Gen. Artemas Ward was born 27 November 1727 in Shrewsbury, Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States to Nahum Ward (1684-1754) and Martha Howe (1687-1755) and died 28 October 1800 Shrewsbury, Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States of unspecified causes. He married Sarah Trowbridge (1724-1788) 31 July 1750 in Shrewsbury, Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States.


Artemas Ward was an American major general in the American Revolutionary War and a Congressman from Massachusetts. President John Adams described him as "...universally esteemed, beloved and confided in by his army and his country." He was considered an effective political leader.

Revolutionary War Continental Major General. He was the first Commander-in Chief of the American Revolution, holding that post prior to George Washington assuming command of the force besieging Boston after the battles of Lexington and Concord that occurred in April 1775.

  • Colonel - British Army's 3rd Regiment of the Massachusetts Bay Militia
  • Commander in Chief - Massachusetts Bay Colony's Militia
  • Commander - Militia of Middlesex and Worchester Counties.
  • Maj. Gen. - US Continental Army Easter Department (04 Apr 1776 - 20 Mar 1777)
  • 1st Commander in Chief - U.S. Continental Army (1775) relinquishing that post to George Washington (1732-1799).
  • President of the Massachusetts Executive Council 1777-1779;
  • member of the Massachusetts State house of representatives 1779-1785, serving as speaker in 1785;
  • Member of the Continental Congress 1780-1781;
  • Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts's 2nd district (1791-1795) (2nd & 3rd US Congress)

Early Life

Artemas was born at Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, in 1727 to Nahum (1684–1754) and Martha (Howe) Ward. He was the sixth of seven children. His father had broad and successful career interests as a sea captain, merchant, land developer, farmer, lawyer and jurist. As a child he attended the common schools and shared a tutor with his brothers and sisters. He graduated from Harvard in 1748 and taught there briefly.

The next year, 1751, he was named a township assessor for Worcester County. This was the first of many public offices he was to fill. Artemas was elected a justice of the peace in 1752 and also served the first of his many terms in the Massachusetts Bay Colony's assembly, or "general court."

French & Indian Wars

n 1755 the militia was restructured for the war, and Artemas Ward was made a major in the 3rd Regiment which mainly came from Worcester County. They served as garrison forces along the frontier in western Massachusetts. This duty called him at intervals between 1755 and 1757, and alternated with his attendance at the General Court. In 1757 he was made the colonel of the 3rd Regiment or the militia of Middlesex and "Worchester" Counties. In 1758 the regiment marched with Abercrombie's force to Fort Ticonderoga. Ward himself was sidelined during the battle by an "attack of the stone."

Prelude to Revolution

By 1762, Ward returned to Shrewsbury permanently and was named to the Court of Common Pleas. In the General Court he was placed on the taxation committee along with Samuel Adams and John Hancock. On the floor, he was second only to James Otis in speaking out against the acts of parliament. His prominence in these debates prompted the Royal Governor Francis Bernard to revoke his military commission in 1767. At the next election in 1768, Bernard voided the election results for Worcester and banned Ward from the assembly, but this didn't silence him.

In the growing sentiment favoring rebellion, the 3rd Regiment resigned en masse from British service on October 3, 1774. They then marched on Shrewsbury to inform Colonel Ward that they had unanimously elected him their leader. Later that month the governor abolished the assembly. The towns of Massachusetts responded by setting up a colony-wide Committee of Safety. One of the first actions of the Committee was to name Ward as general and commander-in-chief of the colony's militia.

American Revolutionary War

Following the Battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, the rebels followed the British back to Boston and started the siege of the city. At first Ward directed his forces from his sickbed, but later moved his headquarters to Cambridge. Soon, the New Hampshire and Connecticut provisional governments both named him head of their forces participating in the siege. Most of his efforts during this time were devoted to organization and supply problems.

Additional British forces arrived in May, and in June, Ward learned of their plan to attack Bunker Hill. He gave orders to fortify the point, setting the stage for the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775. Command during the battle devolved upon General Israel Putnam and Colonel William Prescott. Service in the Continental Army

Meanwhile, the Continental Congress was creating a Continental Army. On June 17 they commissioned Artemas Ward a major general, and second in command to George Washington. Ward was one of the original four major generals in the Continental Army along with Charles Lee, Philip Schuyler and Israel Putnam. Over the next nine months he helped convert the assembled militia units into the Continental Army.

After the British evacuation on March 17, 1776, Washington led the main army to New York City. Ward took command of the Eastern Department on April 4, 1776. He held that post until March 20, 1777, when his health forced his resignation from the army.

Later Years

President of the Massachusetts Executive Council 1777-1779; member of the State house of representatives 1779-1785, serving as speaker in 1785; Member of the Continental Congress 1780-1781; elected to the Second and Third Congresses (March 4, 1791-March 3, 1795);


The Gravesite of Artemas Ward

Burial: Mountain View Cemetery, Shrewsbury MA


Artemas Ward House

Artemas's lifelong home had been built by his father, Nahum, about the time Artemas was born. The home is now known as the Artemas Ward House and is a museum preserved by Harvard University. Located at 786 Main Street in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts it is open to the public for limited hours during the summer months.

Ward Circle

General Artemas Ward located at Ward Circle, Washington, D.C.

Ward Circle is a traffic circle at the intersection of Nebraska Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue in Northwest Washington, D.C.. The land on three sides of Ward Circle is owned by American University. The circle contains a statue of Artemas Ward.

The great-grandson of Artemas Ward gave over four million dollars to Harvard University on the condition that they erect a statue in honor of Ward, and maintain his home in Shrewsbury. Harvard’s initial offer in 1927 of $50,000 toward the statue was enough for a statue, but inadequate to provide the general with a horse.

The statue was completed in 1938. Although there is no pedestrian access to the circle, the base of the statue bears this inscription:


American University

American University named the home of the American University School of Public Affairs, being the closest building at the time to Ward Circle in honor of Artemas Ward.

Marriage & Family

On July 31, 1750, he married Sarah Trowbridge (December 3, 1724 – December 13, 1788), the daughter of Reverend Caleb Trowbridge and Hannah Trowbridge of Groton, Massachusetts. The young couple returned to Shrewsbury where Artemas opened a general store. In the next fifteen years they would have eight children:

  1. Ithamar Ward (1752-1828)
  2. Nahum Ward (1754-1778)
  3. Sara Ward (1756-1838) - md US Congressman Elijah Brigham (1751-1816)
  4. Thomas Walter Ward (1758-1835)
  5. Martha Ward (1781-)
  6. Artemus Ward (1762-1847)
  7. Mariah Ward (1764-1833)
  8. Henry Dana Ward (1768-1817)


Offspring of Gen. Artemas Ward and Sarah Trowbridge (1724-1788)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Ithamar Ward (1752-1828)
Nahum Ward (1754-1778)
Sara Ward (1756-1838) 28 July 1756 Shrewsbury, Worcester County, Massachusetts 3 February 1838 Elijah Brigham (1751-1816)
Thomas Walter Ward (1758-1835)
Martha Ward (1781-)
Artemus Ward (1762-1847)
Mariah Ward (1764-1833)
Henry Dana Ward (1768-1817)


Offspring of Nahum Ward (1684-1754) and Martha Howe (1687-1755)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Damaris Ward (1705-)
Nahum Ward (1713-1738)
Benjamin Ward (1716-1717)
Persis Ward (1718-1768)
Ithamar Ward (1721-1800)
Martha Ward (1724-1794)
Artemas Ward (1727-1800) 27 November 1727 Shrewsbury, Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States 28 October 1800 Shrewsbury, Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States Sarah Trowbridge (1724-1788)
Elijah Ward (1733-1802)


  • Martyn, Charles. The Life of Artemas Ward, The First Commander-in-Chief of the American Revolution. 1921. Reprint, Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat, 1970.
  • Artemas Ward - Wikipedia
  • Artemas Ward at Find A Grave
  • Artemas Ward - US Congress Biographical Guide


Footnotes (including sources)