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, May 30, 2021

The Service of Pvt. Amos Harrington

Earlier this month I wrote about Lt. Col. Abijah Brown, and how a Continental Army court-martial in October 1775 found him guilty of “employing Harrington for fourteen days, and Clarke for eighteen days, out of Camp, upon his own business.”

In other words, while those two enlisted men were supposed to be on the siege lines with the rest of Col. Benjamin Ruggles Woodbridge’s regiment, Brown actually had them working on his farm in Waltham.

It was a pleasant surprise to be able to identify one of those men from army records. He was Pvt. Amos Harrington of Waltham. That’s the only man named Harrington in the Woodbridge regiment, and of course his home town matches Lt. Col. Brown’s.

Amos Harrington was born in Waltham on 18 Nov 1755, making him almost twenty years old when he became a legal matter.

On 19 April, he marched with Capt. Abraham Peirce’s Waltham militia company. The alarm reached Waltham late, so its men didn’t engage with the British troops that day, but on orders from regimental colonel Thomas Gardner they “served as guards until Saturday, the fourth day after the fight at Concord.”

As of 30 Sept 1775, Amos Harrington was listed in Capt. Seth Murray’s company in Col. Woodbridge’s regiment, assigned to Prospect Hill. Whether he was actually there or not during the harvest season was another question.

Harrington appears to have gone home at the end of the year, but then he mobilized with his local company from 4 to 8 March 1776. At Gen. George Washington’s request, Massachusetts called up militia troops to support the push onto Dorchester Heights and reinforce the lines against possible counterattack.

On 10 Oct 1779 Amos Harrington married his cousin Esther, and their first son arrived less than six months later. According to Frederick Lewis Weis’s Harrington genealogy quoted at this Find a Grave page, they had ten children in all, three dying in infancy. Esther died in October 1794, several months after giving birth to her last daughter, who survived her.

After that, I lose track of Pvt. Amos Harrington. He never applied for a Revolutionary War pension, suggesting that he died before the law made those available for nearly all veterans.

Weis’s genealogy says Harrington died in Weston on 15 Jan 1846. However, Weston vital records make clear that was another man of the same name, born in that town in 1754 and still “single” when he died. He was called up for militia service under Capt. Jonathan Fisk in August 1777, as Gen. John Burgoyne was coming down from Canada. I put his gravestone above.

I’d been hoping the Amos Harrington from Waltham did indeed live into the Polk administration, apply for a pension, and leave some comment about his service under (and work for) Lt. Col. Brown in 1775. But no such luck.

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