Valor Friday

| August 11, 2023

Samuel Whittemore, Revolutionary Badass

Born in 1696, Samuel Whittemore is perhaps one of the most interesting characters of the American Revolution. This may be surprising, as the oldest man among the Founding Fathers is accepted to be Benjamin Franklin, nearly a decade younger than Whittemore.

Whittemore owned a farm in Menotomy, Massachusetts. Menotomy would eventually be renamed Arlington, as it is known today. The area would become very well known as the place where the first battle of the American Revolution was fought.

Whittemore was married twice, and he fathered three sons and five daughters. Whittemore’s first listed in local records as part of a newspaper report in 1738. Whittemore spoke up at a local meeting, and with a “loud voice” besmirched the name of the recently elected Selectman John Vassall. Whittemore is quoted as saying that Vassall was “unfit for said trust and was no more fit… than the horse that he, Samuel, rode on.”

Before the revolution, the British colonists in the area sided with the Crown, often against the Brits’ main antagonist the French, who at that time owned Canada. Whittemore first entered military service as a private in Colonel Jeremiah Moulton’s Third Massachusetts Regiment. He would have been about 48 years old at this point. He was old enough to be the father of the men he served alongside. Indeed, his oldest son (also Samuel Whittemore) was 22.

With the Third Massachusetts, Whittmore served in what we call King George’s War (1744-1748). This was the third of four French and Indian Wars that British America participated in. It was also part of the larger European War of Austrian Succession, which, as most European Wars do, drew the colonial possessions of Europe’s major powers in as well.

In 1745, Whittemore was part of the British force that took the French Fortress of Louisbourg in Nova Scotia. The fortress was among the largest and most expensive fortifications in the American Colonies. When the British took it, it became a major bargaining chip in peace talks.

At the end of the war, the fort would fall back to French hands by treaty, but the territorial issues that started the war went unsolved. It’s with little surprise then that war once more broke out a few years later.

There is evidence that Whittemore again joined his fellow Massachusites in battle during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). He (well into his 60s now) and his brothers in arms again captured Louisbourg Fortress. This time, the British did not relinquish control of it, and indeed, France gave up all their possessions east of the Mississippi. It was after this war that Britain began to rule Canada.

During the war, Whittemore would be commissioned and serve as a captain of dragoons. Many American Revolutionary figures were also participants in the French and Indian War. Most notably, George Washington, then a 22 year old lieutenant colonel during the early days of the war. He commanded a group of men into a successful ambush of about 50 French soldiers in 1754.

Before the conflict was over, Whittemore would be involved in an expedition against the legendary Chief Pontiac in 1763.

Now coming into his 70s, Whittemore would serve in a variety of public offices. In 1766 he was a committeeman for the Town of Cambridge. In 1768 he was elected to the Massachusetts Committee of Convention. Though elected to represent his town, Whittemore arrived too late to participate in the committee.

He would also serve on the Cambridge Committee of Correspondence. This was part of a large network of committees of correspondence across the colonies, extending into Nova Scotia and Canada, that was a key communications and information sharing system in the years leading up to, during, and after the American Revolution.

As the Colonies made their slow march towards independence, Whittemore was sure to have crossed paths with other prominent figures in the Massachusetts independence movement. Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Thomas Cushing, Paul Revere, and Joseph Warren are all noted figures active in Massachusetts colonial politics at the time.

When the committees of Cambridge, Brookline, Roxbury, and Dorchester met to discuss their opposition to the Tea Act in 1768, with Whittemore representing Cambridge, he served alongside both Samuel Adams and Joseph Warren.

With the increasingly oppressive treatment from the British to the colonials, Whittemore decided to once more take up arms. In April 1775, the Battles of Lexington and Concord, right on Whittemore’s front step, occurred. He too would be involved.

By some accounts, Whittemore mustered into militia service, by others he became engaged in combat with the British when they happened by his farm. In any case, with the war for independence’s first shots being fired in his home colony, he found some action.

As the British were retreating from Concord in defeat, Whittemore (now nearly 80) left his field (or had been posted to a guard position on the flank) when he saw a British relief force moving to reinforce their line. Whittemore, armed with a musket, two dueling pistols (alternatively mentioned as “horse pistols”), and a French sword he had taken from a French officer in one of his earlier wars.

By one account, Whittemore, now some years older than most of the militiamen’s grandfathers, gave an animated speech in front of some assembled troops. It’s claimed he said, “If I can only be the instrument of killing one of my country’s foes, I shall die in peace!”

With the British troops approaching, Whittemore, all alone, hid behind a stone wall to lay in ambush. When they got close enough, Captain Whittemore (once again I’ll mention he was almost in his ninth decade on Earth) rose and shot and killed one Red Coat with his musket. Dropping the single-shot weapon, he drew his pistols. His aim impeccable, he killed another of the British soldiers and wounded (or killed) a third.

Out of bullets, and the full British force now setting their sights on the septuagenarian ambusher, Whittemore went for his sword. He was unable to get it out before the angry Brits were on him.

One Red Coat shot Whittemore in the face. Others stabbed him repeatedly with bayonets, at least six times. Still more used the butts of their muskets to club him. The old man lied on the ground in a growing pool of his own blood. They left him there to die.

Some time later, some Massachusetts minutemen, perhaps having heard the skirmish, found Whittemore. The cantankerous farmer turned soldier turned politician turned patriot wasn’t dead. He wasn’t even fully down. When they came upon him, he was attempting to reload his weapons. I don’t know if he intended to shoot a few more if they came back or if he was going to crawl after his would-be killers and engage them again from behind.

In any case, the militiamen rushed Whittemore to the nearby Cooper Tavern, where the doctor said he wouldn’t survive his wounds. Whittemore thumbed his nose at the doctor and survived. This was the time in history that doctors were not known for their patients having high survival rates. Indeed, for most ailments requiring surgery, you’d skip the doctor and go to the barber.

Some years after the event, a memorial stone was erected at the site of Whittemore’s heroic stand against the British.

The Journal of the American Revolution writes it best. They say that “The retreating soldiers would exact their revenge upon the old farmer with punishing ferocity, yet would only be met by his utter imperviousness.” Which I think a rather apt description of the events.

Whittemore survived the war. He survived for several years after American independence. He lived long enough to witness not only his native land throwing off the yoke of Royal oppression, but the drafting, signing, and ratification of the Constitution. He lived another 18 years after being left for dead by the Red Coats. He made it to 96 years old, passing away in 1793.

Captain Whittemore is buried in Arlington, MA.

For those interested, the article by the Journal of the American Revolution has more details on Captain Whittemore’s life, with a particular emphasis on his role among the Patriots.

Category: Army, Historical, Real Soldiers, Valor, We Remember

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Hardcore! Y’all know how I admire a Warrior that brings “every weapon to bear…”. I have a feeling that the Good Captain never asked how of the enemy there was, he just wanted to know where they were.


Great story, Mason…again!


Guy in the photo looks like Trump. Just sayin…


Never Quit

Skivvy Stacker

Are they absolutely SURE he’s dead?


Well, if you see a cranky 300+ year old running around with a pair of dueling pistols hollering about some damn redcoats you’ll have your answer. 🤣

Skivvy Stacker

Any of you out there in Massachusetts or Main (old Massachusetts) keep an eye out for me, will ya?


Thanks for posting this. I thought myself up on America’s first war but had never heard of him. And let this be a lesson on why you never mess with old people.


Old age and treachery. Heck of a combination.


This is what happens when a man has fight in his belly, strength of conviction in his heart and an eye toward Liberty!

Stay revolutionary, my friends.

Oh, and be hard to kill.

Piney for Life.png
President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neande

My kind of Crusty Curmudgeon hero!

Slow Joe

What happened to his son?


Any yet find me a Masshole who isn’t a complete wuss these days. How far we’ve fallen.

Prior Service

The original American bada$$.