Old First Massachusetts Coast Artillery

Massachusetts looks in large degree to the command for the coast defence of Boston. America's center of wealth and manufacturing, the Commonwealth holds the key to the whole country. Within a radius of two hundred miles from Boston is manufactured practically every kind of supply and equipment; while New York, the world's center of wealth and finance, is only slightly more than two hundred miles away. To possess Massachusetts would afford hostile invaders the best possible base; the Coast Artillery is an essential factor in the defence of Massachusetts.

Six of the companies come from stations outside of Boston, Brockton, Cambridge, Chelsea, Fall River, New Bedford and Taunton being represented. Even more truly than the Boston companies these organizations offer advantages of the greatest value; each is the pride of its own home city; each ranks amongst the leading social bodies in its community; and the armories, all fine structures, are popular club houses.

A group of men were assembled in the living room of a prosperous looking Roxbury farmhouse on March 22, 1784. Although they had met several times previously during the winter, they showed by both word and bearing that they were actually engaged in transacting their most important business on the present occasion. General William Heath, owner of the house, presided. As everyone in Roxbury well knew, the General had lately returned from war, where he had enjoyed the privilege of close companionship and friendship with no less a person than the commander, Gen. George Washington, himself. Another of the company was a wealthy young merchant of Roxbury, an ex-Cadet, John Jones Spooner, who stood in the relationship of son-in-law to Gen. Heath. Amongst others were Jonathan Warner and several more Revolutionary veterans ; also two prominent members of Roxbury society, Joseph Pierpont and John Swift. Well might these men look important for they were engaged in presiding over a birth the birth of a National Guard company today the oldest National Guard company with continuous history in America.

As soon as the company had been born, and was reported to be "doing well," it was christened. "The Roxbury Train of Artillery" was inscribed with due form and ceremony upon the first page of its record book. Who was then sufficiently far-sighted to foresee that on June 30, 1916, the same company would take the Federal oath as the "1st Company, Coast Artillery Corps, National Guard of Massachusetts" ? A company in those days was commanded by a captain with the rank of Major; and this office was promptly conferred upon John Jones Spooner. Jonathan Warner became the "Captain-lieutenant," and Joseph Pierpont and John Swift were elected the other two lieutenants, as at that time authorized. Warrants were issued to four sergeants; four musicians were appointed, twenty-four men were detailed as cannoneers, eight as pioneers, three as drivers and when two brass four-pounder cannon had been issued to them, the Roxbury Artillery were ready for any kind of a fight or frolic. It was not to be until Aug. 30, 1849, that Gen. H. A. S. Dearborn would suggest the famous motto now borne by the Company, "In time of peace prepare for war." No one can question however but that the sentiment of the motto has always controlled 1st Company activities.

The Old First Massachusetts Coast Artillery in War and Peace: By Frederick Morse Cutler, B.D., First Lieutenant, Chaplain.

Table of Contents

  • The Coast Artillery
  • 1784-1840
  • 1840-1861
  • Responding to the President's Call
  • The Fighting First
  • 1866-1878
  • The Old "Tiger "First
  • "The Cape"
  • Since 1878
  • Finally
  • Genealogy of the Coast Artillery
  • The Present Companies Their Captains

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