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History of the 3rd NH Regiment

The origins of the 3rd NH Regt we portray, the incarnation we focus on, are from the year 1776, but in fact the 3rd NH had it's origins in 1775. This confusion is best explained by understanding that through the American Revolution 1775 to 1783 there were three incarnations of the 3rd NH Regt (in fact three incarnations each for all three NH regiments, 1st, 2nd as well the 3rd).

When news of the fighting in Lexington and Concord on April 19th 1775 was heard the next day New Hampshire militia men voluntarily marched to Boston to help the Massachusetts minutemen. They eventually numbered near 2000, but most went back home after a few days when it became apparent that there would be no more immediate fighting in the coming days. In May 1775 New Hampshire raised three volunteer regiments for more permanent duty. They were recruited from the existing militia (believed to have numbered at least 18 regiments by then). The 1st NH Regiment was to be made up of the NH men who remained encamped outside of Boston, with some additional recruits. The 2nd NH Regiment was assigned to protect Portsmouth harbor and the seacoast area. The 3rd NH Regiment, commanded by Colonel James Reed, was assigned as a reserve force to back up the 1st Regt, and was sent down to the Boston area, arriving June 14th 1775 and finding no room in Cambridge they had to camp outside of town near the neck connecting to Charlestown peninsula and it's Breeds and Bunker Hills. By mere chance, when the fighting broke out on Bunker Hill the 3rd NH was the closest encamped American unit to the fighting.

Together with the 1st NH Regt the 3rd was at the thick of the fighting at Bunker Hill, lined up at the rail fence leading from the American redoubt down to the Mystic River. At the fence the two regiments combined were nearly 1200 men strong, outnumbering even the Massachusetts men in the battle. They repulsed the first two waves of British Army attacks, inflicted tremendous casualties upon the redcoats, and were eventually forced out of their positions only by artillery. Even then the New Hampshire men fought a hard delaying withdrawal, forcing the redcoats to pay for every inch gained, and covered the retreat of the other American forces back across the peninsula.

After Bunker Hill General George Washington took over command of the new Continental Army as it became known, and instituted new changes. All the American regiments were renumbered according to the seniority ranking of their commanding colonels, regardless of what colonies they were from. The 1st NH Regt became the 5th Continental Regiment, the 2nd NH (having moved down from Portsmouth to Cambridge after Bunker Hill and joining the other NH units) became the 8th Continental Regiment, and the 3rd NH became the 2nd Continental Regiment. This is the second incarnation of the 3rd NH Regt.

In the spring of 1776, after the British forces evacuated Boston on March 17th, the three NH regiments were sent to Fort Ticonderoga to throwback a British invasion force coming down Lake Champlain. But there was a massive out break of smallpox at Ticonderoga and one third of all the New Hampshire men assigned there died that year. The commander of the 3rd NH, Col Reed, caught the smallpox and was made blind and partially deaf by it, and he was forced to retire from the army. Lt Colonel Israel Gilman took over command of the 3rd NH temporarily from that point. After the Battle of Valcour Island the three regiments were sent down to join Washington's main army retreating from New York City.

Washington's entire army was only enlisted for one year, and most regiments had their enlistments run out on the last day of 1776, and he was desperate to recruit a new army for a much longer service time; three years or the duration of the war. But Washington was smart enough to try to get some units reenlisted early, and was successful with New Hampshire. In early November 1776 the entire New Hampshire force was reorganized yet again, and the 5th, 8th and 2nd Continental Regiments reverted back to their original 1st, 2nd and 3rd NH regiment designations, though this reorganization was not to officially take place until Jan 1st. This was the third incarnation of the 3rd NH, and the longest lasting.

On November 7th 1776 Daniel Livermore, a carpenter from Concord NH (and formerly a Lieutenant in the 1st NH Regt at Bunker Hill) was made a captain of his own company, and on November 8th was assigned to the newly recreated 3rd New Hampshire Regiment.  This is the company and regiment we portray most of the time.

But the three NH regiments were weakened greatly by November of 1776 and new recruits were desperately needed. The men were grouped up to make a few full strength companies, and the remaining officers who now had no men to command were ordered by Washington to return to their New Hampshire hometowns and recruit new men for the spring of 1777. Capt Livermore's commission was accepted by the NH Assembly on Jan 21st, 1777, and he was sent home on Feb 14th to recruit a new company, but the remaining force with Washington was placed under the command of NH general John Sullivan, and crossed the Delaware River with the rest of Washington's little army to attack the Hessian garrison at Trenton, New Jersey on Christmas night 1776. Sullivan's Brigade, with the remaining New Hampshire troops, marched the River Road and blocked the Hessian's escape route across the river.

In 1777 the 3rd NH Regiment, along with the other two NH regiments, were assigned once more to Fort Ticonderoga, again to repel an invasion from the north, this time led by British General John Burgoyne. But the NH regiments were still severely understrength, and were waiting for the newly recruited companies to arrive. The new companies were marching directly from their homes to Ticonderoga, and were still trickling in days before Burgoyne arrived. The new Colonel of the 3rd NH, Alexander Scammell, reported that they arrived May 20th. But by July 3rd Burgoyne had caught the fort in a great chess move and had cannons looking down upon the fort from Mount Defience. Ft Ticonderoga was evacuated, and Burgoyne desperately chased the Continentals to Hubbardton, Vermont where a short delaying battle was fought by the New England troops that were in the rear of the retreating Continental Army, some NH men being involved.

The Continentals rallied and attacked Burgoyne's force a few months later at Saratoga, and once again the 3rd NH was there in the thick of the fighting, helping force Burgoyne into surrender. After Saratoga the 3rd NH along with the other NH regiments were assigned back with Washington into winter quarters at Valley Forge. When the summer of 1778 came the 3rd NH was again in the fighting at Monmouth Courthouse, the largest land battle of the Revolution. At the end of 1778 the 3rd received their most complete set of uniforms ever, special contract coats made in France, commonly referred to today as the "Lottery" coats, and were brown wool with red facings. In 1779 the 3rd NH was assigned with Gen Sullivan to the western frontier to confront the Iroquois threat, Native American tribes that were allied to the British and were conducting their own raiding campaign against the frontier settlers. The 3rd distinguished itself in the Battle of Newtown where with the rest of the New Hampshire Brigade under General Enoch Poor they threw back Loyalist Rangers with spectacular musket volleys, and then helped the besiged 1st NH Regt through agile maneuvering and disciplined musket fire. It was this campaign that has become controversial to historians in recent years as it involved the destruction of Iroquois villages, nonetheless the action did knock the Iroquois out of the war and ended their ability to help the British on the frontier.

1780 brought a slowdown in the action for the 3rd NH and the entire northern theatre of the war, the emphasis of the war was shifted to the southern states. At this time the NH regiments were assigned to West Point in New York ironicly at the same time Benedict Arnold was going to betray West Point to the British. Some 3rd NH men were involved in the capture of Arnold's contact man, the British spy Major Andre. But most of the action for the NH troops this year was chasing after the "Cowboys", loyalists who raided cattle in the no-mans land of the NY Hudson Valley between the British and American armies.

On January 1st 1781, faced with reduced troops strengths, Washington was forced to reorganize his army again, and the 3rd NH Regiment was forced to disband and meld into the 1st NH Regt. Thus ended the existence of the 3rd New Hampshire Regiment, a powerful fighting force that had been there since Bunker Hill. But the men who remained, reassigned into the 1st NH, continued the fight. The former Colonel of the 3rd, Alexander Scammell, was wounded at Yorktown on Sept 30th, 1781 and he died of his wounds Oct 6th. Capt Livermore continued to command a company now in the 1st NH, and survived past Yorktown, and did not retire until 1783 as a Major. The fighting men of New Hampshire continued on and when the Continental Army, having endured past Yorktown in 1781 and even the peace that came with the Treaty of Paris in 1783, disbanded and handed control over to the new United States Army on January 1st, 1784, the New Hampshire men were still there in the ranks, and gained the distinction of being the longest serving fighting force of the American Revolution.

For a fully detailed history of the entire Continental Army read Robert K Wright Jr's superb book "The Continental Army":

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