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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Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Service of Caesar Ferrit

While Thomas Nichols was locked up in the Concord jail, accused of enticing slaves away from their masters, what was his father-in-law doing?

Caesar Ferrit and his youngest son John, born around 1753, were marching with the Natick militia company on 19 Apr 1775. According to William Biglow’s 1830 history of the town:
Caesar Ferrit and his son John arrived at a house near Lexington meeting house, but a short time before the British soldiers reached that place, on their retreat from Concord. These two discharged their muskets upon the regulars from the entry, and secreted themselves under the cellar stairs, till the enemy had passed by, though a considerable number of them entered the house and made diligent search for their annoyers.
Biglow apparently gathered this story from John Ferrit himself, reporting that he was still alive and receiving a pension.

Lt. Col. Francis Smith’s column withdrawing from Concord met Col. Percy’s reinforcement column in Lexington. The British stayed in that town to tend to wounded, rest, and regroup. Percy made his headquarters at the Munroe Tavern, almost a mile from the meetinghouse near where the Ferrits were hiding. Still, they might have had to stay under those cellar stairs a considerable time until all the redcoats were gone.

According to George Quintal’s Patriots of Color, Caesar Ferrit enlisted in the Massachusetts army in late April 1775 through the end of the year. Seth Kaller, Inc., is offering a May 1775 record of how Natick supplied muskets to Caesar Ferrit and several other soldiers. The firm did considerable research on those men, identifying six of the eleven as African-American. Ferrit also served shorter stints in 1776-77 and 1781.

In 1796 the town of Natick petitioned the state for money to support its poor, among whom it listed “one Ceasar Ferrit, an old man and unable to Support him Self wo has been consistered as an Indian and has been under Gurdians of the Natick Indians.”

Caesar Ferrit died in Natick three years later, on 23 May 1799.


meryka said...

Hi John,
Here is a document I found,available for sale, that you might be interested in looking at:

J. L. Bell said...

That's the same document Seth Kaller is offering through its own website, linked above.

It's a measure of current interest in African-American history that the dealer is highlighting Caesar Ferrit, not the officials who produced this document.

meryka said...

Thanks John.
I should have looked up your links first.
This is a very interesting topic and I thank you for writing about it.