Each Veterans Day we pause to honor those who have served and sacrificed for our country. As a history teacher, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to invite those from the "Greatest Generation" to speak with my students annually so they may share their stories with the students. This year, 94-year-old former Dracut High School coach Edmund Murphy shared his World War II experiences with my students. Nothing can replace hearing first-hand the experiences of those who fought for our nation 70 years ago in World War II.
However, there are many stories of ordinary citizens who did extraordinary things in time of war, and sadly, their stories have been forgotten over time. One such story is that of Moses Bradstreet Coburn.
Moses B. Coburn was born in Dracut on Jan. 14, 1758 to Samuel and Mary Coburn. He was one of six children. The Coburns have a long history in Dracut. The family descends from Edward Coburn who had emigrated from England and eventually settled in Dracut. Edward was one of the town's first settlers.
The Coburns were farmers and Moses worked on the family land his entire life except when he, like many others in Dracut, joined the local militia to fight the British during the Revolutionary War. In fact, a total of 439 Dracut men fought in the Revolution. The town's population only numbered 1,173 during that time; 37 percent of the town's population served. This is a staggering statistic and one of which Dracut should be proud. No other town in the colonies sent as high a percentage of its population to fight the British.
Moses Coburn was one of those who enlisted. In September 1776, he was mustered into the company of Captain Zacheus Wright. The men marched to New York and New Jersey. Coburn was severely wounded in October 1776 during the Battle of White Plains. In his Revolutionary pension application, Coburn detailed the events of the battle: "... while in the act of loading my gun, I received a musket ball near the hip joint which passed through my body; it lodged in my clothing on my right side. My companions carried me 12 miles upon their shoulders ..."
Coburn eventually made it back to Dracut after convalescing under the care of Dr. Benjamin Kitteridge for nine months.
After returning to Dracut, Coburn resumed life as a farmer. He married Leah Coburn on Jan. 5, 1786 and they had four children: Mercy, Clarissa, Moses Jr. and Alfred.
Moses B. Coburn passed away in Dracut on Sept. 26, 1838 at the age of 80. He was laid to rest next to his wife in Claypit Cemetery in Pawtucketville.
Few today know what Coburn did to help our nation achieve independence and there are countless other stories that remain untold from all of our conflicts. However, Veterans Day affords all of us the opportunity to stop and thank those who have served and sacrificed for us including those like Coburn who fought to create a new nation 237 years ago.
About the author: Rebecca Duda is a teacher at Dracut's Lakeview Junior High School and in 2010 received the Lowell Heritage Preservation Award. She is the author of Dracut Revisited.