Post written by Hall of Fame committee secretary, Arthur Hale Veasey III onto the Facebook group. You can follow the conversation on Facebook, even if you aren’t a member. While having a Facebook account will allow you to participate, you can still read the posts as a non-member.
“Born February 16, 1738 in Newbury, Massachusetts, James Brickett was the son of James Brickett and Susanna Pillsbury. He and Edna Merrill were married in October 1759 in West Newbury. Dr. Brickett established a physician’s practice in Haverhill and shortly thereafter, began his medical career as a surgeon’s mate in the French and Indian Wars. By 1774, Brickett was the first Captain to lead the Haverhill Light Artillery Company and was soon elevated to Lieutenant Colonel.
On the morning of April 19, 1775, one hundred five men, including three commissioned officers, were enlisted when the first shots were fired at Lexington. Word of the skirmish reached Haverhill around noontime. By nightfall, Captain James Sawyer’s Minutemen were in hot pursuit of the action, followed by two other companies led by Captain Ebenezer Colby and Lieutenant Samuel Clements, arriving in Cambridge the next day.
The first battle of the Revolution was at Bunker Hill, and Haverhill Minutemen under the regimental command of Colonel Brickett were present in large numbers, with fifty-two in Captain Sawyer’s company and seventy-four altogether. Among the volunteers was a young private from Haverhill named Bartholomew Pecker. Bart Pecker would later distinguish himself as a member of “Washington’s Life Guards,” an elite unit of the Continental Army that protected General Washington in all of his battles throughout the Revolution.
The battle began on June 17 at Breeds Hill above Charlestown. Colonel Brickett was at the side of General Israel Putnam on the adjacent Bunker Hill when a cannonball struck close to where they stood and knocked them both to the ground. Brickett was wounded in the foot and retreated to the north side of the hill with other surgeons where he attended to other casualties. At the end of the day, 115 patriots were killed, including two from Haverhill, John Eaton and Simeon Pike. The British took the ground but suffered 226 dead and 828 wounded, the highest casualty count that would be suffered by the British in the entire war. It was a pyrrhic victory for the Redcoats and an inspiration for the colonists.
Brickett was promoted to Brigadier General as the war expanded. He led an expedition to Canada and Fort Ticonderoga. Later, he commanded a regiment of volunteer Massachusetts Militiamen that marched from Haverhill to reinforce the Northern Army at Saratoga, where British General Burgoyne famously surrendered to General Horatio Gates. This was the historic turning point in the war. The Americans prevented the British from dividing New England from the rest of the colonies and caused France to join in the war as our ally. After the surrender, General Brickett took command of a detachment of soldiers that escorted the prisoners from the Hudson River battlegrounds to Cambridge, a march of nearly 200 miles.
Brickett, who unwisely advanced his own funds to pay for provisions and accommodations for his troops, was subsequently caught in a paradox of rules and never received reimbursement, despite his petition. Massachusetts claimed that the United States government was responsible for the debt, while the Congress took the position that Brickett was under commission from Massachusetts and not an officer of the Continental Army. In spite of this act of bureaucratic unfairness he remained firm in his commitment serving as a member of the Constitutional Convention at Boston in June 1780.
The war for independence lasted until 1783. An early historian once recalled of Haverhill: “There were but few towns that so freely sent their sons to the field of strife. They were willing to spend their treasure and shed their blood; and when there was scarcely room to hope, the votes which were passed in their town meetings, show a spirit of coolness, determination, and patriotism, which is truly astonishing.”