Major Andrew McClary, First New Hampshire Regiment, Killed in action the Battle of Bunker Hill
Andrew McClary was born September 8, 1720, and was the second son of Andrew McClary Sr., who emigrated from Ulster, Ireland, with his wife and children. In 1733 his family moved to Londonderry, New Hampshire, where they lived until 1738 and then moved to Epsom, New Hampshire.
Andrew McClary, Jr. helped his father build a tavern on their farm in Epsom, New Hampshire, which the younger McClary managed on a regular basis. After the death of his father in 1765 he became the proprietor of the farm and its tavern. With no meetinghouse in Epsom before 1794, all the town meetings were held at McClary’s Farm Tavern, which was also used for various social gatherings. As such, Andrew McClary, Jr. and his older brother, John McClary, were leading influential men in all the town and military affairs. Andrew McClary, Jr. also served as the town clerk of Epsom. His entries in the town books revealed a thorough knowledge of business and language and according to contemporary historian John C. French, exhibited a unique literary and writing style. His last entry in the town’s records were made approximately one year before he died.
In 1755 Andrew McClary, Jr. led a company of soldiers in search of the Indians who massacred and took prisoners from the McCall family of Salisbury. During the French and Indian War the colonials of the New England frontier lived in constant fear of Indian attacks. Andrew McClary, Jr. spent much of his time scouting the area, along with hunting and clearing of the land. He also became a local champion in the sport of boxing and wrestling.
Along with Robert Rogers, Andrew McClary, Jr. was also close friends with noted Revolutionary War figures like, John Goffe and John Stark, often meeting with them at the McClary farm tavern with increasing frequency where matters of the Revolution were now being openly discussed.
As an experienced scout in New Hampshire, Andrew McClary, Jr. was soon promoted an officer at an early age in Robert Roger’s famous company of New Hampshire Rangers, and finally, as he gained experience, was chosen to be the leader in all local engagements against the local Indians.
In the months preceding the Revolutionary War it is said that Andrew McClary, Jr. began to distinguish himself for his resolution and patriotism in planning and leading the attack of the castle at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on December 1, 1774. For what was considered his heroic efforts, Andrew McClary, Jr. had won for himself a prominent standing among the New Hampshire Militia.
On April 27, 1775, when word of the Battles at Lexington and Concord reached the Suncook Valley in New Hampshire, he and other patriots gathered and “flew to arms” and assembled at Nottingham Square. There, the men made Andrew McClary, Jr. Captain and commander of the company consisting of eighty men. They departed from Nottingham Square at one o’clock in the afternoon and conducted a “rapid march” south to Kingston. From there they continued at a fast pace without resting until sunset, arriving at Haverhill, just over the Massachusetts border on the Merrimack River. Captain McClary’s company covered twenty-seven miles in six hours. They continued for a few more miles then stopped and took supper at Andover. After resting a bit they resumed marching through the night and by sunrise had covered seventy miles distance. After passing through Medford, they continued south and marched on Cambridge Common where upon arrival were all willing and eager to fight for the Revolution. There, Captain McClary and his company joined up with Colonel John Stark, who gave Captain McClary the rank of Major in what would become the 1st New Hampshire Regiment. On June 16 they received orders to join with American forces and prepare for battle at Bunker Hill, in Charlestown across the Mystic River from Boston. The battle was to take place on the Charleston Peninsula which was only accessible to American infantry by crossing over the very narrow Charleston Neck.
During the first British advance on the American fortifications atop Breed’s Hill, Major McClary, along with Seth Pomeroy, John Stark, James Reed and Thomas Knowlton, were at the front in the redoubt. According to Colonel Swett in his 1826 account of the battle, when the Americans were finally given the order to fire, Major McClary, with his stentorian voice, was distinctly heard over the roar of cannon and musket fire, “animating and encouraging the men as though he would inspire every ball that sped, with his own fire and energy.”
As the battle unfolded the American soldiers were directed to spot and fire upon every British officer they could distinguish. When Major McClary would sight an officer he would instantly call out: “There, See that officer. Let’s shoot at him!” Two or three soldiers, all excellent marksmen, would then fire at the same time, making sure their target was hit. During the battle, though a British tactical victory, they lost a considerable number of officers.
After the battle, with many wounded in the retreat, McClary immediately procured a horse and rode five miles north to Medford and returned with bandages and other supplies for the wounded. He then prepared to go back across Charlestown Neck to observe any further British movement at Bunker Hill. He was cautioned by his son and other men not to embark on such a risky effort, but McClary exclaimed, “The ball is not yet cast that will kill me!” Upon returning while crossing the Neck to rejoin his men, a shot from a frigate passed through his body. He leaped a few feet from the ground, keeled over and fell dead on his face. Later McClary would be carried to Medford, and interred with military honors.
Colonel Henry Dearborn in his 1818 account of the battle wrote of McClary:
“There was no cavalry in either army. From the ships of war and a large battery on Copp’s Hill, a heavy cannonade was kept up upon our line and redoubt…during the retreat; but with very little effect, except that of killing the brave Major Andrew M’Clary of Col. Stark’s regiment soon after we retired from Bunker Hill. He was among the first officers of the army. —Possessing a sound judgment, of undaunted bravery, enterprising, ardent and zealous, both as a patriot and soldier. His loss was severely felt by his compatriots in arms…”
Major McClary was technically the highest-ranking American officer to die in the battle; General Warren had declined an offer of command and had no commission at the time of battle. Major McClary’s death was the last to occur there. He was one among the ten American officers to perish during the battle.
A eulogy to McClary appeared in The New Hampshire Gazette, dated Epsom, July 1775. It read: “The Major discovered great intrepidity and presence of mind in the action, and his noble soul glowed with ardor and the love of his country. . . .”
Andrew McClary, Jr. married Elizabeth McCrillis and their marriage producing five sons (James, Harvey, Andrew, John, and William) and three daughters (Elizabeth, Margaret, and Nancy.)
His eldest son, James Harvey McClary would be elected as one of the 31 Original Members of the New Hampshire Society of the Cincinnati in the State of New Hampshire on February 5, 1784 by virtue of his father’s service, and was thus the first Hereditary Member of the New Hampshire Society.
On June 17, 1843, the 68th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill, Andrew McClary’s name was spoken in the closing words in the dedication to the Monument at Bunker Hill. In honor of McClary, a bronze memorial tablet was unveiled at Epsom on August 25, 1905, with appropriate honors. The tablet was secured through the efforts of the Epsom Historical Club, and is attached to a tall granite pillar, weighing approximately 5000 pounds.
McClary’s image appears in John Trumbull’s famous painting of the Battle of Bunker Hill, where he is pictured raising his musket to shoot the British soldier attempting to bayonet the mortally wounded Warren.
Fort McClary in Maine at Kittery Point was renamed in Andrew McClary’s honor, the fort officially established in 1808.
The schooner USS McClary was named after McClary. On September 2, 1776, the vessel was commissioned by the state of New Hampshire and was armed with eight cannons and six swivel guns. The vessel made five voyages between September 1776 and February 1778.
Sources: Frederic Kidder, History of the First New Hampshire Regiment in the War of the Revolution (Albany, 1868), 9; F. McCutcheon McKee, The McCutcheon (Cutcheon) family records (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Commonwealth Print. Co., 1931), 143; Henry Dearborn and Daniel Putnam, An Account of the Battle of Bunker Hill, (Boston: Munroe & Francis, 1818); George Waldo Brown and John C. French, French, John C., Manchester Historic Association collections (Manchester Historic Association, 1910); “Epsom Revolutionary War Soldier, Andrew McClary” (Epsom Historical Association); Ezra S. Stearns, William Frederick Whitcher, and Edward Everett Parker, Genealogical and Family History of the State of New Hampshire: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Founding of a Nation, (New York and Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1908), 2:524.