Captain Sam Whittemore
On April 19, 1775 Samuel Whittemore was a crippled old man living peacefully in the town of Menotomy in the colony of Massachusetts. Despite long service to the British King as a commander of Dragoons in the French and Indian wars, Sam was a staunch supporter of freedom. When Captain Samuel Whittemore heard the alarm ‘The Regulars are out!” he knew what he must do.
Sam originally came to America as a member of His Majesty’s Royal Regiment of Dragoons, the King’s shock troops of the day. At 50 years old, he charged into battle at the Siege of Louisbourg during King George’s war. Years later, when 64, he fought in his second war, the French and Indian War, again at a Siege of Louisbourg. After his 68th birthday, in his third war, Sam engaged in hand-to-hand combat for the King in Pontiac’s War, earning a pair of matched dueling pistols from, as Sam said, ‘an enemy who no longer needed them’.
April 19, 1775
Now, after making America his home, this experienced 80-year-old warrior gathered his musket, those two dueling pistols, and his old cavalry saber. He told his wife he was going to meet the Regulars and fight for liberty. Sam moved to a stone wall about 150 yards from where he knew the British would retreat to Boston. There Sam waited with the patience of old age and experience.
When the 47th Regiment of British Grenadiers came within range, Whittemore fired five shots with such speed and accuracy that the British assumed several Colonials were assaulting them. The British commander sent a large detachment to attack this threat.
As the Regulars charged, Samuel Whittemore killed one with his musket and two more with his flintlock pistols. He was reaching for his trusty old saber when a musket ball blasted his face.
The Regulars then fell upon the old man with their bayonets, stabbing him repeatedly until he stopped moving. They left Sam for dead and resumed their march back to Boston.
Friends found poor Samuel barely alive, bleeding from at least 13 wounds. They picked him up and carried him with great care to Doctor Cotton Tufts in Medford. Dr. Tufts looked at old Sam and shook his head with sorrow; “Your friend will not survive”.
Alas, Sam did not survive. At least, not in the long run, for Sam Whittemore was a man not easily vanquished by Redcoat bayonets. He lived another 18 years.
An American hero
Captain Samuel Whittemore became the oldest known colonial combatant in the American Revolutionary War. Outside Arlington, Massachusetts a monument reads: “Near this spot, Samuel Whittemore, then 80 years old, killed 3 British soldiers, April 19, 1775. He was shot, bayoneted, beaten, and left for dead, but recovered and lived to be 98 years of age”.
Sam is the official state hero of Massachusetts.