New Hampshire, Mobilization in

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New Hampshire, Mobilization in

NEW HAMPSHIRE, MOBILIZATION IN. After much careful research in the 1930s, the New Hampshire historian Richard Francis Upton concluded that mobilization there seems to have begun spontaneously in the winter of 1774–1775. As early as 28 May 1773 the New Hampshire legislative assembly had established a Standing Committee of Correspondence in response to the circular letter sent from the Virginia Committee of Correspondence. New Hampshire's Royal Governor John Wentworth promptly adjourned the assembly. It met again on 7 April 1774 and formed another Committee of Correspondence on 28 May. Wentworth again adjourned it until 8 June, at which time he dissolved the assembly, not calling for it to reconvene until 4 May 1775. In keeping with suggestions from other states, New Hampshire's legislative leaders called an extralegal meeting of the assembly for 21 July 1774 to elect delegates to a general congress scheduled to convene in Philadelphia on 1 September 1774. This New Hampshire Assembly, the first of New Hampshire's five Provincial Congresses, selected Nathaniel Folsom and John Sullivan, a Durham lawyer, to attend the general congress but adjourned without establishing any military organization outside of the existing militia. Counties had held their own political organization but likewise had avoided any formal military development.

New Hampshire citizens had been affected by the Stamp Act, the Intolerable Acts, and the attempts to tax tea, but until 1775 few thought in terms of military retaliation against the mother country. Early in December 1774 the New Hampshire Committee of Correspondence sent around a written appeal to each town urging participation in the Continental Association, an effort led by the Continental Congress to limit trade with Britain. There is no record that any town rejected the association.

In Philadelphia, in the fall of 1774, the Continental Congress met but established no military. As the royal government tightened its control, several New Hampshire leaders worried about the potential need for arms and ammunition. To secure munitions, a force put together by John Langdon and John Sullivan slipped into British Fort William and Mary in Portsmouth Harbor on the night of 14 December 1774 and took gunpowder from the seven troopers that guarded it. Upon news of the battles at Lexington and Concord in neighboring Massachusetts, New Hampshire began its mobilization efforts in earnest. New Hampshire's Fourth Provincial Congress, meeting on 17 May 1775, with 133 delegates attending, ignored the royal government at Portsmouth and established a tax to raise funds, created a post office to enhance communication, and voted to raise a force of two thousand men ages fifteen to fifty, to be organized into three regiments, for six months' service. The mobilization was achieved in three weeks' time—a notable feat for a small province with a population estimated at 100,000, larger only than Georgia, Delaware, and Rhode Island.

Yet armed forces were already part of New Hampshire's heritage. Militia units stood in nearly every town. Under colonial law each male inhabitant between the ages of sixteen and sixty was required to maintain arms and ammunition, and each town had to provide its militia with gunpowder, lead, and flints. The frontiers to the north and west had required continuous observation. Calls to the General Court (the legislature) for men, arms, and gunpowder had come continuously from those regions as settlements and towns encroached on territory that had been traditionally home to the Abenakis and other Indian tribes. In addition, having seen New Hampshire thrive under the lengthy administration of Governor Benning Wentworth (from 1741 to 1767), and having a generally good relationship with his nephew and successor, Governor John Wentworth, many residents had taken part in the Louisbourg campaigns of the 1740s and 1750s, and many, including John Stark and Robert Rogers, had played significant roles in helping the British control French aggression during the French and Indian War in the 1750s.

The two thousand New Hampshire men mobilized for the war effort included those who had already gone individually or in small groups to aid Massachusetts following Lexington and Concord. These men were designated as part of the First New Hampshire Regiment to be under the command of Colonel John Stark of Dunbarton. The Third Provincial Congress on 21 April 1775 appointed Colonel Nathaniel Folsom of Exeter to the rank of brigadier general with the charge to coordinate and command those troops. In late June, as part of its mobilization for a possibly extended conflict, the Fourth Provincial Congress made Folsom a major general. The Second and Third New Hampshire Regiments were created on 24 May 1775 and placed under the command of Colonel Enoch Poor of Exeter and Colonel James Reed of Fitzwilliam. Both Poor and Reed, having earned military respect through command of their local militia, were in positions to inspire men to join the ranks.

While these developments were taking place in Exeter, John Sullivan, serving as a delegate to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, was exhibiting great personal presence and passionate opposition to Parliament. Sullivan had displayed military skill in 1774 while commanding militia forces as well as in the raid on Fort William and Mary, and was well-respected at home. In Congress, Sullivan vociferously opposed what he considered to be Parliament's oppression, calling the Quebec Act Britain's most dangerous. On 22 June 1775 Congress appointed him a brigadier general under George Washington, and on 27 June he joined Washington at Cambridge.

When the new rebel army, under the overall command of General Artemas Ward, encountered its first major contest, on 17 June, at Bunker Hill and Breed's Hill, New Hampshire regiments played a vital role. Although Colonel James Reed was ill, his troops displayed the knowledge and extensive training that Reed had given them. Under the command of John Stark, and in unison with Stark's First Regiment, Reed's men manned their places along the famous "rail fence" and valiantly defended their positions by remaining steady and firing low.

The Committee of Safety, chaired by Meshech Weare, loomed large in New Hampshire's war efforts. Established by the Provincial Congress on 26 May 1775, the Committee's charge was to fill the gap left by the absence of a chief executive and thus to execute policy efficiently, secretly, and speedily. The Committee entertained questions, correspondence, petitions, and visitors. During the war it heard arguments, made thousands of recommendations and executive decisions, oversaw security measures, solved disputes, directed military activity, and regulated trade. The Committee's most important power, according to Upton, was the authority it held over a network of local committees of safety.

In addition to the three infantry regiments authorized and formed in 1775, the state sanctioned Bedel's Regiment of Rangers, authorized on 26 May 1775 to be commanded by Captain Timothy Bedell of Grafton County; Long's Regiment, authorized in May 1776 and formed by Pierce Long at New Castle; and Whitcomb's Rangers, authorized 15 October 1776 and attached as an element of the Northern Department. Bedel had begun to form his regiment in January 1776 near Plymouth, to take part in the Canada Expedition then in progress. Men signing on were to get a bounty of forty shillings plus one month's pay as authorized by the Continental Congress. Officers were to receive two months pay plus bounty. Bedel's unit was disbanded on 1 January 1777 in Coos County, Long's in July 1777 in New York, and Whitcomb's on 1 January 1781 at Coos County. One goal that neither the Committee of Safety nor the General Court could meet was the formation of an artillery regiment. There simply were not enough artillery volunteers or supplies. In fact, following the evacuation of the British from Boston in March 1776, the New Hampshire Committee of Safety dispatched Captain Titus Salter of Portsmouth to regain the artillery that had been lent to the Continental Army. He was to return with the cannon, balls, supplies, and an engineer to operate the artillery. Salter reported in April that he had seen four cannon belonging to New Hampshire, with balls and supplies, but that he could not find any engineer who would return with him.

All three of New Hampshire's regular infantry regiments went through several organizational alterations between the Northern Department and the Main Army of George Washington. The original Third Regiment, formed under Reed, was disbanded on 1 January 1781 at Continental Village, New York. The Second Regiment, originally under Poor, was consolidated with the New Hampshire Regiment (the original First Regiment) on 22 June 1783, and the original First Regiment was disbanded as the New Hampshire Regiment on 1 January 1784.

As the war progressed, victories, assignments to meet specific needs, and individual characteristics of officers all helped spur on generally slow recruitment. A sufficient number of men agreed to join the expedition to Canada in late fall of 1776, but others felt the need to return to their farms and families. By the end of 1776 they were ready to return home, and most did so. Following the victories at Trenton and Princeton, recruitment again generally filled quotas imposed by the state on the towns. When it became generally known that the British planned to send General John Burgoyne's army from Canada over Lake Champlain to Albany and then to merge with its army in New York City to cut off New England, in the summer of 1777, New Hampshire men stepped forward. This was to bring the conflict to New Hampshire's backyard. John Stark, though upset at being passed over by the Continental Congress for a generalship, as a state general was able to raise an entire regiment inside of several weeks, owing largely to his personal power of persuasion. Stark's men slowed Burgoyne's advance at Bennington and finally brought him to captivity at Saratoga.

In 1778 men went to serve in Rhode Island with the mission of protecting New England from invasion. Similarly, in 1779, when John Sullivan led off his expedition from Easton, Pennsylvania, young New Hampshire recruits, were present, including Colonel Enoch Poor's Second New Hampshire Regiment. The brusque Sullivan and the trusted Poor led them to victory over the Six Nations in western Pennsylvania and New York.

Mobilization meant guarding the coasts, the port, and commercial traffic to the state. The Continental Congress authorized the building of thirteen navy ships, one of which the Naval Committee assigned to New Hampshire. John Langdon, who owned a shipyard in Portsmouth, contracted to build New Hampshire's ship. So efficient was the project that the Raleigh resulted as the first of the thirteen to be built and put into service. (Today the building of the ship is the central symbol on New Hampshire's state flag.) Congress authorized two more ships during the war to be built in New Hampshire—the Ranger, which sailed under John Paul Jones, and the America.

The war proved a burden for many and was not borne cheerfully. Those who sent husbands or sons suffered from loss of their presence on the farm or in the shop. Numerous petitions to the legislature, for two decades after the war, asked for disability relief or reimbursement of expenses for a wide variety of wounds, losses, and general expenses. During the war and into the 1780s, everyone felt the effects of devalued currency, leading to a clamor for issuance of state paper money. Individuals pelted the legislature with demands for unpaid wages, compensation for lost time and production on farms, reimbursements for medical costs, pensions due but never received, and satisfaction of claims for disabilities from wounds and lost limbs. As late as June 1792, Thomas How, a farmer in Barrington, was seeking wages and bounty payment due for service in the Second Regiment during 1777. His petition, one of many, refers to having returned from the "horrors of war" only to be forgotten and overlooked.

Mobilization delayed the adoption of a new state constitution. The January 1776 Plan, hailed today as the first American written constitution, was intended to be very temporary. Not until 1779 did policy makers put a proposal before the people, who then voted it down. The people then rejected another in 1781, and another in 1782, before adopting one in October of 1783 that took effect with the opening of the legislative session on 2 June 1784. Among other articles, it established a state senate of twelve popularly elected members, thus creating a true bicameral legislature. The constitution retained the Executive Council, still very active in 2005, as a form of restraint on the executive and the legislative branches.

New Hampshire was the ninth (thus the operative) state to ratify the proposed Federal Constitution on 21 June 1788. As a United States senator, John Langdon held the Bible on which Washington took his oath of office as President of the United States.

SEE ALSO Fort William and Mary, New Hampshire; Langdon, John; New Hampshire Line; Poor, Enoch; Quebec Act; Reed, James; Stark, John; Sullivan, John; Ward, Artemas.


Bouton, Nathaniel, ed. "Records of the New Hampshire Committee of Safety." Collections of the New Hampshire Historical Society 7 (1863): 1-339.

Bouton, Nathaniel, et al., eds. Documents and Records Relating to New Hampshire. 40 vols. Concord and Manchester: State of New Hampshire, 1867–1940.

Daniell, Jere R. Experiment in Republicanism: New Hampshire Politics and the American Revolution, 1741–1794. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1970.

Potter, Chandler E. The Military History of the State of New Hampshire, 1623–1861. 1866. Reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1972.

Upton, Richard Francis. Revolutionary New Hampshire. 1936. Reprint, New York: Kennikat, 1970.

Wright, Robert K., Jr. The Continental Army. Washington, D.C.: Center for Military History, U.S. Army, 1983.

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