Family fromt he Valley Times in pdf format
Historical Notes from the Valley Times Newspaper
A series of articles 1868 - author unknown, but possibly John Cate French
The McClary Family
The old town of Epsom has furnished many worthy men during the past hundred
and fifty years, who have held prominent positions of trust and honor,
in the State and Nation; but none stand out in so bold relief, or are
more worthy of remembrance, than the McClary's.
In fact, no family in the Suncook Valley fills so large a space in its
history, or the hearts of the people; and as the "Times" attempts
to gather some of the incidents from memories of the past it seems appropriate
that early mention be made of our most distinguished characters. For nearly
a century, the McClary's were the leading influential men in all our civil,
political and military affairs, and were identified with all the important
events and measures, that received the attention and governed the acts
of the successive generations during that long period of time.
There is something mournful in the thought, however, that a family and
name, once so familiar in our midst, is but a record of the past and that
no lineal male descendant is living to inherit the honors so dearly won
by a noble ancestry, or to transmit the name to a grateful posterity.
And it is passing strange, that so little has been written or preserved,
concerning their noble deeds and many years service in public life, and
that no testimonials are in existence, except public records, to aid in
preserving their memories.
We know of no instance in our State where history has so sadly neglected
to do justice to a family which had rendered so efficient service in defending
the rights, and promoting the interests of our commonwealth and nation,
as in this instance.
The only official effort made to perpetuate the name as of national interest,
has been to honor one of the fortifications of Portsmouth harbor, with
the name, Fort McClary, and a privateer which had but a short existence.
The name of only one, Major Andrew McClary, appears in our printed histories,
while several others of the family are equally deserving of mention.
The early proprietors and settlers of Epsom were of good English stock,
though there was a small company of Scotch Irish from Londonderry who
bought lands here about 1738.
Among the number were the McClary's, McCoy's, McGaffey's, Dickey's, Wallace's,
These Scotch Irish were a peculiar race, not liked by the English.
They were of pure Scotch descent, with the broad dialect and brogue and
many of the customs peculiar to their ancestry. They resided for a long
time in the north of Ireland, where they suffered a series of oppressions
and persecutions which would have disheartened and subdued ordinary men.
The famous siege of Derry is fresh in the minds of every student of history,
where, for eight long months, these Scotch-Irish defended their city against
the assaults of a powerful Irish army. History furnished no parallel to
the bravery, suffering, valor and endurance displayed by that memorable
siege. They fought for their homes and the Protestant religion, with want,
famine and destruction, staring them full in the face. Horses, dogs, cats,
rats and mice were choice morels of food, before they received succor
from England, and drove back the besiegers. But in after years, with rents,
taxes and the annoyances of Catholicism, many were induced to emigrate
to the cheap, fertile soils of America and a few families founded a settlement
in Londonderry in 1719, under the ministry of Rev. James McGregor. The
history of this settlement is the most important and entertaining in the
unwritten history of New Hampshire. Among the descendants of this people,
now numbering over sixty thousand, have been found the ablest men of the
nation in all walks of life.
The Bell;s, Stark's, Thornton's, McKeen's, McNeil's, Reed's, McClary's
&c., were of this stock, besides many others who have done much to
give character, wealth and reputation to the State, and make New Hampshire
what she is.
The colony first introduced the culture of the potato and flax, also the
spinning and weaving of linen. There were high-spirited out-spoken, industrious,
hardy, jovial, and immovably attached to the principles of the Protestant
Among the number who felt the wrongs and oppressions, and sought an asylum
for himself and children in the wilderness at Londonderry, was Andrew
McClary. He soon died, but two of his sons, Andrew and John, grew to manhood
and settled in Epsom, where they carved for themselves a farm and fortune.
By the records, we find that Andrew McClary held town office in 1739,
and for eighty-three successive years some members of the family were
promoted to positions of trust and power by their townsmen.
This forcibly illustrates the popularity and appreciation of this family
by their kinsmen and townsmen.
Epsom at that time was a frontier town with a few scattering pioneers,
striving to find a "local habitation and a name," in the unbroken
Theodore Atkinson, a wealthy land owner, was the leading spirit, among
the proprietors, in inducing a few families to push a settlement so far
into the woods. None of the adjoining towns were settled till many years
afterward. This was nearly thirty years before Chichester, Pittsfield
or Barnstead were settled; twenty years before Concord received its present
name; twenty years before Northwood and Deerfield were incorporated, and
thirty six years before the Revolution.
The first settlement in the Suncook Valley was here, and not a tree was
cut between this land and the Canadas, and not a clearing or friendly
smoke or any signs of civilization to break the monotony of the unbounded
forest or cheer the loneliness of the early settlers. The sentiment that
prompted the line,
"Oh! For a lodge in some vast wilderness"
could have been here gratified. Meager indeed, are the records and traditions
concerning these hardy foresters during their many years of border life,
before the Revolution.
Nottingham fort was the nearest neighbors and the asylum for safety.
The Indians frequented the Valley, and bears, wild cats, deer and catamounts
roamed the forest undisturbed.
The proprietors built a blockhouse or garrison for refuge in case of danger.
It was built near Andrew McClary's and the old foundation was disturbed
last summer by building the new house for Augustus Lord, Esq. Mrs. McCoy
and family were hastening to and had nearly reached this garrison when
captured by the Indians in 1754, which will be the subject of another
Though the Indians were generally friendly, the inhabitants were greatly
annoyed, and the growth of the settlement slow and difficult.
Andrew and John McClary were the leading influential men in all town or
military affairs. Leaving John, who for half a century was a prominent
man in public life, for future sketches, we will endeavor to relate some
incidents in the life of his more romantic and adventurous brother
MAJ. ANDREW McCLARY.
In these "piping times of peace," ease and prosperity, we can
faintly realize the times, manners, customs, hardships, dangers, privations
and the rough life led by these wild woodsmen of a hundred and thirty
years ago. Clearing, burning, hunting, scouting and prospecting, required
strength, bravery and endurance, also the rough sports, wrestling, boxing
&c. especially of the Scotch-Irish, tested the strength of the muscles
and agility of the participants. Only the men who excelled in these tests
of strength and skill, were the popular leaders of the day. In all such
labors and pastimes, Andrew McClary was the acknowledged champion. He
was a host in himself. He stood over six feet, straight as an arrow, finely
proportioned symmetrical of form, every muscle well developed, rough and
ready, jovial, generous, with a stentorian voice, blue eyes, florid complexion
and such a man as would be picked out of a thousand as evidently "born
to command." He possessed all the qualifications of a successful
and popular border leader of that time. It is said that in a bar room
scuffle at Portsmouth, one night, six men attempted to put him out of
the room, when he turned upon them with his Herculean strength and through
them all out of the window.
During the French and Indian war, commencing in 1756, Epsom was one of
the frontier towns; the people lived in fear of the scalping knife and
tomahawk, and suffered the incursions of the prowling savages.
Garrisons were established at Epsom, Buck Street Pembroke, and a fort
at Canterbury. Government frequently sent small detachments of troops
up through this sections scouting for the enemy and to protect and encourage
the settlers. Capt. Andrew McClary was the leading man in this region
in all military matters and rendered the colony efficient service during
there perilous times. He had the personal acquaintance of the highest
officials of the colony, and as such noted fighters, and rangers as Stark,
Goffe, Rogers &c.
His name frequently appears on the State records. In 1755 he applied to
Gov. Wentworth and obtained a company of troop to go in and search of
the Indians that committed the massacre and captured the McCall family
at Salisbury. At another time he obtained a small company to aid in doing
garrison duty at Epsom, while the Indians were seen lurking about. As
an officer, he was ever ready for any exposure or danger, while his men
had the most implicit confidence in his ability and integrity. His command
was authoritative and no man refused obedience. In case of an emergency
he could swear enough for a battalion, enough to frighten the Penacooks
out of the Suncook Valley and cause the old Scotch Covenanters to hold
up their hands in holy horror. He built a one story frame house and kept
tavern on the height of the land on the road leading from Epsom village
to Pleasant Pond. The place is now owned by Joseph Lawrence, better known
as Lawrence's "muster field." His home was the common resort
of the settlers, proprietors and scouts, and all who had occasion to travel
in this direction. Town meetings were held here until the "new meeting
house" was built, jurors were drawn here for His Majesty's Court,
training of His Majesty's soldiers, and many rude frolics and exciting
incidents which have long since passed into oblivion, never to be recalled.
His wealth increased as well as his popularity. He owned all the land
on the north side of the road to the Deerfield line. He had won the advantages
of a fair English education. He served as Town Clerk and his records on
the town books indicated a thorough knowledge of business, a good use
of language and a style and beauty of penmanship seldom found at the present
day. His last writing on the town books, the year before he was killed,
evinced care, accuracy and precision.
He took a lively interest in the affairs of the colonies and early espoused
the cause of the people against the arbitrary encroachments of the mother
country before the commencement of the Revolutionary War.
His ancestry, education and experience would naturally lead him to take
sides with the people in defending their liberties, when assailed by British
Frequent meetings were held at his house, and measures taken to co-operate
with adjoining towns for natural rights and protection.
For fifteen years the white winged angel of peace had hovered over the
State; the most prosperous period in her whole history.
The desire to possess real estate so strong in the Anglo Saxon mind, the
huge growth of trees, the fertile soil in the Suncook Valley, attracted
the attention of the emigrant and secured, the rapid settlement of Gilmanton,
Pittsfield, Chichester, Loudon, Northwood and Deerfield, with Epsom as
a common centre.
The "seven years war," which closed in 1760, had completely
aroused the military spirit of the province and organizations, with experienced
officers, had been maintained up to the time of the Revolution. A new
regiment was then formed, the 12th, comprising the towns of Nottingham,
Deerfield, Epsom, Northwood, Chichester and Pittsfield. "Coming events
cast their shadows before." The people were expecting a serious conflict.
The location of McClary's tavern made it a common resort for the rustic
foresters to meet and talk of the difficulties; while the popularity and
ability of the jovial landlord, rendered him the political and military
oracle of the Suncook Valley.
The battle of Lexington on the 19th of April 1775, sounded the tocsin
to arms. Signals flamed from the hilltops, and fleet messengers transmitted
news from town to town.
A swift rider, blowing a horn, passed through Nottingham and reached Epsom
on the morning of the 20th. The alarm found Capt. McClary plowing in the
"old muster field." Like Cincinnatus of old, he left the plow
in the furrow and hastened to obey the summons. With little preparation
he seized his saddle-bags, leaped into the saddle, swearing as he left,
than he would kill one of the Devils before he came home.
"Jocky Fogg," who was his servant in the army, used to speak
of his horse as "a large powerful iron-grey, four year old stallion,
so exceedingly vicious that no one could mount or govern him, except the
captain. He could spring upon his back, and, by the power of his arm,
govern him with the greatest of ease."
The sturdy yeomanry of the Suncook Valley snatched their trusty firelocks
and powder horns, and started for the scene of hostilities, with spirits
as brave as ever animated a soldier, and with hearts as noble and honest
as ever throbbed in the cause of liberty and freedom.
They were governed by one common impulse, and came from blazed paths and
crooked roads that wound through the forest and thickets. They were all
known to each other as brothers and townsmen. Each soldier represented
a household, and they and their cause were commended to the protection
of Heaven at the morning and evening devotions, and in the service of
the Sabbath; donations of food and clothing were freely sent to them,
by the families at home.
The men from this section reached Nottingham Square about 1 o'clock where
they found Capt. Cilley and Dr. Dearborn with a company of about 60 men
making with themselves, about 80 men.
Who would not like to see those men, some with broad-tailed black coats,
worsted stockings, three-cornered hats; others in coarse homespun; all
with long stockings, knee and shoe buckles, and thick cowhide shoes. Their
guns and equipments were as various as their costumes. Some had the old
"Queen Ann" that had done service in the French War; some, long
fowling pieces; some, a fusee, only one had a bayonet. Powder-horn and
shot pouches took the place of cartridge box.
If we were to choose a subject for a historical painting, we would prefer
the scene on Nottingham Square, April 29th, where were paraded the noblest
band of patriots that ever left New Hampshire to vindicate her honor and
protect her liberties. We would like to hear the roll call and see a photograph
of these heroes.
Without the spirit of boasting, we doubt if ever one company in the country
furnished so large a portion of distinguished men, or that cost "John
Bull" so many lives, or so much money. Many of their names are historic,
and come down to us in official records, filling a large space in our
military history. Just reflect who composed this Spartan band, and not
only astonished the nation with their famous deeds and heroism at the
battle of Bunker Hill, but consider their positions and power in after
First, there was Captain McClary, the oldest and noblest Roman of them
all, whose sad fall is familiar to any schoolboy.
Then Capt. Joseph Cilley of Nottingham, aged 32, soon to be promoted Maj.,
Col., and Gen., serving through the war with distinction, and in 1786,
appointed Maj. Gen. of the N.H. Militia.
Then Dr. Henry Dearborn, but 24, to be Capt., then Maj. and Col., then
member of Congress, U.S. Marshall, Sec. of War under Jefferson, Foreign
Minister, and Commander in Chief of the U.S. Army in the war of 1812.
Then, Thos. Bartlett, afterwards Capt., Member of the Com. of Safety,
then Col. in the army, and in 1792, Brig, Gen. of the N.H. Militia.
Then, Henry Butler, but 21, afterwards Capt., under Col. Bartlett, and
Maj. Gen. of the N.H. Militia.
Then Amos Morrill, first selectman of Epsom, Lieut., then Capt. And Maj.
serving in the army four years with honor to himself and town.
Then the young and chivalrous Michael McClary who served with credit four
years in the Revolution, then represented the military spirit of the State,
for nearly half a century, and as Adj. Gen., called out the northern troops
Then Andrew McGaffey, another worthy officer from Epsom; also James Gray
and Nathan Sanborn, both gaining the position of Captain in the army;
also Joseph Hilton of Deerfield.
Capt. Andrew McClary was by common consent the leading spirit of this
noble band of patriots, though there was no previous organization.
There is much to be written concerning the achievements and adventures
of this distinguished company, and many of the able men composing it,
but the most remarkable and thrilling incident in this connection, was
their famous march to Cambridge.
There is not a parallel in the annals of all the wars in our country,
and such wonderful powers of endurance by a whole company of men, excites
our surprise, as their patriotism does our pride and admiration. No other
locality can boast of sending braver hearts, or tougher men to aid, by
their valor and perseverance, in establishing the noblest Republic that
ever cheered and blest a prosperous people. This noble Spartan band opened
a series of brilliant exploits, be performance one of the most remarkable
physical feats ever recorded in our nation's history. Dr. Dearborn gives
an account of it, and Bancroft a passing notice, and tradition relates
it, from generation to generation, but it should be familiar to every
son and daughter of New Hampshire, as one of the brightest testimonials
of our devotion to the cause of freedom and independence.
Accustomed as they were to life in the open air, and trials of strength
by long journeys, hunting, trapping and scouting, they knew little of
fear and fatigue. Leaving Nottingham Square at one o'clock in the afternoon,
they pushed on at a rapid pace as if the destiny of the Province, or hopes
of the nation depended upon their alacrity and speed. At Kingston they
took a double-quick, or "dog trot," and followed it without
a halt to Haverhill, crossing the Merrimack River in a ferry boat, at
sunset, having made twenty-seven miles in six hours.
But this is not all: - they halted at Andover for supper, and then started
for a night march, and, on the morning of the 21st, at sunrise they were
paraded on Cambridge Common, 'spilling for a fight. Those from Epsom had
traveled seventy miles in less than twenty-four hours, and the whole company
from Nottingham, fifty-seven miles in less than twenty hours.
Did bone and muscle ever do better? That was the spirit of 76 that was
the kind of stuff the men were made of, who lived in the Suncook Valley
eighty-three years ago.
The part which the soldiers of the Suncook Valley and adjoining towns
took in this memorable fight, has never yet been written and we propose
now to give it in full connection with the sketch of Andrew McClary.
For personal courage and firmness the battle of Bunker Hill stands among
the first, in the brilliant events of the war. When we inquire who were
the men that gained the highest prize of glory in this great contest,
which ushered in our nation's birth, we can, with honest pride, claim
for the men of the Suncook Valley a rich share of the praise and honor
rightfully bestowed upon the soldiers of this memorable battle.
The company from this section was not only composed largely of men who
afterwards became distinguished in the Revolution and, at the outset,
made the best march ever recorded in out military history, but it was
one of the largest and best companies on the field and held the post of
honor in the engagement.
The American army, composed of rustic heroes who had left their implements
of husbandry in the fields and seized their fire-arms and powder-horns
and flocked to the scene of the action, holding the British cooped up
in the narrow limits of Boston, was without proper organization, equipment,
ammunition or supplies. In fact, they had nothing but pluck a righteous
cause and a love of liberty to sustain their hopes. They were commanded
by Gen. Ward and old and incompetent military officer.
The New Hampshire troops, who, as the news of the slaughter at Lexington
and Concord spread like wild fire over the land, had rushed to the place
of rendezvous, had organized into two regiments, and lay entrenched at
John Stark, by a unanimous voice, was chosen to command the first under
the rank of Colonel with Andrew McClary as Major. The company, composed
of soldiers from Pittsfield, Chichester, Epsom, Deerfield and Nottingham,
was commanded by Henry Dearborn of Nottingham, Captain, Amos Morrill of
Epsom, Lieutenant, and Michael McClary of Epsom, Ensign.
The British having become impatient of restraint, determined to take the
offensive. The first design in their plan was to move on the 18th of June
and take possession of Bunker Hill, which commanded the city of Boston,
and would enable them to annoy the American lines. Fortunately this design
became known to Gen. Ward and he was urged to anticipate the movement
and frustrate the plan. He accordingly ordered a detachment of about a
thousand men to march stealthily during the night of the 16th and entrench
themselves on the commanding eminence.
At sunset, the men were paraded on Cambridge common and stood reverently
with uncovered heads, while President Langdon of Harvard College offered
a fervent prayer and commended them and their cause, to the protection
of Heaven. They then took up their silent march, passing the narrow neck
of land that connects Charlestown with the main land, and reached the
summit of the hill without being discovered by the enemy.
The bells in Boston tolled the hour of midnight before a sod was turned.
In three short hours, the shadowy folds of night would lift and expose
this bold advance and this brave band to the view and fire of the enemy
who lay in the harbor.
The British ships Lively, Falcon and Somerset lay in the stream between
Charlestown and Boston, and from the decks of these, the drowsy cry of
the sentinels "all's well" could be distinctly heard by those
who patrolled the shore. The Americans plied the pick and spade with vigor
and threw up a square redoubt, near the middle of which, the monument
At daylight, the enemy discovered this daring band of patriots entrenching
themselves almost over their heads, and immediately opened a brisk cannonading
upon their works, but, regardless of the flying missiles, the Americans
toiled on until their entrenchment was completed, with the loss of one
man. This bold advance caused in instant commotion among the startled
British, who immediately made preparation to land their forces and attack
our entrenchments to dislodge our men from their position.
All was soon commotion also along the American lines. Col. Stark and Maj.
McClary came down to Charlestown in the morning to reconnoiter the field
and made many valuable suggestions in the preparation of the conflict
which it was evident was about to open. The movements of the British indicated
a formidable attack, and orders were issued for reinforcements to be forwarded
to the redoubt, but such was the want of discipline and the conflict of
authority, that few reached the scene of action.
The battle of Bunker Hill was a series of blunders and individual heroism.
It was fought without a commander. Each regiment acting and fighting on
their own hook. Two of the regiments that had been ordered to the redoubt,
halted at the neck, which was swept with a continual discharge of chain
and solid shot from the ships of war. It was at this juncture the New
Hampshire troops under Gen. Stark came up hurrying forward to the aid
of their comrades in the redoubt. Each of his soldiers had received a
gill of powder, fifteen balls and a spare flint. There were scarcely two
muskets alike in the regiment and the men were compelled to reduce the
size of the balls to suit the caliber of their respective guns. They had
received orders to be in readiness to march about ten o'clock and reached
Charlestown neck about one. It was one of the hottest days of the season
and the men suffered severely from heat and thirst, yet every man was
ready for a tilt with the British regulars. Finding the way blocked up
with the halted regiments, Major McClary went forward and with his stentorian
voice and commanding appearance called out to the commanders of those
regiments to move on, or open up the right and left and let the New Hampshire
This was immediately done. The regiment opened and they marched forward.
The fire across the neck from the British Frigates was so galling, that
Capt. Dearborn, whose company was in front, as he marched by the side
of Stark, suggested to him that they take a quicker step, but that grim
old veteran sternly replied, "Dearborn, one fresh man is worth ten
fatigued ones" and strode on as coolly as though on parade and not
a man of his command flinched or deserted his post.
They reached the Hill about two o'clock. Stark halted below the redoubt
and harangued his men in a few short characteristic sentences, which were
answered by three hearty cheers from his men. When he arrived he found
the redoubt exposed to a flank movement from the enemy and, selecting
his position wit the practical eye of an old soldier, he led his regiment
to the left of the hill, and posted them near a rail fence east of the
redoubt which ran down to the Mystic. This was then a hay field, the grass
having been cut the day before; the men seized the hay cocks and crowded
the hay between the rails of the fence, giving it the appearance to the
enemy, of a breast-work, though it afforded no real protection.
Capt. Dearborn's company was posted on the right of the line, which gave
them a fine view of the action and his written account of the battle throws
much light upon the part borne by Major McClary and his men. The British
had then landed in large force and were forming for the attack, near the
waters edge. While this was going on, Col. Stark stepped out and deliberately
measuring off forty paces stuck down a stick. "There," said
he, as he returned to the line, "don't a man fire till the Red Coats
come to that stick, if he does I'll knock him down."
The British regulars, in the gay scarlet uniforms, presented a formidable
and beautiful appearance, as they marched and countermarch in preparation
for the attack. They at length moved forward, with the order and precision
of a dress parade. The column that was to make the attack upon the rail
fence was commanded by Gen. Howe in person and was composed of the Welsh
fusiliers, a veteran regiment, and the flower of the British army. On
they came as if flushed with the prestige \of a hundred victories. When
within a hundred yards of the rail fence they deployed into line and opened
a regular fire by platoons as they advanced. Along the whole line of the
fence lay the New Hampshire boys peeping through the hay, their guns resting
on the rails; every man a dead shot, knowing his trusty firelock was good
for a red coat, but intent on reserving their fire till they reached the
stake. But John Simpson, better known as "Ensign Simpson" of
Deerfield being too much excited to wait, let drive, and this was a signal
for a murderous fire along the whole line, so severe that the bold Britishers
were driven back in confusion and disorder.
Simpson being reprimanded by Stark for firing against his orders, drawled
out: "How in ___ could I help it when I see them Red Coats within
gun shot". The fate of the British in front of the redoubt was equally
disastrous and their whole line was thrown into confusion and compelled
to retire before the well directed fire of the despised Continentals.
They were however rallied by their officers and being reinforced, again
moved up the hill on the redoubt and upon the rail fence below in the
same perfect order as before.
"Don't waste the powder" "Pick off the officers" "Look
out for the handsome coats" "Take good aim" and similar
remarks were passed from mouth to mouth in Capt. Dearborn's company.
"Don't fire again till they pass the stick and I say the work"
said Stark. "Fire low and aim at their waistbands" rang the
clear voice of Maj. McClary as he moved along the lines encouraging the
men by word and example. On came the British, making the same imposing
display as before, stepping over their fallen comrades and firing as they
advanced. An ominous silence held possession of the American lines, not
a shot was fired from the rail fence until the enemy reached the stick
when "Fire!" yelled Stark and "Fire!" thundered McClary
and never did a volley of musketry do more fatal execution. Almost the
entire Welsh Fusileers went down. No troops could stand the fire which
blazed from that rail fence, pouring into their bosoms a storm of lead
which swept them down like the mown grass.
The officers were nearly all picked off. General Howe's aids were all
shot but one. Howe himself made the most vigorous efforts to urge on his
men. His long white silk stockings were smeared with blood that fell like
rain upon the tall grass. British honor and British valor were at stake
and cost what it might he was determined to urge them on to victory.
There was but one mounted officer upon the field during the engagement
and as he rode forward to aid in steadying the wavering columns and urge
it to advance, Capt. Dearborn's men caught site of him, and the Captain
writes that he heard them say, "There! There is an officer on horseback;
let us have him now, old on, wait till he gets to the knoll; now!"
They fired and Maj. Pitcairn of Lexington fame, fell dead at the hands
of Capt. Dearborn's men.
Meanwhile the whole regiment with the rapidity with which men practiced
in the use of the gun alone can exhibit, loaded and fired, keeping up
a continual stream of fire until the Red Coats, despite the efforts of
their officers, broke and ran, leaving the ground strewn with the dead
and dying. The Americans, jubilant at the success and carried away with
the tempest of excitement, leaped the rail fence and chased the fleeing
regulars till restrained by their officers and brought back to their post.
Their joy and exultation knew no bounds. They had won a victory and driven
the proud defiant army of old King George. They threw up their hands and
made the welkin ring with shouts of triumph though their tongues were
parched with thirst and heat. They thought the day was won. Twice shattered
before their scathing well directed fire, they had not thought the enemy
would rally again.
But Clinton who had viewed the struggle from Copps Hill in Boston, now
hurried over to the scene of the action. It would never do to have it
go out to the world that two thousand well trained British troops had
been routed beyond rallying, before a little band of half armed Continentals.
Being reinforced the routed troops were again formed into line and marched
to the assault. But the Americans had already exhausted their ammunition
and without bayonets, they could offer but feeble resistance to a furious
bayonet charge from the enemy.
Those in the redoubt were compelled to beat a hasty retreat, but the New
Hampshire troops retired in excellent order and covered the retreat of
the army. They were the last to leave the field and Maj. McClary was in
the rear maintaining order and discipline.
During the engagement, Capt. Dearborn lost but one man killed and five
wounded. While the slaughter on the side of the British had been terrible.
Of the regiment of the Welsh fusiliers, but eighty men escaped unharmed.
As the Americans retreated across the neck, Maj. McClary was remarkably
animated with the result of the contest. That day's conflict and the glorious
display of valor which had distinguished his countrymen, made him sanguine
of the result. Having passed the last place of danger, he went back to
see if the British were disposed to follow them across the neck, thus
exposing himself to danger anew. His men cautioned him against his rashness.
"The ball is not yet cast that will kill me" said he, when a
random shot from one of the frigates struck a button wood tree and glancing,
passed through his abdomen. Throwing his hands above his head, he leaped
several feet from the ground and fell forward upon his face, dead.
Thus fell Major Andrew McClary, the highest American officer killed at
the battle; the handsomest man in the army and the favorite of the New
Hampshire troops. His dust still slumbers where it was lain by his sorrowing
comrades in Medford, un-honored by any adequate memorial to tell where
lies one of the heroes that ushered in the Revolution with such auspicious
Before taking up other members of this distinguished family, we add one
"note" to make the sketch of Maj. Andrew McClary complete and
embody herein some of the eulogies of the times. He was the favorite officer
of the New Hampshire soldiers and his death spread a gloom, not only over
the hearts of his men and through the scattered homes of the Suncook Valley
but throughout his native state. His sun went down at noon on the day
that ushered in our nation's birth, an early martyr to the cause of freedom
with the affections of his countrymen to grace his burial.
Capt. Henry Dearborn, after fighting his way, by regular graduations,
from the position of Captain to that of Commander in Chief of the United
States Army, pays the following glorious tribute to Maj. McClary, forty
three years after the battle of Bunker Hill. "He was among the first
officers of the army, possessing a sound judgment of undaunted bravery,
enterprising, zealous and ardent both as a patriot and a soldier. His
loss was severely felt by his compatriots in arms while his country was
deprived of the services of one of her most distinguished and promising
champions of liberty. After leaving the field of battle, I met him and
drank some spirit and water with him, he was animated and sanguine of
the result of the conflict for independence.
He soon observed that the British troops on Bunker Hill appeared in motion
and said he would go and reconnoiter them, after he had satisfied himself
that they did not intend to leave their strong posts on the heights, he
was returning towards me and within twelve or fifteen rods of where I
stood with my company, a random shot from one of the frigates lying near
the center of Craiggie's bridge now is, passed directly through his body
and put to flight one of the most heroic soul that ever animated man.
He leaped two or three feet from the ground, pitched forward and fell
dead on his face. I had him carried to Medford where he was interred with
all the honors and respect we could exhibit to the remains of a great
man. He was my bosom friend; we had grown up together on terms of the
greatest intimacy and I loved him as a brother." Another article
written in Epsom and published in the New Hampshire Gazette July 1775,
indicates the feeling of his townsmen at the time of his death. "The
Major evinced great intrepidity and presence of mind in the action and
his noble soul glowed with ardor and the love of his country, and like
the Roman Camillus who left his plow, commanded the army, conquered his
opponent, so the Major, upon the first intelligence of hostilities, left
his farm and went a volunteer to assist his suffering brethren where he
was soon called to a command which he executed to his eternal honor, and
had thereby acquired the reputation of a brave officer and a distinguished
May his name be held in respect by all the lovers of liberty to the end
of time, while the names of the sons of tyranny are despised and disgraced
and nothing left of them but the badges of their perfidy and infamy.
May the widow be respected for his sake and may his children inherit his
spirit and bravery but not meet with his fate."