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Patriot Walter Woodbury

Associate WalenAssociate Walen is shown at the grave site of Patriot Woodbury when the marker was rededicated. A Past Deputy Governor General, he currently is a member of the Order's Executive Council and Councillor General for both the Massachusetts and New Hampshire Societies. A holder of two degrees from Harvard, he has been a teacher, author, editor and administrator in education. He and his wife Betty reside in Rockport, Massachusetts and are active in many patriotic societies

Privateers were active off the coast of New England during the Revolutionary War pursuing ships of the British Navy. Reproduced here are the remarks offered by Associate Harry L. Walen about Woodbury at the rededication of a marker at his grave site.

Imagine for a moment, if you will, that this is the year 1778, almost three years since the war began. Cape Ann, Massachusetts is suffering from the British blockades, the resulting lack of fish from the sea, the meagre amount of farm produce that can be wrung from her rocky soil, and the absence of large numbers of men who have joined militia units or the Continental Army, or have signed up with the privateers. Widows and their children are starving; small-pox has become epidemic. The General Court (or Legislature) has sent a committee to appraise the situation, our "Province" taxes have been abated, and emergency help in money and food has been sent for the relief of our poor.

With no navy as such to defend us, we lave turned to privateers to raid British Supply ships and keep the captains of the British warships on edge. It is estimated, by the way, that about 650 ships were awakened by Patriot privateers during the war years. The human cost of the war to Cape Ann alone, with its population of fewer than 5,000, was more than 400 men, most of them lost in privateering.

Went To Sea At Early Age
Let us turn now to Walter Woodbury - born October 21, 1764 - whose memory we honor today in this rededication. Although we know little detail about him, we surmise that he was eager to go to sea and not averse to doing his bit against the British. Despite his youth, he must have had some acquaintance with the former fishing fleet. He may have been 14 or 15 when he joined the crew of the Gen. Stark, but this was not unusual in those days. My own ancestor, Capt. John Rowe, was included in the Sandy Bay company he led to Breed's Hill with two sons, one aged 17, and the other 14. It must have seemed natural for Woodbury to seek employment in a privateer, where he stood a good chance of sharing in the profits from cargoes in the ships they might intercept, as well as a chance to sting the British.

We know from DAR records in Washington that privateer Woodbury Sailed on at least one of the raids of the newly built privateer brig Gen. Stark, which was commissioned in early 1778 and made her last raid in 1780. She was one of the largest of the privateers reconverted from schooners or brigs, or newly built, and privately commissioned out of Gloucester. Although there are records of the names of the officers on one of Gen Stark's most successful tours of duty, the names of the rest of the crew of approximately 130 are not recorded, so hat a specific record of his service is not available at this time.

Namesake From New Hampshire
The Gen. Stark was named for John Stark of New Hampshire, who marched from New Hampshire to Breed's Hill in Charlestown with his New Hampshire regiment. This privateer was named for Stark undoubtedly because he was the heroic officer to whose command both of he Cape Ann companies were assigned as soon as they arrived in the confusion of planning for battle. (Another example of this was the converted privateer schooner Britannia, which was rechristened Warren, in honor of another heroic leader at Breed's Hill.)

Later, in 1777, New Hampshire militia forced Stark, who had returned to civilian life, out of "retirement" by demanding his leadership to confront and eventually eliminate Burgoyne's Hessian unit in the Battle of Bennington. Since this composed one-sixth of Burgoyne's entire force, Stark and his New Hampshire men were largely responsible for the ultimate defeat of Burgoyne's entire campaign. Stark thus was a Revolutionary hero vividly in the minds of Gloucestermen in 1777 and 1778. Even in the 20th century it was Richard Recchia, a sculptor from Cape Ann, who was called upon to create the magnificent equestrian statue of Stark now to be seen in Manchester, New Hampshire.

In remembering young privateer Walter Woodbury, who lived to see the middle of the 19th century at his death on September 25, 1850, we recall once again the stirring and terrible times of our American Revolution, and humbly recognize the role of our forebears on Cape Ann.

Bulletin - Spring 1994