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Peleg Wadsworth (May 6, 1748 – November 12, 1829) was an American officer during the American Revolutionary War and a Congressman from Massachusetts representing the District of Maine. He was also grandfather of noted American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.[1]

Peleg Wadsworth
PelegWadsworth.png
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts
In office
March 4, 1793 – March 3, 1807
Preceded byTheodore Sedgwick (4th)
13th District created in 1795
15th District created in 1803
Succeeded byDwight Foster (4th)
Ebenezer Seaver (13th)
Daniel Ilsley (15th)
Constituency4th district (1793–95)
13th district (1795–1803)
15th district (1803–07)
Personal details
Born(1748-05-06)May 6, 1748
Duxbury, Massachusetts
DiedNovember 12, 1829(1829-11-12) (aged 81)
Hiram, Maine
Political partyFederalist
RelationsHenry Wadsworth Longfellow (grandson)
Alma materHarvard College
OccupationMerchant
Military service
AllegianceUnited States
Branch/service Continental Army
RankBrigadier general
Battles/warsAmerican Revolutionary War
Battle of Long Island
Penobscot Expedition

Wadsworth was born in Duxbury, Massachusetts, to Peleg and Susanna (Sampson) Wadsworth. He graduated from Harvard College with an A.B. (1769) and an A.M. (1772), and taught school for several years in Plymouth, Massachusetts, with his former classmate Alexander Scammel. There he met Elizabeth Bartlett (1753 to 1825), whom he married in 1772.

American Revolutionary WarEdit

The Wadsworths lived in Kingston, Massachusetts, until 1775, when Wadsworth recruited a company of minutemen, of which he was chosen captain. His company mustered in response to the alarms generated by the Battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. The Plymouth County battalion, commanded by Col. Theophilus Cotton marched to Marshfield, Massachusetts to attack a garrison of British troops there. The attack was delayed for two days, allowing the British time to escape Marshfield by sea. During that time, Capt. Wadsworth, frustrated with the delay, advanced his company to within firing range of the British encampment, nearly instigating combat.[2]

Wadsworth served as aide to Gen. Artemas Ward in March 1776, and as an engineer under Gen. John Thomas in 1776, assisting in laying out the defenses of Roxbury, Massachusetts. He was present at the Battle of Long Island on August 1, 1776. He was made brigadier general of militia in 1777 and Adjutant General of Massachusetts in 1778.

Wadsworth's finest military engagement was in one of the worst American military defeats of the war. In the summer of 1779 he served as second in command to General Solomon Lovell over the land forces sent to make a combined arms attack on Fort George at Castine, in the so-called Penobscot Expedition. Commodore Dudley Saltonstall was in command of the naval forces. Lt. Colonel Paul Revere also served in this expedition as commander of artillery. While General Lovell remained aboard the Commodore's vessel, Wadsworth and Revere landed with the infantry and artillery and laid siege to the fort for about two weeks. Due to the reluctance of the Commodore to launch a naval attack in support of the ground forces, the British garrison held out until ships of the Royal Navy arrived from New York City and drove the American Navy up the Penobscot River where all 43 American warships were sunk or were scuttled and burned, comprising most of the American fleet, making it the worst American naval disaster prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Wadsworth, still with the forces on shore, organized and led a successful overland retreat through the Maine frontier. Colonel Revere and Commodore Saltonstall were court-martialed for their roles in the debacle (Revere was acquitted, Saltonstall was "dismissed the service").

In March 1780, Wadsworth was given command of all the troops raised for the defense of the Province of Maine. On February 17, 1781, a party of 25 Loyalists overran his headquarters in Thomaston; this was in revenge for Wadsworth ordering the court-martial and execution of a guide who had assisted Loyalists traveling from Falmouth (now Portland) to Fort George. Wadsworth was captured and imprisoned in Fort George at Bagaduce (Castine) (the same fort he had led the attack against in the summer of 1779), but he and fellow prisoner Maj. Benjamin Burton eventually escaped on June 15, 1781 by cutting a hole in the ceiling of their jail and crawling out along the joists. Wadsworth then returned to his family in Plymouth, where he remained until the war's end.[3][4]

After war yearsEdit

In April 1784 Wadsworth returned to Maine, purchased 1.5 acres (6,000 m2) of land on Back Street (now Congress Street in Portland), engaged in surveying, and opened a store in early 1785. There he also built a house, now the historic Wadsworth-Longfellow House. He headed the committee that organized the first convention to discuss independence for Maine from Massachusetts, held in January 1786. He and his wife had eleven children: Alexander Scammell (9 May 1774–28 August 1775); Charles Lee (26 January 1776–29 September 1848); Zilpah (6 January 1778–12 March 1851); Elizabeth (21 September 1779–1 August 1802); John (1 September 1781–22 January 1860); Lucia (12 June 1783–17 October 1864); Henry (21 June 1785–4 September 1804); George (6 January 1788–8 April 1816); Alexander Scammell (7 May 1790–5 April 1851); Samuel Bartlett (1 September 1791–2 October 1874); and Peleg (10 October 1793–17 January 1875). Zilpah, became the mother of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.[citation needed] Although Wadsworth continued to live in Portland, in 1790 he purchased 7,800 acres (30 km2) from the Commonwealth in what became the town of Hiram, Maine, settled his son Charles there in 1795, and also in 1795 began building Wadsworth Hall for his retirement.

In 1792 Wadsworth was chosen a presidential elector and a member of the Massachusetts Senate, and from 1793-1807 was the first representative in Congress from the region of Massachusetts that later became Maine. In January 1807 he moved to Hiram where he incorporated the township (February 27, 1807) and served as selectman, treasurer and magistrate. For the remainder of his life he devoted himself to farming and local concerns. He died in Hiram on November 12, 1829, and is buried in the family cemetery at Wadsworth Hall.

LegacyEdit

Wadsworth's Portland house was declared a National Historic Landmark for its association with him and with his grandson. Wadsworth Hall, his home in Hiram, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Owing to his aptitude and enthusiasm for almost any conceivable topic, those who display similar bouts of enthusiasm are said to be "peleging". This has given rise to the phrase, "Peleg Wadsworth likes this."[citation needed]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Cutter, William Richard, ed. (1913). "General Peleg Wadsworth". New England families, genealogical and memorial. vol. 2. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co. p. 735.
  2. ^ Winsor, Justin. History of Duxbury. Boston: Crosby & Nichols (1849), 130.
  3. ^ Dwight, Timothy (1821). Travels; in New-England and New-York, vol. II. New Haven: Timothy Dwight, S. Converse, printer. pp. 174–184.
  4. ^ Dwight, Timothy (1821). Travels; in New-England and New-York, vol. II. New Haven: Timothy Dwight, S. Converse, printer. pp. 174–184.

Further readingEdit

  • Cornwell, Bernard (2010). The Fort. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780007331727. Retrieved 2018-09-01. A historical novel depicting the Penobscot Expedition, with a non-fiction "Historical Note" (pp. 451–468) on sources and key details.
  • Maine Historical Society. "The Wadsworths: Peleg and Elizabeth." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow [online resource], Maine Historical Society, Accessed June 6, 2019.
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Theodore Sedgwick
(Redistricted)
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 4th congressional district

(Maine district)
March 4, 1793 – March 3, 1795
alongside: George Thatcher, Henry Dearborn on a General ticket
Succeeded by
Dwight Foster
(Redistricted)
Preceded by
New position
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 13th congressional district

(Maine district)
1795–1803
Succeeded by
Ebenezer Seaver
Preceded by
New position
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 15th congressional district

(Maine district)
1803–1807
Succeeded by
Daniel Ilsley