A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Richard Gridley

"I never drew my sword but in the cause of justice and such I consider my country’s to be." Long before 65 year old British pensioner Richard Gridley gave this reply to the British government’s query as to which side he would support in the Revolution, he had given years of service to the British as a military officer and engineer.

Born in Boston, Richard Gridley was apprenticed to a Boston merchant, but by the 1740’s was studying military engineering under John Henry Bastide. In 1745, Gridley was chosen Lieutenant Colonel in command of artillery in Pepperell’s expedition against Louisbourg, where he drew the plan of the fort seen in this exhibit. As a result of his work there, he received a commission in Governor William Shirley’s regiment, which garrisoned Louisbourg from 1746 to 1749.

In 1755, at the onset of the French and Indian War, Gridley again saw action in an unsuccessful expedition to take a French fort near Crown Point, New York. He established forts in the area around Lake George. In 1758, he returned to the fortress at Louisbourg for another siege before retiring from the British forces, receiving land and half-pension for his efforts. Gridley returned to Stoughton, Massachusetts, where he established a foundry, which would produce the first cannons and howitzers ever cast in America.

In 1775, Gridley was forced to choose between the British, whose side he had long fought for, and the land of his birth. Though it meant the loss of his pension and lands, he chose to side with the Americans. Gridley had a crucial role in supervising the erection of earthworks at Breed’s Hill and was injured the next day during the Battle of Bunker Hill. It was Gridley’s fortification of Dorchester Heights that intimidated the British into evacuating Boston.

In addition to Gridley’s plan of Louisbourg, the Society owns his Queen-Anne style side chair

Back to top