The To-Do List

The “Rice” in the name of Tarzan’s creator, Edgar Rice Burroughs, honors his paternal grandmother, Mary Rice Burroughs from Worcester, Massachusetts.  When I learned that Erastus Bartlett, one of the victims of the 1867 White Rock Massacre in Jewell County, Kansas, was the son of the former Hannah Rice from Worcester, I went looking for a connection between Burroughs and Bartlett.  I kept at it until coming upon a Rice genealogy with an entire page filled with family members who were named “Hannah Rice.”  I have exhibited doggedness on occasion, but it goes only so far.  Mr. Burroughs and Ms. Rice will have to wait.

Something similar happened on my way to doing a piece on the military career of Col. Nehemiah Lovewell in time for Memorial Day.  Various subscription sites offer free browsing of military records going into Memorial Day weekend, so it was shaping up to be both a simple and an inexpensive job.  There were several documents for a Nehemiah Lovewell from the era of the Seven Years’ War and the American Revolution.  Before the Revolution, the good colonel was captain of a company of Rangers, which included as least three more Lovewells, who must have been his nephews.  I ran across one mention of a Major Lovewell, supposing him to be the same man we remember today as Colonel Lovewell, leading me to envision a young colonial warrior rising through the ranks.  However, a search on revealed the handsome tombstone of a Revolutionary War officer buried as “Capt. Nehemiah Lovewell.”  Was it possible that the major had been someone else entirely, and the rank of colonel was strictly from his peacetime service in the Militia, perhaps largely an honorary title?  It finally occurred to me that two Nehemiah Lovewells had died in 1801, the colonel I was looking for, and his son.  I should have begun my search by leafing through Gloria Lovewell’s book, “The Lovewell Family."

A “Pay-Roll for Capt. Frye Bayley and Lieut. Nehemiah Lovewell while in Captivity - Sent under Flag by the Hon. Maj. Gen. Gates in December 1777,” shows that Lt. Lovewell was due £60 for cooling his heels for a year while under armed guard in Canada.  Bayley and Lovewell received partial payment from U.S. coffers, but nine years later the State of Vermont still owed Capt. Bayley £24 while it owed Lt. Lovewell £12.

Bayley clarified matters somewhat by recalling that he had been sent with the flag of truce by Col. Moody Bedel, with a letter from General Gates to General Carleton, suggesting an exchange of prisoners.  Bayley and Lovewell accompanied two captured British officers past enemy lines to General Carleton’s headquarters.  Carleton thought an exchange of prisoners was in order, but had a different idea about which prisoners were to be exchanged.  Refusing to acknowledge the flag, Carleton set his own captured officers free while putting their American custodians in the guardhouse.  According to Ramsay’s History of the American Revolution, “General Carleton during his command conducted towards the American prisoners with a degree of humanity that reflected the greatest honor on his character.”  Bayley and Lovewell may have had little mistreatment to complain about, except for the laggardly arrival of their back-pay.

The muster roll of Capt. John G. Bailey’s Company of Olcott’s Regiment, lists Nehemiah Lovewell, Nehemiah Lovewell, Jr., Henry Lovewell, and Zaccheus Lovewell, all of them privates, serving between 13 days and one month with the outfit, sometime between April 1777 and March 1779.  Various other muster rolls list some combination of the Lovewell men, also usually denoted as privates.  Service in the various militias fighting for the cause of American independence was a patchwork quilt of brief periods of enlistment, interrupted by trips home to check on the family farm.  It is no wonder that General Washington, who disliked the militias, urged Congress to institute enlistment periods longer than one year, maintaining that he needed three years to mold his men into a fighting force.

There were 280 matches for military records on Nehemiah Lovewell at, including 140 pages of Revolutionary War Pension files covering Nehemiah and his widow Betsy.  There is certainly enough material to bring Nehemiah Lovewell out of the morning mist of our colonial past and let us catch a definite glimpse of the man, but way too much to sort through in a weekend.  Maybe by next Memorial Day.  In the meantime, we can make do with the summary of his career from “Family Trees of Merrimack, NH (Part VI):” 

In the French and Indian War he served in three campaigns.  He was a lieutenant of Col. Blanchard's regiment, 1755, a captain of Col. Goffe's regiment, 1760. In 1770 , he removed from Dunstable to Newbury, Vt., and was in the service almost continuously during the Revolution.  He was a captain of Col. Bedel's regiment 1777 and 1778, and also of Major Wait's battalion of rangers and in this service he was captured but soon released. In the border warfare he commanded companies and military posts almost continuously from 1779 to 1782. After the war he was a colonel of the militia.  Soon after the Revolution he removed to Corinth, Vermont, where he died March 23, 1801.  He was an honest, industrious, efficient man.

Honest, industrious and efficient, Nehemiah Lovewell performed his duties without fanfare during the Seven Years War and the American Revolution.  There are no books about him that I know of.  He was not ballyhooed the way Robert Rogers was, later reviled, then forgotten, finally rediscovered and written about at length, every scrap of information about his personal life mined for details.  In some ways, as I read about Rogers I can’t help thinking of Custer and Buffalo Bill.  Major Rogers was a natural leader, a man who got things done, a fighter with grit and superhuman endurance, but also a bit of a glory-hound.  Like Custer, he won fame as an Indian fighter for attacking a sleeping village at dawn, and may not have killed as many of the enemy as he thought he did.  Like William F. Cody, he had a knack for self-promotion, and a habit of scattering money to the four winds.

If you can’t tell, I’ve finished Book 1 of Kenneth Roberts’ “Northwest Passage,” and Stephen Brumwell’s “White Devil,” an examination of Rogers’ life and career.  That leaves “War On the Run” still on my to-do list. 

© Dale Switzer 2023