Ruggles, Timothy

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Ruggles, Timothy

RUGGLES, TIMOTHY. (1711–1795). Loyalist. Born in Rochester, Massachusetts, on 20 October 1711, Ruggles graduated from Harvard in 1732, setting up his legal practice in Plymouth the following year. Ruggles served numerous terms in the assembly from Plymouth, Sandwich, and Hardwick and was the assembly speaker in1762. A militia colonel at the start of the Seven Years' War, he raised a regiment for Sir William Johnson's unsuccessful expedition against Crown Point in 1755 and then again in the failed effort to relieve Fort William Henry in 1757. Promoted to brigadier general in 1758, he commanded the right wing of the army during General James Abercromby's doomed attack on Fort Ticonderoga. In 1760 he finally took part in a successful military action, leading American troops in the Montreal campaign. Named to the Worcester County court of common pleas in 1757, he became its chief justice in 1762.

In the political conflicts leading up the Revolution, Ruggles consistently sided with the royal governors of Massachusetts, Francis Bernard and Thomas Hutchinson. Elected to the Stamp Act Congress of 1765, over whose deliberations he presided, he refused to sign its petition to the king and walked out, earning a reprimand from the Massachusetts assembly. In 1768 Ruggles was the only member of the assembly to vote against the nonimportation agreement and was one of the notorious seventeen representatives who voted to rescind the assembly's Circular Letter. By 1771 Ruggles's hometown of Hardwick was so deeply polarized that it was unable to decide on delegates to the assembly and sent no one. That polarization reached into his family, as his brother Benjamin adamantly supported the Patriot cause and threatened his brother with death if he continued to support the crown. Three of Ruggles's sons were Loyalists, but his wife and four daughters stood with the Patriots. In 1774, while Ruggles was away serving on the Mandamus Council, his house was plundered, the crowd apparently led by Benjamin Ruggles. Timothy Ruggles responded by raising a company of Loyalists to protect each others' property, and he told General Thomas Gage that he was prepared to raise a regiment of Loyalists. Gage's refusal infuriated Ruggles, who sat out the siege of Boston and was evacuated to Halifax when the British abandoned the city in March 1776. Joining General William Howe's army, Ruggles was given command of the Staten Island garrison, but Howe also rebuffed his offers to recruit a regiment. He spent the rest of the war trying to convince the British, who tended to hold the Loyalists in contempt, to allow him to raise and lead Loyalist troops until he left New York City in 1783 for Nova Scotia. The government rewarded his services with a large pension and five thousand pounds to cover his loses during the war. (Ruggles claimed twenty thousand pounds in losses.) He died in Wilmot, Nova Scotia, on 4 August 1795.


Ruggles, Henry Stoddard. General Timothy Ruggles, 1711–1795. Wakefield, Mass.: privately printed, 1897.