Benjamin Lincoln
Benjamin Lincoln was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 army officer. He served as a major general
Major general (United States)
In the United States Army, United States Marine Corps, and United States Air Force, major general is a two-star general-officer rank, with the pay grade of O-8. Major general ranks above brigadier general and below lieutenant general...

 in the Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

 during the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

. He is notable for overseeing the largest US surrender of the war at Siege of Charleston
Siege of Charleston
The Siege of Charleston was one of the major battles which took place towards the end of the American Revolutionary War, after the British began to shift their strategic focus towards the American Southern Colonies. After about six weeks of siege, Continental Army Major General Benjamin Lincoln...

 and for being the officer who formally accepted the British surrender at Yorktown
Siege of Yorktown
The Siege of Yorktown, Battle of Yorktown, or Surrender of Yorktown in 1781 was a decisive victory by a combined assault of American forces led by General George Washington and French forces led by the Comte de Rochambeau over a British Army commanded by Lieutenant General Lord Cornwallis...


Early life

Lincoln was born on January 24, 1733, in Hingham, Massachusetts
Hingham, Massachusetts
Hingham is a town in northern Plymouth County on the South Shore of the U.S. state of Massachusetts and suburb in Greater Boston. The United States Census Bureau 2008 estimated population was 22,561...

. Lincoln's ancestors were among those who first settled in Hingham, beginning with Thomas Lincoln 'the cooper,' who was among several Lincolns who settled in Hingham when it was part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony
Massachusetts Bay Colony
The Massachusetts Bay Colony was an English settlement on the east coast of North America in the 17th century, in New England, situated around the present-day cities of Salem and Boston. The territory administered by the colony included much of present-day central New England, including portions...

. In his early life, Benjamin Lincoln worked on the family farm; he attended the local school. Later in life, he felt the lack of further education and got a Master's degree at Harvard. In 1756, at the age of 23, Lincoln married Mary Cushing, daughter of Elijah Cushing of Pembroke, Massachusetts, but whose ancestors were also among the founders of Hingham. They had eleven children.

He followed in his father's footsteps into local political office. At 21, Lincoln became the town constable and in 1755, Lincoln entered the 3rd Regiment of the Suffolk militia as an adjutant. In 1757, he was elected the town clerk of Hingham and was elected Justice of the Peace in 1762, also, in 1772, Lincoln was promoted to lieutenant colonel
Lieutenant Colonel (United States)
In the United States Army, United States Air Force, and United States Marine Corps, a lieutenant colonel is a field grade military officer rank just above the rank of major and just below the rank of colonel. It is equivalent to the naval rank of commander in the other uniformed services.The pay...

 of the 3rd Regiment of the Suffolk militia. Being in the Suffolk militia allowed Lincoln to gain military experience which he used in three major battles of the American Revolution.

In July 1775, Lincoln was chosen by the town of Hingham as its representative to the Massachusetts General Court
Massachusetts General Court
The Massachusetts General Court is the state legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The name "General Court" is a hold-over from the Colonial Era, when this body also sat in judgment of judicial appeals cases...

, held at Watertown pursuant to a resolve by the Continental Congress
Continental Congress
The Continental Congress was a convention of delegates called together from the Thirteen Colonies that became the governing body of the United States during the American Revolution....

. Benjamin Lincoln's father, Col. Benjamin Lincoln, had served as a member of His Majesty's Council from 1753 until 1770. (He died in 1771.) Benjamin Lincoln's son Benjamin Jr. wasn't nearly so well disposed towards the Crown. In 1770, in a list of resolutions passed by the inhabitants of Hingham, Gen. Benjamin Lincoln outlined the measures urged by Hingham residents towards the non-importation of British goods as well as condemning the Boston massacre. Lincoln served as Hingham's representative to the Provisional Congress held successively at Concord, Cambridge and Watertown, Massachusetts.

Northern Theater (1776-78)

In 1776, he was promoted to brigadier general
Brigadier general (United States)
A brigadier general in the United States Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, is a one-star general officer, with the pay grade of O-7. Brigadier general ranks above a colonel and below major general. Brigadier general is equivalent to the rank of rear admiral in the other uniformed...

, then major general, then commander of all Massachusetts troops in the Boston area. After the British
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

 evacuation of Boston, Lincoln joined General George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 at New York
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, commanding the right wing at the Battle of White Plains
Battle of White Plains
The Battle of White Plains was a battle in the New York and New Jersey campaign of the American Revolutionary War fought on October 28, 1776, near White Plains, New York. Following the retreat of George Washington's Continental Army northward from New York City, British General William Howe landed...

. Shortly after seeing action at Fort Independence, he was commissioned into the Continental Army as a major general.

In April 1777 he was defeated at the Battle of Bound Brook
Battle of Bound Brook
The Battle of Bound Brook was a surprise attack conducted by British and Hessian forces against a Continental Army outpost at Bound Brook, New Jersey during the American Revolutionary War. The British objective of capturing the entire garrison was not met, although prisoners were taken...

 by a much larger force under the command of Lord Cornwallis.
In September 1777, Lincoln joined Horatio Gates's
Horatio Gates
Horatio Lloyd Gates was a retired British soldier who served as an American general during the Revolutionary War. He took credit for the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga – Benedict Arnold, who led the attack, was finally forced from the field when he was shot in the leg – and...

 camp near Saratoga
Saratoga, New York
Saratoga is a town in Saratoga County, New York, United States. The population was 5,141 at the 2000 census. It is also the commonly used, but not official, name for the neighboring and much more populous city, Saratoga Springs. The major village in the town of Saratoga is Schuylerville which is...

 to take part in the Battles of Saratoga. Lincoln's ankle was shattered by a musket ball during the Second Battle of Saratoga, permanently leaving him with one leg shorter than the other.

Southern Theater (1778-81)

After recovering from the severe wound, Lincoln was appointed Southern Department Commander in September 1778. Lincoln participated in the attack on Savannah, Georgia on October 9, 1779 and was forced to retreat to Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is the second largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina. It was made the county seat of Charleston County in 1901 when Charleston County was founded. The city's original name was Charles Towne in 1670, and it moved to its present location from a location on the west bank of the...

. He took command of the garrison of Charleston. In March the city was surrounded by a sizable British force dispatched from the northern colonies. After a relatively brief siege Lincoln was forced to surrender to Lieutenant General Henry Clinton
Henry Clinton (American War of Independence)
General Sir Henry Clinton KB was a British army officer and politician, best known for his service as a general during the American War of Independence. First arriving in Boston in May 1775, from 1778 to 1782 he was the British Commander-in-Chief in North America...

 on May 12, 1780.

Lincoln, desperate for more troops, had pleaded with the South Carolina legislature to arm 1,000 enslaved African Americans to ward off the approaching British. Rather than see armed slaves, the legislature began negotiations with the British commanders to allow the British forces to pass through South Carolina.

This was one of the worst Continental defeats of the war. He was denied the honors of war in surrendering, which deeply rankled him. Lincoln was paroled, and in the court of inquiry no charges were ever brought against him. The British subsequently sought to enlist large numbers of black soldiers.

After being exchanged for the British Major General William Phillips in November 1780, Lincoln returned to Washington's main army, led it south to Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 and played a major role in the Yorktown surrender on October 19, 1781. Pleading illness, Lord Cornwallis did not attend the surrender ceremony, choosing instead to send his second-in-command, the Irish General Charles O'Hara
Charles O'Hara
General Charles O'Hara was a British military officer who served in the Seven Years War, American War of Independence, and French Revolutionary War, and later served as Governor of Gibraltar...

. In response, General Washington refused to accept O'Hara's sword and sent his own subordinate, Lincoln, to receive the surrender.

Secretary of War (1781-83)

From 1781 to late 1783, Lincoln served as the first "Secretary of War
United States Secretary of War
The Secretary of War was a member of the United States President's Cabinet, beginning with George Washington's administration. A similar position, called either "Secretary at War" or "Secretary of War," was appointed to serve the Congress of the Confederation under the Articles of Confederation...

," also called the "Secretary at War". He was appointed by the Confederation Congress under the Articles of Confederation
Articles of Confederation
The Articles of Confederation, formally the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, was an agreement among the 13 founding states that legally established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states and served as its first constitution...

. He was succeeded in the post by Henry Knox
Henry Knox
Henry Knox was a military officer of the Continental Army and later the United States Army, and also served as the first United States Secretary of War....



In 1787, Lincoln was a member of the Massachusetts state convention that ratified the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

. Earlier in 1787, Lincoln helped put an end to an uprising of farmers known as Shays' Rebellion
Shays' Rebellion
Shays' Rebellion was an armed uprising in central and western Massachusetts from 1786 to 1787. The rebellion is named after Daniel Shays, a veteran of the American Revolutionary War....

. The uprising, which led to calls for a stronger central U.S. government, ended when the militia under Major General Benjamin Lincoln attacked the rebels and forced them to surrender in February.

Lincoln was then one of only 10 men who received electoral votes during the first election for President and Vice President of the United States, receiving the vote of an unrecorded elector from the State of Georgia.

Gen. Lincoln also served as one of the first trustees of Derby Academy
Derby Academy
Derby Academy is an elementary and middle school that offers a coeducational curriculum to Pre-Kindergarten through 8th grade. It is located near Route 3A and Broad Cove in Hingham, Massachusetts...

, recently founded in Hingham by Sarah Hersey Derby, widow of a wealthy Salem shipping magnate.

He stayed active in public life in various capacities, including a term as Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts
Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts
The Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts is the first in the line to discharge the powers and duties of the office of governor following the incapacitation of the Governor of Massachusetts...

 and many years as the Collector of the Port of Boston
Port of Boston
The Port of Boston, , is a major seaport located in Boston Harbor and adjacent to the City of Boston...

. He retired from public life in 1809 and died in Hingham on May 9, 1810.


Benjamin Lincoln was not an ancestor of President Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

, and probably not related at all. (Abraham Lincoln descended from Samuel Lincoln
Samuel Lincoln
Samuel Lincoln , was progenitor of many notable United States political figures, including his great-great-great-great-grandson, President Abraham Lincoln, Maine governor Enoch Lincoln, and Levi Lincoln, Sr...

, a young weaver's apprentice from Norwich
Norwich is a city in England. It is the regional administrative centre and county town of Norfolk. During the 11th century, Norwich was the largest city in England after London, and one of the most important places in the kingdom...

, Norfolk, England; General Benjamin Lincoln descends from Thomas Lincoln 'the cooper.' Hingham had several early Lincoln family settlers, all from Norfolk
Norfolk is a low-lying county in the East of England. It has borders with Lincolnshire to the west, Cambridgeshire to the west and southwest and Suffolk to the south. Its northern and eastern boundaries are the North Sea coast and to the north-west the county is bordered by The Wash. The county...

, England. Historians have spent years trying to unravel the complicated Lincoln family relationships.)

General Benjamin Lincoln is buried in the Old Ship Burying Ground behind Old Ship Church
Old Ship Church
The Old Ship Church was built in 1681 in Hingham, Massachusetts in the United States. It is the oldest church in continuous ecclesiastical use in the United States. It is the only remaining 17th century Puritan meetinghouse in America...

 in Hingham. Among the pallbearers at Lincoln's funeral were John Adams
John Adams
John Adams was an American lawyer, statesman, diplomat and political theorist. A leading champion of independence in 1776, he was the second President of the United States...

, Cotton Tufts, R. T. Paine, Richard Cranch and Thomas Melville
Thomas Melville
Thomas Melville was a sailor and later governor of Sailors' Snug Harbor, and the younger brother of author Herman Melville....

. In Lincoln's honor, the bells at Boston and other places were tolled for an hour; the flags of vessels, and those at Fort Independence
Fort Independence (Massachusetts)
Fort Independence is a granite star fort that provided harbor defenses for Boston, Massachusetts. Located on Castle Island, Fort Independence is the oldest continuously fortified site of English origin in the United States. The first primitive fortification was placed on the site in 1634 and...

 and Fort Warren
Fort Warren (Massachusetts)
Fort Warren is a historic fort on the Georges Island at the entrance to Boston Harbor. The fort is pentagonal, made with stone and granite, and was constructed from 1833–1861, completed shortly after the beginning of the American Civil War...

, as well as those at the Charlestown Navy Yard were lowered to half-mast.

He was one of the few men to have been present at the three major surrenders of the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

: twice as a victor (at Yorktown and Saratoga), and once as the defeated party (at Charleston). In spite of the major role he played during the war, he tends to be less well-remembered than many of his contemparies in the Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...


Places named "Lincoln" in the American South tend to be named after General Benjamin Lincoln rather than the 16th President. The following places are named in honor of Benjamin Lincoln:
  • General Benjamin Lincoln House
    General Benjamin Lincoln House
    The General Benjamin Lincoln House is a National Historic Landmark at 181 North Street in Hingham, Massachusetts, USA.The house was built in 1733 and was the home of American Revolution Major General Benjamin Lincoln. Lincoln surrendered to the British in 1780 in South Carolina and in 1781 accepted...

  • Lincoln
    Lincoln, Alabama
    Lincoln is a city in Talladega County, Alabama, United States. At the 2000 census the population was 4,577. It was named for Major General Benjamin Lincoln, who served in the American Army during the Revolutionary War.-Geography:...

    , Alabama
    Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

  • Lincoln County
    Lincoln County, Georgia
    Lincoln County is a county located in the U.S. state of Georgia, with the Savannah River forming its northeastern border. Located above the fall line, it is part of the Central Savannah River Area and a member of the CSRA Regional Development Center. The county was created on February 20, 1796. ...

    , Georgia
    Georgia (U.S. state)
    Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

  • Lincoln County
    Lincoln County, Kentucky
    Lincoln County is a county located in the U.S. state of Kentucky. The population was 24,742 in the 2010 Cesus. Its county seat is Stanford. Lincoln is a prohibition or "dry county" and is part of the Danville Micropolitan Statistical Area.- History :...

    , Kentucky
    The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

  • Lincoln County
    Lincoln County, Missouri
    As of the census of 2000, there were 38,944 people, 13,851 households, and 10,554 families residing in the county. The population density was 62 people per square mile . There were 15,511 housing units at an average density of 25 per square mile...

    , Missouri
    Missouri is a US state located in the Midwestern United States, bordered by Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. With a 2010 population of 5,988,927, Missouri is the 18th most populous state in the nation and the fifth most populous in the Midwest. It...

  • Lincoln County
    Lincoln County, North Carolina
    -Demographics:As of the census of 2010, there were 71,498 people, 24,041 households, and 18,174 families residing in the county. The population density was 214 people per square mile . There were 25,717 housing units at an average density of 86 per square mile...

    , North Carolina
    North Carolina
    North Carolina is a state located in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte...

     (and its county seat, Lincolnton
    Lincolnton, North Carolina
    Lincolnton is a city in Lincoln County, North Carolina, United States, within the Charlotte metropolitan area. The population was 10,683 at the 2010 census. Lincolnton is located northwest of Charlotte, on the South Fork of the Catawba River, and near the junction of State Highway 27 and U.S. Route...

  • Lincoln County
    Lincoln County, Tennessee
    Lincoln County is a county located in the U.S. state of Tennessee. , the population was 31,340. Its county seat is Fayetteville. It is named for Major General Benjamin Lincoln, an officer in the American Revolutionary War.-History:...

    , Tennessee
    Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

  • Lincoln
    Lincoln, Vermont
    Lincoln is a town in Addison County, Vermont, United States. The population was 1,214 at the 2000 census.-Geography:According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 44.0 square miles , of which 44.0 square miles is land and 0.04 square mile is...

    , Vermont
    Vermont is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state ranks 43rd in land area, , and 45th in total area. Its population according to the 2010 census, 630,337, is the second smallest in the country, larger only than Wyoming. It is the only New England...

  • Lincolnville
    Lincolnville, Maine
    Lincolnville is a town in Waldo County, Maine, United States. The population was 2,042 at the 2000 census. Lincolnville is the mainland terminal for state ferry service to Islesboro.-History:...

    , Maine
    Maine is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, New Hampshire to the west, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec to the northwest and New Brunswick to the northeast. Maine is both the northernmost and easternmost...

  • Lincoln Street in downtown Columbia
    Columbia, South Carolina
    Columbia is the state capital and largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina. The population was 129,272 according to the 2010 census. Columbia is the county seat of Richland County, but a portion of the city extends into neighboring Lexington County. The city is the center of a metropolitan...

    , South Carolina
    South Carolina
    South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

  • Lincoln Street in Savannah
    Savannah, Georgia
    Savannah is the largest city and the county seat of Chatham County, in the U.S. state of Georgia. Established in 1733, the city of Savannah was the colonial capital of the Province of Georgia and later the first state capital of Georgia. Today Savannah is an industrial center and an important...

    , Georgia
    Georgia (U.S. state)
    Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

  • Lincoln Hall at Coast Guard Training Center, Yorktown Virginia

External links

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