Military History of Keene, New Hampshire
During the period of the Revolution, Keene performed her part faithfully. In 1773 the foot company of Keene numbered 126, under command of Col.. Josiah Willard. The alarm list, numbering forty-five, seems to have been made up of the older men, including many of the original settlers; the selectmen of Keene, David Nims. Eliphalet Briggs, Jr., and Benjamin Hall, reported the following census for Keene :
Unmarried men, from sixteen to sixty 65.
Married men, from sixteen to sixty 96
Boys, sixteen years and under : 140•
Men, sixty years and upwards : 1,
Females, unmarried 217
Females, married 105.
Male Slave : 1
In 1774 the town made preparations for war by the purchase of ” 200 lbs of good gun powder, 400 lbs. of lead, and 1,200 flints,” raising “twenty-four pounds, lawful money” for that purpose. October 17th of that year, Capt. Isaac Wyman and Lieut. Timothy Ellis were chosen delegates to the county congress, at Walpole.
The battle of Lexington was fought on the loth of April, 1775. The news reached Keene soon after, and Captain Dorman, in command of the militia, with the advice of Captain Wyman, ” sent expresses to every part of the town,, notifying the inhabitants to meet, forthwith, on the green.” Upon their meeting in the afternoon the citizens voted unanimously to raise a body of men to appease the regulars. Captain Wyman, already an old man, was chosen. to command, and, under his direction, a troop of thirty volunteers was on hand at sunrise the next morning, fully equipped, and was led towards Concord. On the 27th of April, Timothy Ellis was chosen a delegate to Exeter,. and a member of the Provincial Congress. On the 7th of December the town, being without higher law, duly accepted a constitution and code of laws for their own government, which was in force until 1778. Its provisions weresimple and to the point. It required no lawyer to elucidate. Thomas Baker,. Eliphalet Briggs, and Dan Guild were chosen a committee to judge and execute under the new law, and Elijah Blake, an officer, with duties like constable or sheriff, The Declaration of Resistance sent to the several towns of the state by the committee of safety of the assembly of New Hampshire, was signed in 1776, by 103 citizens of the town-thirteen refusing to sign. Col. Isaac Wyman was appointed a justice of the peace that year; and Captain Eliphalet Briggs, one of the committee of safety, dying of small-pox, jeremiah Stiles was chosen in his stead. In 1777, at the battle of Bennington, Keene was represented by a company of quickly organized militia, among whom were Major Ellis, Josiah Richardson and Joshua Durant. Toward the close of the Revolution, Keene was much exercised by the controversy in regard to the New Hampshire grants, (seepage 64), but maintained her allegiance to the old state.
Keene has also an honorable record for patriotic service in the late civil war. The whole number of her enlistments for different terms of service is estimated to have exceeded 600, the death rate being about one-sixth of that number. As the village was early made a rendezvous for recruits from the neighboring towns, the following named companies were recruited and organized, a considerable portion of the enlistments in each being of the Keene quota:
- Company G, First Regiment, Captain, Andrew T. Sargent; First Lieutenant, Horace T. H. Pierce; Second Lieutenant, Charles H. Drummer.
- Company A, Second Regiment, Captain, T. A. Barker; First Lieutenant, Henry M. Metcalf; Second Lieutenant, Herbert B. Titus.
- Company F, Fifth Regiment, Captain, H. T. H. Pierce; First Lieutenant, Moses W. Rand; Second Lieutenant, Samuel Quinn.
- Company E, Sixth Regiment, Captain, 0. G. Dort; First Lieutenant, John A. Cummings; Second Lieutenant, George H. Muchmore.
- Company I, Ninth Regiment, Captain, John W. Babbitt; First Lieutenant, Jacob Green; Second Lieutenant, Nelson N. Sawyer.
- Company G, Fourteenth Regiment, Captain. Solon A. Carter; First Lieutenant, C. Frederick Webster; Second Lieutenant, Spencer L. Bailey.
A considerable number of the men of Company K, Third Regiment, were also of Keene. This company was at first commanded by Captain Henry C. Henderson and Lieutenants W. J. Butterfield and Samuel M: Smith. The changes incident to actual service gave to many of the officers above named a higher rank at a later date. Company G, of the First was recruited by Captain Henderson, who later commanded Company K, of the Third. Lieutenant Pierce, of the former company was commissioned later, as Captain of Company F, of the Fifth. Captain Babbitt of Company I, Ninth, was afterwards Lieutenant-Colonel of the same regiment. Captain Carter, of Company G, Fourteenth, was later Assistant Adjutant-General, with the rank of Colonel. Captain Barker of Company A, Second Regiment, was subsequently Lieutenant-Colonel of the Fourteenth Regiment. Lieutenant Titus, of Company A, Second Regiment, was afterwards Lieutenant-Colonel of the Ninth. Colonel Robert Wilson, who commanded the Fourteenth Regiment, was a Keene man, though residing elsewhere when commissioned. The entire Sixth Regiment was organized at Keene and was commanded at first by Colonel Nelson Converse, who resigned at an early date on account of ill health, and was succeeded by Colonel S. B. Griffin, afterwards Brigadier and Major-General. The Sixth Regiment saw its firs` service under Burnside in North Carolina; it was afterwards in the Army of the Potomac, and participated in several of its heavy battles. Still later it was sent West, and was engaged in operations in the vicinity of Vicksburg and Jacksonville, Mississippi.
Major Edward E. Sturtevant of the Fifth Regiment, who was killed at the battle of Fredericksburg, was of Keene. He originally enlisted at Concord in response to the first call for troops, and was the first man to enlist in New Hampshire. His name heads the list, as the official records show. The Fifth was the regiment commanded by the renowned and lamented Colonel Cross. All the superior offices of the regiment were either killed or disabled at Fredericksburg, so that at the close of the battle Captain Pierce of Company F, as senior officer, had command of the regiment. The first call for troops named two regiments for New Hampshire, but before the Second Regiment was equipped and mustered in, the call was changed to provide for three years troops and most of the men of that regiment already enlisted for three months, re-enlisted for three years. The First, accordingly, was the only three months regiment. Lieutenant Metcalf, of Company A, Second Regiment, was killed at Gettysburg. Lieutenant Muchmore, of Company E, Sixth Regiment, was killed at the second battle of Bull Run.
In the year 1868 the town appropriated $2,000 for a soldiers monument, but this sum being deemed inadequate by the promoters of the testimonial, nothing was done in regard to the matter until 1870, when the town voted to increase the former appropriation, making it $7,000.00. A committee to carry out the project was appointed, consisting of George B. Twitchell, S. G. Griffin, C. F. Webster, R. H. Porter, and J. Humphrey, the two latter being civilians, and the three former having been in the army. They caused to be erected a handsome monument upon Central square, near city hall. It consists of a finely wrought base and pedestal of granite, upon which stands the bronze figure of a soldier. The inscription upon the tablet is as follows –
Will cherish in perpetual honor
The memory of her sons
Who fought for Liberty
And the integrity of the Republic.
Of the heroic dead
Is the inspiration of osterity.