Embattled Farmers

Campaigns and Profiles of Revolutionary Soldiers
 from Lincoln, Massachusetts, 1775-1783

Excerpts from Embattled Farmers

Ephraim Flint's Prisoner of War Read...
Amos Baker's 75-Year-Old Recollection Read...
How Could Jeduthan Bemis Have Been in
        Two Places at Once?
John Wheat's Divided Family Read...
David Mead Discovers the Price for Not Serving Read...

The Price for Not Serving

David Mead’s two sons, Abijah Mead and Tilly Mead, were both in service on April 19, 1775, and in Cambridge during the Siege of Boston.  They were in arms during the fortification of Dorchester Heights the following spring, before going north—Tilly to Canada and Abijah to Ticonderoga.  Another son was still underage, but there was probably little doubt that he, too, would serve if the war persisted.

     As 1776 wound down, Tilly was still suffering from a serious injury incurred during his Cambridge service the year before.  Abijah may have just returned from Ticonderoga, but Tilly—despite his wound—was still in service, now at Morristown (New Jersey).  At age 53, David may have thought that his family was making a sufficient contribution to the war effort.  When the draft notice for Continental service arrived, he declined to report for service.

                                                                                        (Courtesy of Lincoln Town Archives, Lincoln, MA)

On January 4, 1777, David Mead was fined £12 by Capt. Samuel Farrar, Jr., “for not Marching when ordered according to an Act of the Court.”

     During the previous year, Massachusetts authorities had found it increasingly difficult to fill the ranks of the army.  Enlistment bounties were no longer sufficient by themselves to attract prospective soldiers. As early as July, a draft had been instituted.  Still, Massachusetts, like most states, remained delinquent in fulfilling its quota, so the penalties for ignoring the draft had begun to escalate.

     What’s interesting about this record, is not that David Mead failed to report for service, but that he was actually fined.  It was accepted practice for anyone wishing to avoid service to simply find a substitute to serve for him.  Perhaps Mead had difficulty finding a substitute; Lincoln historian William Wheeler indicates that fully one third of Lincoln’s 1777 quota of 26 men for three years of Continental service was recruited from out of town.

                                                                                        (Courtesy of Lincoln Town Archives, Lincoln, MA)

     He appears to have persisted, however, because on February 10, 1777, the town refunded Mead’s £12 fine “on account of his having Procured a man to inlist into ye Continental army.”  Three years later, on March 3, 1780, he was paid £30 for “one three years Continental Man.”  This was the going rate for Continental service, and it appears to have been paid more or less upon the completion of service by his substitute.  No record has been found to indicate any service by David Mead himself, or to identify who it was that served his draft call.  But taken together, the records that do survive highlight the increasingly complex system by which Massachusetts authorities attempted to fulfill the manpower needs of a protracted war effort.

     For his part, David Mead seems not to have prospered economically during or after the war.  In 1787, he was ordered to be jailed for his debts, before he lost his heavily-mortgaged farm altogether.  His wife Mary (Bond) Mead had died in 1780, at age 52, and is buried in the Meeting House Cemetery behind Bemis Hall.  He appears to have moved to central Massachusetts to live with one of his sons.

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