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

 officer 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...

 and a Congressman
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

 from Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

 representing the District of Maine
District of Maine
The District of Maine was a legal designation for what is now the U.S. state of Maine from American independence until the Missouri Compromise on March 4, 1820, after which it gained its independence from Massachusetts and became the 23rd state in the Union...

. He was also grandfather of noted American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet and educator whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline...


Wadsworth was born in Duxbury, Massachusetts, to Peleg and Susanna (Sampson) Wadsworth. He graduated from Harvard College
Harvard College
Harvard College, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of two schools within Harvard University granting undergraduate degrees...

 with an A.B. (1769) and an A.M. (1772), and taught school for several years in Plymouth, Massachusetts, with his former classmate Alexander Scammel. There he met Elizabeth Bartlett (1753 to 1825), whom he married in 1772.

American Revolutionary War

The Wadsworths lived in Kingston, Massachusetts
Kingston, Massachusetts
Kingston is a coastal town in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, United States. According to the 2010 Census, it had a population of 12,629.-History:Before European settlers arrived in Kingston it was within the tribal home to the Wampanoag people...

, until 1775, when Wadsworth recruited a company of minutemen, of which he was chosen captain. His company mustered in response to the alarms generated by the Battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. The Plymouth County
Plymouth County, Massachusetts
Plymouth County is a county located in the U.S. state of Massachusetts. As of 2010, the population was 494,919. Its county seats are Plymouth and Brockton...

 battalion, commanded by Col. Theophilus Cotton marched to Marshfield, Massachusetts
Marshfield, Massachusetts
Marshfield is a town in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, United States, on Massachusetts's South Shore. The population was 25,132 at the 2010 census.See also: Green Harbor, Marshfield , Rexhame, Marshfield Hills, and Ocean Bluff and Brant Rock....

 to attack a garrison of British troops there. The attack was delayed for two days, allowing the British time to escape Marshfield by sea. During that time, Capt. Wadsworth, frustrated with the delay, advanced his company to within firing range of the British encampment, nearly instigating combat.

Wadsworth served as aide to Gen. Artemas Ward
Artemas Ward
Artemas Ward was an American major general in the American Revolutionary War and a Congressman from Massachusetts...

 in March 1776, and as an engineer under Gen. John Thomas
John Thomas (general)
John Thomas was an American doctor and soldier from Massachusetts who became a major general in the Continental Army. He was a leader during the siege of Boston. Thomas briefly commanded the withdrawal from Canada after the unsuccessful invasion by the Continental Army. He died from smallpox...

 in 1776, assisting in laying out the defenses of Roxbury, Massachusetts
Roxbury, Massachusetts
Roxbury is a dissolved municipality and current neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, United States. It was one of the first towns founded in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, and became a city in 1846 until annexed to Boston on January 5, 1868...

. He was present at the Battle of Long Island
Battle of Long Island
The Battle of Long Island, also known as the Battle of Brooklyn or the Battle of Brooklyn Heights, fought on August 27, 1776, was the first major battle in the American Revolutionary War following the United States Declaration of Independence, the largest battle of the entire conflict, and the...

 on August 1, 1776. He was made brigadier general of militia
Militia (United States)
The role of militia, also known as military service and duty, in the United States is complex and has transformed over time.Spitzer, Robert J.: The Politics of Gun Control, Page 36. Chatham House Publishers, Inc., 1995. " The term militia can be used to describe any number of groups within the...

 in 1777 and Adjutant General of Massachusetts in 1778.

Wadsworth's finest military engagement was in one of the worst American military defeats of the war. In the summer of 1779 he served as second in command to General Solomon Lovell
Solomon Lovell
Solomon Lovell was a brigadier general in the militia of the state of Massachusetts during the American Revolutionary War. He is best known for leading the land forces during the 1779 Penobscot Expedition, a disastrous attempt by Massachusetts to dislodge a British force from a settlement on a...

 over the land forces sent to make a combined arms
Combined arms
Combined arms is an approach to warfare which seeks to integrate different branches of a military to achieve mutually complementary effects...

 attack on the British fort at Castine
Castine, Maine
Castine is a town in Hancock County, Maine, United States and was once the capital of Acadia . The population was 1,343 at the 2000 census. Castine is the home of Maine Maritime Academy, a four-year institution that graduates officers and engineers for the United States Merchant Marine and marine...

, in the so-called Penobscot Expedition
Penobscot Expedition
The Penobscot Expedition was the largest American naval expedition of the American Revolutionary War and the United States' worst naval defeat until Pearl Harbor...

. Commodore Dudley Saltonstall
Dudley Saltonstall
Dudley Saltonstall was an American naval commander during the American Revolutionary War. He is best known as the commander of the naval forces of the 1779 Penobscot Expedition, which ended in complete disaster, with all ships lost...

 was in command of the naval forces. Lt. Colonel Paul Revere
Paul Revere
Paul Revere was an American silversmith and a patriot in the American Revolution. He is most famous for alerting Colonial militia of approaching British forces before the battles of Lexington and Concord, as dramatized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, Paul Revere's Ride...

 also served in this expedition as commander of artillery. While General Lovell remained aboard the Commodore's vessel, Wadsworth and Revere landed with the infantry and artillery and laid siege to the fort for about two weeks. Due to the reluctance of the Commodore to launch a naval attack in support of the ground forces, the British garrison held out until ships of the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 arrived from Halifax
City of Halifax
Halifax is a city in Canada, which was the capital of the province of Nova Scotia and shire town of Halifax County. It was the largest city in Atlantic Canada until it was amalgamated into Halifax Regional Municipality in 1996...

 and drove the American Navy up the Penobscot River where all 43 American warships were sunk or were scuttled and burned, comprising most of the American fleet, making it the worst American naval disaster prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

 in 1941. Wadsworth, still with the forces on shore organized and led a successful overland retreat through the Maine frontier. Colonel Revere and Commodore Saltonstall were court-martial
A court-martial is a military court. A court-martial is empowered to determine the guilt of members of the armed forces subject to military law, and, if the defendant is found guilty, to decide upon punishment.Most militaries maintain a court-martial system to try cases in which a breach of...

ed for their roles in the debacle (Revere was acquitted, Saltonstall was "dismissed the service").

In March 1780, Peleg was given command of all the troops raised for the defense of the Province of Maine
Province of Maine
The Province of Maine refers to several English colonies of that name that existed in the 17th century along the northeast coast of North America, at times roughly encompassing portions of the present-day U.S. states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, as well as the Canadian provinces of Quebec...

. On February 17, 1781, British soldiers overran his headquarters in Thomaston
Thomaston, Maine
Thomaston, Maine is a town on the coast of Maine the United States. The name may also refer to:*Thomaston , Maine, a census-designated place comprising the center of the town*South Thomaston, Maine, an adjacent town...

. Wadsworth was captured and imprisoned in Fort George at Bagaduce (Castine) (the same fort he had led the attack against in the summer of 1779), but he and fellow prisoner Maj. Benjamin Burton eventually escaped by cutting a hole in the ceiling of their jail and crawling out along the joists. Wadsworth then returned to his family in Plymouth, where he remained until the war's end.

After War Years

In April 1784 Wadsworth returned to Maine, purchased 1.5 acres (6,000 m²) of land on Back Street (now Congress Street in Portland
Portland, Maine
Portland is the largest city in Maine and is the county seat of Cumberland County. The 2010 city population was 66,194, growing 3 percent since the census of 2000...

), engaged in surveying, and opened a store in early 1785. There he also built a house, now the historic Wadsworth-Longfellow House
Wadsworth-Longfellow House
The Wadsworth-Longfellow House is an historic house and museum in Portland, Maine, United States. It is located at 489 Congress Street and is operated by the Maine Historical Society. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962, and administratively added to the National Register of...

. He headed the committee that organized the first convention to discuss independence for Maine from Massachusetts, held in January 1786. He and his wife had ten children, one of whom later gave birth to poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet and educator whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline...

. Although he continued to live in Portland, in 1790 he purchased 7800 acres (30 km²) from the Commonwealth in what became the town of Hiram, Maine
Hiram, Maine
Hiram is a town in Oxford County, Maine, United States. The population was 1,423 at the 2000 census. It includes the villages of Hiram, East Hiram, South Hiram and Durgintown...

, settled his son Charles there in 1795, and in 1800 built Wadsworth Hall there for his retirement.

In 1792 Wadsworth was chosen a presidential elector and a member of the Massachusetts Senate, and from 1793-1807 was the first representative in Congress from the region of Massachusetts that later became Maine. In January 1807 he moved to Hiram where he incorporated the township (February 27, 1807) and served as selectman, treasurer and magistrate. For the remainder of his life he devoted himself to farming and local concerns. He died in Hiram on July 18, 1829, and is buried in the family cemetery at Wadsworth Hall.
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