People in History

Abigail Adams
Abigail Adams. Source: Smithsonian Institution.

Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams (1744-1818), born Abigail Smith in Weymouth, Massachusetts, was an American first lady (1797-1801), the wife of John Adams, second president of the Unites States, and mother of John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the United States. She was a prolific letter writer whose correspondence gives an intimate and vivid portrayal of life in the young republic.

A woman of exceptional ability and acute political skill, Adams was an invaluable support to her husband throughout his political career. Indeed, as a couple the Adams's are an excellent example of the value of husband-wife partnership in public life. Moreover, Adams advocated and modeled an expanded role for women in public affairs during the formative days of the United States. She helped plant the seeds that would start women and men thinking about women's rights and roles in a country that had been founded on the ideals of equality and independence.

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica and New World Encyclopedia (accessed online Jan. 2019).

Maria Weston Chapman

Maria Weston Chapman (1806-1885), born Maria Weston in Weymouth, Massachusetts, was an American abolitionist and the principal lieutenant of the antislavery leader William Lloyd Garrison.

Chapman became chief assistant to Garrison, helping him to run the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society and to edit The Liberator, a widely-circulated abolitionist publication. In 1839, she published Right and Wrong in Massachusetts, a pamphlet that argued that the deep divisions among abolitionists stemmed from their disagreements over women’s rights. From 1839 to 1842, she also edited the Non-Resistant, the publication of Garrison’s New England Non-Resistance Society. Chapman raised funds for the abolition movement by organizing anti-slavery fairs throughout New England.

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica (accessed online Jan. 2019).

Susan Torrey Merritt

Anti-Slavery Picnic at Weymouth Landing, Massachusetts, c. 1845Susan Torrey Merritt (1826-1879), born Susan Torrey in Weymouth, Massachusetts, was an untrained artist who achieved fame for her 1845 artwork, Anti-Slavery Picnic at Weymouth Landing, Massachusetts.

This painting depicts a busy Fourth of July scene with a banquet table and dozens of guests in the forefront. Amid the sea of people are several African American figures, indicative of an abolitionist or anti-slavery event of the time. 

Merritt's work is a watercolor, gouache, and collage on paper, with each figure glued to the landscape as a separate cut out. Though painstaking, this technique allows the artist to arrange and rearrange her work until the desired results are achieved.

Source: Art Institute of Chicago (accessed online Jan. 2019).

Jerry Quinn of Lovell's Corner

One of the really outstanding personal stories of Weymouth in the American Civil War is that of Jerry Quinn, Company “H” of the 4th Massachusetts Cavalry - the man who pulled down the Confederate flag and raised the United States flag over the capitol at Richmond, Virginia on April 3, 1865.

Jerry Quinn of Lovell's Corner had been taken prisoner by the Confederates on New Year’s Day, 1863. He had spent imprisonment in the famed prisoner-of-war camps of Andersonville (Georgia) and Libby Prison in Virginia.

No one captured the scene of Monday, April 3, 1865 more vividly than Bradford Hawes in the Military History of Weymouth:

Monday, April 3, 1865, was an eventful day for the army of the Union. During the night, detonations of exploding gunboats could be heard for miles, the noise and shock of lurid lights adding to the wretchedness of those within the city and the anxieties of those who beheld its burnings from afar, among these the advancing army which was not without uneasy speculations lest Richmond be found as Napoleon found Moscow – in ashes. General Shepley of the United States Army describes the scene witnessed from his position near Petersburg as a most beautiful and awful display of fireworks, the heavens being filled with bursting shells, red lights, Roman candles, and falling stars. The morning light found the Fourth Massachusetts Cavalry under Major Stevens, at the gates of the city and in Company “H” of that regiment were many Weymouth boys, and as soon as it was daylight three scouts were sent into the city, one of whom was Jerry Quinn of Lovell’s Corner. Two of the scouts were captured by the rebel soldiers, but Quinn entered the city and went as far as the Franklin Hotel, but feared to go farther. He returned and reported the way clear as far as the hotel, and two companies “E” and “H” rode into the fallen city. As they reached the capitol building the revel flag was flying above it, and Captain Ray of Company “H”, together with Tommy Myers the color sergeant, and Jerry Quinn started to pull it down. Myers took with him the regimental quidons, and just outside the capitol he slipped and fell onto the slimy pavements. Instantly Quinn seized the flag and rushing to the top of the building pulled down the Rebel flag and raised the United States flag over the Confederate capitol. Thus, the honor of being the first Union soldier in Richmond, as well as the credit of pulling down the rebel flag and raising the Union flag, belongs to a Weymouth soldier.

Source: Weymouth Civil War Centennial Commemoration Booklet (Town, 1963).

James L. Bates, Brigadier General

James L. Bates (1820-1875) was in the leather trade in Boston at the opening of the American Civil War, but promptly joined those in Weymouth who were engaged in raising a company for the Twelfth (Webster) Regiment, and was elected and commissioned its captain. In this capacity, he served with marked ability until August 5, 1962, when he was commissioned major for the Thirty-Third Massachusetts Volunteers.

Following the death of Colonel Webster, General Hartstuff recommended Major Bates for the vacant colonelcy of the Twelfth. Bates was commissioned dating from September 5th and took command on September 12th of what remained of that regiment after its bloody experience at Antietam. From May 18, 1864 to the close of his regiment’s term of service, Bates was in command of the brigade, handling it in a masterly manner, and during the movement of the army from Spottsylvania obtained information which led to an entire change of movement of the Union army, for which he received special thanks in General Orders.

Returning home with his regiment he was mustered out as colonel on July 8, 1864, but Congress very tardily in December 1868 gave him the well-deserved brevet of brigadier general “for gallant and meritorious service in the war.” 

Bates served as Commander of the Department of Massachusetts, Grand Army of the Republic, in 1870 and died November 11, 1875.  

Source: Massachusetts in the War, 1861-1865 (Bowden, 1889).

Thomas W. Hamilton, Quartermaster

Thomas W. Hamilton earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for valor in the American Civil War. His citation reads as follows:

Serving as quartermaster on board the U.S.S. Cincinnati during the attack on the Vicksburg batteries and at the time of her sinking, 27 May 1863. Engaging the enemy in a fierce battle, the Cincinnati, amidst an incessant fire of shot and shell, continued to fire her guns to the last although so penetrated by enemy shell fire that her fate was sealed. Conspicuously gallant during this action, Hamilton, severely wounded at the wheel, returned to his post and had to be sent below, to hear the incessant roar of guns as the gallant ship went down, "her colors nailed to the mast.

Source: Congressional Medal of Honor Society (accessed online Jan. 2019).

William Seach, Ordinary Seaman

William Seach earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for valor in the Boxer Rebellion. His citation reads as follows

In action with the relief expedition of the Allied forces in China during the battles of 13, 20, 21 and 22 June 1900. June 13: Seach and six others were cited for their courage in repulsing an attack by 300 Chinese Imperialist soldiers and Boxer militants with a bayonet charge, thus thwarting a planned massive attack on the entire force. June 20: During a day-long battle, Seach ran across an open clearing, gained cover, and cleaned out nests of Chinese snipers. June 21: During a surprise sabre attack by Chinese cavalrymen, Seach was cited for defending gun emplacements. June 22: Seach and others breached the wall of a Chinese fort, fought their way to the enemy's guns, and turned the cannon upon the defenders of the fort. Throughout this period and in the presence of the enemy, Seach distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.

Source: Congressional Medal of Honor Society (accessed online Jan. 2019).

Ralph Talbot, Second Lieutenant

Ralph Talbot earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for valor in World War I. His citation reads as follows:

For exceptionally meritorious service and extraordinary heroism while attached to Squadron C, 1st Marine Aviation Force, in France. 2d Lt. Talbot participated in numerous air raids into enemy territory. On 8 October 1918, while on such a raid, he was attacked by 9 enemy scouts, and in the fight that followed shot down an enemy plane. Also, on 14 October 1918, while on a raid over Pittham, Belgium, 2d Lt. Talbot and another plane became detached from the formation on account of motor trouble and were attacked by 12 enemy scouts. During the severe fight that followed, his plane shot down one of the enemy scouts. His observer was shot through the elbow and his gun jammed. 2d Lt. Talbot maneuvered to gain time for his observer to clear the jam with one hand, and then returned to the fight. The observer fought until shot twice, once in the stomach and once in the hip and then collapsed, 2d Lt. Talbot attacked the nearest enemy scout with his front guns and shot him down. With his observer unconscious and his motor failing, he dived to escape the balance of the enemy and crossed the German trenches at an altitude of 50 feet, landing at the nearest hospital to leave his observer, and then returning to his aerodrome.

Source: Congressional Medal of Honor Society (accessed online Jan. 2019).

Elden H. Johnson, Private

Elden H. Johnson earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for valor in World War II. His citation reads as follows:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. Pvt. Johnson elected to sacrifice his life in order that his comrades might extricate themselves from an ambush. Braving the massed fire of about 60 riflemen, 3 machineguns, and 3 tanks from positions only 25 yards distant, he stood erect and signaled his patrol leader to withdraw. The whole area was brightly illuminated by enemy flares. Then, despite 20mm. machineguns, machine pistol, and rifle fire directed at him, Pvt. Johnson advanced beyond the enemy in a slow deliberate walk. Firing his automatic rifle from the hip, he succeeded in distracting the enemy and enabled his 12 comrades to escape. Advancing to within 5 yards of a machinegun, emptying his weapon, Pvt. Johnson killed its crew. Standing in full view of the enemy he reloaded and turned on the riflemen to the left, firing directly into their positions. He either killed or wounded 4 of them. A burst of machinegun fire tore into Pvt. Johnson and he dropped to his knees. Fighting to the very last, he steadied himself on his knees and sent a final burst of fire crashing into another German. With that he slumped forward dead. Pvt. Johnson had willingly given his life in order that his comrades might live. These acts on the part of Pvt. Johnson were an inspiration to the entire command and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the armed forces.

Frederick C. Murphy, Private First Class

Frederick C. Murphy earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for valor in World War II. His citation reads as follows: 

An aid man, he was wounded in the right shoulder soon after his comrades had jumped off in a dawn attack 18 March 1945, against the Siegfried Line at Saarlautern, Germany. He refused to withdraw for treatment and continued forward, administering first aid under heavy machinegun, mortar, and artillery fire. When the company ran into a thickly sown antipersonnel minefield and began to suffer more and more casualties, he continued to disregard his own wound and unhesitatingly braved the danger of exploding mines, moving about through heavy fire and helping the injured until he stepped on a mine which severed one of his feet. In spite of his grievous wounds, he struggled on with his work, refusing to be evacuated and crawling from man to man administering to them while in great pain and bleeding profusely. He was killed by the blast of another mine which he had dragged himself across in an effort to reach still another casualty. With indomitable courage, and unquenchable spirit of self-sacrifice and supreme devotion to duty which made it possible for him to continue performing his tasks while barely able to move, Pfc. Murphy saved many of his fellow soldiers at the cost of his own life.

Source: Congressional Medal of Honor Society (accessed online Jan. 2019).

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