Benjamin Lincoln was born on January 24, 1732/3 in Hingham, Mass. As a child he lived and worked there on his family’s farm. Lincoln is best known for his military exploits before, during, and after the American Revolutionary War.
Before the war he began his service as an adjutant in the 3rd Suffolk regiment, which was commanded by his father. He rose through the ranks to become a Lieutenant-Colonel in 1772.
As the Revolutionary War approached Lincoln firmly established himself as a Whig. He became a member of the Committee of Safety, the Committee of Correspondent, and the Provincial Congress. By 1776 the war had officially begun, and he was appointed Commander of the Continental Forces in Massachusetts. In this position he broke the British blockade of the port of Boston and reinforced George Washington at the Battle of the White Plains. In January of 1777 Lincoln was promoted to the rank of Major General and became the commander of the entire New England militia. In this role he organized the militia, served as the contact between the government and the army, and participated in the battle at Stillwater, N.Y. as the second in command.
After this battle, in October of 1777, Lincoln’s right ankle was shattered by a musket ball, resulting in a ten month recovery at home in Hingham. Although he returned to military service, his ankle would bother him for the rest of his life. In the fall of 1778 Lincoln obtained the position of Commander of the South Department (see the image below).
Lincoln’s war service did not go unnoticed. While attending the graduation of his son at Harvard University in 1780, Lincoln was awarded an honorary degree. In October of 1781 he was appointed the first Secretary of War, a position he held for two years before resigning and returning to Hingham. His popularity led him to be appointed the Commander of the Massachusetts Militia, and in that position he was instrumental in the successful suppression of Shay's 1787 Rebellion. Finally, in 1789 George Washington appointed him to be the first collector of the Port of Boston. He bought a mansion on State Street which served as both his residence and a customs house. He would remain collector until 1809 when he resigned and returned to Hingham.
Although Lincoln is most renowned for his military experience, he was also a very important figure in Hingham and the surrounding area. He became the Town Clerk in 1757, a position previously held by his father and grandfather, and one he would hold for twenty years. By 1762 he was also appointed a justice of the peace. In 1780 he was voted to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and became very involved in the Third Church of Hingham and at Derby Academy. He also owned a flour mill on the Weir River. Some of his other interests were of the Massachusetts Humane Society and the Massachusetts Historical Society. He was also one of the founders of Boston Magazine. Lincoln died on May 9, 1810, leaving behind a large family.