The SAR Magazine

Winter 2018-2019

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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12 SAR MAGAZINE 18 SAR MAGAZINE By Lee S. Harford Jr. O ver the last century, historians produced volumes on the role of the senior leaders in the conflict we refer to today as the American Revolutionary War, or the American War of Independence. Not much was written about the lower-ranking Patriot ancestors, who today actually constitute the ties for most compatriots of the SAR. Yet these junior officers, and the sergeants and enlisted men of all ranks, were the ones who actually manned the battle lines, fighting, dying and suffering daily for months or years on end to gain independence for our country, in order to create the land of opportunity we so love today. This article covers the military service of one of these forgotten heroes: Capt. Daniel Allen of the Connecticut Continental Line. When the news of the April 19, 1775, skirmishes at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts reached Windham County in Connecticut on April 20— called the "Lexington Alarm"—Capt. Thomas Knowlton immediately mustered the Ashford Company of the Connecticut militia and marched them to Boston. Daniel Allen (1742-1828) went with them as a sergeant. Approximately 4,000 militiamen and townsmen from across Connecticut also journeyed to support their Massachusetts brothers. Some of these companies returned, since their presence was not needed, but the Ashford Company stayed and would soon be involved in one of the most significant events in American history. Allen remained a sergeant for only 10 days. On May 1, 12 days after the firing of "the shot heard around the world" at Lexington, Allen received a commission as a lieutenant in Knowlton's newly established 5th Company of Col. Israel Putnam's 3rd Connecticut Regiment. A special session of the Connecticut assembly had ordered the formation of this infantry regiment, together with five others, in order to help defend New England against possible British aggression. These six regiments consisted of approximately 6,000 volunteers with an obligated six-month service period (to December 10). The 3rd Connecticut Regiment, as a part of the first call for troops, was raised in Windham County, where Allen resided in the town of Ashford. There, he had married Mary Sumner (1741-1781) in 1764 and fathered a daughter, Azubah (1766-1849), whom he named after his mother. Allen's regiment took up a position at Cambridge in May to support the siege of Boston, where the British forces had been pent up since the Lexington engagement. Inside Boston, British Lt. Gen. Thomas Gage responded by declaring martial law on June 12 and made plans to attack the rebels at four points to break the siege: Dorchester Heights, Roxbury, Charlestown and Cambridge. Maj. Gen. Artemas Ward commanded the hastily gathered New England forces encircling Boston, officially called The Army of Observation by the Massachusetts Committee of Safety. Ward learned of Gage's plans and attempted to preempt them by fortifying the heights on the Charlestown peninsula. Consequently, at approximately 9 p.m. on June 16, Allen's unit (Knowlton's 5th Company) joined three others from Massachusetts in digging and defending an entrenched position with artillery on the heights of Breed's Hill, which rose across the Charles River north of Boston. At 4 a.m. on June 17, the British warship Lively spotted the earthworks and started to bombard the position, soon to be joined by the guns of nine more ships, and by 9 a.m., the British artillery battery on Copp's Hill in north Boston had opened fire on the unfinished fieldworks. The British had good reason to eliminate the American position on Breed's Hill, since the guns emplaced there could easily fire on and sink the Royal Navy ships and transports anchored and docked in Boston Harbor. With the sky raining iron, Ward reinforced the position with two New Hampshire and nine Massachusetts regiments and two batteries of artillery. These troops helped to man the fortifications and also to extend a line of battle outside of the earthworks to the north and south. In the early afternoon, Gage landed 3,500 troops and 12 guns onto the southeast end of the peninsula. The British forces then launched a series of three assaults on the 4,000 Americans defending Breed's Hill during the famous, misnamed Battle of Bunker Hill, suffering approximately 1,000 casualties; the American losses were nearly 500. During the battle, Knowlton's 100-man company, with two field guns, occupied a position on the extreme left of the Breed's Hill's L-shaped line of entrenched positions: composed from right to left of a redoubt, a breastwork and, finally, a row of three fleches. Allen's unit fought outside the earthworks facing northeast, with only a rail fence for cover in the sector of the battlefield against which the main British assaults were launched. Launching three bloody assaults, the British finally forced the American defenders off the hill. After helping to cover the retreat of most other American units from the peninsula, Allen, together with Knowlton's company, retired to Cambridge. The Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, meanwhile, had officially taken over control of the New England forces around Boston, renaming them the "Continental Army" and appointing Lt. Gen. George Washington as the commander in chief. He arrived near Boston to assume command on July 2, and soon after, Allen's 3rd Connecticut Regiment, still holding a part of the siege line near Cambridge, was adopted by the Congress as a Continental Army unit. Then, upon the expiration of its term of service in December, it was reorganized and redesignated on Jan. 1, 1776, as the 20th Continental Regiment. It became one of the newly constituted 26 standard infantry regiments that made up the main Continental Army, all with a service period of one year (to Dec. 31). The records indicate that Allen, together with many other volunteers, went home with his tour of duty completed to take care of family affairs. Meanwhile, Washington positioned heavy cannon on Dorchester Capt. Daniel Allen Serving Through "The American Crisis" 1775-1779 Capt. Daniel Allen's involvement in the Revolution began with the Ashford Company of the Connecticut militia.

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