MARCH, JOHN (occasionally written Marsh, Mark or Martch), innkeeper and ferry operator at Newbury, Mass., ship-builder, colonel in the Massachusetts Bay militia, and active participant in many battles between the French and Indians and the English; b. 10 June 1658 (o.s.) in Newbury, the fourth child of Judith and Hugh March; married at Newbury 1 Oct. 1679 to Jemima True; d. July 1712 in Woodbridge, N.J.
In 1690 March was captain of a company of volunteers which participated in the unsuccessful expedition against Quebec under Sir William Phips*. He completed construction of Fort William Henry at Pemaquid from 1692 to 1693 and was “commander of their Maties Fort” until 1695. In November 1694 March was instrumental in the capture of Bomoseen, the Norridgewock chief, when the latter came to Pemaquid for a parley. He was again in the service of the bay colony in 1697. Fearing a formidable French invasion by both land and sea, Lieutenant-Governor Stoughton attempted “to put the whole province into a posture of defence.” March, now a major, was sent with about 500 soldiers to prevent any descent of the enemy along the eastern frontiers of Maine. On 9 September 1697 he encountered and successfully repulsed a war party of 200 Indians and “several French” on the banks of the Damariscotta River. This, coupled with the failure of the French expedition under the Marquis de Nesmond to invade New England by sea, temporarily brought peace to the frontiers.
Major March, moving his family and possessions with him, became in 1702 “commander and Truckmaster at the Fort at Casco Bay” (Fort Loyal, Falmouth, now Portland, Me.) on “the utmost Frontier.” He was wounded and lost most of his property when, a year later, the fort came under severe attack by Abenakis led by Alexandre Leneuf de Beaubassin. For his “brave defence” March was promoted lieutenant-colonel. He commanded the fort at Casco Bay until 1707.
Massachusetts’ Governor Joseph Dudley appointed Colonel March to lead the proposed expedition against Port-Royal (Annapolis Royal, N.S.) in 1707, describing him as “a very good officer, & so well esteemed that I hope to impress no man into the service.” In many respects it proved an unfortunate choice. A mutinous spirit among subordinate officers, raw troops, and March’s indecisiveness in command doomed the expedition to failure. Colonels Francis Wainwright and Winthrop Hilton were given command of two regiments of militia. The force of over 1,100 troops cast anchor in Port-Royal basin on 26 May 1707 (6 June, n.s.). The Port-Royal forces under the command of Daniel d’Auger de Subercase were meagre – about 200 men, strengthened somewhat by a small detachment of about 60 men who had arrived shortly before under the command of Louis Denys* de La Ronde and Amiot de Vincelotte. A few days after the fighting began, Bernard-Anselme d’Abbadie de Saint-Castin arrived with Abenaki recruits. The French and Indian forces put up a spirited defence. Finally, after many councils, the New England troops re-embarked on 5 June with “little . . . done in annoying the enemy.” March retired to Casco where he was virtually relieved of his command by three commissioners sent by Governor Dudley. On the second attempt to take Port-Royal in August, March’s health and spirits gave way and he turned his command over to Colonel Wainwright. The French forces, again led by Subercase and Saint-Castin, were well prepared this time and resisted the English threat. Subsequently a court martial was ordered, but so many officers were guilty of infractions that it never convened. To counter the charges of cowardice levelled against March by his irate and disappointed contemporaries, the judgement of Penhallow (1726) should suffice: March “was a Man of good Courage . . . But the Business that he undertook, was too weighty for his Shoulders to bear.”
His death was reported in the Boston News-Letter: “New York, July 28th Last week dyed Col. John March of Newbury at Woodbridge in New Jersey.”
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