Commanders and Chaplains of the American Revolution Part 3

A March in the Dark

On June 16th, as the Bay Colony soldiers assembled on Cambridge Common to march for the Charlestown peninsula, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Langdon, President of Harvard College, met them at dusk5.   As a veteran chaplain of the French and Indian War, Langdon knew that not all of the men would return. He offered a sermon and then a prayer for their safety and success at Bunker Hill6.  Langdon’s text was from Jeremiah 13:16 “Give glory to the Lord your God before He brings the darkness, before your feet stumble on the darkening hills.”7  Giving thanks and glory to God may have been questionable in the minds of the soldiers as they contemplated their trial ahead.8
After the short service Colonel Prescott waited until it was almost dark, then conducted a silent march toward the Charlestown Neck where General Putnam added approximately 200 Connecticut militia to their number.9  The Connecticut group would form part of Prescott’s left flank. The militia would work at night to construct a redoubt to deter the British assault if and when it came.
    Rev. Dr. Langdon                                                                             A quiet march with silent drums

[5] The site of Dr. Langston’s meeting with Prescott’s men has been preserved at Harvard University. The marker is on the lawn outside and just west of the Littauer Center, Kennedy School of Government, on Cambridge Street.

[6] John Ferling, Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 51.

[7] Dr. Langdon’s sermon still exists in the Harvard University Archives. Unfortunately the sermon is in eighteenth-century shorthand! Nevertheless, Langdon’s efforts were appreciated as he was later hailed as “Chaplain of ye army’ in Cambridge.

[8] With thanks to the Harvard University Archives staff who furnished the author with a copy of Dr. Langdon’s sermon on August 23, 2010.

[9] John Ferling, Op.cit., p. 51.