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  • MM 1746, WM 1756, 1757, First Lodge
  • Junior Grand Warden 1758; Deputy Grand Master 1768-1782


According to Robert Freke Gould, Military Lodges, The Apron and the Sword, or Freemasonry Under Arms, 1899, Col. Gridley constructed the works on Bunker Hill where Gen. Joseph Warren was killed.


Monument to Major-General Richard Gridley.

In the May number of our Magazine of last year, we published a Sketch of the life of Major-General Richard Gridley. It was reprinted in several newspapers, and chanced to be read by some of the citizens of Canton, in this State, where the remains of General Gridley rest. The Revere Post, No. 94, G. A. R., interested themselves, and were determined that the hero of the French and Revolutionary wars should no longer remain in a neglected and unmarked grave; and they issued the following appeal, which has been extensively circulated in the town, and has appeared in the daily newspapers :

"In this town repose the remains of a Major-General of the Pro vincial Army ; no less than Gen. Richard Gridley. His name and deeds are a part of our history. One hundred years ago, being then a veteran from the Siege of Louisburg, at the age of sixty, he joined the Provincial Army in the siege of the British in Boston; planned the fortifications on Bunker Hill, Dorchester Heights, and around Boston, and was wounded at the Battle of Bunker Hill. He received flattering commendation from Washington, and for these and other services was raised by Congress to the rank of Major-General. No monument or even head-stone marks the grave of this soldier and patriot. It is proposed to wipe out this standing disgrace to the town, and on the one hundredth anniversary of our Independence to erect to the memory of Major-General Richard Gridley a substantial and enduring monument, that we may tell to coming generations that we are not ungrateful or unmindful of the heroic valor and patriotism of this distinguished soldier of Canton.

All the citizens of Canton arc invited to contribute, that all may share in thus honoring the illustrious dead. Subscriptions may be given to the Committee :

  • Elijah A. Morse, Committee of Revere Post, No. 94, of Gridley Monument; or,
  • Frank G. Webster, Commander, care Messrs. Kidder, Peabody & Co., 40 State Street

We learn from the Boston Daily Traveller that over $400 has already been subscribed toward the erection of a monument. We wish the cause God speed, and trust that this distinguished man and past Deputy Grand Master of our Grand Lodge will now have a monument suitable to his worth.



From New England Freemason, Vol. I, No. 5, May 1874, Page 201.

Major General Richard Gridley.
by W. BRO. D. T. V. HUNTOON.

Richard Gridley was born in Boston, June 3, 1711. He was the son of Richard and Rebecca Gridley, and younger brother of Col. Jeremy Gridley, who was appointed Provincial Grand Master of North America by the Marquis of Carnarvon in 1755. Of the early life of Richard, nothing is known. His subsequent life shows that he must at some time in his early years have devoted himself to the study of mathematics and drawing.

In "A General List of the Brethren made in the First Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in Boston, N. England, also those accepted members in it," under date of Jan. 22, 5745, appears the name of Richard Gridley, but this only indicates when he was admitted a member. No record is known to exist showing in what Lodge he received the first degree; but the following record from the Master's Lodge will show when he was made a Master Mason. "April 4, 1746; the Lodge being open, Bro. Richard Gridley attending, was rais'd Master and paid £3." Three months after his name appears in the first Lodge he joined the expedition under Gen. Pepperell, and, upon the death of M. Meserve, was chief in directing the engineering operations at the reduction of Louisburg. Here he obtained his first laurels, and won that reputation as an able and skill ful engineer which, in the trying years that were to come, was so valuable to his country and so honorable to himself. He did not see active service again for some years, as the regiment of Gen. Shirley, in which he held a captaincy, was disbanded in 1749. In 1755, he was appointed Chief Engineer and Colonel of Infantry, and immedi ately joined the expedition against Crown Point, under command of Gen. John Winslow.

May 13, 1756. — "The Right Worshipful Grand Master, Jeremy Gridley, authorized the Right Worshipful Richard Gridley, Esq., to congregate all Free and Accepted Masons in the present expedition against Crown Point, and form them into one or more Lodges, as he should think fit, and to appoint Wardens and other officers to a Lodge appertaining." All the fortifications around Lake George were planned and constructed by him. He was not only the trusted officer, but the valued friend of Winslow, and was selected by that General to accompany him when he went to meet the Earl of Loudoun, then Commander-in-chief of His Majesty's forces in America, and Past Grand Master of Masons in England. One month later, at a meeting of the Provincial Grand Lodge, held in Boston, at which, without doubt, His Excellency John, Earl of Loudoun, was present, the "R. W. G. M. appointed Bro. Richard Gridley, then Master of the First Lodge, to make the above five gentlemen Masons, who was made entered Prentices and Passed Fellow Crafts."

In 1758, Gridley joined Lord Amherst, and fought with Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham. This ended his military experience for the time. During the next sixteen years he was not disturbed by wars or rumors of wars, and found leisure to devote a portion of his time to the " oyal Art." In 1762, he purchased a house on Prince street, Boston, and it is probable that he occupied it himself. In 1768, on the sixteenth of November, at a meeting of the Second Lodge, with a father's pride he proposed the name of his only and well-beloved son, Scarborough, to be made a Mason, and, by a Dispensation from the Master, he was unanimously balloted in and made a Mason in due form. We cannot but contrast the feelings of the parent upon this occasion, and upon that when this son was tried by court martial for cowardice in the face of the enemy. John Rowe appointed Richard Gridley Deputy Grand Master January 27, 1769, and he was reappointed for several years following.

In 1770, he purchased of Edmund Quincy one-half of Massapoag Pond in Sharon, and was for some time engaged in the iron business. For his distinguished services at the siege of Quebec, Magdalen Island was given to him with half pay, and in 1773 the Governor of New Hampshire granted him three thousand acres of land. He was now sixty-two years of age. To himself and to his contemporaries it must have seemed as if life's work was done, and that nothing remained to him but to enjoy the consciousness of a well-spent life. With the honors of a veteran of the French wars, and substantially aided by the pension from the Crown, he might pass the remainder of his life in his country home at Canton with comfort and the respect of his countrymen. But it was not so to be. At the breaking out of the Revolutionary War, despite his age, he eagerly accepted the over tures that were made to him by his grateful countrymen. They could ill spare one of such marked ability in the profession of arms.

The men who had seen service in Canada and Nova Scotia were the very men needed to regulate and discipline troops who possessed at this period only one of the requisites of soldiers — courage. Throwing aside, then, the inducements which would naturally have held him to the service of the King, Colonel Gridley cast his lot with the Colonists.

The second day after the meeting of the Provincial Congress at Concord, April 23, 1775, it was resolved that an army of thirty thousand men was needed for the defence of the country. Artemas Ward, who had served under Abercrombie, was appointed Commander-in-Chief, and Richard Gridley chief engineer. He was actively engaged in the duties of his office until the night preceding the battle of Bunker Hill, when we find him in earnest conversation with two generals well known in American history. The question at issue was whether Breed's or Bunker Hill was the proper one whereon to erect fortifications. The consultation had been long and acrimonious. Time was precious. The veteran Gridley had urged with all the force of his ardent nature that Bunker Hill was the only proper one whereon to erect breastworks. He had sustained his opinion by ex amples from his own experience and from the chronicles of military history. One of the Generals (probably Putnam) coincided with him, but the other (probably Prescott) was stubborn and determined not to yield. At length Gridley said to the latter, "Sir, the moments are precious. We must decide at once. Since you will not give up your individual opinion to ours, we will give up to you. Action, and that instantly, only can save us." Thus the obstinacy and stubbornness of this General decided the matter, and Breed's Hill was the one selected.

The first detachment had no sooner reached the hill, than Gridley began to mark out the plan of the fortifications. With his usual celerity and skill he drew his lines, gave orders to his men, and, when not busy in directing others, worked himself, spade in hand, throwing up the fortifications which were to be the protection of the embryo nation. It was near being a fatal mistake for one having such knowledge and ability to do the manual labor, which could bet ter have been done by a farmer's boy from Berkshire. The next morning, that never to be forgotten seventeenth of June, Gridley was unwell, owing to his fatigue of the night previous, and was obliged to leave the hill; but to the joy of all, he so far recovered as to return later in the day. He immediately placed himself at the head of his own battery of artillery, and, judging from all accounts, it was poor enough. It had been raised especially for Gridley, and great exer tions had been made to complete it. It was confidently believed if confided to him it would do great execution ; yet, notwithstanding all that had been done, at the time of the battle it consisted only of ten companies and four hundred and seventeen men. Nevertheless,

Gridley went boldly forward, and himself aided in discharging the pieces, until his guns were disabled and he was obliged to order them to the rear. Near the close of the action he was struck in the groin by a musket ball. An historian, describing the state of affairs at this critical moment, says, "Warren was killed and left on the field, Gridley was wounded." All seemed to be lost. Finding that he could do no more, Gridley entered his sulky to be carried off, but meeting with some obstruction, had but just vacated it when the horse was killed and the sulky riddled by the bullets of the enemy. The British sharpshooters could not overlook so prominent a mark, and rightly surmising that the vehicle contained some person high in authority, they directed their fire towards it with such accuracy that had Gridley been in it he would most certainly have been killed. The next day one of his neighbors from Canton (then Stoughton) went to Boston and conveyed him home. His wound could uot have been very serious, for a lew days after, assisted by his son, Lieut. Col. Scarborough Gridley, ho took charge of a battery of guns placed at the Highlands. Richard Gridley not only planned the fortifications in Roxbury but all the defences around Boston, which were thrown up immediately after the battle of Bunker Hill, were the off spring of his single mind.

On the twentieth of September, 1775, he received from the Provincial Congress the rank of Major General, and was ordered to take command of the artillery Nov. 17, 1775. He was, on account of advanced age, succeeded by Colonel Henry Knox. But, although too old for active service in the field, he was not wanting in mental vigor. On the memorable night when Dorchester Heights were to be fortified, no one was judged so capable as Gridley. In 1776, after the evacuation of Boston by the British, he was entrusted with the duty of again throwing up works at Charlestown and other points about the harbor. His great value as an officer was acknowledged by General Washington, when, on December 31, 1775, he stated to Congress "That no one in the army was better qualified to be Chief Engineer than Richard Gridley."

Gridley retired to Canton and was engaged in the iron business in that town. Feb. 14, 1777, Congress empowered Robert T. Paine to contract with him for forty eight-inch howitzers, to be sent to Ticonderoga, and, four years later, resolved that it be recommended to the State of Massachusetts to make up to Richard Gridley the depreciation of his pay as engineer, at sixty dollars per month, from the time of his appointment to the first of January, 1781.

In a letter dated March, 1778, he writes to General Heath for more men to close the fortifications at Castle William and Governor's Island. He desires that the assistance be sent him that spring, as he fears a return of the enemy. In doing this, he says he is insti gated by his love of country, and that should any accident happen through delay, the blame would fall upon him.

In 1780, he writes to Major General Heath that he has had no pay for thirteen months, and begs that the General will allow him some thing, and charge it to his department. He complains that the last pay he received he was obliged to divide with his son who assisted him. In this want of funds, it is probable there were at this time many officers of the army who could heartily sympathize with him.

He died at Canton, June 21, 1796, at the ripe old age of eighty-four. He was a Universalist in religious belief, and at his funeral the Rev. John Murray preached the sermon, when crowds of people from far and near came to pay their last tribute of respect.

A little back from what is now the main street of Canton, formerly the old Taunton road, not far from the Sharon line, stands a deserted burial ground. Few persons were ever interred in it, and they belonged to one or two families, It is flanked on two sides by a moss grown and dilapidated wall. The other two sides are open, the fence having long since gone to decay. Few of the inhabitants of the town know of this sacred enclosure (if a place so neglected and forlorn can be called sacred, or an enclosure), and fewer still know, that in this place, with no stone to mark his grave, lies all that was mortal of Richard Gridley, Chief Engineer of the Army.

The school that is situated nearest to where his house stood is called the Gridley School, but the children, as they pass and repass the little graveyard, know not that one of the distinguished men of the Revolution sleeps his last sleep in its quiet precincts. But the Patriot and the Mason, as he passes, may pause, and ask himself: Is it right that one, who in days gone by defended his country with bravery, and upheld the ancient landmarks with zeal, should thus be forgotten and neglected by his Brethren and countrymen?

From History of Saint John's Lodge of Boston, Massachusetts As Shown in the Records, Page 55:

Richard Gridley, a brother of Jeremiah Gridley, became a member of the First Lodge in 1745 and its Master in 1757. He planned the fortificaion upon Governor's Island and Castle Island in Boston Harbor, at Gloucester, the Kennebec River, and at Halifax. He was at Louisburg with Pepperell and was entrusted by him with the plan of its reduction. It surrendered in 1745.

He was engineer of the Colonial Army in 1755 and was with Gen. Winslow at Crown Point in 1756, and planned the fortifications there and on Lake George. He was with General Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham and the capture of Québec in 1759. He laid out the defence at Bunker Hill the night before the battle and narrowly escaped capture. He constructed the fortifications upon Dorchester Heights, which caused the British forces to evacuate Boston March 17, 1776. He was commissioned Major General of the Army of the Revolution and made commander of the Artillery Sept. 20, 1775.

In 1781 he retired to his country home in Canton, Massachusetts, where he died June 20, 1796, aged 86 years, 5 months and 17 days. His remains were buried upon his farm, as the town authorities thought that his being a convert to the teachings of Rev. John Murray on Universal Salvation ought to keep his remains from the town burial ground.

About 30 years ago an addition to the old burial ground was laid out by the town and the remains of General Gridley were exhumed and placed in a box under a large granite monument.

He married Hannah Deming Feb. 25, 1730 and had six children.


From History of Canton, Massachusetts, 1893, Chapter XXII, Pages 360-379:


At the beginning of hostilities, Stoughton and Stoughtonham were both designated as towns wherein were to be kept the supplies of the province, and later a company of matrosses was stationed in each town to protect those stores. On the 21st of April, 1775, two days after the battle of Lexington, the Provincial Congress ordered that a messenger be immediately despatched to Stoughton and request the attendance of General Gridley and his son.

Richard Gridley, the son of Richard and Rebecca Grid-ley, was born in Boston on the 3d of January, 1710. The family consisted of twelve children, of whom he was the youngest. Col. William Seward Gridley informs me that he was descended in the fourth generation from Richard Gridley, who is seen in Boston in 1630. At the usual age, Richard was apprenticed to Mr. Atkinson, a wholesale merchant of Boston, but Nature had made him a soldier, and art could not make him a merchant. Like Washington, he employed himself as a surveyor and civil engineer,— a profession which few in his day were qualified to enter. It was at this time that he acquired that skill in drawing which his plan of the fortifications of Louisburg, still extant, attests. His autograph letters reveal the skill of a ready writer, — an art he acquired with such facility in youth that one of his teachers remarked that he must have been born with a pen in his hand; and even at the age of eighty years, his handwriting was clear and elegant. While still a youth, ascertaining that many persons suffered in their business transactions for want of a gauger, he, without regard to private emolument, engaged in the business, sacrificing his time for the advantage of his fellow-men. He was the first, and for a long time the only gauger in America.

He was the chief projector of Long Wharf in Boston, which was constructed according to the plan he had proposed, and the first pier of which was sunk by him. In early life, while residing in Boston, it was Gridley's good fortune to become the friend of John Henry Bastide,—-a young English gentleman of high culture and scientific attainments, who was to become Director of his Majesty's Engineers and Chief Engineer of Nova Scotia. This accomplished officer was, when Gridley made his acquaintance, engaged in drawing plans for fortifications to be erected in the harbors of Boston, Marblehead, Cape Ann, and Casco Bay. He was the author of a valuable treatise on fortification ; he was also a skilled artillerist. From him Gridley acquired new zeal, and renewed the study of military science, the details of which he easily mastered.

On the southeastern part of the Island of Cape Breton, stood, a century and a quarter ago, the city of Louisburg. Loyalty to the king had given it its name; and all that military skill could devise had for twenty-five years been employed upon its fortifications. Six millions of dollars had been expended in fortifying a city two miles and a half in circumference. On all sides arose a rampart of stone thirty-six feet high, from which two hundred and six cannon frowned defiance. Within, the town was beautifully laid out. Its streets were broad, and on both sides lined with public buildings with fronts of cream-colored sandstone. The adjacent hills echoed the rhwille, and over the broad bosom of the Atlantic sounded the morning and evening gun. The shrill pipe of the boatswain, calling the sailors to duty, was drowned by the deep-voiced trumpet. The busy hum of an active population filled the streets; the soldier in gorgeous uniform saluted the Jesuit in priestly robe. From the towers of churches, nunneries, and hospitals the sound of bells filled the air, while high above all rose the citadel from whose highest point floated a flag emblazoned with the lilies of France.

Such was the city which, wonderful to relate, existed at so early a period in our history, and which, still more wonderful to relate, in 1745 the New England colonies, without the aid of the mother country, pluckily besieged. Col. William Pepperell commanded the expedition. Early in 1745 Richard Gridley received his commission as "Lieutenant-Colonel" and "Captain of Train and Company," and on the 1st of April joined the expedition. Thirty days after the investment of the place, on May 2, the Grand, or Royal Battery, which stood directly opposite the harbor of Louisburg, was captured by his Majesty's forces, and the command of it given to Gridley, the captain of the artillery. The monotony of the siege was relieved by a visit from his old friend and instructor, Bastide; and in the light of subsequent events it would appear that a portion of Gridley's leisure hours was employed in cutting upon one of the stones of the fortification his name, "Gridley," and underneath the date, "1745". Only a few years ago the author of the "Life of Sir William Pepperell," in examining a pile of rubbish at the Grand Battery, found the stone with the deeply chiselled lines, done, in all probability, by Gridley's own hand. Capt. Abraham Reller, the first bombardier of the expedition, died, and on the 1st of August Governor Shirley commissioned Richard Gridley first bombardier; and he continued in the double capacity of first captain of artillery and first bombardier until the end of the siege; and notwithstanding the General Court had ordered that no officer should receive pay in a double capacity, the money was granted him in England on both muster-rolls, and he received ;£ioo from the province. The vigorous mind of Gridley, his quick perception, hjf early acquirements and pursuits, together with the instructions of Bastide, enabled him to make rapid advances in the knowledge requisite for the performance of his duties. Such was the accuracy of his eye that he succeeded in ranging with his own hand the mortar, which, upon the third fire, dropped a shell directly into the citadel, and was the immediate cause of the surrender of the city. His first fire overreached; his second fell short; his third was successful. Not only the battery on Lighthouse Cliff, from which, in all probability, this shell was thrown, but all of Pepperell's batteries, were erected under the direction of Gridley.

Great was the rejoicing throughout the provinces when the joyful tidings were proclaimed that the stronghold of France in the New World had fallen before the attack of the farmers, mechanics, and fishermen of New England. Our old church records mention the happy event; and the pastor writes, "Blessed be God, who heareth prayer." In London the cannon of the Tower announced the glorious news. All Europe was astonished. The commander of the expedition, General Pepperell, was made a baronet, — an honor never before conferred upon a native of America; and Gridley, the chief engineer, who had planned his batteries, returned to Boston, and was honored with a captaincy in Governor Shirley's regiment on the British establishment. So ended the greatest event of our colonial history, — an everlasting memorial of the zeal, courage, and perseverance of the troops of New England. Gridley had won his first laurels. His reputation as an able and skilful engineer was established, and the knowledge obtained in this campaign was to be of inestimable value to his country.

But the French were bent on the recovery of their " Dunkirque of America; " and the following year (1746) the Due d'Anville, in command of a large fleet, sailed toward our shores. Governor Shirley employed Gridley to draw designs for a battery and other fortifications on Governor's Island in Boston Harbor; and from September until cold weather, Gridley was employed night and day upon Castle William, drawing all the plans for the work, both for masons and carpenters. The spring and the summer of the following year were spent in completing the fortifications about the harbor. But the famous fleet of D'Anville was, like the Spanish Armada, scattered to the four winds of heaven.

For several years Gridley saw no active service, as the regiment of General Shirley, in which he held a captaincy, was disbanded in 1749. In 1752 we find him in attendance upon the Governor in his journey to the Kennebec; and Fort Western, the site of which is now occupied by the city of Augusta, and Fort Halifax, a few miles farther up the Kennebec River, were erected under his supervision. In 1755 he again entered the army as chief engineer; and the House of Representatives (Sept. 9, 1755), knowing "the absolute need of persons that understood the artillery, voted that Col. Richard Gridley be desired for the necessity of the service to assist them in that part, and that his Honor the Lieutenant-Governor be desired to appoint him Colonel of one of the regiments to be raised for the Crown Point expedition, and that an express be immediately dispatched to him for his answer." The answer was favorable. He was appointed commander-in-chief of the provincial artillery, colonel of infantry, and was to receive in addition to the pay of the latter position the same compensation he had received at the siege of Louisburg. Accompanied by his brother, Samuel Gridley, who had been appointed commissary in his own regiment, Richard joined the expedition against Crown Point; and under his supervision Fort William Henry and all the fortifications around Lake George were constructed. Having complete control of the artillery, the duties of the extensive command with which the Governor had honored him rendered it probable that he would be absent from his regiment, giving directions to the train. In the spring of 1756, therefore, two lieutenant-colonels were, at his suggestion, attached to his regiment. In June of the same year we find him, under General Winslow, at Albany, forming a camp at Half Moon, and drilling his men. He was not supplied with provisions or tools; his ammunition was unfit for use; his gun-carriages were constantly breaking. But in these adverse circumstances, he writes, "You may depend upon it the army will push forward, let the consequences be what they will; and if we are not provided with those things which are of consequence to us, and may be provided, it 's entangling us more than we ought to be." And the army did push forward; but before it reached Crown Point, the sad news of the fall of Forts Oswego and Ontario caused it to return to a place of safety, and the campaign against Canada was ended for that year.

Gridley was not only the trusted officer, but the valued friend of Winslow, and was selected by that general to accompany him when, on the 4th of August, 1756, he went "with our Chief Engineer, Colonel Gridley," to meet his Excellency, the Earl of Loudoun, then commander-in-chief of his Majesty's forces in America. On the muster-roll of Gridley's regiment this year appears, as second lieutenant, the name of Paul Revere, who had just attained his majority. In 1757 Governor Pownall ordered Gridley to prepare and form a train of artillery. This he did, and sailed for Halifax, intending to visit Louisburg; but the expedition was turned from its purpose by the proximity of the French fleet.

Cape Breton having been restored to France, Louisburg, in 1758, again became the scene of contention and hostilities. Gridley revisited his earliest field, and was present at the second taking of the city. He had charge of the advanced stores of the army, and so distinguished himself in the siege that on the evacuation of the city by the French, Lord Amherst offered him the valuable furniture of the French Governor's residence, which offer he, with chivalrous delicacy, declined, ever unwilling to appropriate to his private use spoils taken from an enemy. While at Louisburg he gave, October 12, a power of attorney to James Fritter, Esq., of Westminster, in Great Britain, to receive from the Right Honorable Henry Fox, Esq., Paymaster-General of his Majesty's forces, all sums of money that were or should become due him.

On the 29th of December, 1758, the following letter was addressed by William Pitt to Major-Gen. Jeffrey Amherst: —

I am also to signify to you His Maj'tys further pleasure, that you do forthwith take the proper steps to engage Col. Gridley (whom you appointed on the death of Mr Meserve to command the carpenters at the siege of Louishurg), or such other officer as you shall think proper, to collect the number of eighty carpenters and to proceed with them without loss of time to Cape Breton, in order that the same may be employed under the command of Col Gridley, — on such works as shall be necessary for the operations of the troops in the above expedition, or in such other manner as the Commander in Chief of the King's Troops in that expedition shall judge proper; and in case you should think it expedient, you will endeavour to prevail on Mr Gridley to decline accepting any command in the Troops of his Province the ensuing campaign, in order that his whole time and attention may be employed on the above must essential service.

(Signed) W. Pitt.
Whitehall, Dec. 29, 1758.

In obedience to the recommendations contained in this letter Gridley, in 1759, was appointed by General Amherst to the distinguished honor of commanding the provincial artillery, which, under General Wolfe, was about to besiege Quebec; his knowledge of the needs of an army was so exact that he was applied to for information respecting the quantity of provisions and clothing the provincial troops would require during the siege. General Amherst did not form a junction with Wolfe; he deemed the slender forces of the latter inadequate to the capture of a city so strongly fortified by Nature and art. Notwithstanding discouragements and disappointments, Colonel Gridley and the other principal officers warmly seconded the hazardous plan conceived by Wolfe, and landing in the night under the Plains of Abraham, succeeded in reaching the summit of the precipice. It was Gridley's corps that dragged up the only two fieldpieces which reached the heights; and in the battle which ensued Gridley fought with bravery, and stood by the side of his renowned commander when that gallant officer fell, victorious. Peace having been restored, Gridley went to England to adjust his accounts with the government. He was received with great cordiality. For his distinguished services, the Magdalen Isles, with an extensive seal and cod fishery, and half-pay as a British officer were conferred upon him. Much of his time was passed during the next few years at his island home. He founded on Amherst Island an establishment for trading and for the seal and walrus fisheries. During the Revolution, American privateers visited the island and destroyed everything accessible. Gridley returned after the war; but the walrus soon became extinct, and the islanders turned their attention to cod and herring fisheries. An eminence on one of these islands is still called Mount Gridley. In 1762 he purchased a house in Prince Street in Boston; whether he occupied it himself or not is uncertain. In 1773 the Governor of New Hampshire, in acknowledgment of his meritorious services, granted him three thousand acres of land, now included in the town of Jackson. Advancing years induced him to resign the business at Magdalen Islands to his sons, whose descendants have ever since remained in the British possessions.

In 1770 Richard Gridley purchased of Edmund Quincy one half of Massapoag Pond in Sharon for the sake of procuring iron ore from its bed. He, also in connection with Edmund Quincy, purchased or erected a furnace for smelting the ore. He began "The New Forge" at the Hardware in 1772, and came to reside in this town, Sept. 28, 1773. He was then sixty-two years of age. To himself and to his contemporaries it must have seemed as if his work was done. With the honors of a veteran of the French wars and a pension from the Crown, he might pass the remainder of his life in his rural home at Canton in comfort and with the respect of his countrymen. But this was not to be.

Gen. Joseph Warren was an intimate friend of Gridley. It is asserted that as early as 1774 they signed a secret agreement, pledging themselves, in case of an open rupture with the mother country, that they would together join the patriot army. Be this as it may, Warren writes in January, 1775: —

"Mr. Gridley, as an engineer, is much wanted. We have an opportunity of obliging him, which will, I believe, secure him to us in case of necessity."

At the breaking out of the Revolutionary War, despite his age, Gridley eagerly accepted the overtures of his countrymen, who could ill spare one of such marked ability in the profession of arms. The men who had seen service in Nova Scotia and Canada were needed to regulate and discipline troops who possessed, at this period, only one of the requisites of a soldier, courage. Throwing aside the inducements which would naturally have held him to the service of the king, Colonel Gridley, in answer to a letter from his British agent in England requesting to be informed on which side he should take up arms, replied, "I shall fight for justice and my country," and cast his lot with the patriots. His half-pay ceased, and the arrears already due he had too much spirit to accept.

Gridley was appointed to the command of the First Regiment of Artillery, — the only artillery regiment in the provinces at the opening of the war. He was requested to select proper persons for officers, and we observe the name of Scarborough Gridley as second major. Ezra and Stephen Badlam appear respectively as first and second lieutenants in Samuel Gridley's company,—-all Canton men. The second day after the meeting of the Provincial Congress at Concord, April 23, 1775, it was "resolved that an army of thirty thousand men was needed for the defence of the councry. Artemas Ward, who had served under Abercrombie, was appointed Commander-in-Chief." It was further —

"Resolved, That Richard Gridley, Esq., be and hereby is, appointed Chief Engineer of the farces now raising in the Colony for the defence of the rights of the American Continent, and that there be paid to the said Richard Gridley, out of the public treasury of this Colony, during his continuance in that service, at the rate of £170 per annum ; and it is further resolved that from and after the time when the said forces shall be disbanded, during the life of said Gridley, there shall be paid to him, out of the said treasury, the sum of £123 per annum."

On the 26th of April Gridley entered the service and was soon actively engaged in the duties of his office. During this time he was stationed at Cambridge and was in constant communication with the Provincial Congress, desiring them to appoint clerks to keep carefully the account of ordnance, stores, etc. In May Colonel Henshaw, Colonel Gridley, and Richard Devens were ordered by General Ward to view the heights in Charlestown. They attended to this duty and reported it advisable to fortify, first Prospect, then Bunker's, and finally Breed's Hill, so that if obliged to retreat from Breed's Hill, the fort at Bunker would cover our retreat with the cannon and drive the enemy's ships out of the rivers, and also prevent the enemy from keeping possession of Charlestown. "Why," says Colonel Henshaw, " the report was not approved I cannot say."

On the 16th of June, 1775, Prescott received orders from Gen. Artemas Ward to proceed that evening to Bunker's Hill and build fortifications, which were to be planned by Colonel Gridley. At the hour of sunset the troops assembled on Cambridge Common in front of General Ward's headquarters, provided with packs, blankets, and provisions. They soon set out on their silent march preceded by two sergeants with dark lanterns. The son of Colonel Gridley, Capt. Samuel Gridley, with his company of fifty men and two fieldpieces, accompanied and formed part of the expedition. Slowly they proceeded through the quiet of the night toward Charlestown, the only sound that greeted their ears being the drowsy cry of " All's well! " from the sentry on the Boston shore. They reached the heights in about an hour, when the question arose whether Breed's or Bunker's Hill was the proper one whereon to erect fortifications. The consultation was long and acrimonious. Time was precious. The veteran Gridley urged with all the force of his ardent nature that Bunker's Hill was the only proper one whereon to erect breastworks. He sustained his opinion by examples from his own experience and from the chronicles of military history. One of the generals coincided with him, but the other was stubborn and determined not to yield. At length Gridley said to the latter, "Sir, the moments are precious; we must decide at once. Since you will not give up your individual opinion to ours, we will give up to you. Action, and that instantly, only can save us." Thus the obstinacy of this general decided the matter, and Breed's Hill was the one selected.

The first detachment had no sooner reached the hill than Gridley began to mark out the plan of the fortifications,— gave orders to his men, and when not busy in directing others, worked himself, spade in hand, throwing up the fortifications which were to be the protection of the embryo nation. It was a mistake for one having such knowledge and ability to join in the manual labor. The next morning, that never-to-be-forgotten seventeenth of June, Gridley was unwell, owing to his fatigue of the night previous, and was obliged to leave the hill; but he so far recovered as to return later in the day. He immediately placed himself at the head of his own battery of artillery, which, judging from all accounts, was poor enough. It had been raised especially for Gridley, and great exertions had been made to complete it. It was believed that if commanded by him it would do great execution; but it consisted of only ten companies and 417 men. It had two brass pieces and six iron six-pounders. The brass pieces were those which have since been known as the "Adams" and "Hancock." Grid-ley, seizing one of these, pushed bravely forward, and aided in discharging it, until it was disabled and he was obliged to order it to the rear. During the whole engagement, though well knowing that a price had been set upon his head by the British government, Gridley never flinched, but was exposed to the severest fire of the enemy. He ascended the hill with Warren, was near him, and saw him fall. Almost at the same time he was himself struck by a musket-ball in the left leg. An historian, describing the state of affairs at this critical moment, says: "Warren was killed and left on the field; Gridley was wounded." All seemed to be lost, and finding that he could do no more, Gridley entered his sulky to be carried off, but meeting with some obstruction, had but just vacated it when the horse was killed and the sulky riddled by the bullets of the enemy. Enoch Leonard, one of his neighbors from Canton, went to Boston and conveyed him home. His wound could not have been serious, for a few days after, assisted by his son, Lieut.-Col. Scarborough Gridley, he took charge of a battery placed at Roxbury Highlands.

The last of June we find him at Cambridge, begging that the artillery may be supplied with blankets, declaring that his men are sadly in want of them, and are falling sick daily in consequence. On July 3 he addressed a letter to the Provincial Congress, asserting that he had nominated field officers for the regiment of artillery that he deemed best for the interests of the country. But he says, "The Provincial Congress do not deem it necessary to consult with me;" and his letter closes thus: —

"Be assured, gentlemen, if I must have no judgment, and am not to be consulted in these matters, and must have persons transferred on me, I am determined I will withdraw myself from the army, and will have nothing further to do with it."

It is said that America began her Revolution with but ten pieces of cannon; and to the mechanical science and ingenuity of Gridley was she indebted for the first cannon and mortars ever cast in this country. His furnace was for a long time employed, by order of Congress, under his direction, casting cannon for the use of the army. In February, 1776, we find him at Massapoag Pond, with a number of men, proving mortars, which were afterward placed on Dorchester Heights. He was assisted at this time by Captain Curtis, who, like himself, was a veteran of the French War. One year later, Feb. 14, 1777, Congress empowered Robert Treat Paine to contract with him for forty eight-inch howitzers, to be sent to Ticonderoga.

On the 20th of September, 1775, Richard Gridley received from the Provincial Congress the rank of major-general, and was ordered to take command of the artillery with the rank of colonel. He had received the highest rank from the Provincial Congress, and had his commission been renewed in the Continental army, Washington says, " He would have outranked all the brigadier and all the major generals." Nevertheless, he writes, Dec. 31, 1775: "I believe Colonel Gridley expects to be continued as Chief Engineer in the army. It is very certain that we have no one better qualified." Not only did Washington acknowledge his great value as an officer, but he urgently requested him to accompany the army to the South. But the infirmities of age were creeping upon him. He resigned his commission, and the council of officers coincided in the belief that on account of his advanced age it were better to place the command of the artillery in younger hands. On Friday, the 17th of November, 1775, Henry Knox, whose skill as an artillerist had attracted the attention of Washington, and whose subsequent career was so brilliant, succeeded General Gridley in command of the artillery.

On April 5, 1776, Colonel Gridley was directed to superintend all works that were begun or might be resolved on for the defence of the harbor; and on the 16th Colonel Hutchinson's regiment was ordered to erect the works to be laid out at Dorchester Point, next to Castle Island, the colonel to appoint a proper officer to superintend the work under the direction of Colonel Gridley. Samuel Adams Drake writes, —

"Gridley was chief engineer and the only man in the army capable of the important task of planning and executing a systematic line of investment. Knox occasionally assisted; but it is hardly fair to raise him to the same consequence as Gridley, whose experience, ability, and superior rank no one questions."

On the memorable night of the 4th of March, 1776, it was decided to fortify Dorchester Heights. With his usual celerity and skill, Gridley marked out the plan of the breastworks, and a strong redoubt was soon erected which one historian compares "to the works of Aladdin;" and another, in speaking of the fortifications, says, "In history they were equalled only by the lines and forts raised by Julius Caesar to surround the army of Pompey." Certain it is that they were so strong that neither Lord Howe nor Earl Percy dared attack them, and deemed it best to evacuate Boston, — "as absolute a flight," said Wilkes in the House of Commons, "as that of Mahomet from Mecca."

After the evacuation of Boston, General Washington offered to Gridley his choice of a place of residence in that city, where he remained many months, and was intrusted by the commander-in-chief with the duty of demolishing the British intrenchments on the Neck; and in order that the work might be well and quickly done, General Ward had orders to furnish him with as many men as he deemed necessary for the undertaking. Castle William, the hills of Charlestown, Fort Hill in Boston, and all the prominent positions about the harbor were erected or strengthened under his direction.

When Bunker Hill again came into the possession of the Americans after the departure of the royal troops, search was made for the body of Major-Gen. Joseph Warren; and when, on the 8th of April, [776, the body was rein-terred, Richard Gridley was among the distinguished gentlemen who acted as pall-bearers. Twelve days after, Gridley was ordered by Washington to attend to the fortifications on Cape Ann and protect the harbor of Gloucester. While performing his duties here, he attended the ministrations of the Rev. John Murray, and it was but a step for one who had been an admirer of Mayhew and Chauncy to become a Universalist. He adopted the belief of the "Promulgator," as Murray was then called, and there was established between them a friendship, designated by Mrs. Murray in after years as "an old and unbroken amity." In the deepest trouble of his life, when his beloved partner — whom he had married before he was of age, and with whom he had enjoyed nearly sixty years of connubial happiness — died, it was to Murray, his friend and spiritual guide, that he looked for comfort and strength. No better insight into Gridley's home life can be had than that given by Mrs. Murray in a letter addressed to her parents, under date of Oct. 24, 1790: —

"The weather on Monday morning proving remarkably fine, we commenced our journey to Stoughton. Much had we dwelt on the serene enjoyments which awaited us in the family of Col. Gridley, and it was only in the paternal dwelling that we expected more unequivocal marks of friendship. Upon how many contingencies doth sublunary bliss depend ; all felicity is indeed a work too bold for mortals, and we ought never assuredly to promise ourselves the possession of any good. With much rapidity we posted forward. For the convivial smiles of hospitality we were prepared; but alas for us ! the venerable Mistress of Stoughton villa had, the day before our arrival, breathed her last. Her family — her bereaved family — met us in tears; but her clay-cold tenement, shrouded in its burial dress, unconscious of our approach, preserved with dignified tranquillity its sweet and expressive composure. Often had her arm with even maternal tenderness been extended to us, while the tumultuous joy of her bosom was described by every expression of her face. But now her heart had forgot to beat, —to the glad sensations of affection it is no longer awake ; and for the arrival of the messenger of peace the sigh of her perturbed bosom will no more arise. Many years of pain she hath lingered out, and for weeks past her agonies have been exquisite. Ought wc then to mourn her exit, when, moreover, she departed strong in faith, giving glory to God ? Yet, for me, I confess I am selfish, censurably selfish ; and while I stood gazing on her breathless corse, the agonized breathings of my spirit to the Preserver of men were, that I might never be called to view my beloved parents thus stretched upon the bed of death. The life of Mrs. Gridley has been amiable; she has- departed full of days, and her connections will retain of her the sweetest remembrance.

"We had intended to have reached town earlier in the week; but it was not in friendship to leave unburied so venerable a connection, to resist the importunities of her aged companion and her earnestly imploring children. From Monday noon until Friday morning we remained in Stoughton, yielding such alleviations as an old and unbroken amity had a right to expect. On Thursday afternoon, the sepulchral rites were performed. Her only surviving brother, a white-haired old gentleman, with his lady, and a number of other connections, arrived about noon from Boston, for the purpose of paying the last honors to the deceased by attending her obsequies. An affectionate exhortation and prayer was delivered by Mr. Murray previous to the commencement of the procession, and at the grave, also, some suitable observations were made by our friend, calculated to do justice to the departed, and administer improvement and consolation to survivors. Our company at Col. Gridley's on Thursday evening was large, and we passed it like those who entertain the sure and certain hope of meeting again the pleasing connection who had so recently taken her flight. The weather yesterday morning proved most propitious to our wishes, and after a night of refreshing slumbers, we departed from Stoughton, enriched with the warmest wishes of our friends."

"Stoughton Villa," the residence of General Gridley, was situated on almost the exact spot where the house of Miss Chloe Dunbar now stands, and in the yard the peonies still blossom from the original stock which Gridley planted.

To return to the military career of Gridley. In November, 1776, he was at Castle William, and gave his testimony in favor of Preserved Clapp, as the inventor of a gun-carriage, signing himself chief engineer. In a letter dated March, 1778, he wrote to General Heath for more men to close the fortifications at Castle William and Governor's Island. He desired that the assistance be sent him that spring, as he feared a return of the enemy. In doing this, he said he was instigated by his love of country, and that should any accident happen through delay, the blame would fall on him. His receipts for payment and the commutation accounts for July, August, and September show that he was still chief engineer.

In 1780 he wrote to Major-General Heath that he had had no pay for thirteen months, and begged that the general would allow him something and charge it to his department. He complained that the last pay he received he was obliged to divide with his son, who assisted him. It is stated upon good authority that Gridley was connected, in 1781, with the operations in Rhode Island, but we have no documentary proof of it. On Feb. 26, 1781, Congress resolved that it be recommended to the State of Massachusetts to make up to Richard Gridley the depreciation of his pay as engineer, at sixty dollars per month, from the time of his appointment to the 1st of January, 1781, The Massachusetts "Register," of 1783, asserts that Col. Richard Gridley by recommendation of Congress had a pension granted him of £121 13s. 4d. annually during his life, in compensation for the loss he had sustained by entering into the service of the United States. It is the year 1783, and the citizens of the town have met in the old church to celebrate the return of peace. From the tower the bell rings forth a merry peal. Flags are flying; guns are booming. Men who have taken part in the dangers of the war greet at the church door their companions-in-arms. Young men and maidens come from far and near to join in the festivities. In the pulpit sits the pastor who has ministered to the people for over half a century, and by his side the orator of the day. But when the thanks of the people were to be returned to the veterans of the war, and thanksgiving was to be offered to Almighty God for the success of our arms and the establishment of the Republic, Richard Gridley was uninvited, forced to remain at home and see the great concourse of people pass his house to celebrate the return of a peace to which he had contributed more than any of them. Gridley could not understand this neglect, and inquired of a friend why he had received no invitation to the celebration. His friend reluctantly answered, " Because, General, you are not considered by those having that matter in charge a Christian." His friend alluded to the fact that Gridley had become a Universalist in religious belief. The veteran paused a moment, dropped his head upon his breast, and solemnly uttered these words: "I love my God, my country, and my neighbor as myself. If they have any better religion, I should like to know what it is."

General Gridley's last appearance in public was in 1795, when he assisted in laying the corner-stone of the State-House. The same year we find his name attached to the petition for the Act of incorporation of the town of Canton.

In private life General Gridley's character was exemplary. Correct morals, unimpeachable integrity, unsullied honesty, strict veracity, habits of temperance to abstemiousness in an age when every one drank liquor, a freedom from every vice, and the practice of the virtues that adorn and dignify human nature were the distinguishing traits of his character. He possessed equanimity of temper, and as a friend and companion was cheerful, agreeable, and instructive. The Hon. William Eustis, Dr. Town-send, and many others, having begun their studies with General Warren, and being by his death deprived of their patron, looked with almost filial affection upon General Gridley as their guide, companion, and friend, and passed much of their time with him during his residence at the house of Governor Brooks in Cambridge, with whom he passed many happy hours. His elegance of deportment was noticed and admired. He was equally charitable to individuals and to the public.

In stature he was tall, of commanding presence, with a frame firm and vigorous. His constitution was like iron. He rarely suffered from illness, and his death was not in consequence of the general decay of nature, such as usually attends advanced age, but was caused by blood-poisoning induced by cutting dogwood bushes. He died on the 21st of June, 1796. On Thursday, the 23d, he was buried in a small enclosure near his house. Soon after, his effects were sold. The portrait of his Majesty George II. and the picture of Blenheim were carried to the house of Dudley Bailey. Jesse Pierce bore away the portrait of the Duke of Cumberland and the silver-hilted sword. The silver and the old tankard remained in the family. The Rev. John Murray preached his funeral sermon, and crowds from far and near came to Canton to pay their tribute of love and respect to his memory. In this neglected spot his body rested until Saturday, Oct. 28, 1876, when the committee, consisting of Elijah A. Morse, Oliver S. Chapman, Edward R. Eager, William E. Endicott, Daniel T. V. Huntoon, appointed to erect the Gridley monument, began the disinterment. A few strokes of the pick revealed that an error of about a foot had been made in the location of the grave; a second attempt proved successful, and at the depth of seven feet the sides of the coffin were reached; from this time the work was conducted with greater care, a trowel taking the place of a spade. A part of the skull of the veteran was lifted from its bed of sand and gravel, and to it was attached a quantity of gray hair, ending in a braided queue; this sufficiently identified the body. Portions of the bones of the arms and legs were soon after exhumed, and everything found in the grave, except the queue, was placed in a box, which the committee conveyed to the cemetery, where the remains were reinterred, each member of the committee and a delegation of the Canton Historical Society assisting. On the 24th of October the monument had been brought from Milton and placed in position upon the site previously selected by the committee, and given by the town at its annual meeting, for that purpose. The base of the pedestal is of hammered Quincy granite; the dado is of Randolph granite with polished tablets, which bear the following inscriptions: —

"This monument is erected by the citizens of Canton to the memory of Richard Gridley, as a tribute of honor and gratitude to one whose life was spent in the service of his country. Born Jan. 3, 1710. Died June 21, 1796.

"A veteran of three wars, he commanded the artillery of His Majesty's army at the siege of Louisburg; he stood by the side of Wolfe at the fall of Quebec, and as Major General and Chief Engineer of the Patriot army he planned the fortification on Bunker Hill, and on the day of the battle fell wounded.

"I shall fight for justice and my country.
" I love my God, my country, and my neighbor as myself."

"Washington wrote : —

"I know of no man better fitted to be Chief Engineer than General Gridley."

The tablet on the southeast side facing Washington Street bears the American shield with the name "Gridley" in large letters. The whole is surmounted by a cannon in exact imitation of the "Hancock" or "Adams,"—one of the guns Gridley served with his own hand at the battle of Bunker Hill.

Thus, life's duties well performed, passed away one of the most distinguished military characters of New England,— renowned for personal bravery, a skilled artillerist, a scientific engineer, a prominent actor in the great events of our country's history; the companion of Sir William Pepperell, of Lord Amherst, of Earl St. Vincent, of Cook the navigator, of Gage, Montgomery, and Wolfe; in later days, of Prescott and Putnam and Knox, of Thomas and Ruggles and Frye and Warren and Washington.

A writer in the Columbian Centinel, issued a few days after his death, in speaking of General Gridley, says:—

"To sketch the usefulness of the deceased, to delineate his services as a citizen, a soldier, and mason, are unnecessary. They have repeatedly been acknowledged by his countrymen, and live in the memory of every one acquainted with the history of our country."

Note. — Major Scarborough Gridley is said to have procured his appointment as second major of the First Regiment of Artillery in the place of Benjamin Thompson, afterward Count Rumford, through parental partiality. On the morning of the battle of Bunker Hill, he had been ordered to proceed with his battalion from Cambridge to the lines, but advanced but a few rods beyond the Neck when he halted, determined, as he said, to cover the retreat, which he considered inevitable. Colonel Frye, seeing Gridley the younger in this position, said to him, "What are you waiting here for?" "We are waiting to cover the retreat." "Retreat!" cries the veteran ; "who talks of retreating? This day thirty years ago, I was present at the taking of Louisburg, when your father with his own hand lodged a shell in the citadel. His son was not born to talk of retreating. Forward, to the lines!" Gridley proceeded a short distance with his artillery, but overcome with terror, ordered his men back upon Cobble Hill, to fire with three-pounders upon the Glasgow and the floating batteries. This order was so absurd that Captain Trevett refused to obey it, and proceeded to the scene of action with two pieces of artillery; this little fragment of Gridley's battery was the only reinforcement that the Americans received during the battle. For his conduct at the battle, Scarborough was tried by court-martial, Major-General Greene presiding. The sentence of the court, Sept. 24, 1775, was, that for "being deficient in his duty upon the 17th of June last, the day of the action upon Bunker's Hill, the court find Major Scarborough Gridley guilty of a breach of orders. They do therefore dismiss him from the Massachusetts service; but on account of his inexperience and youth, and the great confusion that attended that day's transactions in general, they do not consider him incapable of a Continental commission, should the general officers recommend him to his Excellency." Several persons, living and dead, have confounded Scarborough with Richard Gridley. Samuel Gridley was also a son of the general.

Entry in Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online

Distinguished Brothers