by Craig Hoyt
(reprinted from The Rindge Connection, Volume 4, Issue 7, September 2009)
During the winter of 1774-75 an air of doubt and uncertainty wafted through the young town of Rindge. News that came into town from Boston and other communities to the south via travelers and messengers, painted a picture of a brewing rebellion against the King and the British government. Knowing that this would be nothing short of treason, the citizens of Rindge fervently hoped for a peaceful resolution to the tensions that had been building. At the same time they were preparing for a war with the Crown should it come to pass. Either was preferred to the nervous anxiety they had been living with.
In 1775, a count of the inhabitants of the Province of New Hampshire showed Rindge to have a population of 542, of which 120 were males between 16 and 60 years of age and thus eligible to be called to arms. A convention was held in Keene on Dec. 28, 1774, where it was recommended that the towns of the region take measures of preparation by organizing militias. On Jan. 23, 1775, the Town of Rindge voted to accept the recommendations of the Keene convention and appointed Lieutenant Francis Towne, Ensign Daniel Rand, and Page Norcross to manage the movement. The three men added Enoch Hale, Nathanial Russell, Jonathan Sherwin, Nathan Hale (not the one we read about in history) and Edward Jewett to help them with their task.
The Town voted to purchase a stock of powder and lead to have on hand for the militia. The reason for lead and not musket balls was because there was no standard size since the militiamen would be using their personal weapons of various calibers. The individual militiaman would melt lead and mold his own musket balls. This buildup of militia and ammunition is not to be viewed as posturing for war; rather it was a response to the apprehensions and uncertainties of the times. If the dreaded war came, it would be best to be prepared. Even though all were subjects of the Crown, England was far away and seemed more like a foreign land and this new world of America more like their homeland.
The spring of 1775 was unusually warm and pleasant. As the men of Rindge set about plowing and planting their fields, there was an undercurrent of suspense and uneasiness. In what would normally be the season of tranquility and gladness, all anticipations of an honorable and peaceful settlement with the King were dispelled when a messenger rode into Rindge late on the same day the actions in Massachusetts, at Lexington and Concord took place. During that night the alarm was spread door to door throughout the town.
At this point, the citizens of Rindge knew only that British Regulars were on the march because the messengers who spread the alarm started their rides before any shooting took place. No news of any specific hostilities had yet arrived. So with only the information that the Redcoats were marching inland from Boston, 54 men under the command of Captain Nathan Hale assembled on the common in the pre-dawn hours of April 20 in front of the Meeting House where they had on previous occasions expressed their prayers for peace, and marched off to the aid of their brethren to the southeast. On April 21 they joined the assembling forces in Cambridge.
The concentrated militias in Cambridge lacked an organized central command and there was nothing to hold anyone there. Soon many men returned home to complete the spring planting, although more militia from the various towns, including Rindge, joined the beginnings of what would become the Continental Army. On the twentieth of May, the Provincial Congress (remember New Hampshire was not yet a state) in Exeter voted to raise a force of 2,000 men to serve until the last day of December. The men already in the field were included in this number. The men raised by this vote of congress were divided into three regiments under the command of Colonels John Stark, Enoch Poor, and James Reed respectively. On June 17 these New Hampshire troops were present at Breeds Hill for the misnamed Battle of Bunker Hill. The most intense assault by the British Regulars was against these men of New Hampshire. In fact, there were more New Hampshire men at this battle than from any other province.
And so the war for this nation’s independence had begun and men from Rindge would serve in it until the last shot was fired. Some served their term and went home, but many reenlisted. All of them did their part to end the unfair dominance of England and aided in the birth of a new and independent nation. When the call went out the men of Rindge, along with those from other towns, did what they believed was right at a great risk to themselves and their families. To them, much is owed.