On Christmas Day 1823, Gen. Benjamin Pierce of Hillsborough, NH, a future governor and father of a future president, held a reunion of twenty-two citizens of the town who had served in the War of Independence. During dinner, General Pierce requested the veterans to recount the perils and dangers through which they had passed.
The oldest attendee was Ruhama “Ammi” Andrews, born in Chebacco Parish of Ipswich, aged 89 years. Andrews recalled the moment at the Battle of Bunker Hill when his captain was mortally wounded. Andrews extracted the bullet and sent it to the wife of Captain Baldwin as a mournful reminder of the manner in which her husband met his death.
Lieutenant Andrews served through the entire Revolution and fought in the expedition to Quebec during the winter of 1775-76, where he was taken prisoner by the British, but was part of a prisoner exchange. As the Patriot soldiers lay in winter quarters, three miles from the city of Quebec, the commanding officer was anxious to gain some news of the enemy’s strength and position. Lieutenant Andrews volunteered to make the attempt. It was suggested that he should take with him the best gun in the army.
“Look here,” said the gallant lieutenant, “Is it a dead or a living man that you want? Because if it is a living man that you wish brought in, I do not wish to be bothered with a gun.”
He reached the city of Quebec, and scaling its walls in the darkness of the night at a favorable moment he sprang upon a sentinel as he was pacing his beat, armed with a musket. Lieuteant Ammi, who was a strong, vigorous man, seized the guard by the throat and told him he was a dead man if he made the least outcry. Taking him down the steep and dangerous hillside, he marched his prisoner three miles through the deep snows of Canada to the American camp.
After the war, Lieut. Andrews settled in Hillsboro where he became a distinguished businessman. He died March 30, 1833 aged ninety seven years.
At the Christmas dinner, it was voted that Lieutenant Andrews be the “President of the Day.” General Pierce ended the evening with a closing statement: “It is not probable that we shall ever, many of us, meet together again. The season of the year in which we meet may well remind us of the season of our lives. Our eyes are dimmed, our locks are silvered, our cheeks are furrowed, and our minds and bodies are feeble. My friends, if we have been active and faithful in our public duties, let us not be neglectful of those of a private and devotional nature, which we owe to Father of all Good, so that we, like good and faithful soldiers of Him, may be at the first tap of the shrouded drum, to move and join our beloved Washington and the rest of our comrades in arms who fought and bled by our sides. I thank you all, gentlemen, for your kindness in calling me this day, and wish you in this life all that age and infirmity can enjoy, and hereafter perpetual felicity.”
Sources and further reading:
- History of Hillsboro County, NH
- The Granite Monthly, Volume 43-44
- New England Historical Society: The Revolutionary War Veterans Christmas Dinner in New Hampshire
- The Descendants of Lieut. John Andrews of Ipswich, Essex County, Massachusetts by Betty Andrews Storey