Joshua Park (a,f) enlisted to fight the British three times during the course of the Revolutionary War. The farmer from Newton fought in the Siege of Boston and witnessed the Battle of Bunker Hill, took part in the Battles of Saratoga and was part of a detachment that pursued Gen. Burgoyne, and spent a year building the new fortress of West Point. Joshua Park is the great-grandfather of George William McIntire (a,f), making him an ancestor of both Edith Amelia O’Brien Beazer (a,f) and Ida DeVern Swartz Thomas. (a,f)
Part 1 – Siege of Boston
In April 1775, Joshua Park was 17 years old, and likely living with his family in Newton, Massachusetts. His family was well-established – they had lived in Massachusetts since 1635. Joshua’s father, Thomas Park, (a,f) was a weaver and had been elected as a Selectman for the town. Joshua’s mother, Elizabeth Harrington Park, (a,f) had passed away in 1767. Joshua had 4 brothers and 4 sisters, all likely living with the family if not close nearby. He was the 6th oldest of the siblings.
Newton is about 7 miles west of Boston, and about a 2-hour march south of Lexington when the first shots were fired on April 19, 1775. The entire area was a hotbed of anti-British sentiment, and when the first call went out for volunteers to help break the Redcoats’ siege on Boston, Joshua enlisted.
The 2nd Regiment of the Connecticut Militia was mostly made up of men like Joshua – people who lived in the area near Boston and who were eager to fight to free their neighbors from the occupiers overseas. The regiment was commanded by Col. Joseph Spencer, and Joshua joined the company under Samuel Wyllys.
The regiment marched immediately to Roxbury, a town just southwest of Boston. They were just a few of thousands of soldiers who were put to work building siege craft. However, the Americans left Boston Harbor under British control. From May to mid-June, while the Americans were building fortifications, the British were receiving reinforcements. By June 16, they were 6,000 strong.
That night, several American troops made moves. William Prescott brought 1,200 of his men to the top of Breed’s Hill, on the Charlestown Peninsula. The British noticed, and Gen. William Howe landed troops on the peninsula early that afternoon.
As the fighting began, Col. Spencer’s regiment marched to the top of Roxbury Hill to serve as a defense. The British shelled the lines at Roxbury, but it wasn’t effective. One soldier was struck by a cannonball and died the next day, the only fatality in the town. Joshua Park and his company instead got a view of what was becoming the famous Battle of Bunker Hill.
The diary of Noah Chapin, an ensign in the same company as Joshua Park, describes it this way:
“Parade, Newport field, off Coit Holman, this morning before sunrise while our company were embodied for roll call, the enemy on Coppers Hill in Boston and from their shipping in the river, began to cannonade out people, who had fortified on Bunker Hill to about a mile from Charleston wharf, when the enemy made out in barges to the number of 5,000, up Mystic river and landed on the left and back of our people, and at the same time firing Charlestown for a concert. Landing, and at the same time firing on our people from floating batteries they made a bold push on our troops, but were oblighed to retreat several times; but at last they forced out people from their entrenchments and took possession of the ground, which was occasioned, it seems, in some measure by our people’s lack of recruits and ammunition. But it appears they suffered a loss of 1,000 slain, we lost 100.”
The pension record of Asa Fenton, another soldier in the company, states:
“I was at Roxbury at the time of Bunker hill battle, and the night after the battle I continued [illegible] With others marched to Cambridge & guarded in the Meetinghouse, at break of day we turned out and marched to Prospect Hill & created a breastwork. After we had competed the breastwork. I returned to Roxbury & joined my company.”
There is now a monument where those breastworks on Prospect Hill were built. A legend says it was where the first American flag was flown in 1776.
Joshua Park continued to serve in Roxbury until he was discharged on Dec. 17, 1775. There were numerous small skirmishes in the town. Overall, the siege settled into a long stalemate that wouldn’t be broken until the following spring. A witness who visited Roxbury in October, 1775 wrote:
“Nothing strikes me with more horror than the present condition of Roxbury: that once busy, crowded street is now occupied by a picket guard. The houses are deserted, the windows taken out, and many shot-holes visible; some have been burnt, and others pulled down, to make room for the fortifications. A wall of earth is carried across the street to William’s old house, where there is a formidable fort mounted with cannon. The lower line is just below where the George Tavern stood; a row of trees, root and branch, lies across the road there, and the breastworks extends to Lamb’s Dam, which makes a part thereof. I went round the whole and was so near the enemy as to see them (though it was foggy and rainy) relieve their sentries, which they do every hour.”
Joshua Park’s pension application states that after his discharge, he “enlisted for two months in Cambridge he thinks but it not certain under a Capt. Crafts.” I haven’t been able to find out anything about this term of service. It could possibly put him in Cambridge on Jan. 24, 1776, when Col. Henry Knox arrived with the canons that would end the siege. It took Knox more than two months to move 59 canons and other military supplies from Fort Ticonderoga over frozen ground and rivers to where they could be used in Cambridge.
Later that year, Joshua Park enlisted again. This new term of service would place him in one of the most pivotal battles in American history. I’ll write about that in the next blog.
Ancestry.com, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900 (Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.Original data – Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files (NARA microfilm publication M804, 2,670 rolls). Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Reco), Ancestry.com, http://www.Ancestry.com.
Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, NARA microfilm publication M881 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Service, ), National Archives Catalog ID: 570910. Record Group: 93. https://www.fold3.com/image/17692409.
Fold3.com Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. (Online publication. Original data – Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files (NARA microfilm publication M804, 2,670 rolls).
General Assembly of the State of Connecticut. 1889. Record of Service of Connecticut Men. Hartford: General Assembly of the State of Connecticut.
Ketchum, Richard M. 1974. Decisive Day. New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc.
Nelson, James L. 2011. With Fire and Sword. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
n.d. Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society. 1876: The Society. Accessed October 5, 2016. https://books.google.com/books?id=yTUTAAAAYAAJ.
- “Prospect Hill.” Union Square Neighbors. March 4. Accessed September 22, 2016. http://www.unionsquareneighbors.com/prospect-hill.html.
Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783, NARA microfilm publication M246 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Service, ), Catalog ID 602384, Record Group 93
33d Regiment of Foot, Connecticut. https://www.fold3.com/image/10108658.
n.d. “Roxbury During the Siege of Boston April 1775 – March 1776.” National Parks Service. Accessed September 22, 2016. https://www.nps.gov/bost/learn/education/upload/roxbury.pdf.
The Day. 1914. “Aged Diary Tells About Battle of Bunker Hill.” September 14: 14. Accessed September 22, 2016. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=ePogAAAAIBAJ&sjid=b3UFAAAAIBAJ&pg=4123%2C1927138.
the59king. 2014. “Two Revolutionary War Maps of Boston Harbor (1776).” Big Map Blog. February 7. Accessed October 5, 2016. http://www.bigmapblog.com/2014/tworevolutionary-war-maps-of-boston-1776/.