Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"One Worthy to Live in Our History": Captain Samuel Wadsworth at the Sudbury Fight, Sudbury

In addition to the oft-overlooked Deacon Haynes Garrison site, there are two monuments to the Sudbury fight of King Philip's War.

On Route 20, at the intersection with Concord Road, there is an historical marker to the Sudbury Fight (seen at left). Like too many of these markers, it finds itself somewhat neglected, in need of some repair and largely overlooked.

As noted on the sign, the Sudbury fight took place a bit of distance away. I am assuming that it is Green Hill in Sudbury that this marker is referencing, as the area that the would-be rescuer Captain Samuel Wadsworth fell.

As noted in an earlier post, the fight in Sudbury was a fierce struggle with the English settlers badly outnumbered. Various accounts place the number of attackers between 1,000 and 1,500. The number of settlers was about 100. Having destroyed Marlborough, the attackers moved eastward toward Sudbury. Those in Sudbury collapsed into the half-dozen garrisons around the town and repelled the repeated attacks. Homes that were abandoned were plundered and burned.

Reinforcements came from Concord, Watertown and Marlborough. The fate of the Concord men has been mentioned. The company from Watertown fared slightly better, finding shelter in one of the garrisons. Captain Samuel Wadsworth of Milton, having just tried to repel the attacks in Marlborough, now headed to Sudbury with a contingent of men; various accounts place the size of his company between 50 and 100.

Wadsworth arrived in Sudbury in the night. He began surveillance of the situation and established his men for a morning encounter.

The next day, Wadsworth and his men pursued a party of about 100 Indians - he may have thought that this was the main body of Indians. By most accounts, this was a strategic feint by the Indians to draw Wadsworth into a full engagement. It worked. Quickly surrounded, he was severely outnumbered, perhaps by a 5-1 margin. Wadsworth was now engaged in a desperate struggle.

He led his men up to the top of Green Hill, a strategically advantageous position, although it offered little shelter. Towards the end of the day, the attacking Indians lit the dry April brush on fire. It swept up the hill. The fire and smoke made the hilltop an untenable position for Wadsworth and his men. As they sought to escape, several - including Wadsworth - were slaughtered by the overwhelming Indian force.

From Increase Mather's History of the King Philip's War:
But the worst part of the story is, that Capt. Wadsworth, one worthy to live in our history, under the name of a good man, coming up after a long, hard unwearied march, with 70 men unto the releif of distressed Sudbury, found himself in the woods on the sudden surrounded with about 500 of the enemy; whereupon our men me fought like men and more than so; but were so overwhelmed, that he, with another good man, one Capt. Brattlebank, and more than 50 more, sold their lives for the deaths of about an hundred and twenty Indians.
The actual resting place of the 29 heroic soldiers is also several hundred feet away from this marker, tucked into the Wadsworth Cemetery.

A monument was originally constructed under the supervision of Rev. Benjamin Wadworth, the son of Captain Wadsworth - and the eighth president of Harvard College. The Wadsworth House in Harvard Square is named for President Wadsworth. This home is still in service for the University today.

A second, larger monument was constructed in 1835 as a collaboration of the Town of Sudbury with the Commonwealth. The original marker is incorporated into the memorial at the base of the obelisk.


As noted with the Reveres and Dawes families, the Wadsworth family also appears to have had a long and continuing commitment to serve this country. According to a Wadsworth family web site, Air Force Captain Dean Amick Wadsworth was one of the first Americans to die in the service of his country in Vietnam in 1963.

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