John McDuffee

Lieutenant-Colonel John McDuffee, Second Regiment, New Hampshire Continental line.

John McDufee was born in 1724, soon after his parents arrival from Ireland (being the among the Ulster Scots), and the family were among the early settlers of Rochester.

Col. McDuffee entered upon military life in the French and Indian wars. In the Earl of Loudon’s Expedition against Crown Point, he was commissioned a lieutenant in March, 1757, by Governor Benning Wentworth. In January following he received a similar commission in William Stark’s company of Rangers, and was authorized to fill up the company in any part of the Colonies. The soldiers of New Hampshire were so expert in Indian warfare, and so inured to fatigue and danger, that valuable services were expected of these rangers. They were raised by express desire of Lord Loudon, to be employed in winter as well as summer, and proved so useful in skirmishing and procuring intelligence that they were kept in service till the close of the war. They sailed in the expedition to Louisburg and were engaged in the siege of that city until its surrender. Lieut. McDuffee with his rangers was employed in scouring the island, making prisoners of the French, men, women, and children, in accordance with an order from Gen. Whitmore detaching him for his special service. In the battle which resulted in the surrender of Qubec he commanded a considerable detachment under Gen. Wolfe. He spent the following winter in the city, where he became enamored of a young French lady of aristocratic family, and was very devoted in his attentions. His addresses were not encouraged by the parents, however, and the family secretly removed from the city in order to interrupt the acquaintance. This disappointment was the reason of his remaining unmarried through life. So says tradition. After the conquest of Canada he returned home, and in 1762 was chosen Representative to the Provincial Assembly, being the first person chosen to this office in Rochester. He was frequently employed by the government in making surveys of public works. In 1768, in accordance with an act passed by the Assembly, he was engaged in laying out a highway from Durham Falls to Coos. In 1786, on petition of John Stark, the Legislature appointed a committee, of which Col. McDuffee was one, to run out the lines of Mason’s Patent. Upon the basis of this survey a settlement was made with the Masonian Proprietors, finally disposing of a question which had been a source of trouble, vexation, and expense from the first settlement of New Hampshire. On the approach of the Revolution he took an active part in behalf of the Colonies, and throughout the war was a zealous and enthusiastic friend of independence. In 1774 he was appointed one of the town Committee of Correspondence, and was delegate to the first Provincial Congress at Exeter, May, 1775. War had by this time become unavoidable, and this Congress was principally occupied in devising measures, raising men, and collecting munitions, for the defense of the Colony. He gave to this object not only the influence of his voice, but the force of his example, for on May twentieth, only three days from the opening of the Congress his name was enrolled as Lieutenant Colonel of the Second Regiment commanded by Col. Enoch Poor. As he was at that time one of the Selectman, a town meeting was called to fill his place. His regiment was not fully organized at the time of the battle at Bunker Hill, but hearing the cannonading in the morning of that day, he mounted his horse and left his home in Rochester arriving at the field of battle the same evening. He remained at Camp Winter Hill and Cambridge during the siege of Boston, then went with the troops to New York, and thence up the Hudson to Mount Independence, where many New Hampshire troops were stationed, and where he filled the office of Brigade Commissary or Paymaster. He served continuously for nearly five years. As his name occurs frequently in the town records during the latter part of the war, it appears that he left the army about the close of the year 1779. He was a representative to the State Legislature in 1782. He was two years a member of the State Senate under the new Constitution, occupying the position of “Senior” Senator by which title the chairman of that body was then called. He was also for four years a Senator under the revised Constitution. His life was mostly spent in public service. He retained his faculties remarkably until a few months before his death, which occurred October 15, 1817, at the age of ninety-three.

Col. McDuffee was a man of noble form and commanding appearance, six feet two inches in height, of large frame, yet not corpulent. With a high sense of honor, he was firm and independent in the maintenance of his opnions. When the first pension act was passed, he was advised to apply for a pension, but he spurned the suggestion with indignation, saying that it was sufficient reward to him to see the object accomplished for which he had fought. Impetuous in his feelings, he had no patience with any kind of oppression or injustice. His passions were especially violent against the enemies of his country; and in the last years of his life he might frequently have been heard muttering imprecations against tories and redcoats, for, from being many years a soldier associating with rough companions, he had acquired so fixed a habit of profanity that he seemed to be utterly unconscious of the vice. The “New Hampshire Gazetteer” says,” He was a man of strong mind and memory, of extensive information, and a sincere friend of his country.”

Sources: Largely abstracted from Franklin McDuffee, History of the Town of Rochester, New Hampshrie from 1722 to 1890 (Manchester, N.H., 1892), 117-20 [Franklin McDuffee (1832-1880) was the grandson of John McDuffee (1766-1825), the nephew and adopted son of of Lt. Col. John McDuffee]. Also Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army, 369; John Scales, History of Strafford County, New Hampshire (Chicago, 1914), 481; Selected wartime service records of Lt.-Col. John McDuffee.