Remembering America’s first chief engineer
On this date in 1710, Richard Gridley was born in Boston. Though a relative unknown compared to some heroes of the American Revolution, Gridley in his time was widely regarded as one of the most distinguished military characters of his era.
Gridley was a military engineer during the French and Indian Wars, from the reduction of Fortress Louisbourg in 1745 to the fall of Quebec 14 years later.
For his services he was awarded a commission in the British Army, a grant of the Magdalen Islands, 3,000 acres in land in New Hampshire and a life annuity.
When the American Revolution began in 1775, Gridley sided with the Thirteen Colonies and was made chief engineer in the New England Provincial Army. He laid out the defenses on Breed’s Hill and was wounded at the Battle of Bunker Hill, at age 64.
When the Continental Congress first created a Continental Army under command of George Washington in 1775 he was named to Chief Engineer – artillery.
He directed the construction of the fortifications on Dorchester Heights which forced the British to evacuate Boston in March 1776.
Gridley retired in 1781 at age 70 and in 1796 died from blood poisoning induced by cutting dogwood bushes. He was originally buried within a small enclosure near his house in what is now Canton, Mass.
In 1876 his remains were disinterred and removed to their final resting place in the Canton Corner Cemetery.
The United States Army Corps of Engineers considers Gridley “America’s First Chief Engineer.”