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About Levi Holden
A Patriot of the American Revolution for MASSACHUSETTS with the rank of Captain. DAR Ancestor #: A056905
Captain Levi Holden was a member of General George Washington's Life Guards and commander of one of the General's escort units, an honor bestowed on a very few. He was also one of the original members of the Society of the Cincinnati, founded in 1783 to preserve the ideals and fellowship of the Revolutionary War Officers.
Levi Holden began his military career as a Private in a Massachusetts Infantry regiment in 1775 where he rose to the rank of Sergeant. He was then assigned to the 4th Continental Infantry where he served between 1 January and 31 December, 1776 as the Sergeant Major. On 1 January 1777, he was promoted to Ensign and served in the 6th Massachusetts Infantry where he was later promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on 22 December 1777 and then to 1st Lieutenant on 6 March 1779.
Levi Holden fought in the battles of Long Island, Harlem Heights, White Plains, Trenton, Princeton, Saratoga and Yorktown. In January of 1780, he was selected to enter Washington's Life Guard (also known as the Commander and Chief's Guard). In June of 1781, he was appointed to the permanent rank of Captain and assigned as the commander of one of the Generals escorts. (See the war story below for an incident while commanding an escort for General Washington).
Levi Holden was one of the original members of the Society of the Cincinnati, founded in 1783 to preserve the ideals and fellowship of the Revolutionary War Officers and to pressure the government to honor pledges it had made to officers who fought for American independence. Membership requires one to be a direct male descendant of a Revolutionary War Officer.
Levi Holden retired from Federal service in January of 1783 and joined the Essex County, New Jersey Militia where he served as a Captain. He remained a member while living in Newark, New Jersey until his death.
He was originally buried behind the Rector Street Chapel (now Trinity and St. Phillips Church) next to his wife, Hannah Plympton Holden. In February of 1940, he and Hannah along with 13 other Holdens were moved by the Episcopal Diocese of Newark to Fairmount Cemetery.
A War Story:
On 3 July 1781, General Washington, accompanied by an escort of fifty Guards commanded by Captain Levi Holden, was observing British fortifications near King's Bridge. Unexpectedly, they encountered a British reconnaissance party of 1,500 men, who immediately attacked. Washington's Guards made a stand at the bridge and repelled the vigorous attack until General Washington was safely back to the American lines. The narrow ten foot wide bridge prohibited concentration or a flanking movement on the small number of determined Guards. Braving repeated volleys from the Guardsmen, the British charged with fixed bayonets, but were forced back with heavy losses. It became clear to the British that they would sustain severe casualties if they continued and the most they could achieve would be the control of a single bridge. When American reinforcements arrived on the scene, the British broke off the action.
A week later on the 11th of July, Captain Holden filed an official report that simply read:
"11 July 1781
To Captain Pemberton:
Returned of killed, wounded and missing of His Excellency's Guard in the late skirmish at King's Bridge. One Lieutenant and one sergeant wounded; fourteen rank and file wounded, one missing and three of the wounded since dead.
Levi Holden, Captain, C-in-C Guards"