Just six months after his release as a prisoner-of-war, Major Timothy Bigelow becomes colonel of the 15th Massachusetts Colonial Line of the Continental Army on this day in 1777.
Bigelow, a blacksmith who was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, on August 12, 1739, began his Patriot involvement when he, upon learning of the Battle of Lexington, took a body of Minutemen to Cambridge. Later, he was one of two majors to march with Benedict Arnold and his freezing, starving, ailing men through Maine to Canada. In December 1775, the British captured Bigelow and took him prisoner at the Battle of Quebec. He remained in British captivity until August 1776.
After his promotion to colonel, Bigelow fought valiantly in some of the most important battles of the Revolutionary War, including the Battle of Saratoga in October 1777, the Battle of Monmouth in June 1778 and the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781.
After leaving his command in the army, Bigelow returned home to Worcester, Massachusetts, where he fell into financial ruin and was jailed for failure to repay his debts. Bigelow died in prison on March 31, 1790; he was survived by a wife and five children.
Bigelow’s death in debtors’ prison remains a mystery, as his wife was the heiress to a large fortune and Bigelow himself had garnered title to 23,000 acres in Vermont for his military service. However, his wife and namesake son had moved to Groton, Connecticut, before his death. The son, a Harvard graduate, became an acclaimed attorney, Freemason and Federalist politician.
A monument dedicated to Bigelow is located at Worcester Common in Worcester, Massachusetts.