The SAR Magazine

Summer 2018

The SAR MAGAZINE is the official quarterly publication of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution published quarterly.

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32 SAR MAGAZINE Sometimes, it seems, a girl's just gotta do what she's gotta do. W e're all pretty much familiar with the story of "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere," thanks to the poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow … but fewer of us, I suspect, are familiar with the "rest of the story" (with apologies to Paul Harvey). When Revere, Prescott and Dawes spread the word that British troops had departed Boston for the environs of Concord and Lexington on the night of April 18, 1775, local militia units from all over that part of Massachusetts picked up their best muskets, powder horns and shot and headed for pre-determined rallying points that would place them in positions to confront the oncoming King's Grenadiers. The Company of Col. William Prescott of Pepperell was no exception. Both David Wright of Pepperell and Job Shattuck of Groton bid their respective families farewell and marched off to encounter their destinies, leaving their wives, children and aged parents behind. When news of the skirmishes at both Lexington and Concord began to filter back through the Massachusetts countryside in the days immediately following the "shot heard around the world," groups of the women who had been left behind began to gather at one another's homes and on the village greens of the small farming communities along the course of the Nashua river, and to earnestly air their concerns that the main "highway" between British Canada and the British garrisons at and around Boston provided likely routes for local Tories and other royalists to send messages that might prove counterproductive to the fates of their absent citizen-soldier husbands, sons, brothers and fathers. Clearly, something needed doing. Betwixt the hamlets of Groton and Pepperell was a bridge that the local ladies considered to be in need of "defending." Led by Mrs. David (Prudence Cuming) Wright and her friend, Mrs. Job (Sarah Hartwell) Shattuck, the ladies of the vicinity decided that they would don their absent husbands', fathers', brothers' and sons' clothing and pick up their "second-best" muskets and powder horns, and post sentries at the bridge (now known as "Jewett's Bridge" and a more magnificent structure now than it was then). The "company" (estimated to number between 30 and 40 women in strength) quickly elected Prudence Wright to be their "captain" and Sarah Shattuck to be her lieutenant and second in command. The thought was that if local royalist sympathizers, or Tories, were to attempt mischief, or if British soldiers should show up in the vicinity, they might be intimidated into retreating until word could be sent to the closest militia units that they were needed. A couple versions of the story of what would become known as "The Prudence Wright Guard" emerged in the years following the war and have been reproduced below. The earliest version of the story comes from the book History of the Town of Groton, published in 1848, which states: "After the departure of Col. William Prescott's regiment of 'minute men,' Mrs. David Wright of Pepperell, Mrs. Job Shattuck of Groton, and the neighboring women, collected at what is now Jewett's bridge, over the Nashua, between Pepperell and Groton, clothed in their absent husbands' apparel, and armed with muskets, pitchforks, and such other weapons as they could find, and having elected Mrs. Wright their commander, resolutely determined, that no foe to freedom, foreign or domestic, should pass that bridge. For rumors were rife, that the regulars were approaching, and frightful stories of slaughter flew rapidly from place to place and from house to house. Soon there appeared one on horseback, supposed to be treasonably engaged in conveying intelligence to the enemy. By the implicit command of Sergeant Wright, he is immediately arrested, unhorsed, searched, and the treasonable correspondence found concealed in his boots. He was detained prisoner and sent to Oliver Prescott, Esq., of Groton, and his despatches were sent to the Committee of Safety." Decades later, in 1899, Mary L. P. Shattuck gave a speech at the Pepperell Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, during which she presented two versions of the story collected from the descendants of Leonard Whiting and Prudence Wright: "The report of the fight on Lexington Green and at Concord came to the town later. The women knew that their townsmen had helped chase the British and were now with 'other minute men' near Boston, and that more serious action was imminent. Spies were reported as passing between the British in Canada and those in Boston. One direct road from Canada to Boston ran through Pepperell. Nehemiah Jewett Bridge, photographed by Frank O. Branzetti for the Historic American Buildings Survey, Oct. 17, 1940 Lt. Sarah Hartwell Shattuck, 1738-1798 "Minute-woman" of "The Company of Prudence Wright's Guard" – 1775

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