By John Toole
---- — New Hampshire doesn’t celebrate Patriots Day.
Maybe it should.
The Battle of Lexington and Concord made a revolutionary change in the lives of Granite Staters.
Hampstead native Nathan Hale fought in the battle, according to “A Memorial History of the Town of Hampstead,” published in 1903.
Hale would become a colonel in the Continental Army and died while a captive of the British. His more famous cousin, also named Nathan, would be hanged for spying on the British.
Londonderry native George Reid, who lived in what is today Derry, went to Boston after Lexington and Concord.
“He was at Bunker Hill and on George Washington’s staff at Yorktown,” Derry historian and author Rick Holmes said.
A New Hampshire chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution is named for his wife, Molly.
“Gen. John Stark said if ever a woman was fit to be governor of New Hampshire, it was Molly Reid,” Holmes said.
Londonderry and leadership went together during the Revolution.
Stark came from the Derry portion of Londonderry, too. He’s recognized as a hero of the war, but also as the author of New Hampshire’s motto.
People recognize his words, “live free or die,” from the license plates. The rest of his thought: “Death is not the worst of evils.”
Matthew Thornton of Londonderry signed the Declaration of Independence. Another signer, Josiah Bartlett of Kingston, had his home burned to the ground by British sympathizers.
“In the American Revolution, no one of the colonies exhibited a more resolute and determined spirit of resistance to the oppression of Great Britain than New Hampshire,” according to “The History of Hillsborough County,” published in 1885. “And in no town of the State was this spirit more pronounced than in Pelham.”
The history goes on to say “the town sent eighty-six true men to the war.”
Men from Hampstead would fight at Bunker Hill, town historian Maurice Randall said.
“They just wanted the British to stop taxing them so bad,” he said.
In Sandown, historians say people claimed to hear the cannon from the Battle of Bunker Hill.
“When you hear the sounds of your sons and husbands being shot at, that brings war pretty close,” Holmes said, reflecting on the wives and mothers left behind.
In 1776, a rumor circulated in Chester that invasion by the British was imminent.
“People were throwing their treasures in the wells, so the British couldn’t get it,” Holmes said.
Their neighbors stood by them.
“People from Derry got their guns to rescue Chester,” Holmes said.
Holmes is one Granite Stater who will pause and remember America’s patriots this day.
“I will think about what happened,” Holmes said. “I will think about John Stark, George Reid and Matthew Thornton, their wives and their children.”
Colonists in New Hampshire made decisions that could have been costly, both in treasure and blood, he said.
“Those men and women were brave. They were willing to stand up and be counted,” he said. “I just hope people realize there were more soldiers at Bunker Hill from New Hampshire than Massachusetts.”
National Park Service records list 188 from Southern New Hampshire communities, including drummer John Griffin of Sandown.
For many, it was a family cause. Five members of the Senter clan from Londonderry fought at Bunker Hill. Six Gages came from Pelham, Salem and Londonderry.
Holmes is right about the cost of war.
At least 27 sons of Southern New Hampshire died in the Revolution.
Records about hometowns are sometimes incomplete, but that is the count in the list of dead kept by the New Hampshire Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.
Londonderry gave the most. Eight men from the town died in the war.
Two major battles each claimed two local soldiers.
Privates Paul Caldwell of Londonderry and Thomas Collins of Windham fell on June 17, 1775, the Battle of Bunker Hill.
Lt. David McLary of Londonderry and Private John Kincaid of Windham died on Aug. 16, 1777, the Battle of Bennington.
Sometimes, soldiers gave their lives in other ways. Private Benjamin Kimball of Plaistow died accidentally in August 1779. Smallpox claimed Private Samuel Thompson Jr. of Londonderry in 1780.
Randall wishes people would reflect on the contributions of the patriots and what they mean for their rights today.
“They’ve got to realize they still have to fight for their rights,” Randall said. “There are so many rights they are trying to take away.”