Joseph Cilley

Colonel Joseph Cilley, 1st Regiment, N.H. Continental Line – Original Member

Joseph Cilley was born in 1734 at Nottingham, New Hampshire. Joseph was a self-taught lawyer, Revolutionary soldier, judge, and politician. His father, Captain Joseph Cilley, who came from the Isles of Shoals, was one of the early settlers of Nottingham; his mother was Alice Rollins (or Rawlins). Joseph was married on November 4, 1756, to Sarah Longfellow, by whom he had ten children. He combined the occupations of farmer, lawyer and business man.

In 1758 he joined Rogers’ Rangers and served in northern New York and Canada and was promoted to Sergeant. On December 15, 1774 he was with John Langdon and John Sullivan in the raid on Fort William and Mary at New Castle, New Hampshire.

Upon the news of the battle of Lexington he marched for the scene of action at the head of one hundred volunteers from Nottingham and vicinity. He was appointed Major in Enoch Poor’s 2nd New Hampshire Regiment by the Assembly of New Hampshire. After the Siege of Boston, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in the 1st New Hampshire Regiment, Continental Line and he and the regiment were sent to reinforce the Continental Army in Canada fighting at the Battle of Trois-Rivières. With the defeat of the Continental Army in Canada the 1st New Hampshire was sent to New Jersey and Gen. George Washington’s main army. Cilley took part in the Battle of Trenton and the Battle of Princeton. On April 2, 1777 he was appointed Colonel of the 1st New Hampshire Regiment, Continental Line in place of Colonel John Stark who had resigned. He fought at Bemus Heights, at the surrender of Burgoyne, storming of Stoney Point, Monmouth and other battles of the Revolution. In 1779, Colonel Cilley and the 1st New Hampshire were with Gen. Sullivan in his campaign against the Iroquois and Loyalists in western New York.

On March 19, 1779, the New Hampshire Assembly voted unanimously, “that the worthy Col. Jos. Cilley be presented with a pair of pistols as a token of this State’s good intention to reward merit in a brave officer.” These pistols are now housed at the Museum of New Hampshire History in Concord, New Hampshire. Colonel Cilley retired from the Continental Army on January 1, 1781.

After the Revolution he became one of the original 30 members of the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of New Hampshire. He was successively Treasurer, vice-president and President of the Society. On June 22, 1786 he was appointed Major General and commander of the 1st Division of New Hampshire Militia.

He was made justice of the peace and of the quorum for Rockingham County, and held the position for life. In politics he was a Jeffersonian Republican. He was a member of the state Senate, 1790-91, and of the House, 1792, and was Councillor 1797-98. Joseph Cilley died on August 25, 1799, at his home in Nottingham.

Joseph Cilley married Sarah Longfellow on November 4, 1756. They had ten children, including Jonathan Cilley and Greenleaf Cilley. Greenleaf’s sons Joseph Cilley and Jonathan Cilley would become a U. S. Senator and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, respectively.

Mount Cilley in the White Mountains is named for him.


Frederic Kidder, History of the First New Hampshire Regiment in the War of the Revolution (Albany, 1868), 94-99; Memoirs and Services of Three Generations: General Joseph Cilley, First New Hampshire Line. War of the Revolution; Johnathan Longfellow, Father of sarah, wife of General Joseph Cilley; Colonel Joseph Cilley, U.S. Senator and Officer in the War of 1812; Honorable Johnathan Cilley, Member of Congress from Maine; Commander Greenleaf Cilley, War with Mexico and War of 1861; General Johnathan P. Cilley, First Main Cavalry, War of the Rebellion (reprint from the Courier-Gazette, Rockland Maine, 1909); Samuel Carroll, A List of The Revolutionary Soldiers of Dublin, N.H. (Derby Press of Spahr & Glenn: Columbus, Ohio, 1901); Selected Wartime Service Records of Colonel Joseph Cilley.