Birthplace and Home of Asa Pollard - Billerica, MA
N 42° 35.005 W 071° 17.102
19T E 312493 N 4717086
Quick Description: The first casualty of the war on Bunker (Breed's) Hill.
Location: Massachusetts, United States
Date Posted: 1/26/2008 11:29:58 AM
Waymark Code: WM31MY
Asa Pollard is described as a happy, easygoing, stocky farm boy (despite being of the age of 40) from Billerica who enlisted in the Minutemen. He was part of Col. Thomas Stickney's Co., Ebenezer Bridge's regiment. On June 16, 1775, Col.William Prescott was having his men quietly digging a trench on Breed's Hill in preparation for a fort. It was while digging the trench that the British discovered what the American's were up to and they started firing at the fort. A cannonball from the English ship, Somerset anchored in Boston Harbor, hit Asa Pollard and beheaded him as he led the other men to find water to drink. Their water supply had been emptied by a cannon ball by the British that hit the container it was held in. This one event makes Asa the first casualty of the war on Bunker (Breed's) Hill.
Accounts of the circumstances of his death differ. A popular book "Now We Are Enemies: The Story of Bunker Hill" by Thomas Fleming (1960) relates an often told story that he was killed as he led other soldiers to water.
However, an account from 1897, Abram English Brown's "Beside Old Hearth-stones", gives a different version:
It was about noon, and they were taking their lunch brought over from camp on the previous evening. An occasional cannon-ball had been fired over from the war-vessels of the enemy during the morning hours, but they had been easily dodged by the busy workmen. Asa Pollard had seen such missiles before, and made light of the poorly directed shot. But about midday this brave son of Billerica, when seated on the embankment, was struck by a cannon-ball, which severed his head from his body.The bloody scene was within the presence of Colonel Prescott, who was passing down the line at the very moment of the fatal shot. Then came the first confusion of the day. Men left their places in spite of all orders. They were drawn to the spot by the dreadful fate of their comrade. Putnam came running up from the rail fence, and with most positive words attempted to force them back into line. Prescott ordered the body buried immediately, saying, He's the first to fall, and the only one who will be buried to-day.' One of the officers is said to have expressed surprise that the soldier should be buried without a funeral service; but the gallant Prescott saw that the presence of death in that form was not conducive to order, and considered that there was no other way to maintain discipline. The enemy on the vessels had seen the confusion resulting from that one successful shot, and redoubled their fire. The shot which struck Pollard came from the Somerset, the frigate which afterwards went ashore near Lieutenant's Island, off the Massachusetts coast; and it is claimed that a portion of her hull is yet embedded in the sand of that place." The body of Asa Pollard rests with the others in the soil which drank up their youthful blood.
It was nearly a century before the people of his native town took any steps to perpetuate his memory; but on the centennial of his death, a tree was planted on the public Common, where it now flourishes to keep the young hero's memory green. Later, the Union School building was dedicated as the Asa Pollard School, and now the local society of the Children of the American Revolution is known as the Asa Pollard Society. The birthplace of the hero has also been suitably marked by the Billerica Historical Society and the Foster brothers, sons of Dudley Foster and Louise Pollard.
Type of Memorial: Monument
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