ROBERT SEDGWICK

 

Taken from the HISTORY OF THE MILITARY COMPANY OF THE MASSACHUSETTS NOW CALLED THE ANCIENT AND HONORABLE ARTILLERY COMPANY OF MASSACHUSETTS. Volume I, 1637-1738.

courtesy of Doyle Brewer BREWERHUNT@aol.com

Robert Sedgwick (1637), the second signer of the original roll of the Company, was a son of William and Elizabeth (Howe) Sedgwick, and was born in Woburn, Bedfordshire, England, where he was baptized May 6, 1613. He married, in England, Joanna --------, who after his death became the second wife of Rev. Thomas Allen, of Norwich, England, previously of Charlestown, Mass. Mr. Allen’s first wife was Ann (Sadler) Harvard, the widow of Rev. John Harvard.

Capt. Sedgwick (1637) and his wife Joanna joined the Charlestown church, Feb. 27, 1636-7, having emigrated to America in 1635. He became a freeman March 9, 1636-7, when he was appointed Captain for the town, and the next month was chosen a representative. He was repeatedly re-elected, and served in the General Court sixteen terms. He was engaged in Charleston in mercantile pursuits. His house fronted on the square near where the Bunker Hill Bank now stands, and his wharves were near the town dock. Mr. Whitman (1810) says that, "Capt Sedgwick (1637) had been a member of the Artillery Company in London," but his name does not appear on the records or roll of the Honourable Artillery. He was probably connected with "the Military Garden of London," an association for improvement in the art of war, distinct from the company above mentioned. Johnson (1637) plainly tells us that Capt. Sedgwick (1637) was "nursed up in London’s Artillery Garden."

He was chosen captain of the first train-band in Charlestown which he drilled every Friday afternoon; he was captain of the Artillery Company of the Massachusetts in 1640, 1645, and 1648; commander at the castle in 1641, and of the Middlesex regiment in 1643. On the organization of the colonial militia, in 1644, he was appointed "Sergeant Major or commander of the Middlesex regiment. In a pamphlet entitled "Good News from New England," the author says: -

"Prest to oppose haters of peace with guide

Of officers, three regiments abide

In Middlesex, seven ensigns are displayed,

There disciplined by Major Sedgwicke’s aid."

When, in 1645, a king’s ship had been captured in Boston Harbor by Capt. Stagg, who had been commissioned by Parliament, the General Court authorized and appointed Sergt.-Major Gibbons (1637), of Boston, and Sergt.-Major Sedgwick (1637), of Charlestown, "to keep the peace in the said towns, and not to permit any ships to fight in the harbor, without license from authority."

Capt. Sedgwick (1637) was associated with John Winthrop, Jr., and other leading colonists, in establishing iron-works at Lynn, in 1643, the first, it is affirmed, on the American continent. Smelting, forging, and casting were carried on for some years, the bog-ore furnishing the raw material; but Hubbard says that soon, "instead of drawing out bars of iron for the country’s use, there was hammered out nothing but contention and law-suits." After a lingering existence of forty years, the fire of the forges was finally extinguished, the buildings were razed, and heaps of scoria only remained for vegetation, the course of years, to convert into grassy hillocks. In other business operations, Capt. Sedgwick (1637) subjected himself to admonition for the same "frailty" which caused his friend, Capt. Keayne (1637), so much persecution by church and state, "taking more than sixpence in the shilling profit"; but he escaped with an admonition.

In 1652, Sergt.-Major Sedgwick was promoted to the rank of "Sergeant-Major General," or commander-in-chief. He held the office for one year, during which time he was actively engaged in improving the discipline and drill of the colonial forces, spending his money freely, whenever and wherever it was needed.

Gen. Sedgwick (1637), attracting the favorable attention of Oliver Cromwell, then Lord Protector of Great Britain, was authorized, with Capt. John Leverett (1639), afterwards Governor, to organize an expedition against New Netherlands, now New York. Cromwell furnished them with three ships and a small body of troops, and authorized them to increase their force by recruits in New England. When, after some delays, they arrived at Boston, the Dutch war was already over, and, before the Massachusetts contingents could be enlisted, news of the peace reached Boston. The commissioners then determined to make Acadia the object of their attack. "It was," says Hutchinson, "a time of peace between the two nations, but the English had good right to the country, and the complaints of the French in Europe could not prevail upon Cromwell to give it up again." The Lord Protector asserted that a sum of money, promised by France in consideration of the cession of Acadia, had never been paid. Gen. Sedgwick’s (1637) account of his collecting an expedition is so Cromwellian in its tone that it merits republication. It is dated, "From General Sedgwick (1637) at Charles Town, New England, this 24th September, 1654," and is as follows:-

"I know you cannot but be acquainted with our first business we were designed unto. God did not seem to smile upon us in that business, in many of his workings towards us. But so it fell out, even when we were ready to advance with our forces to the southward, we had countermands as touching that business; we, then, being in a posture of war, and soldiers here listed in pay, attended the other part of our commission against the French, and the fourth of July set sail for Nantusket with 3 ships, one Catch and about two hundred Land Soldiers of old England and New. Our first place designed for was St. John’s Fort, there we arrived the 15 Ditto, and in four days took it in, where we found a gallant fort, above seventy proper Soldiers, seventeen peeces of Ordnance, besides Murtherers, Stockefowlers and other Ammunition. Having send away the French and settled our Garrison, we set sail for Port Riall, and five days after our arrival there, took in that Fort, as also a ship of France, that lay under the Fort; In the Fort, we found Seamen, Soldiers and Planters, about 135 fighting men. Our force with which we landed, and lay intrenched against the Fort was but equal in number; there was in the Fort twenty peeces of Ordnance, above forty barrels of powder, with other necessaries. Our work being finished there, we set sail for Penobscout, and took that in, where we found a small Fort, yet very strong, and a very well composed peece with eight peece or Ordnance on Brass, three murtherers, about eighteen Barrels of powder, and eighteen men in garrison. I am willing to hope God intends a blessing in this affair to the English Nation, and to the Plantations in particular. It’s a brave Countrey full of fine Rivers, Airable Pastors, full of Timber, gallant Masts, full of Mines, Coal, Marble, Iron, Lead, and some say, Copper. Many convenient places for fishing, making of Oyl, and good quantities of trade for Beaver and Mous-skins."

Cromwell, who had once thought of emigrating to New England, often expressed a tender regard for the settlers there, and near the close of 1654 he undertook to carry out a plan whereby he might mitigate their trials and hardships by providing homes for them in a more congenial climate where there was a fertile soil. The expedition was repulsed on the island of Hispaniola, but seized the island of Jamaica on the 17th of May, 1655. The troops were soon reinforced by four regiments, one of which was commanded by Gen. Sedgwick (1637), who was immediately detailed to act in the place of Edward Winslow, deceased, as a commissioner to govern the conquered territory. In his first report, he said that he found things "in a said, deplorable and dejected condition," the soldiers being "so lazy and idle as it cannot enter into the heart of any Englishman that such blood should run in the veins of any born in England." As the original commissioners were all dead, Gen. Sedgwick (1637), in conjunction with the principal military officers, framed an instrument of civil government, constituting a Supreme Executive Council, with himself at its head. Cromwell approved of what he did, and promoted him to the rank of the major-general, using every exertion to procure emigrants from Scotland and Ireland for his colony. Gen. Sedgwick (1637) died on the 24th of May, 1656, soon after he received his new appointment. His widow was living in 1667 at Stepney, near London. Their daughter, Sarah, was the second wife of Gov. Leverett (1639). Gen. Sedgwick (1637) and wife, Joanna, had five children, of whom William joined the Artillery Company in 1666, and Robert in 1674. The Book of Possessions (City Document No. 39,. P. 2), represents him as owning nine separate pieces of property in Charlestown, containing about forty-eight acres. He was an active citizen, devoted to the interests of the town, superintended the building of the first fortifications in Charlestown, and was one of the most conspicuous persons of his time.