Glover, John

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Glover, John

GLOVER, JOHN. (1732–1797). Continental general. Massachusetts. Born in Salem, Massachusetts, on 5 November 1732, Glover moved to nearby Marblehead as a boy and progressed from cordwainer (shoemaker) to wealthy shipowner and merchant. A militia ensign in 1759, by 1773 he was a captain and commanded a company in the regiment of John Gallison. He worked with Elbridge Gerry to establish a smallpox hospital in support of inoculation. Opponents, fearing that partial inoculation would spread the disease, succeeded in preventing the hospital opening in 1773, and then burned the building. A supporter of the Patriot cause, Glover was a member of the Committee of Correspondence and a lieutenant in the town militia. On 19 May 1775 he became a colonel in the Twenty-first Massachusetts Regiment. After the battle of Bunker Hill, which was fought on 17 June 1775, Glover's regiment joined the troops besieging Boston.

Colonel Glover was charged with equipping and manning armed vessels to attack British supply ships in Massachusetts Bay, and some of his men took part in the capture of the Nancy. Glover's regiment was then ordered off to meet a threat against Marblehead and then to protect Beverly. His regiment, now designated the Fourteenth Continental, joined the army in New York City. Glover's unit did not take part in the battle of Long Island on 27 August. Rather, it was sent into the Brooklyn lines on the night of the 29th to extricate General George Washington's encircled army. Glover was put in charge of manning the boats assembled for the evacuation of Long Island on 29 and 30 August, a remarkable operation in which his regiment and the Twenty-seventh Continental Regiment safely ferried men and equipment across East River. At Kip's Bay, on 15 September, his Marbleheaders were rushed up to contain the British beachhead while John Sullivan's Brigade and Henry Knox's guns covered their escape from New York City. Commanding a brigade at Pell's Point on 18 October, Glover fought a well-managed independent action. At White Plains on 28 October, his regiment once again gave a good account of itself.

Washington's famous crossing of the Delaware was made possible by the skilful work of Glover's Marbleheaders under extremely adverse weather conditions and with equipment—Durham Boats—foreign to them. Putting the last man of Washington's main body across at 3 a.m., they participated with Sullivan's Division in the attack on Trenton, on 26 December. Glover's men played a key role in bottling up the enemy's last escape route, and then ferried more than 900 Hessian prisoners back across the Delaware. It was an almost incredible achievement. In 36 hours, in subzero weather, operating much of the time in a storm of wind, hail, rain, and snow, Glover's men put 2,400 troops, 18 cannon, and horses across the river without a loss; marched nine miles to Trenton; fought a battle; marched nine miles back to McKonkey's Ferry with prisoners and captured matériel; and recrossed the river.

The amphibious regiment ended its famous career with this engagement, because its terms of enlistment was complete. Many ex-soldiers became privateersmen. Glover initially declined an appointment as brigadier general, but accepted it in June 1777 in response to a personal request from Washington.

Glover served under Gates in stopping General John Burgoyne's offensive, and escorted the Convention Army to Cambridge, Massachusetts. He commanded one of the two veteran brigades that Washington sent under the Marquis de Lafayette's command to support Sullivan's militia in the Franco-American attack against Newport, Rhode Island, in 1778. In the spring of 1779 he succeeded Sullivan as commander at Providence, Rhode Island, but joined the main army on the Hudson River in June and remained in the highlands during the Yorktown Campaign. Early in 1782 he went to Massachusetts to muster recruits, but bad health led to his retirement on half pay on 22 July 1782. He was brevetted major general on 30 September 1783. He died in Marblehead on 30 January 1797.

SEE ALSO Burgoyne's Offensive; Gerry, Elbridge; Long Island, New York, Evacuation of; Nancy Capture.


Billias, George A. General John Glover and His Marblehead Mariners. New York: Holt, 1960.

                              revised by Michael Bellesiles