Tag Archives: battle of bunker hill

Battle of Bunker Hill and Col. Thomas Grosvenor (1744-1835)

In my research on 1774 and Pomfret, CT, I discovered a specific soldier that fought in the Revolutionary War and who also happens to be from Pomfret, Connecticut. Thomas Grosvenor was the sixth child of John and Hannah Grosvenor. He served in the military, and one of the famous battles he participated in was Bunker Hill. He joined the 1st Co. 3rd Connecticut Regiment, which was commanded by Israel Putnam in the battle of Bunker Hill. He killed 9 British soldiers, and he was also wounded in his right hand, which he bound with a white cravat during battle. (Yale University Library)

FoE_Trumbull_Lieutenant Thomas Grosvenor_0

Lieutenant Thomas Grosvenor and His Negro Servant

The portrait, Lieutenant Thomas Grosvenor and His Negro Servant, is a detail oil sketch from the picture of the Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill by John Trumbull, which was painted 10 years after he painted the original. This repaint was requested by a French portraitist. In the picture, Grosvenor is standing with his “faithful servant.” Both of them are looking to their right anxiously. According to the Yale Center for British Art, they were considering whether to retreat or go help General Warren.

The African-American person standing behind Thomas Grosvenor often has been falsely identified as Peter Salem. However, recent research shows that he might be a slave of the Grosvenor family named Asaba, who is recorded as a free servant in later records. Asaba is noted in Connecticut’s Black Soldiers 1775-1783 by David O. White. Asaba is also listed in National Mall Liberty Fund D.C.’s The Hometowns of Connecticut’s African American Revolutionary War Soldiers, Sailors and Patriots.

The Rectory School’s East part of the Main building was built by Col. Thomas Grosvenor in 1792; it was known as the Mansion House. “The house was always open to the chance visitor and for many years was a refuge for the remnants of Indian tribes that still lingered in Connecticut…” It is said that a young Mohican Indian danced upon the ridgepole as part of the celebration.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Grosvenor

White, David. Connecticut’s Black Soldiers 1775-1783, Pequot Press, 1973.

www.libertyfunddc.org

Clement, Peter. “The Rectory School – Main House – Grosvenor Text.” Rectory School Archives, 2002.

Image:

http://interactive.britishart.yale.edu/slavery-and-portraiture/299/lieutenant-thomas-grosvenor-1744-1825-and-his-negro-servant

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Battle of Bunker Hill: “The whites of their eyes”

 

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John Trumbell’s Painting, The Battle of Bunker Hill

Currently, in my class, we are studying what it was like in Pomfret, CT in 1774, and the topic of my first blog was the background and making of a major Revolutionary War hero, Israel Putnam. As a follow-up to the first blog, my second topic is about Israel Putnam’s role in the Battle of Bunker Hill, one of his most notable battles.

After Israel Putnam’s early life as a military hero, he returned to Pomfret (Brooklyn) in 1773. Putnam lived for two years as a farmer, until one day a rider appeared with news that the previous morning Massachusetts Minutemen and British Redcoats had exchanged deadly musket fire in the towns of Lexington and Concord. This was the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first military engagement of the American Revolutionary War.

During this period, he was an ordinary farmer with more than a local reputation for his previous exploits. As soon as Putnam heard the news, he left his plow in the ground and traveled nearly 160 km in eight hours, reaching Cambridge the next day and offering his services to the Patriot cause.

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Connecticut State Capitol

After he had arrived, Israel Putnam was named Major General, making him second in command (behind William Prescott) of the Army of Observation. Israel Putnam was told directly by General Ward to set up the defenses on the Charlestown Peninsula, specifically on Breed’s Hill. One of the most famous quotes in US history was created during this battle. Philip Johnson relates of Putnam: “I distinctly heard him say, ‘Men, you are all marksmen – don’t one of you fire until you see the white of their eyes.’’” General Putnam “seemed to have the ordering of things.” He charged the men not to fire until the enemy came close to the works, and then to take good aim, and make every shot kill a man, and he told one officer to see that this order was obeyed. Other quotes told by General Putnam was, “Powder is scarce and must not be wasted.” “Fire low.” “Take aim at the waistbands.” “You are all marksmen and could kill a squirrel at a hundred yards.” “Reserve your fire and the enemy will all be destroyed.” “Aim at the handsome coats.” and “Pick off the commanders.”

The significance of Israel Putnam in CT can be seen if you stand in front of the Connecticut State Capitol Building, located in Hartford. In front of the entrance, there are friezes on top of the archways that record main events that happened in the US history. If you look at the archway (picture below), you can see the sculpture of Putnam Leaving His Plow For Lexington.

The Frieze

One of the most famous paintings that describe the nation’s history was ‘The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill’, by John Trumbull (1756 – 1843). Many famous people are shown in the painting, including Israel Putnam on the far left, and Thomas Grosvenor on far right holding a sword. The interesting part about Thomas Grosvenor is that he is actually related to The Rectory School. In 1792, he built the main admission house, which we are using right now.

As a follow-up for this blog, I am planning to write further about the connection between General Israel Putnam and Colonel Thomas Grosvenor.