Sam is My Hero

Samuel Whittemore may just have been the oldest, bravest and craziest American in the Revolutionary War (some say he may have been the mystery man who fired that first "shot heard round the world.")

As British regiments retreated from the Battles of Lexington and Concord, British soldiers left Samuel Whittemore in a pool of blood alongside a stone wall in Menotomy, Mass. They had shot the 79-year-old farmer in the face. Then they bayoneted him at least six times and then clubbed him, apparently, to death. When his family found his body, they thought he was dead, but a doctor patched him up and he lived.

For another 18 years!

Samuel Whittemore was born on July 27, 1696 in Charlestown, Mass., to Samuel Whittemore and Hannah Rix. He had some education, married twice, had a daughter and farmed land in Menotomy, then part of Cambridge, now Arlington, so Whittemore was no spring chicken when he joined up to fight the French in Canada. He was in his late-40s when he enlisted as a private in Col. Jeremiah Moulton's Third Massachusetts Regiment in which he participated in the capture of the French fortress at Louisbourg in 1745. During the conflict, he captured an ornate sword from a French officer. This weapon would reappear 30 years later -- at the Battle of Menotomy, on 19 April, 1775.

The story then gets murky about Samuel Whittemore. According to some, he fought in the French and Indian War, again fighting the French in Canada. And in 1763, at the ripe old age of 67, he led troops against Chief Pontiac in the Great Lakes region. During hand-to-hand combat, the legend goes, Samuel Whittemore took a pair of dueling pistols from the opponent he bested. These pistols would also show up later in his story.

Historians have found little documentation of Samuel Whittemore's military service after he served in King George's War, but they have found records of his resistance to the British Parliament, not as a fighter but as a civic leader.

The Town of Cambridge, to which Menotomy belonged, elected him to a committee in 1768, after the repeal of the Stamp Act. The committee instructed the town's representative to the General Court on how to vote. That same year, Cambridge elected him as a delegate to the Massachusetts Committee of Convention, which objected to Parliament's revenue acts and the quartering of troops in Boston. In 1772, the people of Cambridge elected 76-year-old Samuel Whittemore to the town's Committee of Correspondence. The committee stridently objected to the Tea Act and cautioned, "If we cease to assert Our rights we shall dwindle into supineness and the chains of slavery shall be fast rivetted upon us."

When the British began their disastrous retreat to Boston through Concord and Lexington, they repeatedly came under fire from the 5,000 Minute Men arrayed along Menotomy Road. One of those patriots, was Samuel Whittemore, who had answered the call for the fourth time. He positioned himself behind a stonewall with his old weapons and the French officer's ornate sword and waited.

When the British regiment passed by, Samuel Whittemore stood and shot point-blank at a British regular with his musket. Then he took out his dueling pistols and shot two more soldiers to death. The old farmer then grabbed his ornamental sword to fend off the British soldiers who swarmed over him. It didn't go so well. The British shot him in the cheek, bayoneted him and beat him with the butts of their rifles.

Samuel Whittemore then faded from the historical record until his death on Feb. 2, 1793, at the age of 96. He was laid to rest in the Old Burying Ground in Arlington.

Now, that's a badass!