WMM Westford Colonial Minutemen

Colonel John Robinson

Page Guide
  • Biography
  • Entry in Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors

  • Col. John Robinson Homestead

    Col. Robinson's house on Robinson Rd. as it appeared in 1902.  Unfortunately, the house was razed by fire in 1937.
    A stone marker remains near the original location of the house.
    This image has been reproduced with the kind permission of Marilyn Day


    As discussed on the History   page, Robinson was Lt. Col. in Col. William Prescott's regiment of minutemen.  He was offered command at the bridge by Concord's Maj. John Buttrick but respectfully declined, citing it would be more appropriate for him to act as his aide since his own men had not yet arrived in significant numbers.   Following April 19th, 1775, during the siege of Boston, John Robinson continued as Lt. Col. in Col. Prescott's regiment, then designated the 10th Regiment.  As such, Robinson took part in the construction of the defenses at Bunker (Breed's) Hill.  He also served with distinction during the Battle.  See the letter from Col. Prescott to John Adams, written two months after the battle.  According to the letter, Robinson, along with Major Henry Woods, were each sent with a detachment to present some opposition along the British flank, possibly along the Charlestown side of the American front.  The British did not initially try to assault along that side of the redoubt due to American snipers in and around Charlestown.  Was this Lt. Col. Robinson's detachment?

    Robinson's Regiment -- Camp at Cambridge, 1776

    New information has come to light regarding a militia regiment that was commanded by Col. Robinson during the siege of Boston.  The existence of this regiment is not noted in past biographies describing Robinson's military career, and so is not widely known.   In February, 2003, it was confirmed that a previously unrecognized orderly book belonging to "Robinson's Regiment, Camp at Cambridge" was that of Col. John Robinson. This discovery  provided the initial direction for this new research.  

    The regiment was one of thirteen New England regiments organized for service in February and March of 1776, and Robinson was chosen as its colonel.  George Wahington, then in command of the army laying siege to Boston, was encouraged to request the formation of these militia regiments when it became clear that the new Continental Army enlistments which were to begin on January 1st, 1776 were not as robust as hoped.  The commission papers of Westford's Silas Procter, who served as 1st Lieutenant in Josiah Warren's (3rd) company in this regiment,  state that his company was "raised by this Colony as a temporary reinforcement to the American Army until the first day of April next...".  (As it turned out, the siege ended on March 23rd when the British evacuated Boston as a reaction to the newly entrenched artillery pieces on Dorchester Heights.)

    The orderly book has been transcribed and can be found within the following pages:

    The orderly book of Col. John Robinson's Regiment, Camp at Cambridge, Feb - March, 1776

    John Buttrick of Concord, who led the provincials at the North Bridge with Isaac Davis and John Robinson, was Robinson's Lt. Col. in this regiment.  Rev. Joseph Thaxter  served as the regimental chaplain.  Westford doctor Asaph Fletcher was commissioned the regimental surgeon.   Another notable figure who served in this regiment was Captain Job Shattuck of Groton who would later gain fame as a rebel leader during Shays's Rebellion of 1786-87.   Research into this regiment is continuing and we hope to have significant new information posted on this website in early 2004.

    Robinson's Regiment -- Rhode Island, 1777

    In 1777 Robinson formed his own regiment for service in Rhode Island.   The regiment served there for 6 months until January 1, 1778.  Muster rolls for several of the companies of this regiment can be found in the records of the National Archives.  Further details will hopefully find their way to this site later this year.

    In addition to his military service, Robinson was also a town selectman from 1771-73.


    In addition to the upheaval caused by the start of the war,  personal tragedy struck the Robinson family during the summer of 1775: Within one two week period, three of the children died.  On August 30th Sarah died at the age 3 yrs, 3 months, and Betty at the age of 5 yrs, 3 months.  Mehitable died on September 9th at the age of 8 yrs, 28 days.   Although the cause is not certain, it is quite likely that they were victims of the diseases that were being brought out into the countryside from the military camps surrounding Boston during the siege of '75-'76.  Not uncommon during this period, such examples help to remind us that the human costs of the war were not limited to soldiers in battle, but by indirect means to their families at home as well.

    The following short biography is taken from Hodgman's History of Westford:

    He was the son of Jacob and Mary (Gould) Robinson, and was born in Topsfield, 1735, and died in Westford, June 13, 1805.  He married Huldah Perley, of Boxford, November 27, 1764. Their children were:
    1. Huldah, born September 23, 1765.
    2. Mehitable, born August 9, 1767.
    3. Betty, born May 3, 1770.
    4. Sally, born May 3, 1772.
    5. Rebecca, born July 7, 1774.
    6. John, born February 17, 1781.

    Col. Robinson was buried in the West Cemetery, and the headstone at his grave bears the following inscription :

    "Here reposes the body of Col. John Robinson, who expired June 13th, 1805, aged 70 years. In 1775 he distinguished himself by commanding the corps of soldiers who first opposed the menacing attempts of the British troops at Concord Bridge.
    Here rest thine ashes; on thy silent grave May dews distil and laurels gently wave;
    Let heralds far proclaim thy soul was fired By love of freedom and by Heaven inspired. First in the glorious cause our rights to attain, Last in our hearts shall thy brave deeds remain."


    Note that the Robinson family tradition, as expressed in his epitaph, states that Col. Robinson commanded at the North Bridge.


    A few of John Robinson's belongings from the Revolutionary War period can be seen on display at the Westford Museum .

    Entry in Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors

     Entries in Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War, 1775-1783 relating to Col. John Robinson:

    Westford. Lieutenant Colonel, Col. William Prescott's regt.; entered service April 19,1775; service, 3 mos. 20 days; also, Lieutenant Colonel, Col. Prescott's regt.; return of officers, dated May 25,1775; ordered in Provincial Congress May 26, 1775, that said officers be commissioned; also, Lieutenant Colonel, Col. Prescott's (10th) regt.; list of field, and staff officers appearing on a return of Capt. Henry Farwell's (1st) co. [probably Oct., 1775]; also, petition addressed to the Council, dated. Cambridge, Oct. 28, 1775, signed by Col. William Prescott and said Robinson, asking that certain officers belonging to Col. Prescott's regt. who had served as commissioned officers from the formation of the army receive their commissions; ordered in Council Oct. 31, 1775, that said officers be recommended to Gen. Washington for commissions; also, official record of a ballot by the House of Representatives, dated May 7, 1777; said Robinson chosen Colonel of a regiment to be raised for defense of Boston harbor; appointment concurred in by Council May 8, 1777; reported commissioned May 8,1777; also, Colonel; muster roll of field, and staff officers, dated North Kingston, Dec. 18, 1777; commissioned June 27, 1777; term, 6 months, to expire Jan. 1, 1778; also, Colonel, Col. David Mosely's (3d Hampshire Co.) regt.; entered service June 12, 1782; discharged June 14, 1782; service, 3 days; horse rations allowed said Robinson; reported as not belonging to said regiment although serving with it; regiment raised for support of the government at Northampton.

    Under --- Robinson:  Order of the day, dated May 18, 1775; said Robinson, Lieutenant Colonel, reported officer of the day for "tomorrow"; also, order of the day, dated Cambridge, June 1, 1775; said Robinson, Lieutenant Colonel, reported as field officer of fatigue for "to morrow".

    Under John Robertson:  Order of the day, dated Cambridge, May 18, and May 25, 1775; said Robertson, Lieutenant Colonel, appointed field officer of the day for May 19, and May 26, 1775; also, general order dated June 13, 1775; said Robertson, Lieutenant Colonel, appointed officer of the main guard "to morrow morning"; also, official record of a ballot by the House of Representatives, dated Jan. 23, 1776, for officers to command the six regiments to be raised to serve before Boston until April 1, 1776; said Robertson chosen Colonel of a regiment to be raised in Middlesex and Lincoln counties; appointment concurred in by Council Jan. 23, 1776.

    Under --- Roberts
    : Order of the day, dated Cambridge, May 19, 1775; said Roberts, Lieutenant Colonel, reported field officer of the picket guard "to night".

    © 2000 - 2004  D.P. Lacroix

    Page added February, 2000
    Last Updated 21 May, 2004

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