REED, JAMES. (1723–1807). Continental general. Massachusetts-New Hampshire. His great-grandfather and grandfather emigrated (together) from England in 1635 and settled a few years later in Woburn, Massachusetts, where James was born in 1723. An elementary education enabled him to become a tailor. By 1748 he was a tavern keeper in Lunenburg and a selectman. As a captain during the French and Indian War, he took part in the expedition to Crown Point in 1755, Abercromby's mismanaged operations of 1758 (including Ticonderoga), and the final campaigns under Amherst. About 1765 he moved to Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire, where he kept a tavern, served in the militia, and was a large landowner. At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War he raised a unit and on 28 April 1775 was commissioned colonel of the Third New Hampshire Regiment His regiment marched to Boston and was posted near Charlestown Neck on 14 June. On 17 June his troops marched to battle under John Stark's command. It was this body of New Hampshire troops that General Howe observed moving from the true Bunker Hill to reinforce the redoubt on Breed's Hill and that caused him to delay his attack until more British troops landed. It was with Thomas Knowlton, along the "rail fence," that Reed's troops displayed the military discipline that Reed had instilled in them. In the military reorganization of January 1776, Reed's regiment became the Second Continental Infantry. After Bunker Hill, Reed was ordered to the Northern Department to reinforce the army that had retreated from Canada. There he suffered a sudden illness, probably smallpox, that left him blind and partially deaf. In August 1776 he accepted a commission as a brigadier general in the expectation that he would recover, but in September 1776 his impairment led him to resign. Despite his disability he lived another thirty years and remarried after the death of his first wife in 1791. He died in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, in 1807. His son, Sylvanus (d. 1798), was commissioned an ensign in January 1776 and served as an adjutant to General John Sullivan during the operations at Newport in 1778.
Randall, Peter E. "James Reed." In New Hampshire: Years of Revolution. Edited by Peter E. Randall. Portsmouth, N.H.: Profiles Publishing, 1976.
revised by Frank C. Mevers