Patriots’ Day is a special day in New England commemorating the beginning of the American fight for independence. The Revolution against the British began in Massachusetts at Lexington and Concord on the early morning of April 19, 1775. For many years the event was celebrated in Massachusetts and Maine, a colony of Massachusetts at that time, on the traditional date. Since 1969 it has been observed on the third Monday in April.
One hundred and five Minute Men from Andover answered the Lexington alarm, although they arrived as the British were retreating. Joined by 230 foot soldiers from this town they pursued the enemy to Cambridge. Throughout the war Andover sent 700 men to the battlefield. Many of them were recognized for their contribution.
Peter Martin and John Lovejoy were among a select number of Revolutionary soldiers chosen to serve in the elite Commander-in-Chief’s Guard. The men were hand-picked by General George Washington to fill a two-year commitment. Although a good deal is recorded about their military experience, little is known of their personal lives. One of them met a tragic fate while a member of the group. The strict requirements demanded of “the flower of the American Army” speak highly of the Andover men’s character.
The Guard, also known as Washington’s Life Guard, was formed in the spring of 1776 in Cambridge. Its purpose was to protect the commander-in-chief and the official papers of the Continental Army. The unit, consisting of approximately 180 infantry and cavalry, accompanied Washington in all battles. Because it was an honor to belong to the Guard an effort was made to include soldiers from each of the 13 original colonies.
The General directed the formation of a corps of “sober, intelligent and reliable men.” The Guard was initially created by selecting four qualified men from each regiment of the Continental Army present at the siege of Boston. From that group the necessary number of men was picked.
Washington stipulated that the qualified soldier should demonstrate “habits of sobriety, honesty and good behavior.” Candidates were to be between 5’ 8” and 5’ 10” tall and “handsomely and well-made.” The General expressed that as there was nothing more desirable in his eyes than cleanliness in a soldier, the men should be “neat and spruce.”
At 16, Peter Martin was among 335 Andover men who answered the alarm of April 19, 1775. John Lovejoy was 32 when in December 1775 he joined Captain John Abbot’s Company for one year.
Both men enlisted in the 11th Massachusetts Regiment for a term of three years in February 1777. Martin fought in the battle of Stillwater in New York. The Andover men were among four candidates from the regiment recommended to the Guard in 1778. Both residents were selected and transferred that March to General Washington’s headquarters at Valley Forge. By then Congress had finally approved supplies for the troops who had suffered through the winter without adequate food and clothing. Several Andover men were among the troops. One of them died.
That spring the Army was re-vitalized by Prussian military expert Baron Friedrich von Steuben, who oversaw the training and discipline of the men, including the Guard. Von Steuben’s training regimen showed immediate results in battles against the British at Barren Hill and Monmouth, N.J. Martin and Lovejoy participated in the confrontation at Monmouth on June 28, 1778.
Martin served the Guard until 1780. Following his commitment he enlisted with the 2nd Massachusetts and saw action at Yorktown, Va. He continued his military career to war’s end in 1783.
Private Lovejoy’s service with the Guard was short-lived. In October 1778, while attending an anniversary celebration of Burgoyne’s Saratoga defeat, he was run over by a horse and died of his injuries.