Reed was born in Lunenburg or Woburn, Massachusetts. During the French and Indian War, he served as an officer in Col. Brown's Massachusetts Regiment, becoming a lieutenant colonel. He was at Fort Ticonderoga in both 1758 and when it fell in 1759.
In 1742, when he was about 22, James married Abigail Hinds, whose father was Hopestill Hinds. Abigail was born 4 March 1723 in Brookfield, Massachusetts, but is said to have been living in New Salem, Massachusetts.
He was the original proprietor of Monadnock Fort #4 (now Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire).
With news of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, James Reed gathered the local militia and marched to Boston. James Reed was appointed Colonel of the 3rd New Hampshire Regiment and fought together with John Stark's 1st New Hampshire Regiment at the Battle of Bunker Hill. On April 26, 1776, the three New Hampshire regiments of the Continental Army were sent under Gen. John Sullivan to help in the Invasion of Canada. James Reed only made it as far as Crown Point on Lake Champlain where he contracted smallpox and lost his vision forcing him to retire from military service. James Reed would be promoted to Brigadier General in the Continental Army, but would never serve at that rank because of his failing health.
Reed was admitted as an Original Member of The Society of the Cincinnati in 1784.
James Reed lived to the age of 83 before he died in 1807 in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, where he was then buried. A sign erected by State of New Hampshire to James Reed's memory is in the town square of Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire.
- A List of The Revolutionary Soldiers of Dublin, N.H. by Samuel Carroll Derby Press of Spahr & Glenn, Columbus, Ohio 1901
- State Builders: An Illustrated Historical and Biographical Record of the State of New Hampshire. State Builders Publishing Manchester, NH 1903
- Cheshire Historical Society, History Packet No. 9, Multi Era 2 - 3: 1724 to 1807
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