General Joseph Martin Chapter

Cumberland Gap, TN


Cumberland Gap Patriot

Ezra Ross

On  July 2, 1778, Ezra Ross became the first Continental soldier ever hanged in Massachusetts after being convicted of a crime of murder of Joshua Spooner, a wealthy Massachusetts merchant, by a civilian court.
Ross was born in 1760 in the Linebrook community of Ipswich, located just right out of Boston. Ross was the son of Jabez and Johanna Ross, and the brother of 16 other siblings. Eight of Ross's siblings would die of Smallpox during the Smallpox epidemic of Boston in 1776.
 Ross's first taste of he Revolutionary war came on April 21, 1775 during a British invasion of the small Massachusetts town of Ipswich, known locally as the Ipswich Fright.
 Ipswich had sent several militia men to fight in the battles of Lexington and Concord, including two of Ross's brothers. When the British were seen sailing up the Ipswich River towards Ipswich, an alarm sounded. Most feared that Ipswich would pay dearly for their role in the insurrection.
 The Ipswich fright became the Ipswich flight. During the alarm, Citizens rushed out of their homes in fear of being murdered by the British. Some of the families left in such a hurry that they left their babies inside their cribs in the houses,and some babies were even left along the side of the road in bushes so their crying wouldn't alert the British. The fears of the citizens were unfounded though because the British ended up not burning any houses or killing anyone.
 Ross joined the Continental army on December 19, 1775 in the Massachusetts 26th regiment under the command of Col. Baldwin. Ross fought along with the rest of 26th regiment with Washington from the fortifying of Dorchester Heights, located in Cambridge MA in March 1776 until the battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776. Ross's company followed Washington through his bitter defeats during the New York campaign from Long Island through New jersey. At the winter encampment at Thompson mills PA from December 8, 1776 until December 30, 1776, the Massachusetts regiments faced a severe shortage of tents. Some men including Ross had to sleep outside in the elements without any protection against the cold weather.
 After the victory at Trenton, Washington offered anyone a ten dollar bonus if they would reenlist. Ross refused. In the past year, Ross had faced some of the most demoralizing and brutal circumstances of the Revolutionary war. It was now time to go home.
 On December 30, 1776, Ross began the 240 mile walk back to lpswich. By the time he arrived in March 1777, Ross was suffering from frostbite, dehydration, and a fever. Just a few miles from his house, Ross passed out in front of the doorsteps of Joshua and Bathsheba Spooner.
 For the next couple of months, Ross stayed with the Spooners until he was nursed back to health. Ross left the Spooner house in the Spring of 1777.
 In August 1777, Ross reenlisted with the continental army. Before going off to war, Ross stopped by the Spooner house to thank Bathsheba for nursing him back to health. Upon arrival, Ross found Bathsheba destrought. She told Ross that her husband had just beat her and left for the tavern. Ross began to comfort Bathsheba. Bathsheba began to kiss Ross passionately. So began  the love affair of Ezra Ross and Bathsheba Spooner.
     Ross was sent to participate in the ill fated attempt to recapture Mount Independence located in Vermont on September 18, 1777. Mount Independence was the largest fortification in North America in 1776. Over 12000 American soldiers were housed there before the British took it over in July 1777 during Burgoyne's campaign. In November 1777, the British burned the fort to the ground before leaving for Canada after the defeat of Burgoyne at Saratoga in October 1777.
     On September 19, 1777, Ross participated in the battle of Freeman farm NY. the American were defeated because they ran out of ammunition,. However on October 7, 1777, the Americans were able to defeat the British at Saratoga( the 2nd battle of Freeman's farm).
     Ross began his walk home constantly thinking of Bathsheba.  Ross arrived in Ipswich in December 1777, and began the love affair with Bathsheba again.  By February1778, Bathsheba began to show she was pregnant. Fearing for her life, if her husband found out she was pregnant by another man, Bathsheba began to plot to have her husband killed.
  During the month of February1778, Ross attempted to kill Joshua Spooner twice but changed his mind both times. Finally Bathsheba hired two escaped British soldiers from the Rutland Prison camp located in Rutland MA. The atrocities that the British faced in the American prisoner of war camps were almost as bad as what the Americans were going through in the British prison ships in New york. On February 28, 1778, Joshua Spooner was murdered by the two British soldiers. Ross helped dump Spooner's body down a well. After dumping Spooner's body down the well, Ross washed the blood stained clothing of the British soldiers.
     The next morning, Joshua Spooner's body was found in the well, and all four conspirators were arrested. On March 3, 1778, All four conspirators were found guilty and sentenced to hang. Massachusetts law forbade any pregnant woman to be hanged while with child, but the judge was the brother of Joshua Spooner, and ordered Bathsheba hanged even with child anyway.
     On July 2, 1778, the four conspirators were hanged in a torrential rain storm. One local pastor wrote, "the heavens mourn today for the unborn child. Before Ross was hanged, Ross was said to have prayed  the most eloquent  prayer ever recorded in Ipswich. At the young age of seventeen, Ross was hanged to death.  After the hanging, Ross was buried in the Linebrook meeting house cemetery. Today, Ross's grave is among the hundred of nameless graves in the Linebrook cemetery.

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