Friday, November 16, 2012

Tufts Military History Part One: Before the Revolution

The Tufts and many other families were very active in defense of their settlements long before the conflict with England. I am very proud of my own sons who defend freedom today and I appreciate the symbol of the National Guard being the statue of the Minute Man, but more than 100 years before the American Revolution many lives were lost and many Tufts sons served their communities.

Peter Tufts (1617-1700), the first American Tufts, must have mustered out as required by law in Massachusetts in the 17th century. He may have been too old to go out on offensive actions so any action would have been in local attacks on Massachusetts towns, and on required training days. From what we know of colonial Massachusetts (where Peter arrived around 1638), all men were required to serve in the militia in defense of their townships.

The following quotes from Brooks’ History of Medford appear to quote local records of early legislation. Examples of such records can be found in many of local New England town histories. The Tufts name appears in many of those references.

These laws and taxes for ammunition and supplies were vital to the survival of the towns and their inhabitants. Only “freemen” were allowed to be officers, or vote for them, and those in certain occupations (such as fishermen and shipbuilders) were excused from training because their work was vital to the community. Some poorer residents had accommodations to work for the money required to provide their guns, and watchmen were often appointed to guard against surprise attacks. Fines were levied if one did not attend training. Trainees also included young boys from ten years to sixteen who were instructed by a member of the militia at his discretion in use of small arms, bows and arrows, and pikes.  Shocking as this may seem, it was often the women and children who had to defend the more remote settlements while the men were out in the fields.
The danger of attack from the Indians was ever present. Town histories often contain graphic tales of kidnapped settlers and murdered women and children. The French would pay ransom for captives in Canada, and the tribes often used these souls to replace members of their tribe lost in battle or by disease. My ancestor, Peter Labaree, whose granddaughter Sarah married Jonas Tufts in Charlestown, New Hampshire, was captured but escaped and returned to his frontier home at Fort #4.

King Phillip’s War, June 1675 – April 1678
  • Peter Tufts, Jr. (1648-1721), oldest son of Peter the immigrant, was a Captain in the Massachusetts Militia in King Phillip’s War and was referred to as “Captain Peter.” He lived in the Craddock Tufts house at 350 Riverside Avenue in Medford and raised two families with three wives. He commanded a troop of horse cavalry and probably went out on the initial alarm to defend the colonies around Swansea, Massachusetts (then part of Plymouth Colony) in 1675 during King Phillips War.  We know he was also sent out with the troop to pursue the Indians following the massacre at Groton, Massachusetts in 1704. He was also deployed with the cavalry troop in July 1706. He left his sword, a Silver Hilton, to his son Dr. Simon Tufts (1700-1746).

  • James Tufts (1650-1675), was the second son of Peter the immigrant. He was the first Tufts killed in combat in America that I have found. He was slain at Deerfield, Massachusetts, on September 18, 1675 in the attack later to be known as the “Battle of Bloody Brook.” During the conflict described as King Phillip’s War, the settlements along the Connecticut River Valley like Deerfield were constantly under attack by Indians. The townspeople decided to retire to Hadley, Massachusetts for the winter and moved the supplies there from Deerfield.   James, a Deerfield farmer, volunteered as a teamster, driving the ox carts.  Many of the soldiers guarding the wagons that day were from Captain Lathrop’s company from Malden and Medford, which often included Tufts and Tufts relatives. All but one of the teamsters and many of the soldiers perished in the Battle of Bloody Brook. It was actually more of an ambush than a battle: the column had paused to rest and let the ox teams catch up at “an unnamed brook” and were enjoying wild grapes when the Indians struck. It was the Indians’ normal means of warfare, to attack with a quick ambush and minimize their own losses. The brook got its name (Bloody Brook) from this episode.
    Soldiers in King Philips War.....
    George Madison Bodge

     James never married, but had one son. In the summer 1984 Tufts Kinsmen newsletter (volume X no. 2) Herb Adams writes that this only son was acknowledged by Peter the immigrant who provided for his upbringing in 1670. This is confirmed with reference to the actual records in the Tufts Kinsmen 2010 edition. James was born in Malden but lived for a time in Salem.  Elizabeth Wells claimed he had had relations with her and had fathered her child, and she had witnesses to back her up. There are no records and many suppositions about her ancestry, but she had a son James Jr. in Charlestown around 1670. James senior removed to Deerfield where Adams states he was a planter.  James Jr. was raised in the home of Captain Peter Tufts. His mother had died in 1674 and the governess provided by Peter had also died. Among James Jr.’s descendants are a long list of patriots and soldiers.

  • Henry Tufts (1651-1706?), Peter’s third son, may also have died in combat. In his 2010 edition of Kinsmen Adams reports that Henry died in 1706 in Dunstable, but, in the1982 draft, the date is 1675, and in the 1975 edition, the date is 1699. Adams writes at length about confusion between Henry Tufts and a Henry Jefts and isn’t even confident he is Peter’s son. A Henry Tuffs did serve in relief of Dunstable with John Lane’s troop. (Source: The New England historical & genealogical register and antiquarian journal, Volume 17.) The name Tufts was commonly recorded as Tuffs, Jefts and other variations. Adams bases some of his theory on the English practice of naming sons in sequence of their forefathers and a long lost record. There were certainly skirmishes in that area which are written in history and Dunstable covered a very large area at that time. This is obviously one of the mysteries that could be solved with further research. 
The French and Indian War (1754-1763)

  •  James Tufts Jr. (1670-1722), the son of the James killed at Bloody Brook, from Peter, and born in 1670 in Charlestown, served at Fort Saco, Maine which was part of Massachusetts at the time.  James Jr. lived in Medford and “Piscataqua” (Portsmouth area) New Hampshire and had his family of five children from 1696-1707.
  •  Aaron Tufts (1740-?) from Lancaster, Massachusetts, served in the French and Indian War in relief of Fort William Henry. Adams believes he was the son of William from James, Jonathan, and Peter. Born in 1740, in Medford, Aaron would have been only 17 for the 1757 New York campaign. His company marched as far as Springfield MA and returned.  Aaron is also listed in Captain Whitcomb’s company in Colonel Bagley’s regiment when they marched to Canada in 1758. Adams thought he may have died in Dalton, Massachusetts but no record is listed. Adams states he never returned from military service. The birth record spells his name Tuffts. (more research needed)
  • A John Jefts is listed in the company of men who suffered badly at the hands of the Indians at Pigwacket (near Fryeburg Maine) but it is unclear if this is a Jefts or one John Tufts. The John Tufts then would have been the minister in Newbury (unlikely) or John Tufts son of John and grandson of Peter the immigrant who died 16 May 1725 (one month after the expedition).some references list him as of Groton and state he was killed there. Another clue for more research.
  • William Tuffs (Tufts) (1738-1783) from West Brookfield Massachusetts was the son of John from James, James, and Peter. He is listed in the rolls as marching in relief of Fort William Henry in 1757 like Aaron (above). This was the relief of the fort which had been, by then conceded to the French. When the British and Colonial troops were marching from the fort in defeat, they were ambushed by Mohawk Indians allied with the French and close to 300 men were murdered with no control from the French. This attack is portrayed with some accuracy in a scene in the movie “Last of the Mohicans” . William was also on the rolls for 1758 and went out to capture the fort at Crown Point in 1759 and probably on to the capture of Quebec.
  • Isaiah Tufts, (1740-1773), was a soldier in the French and Indian War in 1757 (age 17). He was the son of Nathaniel from John and Peter. Isaiah married Abigail Pierce and had two children before passing in 1773. Two of his brothers married Abigail’s sisters. Nathaniel’s family was another family of many soldiers and patriots. Not much else was found on Isaiah, possibly due to his early passing.

Acadia (1745)

  • Peter Tufts (1715-1771), from Peter, Captain Peter, and Peter was also a colonial soldier. . He served in the siege of Louisburg, Nova Scotia and died of disease there on September 12, 1745 (record from General Shirley’s diary). The colonial troops were credited with dragging mortars across bad ground to effect the siege.
  • Lieutenant Thomas Tufts (1711-1746), born in Medford, was Peter’s cousin (above) and the son of Reverend Thomas (1683-1733) from Captain Peter, and Peter the immigrant. Lieutenant Thomas was a school teacher in Stratham, NH, a tavern-keeper at Greenland, Ensign, and Quartermaster in Colonel Moore’s Ninth Company in the French war, serving at Louisburg, Nova Scotia (with his Massachusetts cousins). History of Newfields states that the lieutenant’s service was from February 13 to September 6, 1745, although it also states that his father Reverend Thomas was born in England and immigrated to Boston (which is not correct). When he returned from the capture of Louisburg, Nova Scotia, Lieutenant Thomas was sick and never fully recovered. He passed away in Greenland, New Hampshire, in 1746. I’m looking for his resting place.

  • William Tufts Jr. (1727-1771) was the son of John Tufts of Medford from James, Jonathan, and Peter. He was a mariner and married Katherine Tufts (his cousin), the daughter of Lieutenant William Tufts from James, Jonathan, and Peter. He served at Louisburg heroically and the story is told in two sources. In “France and England in North America” by Parkman, there is reference to John Langdon Sibley’s “William Vaughan and William Tufts Jr at Louisburg”.  In this story Sibley says:  “William Tufts of Medford, a boy of eighteen, climbed the flagstaff, holding in his teeth his red coat, which he made fast at the top, as a substitute for the British flag, a proceeding that drew upon him a volley of unsuccessful shot from the town batteries”. This was the initial assault on the harbor in which they captured the main batteries before assaulting the fort and town. The Medford in the Revolution version of William’s feat states that he was the first to enter the works and that he was the son of John and Sarah Tufts.  After this, the colonials had to defend the main battery against a much larger force until reinforcements arrived. (William Jr.’s son, William, died in 1777 at the battle of Bennington in the Revolution). 

Many good references are available to read more about colonial wars before the revolution. Perhaps one of the best is Half Century of Conflict (2 volumes) and the many other works of Francis Parkman. One source I like to read to really get a feeling for colonial endurance are the works of Kenneth Roberts. Many may know his story about the Northwest Passage, which was made into a movie starring Spencer Tracy and Robert Young in 1940. The first part of this book details the expedition of Robert Rogers’ Rangers and their assault on the village of St. Francis, Canada. James Fennimore Cooper also wrote many historical novels (including the earlier-mentioned Last of the Mohicans) that really give the reader a feel for what life was like then. I can’t imagine my neighbor coming by one day and saying  ”Grab your flintlock and a pack, we’re going to march to Canada and raid an Indian village or take Quebec.” I’ve been to Quebec and I can’t see any easy way to attack that city on the hill, especially after marching through the forest for 2 months!
As always, I have much more information about these families. I can provide more details on them and these events but urge readers to seek out the books and records from the colonial period as well. Please leave comments with corrections, additions or other ideas. I will update them in the comments section or future stories.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Finding Charles C. Tufts for my cousin Chuck (Charles K. Tufts)

Charles Crittenden Tufts was a Civil War soldier from Illinois who is buried at Vicksburg National Cemetery in Vicksburg, Mississippi. My first cousin Hugh Tufts had visited Vicksburg and told his brother Chuck that a Charles Tufts was buried there. Charles C. Tufts was the son of Thomas Tufts, Jr. of Brookfield, Massachusetts and Gorham, New York.
This branch of the Tufts family is a family of storied patriots and soldiers. Thomas Tufts, Jr.’s father, Thomas Tuffs (a common spelling of the name in this family), was a second Lieutenant in the Revolutionary War. Thomas’s father, John Tuffs, was from Brookfield, Massachusetts where he had a family with Agnes Foote (of Scots-Irish descent). John’s history before this is up to debate. Some say he was from Ireland and Scots-Irish, while others relate him to the family of James Tufts (1670-1722) a descendant of James Tufts (1650-1675), the son of Peter, the common Tufts immigrant ancestor.
In his Kinsmen 2010 edition, Herb Adams relates how Dr. James Hayden Tufts (1862-1942), an eminent Professor of Philosophy at Chicago University, claimed John Tuffs was from Ireland.  The story of John Tuffs ancestry may relate to the mystery of John Tufts from Windham, New Hampshire and Belfast, Maine. In the early 1700's there were several John Tufts and both theWindham John and Brookfield John spelled their name Tuffs. If John of Brookfield was descended from James (1670-1722), he came from good soldier stock. The first James was killed in King Phillip’s War at the Battle of Bloody Brook (Deerfield Massachusetts). The second James served at Fort Saco in Maine during the French and Indian War. There will be much more on this family.
Charles C. Tufts was born in Gorham, NY in 1829 and grew up there with his nine brothers and sisters. In 1853, he married  Adelia(Roxie)Foster and they settled in Illinois. The census of 1860 lists them as residents of Illinois in “Subdivision 17” of Sangamon County. Before Charles went off to war in 1862, he and Roxie had three girls: Adelia M., Flora A., and Mary E. 
Charles enlisted in Company C, Illinois 114th Infantry Regiment on September 18, 1862. His unit went straight into the action upon activation.  According to  The Union Army, vol. 3 (from

[This] regiment was organized in the months of July and August [1862] and was mustered into the U.S. service at Camp Butler on September 18, 1862. Companies A and D were from Cass county [Illinois]; Companies B, C, E, G, H, and I were from Sangamon county; and Companies F and K were from from Menard County. On November 8, the regiment left Camp Butler, and arrived in Memphis, Tennessee, on the 16th. ...

On May 2, 1863 the regiment joined in the movement to the rear of Vicksburg; was engaged in the battle of Jackson, losing 5 men killed and wounded; arrived at the rear of Vicksburg on May 18 and participated in the siege, with a loss of 20 men in killed and wounded. On the surrender of Vicksburg [July 4, 1863], the regiment was ordered to move against the Confederate General Johnston, who retreated to Jackson Mississippi, and during the siege of [Jackson] the loss of the regiment in killed and wounded was 7 men. It was then ordered to Oak Ridge, Mississippi, and while doing picket duty there, [the regiment] had several skirmishes with the [Confederate] guerrillas, 1 man being killed and 2 men captured while on duty.

Charles C. Tufts mustered out in Vicksburg on November 3, 1863 when he died of disease (according to the record, he died of chronic dysentery).

I have found record of several Charles Tuftses. They include one from our home state of New Hampshire, others from New York, Ohio, Vermont, and even a Confederate soldier.
Charles H. Tufts was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on October 8, 1830 and was the son of Zebulon and Abigail A. (Gage) Tufts. He married (second) Adelaide Wright on April 30, 1859 in Boston and they lived in Manchester, New Hampshire with her family in 1860 (from census).  Charles H. Tufts enlisted on August 20, 1862 as a wagoner. He served in Company E, 11th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment. He mustered out on June 4, 1865 at Alexandria, Virginia.Charles and Abigail had two children; Bion and Hattie. Eventually he and his family moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts where he was a painter.  He died in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1886.
Charles H. Tufts’s family was from Medford Massachusetts. His father, Zebulon, was the son of Jonathan, from Jonathan, James, James, Jonathan, and Peter the immigrant.
Much of the information in this story comes from records available at and Tufts Kinsmen 2010 by Herbert Adams and The Tufts Kinsmen Association available by e-mailing
Please excuse any errors or omissions. More information on these families is always available by request. Please leave comments for requests and check for updates.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Freeling Tufts Colt: A Tufts descendant and World War II paratrooper

Freeling Tufts Colt was a first lieutenant  and paratrooper killed in Normandy on D-Day June 6, 1944. He served in the 506th parachute infantry of the 101st Airborne (2nd Battalion Company F). He is buried in the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, France (Plot D Row 22 Grave 26).

He was born in 1916 in Hazelton, Pennsylvania to Alexander and Ida Colt. Alexander was the son of Katherine (Tufts) Colt from Litchfield, New Hampshire and Samuel Colt of Niagara, New York. Katherine (Catherine or Julia Ann Catherine) was descended from Peter Tufts (the patriarch who came to Charlestown, Massachusetts from England around 1638) through the families of Captain Peter (Jr), Thomas, Henry, John, and Thomas Jefferson Tufts. Her brother Freeling Tufts, for whom Lt. Colt was presumably named, grew up in Litchfield and was a prominent engineer and business man in Kansas. Lt. Colt is among the many patriots and soldiers in the Tufts families and families of Tufts daughters. Today, descendants of his family can be found in Colorado and Texas among other places. Additional family lineage is available upon request.

In 1937 Lt. Colt traveled to England, then returned from South Hampton to New York on the Aquitania[italicize]. He graduated in 1938 from Virginia Military institute with a BS in chemistry as a flying cadet of the Army Air Corps.

In July of 1942 Lt. Colt joined the 506th Parachute Infantry regiment upon it’s activation at Camp Toombs (Toccoa), Georgia. He was assigned to F Company alongside Easy Company (the unit featured in the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers”). They trained as hard as any unit in the armed services. They faced one of the hardest obstacle courses and ran daily to the top of Curahee Mountain. They then went to Fort Benning, Georgia some of the battalions marching 136 miles and breaking a record held by the Japanese army.

After parachute training at Fort Benning and maneuvers in Tennessee, the 506th moved to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, a trained fighting unit. It was here that Lt. Colt and his wife Margaret (Pardee) had their two children Tricia and Blais. During the latter part of August 1943, the unit reported to Camp Shanks, NY, where preparations were made for overseas movement. The 506th crossed the Atlantic on the SS Samaria during September, and arrived at Liverpool, England, on 15 September 1943.

 June 5, 1944, found the men of the 506th parked by the aircraft that were to carry them into their first combat mission. Shortly after 0100 hours on 6 June 1944, the men of the 506th hit the silk in the skies over France for the initial assault on the northern coast of Normandy. The drop was scattered around the area and disorganized but eventually the units gathered their forces and accomplished their missions. They received a unit citation for their work.
Map of 506th Parachutes Infantry landing zones

There is much available to read on the exact fighting and movements of the units. The fighting was fierce in the hedgerow country where they fought for road crossings, towns, and gun emplacements. One book that mentions Lt. Colt is The Cow Spoke French: the story of Sgt. William True, American Paratrooper By William True, and his son Deryck Tufts True (Merriam Press, 2002). In that reference they state Lt. Colt was killed upon entering the town of Ste. Marie-du-Mont. Deryck Tufts True is a descendent of another Tufts daughter in California. (William married Clarissa Jane Tufts who was the daughter of Robert G. and Maybelle L. (Shanks) Tufts of California from Charles P., Leman G., Joseph, John, John, John, Peter.) Please visit their site to purchase their book.

2nd Battalion Officers


History of the 506th: 

Pictures of 506th used in this story were from this site: