Military records

Collection Type

  • Manuscripts


1772-1781, undated

Location Note

Folders 1.37-1.65, OB.x.x-OB.x.x



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Subseries D, Military records, 1772-1781, undated (#1.37-1.65, OB.x.x-OB.x.x), contains an enlistment certificate; a captain's commission; professional correspondence; muster rolls and troop lists; official orders; notes; payroll records; a petition to form a militia company; printed material; ration lists; inspection reports; and other military records. The military records comprise the largest segment of the series and document Pierce's service with the South Company of the Dorchester militia, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, spanning the years leading up to and including the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783). In addition to preforming administrative duties in and around Dorchester, Massachusetts, Pierce also held active duty on Castle Island in Boston Harbor under the command of Paul Revere (1735-1818) and accompanied his men on two expeditions in support of the Continental Army: one in 1777 to Morristown, New Jersey and one in 1779 to Tiverton, Rhode Island.

The 1781 enlistment certificate is for John Trescott. The 1772 commission reflects Pierce's entry into the Dorchester militia under the rank of captain; the document is signed by Governor Thomas Hutchinson of Massachusetts. The correspondence include letters and orders received by Colonel Pierce from Pierce's superior officers, primarily orders from Colonel Benjamin Gill in Stoughton, Massachusetts. Other letters are from John Avery, Deputy Secretary of the Massachusetts Council; Colonel Benjamin Gill; Brigadier Solomon Lovell; Colonel William McIntosh; Lemuel Robinson; Benjamin Church, Jr.; Major Seth Bullard; Timothy Pickering, Jr.; Colonel Benjamin Hawes; Joshua Davis; Stephen Badlam; and Captain Nathaniel Morse. The letters discuss and order the mustering of militia troops; readying troops for duty and action; troop movements; guard duty; supplies; and forming detachments of men for duty in the Boston area, including the Boston Harbor Islands, or to support the Continental Army in New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. The muster rolls and troop lists are comprised of muster rolls and lists of returning men, which include rank and home town (primarily Dorchester, Milton, Stoughton, Stoughtonham, Roxbury, and other surrounding Massachusetts communities). The return lists, made after duty assignments at Morristown, New Jersey (1777), Castle Island (1778), Tiverton, Rhode Island (1779), and Claverack, New York (1780), contain additional information regarding the firearms, bayonets, ammunition carried, ammunition expended, and ammunition returned by each soldier. The 1780 muster rolls of the companies of Captains Samuel Holden and Hopestill Hall also include the height, age, distinctive marks, and occupation of each soldier.

The military orders received and sent by Colonel Samuel Pierce include the mustering of militia troops, readying troops for duty and action, troop movements, and inspection and duty reports; among the orders received are those from Paul Revere (1735-1818), James Bowden [? Preston], Colonel Benjamin Gill, and Brigadier Palmer. Colonel Pierce's orders to subordinate officers include: Nathaniel Clap[p], William Badcock, Captain Williams, Theophilus Lyon, Jonathan Blake, and Richard Hall. Among the order attributed to Paul Revere (1735-1818) is one signed and dated April 3, 1775 and two unsigned but dated march 10, 1778 and March 13, 1778. (The two 1778 orders are based upon handwriting comparison and an endorsement by Colonel Pierce, himself, on the verso of one order which reads: "Revier's orders.") In 1778, Paul Revere (1735-1818) was the commanding officer on Castle Island (Boston Harbor Islands), the same time during which Pierce was serving in Boston Harbor. Military orders written and addressed in letter format are referred to as third-party correspondence and are noted as other correspondence. The other correspondence include two letters that passed into the hands of Colonel Samuel Pierce. One is a letter sent to Colonel Pierce's subordinate, Captain Lemuel Clap[p], from Colonel Benjamin Gill, regarding orders to form a detachment of men to join the Continental Army at Saratoga (New York); it includes an added list of men's names, probably written by Colonel Samuel Pierce, indicating some men to go to Providence and some to keep guard. The second letter is from John Avery to Colonel Benjamin Gill and contains orders from the Massachusetts Council regarding the movement of British prisoners from General John Burgoyne's surrender at Saratoga (New York) to Castle Island (Boston Harbor Islands); a brief note was added on the verso from Colonel Samuel Pierce to one of his captains, telling him to ready a company of men for duty.

Other military records include lists, copies of resolves, and other documents related to Pierce's service with the Dorchester militia. A table, which presents information on the number of prisoners captured in the 1776 New York battles (who were subsequently returned to Massachusetts), also list each prisoner by rank and the place where each soldier was taken prisoner. The four hand-written copies or partial copies of resolves from the Massachusetts Council, the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and the Continental Congress made by Colonel Pierce or sent to Colonel Pierce give directives on guard duty, rations, preparing fortifications, and preparing detachments of men for duty around Boston, Dorchester Heights, and the Boston Harbor Islands. A document from the Selectmen of Dorchester is an assessment for monetary compensation in accordance with a resolve of the General Court, 1781, that applies to Pierce and others. Pierce's scratch sheet contains notations relating to militia pay rates, long divisions, and monetary additions. The notes entail three meetings of the South Company militia, which contain information on the votes to select officers. The page containing Colonel Samuel Pierce notes provides a list of Dorchester and surrounding Massachusetts towns with the number of men returned and the number to be drafted from each place; the same paper was also used to draft an order for men to march to Providence, Rhode Island.

The payroll records contain payroll lists for the Dorchester militia company. Among the documents is a list of names of Dorchester, Massachusetts, men who answered the Lexington, Massachusetts, alarm on April 19, 1775, with an account of their days of service and pay (the list was compiled in 1776). The payroll lists and abstracts from 1778 and 1779 pertain to duty on several of the Boston Harbor Islands and at Tiverton, Rhode Island. Most of the items do not include individual names; they present information in table format, sorted by rank, period of service, pay rate, and mileage compensation ("distance traveled"). Many of the documents were prepared by company captains or lieutenants reporting to Colonel Pierce (includes Theophilus Lyon, William Foster, William Badcock, James Morton, Job Cushing, and Ebenezer Battelle). The 1776 petition from the officers of the Independent Companies to the Field Officers of the 3rd Suffolk Regiment, Stoughtonham, Massachusetts, requests the formation of a separate company. Printed material includes a 1776 extract of the Resolve of the General Court of Massachusetts, the 1776 to 1780 Resolves of the House of Representatives, State of Massachusetts, and a 1776 broadside "Act for Providing a Reinforcement to the American Army," printed in Boston, Massachusetts.

Ration lists, also called 'provision returns," related to for Colonel Pierce's regiment. Information is presented in table format, sorted by company, military rank, time of service, and number of allotted rations. The documents cover the period in March and April 1778 when the militia was assigned to duty on Castle Island and other islands in Boston Harbor. The inspection reports are comprised of brief reports from subordinate officers relayed to Colonel Pierce and confirm the completion of routine inspections. Three reports come from the officer of the day on Castle Island, March 1778, verifying that the officer had visited the guards by day and went the rounds by night. A similar report, dated June 1779, came to Colonel Pierce from the Main Guard kept on Tiverton Neck, Rhode Island. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by record type, then by topic, and thereunder chronologically.


Descriptive Terms

military records

Physical Description

Military records

Collection Code


Collection Name

Pierce family papers

Reference Code


Record Details

Material Type

military records

Description Level


Location Note

Folders 1.37-1.65, OB.x.x-OB.x.x