In addition, and particularly relevant for this situation, the existing lists often consist only of names without identifying details. The common practice of naming sons for fathers (or grandfathers or uncles) makes it hard for modern researchers to distinguish among them. (See our blog post on John Swift, as one example.) The lists sometimes included “Junr” or “2nd”after a name, but the designation was inconsistent, even for the same man, and might change after the older generation died.
To find out if builder Jonathan Hosmer served in the war, we first had to isolate what is known and documented.
Starting with what we know:
- Jonathan Hosmer, 1712-1775, often referred to as “Deacon Jonathan Hosmer,” married Martha Conant on April 25, 1734. He and Martha had a number of sons including:
- Jonathan Hosmer, 1734-1822. Some, but not all, town records refer to him as a junior. He married Submit Hunt of Concord on Jan. 31, 1760, was a farmer and mason, built the house now preserved by the Acton Historical Society, and had many children including eldest son:
- Jonathan Hosmer, 1760-1777. He died in service at Bennington, VT, in or around October, 1777.
Indications of Jonathan Hosmer's Military Service
Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the American Revolution, a compilation done by the Secretary of the Commonwealth in the 1890s (volume 8, page 289) states that “Hosmer, Jonathan (also given Jonathan, Jr.)” was among men listed by Captain Simon Hunt on August 14, 1777 who were drafted “from train band and alarm list” (men available to go) to reinforce the Continental Army. On its own, the parenthetical statement “also given Jonathan Jr.” is somewhat confusing. Based on similar entries and the fact that Mass. Soldiers and Sailors only included one entry for a Jonathan Hosmer in Simon Hunt’s listing of draftees, we assume this parenthetical note was to distinguish Jonathans, rather than to suggest that two Jonathans were on the draft list. The Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors entry adds that Jonathan Hosmer enlisted as a Private in Capt. George Minott’s Company, Col. Samuel Bullard’s regiment, on August 16, 1777 and was discharged Oct. 1, 1777, noting compensation for nine days’ journey home. (From the gravestone, we know that he did not make it back to Acton.)
Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors also shows a separate entry for Jonathan Hosmer, called up with Captain Simon Hunt’s Acton company, March 4, 1776, to help to fortify Dorchester Heights. His rank was Sergeant.
No other Revolutionary War service for a Jonathan Hosmer was found by the compilers of Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the American Revolution. (Note that their records were incomplete. Early service in the war is particularly difficult to document; even Abner Hosmer who died at the North Bridge on April 19, 1775 is not listed.) Compiled lists that we have of men who went from Acton to fight at Concord or Bunker Hill do not include a Jonathan Hosmer. If one of the Acton Jonathans served in 1775, we have no proof of it.
Assumptions and Confusion
Tradition in the family and town seems to have been that both Jonathan (2) and (3) served at some point in the Revolution. In 1895, the Massachusetts Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution marked the Acton graves of individuals that they believed had served in the Revolutionary War. An April 18, 1895 Concord Enterprise listing and a 1901 inventory stated that both Jonathan Hosmer and Jonathan Hosmer Jr.’s graves had been marked. Charles Bradley Stone, born in Acton to a Hosmer mother, applied to the Sons of the American Revolution as a great-grandson of Stephen Hosmer, Revolutionary War soldier. (National SAR member #5046, application available on Ancestry.com) In addition to describing Stephen’s service, the application states that Stephen’s brother Abner Hosmer fell at Concord and that
“Jonathan Hosmer his brother was also in the service and his son Jonathan Jr was killed at Bennington. Recapitulation
My great-great grandfather Deacon Jonathan Hosmer had three sons in the service viz Sthephen [?], Jonathan & Abner and one grandson Jonathan Jr who was killed.”
Unfortunately, no sources of proof of non-ancestors’ service were presented. (Note that the list omits the service of younger brother Jonas Hosmer who moved to Walpole, NH after the war.)
Rev. James T. Woodbury, installed as first minister of the Evangelical Church of Acton in 1832, compiled a list of Acton Revolutionary War soldiers. Presumably it was based upon collective memories and the few written records that he had access to; he acknowledged at the time that it was very incomplete. Rev. James Fletcher’s Acton in History (page 263) reproduced the list, including “Jonathan Hosmer, Esq., Simon’s father, died in the army”. Jonathan (2) was Simon’s father and actually lived until 1822; this entry combined him and his son. Was the error simply a “typo” in Fletcher’s book? Did Rev. Woodbury credit service to the wrong Jonathan Hosmer, or should he have included both the father Jonathan (2) and the son Jonathan (3)? Over a century later, Harold Phalen revised the list in his own history of Acton, changing the entry to “Hosmer, Jonathan (died in Army)” (page 385). This cleared up the conflation of the two Jonathans, but it eliminated Jonathan (2) from the service list. (Adding more confusion, Phalen’s index entry for Jonathan Hosmer’s Revolutionary War service includes the title “Ensign & Capt.” that belonged to a later Jonathan Hosmer.)
Town histories are not the only source of identity confusion. At least two hereditary society applications mentioned the 1777 service of their ancestor “Jonathan Hosmer Jr.,” private in Capt. George Minott’s company, Col. Samuel Bullard’s regiment, but gave the birth and death dates of Jonathan (2). (Ada Isabel (Jones) Marshall, Daughters of the American Revolution member #46274, Lineage Book Vol. 47, page 126; Merton Augustine Jewett Hosmer, National Sons of the American Revolution member #73474 application, both available through Ancestry.com). Augustine Hosmer’s entry in the 1893 Massachusetts SAR roster (page 93) cited the same service and dates for ancestor “Jonathan Hosmer.”
Finding the father's service
It is very possible that some of Jonathan Hosmer (2)’s Revolutionary service is unrecorded, but the only actual close-to-the-time evidence that we have found is the listing of those in Captain Simon Hunt’s Acton company, March 4, 1776, called to help fortify Dorchester Heights. Sergeant Jonathan Hosmer went with the company along with Jonathan (2)’s younger brother Stephen who served as Corporal. Jonathan (3) would have been fifteen years old at that point. It is possible that he could have gone with the Acton militia that day, but it is very unlikely that he would have been chosen sergeant, outranking his uncle who was twenty-one years older. Of the information that we have, we believe that this record shows military service that belongs to Jonathan (2).
Unfortunately, the fact that both Jonathan (2) and Jonathan (3) were at times known as “Junior” seems to have led to confusion among those who tried to compile lists of soldiers in later years. We have tried, very cautiously, to disentangle the various references to Jonathan Hosmer’s war service. Much as we want answers to our questions, we can only work with the information that we have. As research on Jonathan Hosmer has progressed, we have been reminded how critical it is to state sources and to distinguish assumptions from proof so that people after us can draw their own conclusions.
We would be grateful to hear from anyone who has more information about the Hosmers’ experiences in the Revolutionary era, whether military or not. The Hosmer family of Acton contributed and sacrificed a great deal during the Revolutionary War years, and we at the Society, caretakers of a Hosmer family home, want to make sure that they are remembered.