed, for any who may be interested. If the more learned readers of Boston1775 can offer any corrections I will be glad to have them. I also have a genealogical sketch with lots of abstruse details; if anyone wants that just leave your email here and I'll send it along.



---- draft sketch ----

James Reed played an active role in the civil and military affairs of New England for many years. Born in Woburn, he lived successively in Brookfield, Lunenburg, Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire (where he was one of the town’s leading proprietors), Keene, New Hampshire, and Fitchburg. He served as a captain during the French and Indian War from 1755–1762, leading companies of men from the Lunenburg region at Crown Point, Fort Edward, Fort William Henry, and Ticonderoga. At the time of the Lexington Alarm he was living in Fitzwilliam as a lieutenant colonel in the New Hampshire militia, and he quickly raised a body of volunteers and marched to Cambridge (Garfield, 1908c: 228–229). He was promoted to the rank of colonel by the Provincial Congress on 28 April 1775 and his New Hampshire volunteers were reorganized as the 3rd New Hampshire Regiment, which was in turn adopted by the Continental Congress as the 2nd Regiment of the Continental Army (Boatner, 1966: 924–925; Wright, 1983: 16, 51, 198–199). Reed’s regiment, along with the regiment of his fellow New Hampshireman John Stark, played a critical role in the defense of the American left flank at the battle of Bunker Hill on 17 June 1775.

After the British evacuated Boston in March of 1776, Col. Reed was ordered to New York, and his regiment was one of the units sent up the Hudson River under the command of Gen. John Sullivan to relieve Benedict Arnold’s forces in Canada. During this expedition Reed fell ill, perhaps with smallpox, and at either Crown Point (according to Garfield, 1908b: 122) or Lake George (according to this stone) he became blind and partially deaf. Hoping to recover, he accepted promotion to brigadier general on 9 August 1776, but resigned a month later. He retired to Fitzwilliam, and then to Keene, where he occupied the confiscated house of a former Tory resident, Dr. Josiah Pomeroy. In 1798 he removed to Fitchburg where he spent his final years in a house on the site now occupied by the Fitchburg City Hall.

For an extended biographical account of James Reed see Garfield (1908b); a portrait of Reed hangs in the New Hampshire state house in Concord. Boatner (1966: 124–125, 924–925) provides a modern summary Reed’s military career and his role in the Battle of Bunker Hill, and Wright (1983: 16, 51, 198–199) traces the unit-histories of his New Hampshire and Continental regiments. Garfield’s biography of Reed concludes with a burial verse originally written for John Stark (Farmer’s Monthly, 1852: 232), which he fittingly adapts to the Fitchburg resting place of General Stark’s Bunker Hill compatriot:

Beside the Nashua’s silvery stream
The hero’s relics deep are laid;
No more of battle days he’ll dream,
Fame claims no more;—her debt is paid;
Yet o’er his grave her laurels bloom,
And crown with brightest wreaths his tomb.

---- end draft sketch ----

Unknown said...

Thank you for this nice piece of history featuring my ancestor.

Michael Reed

James Reed said...

It was interesting to read. I live near Fitzwilliam in Troy. I go by his marker sometimes. It was strange to see the 1st time as my name is James Reed. Also my mother's name was Shirley, the name of the town where his gravestone was made. Also the person who commented about him being their ancestor, Michael Reed, that was my brothers name.interesting and strange