General Joseph Martin Chapter

Cumberland Gap, TN


Cumberland Gap Patriot

Joshua Pillsbury


Joshua Pillsbury, nicknamed the Pillsbury Minuteman by his descendents was born in 1737 in Newbury Massachusetts. On June 7, 1764, Pillsbury married Rebecca Witham in Saco Maine, one of only 6 villages in Maine at the time. They had t least 1 child from this union.

 On April 19, 1775 Pillsbury participated in the first battle of the Revolutionary war at Lexington Massachusetts. Here Pillsbury and 75 other Minutemen under the command of Captain John Parker took on a force of over 250 British troops under the command of Major John Pitcairn.

   Pitcairn arrived in Lexington and ordered the Rebels to disperse, and then a shot rang out. This is the famous Shot heard around the World that started the Revolutionary war. No one knows who fired the first shot. Witnesses say that both sides started firing up in the air about the same time as if they were trying to intimidate the other. Pitcairn’s report to General Gage, Commander of the British forces in North America states” that 4-5 rebels jumped from behind a wall and stared firing”. One legend says a Solomon Brown; an 18 year old bystander in Buckman Tavern located across the street, fired the first shot.  A British report states that a powder discharge from a musket was seen from a bush hedge near the tavern, but who fired the shot has not been substantiated.

  One Witness says Pitcairn rode into Lexington firing his pistols. Pitcairn had two very expensive richly decorated Pistols that he had bought in Scotland. Pitcairn’s horse was later found that day without Pitcairn with his pistols on the saddle so this is a possibility.  On the way back from Concord, Pitcairn’s horse was shot for the third time after being already shot twice in the initial battle at Lexington. After the third shot, Pitcairn’s horse bucked Pitcairn off the saddle on to the ground and ran away as fast he could.

Legend has it that Pitcairn’s horse was found by the rebels and nursed back to health andlater given to Israel Putnam, commander of the Continental forces at the battle of Bunker Hill. Putnam is said to have ridden the horse during the battle and even used Pitcairn’s pistols in the battle.  It is ironic Pitcairn would be killed at the battle of Bunker Hill trying to get his horse back.

 After the rebels started firing at the British at Lexington, the British fired back killing 8 rebels and wounding 10. Only one British soldier was wounded in the exchange.

  After the battle of Lexington, Pillsbury joined a local militia for the next few months.

 Rebecca, Pillsbury’s wife was more worried what was going on in Maine than in Massachusetts. During the Revolutionary war Maine paid a high price for their support of the Patriots.  The British burned all 6 villages to the ground and 1000 Maine patriots were killed during the Revolution.

The first naval battle of the Revolution occurred off the shores of Maine in June 1775 when the British Cutter Margaretha was captured by an American ship. The worst naval disaster of the Revolutionary war also occurred on the shores of Maine near Castine Maine in July 1779. The Penobscot expedition consisting of 19 armed vessels and 24 transports carrying 1200 men under the command of American General Samuel Lovell tried to capture a British Fortification on the shores of Maine. For 3 weeks the British fought off the Americans finally forcing them to withdraw. This expedition cost the Continental Congress 8 million dollars, a lot of money it couldn’t afford to lose. Paul Revere, the famous Midnight Rider of the revolution was part of this expedition. After it failed, Revere was Court-martialed for dereliction of duty, but was soon acquitted.

 Although Pillsbury wouldn’t move to the Cumberland Gap region, his descendents did. Some of his descendents moved to the Hawkins county TN region in the mid 1850’s. Pillsbury died around 1810.

 During World War II, 2 American destroyers were named Pillsbury. One of them, the Pillsbury DE133 captured a German U boat off the coast of Africa. It was the only American ship to ever capture a submarine during World War II.


All Contents Copyright © 2004 – 2006 - The General Joseph Martin Chapter TNSSAR – All Rights Reserved.   No part of this material may be reprinted or utilized in any manner without express written consent from The General Joseph Martin Chapter TNSSAR.