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Edgewood Cemetery: Revolutionary Soldier Benjamin Abbott

Updated: Jun 3

Private Benjamin Abbott was a Continental Army soldier in the American Revolution.  He is recorded as having engaged in the battles of Bunker Hill, Saratoga, and Bemis Heights.  His final resting place is in Edgewood Cemetery, Nashua, NH, under a small military headstone provided for the Revolutionary War veteran.  Linda Applegate Brown records his death as June 15, 1851, on the website "Benjamin J. Abbott’s Memorial." Find A Grave, .

Gravestone of Benjamin Abbot with American flag planted next to it. Other graves and trees are in the background. Tombstone reads, "BEN'J ABBOTT U.S. SOLDIER REV. WAR."
Grave of Benjamin Abbott, a Revolutionary War soldier who is buried at Edgewood Cemetery in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Mrs. John F. Brown, the granddaughter of Benjamin Abbott, explained his early life in an article titled "Relatives Living in Nashua." Nashua Daily Telegraph, 21 Mar. 1896, p. 5. She said Benjamin Abbott was 15 years old when he joined the Continental Army with his father.  While performing the duties of a drummer boy in the 8th Massachusetts Regiment, his father was “shot down by his side, and the last the son ever saw of his father he was crawling on his hands and knees.” Upon hearing this, General Washington took in young Abbott as a page.  As a story passed down through the generations, Abbott’s family spoke of his role as Washington’s page including buckling on the general’s shoes and spurs. Being at Washington’s side likely is what led to the next part of his life story. 

According to Judge Edward Parker’s  History of the City of Nashua, N. H., From the Earliest Settlement of Old Dunstable to the Year 1895, Abbott was in attendance as a drummer at the military execution of Major André held in Tappan, New York, on October 2, 1780. Also, he was on prisoner guard duty the night before the execution. 

Major André, a British officer, was a casualty of an interaction with Benedict Arnold.  The two entered into serious negotiations once Arnold was promoted as Commander of West Point in August 1780.   Arnold made a request. He wanted to meet but only if André disguised himself as an American. This presented a unique risk.  If captured in disguise, André would be tried as a spy instead of an officer. 

They met, and Arnold provided papers to Major André with information about the placement of American troops. Several days later, André was stopped by militia in Tarrytown. They found his papers, which were then forwarded to Washington. Arnold escaped but André was tried as a spy.  Despite an understanding among high-ranking officers they would not be put to death for their deeds, Washington ordered André's execution because he was not captured in uniform. Interestingly, this decision was met with disapproval among American soldiers, who viewed André as a victim of circumstance. 

"A Fragment of History." Nashua Daily Telegraph, 17 Apr. 1876, p.2, elaborates further, “The executioner was a Tory of the Ramapo Valley, named Strickland, who was a prisoner in Washington’s hands, under sentence for some crime.  No American soldier was willing to perform the odious service, and this Tory was induced to do so by a promise of pardon and freedom.  He was thoroughly disguised by thickly smearing his face with the outside of a greasy pot.” The article ends by repeating what other accounts say, Benjamin Abbott, a drum major, beat the dead march.  

And what of Benjamin Abbott’s death and burial in Nashua? 

A short article announcing Abbott's death was published on June 26, 1851 in the American Telegraph. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  It reads, “An Old Hero Gone. - The Nashua Telegraph says that Major Benjamin Abbott, formerly of Andover, Mass., was found dead in his bed at the house of Jeremiah P. Davis, in Nashville, on Monday morning last.  Major Abbott was a major drummer in the revolution, and played the death-march at the execution of Major André, and served his country faithfully through the war.  He died at the advanced age of 92 years.” It is appropriate Jeremiah Davis rests in a plot adjacent to Benjamin Abbott's plot in Edgewood Cemetery.

The son of Jeremiah P. Davis provided a slightly different account published as "Was at the Execution of Maj. André." Nashua Daily Telegraph, 27 May. 1890, p.3. Capt. George W. Davis is quoted as saying, “The body of Benjamin Abbot is buried in Amherst Cemetery (authors note: Edgewood Cemetery).  Benjamin Abbott died at my father’s house on the 17th of June, 1850 at the age of 90 years.  He was a remarkable old man with a remarkable career.”  Capt. Davis gives his word that he will keep Benjamin Abbott’s grave green and with flowers placed upon it on Memorial Day. 

Approximately five years later, Mr. George Scott of Boston called upon the trustees of Edgewood Cemetery and donated money for the care of his family plot, but also the perpetual care of Abbott’s lot according to “Gave For Patriotism.”  Nashua Daily Telegraph, 25 Jul. 1895, p.8. Mr. Scott was no relation of Abbott’s but “gave the money from purely patriotic sentiment.” 

The following year, Mr. Scott was acknowledged by the descendants of the Abbott family after yet another slightly different account of Benjamin Abbott’s death. “He died in Nashua at the residence of his sister, Mrs. Isaiah Davis, at the age of 92. We do certainly feel grateful to Mr. Scott for the gladness shown this faithful soldier,”  "Relatives Living in Nashua." Nashua Daily Telegraph, 21 Mar. 1896, p. 5.  

The Nashua Historical Society invites the public to join them in remembering Benjamin Abbott by reviving the tradition formerly carried out by Capt. George W. Davis and Mr. George C. Scott. This Memorial Day, flowers have once again been planted on Benjamin Abbott's grave in recognition of his service in the Revolutionary War and to the first president of the United States of America, General George Washington.

Interesting Addendums: 

Mr. Scott’s burial plot is listed as  "George Clarence Scott’s Memorial." Find A Grave, .

What tune was likely played on fife and drum as a dead march? Search online for - Old Guard Fife & Drum Corps – Roslin Castle posted by EustisAbernathy - for a modern reenactment of the Roslin Castle song that was favored by George Washington on solemn occasions.  

In 1821, the remains of Major John André were interred in Westminster Abbey according to "Today’s Anniversary." Nashua Daily Telegraph, 28 Nov. 1921, p.4.   Oddly, the "Individualities" column in the Nashua Daily Telegraph, 11 Oct. 1893, p.4, published a one-sentence comment, “A large box in Westminster Abbey bearing the conspicuous label Bone of Major André was opened by a curious visitor recently and found to contain a lot of lamp chimneys.”

"Watch Owned by André" Nashua Telegraph, 4 Oct. 1923, p.9 article describes a silver watch referred to in the subtitle “Timepiece Carried by British Officer Among Treasures at the New York Historical Society.”  While the silver watch remained in New York, apparently André's gold watch was exhibited in Philadelphia at the time of the centennial in 1876. 

Photo credits: Mary Coe Foran

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