A Soldier of the Massachusetts Line

I don’t think Revolutionary War soldiers get the attention they deserve in terms of commemoration–on Memorial Day and every day. There is insufficient or nonexistent appreciation of their suffering and their sacrifice, certainly here in Salem, where our most prominent statues pay tribute to a “planter”, a diplomat, a temperance leader, Hawthorne, and a fictional television witch. There are monuments to those who served in the Civil War and World War I and II, but I’ve always wondered why the Salem men who served in the Revolutionary War have received so little recognition–beyond their individual graves, most of which do not even reference their service. Maybe that’s why. These were men who served and then came back home with little fanfare and recognition: quiet, anonymous men for the most part, with the exception of the perplexing Timothy Pickering and dashing privateers like Jonathan Haraden. Both Pickering and Haraden are buried in the Broad Street Cemetery behind my house, and I walked over there very early this morning to look upon their graves, as well as those of their comrades. By all accounts, there are nine veterans of the Revolutionary War buried in the Broad Street Cemetery, but only Pickering’s and Haraden’s graves are marked with flags.

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Not far from the Pickering graves is a single dark stone marking the grave of Joshua Cross, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, and his wife Lydia Derby Cross, both of whom died on May 24: he in 1829 and she in 1837. I have long appreciated this marker: it stands alone, in excellent condition, and it does refer to his service (but still no flag: I have planted one in past years and will this year too). According to his pension application, Cross served in the “Massachusetts Line” for only one year–from January 1776 until January 1777–and did not rise above the rank of Private, but the details of his service indicate that he might have seen some action! Here is his story, in his own words:

I, Joshua Cross of Salem in the County of Essex and Commonwealth of Massachusetts on solemn oath declare that I enlisted into the service of the late United Colonies, in the Revolutionary War, on the Continental establishment, in the month of January in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy six as a private soldier in the Company then under the command of Ensign Gould and called General Lee’s life guard, said company belonging to the____ Regiment of the Massachusetts line, under the command of Col. Little that I continued in the service of the said United Colonies until the month of January in the year seventeen hundred and seventy seven, when my term of service expired, and returned home–I have no recollection of having received my discharge in writing, and believe it was not usual at that time to give such discharges–and further declare aforesaid that from reduced circumstances I need the assistance of my country for support.

This statement gives us enough information to place Cross in Colonel Moses Little’s 12th Continental Regiment, which saw action in the Siege of Boston, on Long Island,  and at the Battles of Trenton and Princeton during his service. It’s a bit confusing, because I think our Joshua has been confused with a “Joseph Cross” in Volume 4 of Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War. A Compilation from the Archives (1898), and I know that this particular “life guard” of  General [Charles] Lee under the command of Ensign [Benjamin] Gould made it to New York but I’m not quite sure about New Jersey. But it’s quite possible that our humble Salem housewright, with no flag by his grave, served at Trenton and Princeton alongside General Washington. But you think he would have mentioned that!

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Broad Street Cemetery, Salem, Memorial Day Weekend 2016


21 responses to “A Soldier of the Massachusetts Line

  • Tim Haraden

    Timely post.. Even though the Haraden family started in Salem in the early 1600’s, I have never been to Salem (despite growing up on the south shore). My girlfriend and I are considering a ride up there tomorrow with my girlfriend and was doing some research so that I can see some of the origins of the Haraden family, specifically of Captain Haraden. Thank you for this information.

    Tim Haraden, Hingham, MA

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  • daseger

    A very successful privateer! I was just looking at his grave this morning. Captain Haraden is always referred to as a Gloucester native so maybe you’ll have to keep biking up the coast!

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  • Roger

    ” I continued in the service of the said United Colonies until the month of January in the year seventeen hundred and seventy seven, when my term of service expired, and returned home”

    Is there a bit more behind this? It seems unlikely that a soldier would be allowed to leave the army after just one year and withdraw from service – especially so early in the war – without pressure being brought to re-enlist, unless it was thought that he couldn’t serve effectively for some reason.

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    • daseger

      I don’t think so, Roger–the records of the 12th indicate that it was disbanded in January of ’77. As to pressure to re-enlist, I’m not sure. This was certainly a key time when as many men as possible were needed, so you would certainly think so. The Revolution is far from my specialty, so I’m hoping someone more knowledgeable chimes in here.

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  • Katherine Greenough

    Dear Donna, I always enjoy reading your posts, and your photos are always excellent, too. My ancestor, Capt. Thomas Eden (1723-1768), is buried in the Broad St. Burial Ground, and he built the house at 40 Summer Street where my grandfather, Theodore Crowninshield Browne (1892-1973), grew up. You probably already know that there is a Revolutionary soldier, Jesse Smith (1756-1844) buried with quite a substantial monument in Harmony Grove. His Revolutionary War service is very impressive, including the battle of Lexington and Concord, the Battle of Bunker Hill, and continuing as one of Gen. Washington’s Life Guards until the war’s end. Jesse Smith settled in Salem after the war, where he became a privateer. His son, also Jesse Smith (~1795 – 1829), married my 4-great aunt, Mehitable Smith (1800 – ?), the grand-daughter of Thomas Eden. That Jesse Smith also went to sea and died when his ship Hornet sank with all hands during a storm in the Caribbean in 1829. Salem families seem to provide endless stories!
    Best, Kathy Greenough

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    • daseger

      Oh they do! I took a picture of Eden’s grave yesterday–surprisingly humble! You’re right about Jesse Smith–he’s one of the few Revolutionary War veterans buried in Harmony Grove–the only one? I’ll have to check. Thanks.

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  • derrickjknight

    Thank you for featuring this fascinating slice of our joint history

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  • Jane

    The records we have at the Bennington, VT, Museum library (one of which is the book you mention) indicate that many soldiers were present for some battles but were back home in between. We also have many who fought at Lexington and Concord, for example, and then were here for the battles of Bennington and/or Saratoga. They often had families in both places. Rarely do we see a full-time soldier.

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    • daseger

      I think you’re right, Jane–which is why it’s difficult to place Cross exactly; I bet there are archival records which could shed more light but as you see in his pension application, he did not get a written discharge.

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  • helenbreen01

    Roger makes a good point – ” I continued in the service of the said United Colonies until the month of January in the year seventeen hundred and seventy seven, when my term of service expired, and returned home”

    I am currently plowing through Ron Chernow’s WASHINGTON. One year enlistments were the norm in those days and made it extremely difficult for the General to keep his rag tag regiments together. He had to beg them to stay. Their circumstances and lack of pay were horrific. For one thing the “congress” such as it was, feared a strong, permanent army on the European model – furthermore, they had little cash to start with!

    Donna, kudos on keeping the story of our Revolutionary veterans alive. I am proud to say that in Lynnfield some 38 graves of Revolutionary soldiers were identified in our three ancient cemeteries decades ago by the Sons of the American Revolution and are still marked with a flag on Memorial Day.

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  • Jacqueline Donnelly

    I lived in the Joshua Cross house on Federal St. for over 5 years. I’ve noticed his grave at the Broad Street Cemetery and always give him a thankful and friendly pat for building such a wonderful home. So glad to learn a bit more about his role as a Revolutionary War soldier!

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  • Brian Bixby

    I suspect some of the lack of celebration is due to contemporary attitudes, which made Cincinnatus the model of military service: you do it because it’s your duty, and then you return home, having done your duty. One is not rewarded for doing one’s duty. Hence one of the reasons these veterans were not paid pensions until decades later.

    Short enlistments were common in the nation’s early history. One-third of Winfield Scott’s army invading Mexico were volunteers whose enlistment was up while he was halfway to Mexico City, hostile troops in the vicinity. Nevertheless, something like 90% of the volunteers decided to go home right then and there.

    Oh, back in Groton, there was what was supposed to be a complete list of Revolutionary War veterans in the Old Burial Ground, and for years my father would unleash us three kids to plant the flags before Memorial Day. There was one grave we couldn’t find for years, until one of us realized the gravestone was for TWO people: a mother and her son, the veteran.

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    • daseger

      Thanks, Brian–love to hear about your Groton duty. Bringing the issue to our own time, though, I am concerned about the teaching of the Revolutionary War. We have a great historian of that era whom is very popular with our students at SSU, but they need to be converted–I think the High School teaching is uninspiring. I work all the admissions events, and the incoming students FAVORITE eras are 1) WWII, 2) Ancient, 2)Medieval. My 16-year-old stepson confirms this. I think we need to shake up the interpretation of the American Revolution.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Brian Bixby

        Your incoming students sound like the wargamers I hung out with back in high school. For me, the most interesting aspect of Revolutionary history I learned as an adult was the British political perspective, why and how the British and American perspectives on government diverged from the Restoration onward. Maybe that’s one of the elements that is missing: no sense of controversy or conflict, which sounds strange when you consider it’s a war we’re talking about, but is about the way I remember the Revolution being taught.

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  • Soldiers of the Revolution: Salem’s Howard Street Burial Ground. – SeanMunger.com

    […] of the Revolutionary War when I get home. Last year I featured the Revolutionary War veterans of Broad Street Cemetery: this year I am focusing on Salem’s third-oldest cemetery, the Howard Street […]

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