Tuesday, May 19, 2009

May 20: "…the pelting of this pitiless storm…"

Do you know who this is?
-He was thought to be the best gunsmith in America.
-He served in three wars.
-He calmly walked through an artillery barrage at the age of 69.

His name is one that many have not heard of, but it is the name of a man who displayed many of the traits that came to be associated with our Founding Fathers: ingenuity, inventiveness, bravery, and no stranger to the sounds of battle.

Seth Pomeroy was born on May 20, 1706, and would lead a long life of involvement with his home colony of Massachusetts – passing away at the age of 71. His parents were Ebeneezer and Sarah King Pomeroy, of Northampton Massachusetts. His father was a prominent citizen in the community and served in the local militia, rising to the rank of major.

Not much is known about Seth’s early years or education. However, he did learn the trade of mechanic and gunsmith, becoming one of the best gunsmiths in the colony. He married Mary Hunt on December 14, 1732, and would have nine children.

He joined the militia in Hampshire County (Massachusetts) as a young man, and by the time he was 38 he held the rank of Captain. By 1745 he was a major, and he volunteered for service during the King George’s War (1744 – 1748). He would be a part of an expedition led by William Pepperrell that captured the French fortress Louisbourg in Nova Scotia in 1745. During the expedition he used his skills and training to lead twenty gunsmiths in the time-consuming and delicate task of reconditioning captured cannons that the French had ‘spiked’ to make them unusable. These repaired and reconditioned cannons were then used by the British and Americans to assist in the artillery bombardment of the fortress, which eventually forced Louisbourg to surrender after forty-six days of heavy bombardment.

By 1755 Seth had been promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and was the second-in-command in Colonel Ephraim Williams’ regiment. During the French and Indian War (1754 – 1763) Williams’ regiment became part of a 1500 man British/Colonial force which was under the overall command of Sir William Johnson. This force marched to New York to assist in the capture of Crown Point, one of the key defensive points of French controlled Lake Champlain. During the march they were ambushed by a force of French and Canadian troops and their Iroquois allies. The 800 French and Canadian troops, with the support of 600 Iroquois warriors, were led by Baron Dieskaw. During the ambush – which became known as the “Bloody Morning Scout” - the British/colonial column was routed, and Colonel Williams was killed. Seth assumed command, and stayed with a rear-guard detachment of about one hundred men who delayed the enemy until the British and colonials could reorganize at a British camp a few miles away. Seth later wrote:

“And a very handsome retreat they made, and so continued till they came within about three-quarters of a mile of our camp. This was the last fire our men gave our enemies, which killed great numbers of them; they were seen to drop as pigeons."
The pursuing Indians and Canadians would not attack the British defenses, and when Baron Dieskau was wounded leading a French attack and captured, the entire force withdrew. The Battle of Lake George was over.

The British actions to recoup some of the finances spent during the French and Indian war ultimately drove many colonials – including Seth – into the rebel camp or, at the very least, to sympathy with the developing animosity with the British. The taxes, armed British soldiers, and increasing hostile British actions seemed often to center around Massachusetts. Seth served as a delegate in 1774 – 1775 in the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, which made him a brigadier-general in February 1775. When the shooting war started in 1775, sixty-nine year old Seth was found among the volunteers that went to support the rebellion.

When, on June 17th, a British naval bombardment marked the start of the Battle of Bunker Hill, Seth borrowed a horse from General Artemas Ward and rode for Charlestown. Finding the “Neck” under heavy fire by the British ship “Glasgow”, he became concerned more for the safety of a borrowed horse than for himself. Too honest to expose the borrowed steed to the "pelting of this pitiless storm," and too bold to shrink from it, he delivered the horse to a sentry, shouldered his gun, and marched on foot through the barrage, across the Neck, and up the hill to take a position at the rail fence, fighting with the 1st New Hampshire Regiment. He was soon recognized by the soldiers along side of him, and they began shouting his name down the Colonial defensive line. A poem was written over a hundred years later, in 1911, to commemorate his ride.

The next week, the Continental Congress named him a brigadier general in the Continental Army, but he declined the commission, preferring to serve in the Massachusetts militia. He retired from active duty to his farm, but when New Jersey was overrun by the British in 1776, Seth marched with his militia unit to answer General Washington’s call for assistance.

Seth did not complete the trip. He fell ill along the way and died in Peekskill, New York. He was buried there in St. Peter’s Churchyard.


There are no biographies available in our Local Library about Seth Pomeroy.


American Heritage
Famous Americans
Historic Northamption
Old Fort Johnson


01. Revolutionary War Musket
02. History Re-enactor firing musket
03. Gravestone


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