Thomas Gardner was born on July 24 in either 1723 or 1724. There is some debate as to the exact year. When he was less than one year old his family bought a large tract of land along what is now Western Avenue in Cambridge from current day Central Square to Market Street in Brighton. His father paid a tidy sum for this land so we can easily assume that they were financially well off.
His upbringing had no shortage of religious values. His father moved from the Church in Brookline to that in Cambridge, while several relatives were Deacons at various other Churches.
The Champneys, Danas and the Sparhawks were families of Cambridge that dominated the political and business life of the day. When Thomas married Joanna Sparhawk in 1755 this brought him further into the influential circles of Little Cambridge. This relationship was strengthened again when his sister, Elizabeth, married Thomas Sparhawk.
Before the start of the American Revolution, Thomas Gardner was actively engaged in politics. Cambridge elected Gardner to the post of Selectman and Representative to the General Court of 1769. In the years leading up to the outbreak of the American Revolution, Gardner wielded considerable political influence. After King George dissolved the General Court, Gardner became an outspoken supporter of resistance to the Crown. Seen as a military expert, Gardner was chosen to represent Cambridge at the Middlesex County Convention and at the First and Second Provincial Congress. They also saw fit to elect him to the Revolutionary Council of Safety in May of 1775. This Council of Safety replaced the King's Royal Governor and Council as the ruling executive branch of the Massachusetts Colony.
The Officers of Thomas Gardner's Regiment voted him Colonel in November of 1774. The Regiment itself was formed largely of men from Boston and it's neighboring towns in December of 1774. Besides Cambridge and Charlestown, these included the current day Towns of Arlington, Malden, Medford, Newton, Waltham, Watertown and the sections of Boston called Allston and Brighton.
The records of the First Provincial Congress listed Thomas Gardner as a Colonel and two field pieces were assigned to the Regiment by the Committee of Safety on February 23, 1775. Gardner's Regiment answered the Lexington Alarm on April 19, 1775. The Regiment at that time was designated the 37th Regiment of the Army of the United Colonies.
Had Thomas Gardner lived, there is no doubt that he would have been ranked among the most prominent of the patriot soldiers who swore allegiance to the Revolution. Thomas Gardner's Regiment of Middlesex was commissioned on June 2, 1775. William Bond of Watertown was Lieutenant Colonel and Michael Jackson of Newton was Major.
On June 17, the British committed the lion's share of their combat troops to the taking of the Charlestown Peninsula and dislodging Colonel Prescott and the 1200 men who had entrenched themselves during the night. Fearing another British attack inland, General Artemas Ward ordered Gardner's Regiment to Lechmere Point to guard the road to Cambridge. Realizing that the major portion of the engagement had commenced on Breed's Hill, Gardner advanced his Regiment to Bunker Hill where he was met by General Putnam. Putnam ordered part of Gardner's Regiment to assist fortifying Bunker HIll, while another Company was sent to aid the defense at the rail fence. The greater part of Gardner's Regiment advanced to the redoubt on Breed's Hill just as the British launched their third assault. As the Regiment moved toward the redoubt Colonel Gardner was struck by a ball and mortally wounded. Colonel Thomas Gardner passed away on July 3, 1775.
On July 4, 1775 the Commander-and-Chief, General George Washington issued this order: "Colonel Gardner is to be buried tomorrow, at three o'clock, P.M. with military honors due to so brave and gallant an officer, who fought, bled, and died in the cause of his country and mankind."
The Essex Gazette ran an obituary notice on July 13. In part it said: "From the era of our public difficulties he distinguished himself as an ardent friend to the expiring liberties of America...To promote the interest of his country was the delight of his soul. An inflexible zeal for freedom caused him to behold every engine of oppression with contempt, horror, and aversion."
We offer a very special and heartfelt "Thanks" to our own Lieutenant Michael Bonislawski, PhD. whose extensive and ongoing research has made this web page, and many others, possible.
Painting by Don Troiani. Photo Courtesy of Military and Historical Image Bank