William Hutchings was one of the last living veterans of the American Revolutionary War when his photograph was taken in 1864. This photo was published individually and as part of a book by Rev. E. B. Hillard, who visited and interviewed six of the last living veterans that took part in the American War of Independence from Great Britain, including William Hutchings.
William Hutchings was born in 1764 in York, York County, Maine (at the time was the Province of Massachusetts Bay), and at the age of four, moved with his family to Penobscot, which was mostly wilderness at the time, becoming one of the earliest settlers in the town. Hutchings had a tough childhood in Penobscot, recalling that there were often times that he would feel faint from the lack of food. However, he said things started to get better until the British arrived in the nearby town of Castine and drove them away from their home. Their father left and moved to Newcastle, Maine, until the end of the war, but William Hutchings decided to stay and enlist in the Continental Army.
In 1779 Hutchings, aged 15, enlisted for the Continental Army in the coast defense of Massachusetts. He did not see much fighting, only partaking in the Siege of Castine during the Penobscot Expedition (July 24th – August 16th, 1779), in which he was taken as a prisoner of war by the British. However, due to being only 15 years old, the British decided to release him. After his release, William Hutchings did not participate in any more battles.
Following the end of the American Revolutionary War, William Hutchings returned to Penobscot and, in 1786, got married to Mercy Wardwell. Together they had fifteen children, with only one not living long enough to get married. In 1864, Rev. E. B. Hillard noted that “[William Hutchings’] mind is still vigorous, though his body is feeble. Memory is good, retaining dates, especially so that he is a referee in the family in matters of history.”
It was said that William Hutchings was very interested in the ongoing American Civil War; he had grandchildren in the Union Army and by 1864 had lost “four or five” members of his family in the conflict.
William Hutchings died in his home in Penobscot, Maine, on May 1866, at the age of 101. His last public appearance was a year prior during the city’s 4th of July celebrations.
The colorized photo seen at the top of this page was masterfully created by Italian colorizer Lorenzo Folli. When asked why he decided to work on William Hutchings’ portrait, he said, “as a lover of history, this photograph fascinated me, being that it depicts one of the oldest subjects ever photographed, and it was my duty to try to give it back life, trying to be as faithful as possible to what, for me, was reality.” To see more work by Lorenzo, be sure to check out his work on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit.