Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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PITCAIRN, John, British soldier, born in Fife-shire, Scotland, about 1740; died in Boston, Massachusetts, 17 June, 1775. He became captain of marines on 10 January, 1765, and major in April, 1771, and was stationed for several years in Boston, where he is said to have been the only British officer that dealt fairly with the people ill their disputes with the soldiery. He took part in the expedition that was despatched by General Gage to Lexington on the morning of 19 April, 1775, and was sent in advance with six companies with orders to press on to Concord and secure the two bridges there. At Lexington he found the local militia drawn up and ordered them to disperse. The skirmish that followed, which is known as the battle of Lexington, was begun by the British, according to the received account. The statement that Pitcairn began it by giving the order to fire is adopted as the true one by George Bancroft in his " History of the United States," but other accounts say that there was desultory firing before the order. Pitcairn insisted till his death that the minute-men had fired first. Later, in the retreat from Concord to Boston, Pit-cairn was obliged to abandon his horse and pistols. At the battle of Bunker Hill he was the first to ascend the redoubt in the third and final assault, crying, as he did so, "Now for the glory of the marines," but he was shot by a negro soldier in the last volley that was fired by the provincials. He was carried by his son to a boat and conveyed to Boston, where he died shortly afterward. His widow was given a pension of £200 by the British government. Pitcairn left eleven children, of whom the eldest, David, became an eminent physician in London, and died in 1809.
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