One of our ongoing projects has been to research the stories of early residents of Acton who were black or of mixed-race ancestry. The Massachusetts Tax Inventory of 1771 revealed that there were two “servants for life” in Acton at the time, including one person assessed to Simon Tuttle. (For relevant entries click here.) There was no detail about who the person was. It was easy to assume that records from the March 4, 1783 town meeting referred to the same person when Acton voted to pay Mr. Simon Tuttle for “the Bounty for his negro man which was Twenty four Pounds in March 1777 to be Paid by the Scale of Depreciation.” However, as is so often the case when we try to understand events more than two centuries ago, we have to be careful with our assumptions.
In early 1777, the Continental Army was in a recruiting crisis after enlistments ran out at the end of 1776. There was pressure on towns to fill their quota of soldiers. At the March 10, 1777 town meeting, Acton approved a bounty of twenty pounds to every man who would enlist in the Continental Army for three years or as long as the war lasted. An additional four pounds was offered to men who had or would volunteer between March 3 and March 17, 1777. Bounties obviously cost money that had to be raised through taxes. To understand each taxable person’s contribution to the war effort, the town chose a committee to determine “what Service has been Don[e] Personally or by Hireing men to go into the Service ever Since this Present war Begun.” One of the members of that committee was Simon Tuttle.
In trying to fulfill quotas for towns, it was apparently common practice for recruiters to pay bounties for enlistment out of their own pockets on the understanding that they would be reimbursed. At a July 30, 1778 town meeting, it had been proposed that the War Rates (taxes) of four men including Lt. Simon Tuttle be abated, presumably for their recruiting efforts. That proposal was voted down; instead, the town voted that “Every man in the Town that had Paid money to hire men for the Town into the Continental army for three years Shall Receive Said money from the Town.” During the war years, assessments were frequently revised, and the town did not always have the cash to pay soldiers or recruiters what they were owed. Inflation was so great that delays in payment made previously-promised amounts seem worthless, so by the time Acton actually paid, amounts had to be adjusted ”by the Scale of Depreciation.”
Most of the men who were hired and received bounties from the town of Acton were not mentioned in town meeting records. At the March 4, 1783 meeting, however, two individuals were identified. The third agenda item at the meeting resulted in the formation of a committee “to Settle with Capt Joseph Robbins Respecting his Bounty that he Paid to Oliver Emerson.” The fourth agenda item resulted in a vote to pay Simon Tuttle the bounty for “his” man. The use of the word “his” may look to modern readers as if the soldier either had been enslaved or was an employee. However, we discovered another town meeting record that called that assumption into question. At the March 5, 1781 town meeting, a committee (including Simon Tuttle) was formed to help the assessors to “class” the residents for the purpose of hiring soldiers to fulfill the town’s quota. The record went on:
“...also voted that if any Class in this Town Shall be So unfortunate as not to Procure their man (after ofering their Best Endeavors to hire one) that they Shall not be Subject to Pay any more than their Proportion of the fine and the Charges that the Several Classes are Put to in hireing and Pay their men in this Town” (emphasis added)
Given the above phrasing, it is possible that the 1783 town meeting record’s use of “his” man meant only that the soldier had been hired by Samuel Tuttle to fill a quota. Town meeting records do not tell us for certain. What we can say, after our research, is that whatever the soldier’s route to military service for the town of Acton, his story did not have a happy ending.
Finding out more about Simon Tuttle’s “man” was complicated by uncertainty about his name and pre-war experiences. We did discover that Rev. James T. Woodbury’s mid-1800s listing of known Acton Revolutionary War soldiers (transcribed in town histories by Fletcher and Phalen) included “Titus Hayward, colored man, hired by Simon Tuttle.” The compendium Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War (MSSRW) did not have an entry for a soldier of that name. Thinking that perhaps he might have been a (possibly former) slave who enlisted under the name of Tuttle, we found a Titus Tuttle from Acton in MSSRW as having enlisted April 29, 1775 for 3 months and 10 days. Other service was shown for a Titus Tuttle (no town and no description) in 1776 (2 months) and 1781 (21 months). (There were other entries of individuals named “Titus” with no surnames in MSSRW, one from Harvard and one from Pittsfield.) None of the service terms for Titus Tuttle or Titus __ matched the March 1777 enlistment for which Simon Tuttle was later paid a bounty.
Matching up the service dates and investigating surname variations for Titus “Hayward” led us to the record of Titus Haywood. His service record (available online and summarized in MSSRW) shows that he enlisted on March 14, 1777 and served in Edmund Munroe’s Company, Mass. 15th Regiment under Col. Timothy Bigelow. Captain Munroe was from Lexington as were many members of his company. The remainder came from other Middlesex County towns, including Acton men John and Theodore Barker and Titus Haywood. (MSSRW cited a return dated Feb. 2, 1778 that gave Titus Haywood’s residence as Acton and his enlistment credited to fill Acton’s quota.) Included in the company were at least five other soldiers who have been identified as people of color. The company served in the Northern Department and fought at Saratoga. Titus Haywood apparently was not able to participate in the actual Saratoga campaign. By September 1, 1777, he was reported as being sick in the hospital, later was reported as sick at Albany where there was a large military hospital, and finally in April 1778 was reported as having died on Nov. 5, 1777.
Astoundingly, though later town records and histories listed Titus “Hayward” as a soldier, mentioned his race, and specified who was paid for his enlistment bounty, nowhere in town records did we find a mention of the fact that he died while in service. It is a reminder of how “history” comes to us. In later years, there was much more interest in soldiers who died in battle and in the Actonians who were “first at the Concord bridge.” Other stories disappeared over time.
Many questions remain unanswered. Who was Titus Haywood/Hayward? While some have guessed that the man Simon Tuttle hired might have been his slave originally, that hypothesis may be incorrect. We had thought that perhaps the Titus Tuttle who served from Acton in the Revolution might be the same person as Titus “Hayward” in the Woodbury list, but we have not yet found any evidence confirming that theory. We found some Titus Tuttles alive after the war. Clearly those individuals were not the Titus Haywood who died in 1777.
We did find one record for a Titus Haywood that may be the same person. An entry in MSSRW for a Titus Haywood (no town given) shows him as a private in Captain John Hartwell’s co., Col Dike’s regiment. He enlisted Dec. 14, 1776 and was credited to the town of Concord. The regiment served until March 1, 1777. He would have been available to reenlist on March 14, 1777 and be credited to Acton, which would have made him eligible for the 24-pound bounty from the town. We hope that he actually received it. Town records do not indicate why it took a special town vote for Simon Tuttle to be paid for hiring him.
So far, we have not discovered the story of Titus Haywood’s earlier life. Our search for information will continue, but on this Memorial Day, we honor the memory of Titus Haywood who served for the town of Acton and never made it back.
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