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Second New Hampshire Continental Regiment, U.S.

Last modified: 2018-12-26 by rick wyatt
Keywords: new hampshire | second new hampshire regiment: continental line | continental line |
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2nd New Hampshire Continental Regiment

My abridged piece on the 1777 flags of the 2nd New Hampshire Continental Regiment has been published in “Historical New Hampshire” magazine, complete with a scan of the 1777 paintings by Herr Praetorius (first time in full color high resolution!). You can purchase a copy at https://www.nhhistory.org/Store/Historical-New-Hampshire/Historical-New-Hampshire,-Volume-71,-No-1,-Spring. The full length piece is scheduled to be published in the Winter issue of the Journal of the Company of Military Historians.

Following, although a bit lengthy, is a highly abridged version relating to the actual history of these flags. What is on the site now is largely false information and anything I submitted in the past should be removed, at the least. Mea culpa.

Also attached are several illustrations:

My realization of the two flags described by Wasmus, potentially those of the 1st NH Regt and closeups of the emblems
on these flags; Photos of the two 2nd NH flags in the NHHS collection, courtesy of NHHS, and closeups of their
emblems; and my realization of the flag described by Digby.


In early 1777, the First, Second, and Third New Hampshire militia regiments, woefully under strength due to their service in Boston during 1775 and 1776, were reorganized and designated as the First, Second, and Third New Hampshire Continental regiments, assigned to duty at Fort Ticonderoga.

On February 6, 1777, the New Hampshire Committee of Safety provided Colonel Alexander Scammell of the 3rd NH Continental Regiment a letter to present to the Continental commissioners in Boston requesting them “to let [Scammell] have clothing out of the Stores in your hands for his Regiment.” The letter explained the difficulties of procuring such items in New Hampshire due to shortages of woolen goods and concluded, “unless the men raised here can be clothed from the Continental Stores . . . we are fearful they must go into the field almost naked.” Almost as an aside, the letter concludes, “Colouers for the Regiments cannot be procured in this State.” Although this document was not addressed to an individual, the Continental Congress’s commissioner of clothing in Boston was Nathan Blodget, formerly of Goffstown, NH.

A voucher was discovered in the New Hampshire State Archives in the 1990s by Anthony Wayne Tommell, that had been submitted by Nathan’s brother Samuel Blodget Jr. to the Committee of Safety in 1777 showing the purchase of materials and labor for two flags. He also apparently purchased some items for the flags for the other two regiments. Based on the voucher it is almost certain that the Second Regiment’s flags were created in Boston no later than April 1777, the date that appears on the document.

The voucher offers many details about what Samuel Blodget ordered and from whom: four yards of blue taffeta supplied by Nathan Blodget and four yards of buff taffeta supplied by a Mrs. Williams, brass ferrules and tops “for two colors” purchased from a Mr. Cutler of Boston, and ferrules and tops “for four colors” purchased from a Mr. Davis of Exeter. Four tassels from an unknown source are also listed. Williams supplied additional materials including one-and-one-quarter yards of Persian silk, two line items totaling an additional three-quarters of a yard of Persian silk, a total of three-quarters of a yard of sarsenet (no colors listed for any of these fabrics), ribbon, fringe, and £1.3.6 for silk (thread) and “making the Colours.” The items specified in the voucher, including both the amount of taffeta required for the flags and the color of the taffeta, are consistent with the two flags currently in the New Hampshire Historical Society’s (NHHS) collection.

Additional charges were “To Mr. Rea’s [Account] £12,” as well as “my [Blodget’s] Journey to Boston 18 [shillings].” The voucher totaled £30.18.9 and helpfully listed this amount as worth 103 11/90 dollars on the reverse. It is endorsed, “Received the above Acct in full. S. Blodget.” The Persian silk and sarsenet supplied by Williams are thin, soft silks usually used for linings. The inclusion of these items suggests cases were made for the flags, probably out of leather supplied by someone else but lined with the materials supplied by Williams.

The names mentioned in the voucher all refer to Massachusetts or New Hampshire merchants or craftspeople. Fanny Williams, born Fanny Johonnot and married to merchant Robert Williams, was the daughter of a Boston merchant, advertised as a milliner, and sold a variety of fabrics. Her shop provided the material for one flag and apparently the labor to sew two flags. John Cutler, a well-known Boston brass founder who was related to Williams, made ferrules (metal caps to prevent the wood from splitting at the lower end of the flag staff) and tops (decorative finials for a staff’s upper end) for two flags. Four more ferrules and tops were provided by Exeter’s Samuel Davis, a brass founder about whom not much is known. He disappears from the record shortly after making these accoutrements and is believed to have perished fighting in the war. Daniel Rea Jr., a militia lieutenant and decorative painter in Boston by trade, had experience painting houses, ships, signs, and military items such as drums and flags.

The total of six sets of brass ferrules and tops, enough for six flags, suggests three stands of two flags each were being made at the time, possibly a set for the First, Second, and Third New Hampshire regiments, although the balance of the material for the other four flags must have been purchased separately and possibly elsewhere. Rea’s charge, which is not detailed further, also supports the idea that Blodget commissioned him to paint six flags. The amount is consistent with what Rea typically charged to paint other flags, which was roughly £1 per side. The £12 charge then suggests Rea painted more than two flags for Blodget in 1777 and probably six flags(twelve sides) for that amount.

The flags were at Ticonderoga by the end of June, though, as Blodget and the rest of the Second Regiment were there no later than June 28. By then, British troops were bearing down on the American forces at the fort. Neither the New Hampshire men nor their flags would be there for long.

General John Burgoyne led a large army of British and German troops south from Canada in early 1777 intent on taking Albany and dividing New England from the rest of the colonies. Forts Crown Point, Ticonderoga, and Mount Independence—all on Lake Champlain—stood between the British troops and their goal. After capturing nearby Fort Crown Point without opposition on June 30, Burgoyne prepared to besiege Ticonderoga. By hauling cannon up nearby Mount Defiance, previously thought impossible, and training the cannon on Ticonderoga, Burgoyne forced American General Arthur St. Clair to reconsider the defense of both the fort and Mount Independence. St. Clair ordered them abandoned on July 5, 1777. That night, the men’s heavy baggage and possessions were quickly loaded onto a flotilla of around 200 bateaux and other small boats to be moved south down the lake thirty miles to Skenesborough escorted by New Hampshire men from Long’s Regiment. The rest of the Americans retreated across Lake Champlain and then marched easterly toward Castleton, Vermont.

St. Clair ordered Colonel Nathan Hale’s Second New Hampshire and Seth Warner’s Continental Regiments to stop at Hubbardton and reinforce the rear guard. The next day, the British, under the command of Simon Fraser of HM Twenty-Fourth Regiment of Foot, caught up with the Americans there. In the ensuing battle, Hale and some seventy or so members of the Second Regiment men were taken prisoner. The rest of the Americans fled south and eventually managed to reach the patriot forces gathering at Fort Edward, NY.

In the meantime, the retreat to Skenesborough (Whitehall, NY) had been no less fraught for the Americans. Long’s Regiment and the flotilla transporting the army’s baggage, which included the flags of the Second and other units, arrived at the town on the afternoon of July 6 and were almost immediately confronted by British forces, specifically Lieutenant Colonel John Hill and HM Ninth Regiment of Foot. The Americans frantically unloaded some of the bateaux, but most of the baggage was left on the boats, which the Americans then tried to burn, although only one bateaux was actually fired. The local men who had been commissioned to guide the boats melted into the forests, abandoning the baggage and the boats. The Americans fought a running battle against the British Lieutenant Colonel John Hill and HM Ninth Regiment of Foot while retreating south toward Fort Anne. The boats were left at the docks where they were destroyed by fire, sunk, or captured by the British. After a brief action at Fort Anne on July 8 in which the patriots held off the British, the Americans decided to withdraw to Fort Edward when they learned that a much larger British force was moving in their direction. Hill and HM Ninth then returned to Skenesborough to regroup with Burgoyne’s force.

All the contemporary sources agree that HM Ninth Regiment seized several American flags, both regimental colors and garrison flags, in the days after the fall of Fort Ticonderoga. None of the flags were captured in battle but rather they were taken out of the abandoned baggage train. German soldiers fighting with HM Ninth left multiple accounts of the captured flags, mainly in journals, which were not transcribed and translated until the 1980s.

The most significant account comes from Lieutenant Colonel Christian Julius Praetorius of the Brunswick Musketeer Regiment Prinz Friedrich, writing from Skenesborough on July 8: “part of our army had been put in possession of the region on the other side of the Fort [Anne]. Hereby, 2 flags, of which I am including a sketch, were captured together with all camp-kitchens and the remaining equipage of the [American] General.” The watercolor sketches he included depict two flags essentially identical to the Society’s flags, which Praetorius could not have made without seeing the flags himself. The sketches confirm that by this point at least these two flags were together.

Colonel Johann Friedrich Sprecht, the commander of the Brunswick regiment, provided another reference to the Ninth’s capture of two flags when he recorded in his journal on July 9, “Toward morning, the 9th Engl. Regiment entered the camp again and brought 2 flags along they had captured from the Rebels in the neighborhood of Fort Ann.”

A further account documents additional American flags found in the baggage left at Skenesborough, but the description of the flags are clearly not those now in the Society’s collection, despite some striking similarities. A July 9 journal entry by squadron Surgeon Julius F. Wasmus of the Brunswick Dragoon Regiment Prinz Ludwig detailed a set of flags taken from the American boats at Skenesborough:

In an enemy bateau, the 9th Regt has taken as booty . . . 2 taffeta regimental flags and 2 similar nautical flags. They could be seen in front of the 9th Regiment: The one of blue taffeta on the top a wreath of white and red stripes, in the middle a golden wreath and in a golden circle was written ‘in honour of our freedom’ underneath the intertwining letters ‘united states of america’. The 2nd had yellow taffeta and in the corner likewise 13 stripes; in the middle were 13 intertwining circles which together were again forming a circle. These were the 13 Provinces in golden letters as New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut. . . . In the center of this large circle was a golden sun, on which these words can be read ‘we are one’. Around these words was written: ‘american congress’. By the way, they were in type like the Engl. Flags.”
That Wasmus would make the statement, “By the way, they were in type like the Engl[ish] Flags,” is telling. The obvious interpretation is that the American regiment that lost its flags carried two of them, just like the British, one a national (the equivalent of the royal) flag and the other a regimental flag.

Due to the design similarities, these flags probably belonged to one of the other New Hampshire regiments at Fort Ticonderoga. Since there is no regimental descriptor inscribed on Wasmus’s blue-colored flag, as there is on the Second New Hampshire’s, his description could be for the flag of the First New Hampshire Regiment, as first regiment flags from the various states often did not contain the regiment number. If Rea had painted all of them, as the voucher would seem to indicate, it is not surprising that the flags’ designs would bear a resemblance.

Other accounts left by British soldiers also confirm that HM Ninth captured several American flags. On July 9 Richard Pope, a British soldier purportedly with HM Forty-Seventh Regiment of Foot, noted in his journal, “The 9th [Regiment of Foot] took 3 Stand of colours and some prisoners.” By the definition of the day, a “stand of colors” meant all the flags carried by a regiment or a battalion. In other words, Pope may have meant they took three sets of two flags each, or possibly all the flags belonging to the three main New Hampshire regiments—the First, Second, and Third.

British Lieutenant William Digby, wrote in his journal more than two weeks after the battle at Fort Anne, “the 9th took [the Americans’] colours, which were intended as a present to their Colonel Lord Ligonier. They were very handsome, a flag of the United States, 13 stripes alternate red and white, in a blue field.” Obviously these flags were different from those described by Wasmus or those sketched by Praetorius. In fact, Digby’s description may have been of the garrison flag from Fort Ticonderoga, which would have been quite different from a regimental flag.

Burgoyne’s official report of July 11 confirms these various accounts, as he wrote of HM Ninth’s expedition from Skenesborough to Fort Anne that “the 9th regiment acquired during their expedition about thirty prisoners, some stores and baggage, and the colours of the second Hampshire regiment.”

On July 14, Burgoyne moved his forces out of Skenesborough, heading south toward Fort Edward and eventually Saratoga. That same day, probably in connection with this move, Digby recorded that dispatches and letters were sent from Skenesborough to Canada, to be forwarded to England. It was likely at this time that HM Ninth’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel John Hill, had the Second New Hampshire’s flags removed from their staves, packaged, and sent to England where they eventually were handed down to his descendants. Family tradition held that the flags were captured from the Second New Hampshire Regiment.

Following the evacuation of Ticonderoga on July 6, and the battles at Hubbardton on July 7 and Fort Anne on July 8, news trickled back to New Hampshire’s Committee of Safety sitting in Exeter, then the state capital, about the fate of the state’s regiments. One report stated, “The enemy overtook the rear of our Army at Castleton; a bloody Battle ensued with the loss of a considerable large number of men on our side—the number unknown—Colonel Hale & Col° Cilley’s Regiments from this State have suffered much. Col° Hale, Capts Norris, Morrill & House, and many more officers are among the slain; Major Titcomb and a number of other officers wounded.” The mistaken report of Hale’s death was instrumental in what happened next.

By both law and custom a regiment’s colonel purchased its flags, a practice dating back to the medieval period when each colonel supplied much of the material for a regiment from his own purse. Hale did not have the opportunity to settle accounts with Blodget before the regiment was scattered and Hale was reportedly killed, leaving Blodget to seek reimbursement elsewhere. Severely wounded in the Battle of Hubbardton on July 7 and afterward furloughed home, Blodget initially arranged to pay for the flags’ construction because of his brother, Nathan, whose position supplying the Continental troops in Boston may have provided Blodget with introductions to the various merchants listed in the voucher. When he heard the initial accounts that Hale was killed (when in fact he was captured), Blodget knew he could not get reimbursed from the dead Hale nor, as the Second Regiment had been effectively destroyed, from the regiment. Despite his injuries, he immediately dispatched Second Lieutenant Noah Robinson of Exeter to seek reimbursement from the state. The Committee of Safety approved payment on July 12 when it, “Ordered the Recr General to pay Lieut Noah Robinson £30.18.9, in full for Capt Samuel Blodget’s account for a Suit of Colours for Col° Hale’s Regiment of Continental Troops.”

Contemporary documentation, including vouchers and receipts, for military flags are rare, because payment for them was largely a private, not public, transaction. The New Hampshire State Archives contains only two records of payments for flags during the Revolutionary War: this voucher and a later one for Colonel Joseph Cilley’s First New Hampshire Continental Regiment in 1779.

The voucher provides a critical piece of evidence, though, linking the flags with the Second New Hampshire Regiment. With Blodget reimbursed and the flags in British hands by mid July 1777, the Second Regiment’s colors then disappeared from the historical record for 130 years, being rediscovered by Gherardi Davis in 1907 and acquired by the NHHS in 1912.

The colors of the flags’ fields have meaning by themselves. The fields, blue and buff, were the traditional colors of the Whigs, a political party active in both England and her North American colonies that championed liberal government and the spread of democracy. By the time of the Revolutionary War the Whigs in England were firmly identified with those colors: blue stood for fidelity (e.g., “true blue”), while buff came from the color of buffalo or ox leather, which was generally a pale yellow. The toughness of the leather symbolized the strength of Whig principles. George Washington, when having his portrait painted for posterity, preferred to be pictured in the staff uniform of the Continental Army, “being the ancient Whig colors, blue and buff.”

The design of the national flag also carries significance. Created by Benjamin Franklin, the thirteen interlocking rings was an early national emblem. In addition to its use on flags, it also appeared on the reverse of several denominations of Continental currency in 1776. The interlocking ring design is something of a paradox—a plural also being a singular at the same time—and reflects the desire of uniting the disparate state governments into a single entity through its unifying body, the Continental, or American, Congress. That the design idea was expressed as an unending chain is important, and that each link in the chain—inscribed with a different state name arranged in the order of their geographical location—was the same size indicated the equal importance of each state to the whole. This motif continued to be used in the United States throughout the late eighteenth century. George Washington’s 1796 china pattern bore a design that included an unbroken fifteen-link chain with each link bearing the name of a state then in the Union.

The flags’ present condition is excellent. Davis’s 1907 book published photographs of them in black and white, and Elroy Avery published them in color in his 1909 book, “A History of the United States and Its People”. Based upon this photographic evidence, it is clear the Society’s two flags are in remarkably good condition and well on the way to proving Davis correct when he stated that if treated with care, “they will last forever.”

Dave Martucci, 14 July 2018


The Flags

First New Hampshire National Flag

[New Hampshire Continental Regiment] image by Dave Martucci, 14 July 2018

First New Hampshire National Flag - Detail

[New Hampshire Continental Regiment] image by Dave Martucci, 14 July 2018

First New Hampshire Regimental Flag

[New Hampshire Continental Regiment] image by Dave Martucci, 14 July 2018

First New Hampshire Regimental Flag - Detail

[New Hampshire Continental Regiment] image by Dave Martucci, 14 July 2018

Second New Hampshire National Flag

[New Hampshire Continental Regiment] image by Dave Martucci, 14 July 2018

Second New Hampshire Regimental Flag

[New Hampshire Continental Regiment] image by Dave Martucci, 14 July 2018

Second New Hampshire Regimental Flag - Detail

[New Hampshire Continental Regiment] image by Dave Martucci, 14 July 2018

Ticonderoga Flag

[New Hampshire Continental Regiment] image by Dave Martucci, 14 July 2018


 
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