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Church, Benjamin 1639-1718

Military officer; born in Plymouth, Mass., in 1639; was a leader in King Philip's War; commanded the party by whom Philip was slain (August, 1676); and with his own sword cut off the head of the dusky monarch. While Phipps was operating against Quebec in 1690, Colonel Church was sent on an expedition against the eastern Indians. He went up the Androscoggin River to the site of Lewiston, Me., where he, “for example,” put to death a number of men, women, and children whom he had captured. The Indians retaliated fearfully.

In May, 1704, Governor Dudley sent, from Boston, an expedition to the eastern bounds of New England. It consisted of 550 soldiers, under Church. The campaign then undertaken against the French and Indians continued all summer, and Church inflicted much damage to the allies at Penobscot and Passamaquoddy. He is represented by his contemporaries as distinguished as much for his integrity, justice, and purity as for his military exploits. He is the author of Entertaining passages relating to Philip's War. He died in Little Compton, R. I., Jan. 17, 1718.

Surgeon; born in Newport. R. I., Aug. 24, 1734; son of Col. Benjamin Church; was graduated at Harvard College; studied medicine in London, and became eminent as a surgeon. He lived a bachelor, extravagantly and licentiously, in a fine mansion which he built at Raynham, Mass., in 1768. For several years preceding the Revolution he was conspicuous among the leading Whigs. Of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress he was an active member. At the same time, while he was trusted as an ardent patriot, Church was evidently the secret enemy of the republicans. As early as 1774 he wrote parodies of his own popular songs in favor of liberty for the Tory newspapers; and in September, 1775, an intercepted letter, written by him in cipher to Major Cain, in Boston, which had passed through the hands of the mistress of Church, was deciphered; and the woman confessed that he was the author. The case was laid before the Continental Congress, and he was dismissed from his post of chief director of the general hospital. He was arrested and tried by a court-martial at Cambridge on a charge “of holding a criminal correspondence with the enemy.” He was convicted (Oct. 3), and imprisoned at Cambridge.

On Nov. 7 the Congress ordered him to be “close confined, without the use of pen, ink, or paper; and that no person be allowed to converse with him, except in the presence and hearing of a magistrate of the town or the sheriff of the county where he shall be confined, and in the English language, until further orders from this or a future Congress.” He was so confined in the jail at Norwich, Conn. In May, 1776, he was released on account of failing health, and sailed for the West Indies in a merchant vessel. He and the vessel were never heard of afterwards. Benjamin Church was the first traitor to the republican cause in America. He was well educated, and a writer in prose and verse of considerable ability.

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William Phipps (1)
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