Descendants of George Abbott (1906)

Moses Abbott was 1st Lieut. of the Co. of Bedford “Minute Men” in the Rev. War, which marched on the alarm of Apr. 19, 1775, and after Capt. Willson was killed at Meriam’s Corner, commanded the Co. “which was foremost” in the fight at Concord at the North Bridge, and in the chase across the “Great Fields” to intercept the retreating

[ p 189 ]

British soldiers at Meriam’s Corner, where Capt. Willson was killed. [^1][^2][^3] The command followed the enemy to Cambridge, and Lt. Abbott is credited with ten days’ service.* On Mar. 31, 1778, he was reimbursed by the town of Bedford for money advanced by him to pay for arms, £18: 1s.: 3d., which shows his public spirit.†

As the ”Minute Men” had been hastily organized, the officers were not commissioned as in the militia companies; they had no regularly adopted standard, and one resembling a color originally designed in England between 1660 and 1670 for the “Three County Troop”‡ of Mass., was carried by Nathaniel Page. This flag was taken from the Page house in Bedford, and after the Concord fight was again returned to the Page mansion, where it remained till Apr. 19, 1875, when it was carried by a delegation of Bedford citizens in the Centennial celebration at Concord, Mass. [*1] Ten years later, Oct. 19, 1885, the 104th anniversary of the surrender of Cornwallis, it was presented by Capt. Page to the town of Bedford.

When seen by the Compiler it was on exhibition, carefully preserved under glass, in the village Library in Bedford. It is of heavy durable crimson silk, but little faded by age, the device an armored arm, the hand grasping a sword, exquisitely painted a soft steel gray, in oil, the Latin motto on the flag translated signifying “Conquer or die.” It is one of the handsomest banners ever seen by the writer, after the experience of a lifetime as a professional soldier,


* Mass. Soldiers and Sailors, Rev. War, i. [*2]
† Bedford town recs.
‡ The “Three County Troop” was an organization of cavalry of which Edward Hutchinson was Capt., prob. from May 28, 1659, to Oct. 7, 1674, when the Captaincy was offered to but declined by Humphrey Davis. Jonathan Wade was Capt., June 1, 1677. The organization was raised from three counties, and was prob. finally a battalion. Mr. Whitmore suggests that their original flag, or “cornett,” was prob. ordered before King Philip’s War, and was used in the battles of that period. In substantiation of this he gives a “Copy of an entry on a herald-painter’s book of the time of Charles II, now in the British Museum, Add. MSS. 26,683, fo. 31b.,” found in London about 1870, by Mr. Joseph L. Chester. [*3] It is as follows:

For painting in oyle on both sides a Cornett one rich crimson damask, with a hand and sword and invelloped with a scarfe about the arms of gold, black, and sillver [*4][£2 0 6]
For a plaine cornett Staffe, with belte, boote and swible at first penny [*5]1 0 0
For silke of crimson and sillver fring and for a Cornett String1 11 0
For crimson damask11 0
£5 2 6
Worke don for New England

“(Note. — The first item £2. 0. 6. is not given, but is deduced from the adding. The term ‘at first penny’ may be the same as ‘at first cost.’)” N.E. Hist. Gen. Reg., xxv: p. 138. [*6] The design accompanying this entry was reproduced by Mr. Whitmore; it was a naked arm below the elbow, emerging from a thunder-cloud, and holding a sword erect; above, partly hiding the blade, a ribbon bearing the name of the command (incorrectly spelled in the herald’s “tricking”), its end touching the staff.

[ p 190 ]

the art, taste in combination and fabric, being superior to anything in its line of the present day. The “belte, boote and swible” are gone, as is the silver fringe. [^4] Said a lady of Bedford, past ninety years of age: [*7] “I took that silver fringe from that flag when I was a giddy girl, and trimmed a dress for a military ball. I was never more sorry for anything than that which resulted in the loss of the fringe.”*

At a meeting of the Mass. Hist. Soc, Dec. 10, 1885, Rev. Henry F. Jenks showed a photograph of this flag,† and remarked: “The long staff to which the flag is attached shows plainly that it was a cavalry flag, and it is said to have been carried in the French and Indian War by a cavalry company.” Very possibly it may have been borne in that war (1755-63), but that it was identical with the “Cornett” painted in England a century before, as Mr. Brown (Beneath Old Roof Trees) seems to believe, is shown to be untrue by marked differences in drawing the devices, — the relative positions of the sword and scroll; the arrangement and lettering of the latter; the gauntleted hand, of which the back is shown, the arm bent at the elbow and “vambraced” on the Bedford flag, while on the Three County Troop “Cornett,” as illustrated in the Register, the arm above the elbow does not appear, the fingers are shown, clasping the hilt, and arm and hand are bare.‡ At the meeting of Jan. 14, 1886, Mr. Appleton, alluding to the two banners, thought the arm and sword might have been borne on the colors of Massachusetts troops in the Colonial Wars, and noted the resemblance of the device on the Bedford flag to the crest of the State. Said he: “This flag far exceeds in historic value the famed flag of Eutaw and Pulaski‘s banner,§ and,


* Brown’s Beneath Old Roof Trees, 200. [*8]
† See Proc., II Series, ii: p. 166, where it is reproduced. [^5][*9] Our illustration was drawn for this Register from the original flag at Bedford, but follows closely, by the kind permission of Mr. Brown, his copyrighted picture printed in The Flag of the Minute Men, 1894. [*10]
‡ It is absurd to suppose that the flag of any organization, so frequently in the field as the “Three County Troop” must have been, would have lasted a century. New flags were doubtless obtained by the General Court from time to time as needed, and their devices somewhat changed, which will account for the difference in the two flags. The motto, “Conquer or die,” and the freshness of the flag even now, suggest that the Revolution may have been anticipated when the flag was ordered, together with its appropriate motto. The new flag belonging to any organization, according to military custom, inherits the history of its former flags, or of the organization.
§ Count Pulaski, a Polish officer, was apptd. Brig. Gen. in the Contl. Army, Sept., 1777, and commanded the cavalry. He gave up this command and afterwards organized a cavalry corps, when some ladies of Bethlehem, Pa., presented him with a beautifully designed crimson silk banner which was his battle flag until he fell in conflict at Savannah, 1779. The flag was saved by a Lieutenant who, it is said, received “fourteen” wounds. It was kept in Baltimore till 1824, when it was carried in the procession at Lafayette‘s reception in that city. It belongs to the “Maryland Historical Society.” (Brown’s Beneath Old Roof Trees.) [*8]

[ p 191 ]

“CONQUER OR DIE.”

[ object print ]

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

Emerson. [*11]

LEXINGTON BATTLE FLAG,
APRIL 19, 1775. [*12]

Carried in a Co. of Minute Men from Bedford, Mass., commanded by 1st Lieut. Moses Abbott after its Captain (Jonathan Willson) was killed. [^6] This is the only known banner carried in this fight by the American Revolutionists. A picture of this flag was copyrighted by Abram English Brown, but the illustration above, by far the best ever yet produced, is from the office of T. R. Marvin & Son, Boston, Mass., and was engraved from the original for this work.

[ p 192 ]

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[ p 193 ]

in fact, is the most precious memorial of its kind of which we have any knowledge.”


* Proc. Mass. Hist. Soc., as cited, pp. 199, 200. [*13]


SOURCE TEXT


EMENDATIONS

  1. Moses Abbott ∨ He
  2. Willson ∨ Wilson
  3. Meriam’s ∨ Merriam’s
  4. as is the ∨ and the
  5. ii: p. 166, ∨ iii: p. 166,
  6. Willson) ∨ Wilson)

WORKS CITED


ANNOTATIONS

  1. “the Page house”: the Nathaniel Page homestead
    Formerly stood at 85 Page Road. (BS1) p 14
    Moved. Now at 89 Page Road. (HPN) p 282
  2. cf. Massachusetts soldiers and sailors: Volume I (1896) p 19
  3. cf. The British Museum’s “Add MS 26683” Folio 31B [ no scan ]
  4. “one . . . damask”: on . . . damask
  5. Smith glosses “swible” as “swivel-socket” and suggests that the “boote” was “probably a case made to protect or hold the flag”. (Report) p 51
  6. cf. Whitmore’s “The standard of the Three County Troop”
    in The New England HG register: Volume XXV (1871) pp 138-140
  7. “a lady of Bedford”: Ruhamah (Page) Lane: b. 1788 – d. 1882 (BHB) II: pp 22 and 27
  8. cf. Brown’s “The old colonial banner and flag” (1896)
    in his Beneath old roof trees pp 195-203
  9. cf. Jenks’ “The Bedford Flag” (December 1885)
    in Proceedings of the MHS: Volume II (SS) pp 165-167
  10. cf. Brown’s Flag of the Minute Men (1894)
  11. cf. Emerson’s “Concord Hymn” (1837)
  12. Abbott’s decision to label the Bedford Flag “Lexington Battle Flag” seems bizarre.
    (The Bedford Flag is alleged to have been carried to Concord– not to Lexington!)
  13. cf. Appleton’s “The Bedford Flag” (January 1886)
    in Proceedings of the MHS: Volume II (SS) pp 199-200
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