Monday, March 5, 2012

Military Monday - Lt. John Armstrong, Revolutionary War Patriot

During the American revolution, it is estimated that Patriots numbered less than half the colonial population, but in Cape Elizabeth, Maine that number was much higher. British regulations “angered Cape residents so much that they established [on Dec. 18, 1772] a committee of 11 men (familiar names such as Sawyer, Maxwell, Armstrong, Jordan, Dyer, and Strout) to interpret and take action on a ‘Letter of Correspondence’ from the General Court in Boston. Their conclusion was ‘That this district unite with the town of Boston and every other town and district … to endeavor in a legal way… for the removal of agrievances (sic)…’ caused by what they believed to be ‘manifest violations of our Charted Rights and Privileges.’” (Source:  The Cape Courier, June 21, 2008)

The Burning of Falmouth, Maine by British forces on October 18, 1775 fanned the flames of revolution across the country, for those living in and around Falmouth (present day Portland, Maine) and Cape Elizabeth, it reinforced their feelings for the need for the creation of an independent nation from England.

Shortly after this atrocity, my 4th great grandfather, John Armstrong, enlisted in the revolutionary cause and joined the Massachusetts Militia.

One of his first roles in the revolution was to be assigned under Colonel Jonathan Mitchell in the construction of Fort Hancock to build a defense in Maine against further potential attacks.  Fort Hancock became the basis for Fort Preble and was expanded and used during the War of 1812, Civil War, WWI and WWII.  

According to the records I could uncover, John Armstrong attained the rank of Lieutenant and served in Colonel Thomas Craft's Artillery Regiment.  He served in both the Massachusetts Militia or Continental Army from November 1775 - February 1779.  After the British abandoned Boston, the colonials took over Castle Island, then known as "Castle Williams" which was a fort built on a small island in Boston Harbor.  This is where Col. Craft's regiment was stationed to protect the city against any future attacks by British forces.  

The British did not return.  


There is no evidence I can find that Lt. John Armstrong saw any combat.  One of the most interesting things I did find about his service is that he served under someone you may have heard of Lieutenant Colonel, Paul Revere.  While we all know about Paul Revere's ride to alert the colonists that the "British are coming!!", many don't realize that he then served in the Massachusetts Militia for the rest of the war.

From the records, it is difficult for me to be sure when Lt John Armstrong would have joined the artillery regiments in Boston.  He was definitely there by January 1777, but may have been there earlier in 1776.  One significant event, which he may have witnessed, was the public reading of the Declaration of Independence in Boston as recorded by the N.E. Chronicle on July 25, 1776:
“Thursday last, pursuant to the order of the honorable council, was proclaimed from the balcony of the State House in this town, the Declaration of the American Congress, absolving the United Colonies from their allegiance to the British crown, and declaring them free and independent states.  There were present on the occasion in the council chamber, a committee of council, a number of honorable house of representative, the magistrates, selectmen and other gentlemen of Boston and the neighboring towns, also the commission officers of the Continental regiments stationed here, and other officers.  Two of these regiments were under arms in Kings Street, formed into three lines on the north side of the street and in thirteen divisions, and a detachment from the Massachusetts regiments of artillery, with two pieces of cannon, was on their right.    At one o’clock, the Declaration was proclaimed by Col. Thomas Crafts, which was received with great joy expressed by three huzzas from a great concourse of people, assembled on the occasion.  After which, on a signal given, thirteen pieces of cannon were fired from the fort on Fort-hill; the forts of Dorchester Neck, the Castle, Nantasket, and Point Alderton likewise discharged their cannon.  Then the detachment of cannon thirteen times, which was followed by the two regiments giving their fire from thirteen divisions in succession.  These firings corresponded to the number of American states united. 
The ceremony was closed with a proper collation of the following toasts were given by the president of the council and heartily pledged by the company, viz:


'Prosperity and perpetuity to the United States of America'

'The American Congress'

'General George Washington, and success to the arms of the United States'

'The downfall of tyrants and tyranny'

'The universal prevalence of civil and religious liberty'

'The friends of the United States in all quarters of the globe'


It must have been quite a stirring occasion, to hear the public reading of the declaration and be there to take the first steps of America as a free nation.


And, maybe, just maybe, Lt. John Armstrong, may have been there to hear it.


Source: "The Crafts family, A genealogical and biographical history of the descendants of Griffin and Alice Craft, of Roxbury, Mass. 1630-1890", by William Francis Crafts

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