Samuel Whittemore (July 27, 1696 - February 2, 1793) was an American farmer and soldier. He was 78 years of age when he became the oldest known colonial combatant in the American Revolutionary War (1775–83).
Whittemore was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, in 1696, the second son by that name of Samuel Whittemore and Hannah Rix, also of Charlestown. He served as a private in Col. Jeremiah Moulton's Third Massachusetts Regiment, where he fought in King George's War (1744–48). He was involved in the capture of the French stronghold, the Fortress of Louisbourg in 1745. He moved to Menotomy, Massachusetts (present-day Arlington). Recent sources suggest he fought in the French and Indian War (1754–63) at the age of 64, once again assisting in the capture of the Fortress of Louisbourg, and later in a military expedition against Chief Pontiac in 1763. None of them offer documentation to support such claims, though a nineteenth century reference mentions that he had served as a "Captain of Dragoons."
Battles of Lexington and Concord
On April 19, 1775, British forces were returning to Boston from the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the opening engagements of the war. On their march, they were continually shot at by colonial militiamen.
Whittemore was in his fields when he spotted an approaching British relief brigade under Earl Percy, sent to assist the retreat. Whittemore loaded his musket and ambushed the British Grenadiers of the 47th Regiment of Foot from behind a nearby stone wall, killing one soldier. He then drew his dueling pistols and killed a grenadier and mortally wounded a second. By the time Whittemore had fired his third shot, a British detachment reached his position; Whittemore drew his sword and attacked. He was shot in the face, bayoneted numerous times, and left for dead in a pool of blood. He was found by colonial forces, alive, trying to load his musket to fight again. He was taken to Dr. Cotton Tufts of Medford, who perceived no hope for his survival. However, Whittemore lived another 18 years until dying of natural causes at the age of 96.
- A monument in Arlington, Massachusetts reads (inaccurately as to age at the time and 18 years later):
- Near this spot, Samuel Whittemore, then 80 years old, killed three British soldiers, April 19, 1775. He was shot, bayoneted, beaten and left for dead, but recovered and lived to be 98 years of age.
- In 2005, Samuel Whittemore was proclaimed the official state hero of Massachusetts and his memory is commemorated on February 3 each year.
- Paige, Lucius (1877). A History of Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1630-1877. Boston: H.O. Houghton and Company. p. 414.
- Whittemore, B.B. (1890). A Genealogy of Several Branches of the Whittemore Family: Including the Original Whittemore Family of Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England: and a Brief Lineage of Other Branches. Nashua, N.H.: Francis P. Whittemore. pp. 102–103.
- The Senate bill and the monument inscription appear to have adopted erroneous information. Two sources, the Paige and the B.B. Whittemore Genealogy, cited above, give his age as 78 at the time of the conflict and 96 at death, based on his documented date of birth. Inaccuracies in his obituary and on his gravestone apparently have led to a proliferation of misinformation. In addition, the annual state commemoration is a day late per documented date of death.
- 2005 Massachusetts Senate bill no. 1839, www.mass.gov at the Wayback Machine (archived September 29, 2007)
- Whittemore, Bradford; Whittemore, Edgar (1953). "The Whittemore family in America". New England Historical and Genealogical Register 107: 28.
- Burrage, Henry (1910). Maine at Louisburg in 1745. Augusta, Maine: Burleigh & Flynt. p. 72.
- Moran, Donald N. "Never Too Old: The Story of Captain Samuel Whittemore". Retrieved 2011-06-20.
- Cutter, Benjamin and William (1880). History of the Town of Arlington, Massachusetts: Formerly the Second Precinct in Cambridge Or District of Menotomy, Afterward the Town of West Cambridge, 1635-1879. With a Genealogical Register of the Inhabitants of the Precinct. Boston: David Clapp & Son. p. 317.
- Whittemore, Bradford; Whittemore, Edgar (1953). "The Whittemore family in America". New England Historical and Genealogical Register 107: 30.
- Moran, Donald N. (1997). "Never Too Old: The Story of Captain Samuel Whittemore". RevolutionaryWarArchives.org. Retrieved 4 December 2009.
- Photo of the monument on www.alyssaboehm.com