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Hand sketch portrait of Glover

Portrait of General Glover by John Trumbull, drawn while he was living at his farmhouse, 1794. (Yale University Art Gallery)

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Painting of the John Glover's schooner the Hannah, first ship in the Continental Navy (by John F. Leavitt. Navy Art Gallery)

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Washington Crossing the Delaware, transported by Glover's troops. Painting by Emanuel Leutze, 1851, (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Annual commemoration of General Glover's death at his tomb by Glover's Regiment

(Old Burial Hill, Marblehead, MA)

General John Glover

John Glover was born in Salem, Massachusetts on November 5, 1732 –– the same year as the future General Washington whom Glover would later serve so capably and essentially. The third son of a house carpenter, he was baptized at the First Church in Salem, and his family lived in a house built by his father overlooking Prison Lane (now St. Peter Street) in Salem.  After his father died when he was only about four, his mother, Tabitha (Bacon) moved him and his three brothers to the neighboring town of Marblehead.


As a young man, Glover became a cordwainer (shoe maker), then a rum trader, and eventually a ship owner and Atlantic merchant. He would join the Marblehead militia in 1759, and the Marblehead Masonic Lodge in 1760 as one of its founding or early members.  He married Hannah Gale in October 1754, and they would have eleven children.

In 1770, as political tensions provoked an event later called the “Boston Massacre,” Committees of Correspondence were formed. Marblehead elected Glover and future revolutionaries Elbridge Gerry and Colonel Azor Orne to committee posts, along with others. After the First Continental Congress passed non-importation agreements sanctioning trade with the British, Glover was elected to enforce the embargo as a member of Marblehead’s Committee of Inspection.

 

In 1773, the New England Region experienced  a deadly smallpox outbreak. John Glover, his brother Jonathan, Azor Orne and Elbridge Gerry petitioned the town of Marblehead for an inoculation hospital to be built on Cat Island (now called Children's Island). After the Marblehead townspeople voted against it, the four took it upon themselves to privately fund its construction  on the island after receiving permission from Salem.  Known as the Essex Hospital, it was successful in inoculating the majority of the patients. However, because inoculation meant injecting people with a mild form of the disease to give them a measure of immunity before they caught a more virulent and deadly strain, many of Marblehead's citizens were still fearful, and several took matters into their own hands and forced it to close by burning it down. 

 

As 1775 began, Glover, the future Revolutionary War hero,  was a 43-year-old inn-keeper, merchant and ship owner, and a Major in Marblehead’s rebel (Patriot) militia, which had been training for war since January. In May or June 1775, following the sudden and unexpected death of his superior officer and townsman Colonel Jeremiah Lee, John Glover was promoted to Colonel, assuming full command of the Marblehead Regiment, a full official Continental Army military of more than 500 men, mostly from this one town nearly 5,000 residents, which was at that time was the sixth most populous metropolis in British North America.

That Spring, as North Atlantic fishing was suddenly halted in March 1775 when a new economic sanction called the “Fisheries Act” took effect,  as part of the Restraining Acts that Parliament imposed on New England’s rebelling colonists, patriotic sentiment was easily stirred up to win enlistments from the fishermen’s ranks.  Before long, nearly 600 men from Marblehead’s approximately one thousand families (plus a few from nearby towns) had enrolled in ten militia companies, including seamen and tradesmen, merchants’ sons and laborers, and the Continental Congress commissioned Glover’s cohort as the Twenty-First Continental Army regiment.  Some of the men were Spanish, Native American, Jewish, and African American, forming one of the first integrated units in the American service. 

Beginning in September 1775, Glover would subsequently outfit his own ships to become privateers to harass British merchant shipping, forerunners of the future U.S. Navy.  

In 1776, Colonel Glover's amphibious regiment saved George Washington's troops at least three times.  In August, his men commandeered boats to evacuate the Continental Army that was trapped on Long Island (9,000 men plus horses, oxen, and cannon), then in September valiantly deflected attacking British troops at Kip’s Bay as Continental troops fled, and defended Pelham Point in New York. And on Christmas night, 1776, during a raging snowstorm, they ferried 2,400 soldiers, artillery, and horses across the ice-choked Delaware River in 30-foot boats for the successful surprise attack on Hessian mercenary troops in Trenton, New Jersey. They rowed back again in worsened conditions, with prisoners, after even a more difficult 9-mile march back to the river.  

In 1777, Washington promoted Glover to Brigadier General, a role in which he continued to excel despite devastating personal losses, such as the death of his wife, as well as the loss his eldest son in the war, and his own failing health.

 

In 1781, Glover was rewarded for his service with an authorization to purchase the confiscated farm of Salem Loyalist William Browne, on today’s border of Marblehead and Swampscott, from the state of Massachusetts.  The  farmhouse sat on 180 acres and was Glover's home in the postwar years. 

 

That same year he married again, a widow, Frances Fosdick, the mother of one of General Glover’s young adjutant officers.  That year or soon after, the Glovers probably moved to the  farm.

In 1784, the Marquis de Lafayette visited Marblehead during his farewell tour of the new United States before he returned home to France. No doubt a highlight of his stop in the seaport he had heard so much about included, in particular, a  visit with his friend Glover, who had fought with him in America’s Revolutionary War.

During Glover’s fifteen years of retirement after the war, he worked to rebuild his shipping trade and served in elected offices including six terms as a town selectman, a delegate to the state convention that ratified the U.S. Constitution (1788), and a two-term member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives (1788-1789). During his 1789 inaugural tour of the United States, President George Washington made a special detour to Marblehead to thank the townspeople for their service and sacrifices during the war –– and very likely to see his former reliable army officer John Glover.

Glover died at his home on January 30, 1797 and was buried at Old Burial Hill in Marblehead. His death is marked annually by Glover’s Marblehead Regiment. His legacy is commemorated by various memorials through the region.

 

This includes:

  • A statue on Commonwealth Ave in Boston

  • Glover School in Marblehead, 

  • Glover's Rock in Bronx, NY (where he had led his regimental troops in a key defensive battle),

  • The town of Glover, Vermont (where Glover was an early land investor in that northern region, as many post-Revolutionary American officers and businessmen were in that and other areas in Maine and upper New England)

  • The nearby Glover Pioneer Day Camp

  • The 1960s U.S. Naval frigate USS Glover (FF-1098), which was christened by his descendants.

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Statue of General John Glover on Commonwealth Ave in Boston

(by sculptor Martin Milmore)

Further Reading

Books & Literature

General John Glover and his Marblehead Mariners
by George Billias 

Saving Washington's Army: The Brilliant Last Stand of General John Glover at the Battle of Pell's Point, New York, October 18, 1776
by Phillip Thomas Tucker

The Indispensables: The Diverse Soldier-Mariners Who Shaped the Country, Formed the Navy, and Rowed Washington Across the Delaware
by Patrick K. O'Donnell 

Washington's Savior: General John Glover and the American Revolution: : General John Glover and the American Revolution
by Richard A. Brayall 

Gen. John Glover and his Marblehead regiment in the Revolutionary War : A paper read before the Marblehead Historical Society, May 14, 1903
by Nathan P. Sanborn

Read online at Library of Congress

Online Articles

Online Lecture

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