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John Parker Boyd
John Parker Boyd, American Brigadier General in the War of 1812
Born (1764-12-21)December 21, 1764
Died October 4, 1830(1830-10-04) (aged 65)
Place of birth Newburyport, Massachusetts
Place of death Boston, Massachusetts
Place of burial Christ Church Cemetery
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch U.S. Army
Years of service 1786-1789
Rank Brigadier General
Commands held 4th Infantry Regiment
Battles/wars Shays' Rebellion
War of 1812
Other work Soldier of Fortune
Naval Officer of the Port of Boston

John Parker Boyd (December 21, 1764 -– October 4, 1830) was an officer in the United States Army at various periods from 1786 to the end of the War of 1812. He attained the rank of Brigadier General and commanded during the American defeat at the Battle of Crysler's Farm.

Early life

Boyd was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts on December 21, 1764.[1] Too young to serve in the American Revolution, but decided upon a military career, he served in the militia[2] and joined the Army as an Ensign in 1786.[3]

He served in the force sent to counter Shays' Rebellion, and resigned after three years in the Army to serve as a Soldier of Fortune in the army of the Nizam of Hyderabad, in Central India.[4] Boyd was a highly successful cavalry commander,[5] but was discharged in July 1798, due to his "refractoriness, disobedience, and unreasonableness."[6][7]

Return to the Army

Boyd continued to offer his services as a mercenary in India. After the British conquest ended the conflicts in which he had taken part, he disbanded his units, sold their equipment, and returned to the United States.[8]

Boyd rejoined the United States Army in October, 1808. Commissioned as Colonel of the 4th Infantry Regiment, during the Battle of Tippecanoe he served as a brigade commander and second-in-command to William Henry Harrison, with the rank of acting Brigadier General.[9][10]

War of 1812

When the War of 1812 broke out, Boyd initially commanded a brigade under Major General Henry Dearborn in Albany, New York and in action in the area around Plattsburgh.[11] He was promoted to permanent Brigadier General in July.[12]

In 1813, he successfully commanded a brigade at the Battle of Fort George. As illness or disgrace removed many of his contemporaries, he eventually commanded the garrison of captured Fort George.[13] After a defeat at the Battle of Beaver Dams, Boyd's troops returned to Fort George and remained on the defensive.[14]

Moving his troops from Fort George to Sacket's Harbor, he later participated in Major General James Wilkinson's ill-fated expedition to attack on Montreal (October, 1813). At the Battle of Crysler's Farm in November, 1813, the illness of Wilkinson and the army's second-in-command, Major General Morgan Lewis made Boyd the commander of the attack. His troops, poorly trained and dispirited from the rapid changes of command, straggled into action on unfavorable terrain. Boyd lost control of the battle and was defeated.[15]

Boyd remained in command of a brigade in winter camp at Salmon Creek, near Sodus Point, New York.[16] After a half-hearted attack by Wilkinson at Lacolle Mill failed, Wilkinson blamed Boyd, and Boyd was moved into a rear-area assignment.[17] He saw no further combat service, and in 1816 he published a defense of his actions.[18]

Later life

After leaving the Army in 1815,[19] Boyd was involved in several business ventures, often in partnership with his brothers Ebenezer, Robert and Joseph. (Boyd's brother Joseph was Maine's first Treasurer.)[20] He was a founder of the Maine towns of Orneville[21] and Medford.[22]

In 1820 he was compensated by Britain for military services he had rendered in India.[23]

Originally a Democratic-Republican, and later a Jacksonian and a Democrat, Boyd served as a member of the Boston City Council in the 1820s.[24] He was also active in civic causes, including the Scots Charitable Society.[25]

In 1829 President Andrew Jackson appointed Boyd Naval Officer of the Port of Boston, replacing Thomas Melvill, and he served until his death.[26][27] (At ports in the United States, it was the job of the Collector, Naval Officer and Surveyor to receive copies of manifests from newly arrived ships, provide permits and clearances for the off loading of cargo, inspect ship contents, estimate the customs duty due, collect the duty, and send collections to the Treasury. The holders of these positions were paid a portion of the fees collected, making them lucrative and sought after political appointments.)[28][29]

Death and burial

Boyd died in Boston on October 4, 1830.[30] He was buried at Christ Church Cemetery.[31]

Military reputation

Boyd's reputation as a commander is mixed. On one hand, he was praised for his skill, including his success in India.[32] On the other, he was defeated at Crysler's Farm by a force only half the size of his.[33]

Winfield Scott clearly did not have high regard for Boyd, calling him amiable and respectable in a subordinate position but "vacillating and imbecile beyond all endurance as a chief under high responsibilities."[34]

Others have commended Boyd's military performance on specific occasions, including Tippecanoe and Fort George.[35][36][37]


Boyd prepared a will in November, 1816. As transcribed, it reads:

I John Parker Boyd of Boston, in the County of Suffolk and Commonwealth of Massachusetts, being of sound mind and memory, conscious of my dependence upon the Supreme Being, and convinced of the uncertainty of human life, being now about to depart for Europe, do hereby declare this to be my last will and testament, revoking and annulling all by me heretofore made.

Inprimia - After my legal and just debts are paid, I give and bequeath one Quarter of all my Estate to Frances Boyd, my natural daughter by Housina, a Mahometan lady born in my camp in the vicinity of Ponah, in the month of June and fourth day, 1797, and christened the same year in Ponah by the Revd. Father of the Roman Catholic Church of that City, Major Tone being Godfather and Mesdames Franswa and Finglap, Godmothers. But in the case of my daughter, the said Frances Boyd, shall decease without lawful issue, my will is that my brothers and sisters shall be her heirs to the property I have thus bequeathed her, and to her relations in India, to be divided between my said Brothers and Sisters in the same proportion as the property I have herein bequeathed to them, is distributed.

I give and bequeath One Quarter of all my Estate to Wallace, my natural son by Marie Rupell, born Oct. 1814. But in the case this child Wallace should die without lawful issue, my will is that my Brothers and Sisters be heirs to the property I have herein bequeathed to him, in like manner as I have stated with respected to my daughter, the said Frances Boyd, now in India.

I give and bequeath one half of all my estate to my own Brothers and Sisters in the following proportions:

To my brother, Robert Boyd, one tenth of the aforesaid one half of all my Estate. To my brother, Joseph Boyd, two tenths of the aforesaid one half of all my Estate. To my brother E. L. Boyd, two tenths of the aforesaid one half of all my Estate. To my sister Margaret Storer, Two tenths of the aforesaid one half of all my Estate. To my sister, Frances Little, Three Tenths of the aforesaid one half of my Estate.

But nevertheless I will the following legacies be first paid out of the whole Estate before any dividend shall take place: One Hundred Guineas to Miss Maria Smith of Philadelphia to purchase a Ring which she is requested to accept as a testimony to my ardent and unchangeable affection.

I commit the care and guardianship of my son Wallace to my Sister Little and would recommend that he should be educated for the army or navy. I do constitute my brothers, J. C. Boyd and E. L. Boyd as Executors.[38]


Boyd never married, but according to his will and other sources is known to have had two children. One was a daughter named Frances, born in India in on June 4, 1797 to a Muslim woman named Housina.[39] The other was a son named Wallace, born in October, 1814 to a woman named Marie Rupell. As indicated in his will, Boyd intended to leave a large portion of his estate to Housina and Frances, but they could not be located. Wallace received 25 percent of Boyd's estate. He later changed his name to John Wallace Boyd and became a ship's captain based in Boston.[40]


Boyd Lake in Orneville is named for him.[41]

In 2008 a Mississippi woman, Charlotte Dillard, purchased at a Goodwill store in Georgia for slightly more than seven dollars an antique two-volume Bible inscribed "Symphonia A. Little presented by her uncle General Boyd." At the time of the purchase, Dillard planned to keep the books and display them at her home.[42]

Boyd's name is included on Plaque 8 in Paul Revere Mall, listed among those from Boston's North End who played leadership roles in the American Revolution and War of 1812.[43] (Paul Revere Mall is bounded by Hanover, Tileston, Unity and Charter Streets. It is a brick park with benches, a fountain and flowers. It includes numerous bronze plaques to commemorate various historical events and individuals, and features an equestrian statue of Paul Revere.)


  1. Spencer C. Tucker, The Encyclopedia Of the War Of 1812, 2012, page 74
  2. Robert Malcomson, Historical Dictionary of the War of 1812, 2006, page 52
  3. John C. Fredriksen, American Military Leaders, 1999, page 70
  4. Hans Hägerdal, Responding to the West: Essays on Colonial Domination and Asian Agency, 2009, page 40
  5. Ronald Rosner, “John Parker Boyd: The Yankee Mughal,” Asian Affairs Vol. 34 Issue 3 (Nov 2003), 297
  6. William Dalrymple, White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India, New York: Viking, 2002 p. 112.
  7. Spencer C. Tucker, The Encyclopedia Of the War Of 1812, page 74
  8. William Philip Boyd, History of the Boyd Family and Descendants, 1912, page 166
  9. Tunnell, IV, H.D. (1998). To Compel with Armed Force: A Staff Ride Handbook for the Battle of Tippecanoe. Fort Leavenworth, KS: Combat Studies Institute, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. 
  10. Benson John Lossing, et. al., Harper's Encyclopedia of United States History from 458 A.D. to 1909, Volume 1, page 390
  11. Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, Volume 80, Issues 321-324, 2002, page 256
  12. Article by Donald Graves, War of 1812 site
  13. Clarence Monroe Burton, Manuscripts from the Burton Historical Collection, Volumes 1-8, 1916, page 86
  14. Alastair Sweeny, Fire Along the Frontier: Great Battles of the War of 1812, 2012, page 140
  15. John C. Fredriksen, Richard V. Barbuto, The United States Army in the War of 1812, 2009, page 76
  16. Spencer C. Tucker, Almanac of American Military History, 2012, page 519
  17. John Alexander Boyd, A Summary of Canadian History, 1869, page 82
  18. John Parker Boyd, Documents and Facts, Relative to Military Events, During the Late War, 1816, title page
  19. Donald E. Graves, Field of Glory: The Battle of Crysler's Farm, 1813, 1999, page 322
  20. William Willis, The History of Portland, from 1632 to 1864, 1865, page 791
  21. American Historical Association, Annual Report of the American Historical Association, 1915, page 59
  22. Amasa Loring, History of Piscataquis County, Maine: From Its Earliest Settlement to 1880, 1880, page 160
  23. British House of Commons, Parliamentary Papers, House of Commons and Command, Volume 10, 1820, page 306
  24. Stimpson and Frost, The Boston Directory, 1823, page 264
  25. Scots' Charitable Society, The Constitution and By-laws of the Scots Charitable Society of Boston, 1896, page 103
  26. Sam B. Smith, Harriet Fason Chappell Owsley, editors, The Papers of Andrew Jackson: 1829, 2007, page 362
  27. Boston Chamber of Commerce, Handbook of the Port of Boston, 1913, page 17
  28. Webster Elmes, A Treatise on the Law of the Customs, 1887, page 112
  29. Peter Andreas, Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America, 2013, page iii
  30. Charles Henry Browning, Americans of Royal Descent, 1891, page 143
  31. Boston Index of Deaths, 1810 - 1848, entry for John Parker Boyd, accessed August 13, 2013
  32. Eric H. Boehm, America, History and Life, Volume 41, Issue 3, 2004, page 636
  33. Tucker, The Encyclopedia Of the War Of 1812, page 991
  34. Ronald Utt, Ships of Oak, Guns of Iron: The War of 1812 and the Forging of the American Navy, 2012
  35. Fredriksen, Barbuto, The United States Army in the War of 1812, page 44
  36. Charles B. Richadrson, The Historical Magazine, Volume III, 1859, page 90
  37. Robert Noxon Toppan, Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Settlement of Newbury, 1885, pages 44-45
  38. Virgil Valente, Three Rivers News, Boyd Lake and Orneville, September 24, 2007, pages 2-3
  39. John Francis Sprague, Sprague's Journal of Maine History, 1914, page 46
  40. Browning, Americans of Royal Descent, page 115
  41. Richard A. Hebert, Modern Maine: Its Historic Background, People, and Resources, 1951, Volume 2, page 495
  42. Katie Curley, Newburyport News, Newburyport Treasure Found in Georgia: Bible of Port's 'Soldier of Fortune' Gives Glimpse Into Colorful Life, June 25, 2008
  43. BAPHL, Paul Revere Mall Photos, accessed August 16, 2013

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