Major General Artemas Ward

1727 - 1800

On the fifteenth of April the Congress at Concord adjourned to convene again on the tenth of May, the eleventh of May being appointed as a day of fasting and prayer "for the gracious interposition of Heaven and the restoration of their invaded liberties." Not fearing an immediate attack from the British, the members of Congress left Concord for their homes, excepting Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who stayed a few days with their friend. Rev. Jonas Clark, in Lexington.


Gov. Gage having had orders from England to arrest these two dangerous men and send them to the king for trial, it was thought best for them to remain in the seclusion of Lexington for a while, and there Paul Revere found them when he took his midnight ride on the eighteenth of April, and spoke at every door, "A word that shall echo forevermore."


The next day the shot for which the country was listening was fired and "heard round the world." Then the pent up enthusiasm of New England burst into flame, and when the historic white horse "bloody with spurring and dripping with sweat" passed through Shrewsbury, its rider crying out "To arms! To arms! The war's begun," men leaped to their saddles or shouldered their arms, and Captain Cushing's company of minute men were on the moment's notice marching toward Boston. Lieut. Nathan Howe was, like Israel Putnam, plowing at the time he heard the cry, with a horse and a pair of oxen; mounting the horse he set off to rally the men. Nathan, Junior, cried to go, too, but was too young. However when, two years later, his father left the army because his constitution was broken down with exposure and labor, he was allowed to have his wish and went to the war, remaining in the service till its close.

The word that the excited horsemen brought to Shrewsbury on the nineteenth of April flew through the towns with such rapidity that before Saturday night Boston was surrounded by an army of sixteen thousand men, in the face of Governor Gage's proclamation that all rebels taken in arms should be brought to the gallows.

Artemas Ward was at Cambridge on the twentieth issuing- orders and regulating the troops as they came thronging in. On the nineteenth of May the Provincial Congress accepted the form of a commission for General Ward and the next day ''Resolved unanimously, that the president be desired to deliver to Gen. Ward the commission prepared for him by this Congress as General and Commander in Chief of the Massachusetts forces.“ The commission read as follows:

The Congress of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay,

To the Honorable Artemas Ward, Esquire, Greeting:

We, reposing especial trust and confidence in your courage and good conduct, do by these presents constitute and appoint you, the said Artemas Ward, to be General and Commander in Chief of all the forces raised by the Congress aforesaid, for the defense of this and the other American Colonies. You are therefore carefully and diligently to discharge the duty of a General in leading, ordering, and exercising the Forces in Arms, both inferior officers and soldiers, and to keep them in good order and discipline, and they are hereby commanded to obey you as their General; and you are yourself to observe and follow such orders and instructions as you shall, from time to time, receive from this or any future Congress or House of Representatives of this Colony, or the Committee of Safety, so far as said Committee is empowered by their commission to order and instruct you for the defense of this and the other Colonies, and to demean yourself according to the military rule, and discipline, established by said Congress in pursuance of the trust reposed in you.


By order of the Congress; Dated 19th May A. D. 1775

Elizabeth Ward, OLD TIMES IN SHREWSBURY MASSACHUSETTS, Gleanings from History and Tradition (The McGeorge Printing Company, 1892)