Article by Bryan Howard
July 7, 2018
This is the story of Captain Samuel Whittemore, the toughest man in American history. While most have never heard of him, he has one of the most amazing stories I have ever heard. The tough “SOB” was eager to fight for his beliefs, even up to the age of 80, when he fought in the Revolutionary War. Get some popcorn, put your legs up, and enjoy the story of the great Captain Samuel Whittemore.
Samuel Whittemore was born in England on July 27, 1695. Yes, he was not born in American colonies but he eventually becomes a great American Hero. When Samuel became of age he joined the Majesty’s military in England. Samuel always knew he was a fighter so being in the military was a perfect fit for him. He spent 50 years in England, most in the military, but at this point his story had only begun.
Whittemore Fights in North America
In 1745, Samuel Whittemore came to North America, at age 50, as Captain of his Majesty’s Dragoons to fight the French. They were sent there to capture the French strong hold, Fort Louisberg. While defeating the French, Samuel captured a decorative French officer’s sword, which he cherished for rest of his life. And whenever asked about the capture of the sword, Samuel would always respond the previous owner “died suddenly”.
Once the war ended Samuel Whittemore decided to stay in the Colonies. While there he purchased a farm in what is now known as Arlington Massachusetts, but the town was named Menotomy during this time. He married Elizabeth Spring, but after Elizabeth Spring sadly died, he married Mrs. Ethner Prentice. Between his two wives, he had 3 sons and 5 daughters.
It seemed Samuel Whittemore was settling down until war broke out again between England and France in 1758. Once again, Fort Louisberg needed to be taken over again. At age 63, Samuel Whittemore jumped at the opportunity to fight the French, and volunteered to join the war. Defeating the French once again, the English tore the Fort Louisberg down to rubble this time around. Samuel then went on to join General James Wolf in the successful assault on Quebec.
When Samuel returned, his family believed that he was returning from battle for good, but they would be shocked in 1763 when he returned to fight in the Indian war as it broke out. Samuel could not miss an opportunity to take down the threat of Indian attacks. At age 69, Samuel left his wife, children and grandchildren to watch after the farm. He rode off to join the colonial force launched against the Ottawa chief, Pontiac. After months of battle, Samuel returned home with two dueling pistols as a souvenir. Same as with his captured sword, whenever asked about the pistols, Samuel would only respond in his own cryptic way that “the previous owner died suddenly”.
The Final Battle: The Revolutionary War
After years of being battle- tested, Samuel’s family believed his battle years were over, until April 19, 1775. At 80 years of age, Samuel Whittemore fought for American Independence, and it is recorded he stated many times “he wanted his descendants to be able to enact their own laws and not be subject to a distant king”. He fell in love with the people and American colonies. By no surprise, the gritty Samuel Whittemore took up arms to join his fellow Americans in the revolution.
He watched Colonel Smith march through Menotomy with 700 men of the British to later attack Lexington and Concord. Then, he witnessed General Percy march through with an additional 1,400 British soldiers, which raised Samuels attention, knowing from his military experience this was not going to be good.
Percy and Smith combined forces, headed into Monotomy, and burned down houses on the way. This caused the eighty-year-old hero, Samuel, to act. He grabbed his captured sword, his captured dueling pistols, his musket and headed to war.
Samuel scouted a prime, front-line position which gave him an excellent view of the road from Lexington, and he sat and waited. The fellow minuteman from Menotomy pleaded with him to find a less dangerous position. However, anyone who knew Samuel realized there was no convincing him to move.
The minuteman started firing at the oncoming British Soldiers of the 47th Regiment on Foot, but Samuel waited until the British were directly in front of him before he fired his musket. A British soldier fell dead. Samuel drew his two pistols, firing both at point blank range. Another British soldier fell dead, a third fell mortally wounded. The British soldiers closed in on Samuel. He had no time to reload his musket or pistols, so drawing his sword, he started slashing at the bayonet wielding soldiers. A soldier leveled his musket, at the eighty-year-old and fired. The silver ball struck Sam in the cheek, tearing away a chunk of his face and throwing him to the ground. Samuel bravely tried to rise, fending off bayonet strikes with his sword, but he was overpowered. Struck in the head with the butt of a musket, he went down again, then was stabbed thirteen times by bayonets and left for dead.
The British continued their march through the streets Monotomy, leaving 40 of their dead and 80 wounded.
Later, the minutemen and towns people looked for their wounded patriots. A few of the minutemen believed they witnessed the legendary Samuel Whittemore’s last stand, and were looking for his body. To their surprise, Samuel was still alive. Samuel laid on the ground, wounded, but the old man with his gritty personality was trying to reload his musket to continue the battle.
Using a door as a makeshift stretcher, Samuel was carried to Cooper Tavern, which was being used as an emergency medical center. Doctor Nathaniel Tufts tended to Samuel. He cut off his bloody clothes, and exposed the gaping stab wounds and Samuel’s face was completely disfigured. Dr. Tufts knew the injuries were fatal, stating “it wouldn’t do any good to even dress the wounds”. Samuel’s family and friends pleaded for Dr. Tuft to tend to his wounds. Out of respect for the legend, he tried to make the old man as comfortable as possible.
After his wounds were tended to, Samuel was carried to his home, to die surrounded by his family. However, Captain Samuel Whittemore would not go down without a fight, and he lived! He recovered and remained active for the next eighteen years. He was horribly scarred, but always was proud of what he had done for his adopted country. Samuel is quoted “that he would take the same chances again”.
Samuel died on February 3, 1793 at the age of 98. He is currently buried in the town’s cemetery. Captain Samuel Whittemore was a true American Hero, and it is a shame he has been forgotten in history. Therefore, Samuel is one of the toughest Americans ever, due to his relentless grit and his unwillingness to “die suddenly”.