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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Sunday, December 22, 2019

Amos Lincoln during and after the War

I’ve been discussing the story of nineteen-year-old Amos Lincoln at the Boston Tea Party.

That wasn’t the end of Lincoln’s participation in the American Revolution. He was at the prime age for military service when the war began, and the lore about him says that his master, carpenter Thomas Crafts, Sr., “released him from his obligation as an apprentice, in consequence of his ardent desire to enter the army of his country.”

According to the Annals of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, Lincoln “was in the battle of Bunker-Hill, attached to General [John] Stark’s regiment.” That raises questions since Stark commanded men from New Hampshire. With family in Hingham, Lincoln would most likely have gone to the southern side of the siege lines and served under Gen. John Thomas. It’s possible the young man simply “attached” himself to the most convenient unit, or it’s possible later storytellers did the attaching for him.

The M.C.M.A. Annals also stated that Lincoln “was in the actions at Bennington [16 Aug 1777], Brandywine [11 Sept 1777], and Monmouth [28 June 1778].” That claim makes no sense, and not just because that would put him in two different armies during the same season.

We know from Massachusetts records that Amos Lincoln served mostly close to home. He joined the state artillery regiment commanded by his master’s son, Thomas Crafts, Jr. On 10 May 1776, Col. Crafts submitted a list of officers to the state government, and Amos Lincoln was made a captain-lieutenant. He was promoted to captain in January 1778 and remained at that rank as command of the regiment passed to Lt. Col. Paul Revere in 1779.

Boston tour guide Ben Edwards displays a return of a company of matrosses (artillery privates) that Capt. Lincoln filed with the state on 1 Jan 1781, while he was helping to guard Boston harbor. In lore this became that he was “at one time in charge of the castle,” and that he “commanded the company at Fort Independence which fired the salute at the first celebration of Independence Day in Boston, July 4, 1777.”

In 1873, T. C. Amory told this story about one of Capt. Lincoln’s campaigns:
while reconnoitring on one occasion with Lafayette, the latter suggested the importance of an earthwork at an advantageous point near by, and requested him to have it forthwith constructed. The work was already approaching completion when Colonel [John] Crane,—his immediate superior, who was also of the tea-party, and indeed seriously injured in the affair by the fall of a chest upon him,—rode by, and expressed his surprise and displeasure, inquiring by whose order he had acted. Lincoln replied that it was in obedience simply to the colonel’s master and his own, and soon made his peace by giving the colonel’s name to the fort.
This may refer to the abortive campaign against the British in Rhode Island in late 1778. Crane and Lafayette were there. But I don’t see any mention in Massachusetts records of Capt. Lincoln being assigned to that campaign.

The early profiles of Lincoln state that after the war he participated in putting down the Shays Rebellion. He worked as a master carpenter in the building of the new Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill. He was also a member of the St. Andrew’s Lodge of Freemasons starting in 1777.

Amos Lincoln married Deborah Revere, daughter of his regimental commander, in January 1781. They had nine children, and Deborah died in January 1797. In May 1797, Amos married his sister-in-law Elizabeth Revere, and they had five more children, the first arriving at the end of December. Elizabeth died in April 1805, and in July Amos married the widow Martha Robb, and they had three more children.

Amos’s older brother Levi went into the law and was eventually U.S. Attorney General under Thomas Jefferson, lieutenant governor of Massachusetts under James Sullivan, and briefly acting governor. Levi’s sons Levi, Jr., and Enoch became governors of Massachusetts and Maine, respectively. One of Amos’s grandsons, Frederic W. Lincoln, was mayor of Boston for several years. Amos Lincoln’s obituary said he was “an undeviating disciple of Washington,” thus most likely a Federalist.

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