GaspeeVirtual Archives
Colonel Daniel Hitchcock, Esq. (1740-1777)
The Gaspee Days Committee at www.gaspee.COM is a civic-minded nonprofit organization that operates many community events in and around Pawtuxet Village, including the famous Gaspee Days Parade each June. These events are all designed to commemorate the 1772 burning of the hated British revenue schooner, HMS Gaspee, by Rhode Island patriots as America's 'First Blow for Freedom' TM.  Our historical research center, the Gaspee Virtual Archives at www.gaspee.ORG , has presented these research notes as an attempt to gather further information on one who has been suspected of being associated with the the burning of the Gaspee. Please e-mail your comments or further questions to
Evidence implicating Daniel Hitchcock
From: <> p.53
John Andrews, Esq., Judge of the court of Vice Admiralty within the Colony of Rhode Island; Mr. Arthur Fenner, Clerk in the Supreme Court in the county of Providence; Messrs. John Cole, George Brown, and Daniel Hitchcock, Attorneys at Law in the town of Providence; James Sabin, Vintner in the town of Providence.

It is the desire of Admiral Montagu that the above named persons may be summoned and examined before the commissioners relative to the assembling of people in the town of Providence, in the evening of the 9th of June last as a measure necessary towards the discovery of the persons concerned in the burning his Majesty's schooner the Gaspee.

From: <> p. 70: James Sabin wrote:
On the 9th day of June last at night I was employed at my house attending company, which were John Andrews, Esq., Judge of the court of Admiralty, John Cole, Esq., Mr. Hitchcock, and George Brown, who supped at my house and stayed there until two of the clock in the morning following; and I have not any knowledge relative to the matter on which I am summoned; which I am ready to make oath to before any Justice of the Peace.
From: <> p. 98
The Admiral also delivered to the commissioners, a list of persons who reside in Providence as material witnesses relative to the assembling of the people prior to the attacking the Gaspee, in consequence of which they ordered a summons to be issued for John Andrews, Esq., John Cole, Esq., Daniel Hitchcock, Esq., and George Brown, Attorneys at Law, and Arthur Fenner and James Sabin, to attend on Wednesday next at 11 o'clock, which was issued accordingly. The summonses were delivered to Samuel dark, who was sent as express by the commissioners at 20 minutes after 3 o'clock.

From: <> p. 72

EAST GREENWICH, Jan. 20, 1773.
May it please your Honors:—Late last night I had a citation from Providence to appear before you this day at 11 o'clock in the forenoon, to give evidence with regard to the burning the schooner Gaspee; and as I detest all such open violations of the law, should have been willing to have waited upon your honors to let you know every thing within the compass of my knowledge relative to that matter, had not my engagements at Kent Court, in this place, absolutely forbid my attendance; and therefore hope your honors will pardon me on that account; but every thing I know touching that matter I am ready to relate. It has been, may it please your honors, a long custom in this Colony, for the attorneys the concluding of filing of pleas for court, to meet some where together and spend the evening; that night the schooner was burnt happened to be the concluding evening. We met at Mr. Sabin's, by ourselves, and about 8 o'clock I went to the door, or, finally, kitchen, and saw a number of people in the street, but paid no attention to them, as that place was a place of public resort. Some time after 9 o'clock I heard a drum beat, and was asked by some body in the room, what was the occasion of the beating of that drum; and it was answered by somebody, that it was beat by some boys, which quieted all further inquiry by me; neither did I imagine that any thing of that nature was about being perpetrated, till after it was in fact done. This, may it please your honors, is every thing that I know, or has come to my knowledge, relative to that transaction, and which I am willing, on solemn oath, to state before any of the civil authority in Providence, to which place I shall in a day or two return.

I am your Honors most obedient humble servant,

From: <> p. 98
The Admiral also delivered to the commissioners, a list of persons who reside in Providence as material witnesses relative to the assembling of the people prior to the attacking the Gaspee, in consequence of which they ordered a summons to be issued for John Andrews, Esq., John Cole, Esq., Daniel Hitchcock, Esq., and George Brown, Attorneys at Law, and Arthur Fenner and James Sabin, to attend on Wednesday next at 11 o'clock, which was issued accordingly. The summonses were delivered to Samuel Dark, who was sent as express by the commissioners at 20 minutes after 3 o'clock.
From <>:
John Cole, Daniel Hitchcock, and George Brown (were) three Providence lawyers who were alleged to have taken part in the Gaspee affair, or to have information about it. They claimed that they could not leave East Greenwich, where they were involved in court sessions, to testify before the Commission. They all signed depositions denying any significant knowledge, but later Brown and Cole did appear in person to say essentially the same thing.
From <> p. xxviii
The absence of the key witnesses highlighted this session of the inquiry. Arthur Fenner and John Andrews pleaded ill health, and George Brown, John Cole, and Daniel Hitchcock the press of business. Hitchcock and Cole apparently collaborated on their testimony concerning events in Sabin Tavern the night of the raid. One day before, Brown, Cole, and Hitchcock had told Hopkins that they intended to refuse to appear before the commissioners, presumably on the advice they had received earlier from Sam Adams. Adams had challenged the jurisdiction of the commissioners, but Hopkins obviously convinced them to move away from this kind of direct challenge and to submit written depositions instead. Misrepresentation, intimidation, and evasion are all evident here in this first session.
It is curious that although we note that Andrews, Cole, and Brown each presented in person to testify before the Commission, we have no record of Hitchcock having done so, other that the written affidavit he submitted in January.  Perhaps he felt that Sam Adam's advice was better than that of Steve Hopkins. Perhaps he directly participated in the attack on the Gaspee and feared recognition by people attending the Commission. In either event, he may have shown contempt of court if he did fail to testify.

It is too curious that Daniel Hitchcock and his group of fellow attorneys, Andrews, Cole, and Brown, denied any foreknowledge of the attack on the Gaspee, particularly when such a large meeting of angry men had gathered at the same inn that night to plan the Gaspee's destruction. We can only conclude that Hitchcock's testimony was obviously false.  He stalled having to give testimony before the Commision in January. By June all four lawyers had time to collaborate and practice their false charade. In either event, Hitchcock was well heralded for his refusal to cooperate with the Commission. The 12June1773 edition of the Providence Gazette reported that at a meeting of the Providence Town Council:

    Daniel Hitchcock, Esq., Attorney at Law, and Arthur Fenner, jun, Esq; Clerk of the Superior Court, were likewise summoned to appear before said Commissioners, and have done themselves high Honour, in nobly refusing to pay them the least Regard.

We therefore present Daniel Hitchcock as an unindicted co-conspiritor in the Gaspee Affair, guilty of obstruction of justice at the very least. In doing this, we acknowledge him as a patriot to the cause of American independence.

Biographical Information:

From the RI Historical Cemeteries Database, we have no candidates, which we expect since he died in New Jersey.

From likewise comes up empty.

We found a short biography of Daniel Hitchcock on page 696 in Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College with Annals of the College History By Franklin Bowditch Dexter (1896).  After graduating from Yale in 1761 he studied law in Northampton. MA and remained in law practice there until 1771. Daniel's first cousin was the Rev. Enos Hitchcock of Providence, and it is quite possible that this relation induced him to settle in Providence, RI to practice law. 

According to an ad in the Providence Gazette 8December1770, Daniel Hitchcock announced the opening his law office in the house of Dr. Amos Throop, but the Gazette of 20Aug1774 noted in an ad that the former office of Daniel Hitchock, Esq had become a mirror shop in Providence. In the 20May1775 edition Hitchcock advertised that he would be taking a leave of absence, and that his law practice would be assumed by his partner, William Mumford, Esq.  Hmmmm--This Mumford guy was the same guy that purposely served a Gaspee Commission subpoena on the wrong Arthur Fenner back in 1773, frustrating the inquiry by the British..  In either event, this happenings may have reflected the chronic disease from which Daniel Hitchcok was suffering.  Col. Daniel Hitchcock's passing was noted in a brief paragraph in the Providence Gazette 25Jan1777, and his estate notice was published in March.  One-half of his estate was given to the Benevolent Congregational Society of Providence. 

In December 1774 Hitchcock was appointed by the RI Assembly to a committee to revise the military laws within the Colony. According to Bayles, Richard M. History of Providence County, Rhode Island, New York, 1891, p369, Daniel Hitchcock was appointed Lieutenant Colonel and vice commander of the United Train of Artillery from Providence  in April 1775, and joined up with Washington's army at Cambridge under the command of Gen. Nathanael Greene.  In the 9November1776 Providence Gazette announced that the State Assembly had appointed Daniel Hitcock, Esq., Colonel of the 2nd Battalion. We do get this interesting snippet from "An Historical Sketch of The Town of Scituate, R.I.; Part 4":

Lieut.-Col. Ezekiel Cornell, of Col. Hitchcock's regiment, Providence, writes to Major Knight, dated Warwick, July 20, 1777, informing that he has just received an express telling him that forty sail of square-rigged vessels were off Watch Point standing towards Newport, last evening; also, desiring me to send an express to Col. Colwell, which I have done, ordering him immediately to warn the militia to be in readiness.
The above leads us to to get more information on this.  Unfortunately, the link directly to the site of the Uniforms of the American Revolution <> is broken at this time, but Google cached results give us:
This regiment was raised in May, 1775, in the county of Providence, R. I., as the 2nd regiment of the Army of Observation of Rhode Island, which was formed into one brigade under Brigadier General Nathaniel Greene, consisting of three infantry regiments and a train of artillery. Over one thousand men of this Army in the same formation joined the American Army before Boston in 1775, as the Rhode Island quota at the call of Massachusetts for men from the rest of the New England colonies. The regiment was commanded by Colonel Daniel Hitchcock, and was numbered the 14th Foot. In the reorganization of the Continental Army, January 1, 1776, it became the 11th Continental Infantry. After the death of Colonel Hitchcock, January 13, 1777, it was commanded by Colonel Israel Angell, and was known as the 2nd Rhode Island Regiment, of the Rhode Island Line. On January 1, 1781, the 1st and 2nd Rhode Island regiments were consolidated, and commanded by Lt. Colonel Jeremiah Olney for the rest of the war. The regiment was present with Washington in all the principal battles of the war.
Even better, we strike pay dirt with this one: The 2nd Rhode Island Regiment of the Continental Line <> (link broken as of 2005):
Reacting to the news of the Battle of Lexington and Concord in April 1775, the Rhode Island General Assembly voted to form an Army of Observation. Opposed to this action was Governor Joseph Wanton, a Tory who was removed from office and replaced by Nicholas Cooke, an ardent patriot. One of three Battalions of this Army was commanded by Colonel Daniel Hitchcock, a 35 year old lawyer. Twenty-three year old Stephen Olney served as Ensign.

By May 1775 Hitchcock's Battalion was raised, equipped and marched for Boston in the Brigade of Rhode Island's General Nathaniel Greene. In June all the Rhode Island troops were taken into Continental pay and service under General George Washington of Virginia. In this reorganization Hitchcock's Battalion was renamed the 14th Battalion of Foot.

The 14th Foot was fired upon during the Battle of Breed's Hill in June but did not actively take part in the fight. Little is known of the appearance of these men but we do know they were better equipped than most and had a complete camp with tents and accoutrements based on the British style.

During September several men of the 14th Foot volunteered for the ill-fated Arnold expeditionary battalion going to Quebec. Following a long and arduous march, the battalion attacked on December 31th. Some of the men were killed and the rest were captured.

Meanwhile in Boston on December 1st the men of the 14th Foot, Hitchcock's Battalion, volunteered to serve an additional 30 days. At the end of the month the enlistments expired and the unit dissolved.

On January 1st remnants of Hichcock's old unit and other battalions enlisted for one year and formed the 11th Continental Regiment. Daniel Hitchcock remained as colonel and Stephen Olney was promoted to lieutenant. Following the evacuation of Boston by the British in April, the 11th, as part of Gen. Nathaniel Greene's brigade, marched for New York where they built earthworks on Long Island.

The 11th Continentals were beaten at Long Island in August at which time 34 year old Nathaniel Greene was promoted to major general. In September the 11th held off the British at Harlem Heights and was narrowly defeated at White Plains in October. The fall was spent retreating through New Jersey.

Much of the tenting and supplies were lost at the various battles and at the capture of Fort Lee. Uniforms were tattered and supplies of clothing or equipage were nonexistent. Upon the arrival at Trenton the 11th prepared for the Crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas Day. The Regiment never did cross the river or take part in the subsequent battle due to difficulties in transporting the artillery. On December 31st the men volunteered to serve one additional month.

The 11th had a major part in the Second Battle of Trenton on January 2nd. That night the man marched for Princeton, New Jersey. In the moring the American column, led by militia, attacked the British. The militia broke and ran through Hitchcock's brigade. Israel Angell, who was in command, reformed the Regiment, advanced 100 yards, fired several volleys and charged the british line.

Following the battle, General Washington told Hitchcock how proud he was of his conduct and that of his troops and asked that the word be passed down to the men. A few days later Col. Hitchcock succumbed to exposure. With the enlistment expired the men and officers returned to Rhode Island.

If Hitchcock was 35 when he took command of the 2nd RI Regiment in 1775, he was born c1740 and would have been 32 at the time of the attack on the Gaspee. And if Hitchcock died shortly after the Battle of Trenton, he's probably buried somewhere in that area of New Jersey -Pennsylvania- New York. The history above is taken from: "A Short History of the 2nd Rhode Island Regiment of the Continental Line", by Roy P. Najecki, 1983.

Yet more from the US Army Center for Military History <> p. 17:

Greene's staff included a brigade adjutant and a brigade commissary responsible for logistics. The troops formed three regiments (two with eight companies and one with seven) and a company of artillery. Greene, Cooke, and the Committee of Safety arranged the officers; since all commissions were dated 8 May, seniority was resolved by drawing lots. The three regiments rotated posts of honor to avoid establishing a system of precedence. One regiment was raised in Bristol and Newport Counties by Thomas Church; another was raised by Daniel Hitchcock in Providence County. A business associate of Greene's, James Mitchell Varnum, was given command of the regiment from King's and Kent counties, while John Crane, formerly of Boston, became captain of the artillery company.

Companies left for Boston as quickly as possible. Hitchcock's and Church's regiments had assembled there by 4 June, the date that Greene opened his headquarters. The artillery company, armed with four field pieces and escorting a dozen heavy guns, also arrived in early June. Varnum's regiment arrived several weeks later, the Rhode Island Assembly reconvened on 12 June and remained in session until 10 July. During this period it settled various logistical and disciplinary matters and added a secretary, a baker, and a chaplain to the brigade's staff. It also raised six new companies, two for each regiment. Greene was given the power, in consultation with the field officers, to fill vacancies, and he was placed under the "command and direction" of the Commander in Chief of the "combined American army" in Massachusetts. 

And from Greene's of the World <> (link broken as of 2005) relating the Battle of Trenton:

On 2 Jan (1777)., Cornwallis left for Trenton, where Washington's inferior forces seemed trapped. NG's division slowed the advance enough to delay their arrival at Trenton until nightfall giving Washington's army an opportunity to withdraw along a back road to Princeton during the night, muffing their gun-carriage wheels to mask their retreat and leaving a unit behind to deceive the British with busy sounds of fortification. When Cornwallis discovered the ruse, the Americans had already engaged a surprised British garrison at Princeton. Although the British succeeded at first in driving back the advance unit, they soon gave way in a rout that cost them 28 killed, 58 wounded, and 129 captured. American losses were 23 killed and 20 wounded. Among the killed was Nathanael Greene's good friend Gen. Hugh Mercer, and among the wounded was his old regimental commander Daniel Hitchcock, who died a week later from injuries and exposure. Nathanael Greene pursued the British part of the way to New Brunswick, but with Cornwallis close behind, all the officers agreed to head for the hills of Morristown where a camp had been prepared. The British, now confined to eastern New Jersey, would be no threat to the American army for some months.
Finally, we have him on at <>
HITCHCOCK, Daniel, soldier, born in Rhode Island in 1741; died in Morristown, New Jersey, in January, 1777. He was graduated at Yale in 1761, practiced law in Providence, Rhode Island, and was lieutenant colonel of militia. In the beginning of the Revolution he enlisted in the Continental army, and commanded a Rhode Island regiment at the siege of Boston, and a brigade at Princeton, although he was far advanced in the disease from which he afterward died. On the battle-field of the latter engagement General Washington took him by the hand, and in the presence of the army thanked him for his gallant service.

Taken from: Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson and John Fiske. 6 vols. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889

From: Williams, Catherine, Biography of Revolutionary Heroes: Containing the Life of Brigadier Gen. William Barton and also of Captain Stephen Olney. Providence, Published by the author, 1839, p300:
Colonel Daniel Hitchcock, who is so often mentioned in the first part of Captain Olney's journal, was a very meritorious officer, and died at a time when his services were much needed.  Captain Olney does not mention the time of his death, which occurred in Morristown, N. J. and was caused by peripneunony.

The fatigue of that campaign killed him, in fact.  The heat had been excessive, and in New Jersey, the seat of constant warfare, of continual alarm, of horrible excesses of the enemy, the excitement was constant, the marchings and countermarchings continual, and the constitution of Col. Hitchcock sunk under excessive suffering and exertion.  Israel Angel succeeded him, and Jeremiah Olney was Lieutenant-Colonel.

From a medical perspective, I feel his advanced disease was likely to have been tuberculosis, usually referred to at the time as consumption. Lieutenant Colonels, while lower in rank to a full Colonel, are still addressed as Colonel. We also note that Catherine Williams is talking through her hat, since Hitchcock died in the midst of winter; it wasn't the heat that killed him.

A search of the 1770 Providence Taxpayers List fails to show any Hitchcock owning property at the time.  Perhaps he was only recently established in Providence as of 1772, or perhaps he boarded or resided in an adjoining town.  We have not been able to discern the specific reason that Daniel Hitchcock chose Providence area to establish his law practice after graduating from Yale, except perhaps, there being no formal schools of law at the time, he might have been serving an apprenticeship under one of the other lawyers present such as George Brown, John Andrews, or John Cole.
Genealogical notes:

From LDS and Gendex we get no RI based Daniel Hitchcocks, and only two (born in 1729 and 1739) from Springfield, Massachusetts, a long distance away, but not insurmountable. From we get a definite hit:

Daniel (Col.) Hitchcock
Birth: 15 FEB 1739/40 in Springfield, Hampden, Mass.
Death: 13 JAN 1777 in Rev. War.; at camp in Morristown, New Jersey
Father: Ebenezer Hitchcock b: 20 AUG 1694 in Springfield, Hampden, Mass.
Mother: Mary Sheldon d: 8 JAN 1760 in Springfield  Married: 14 FEB 1715/16
Marriage: None listed
Children: None listed
People in Springfield are definite that this is the Colonel Daniel Hitchcock in question. He probably never married or had offspring, although he might have had a girlfriend or two.  Since there were no found direct descendants of this illustrious Revolutionary War hero, we'll list him and his 13 siblings, all offspring of a rather busy Lieutenant Ebenezer and Mary (Sheldon) Hitchcock:
  1.  Anna Hitchcock b: 9 JUL 1717
  2.  Gad (Rev.) Hitchcock b: 12 FEB 1718/19 noted to give sermons with  pro-Revolutionary spin at Fanueil Hall (Providence Gazette 4Jun1774, p2, et al), graduated Harvard 1743.
  3.  Ebenezer Hitchcock b: 20 AUG 1720 in Springfield, Hampden, Mass.
  4.  Abner Hitchcock b: 17 NOV 1721
  5.  Mary Hitchcock b: 29 JUL 1723
  6.  Dinah Hitchcock b: 18 MAY 1725
  7.  Silence Hitchcock b: 31 OCT 1726 in Springfield, Hampden, Mass.
  8.  Joseph Hitchcock b: 25 NOV 1727 in Springfield, Hampden, Mass.
  9.  William Hitchcock b: 20 NOV 1729 in Springfield, Hampden, Mass.
  10.  Sarah Hitchcock b: 9 APR 1731 in Springfield, Hampden, Mass.
  11.  Seth Hitchcock b: 19 FEB 1732/33 in Springfield, Hampden, Mass.
  12.  Phineas Hitchcock b: 1 JAN 1734/35 in Springfield, Hampden, Mass.
  13.  Stephen Hitchcock b: APR 1738 in Springfield, Hampden, Mass.
  14.  Daniel (Col.) Hitchcock b: 15 FEB 1739/40 in Springfield, Hampden, Mass.
Communications Addendum:

In January 2004, we received the following e-mail from a relative descendant of Daniel Hitchcock, Jonathan Benton

I am a a descendant of Phineas Hitchcock (Daniel's brother) and have an extensive genealogy of the family which is, unfortunately, of unknown provenance.  It clearly states that Daniel was the son of Capt. Ebenezer Hitchcock and Mary Sheldon; born Feb 15 1739, baptized on February 17, 1740, in Springfield.  His mother was a decendent of the Old Connecticut families of Pynchon and Wyllys, and also of an Archbishop of Canterbury (Gilbert Sheldon).  His father Ebenezer was born in 1694 in Springfield to Luke Hitchcock (b. 1655) and Sarah Burt Dorchester (b. 1656).  Luke had moved to Springfield with his mother, Elizabeth Gibbons, after the death of his father Luke Hitchcock the elder, who was born sometime after 1614 and seems to have come from England as a young man with his brother and settled in Wethersfield, Ct.

Of Daniel the paper says:  "Graduated Yale in 1761, and went to study and practice law in Northhampton, Mass, but soon removed to Providence, RI.  He was Colonel in the "Army of Observation" in the war of the revolution, serving the summer of 1775 to 1777.  At the siege of Boston he commanded the 11th RI regiment which comprised 380 men.  The Long Island Historical Society memoirs state:  "June 1 Col. Greene assigned the different regiments to position in the work around Brooklyn; Col. Hitchcock's regiment to take Ft. Putnam and the Fort or redoubt on the left of it for their alarm posts.  In case of an attack, all these posts are to be defended to the last extremity."  He was in the battle of Harlem Heights.  He was with Washington when when he [surprised and captured the Hessians at Trenton, Dec. 1777.  He caught a violent cold in that storm which terminated his life in a few days.  He commanded a brigade at Princeton, though then suffering from the illness which resulted in his death soon after.  "Col. Hitchcock, who temporarily succeeded Col. Nixon in the command of the brigade, received the thanks of Washington for himself and his men in front of Princeton College for their aid and conduct in action.  He died in camp at Morristown, N.J., January 13, 1777, [sic] and was buried by the Philadelphia and Delaware light infantry companies under Rodney with all the honors of war."

He made a nuncupative will a few days before his death which was as follows:  "I give one-half of my estate to the Benevolent Congregational Society in Providence.  Remainder to be equally divided between my brethren."  This will was proved by the court of probate of Providence and administration granted to carry it into effect.  Col. Hitchcock was a cousin of Rev. Dr. Enos Hitchcock, so many years the pastor of the Benevolent Congregational Society of Providence.  He never married."

This doesn't add much, and the genealogy I have cites few sources.  But, there you go.  It seems that neither Phineas nor other of the 13 siblings Daniel had (he was the youngest) fought in the revolution.  His brother Gad (second eldest, 21 years older than Daniel), was a preacher and preached some arguably pro-revolutionary sermons, and "served as a chaplain, but was not commissioned" with the revolutionary forces.

Great reading about my 6X great uncle and the Gaspee.

Jonathan Benton
Falls Church VA. 
We conclude that the Daniel Hitchcock that was a co-conspiritor to the Gaspee Affair and quite possibly was directly involved in the burning of the Gaspee itself, was born in Springfield, MA c1740, educated at Yale, and practiced law in Providence. He had strong revolutionary leanings that contributed to his contempt of the Gaspee Commission subpoena, and he was among the first to organize an Army battalion from Providence to fight for independence from the British.  He fought nobly for this cause and was wounded in the Battle of Trenton in 1777, succumbing to the combination of his wounds, exposure, and chronic disease. He was personally recognized by George Washington as a hero of the American Revolution.
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Originally Posted to Gaspee Virtual Archives 9/2002    Last Revised 05/2009    DanielHitchcockEsq.htm