1778

 

 

 

In 1778, in what is now Fall River (then part of Freetown), there were eighteen houses, most clustered near the Taunton River.

 

Part way up the hill to the north stood Judge (and Legislator) Thomas Durfee's house, a large home for those times. The house was situated just south of the present Superior Courthouse on North Main Street. An interesting fact is that the well for the house still is visible behind the Courthouse. The house was probably built before Durfee’s son, Joseph, was born in 1750. The Judge was then about thirty years old.

 

The Durfee property extended from the Taunton River eastward to the Watuppa Pond; a vast acreage of fields, orchards, outbuildings and woodlands with deer roaming freely. In later years Judge Durfee would mortgage all his lands to help finance the American Revolution, a goal toward which he was completely devoted. His son, Joseph, was destined to lead a company of Minutemen in the heroic struggle for independence. As a colonel, Joseph Durfee, served with Lafayette in battles at White Plains, New York and across the State of Rhode Island.

 

more on the Battle of Fall River



Colonel Joseph Durfee (1.)

 

Early in the offspring of the 1777, I received a major's commission, and was stationed at Little Compton, in the state of Rhode Island, in the regiment under the command of Colonel John Hathaway of Berkeley, Mass. At Little Compton and in that neighborhood I continued several months on duty with the regiment, often changing our station, to repel the invasions of the enemy and to protect the inhabitants from their depredations. In the fall of 1777, I returned home to Fall River. I found the citizens, among whom were my relatives and best friends, exposed and continually harassed by the enemy. I applied to several of the leading and influential men of this place, and proposed raising a guard for the safety and protection of the inhabitants. They coincided with my views, and the necessity or a guard to protect our defenceless inhabitants. I went to Providence to consult General Sullivan, who was commander-in-chief of all forces raised in this section of the country, and to obtain assistance from him. He approved of my plan of raising a guard, and gave me an order for 2 whaleboats, and an order also for rations for 20 men, drawn upon the commissary, then at Bristol. I soon raised a guard, procured the store now standing at the end of the Iron Works Companies wharf in this place for a guard-house, where we met every day, called the roll, and stationed sentinels for the night to watch the movements of the enemy and give the alarm when approached. The orders of the sentinels were peremptory - that if a boat was seen approaching in the night, to hail them three times, and if no answer was received to fire upon them. It was not long before one of the guard, Samuel Reed, discovered boats silently and cautiously approaching the shore from the bay. The challenge was given but no answer received. He fired upon the boats. This created an alarm and the whole neighborhood were soon in arms. I stationed the guard behind a stone wall, and kept up a constant fire upon the enemy until they brought their cannon to bear upon us, and commence firing grapeshot amongst us, when, as we were unable to return the compliment, it was deemed advisable to retreat. Two of the guard were sent to remove all the planks which lay over the stream for foot people to cross the pond, and to cut off it, as far as possible, every facility crossing the stream, except the upper bridge. We then retreated slowly until we reached the main road, near where the bridge now crosses the stream. I then gave orders to form and give them battle. This was done, and never were soldiers more brave. So roughly with the enemy handled by our little band of Spartans, that they soon beat a retreat, leaving behind them one dead and another bleeding to death, beside the wounded, whom they carried away.

 

That wounded soldier, left by the enemy, before he expired, informed me that that the number of the enemy who attacked us was about 150, commanded by Major Ayers. When the enemy landed, they set fire to the House of Thomas Borden then nearly new. They next set fire to a gristmill and a sawmill belonging to Mr. Borden, standing at the mouth of the Fall River. These buildings I saw when set on fire. When the British troops retreated, as they were compelled to do, from the shots of our little band of volunteers, they set fire to the House and other buildings of Richard Borden, then an aged man and took him prisoner. We pursued them so closely in their retreat that we were enabled to save the buildings which they had last fired. The British were frequently fired upon and not a little annoyed by the musketry of our soldiers, as they passed down the bay in the boats on their retreat. Mr. Richard Borden, whom they took prisoner, was in one of their boats. Fining themselves closely pursued by a few American soldiers, who from the shore poured in their shot and balls upon them as fast as they could load and fire, and finding themselves in danger from the musketry of these few brave Whigs who pursued them, they ordered Mr. Borden, the prisoner, to stand up in the boat, hoping that his comrades on the shore would recognize him and desist from firing upon them. But this he refused to do; and threw himself flat into the bottom of the boat. While laying there, a shot from the Americans on shore killed one of the British soldiers standing by his side in the boat. Mr. Borden was obstinately silent to all questions which they asked him; so that not being able to make any profitable use of him, they dismissed and in a few days on parole. This engagement took place of a Sabbath morning, on the 25th of May, 1778. The two British soldiers killed in this engagement, were buried at twelve o'clock on the same day of the battle, near where the South end of the Massasoit Factory now stands.

 

 

" Fall River’s Link to American Revolution"

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Lafayette Durfee

Historical Foundation