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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Monday, March 25, 2013

Capt. Samuel Leighton and His Regiment

Will Steere at the Seth Kaller Inc. dealer in historic documents alerted me to some recent offerings that shed a little light on the siege of Boston. They are more of the papers of Capt. Samuel Leighton (1740-1802) of Kittery, Maine. His men came from that area and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. One can find them all at the Seth Kaller site by searching for the keyword “Leighton.”

This company was part of the regiment of Col. James Scamman (1742-1804). Documents in the Massachusetts archives indicate that some officers and men in that regiment wanted their colonel to be Johnson Moulton, a veteran of the French & Indian War who had mustered a minute company on 21 Apr 1775 and marched south. By the time Moulton returned home four days later, however, Scamman was evidently recruiting.

Moulton signed on to Scamman’s regiment as lieutenant colonel on 2 May but brought Gen. Artemas Ward a letter from prominent neighbors dated three days later recommending that he be made colonel. “There is a considerable number of good men enlisted already, with a view of said Moulton being their Colonel,” the letter closed. Scamman could be lieutenant colonel, they suggested.

The Massachusetts Committee of Safety was convinced enough to ask Scamman to step aside in a 7 May letter. But he didn’t. Instead, he marched his regiment to Cambridge and mustered them there on 23 May.

The committee decided that they couldn’t remove Scamman without his cooperation. They certified his regiment as “nearly full” and recommended commissions for his officers. On 29 May, Moulton was officially made the regiment’s lieutenant colonel. Later the Continental Congress issued the equivalent commissions. Leighton’s commission as a Continental captain, dated 1 July, is quoted here.

By then, Leighton’s company had been involved in the fight for Hog Island but not in the Battle of Bunker Hill for reasons explained here. According to a muster roll Leighton prepared, three of his men had deserted, two reportedly on 1 July.

TOMORROW: More of Capt. Leighton’s documents.

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