Wednesday, January 17, 2018

"Got Clear to America By Way of France" - The Adventures of Privateer Captain Offin Boardman

If you’ve taken a tour with Untapped History, you know that the "nerds" will often end their tour with stories about the exploits of Captain William Nichols, the famed Newburyport privateer from the War of 1812. Nichols was a nasty thorn in England’s side and was often referred to as the “John Paul Jones” or “Holy Terror” of American privateering.

That said, meet Captain Nichols’ Revolutionary War equal - Newburyport’s Captain Offin Boardman.

Boardman was born in the “waterside” of Newbury in either 1747 or 1748. He was a third generation sailing master and merchant. In 1771 he married Sarah Greenleaf. Together they had five children. At the outbreak of the American Revolution, Boardman had already established himself as a successful businessman.

Sensing financial opportunity by targeting British wartime shipping, Boardman and several other Newburyport investors petitioned the Massachusetts Committee of Safety for a letter of marque. On December 9, 1775, the petition was granted. By December 11, 1775, Boardman was already outfitting and supplying a forty ton schooner named Washington. The ship was equipped with nine cannons, ten swivel guns and a crew of approximately forty men.

Captain Boardman and the Washington sailed from Newburyport near the end of December, 1775. Two weeks later, he hit the mother load. On the morning of January 15, 1776, the Washington was off the coast of Plum Island when it observed the sails of the Loyalist owned brigantine Sukey.  Boardman quickly moved to intercept the vessel and captured it without firing a shot. A search of the ship not only revealed a massive cache of beef, butter, tongues, pork, oats, lard, tripe, peas, potatoes and wine, but also two British officers. The vessel was escorted into Newburyport.

That same day, Boardman and the Washington were once again off of Plum Island. The captain’s attention was drawn to a two hundred ton supply vessel named Friends. The ship was repeatedly tacking, which led Boardman to conclude it was lost As it turned out, the ship’s captain, Archibald Bowie, was not only lost, he believed he was just outside of Boston Harbor.

Boardman and his crew boarded three whaling vessels, rowed over to the Friends and posed as harbor pilots. They immediately boarded the ship, overpowered the crew and sailed the captured vessel into Newburyport.

As with the Sukey, the Friends was ladened with a large supply of fruits and vegetables. More importantly, a search of the prize revealed a hidden compartment which contained military and government documents from England to British officers in Boston. Officials in Newburyport immediately turned the paperwork over to George Washington.



By March, 1776, Captain Boardman had left the Washington and had become the unofficial “commodore” of a privateer wolf pack that operated from Tracy’s Wharf. Over the next three years, he would lead this small fleet from the decks of the Black Prince and the Dalton.

Boardman was quite successful at privateering and amassed a small fortune from the sale of captured vessels. Unfortunately, he was captured with the crew of the Dalton in 1777 and imprisoned in England. However, on January 31, 1778, Boardman and four other American officers escaped with the help of two guards.

Boardman was apprehended in London on February 17th and was imprisoned in Mill Prison on April 18th. According to his journal he was returned to Mill Prison on April 18, 1779. He escaped again on January 4, 1779 and “got clear to America by way of France”. While in that country, In Boardman "was introduced to His Excellencies Franklin and Adams who desired me to stop to dinner, which I did myself the honour to accept." He then spent the next few weeks securing much needed equipment and supplies for American privateers.

By 1779, Boardman was back in Newburyport and in command of the Betsey. On April 1, 1780, the Betsey departed Nantes, France for Newburyport Two weeks later the ship was intercepted by a British privateer Union. Outgunned, Boardman ordered his crew to outrun the vessel. According to crewman Isaiah Bagwell there was “a chase of about eleven hours, during which chase there were several shot exchanged between us; after we surrendered our Vessel . . . [we were] put on board his Majesties Ship Arrogant, of 74 Guns.”

The officers of the HMS Arrogant attempted to impress Boardman’s crew. The men refused. In response, the Royal Navy proceeded to abuse the crew. “I contradicted the report, and was by the Lieutenant ordered to be floged and made do duty on board the Ship; I refused, and in a few days after I was ordered to hold myself in readiness to go on board of another of his Majesties Ships which was going [several illegible words], I still refused, as holding myself a prisoner. The Capt. of the Ship came on boad which was the first time I had seen him, I went on the quarterdeck to the Capt. and stated my situation as a prisoner; he asked me if I would not receive a bounty and serve his Majesty in preference to going to prison: my reply was Sir I do not wish to serve his Majesty. he then said the Ship is going into dock next Friday to be repaired and you shall be sent to prison.”

The Betsey and her crew were sent to Poole, England. The Betsey was tried and condemned in the High Court of Admiralty in 1780, while her crew were divided up and sent to various prisons. Boardman was sent to a jail in Spithead, England. According to Bagwell, conditions inside the prison were poor. “I was sorely afflicted, and lost the use of my right Leg and thigh entirely, and just strength enough in the other Leg and thigh to walk on Crutches, and have continued in this situation almost 52 years.”

As with his captivity in 1778, Boardman once again escaped and returned to Newburyport. He continued to participate in privateering activities until then end of the war.

His first wife died on August 29, 1796, and the following spring he married Sarah Tappan. Just a few months before his second marriage, he purchased what is now known as the Spencer-Pierce-Little Farm. The property consisted of three hundred acres of land and a late-seventeenth-century house made of stone and brick.

Boardman's diary records his activities on the farm, including the addition of a west wing to the house and a tenant farmhouse attached to its rear. He also noted digging potatoes, gathering apples, taking milk to market, putting up fences, hauling seaweed, looking for lost sheep, making soap, attending meeting, and hosting social events.

Boardman died at his country house on August 1, 1811.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

"The Children Little Realize the Days of Hardship Before Them" - The Loyalist Plight After the Treaty of Paris

Throughout the Revolutionary War, American Loyalists were often subjected to harassment, physical violence, violation of due process rights, imprisonment and property seizure. As a result, thousands of Loyalists were forced to abandon their lives and make their way to Newport, Quebe, Charleston and New York City for protection. For those who were able to reach the safety of British occupied cities, many found themselves quickly relegated to refugee camps, living in squalor in crowded flop houses or being relocated to new territories outside of America.

Nevertheless, throughout the American Revolution the one thing Loyalists clung to was hope. Most shared a belief that the British government would continue to prosecute the war and crush the rebellion. Even with the defeat of Cornwallis at Yorktown, many asserted the conflict was still not over. As Charleston Loyalist John Hamilton opined “This Country is not yet lost. It’s to be gain’d still and easier than ever . . . Notwithstanding all our Misfortunes, Great Britain can never, must never relinquish America. The last man and shilling must be expended before she gives America her independence. If she loses America, she loses all her West Indies and must Revert again to her insular Situation, which hardly made her visible on the face of the Earth. . . . I still flatter myself the war will be carried on with vigor in North Carolina and Virginia and a large reinforcement sent out this season. The inhabitants are tired of their French Connections [alliance] and with the Tyranny of their Leaders which is more conspicuous than ever.”



However, when news of the Treaty of Paris, hope was replaced with horror and widespread panic. “We have pass’d a twelve month in the most perplexing state of uncertainty that ever a people did. Long waiting for the articles, expecting they would certainly provide some security for the unfortunate Loyalists, they have only increased our distress and cause of anxiety and to this hour we do not know that they will have the smallest effect in our favor. . . . The spirit of persecution and violence against the unhappy Loyalists does not appear to abate in any degree since the cessation of hostilities.”

In response to the news, Stephen Skinner of New Jersey declared lawlessness had set in. “This country is all confusion. The very Government, said to be established, is tottering . . . all at present Anarchy and confusion and must be so for some years to Come.”

Many Loyalists feared an increase in persecution, property seizures and violence. Unfortunately, their concerns were quickly realized. A New York Loyalist observed “The Rebels breathe the most rancorous and malignant Spirit everywhere. Committees and Associations are formed in every Colony, and Resolves passed that no Refugees shall return nor have their Estates [land property] restored. The Congress and Assemblies look on tamely and want [lack] either the Will or the Power to check [stop] those Proceedings. In short, the Mob now reigns as fully and uncontrolled as in the Beginning of our Troubles, and America is as hostile to Great Britain at this Hour as she was at any Period during the War.” In a letter to his niece, David Colden, likewise noted a rise in abuse of those who remained loyal to the Crown. “The spirit of persecution and violence against the unhappy Loyalists does not appear to abate in any degree since the cessation of hostilities.”
 
In a petition to Guy Carleton for protection, Loyalist Prosper Brown described his mistreatment at the hands of the victorious rebels. According to his letter, following the end of the war he returned to his home in New London, Connecticut with the hope of restarting his life. Upon his arrival, Brown was immediately set upon by an angry mob “and hung up by the neck with his hands tied on board of a vessel laying alongside of the wharf and continued in that posture, the cruelty of which your Excellency can better conceive than his pen can dictate, after which he was taken down, stripped, and whipped with a Cat-and-nine-tails in a most inhuman manner and then tarred and feathered and again hung up at the yardarm as a public spectacle where he continued naked about a quarter of an hour exposed to the shame and huzzas of the most diabolic crew that ever existed on earth.”

In a similar petition, Isaac Foshay described the treatment of his Loyalist father at the hands of a Phillipsburg, New York mob. A large body of residents appeared outside of the residence of his terminally ill father. They demanded his immediate expulsion to Canada. WhenFoshay protested, the mob “got a common wood Slide and put his father on it and carried him down to Tarry town. . . Honeywell [a Patriot] then ordered his father out of the Slide and to walk and threatened to whip him if he did not and did drive him a few yards, but the old man was so very weak and low that he could not walk and begged they would spare him. Honeywell then ordered him into the Slide again and ordered his said son William to drive him down to Morrissania, shaking his Sword over said Williams’s head to make him drive faster, telling him to drive his Corpse to Nova Scotia. That his Brother William drove on and got about eight miles that night, when his father began to spit Blood and grew worse. The next day he proceeded to Morrissania, that his father died in three days after he got there, always complaining of the hurts and bruises he received from Honeywell and his party by putting him on the Slide and using him in the rough manner they did.”

With reports of governmental collapse and mob violence, many Loyalists prepared to flee the country. One New York resident noted “[very] few Refugees or Inhabitants within the British Lines will be able to stay behind. Besides those gone to Europe and Canada, upwards of eleven thousand persons have already removed to Nova Scotia and twelve thousand more have given in their Names to be carried to Nova Scotia and other Places. Almost all the principal people here are gone or going; not the tenth part of the Inhabitants will be able to remain if the Army goes this year.” As they prepared to depart, some tried to visit (perhaps for the last time) relatives and friends who lived outside the protection of British lines. American authorities immediately stopped this. “They are not suffered to go into the country even to take a last farewell of their relations.” 


For those who either chose to stay or were left behind, further persecution and punishment awaited them. Loyalist Thomas Jones recalled “you saw people who had lived all their days in affluence (though not in luxury) leaving their real estates, their houses, stores, ships, and improvements, and hurrying on board the transports with what little household goods they had been able to save. In every street were to be seen men, women, and children wringing their hands, lamenting the situation of those who were about leaving the country, and the more dreadful situation of such who were either unable to leave or were determined, rather than run the risk of starving in distant lands, to throw themselves upon, and trust to, the mercy of their persecutors, their inveterate enemies, the rebels of America . . . Their fears and apprehensions were soon realized. No sooner had the evacuation taken place at Charleston than the rebels, like so many furies, or rather devils, entered the town and a scene ensued, the very repetition of which is shocking to the ears of humanity. The Loyalists were seized, hove into dungeons, prisons and provosts.4 Some were tied up and whipped, others were tarred and feathered.  Some were dragged to horse-ponds and drenched till near dead. Others were carried about the town in carts with labels upon their breasts and backs with the word “Tory” in capitals written thereon. All the Loyalists were turned out of their houses and obliged to sleep in the streets and fields, their covering the canopy of heaven. A universal plunder of the friends to government took place, and to complete the scene, a gallows was erected upon the quay facing the harbor, and twenty-four reputable Loyalists hanged in sight of the British fleet, with the army and refugees on board.”

The flight from the United States was emotionally devastating for Loyalist refugees. Many lamented at the loss of their “native Country”, However, as they resettled in new territories, there was also a sense of relief. Hannah Ingraham left New York with her Loyalist family at age eleven to settle in Nova Scotia. In 1783, she recorded a comment her mother made as they ate breakfast in their newly built home. “A good fire was blazing and mother had a big loaf of bread and she boiled a kettle of water and put a good piece of butter in a pewter bowl. We toasted the bread and all sat around the bowl and ate our breakfast that morning and mother said Thank God we are no longer in dread of having shots fired through our house. This is the sweetest meal I ever tasted for many a day.” Two years after the Treaty of Paris, Nancy Jean Cameron wrote to her cousin Margaret in Scotland. In her letter she declared “At last we are preparing to leave forever this land of my birth. The long weary years of war, followed by the peace years that have been to us worse than the time of fighting, are over . . . Our lands are confiscated and it is hard to raise money at forced sales . . . The children little realize the days of hardship before them and long to start off . . . I am so glad that there will be no more taunting among the elders, no more bickering among the children. Bitter feelings are gone forever. Patriot or rebel, we are what we see is right to each of us, conscience may make cowards.”

Thursday, January 11, 2018

"Sledding Wood and Killing Hog(s)" - A Snapshot of Farming in Lexington

Although several families had lived in Lexington for generations, most of the population was made up of newcomers, seeking to exchange their lives in Boston, Newbury or Salem for better ones in Lexington. From the 1640’s onward, Lexington’s population grew by one hundred people per decade. This population “boom” had a direct impact upon the natural and social environment of the town. As new residents moved in, more woods were cleared, fields cultivated and rich peat swamps harvested. This process continued for over a century until the French Wars of the 1750’s, when immigration virtually stopped. By 1775, Lexington was inhabited by over one hundred families that included seven hundred and fifty people, five slaves and four hundred cows.

According to research conducted by Mary Babson Fuhrer, many of the townsmen subscribed to “mixed husbandry” farming, which encouraged farmers to produce a variety of items necessary for survival. Such items included vegetables and fruit, meat and wood for fuel and shelter. To generate such supplies for the long term, Lexington farmers needed approximately sixty acres of land. According to research conducted by historian Mary Babson Fuhrer, approximately two to four acres of land was allocated to an orchard and home. The average Lexington family burned about an acre of wood per year. As a result, an additional twenty to thirty acres of land was set aside as a “wood lot”. Another six acres were designated as “tillage”, which was designed to generate grains for bread and flax for linen. However, to remain productive, tillage needed to be fertilized with cow manure.

Of course, cows needed to be fed. At least fifteen acres of land was usually set aside as grazing fields while another fifteen acres was designated for hay to feed cows and other livestock during the winter Naturally, cows and other livestock also served as a valuable source of meat, dairy and hides.

On the eve of the American Revolution, farmers in Lexington had roughly allocated ten percent of their lands as tillage, twenty-five percent as pastures and hay fields and forty percent as wood lot. More specifically, according to a 1771 tax valuation of Lexington land, l5.1 acres of land for tillage, 12.5 acres of land for pastures, 14.7 acres of land for hay fields, 21.5 “unimproved acres” or woodlots, and 32.3 acres of “improved acres”.

Life on colonial Lexington farms was very much guided by the changing of the seasons. In the winter months men felled, hauled and chopped firewood. Because farmers had to feed precious hay to any animal they hoped to “winter over,” November, December, and January were a time of slaughtering; the cold helped preserve the fresh meat until women had a chance to salt it or turn it into sausages. 



In April, farmers began their season by turning gardens and plowing their tillage land. The onerous task of gathering the winter’s manure and ashes and carting them to the tillage field to be spread and plowed into the soil as fertilizer. In May and June, while farmers plowed, sowed, and weeded, Lexington women turned to the work of the dairy. Women continued cheese making until the heat of July impeded their work. In July and August, all available men turned their hands to the hay and grain harvest. Women did extra loads of laundry and cooked extra meals for hired harvest help.

In autumn, men worked to bring in the harvest of fruits, vegetables, root crops, and squashes, while women preserved them by canning or making barrels of applesauce, apple vinegar, and apple molasses for sweetening. Cider mills ran non-stop turning as men produced barrels of that most essential colonial beverage.

The Reverend Jonas Clarke’s diary entries between 1766 and 1775 highlight some of the daily and monthly the undertook to maintain his farm.. In January he would retrieve “wood from the swamp, blowsing logs, sledding wood [and] killing hog(s).” In April Clarke “began to garden, making soap.” In June the minister was weeding and performing odd jobs. “Weeding corn . . . moving dung to yard; carting dung and ashes . . .fishing . . . building/making wall . . . began to mow.” In October, Clarke was “getting in cider/making cider . . .gathering corn.”

Yet despite the practice of mixed husbandry, the town was not a collection of self-sufficient farms. There was a great interdependence among the residents of Lexington. Cooperation and mutual welfare were common customs in Massachusetts towns and villages. Residents assisted each other with a variety of tasks and in a number of emergencies: preparing meals, building homes, plowing, felling timber, caring for one another when ill or injured or simply offering counsel and advice.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

"We Had a Very Heavy Gale of Wind" - The November, 1774 Gale

In the Fall of 1774, most of Massachusetts was in the midst of wartime preparations against England. However, the military posturing was interrupted on November 21, 1774 when the Massachusetts coast was struck by a powerful nor’easter. The storm started off with heavy rains and an east by southeast wind. By midnight, the winds had veered to the northeast and reached gale strength. For the next five hours the storm battered the Massachusetts coastline. By the time the storm had passed, it had caused considerable damage to the colony’s shipping industry.

The November 30, 1774 edition of the Essex Journal and Merrimack Packet reported that the storm severely damaged many of the ships in Newburyport’s harbor. “We had a very heavy gale of wind, which did considerable damage to the shipping in this harbor.” A Connecticut sloop moored in Salem and loaded with grain was driven ashore and severely damaged. In Marblehead, at least four large vessels, their anchors and rigging were all beached. A sloop was also overturned and quickly sank.

In Beverly a brig was was driven onto a mussel bed located near the town ferry. In Charlestown, a schooner tied up at Blaney's Wharf was “driven with such violence against the wharf that her quarterdeck was shattered, and one of her sides greatly damaged.” Several other vessels anchored in Charlestown were driven ashore near Stage Point. 



Two ships...a schooner and brig, sank in Plymouth Harbor. 

Several vessels were unfortunate enough to be caught in the open ocean when the storm hit. A Newfoundland schooner off the coast of New Hampshire had its masts and rigging sheared off. Three days after the nor’easter passed the schooner limped into Salem Harbor. The brig Polly was off of Cape Cod when it encountered the storm. As the storm battered the ship, the Polly’s foresail, mainsail, main topsail and close-reefed fore topsail were all split. The ship’s stern was swept away and seawater poured into the captain’s cabin. Somehow the vessel survived. The next day the damaged ship also sailed into Salem.

Other vessels were not so fortunate. Off the coast of Cape Cod, a brig quickly sank, taking all but one of its crew to the bottom of the ocean. Three vessels off of Cape Ann tried to ride out the storm rather than seek shelter in a nearby port. The first vessels struck “The Salvages”, a rock formation off the coast of Cape Ann. As the ship started to sink, the entire crew was rescued. Another ship, a sloop from Arundel and bound for Marblehead, was quickly swamped with seawater and started to sink off of Thatcher's Island. Sailors from the nearby sloop Sally saved the crew.

A final vessel, a brig from Newfoundland, was overwhelmed by the storm and also sank. Unfortunately, the entire crew was lost at sea.      

  

Saturday, January 6, 2018

"Ran-Away from His Master " - Ten Male Runaway Advertisements (1763-1772)

On February 3, 2018, Minute Man National Historical Park, Salem Maritime National Historical Park, Boston National Historical Park and Revolution 250 will be sponsoring “Riots, Resistance, and Regulars: A Volunteer Workshop for Participation in Revolution 250”. This workshop will focus on the events and material culture of 1768 Massachusetts.

Some of the scheduled activities include a lecture by Professor Robert Allison on why 1768 was a critical year within the British Empire, a presentation by Dr. Emily Murphy on female resistance in Essex County (MA) to imperial policies and a talk by J.L. Bell on the experiences of the British Army in 1768 occupied Boston. 

Of course, one of the final presentations will feature an all star cast of historians who will share their research findings on 18th Century working class clothing from port towns such as Boston, Newburyport and Salem. 

To generate some interest in this event, here is a sampling of ten male runaway advertisements from 18th Century Boston and Providence.  The descriptions highlight some of the common working class clothing that would have been found in Massachusetts and Rhode Island between the years 1763 and 1772.

Enjoy!



“Ran away from me the Subscriber, on the 4th instant, an apprentice Lad named Uriah Stone, about 18 years of Age; he is Short in Stature, and of a dark Complexion. He had on when he went away a Flannel Jacket without Sleeves, a striped Tow Shirt, a Pair of Short Wide Trowsers, and an Old Felt Hat. Whoever Apprehends said Lad and brings him to his Master Sall be resonably rewarded for their Trouble. NATHANIEL BROWN Rehoboth, August 13, 1767.” Providence Gazette, August 15, 1767.

“Ran-away from his Master Edward Bardin, a Negro Man named Cuffe, about 22 years of Age, a tall Fellow his Legs crooked the small of them bending out, talks good English : Had on when he went away a white cloth Jacket, short skirts, a red Waistcoat under it, white Shirt, his Hat with a Gold wash’d Loop and Button, he formerly lived with Issac Winslow, Esq; of Roxbury, Whoever apprehends said Negro, and will bring him to his said Master living at the King’s Arms on Boston Neck, shall have a Dollar Reward , and all necessary Charges paid. All Masters of Vessels and other are heredy cautioned against harbouring, concealing or carrying off said Servant as they would avoid the Penalty of the Law. Edward Bardin.” Boston News Letter, December 28, 1769.

“Run away from the Subscriber, at Attleborough, on the 25th of July, a Lad about 17 years old, named Issac Allen, a thick chunky Fellow, about five Feet six Inches high, of a pale swarthy Complexion, has dark brown Hair, which he sometimes wears ty'd: Had on and took with him, when he went away, two Tow Shirts, one Check Linnen Ditto, a Pair of short wide Trowsers, a striped Flannel Jacket, a black Ditto, a yellow doubled and twisted Coat, two Hats, a Black Barcelona handkerchief, a Pair of Check Linen Trowsers, two Pair of Stockings, and one Pair of new Shoes. Whoever takes up said Runaway, and brings him to his Master, shall have Two Dollars Reward, and all necessary Charges, paid by me. JOHN FISHER.” Providence Gazette, August 3, 1771.

“Run away from the Subscriber, the Night of the 5th of April last, an Apprentice Lad, named Danile Bowen, about 20 years of Age, about 5 feet and a Half high, has brown Hair, grey eyes, is something round Shouldered, and understands making Buckles; Had on when he went away a new Felt Hat, a blue double breasted Jacket, with flowered Pewter Buttons, striped underflannel Jacket, Striped Flannel Shirt, Leather Breeches, and Yarn Stockings. Whoever takes up said Runaway, and brings him to his Master, Shall have Two Dollars Reward, and all necessary Charges, paid by BENJAMIN KINGSLEY. Rehoboth, April 25, 1772.” Providence Gazette, April 25, 1772. 



“SIX DOLLARS Reward. Run away from the Subscriber, last Monday night, an indentured Irish Servant Lad, named Patrick Sullivan, about 17 Years of Age, smooth faced, has black hair, pretty tall, and something slim made, has been about three Months in Country, and can whistle remarkably soft and fine: Had on, when he went away, a short blue Sailor's Jacket, a striped under Ditto, and a Pair of Tow Trowsers. He took with him a Bundle containing some Shirts and a brownish coloured half worn Thick-Set Coat. Whoever takes up said Runaway, and bring him to my House, on Taunton Green, shall have the above Reward, and all necessary Charges, paid by, ROBERT CALDWELL N.B. It is thought he is gone up the Country. Taunton, November 11, 1771.” Providence Gazette, November 16, 1771.

“RUN away from Moses Cooper of Gloucester, in the County of Providence, on the 2d of October in the Evening, a Negro Man named Jack, about 26 Years of Age, of a small Stature, is of the Pawpaw Tribe, his Teeth filed sharp, has a Scar on the right side of his Forehead, and is marked up and down on each side of his Cheeks, and holes in both Ears, and is blacker than common; had on when he went away, a dark kersey Coat, a blue and white striped Cotton Jacket, a pair of Leather Breeches, and carried away another pair of Breeches of the same of the Jacket. Whoever takes up said Fellow and conveys him to his said Master in Gloucester, or secures him in any of his Majesty’s Goals so that he may be had again, shall have FIVE DOLLARS Reward, and all necessary Charges paid by Moses Cooper. N. B. All Masters of Vessels and others, are hereby forewarned Secreting or Carrying off said Fellow, as they will answer it at their Peril. Providence, October 7, 1763.” Boston Post Boy, October 17, 1763.

“Rehoboth, August 12, 1763, Runaway from his master, Samuel Whitman, of Rehoboth, on Monday the 25th of July, an Apprentice Lad, about 17 years of age, named Edward Green, a Shoemaker by trade. Had on when he went away, a blue coat, green Jacket, a light coloured pair of breeches, and wore his own hair: He is a short, thick fellow. Whoever takes up said lad, and returns him to his Master, or secures him in any of his Majesty's Gaols, so that he may be had again, shall receive THREE DOLLARS Reward, and all necessary Charges paid, by, SAMUEL WHITMANN.B. All Masters of Vessels and others are forewarned either secreting or carring off said Fellow, as they would avoid the Penalty of the Law.” Providence Gazette, August 13, 1763.

“Ran-away from the Subscriber in Dartmouth, on the 20th of this Instant, a Molatto Fellow named Gideon Halley or Gideon Cheat, about 5 Feet and six Inches high, about 30 Years old, a thick built Fellow, wears long Hair tied up; had on when he went away , a brown Kersey Flannel Jacket, strip’d Flannel Shirt, strip’d Flannel Trowsers, and a Beaver Hat much worn, looks much like an Indian, brags much of his being in the Army Westward the last War. Whosoever will secure him in any of his Majesty’s Goals or deliver him to his Master shall have FOUR DOLLARS Reward and all necessary Charges paid by JOSEPH RUSSEL. Dartmouth, June 24, 1768.” Boston News Letter, July 14, 1768.

“10 DOLLARS REWARD Ran away from his Master Jonathan Norwood, of Gloucester, (Cape-Ann) on the 22d of September Inst. a very likely Negro Man named Newport, about 5 Feet and half high, a strait limb Fellow, about 35 Years of Age, very likely in the Face ; had on when he Ran away a good Castor Hat, clean white Frock, a woolen Shirt, white short Trousers, white ribb’d worsted Stockings, pretty good Pumps, very large Silver Buckels in his Shoes, plays well on a Violin, and is a very active Fellow, and as he has Money with him, ’tis likely he will change his Dress, as he took other Cloaths with him. Whoever apprehends the said Negro, and will bring him to his said Master, or secure him, shall have Ten Dollars Reward, and all necessary Charges paid by Jonathan Norwood.” Boston Post Boy, October 1, 1764.

“Ran away from his Mistress Isabel Caldwell, of Rutland District, in the County of Worchester, the 25th of May last, a Negro Man about 30 Years of Age, named Mingo, speaks middling good English, a sprightly little Fellow, about five Feet and five or six Inches high : Had on when he went away, an all wool brown colour’d great Coat with large white metal Buttons, and an all wool Jacket of the same Colour ; a blue and white striped woolen Shirt, and a worsted Cap, an old Hat, A Pair of leather Breeches, and light blue Stockings ; a Pair of Shoes about half worn, tied with leather Strings.” Boston News Letter, August 13, 1765.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

"It is Incredible How Much Damage is Done" - The Great Snow of 1717

With a pretty nasty snow storm bearing down on New England, we decided to examine an early 18th Century storm that is often cited in social media circles whenever a major winter storm rolls into town.

“The Great Snow of 1717” was a series of snowstorms that pounded the Pennsylvania, New York and New England colonies between February 27, 1717 and March 7, 1717. By the time this event was over, the Northeast was buried in several feet of snow.

The winter of 1716-1717 was already difficult for colonists, particularly New Englanders. In 1716, a series of volcanic eruptions in Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines spewed ash into the upper atmosphere of the Earth. Meteorologists believe these occurrences contributed to an unusual amount of snowfall over the Continental Northeast in November and December of that same year.

By the end of December, almost five feet of snow was on the ground in Massachusetts. With additional snowfall in January, 1717, some areas had drifts as deep as twenty-five feet.

The Great Snow began on February 27th when a nor’easter of snow, sleet and rain struck New England. Three more storms pounded the region over the following days. According to Cotton Mather “ there came on a Snow, which being added unto what had covered the ground a few days before, made a thicker mantle for our Mother than what was usual: And ye storm with it was, for the following day, so violent as to make all communication between ye Neighbors every where to cease. People, for some hours, could not pass from one side of a street unto another, & ye poor Women, who happened in this critical time to fall into Travail, were putt unto Hardships, which anon produced many odd stories for us . . . Another Snow came on which almost buried ye Memory of ye former, with a Storm so famous that Heaven laid an Interdict on ye Religious Assemblies throughout ye Country, on this Lord’s day, ye like whereunto had never been seen before.”

The effects of the Great Snow were devastating. The storms dumped approximately forty inches of new snow on Boston alone, while towns further north had upwards of seventy-two inches. Most of Northern Massachusetts was covered somewhere between eight and sixteen feet of snow.

Post roads throughout New England and New York were impassable. At least one account suggests the road connecting Boston and Portsmouth, New Hampshire was buried under fourteen foot snow drifts.



Apple orchards were simply wiped out. “It is incredible how much damage is done to ye Orchards, For the Snow freezing to a Crust, as high as the boughs of ye trees, anon Split ym to pieces. The Cattel also, walking on ye crusted Snow a dozen foot from ye ground, so fed upon ye Trees as very much to damnify them.”

Single story homes were completely buried. “Cottages were totally covered with ye Snow & not ye very tops of their chimneys to be seen.” Drifts reached the third-story windows on the windward side of larger residences. Period accounts from Hampton, New Hampshire and Newbury, Massachusetts suggest the that people could only leave their houses from second and third story windows.

According to Mather, the New England livestock population was decimated. “Vast numbers of Cattel were destroyed in this Calamity. Whereof some there were, of ye Stranger sort, were found standing dead on their legs, as if they had been alive many weeks after, when ye Snow melted away. And others had their eyes glazed over with Ice at such a rate, that being not far from ye Sea, their mistake of their way drowned them there . . . One gentleman, on whose farms were now lost above 1100 sheep, which with other Cattel, were interred in the Snow, writes me word that there were two Sheep very singularly circumstanced. For no less than eight and twenty days after the Storm, the People pulling out the Ruins of above an 100 sheep out of a Snow Bank, which lay 16 foot high, drifted over them, there was two found alive, which had been there all this time, and kept themselves alive by eating the wool of their dead companions . . . The Poultry as unaccountably survived as these. Hens were found alive after seven days ; Turkeys were found alive after five and twenty days, buried in ye Snow, and at a distance from ye ground, and altogether destitute of any thing to feed them. The number of creatures that kept a Rigid Fast, shut up in Snow for diverse weeks together, and were found alive after all, have yielded surprising stories unto us.”

A 19th Century historian suggested that almost ninety percent of the deer population died aftermath of the storms. Mather confirms that deer were an easy target for predators. “A vast multitude of Deer, for ye same cause, taking ye same course, & ye Deep Snow Spoiling them of their only Defence, which is to run, they became such a prey to these Devourers.”

Of course, when deer were no longer an option, these same predators descended upon colonial farms and pens in search of food. “The Wild Creatures of ye Woods, ye outgoings of ye Evening, made their Descent as well as they could in this time of scarcity for them towards ye Sea-side . . . These carnivorous Sharpers, & especially the Foxes, would make their Nocturnal visits to the Pens, where the people had their sheep defended from them. The poor Ewes big with young, were so terrified with the frequent Approaches of ye Foxes, & the Terror had such Impression on them, that most of ye Lambs brought forth in the Spring following, were of Monsieur Reinard’s complexion, when ye Dam, were either White or Black.”

Interestingly, Mather recounted an unusual occurrence that transpired along the Massachusetts coast in the days after the storm. “The Ocean was in a prodigious Ferment, and after it was over, vast heaps of little shells were driven ashore, where they were never seen before. Mighty shoals of Porpoises also kept a play-day in the disturbed waves of our Harbours.”

The full geographic scope of the storm remains unknown to this day. However, as one period account recalls “The Indians near an hundred years old, affirm that their Fathers never told them of any thing that equalled it.”

  

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

"Taken By The Enemy & Carried Into Boston Harbor" - The Fate of the Yankee Hero's Crew

Several months ago we discussed the defeat of the Newburyport Privateer Yankee Hero following a running battle with the HMS Milford. The engagement took place off the Massachusetts coast on June 6, 1776.

Since our posting, a common question we have received is “what happened to the crew of the Yankee Hero?”

According to official records from the Milford, four Americans were killed and twelve wounded during the battle. However the American newspaper Continental Journal reported that five privateers were killed and an additional seventeen were wounded during the engagement.

Regardless, all surviving officers and men of the Yankee Hero were taken prisoner and transferred to the brig of the Milford.

The Milford sailed south towards Nantasket Roads with its prize. On June 8, 1776 she rendezvoused with the HMS Renown in Boston Harbor. Thirty five American prisoners were immediately transferred over to the Renown, while an additional twelve were pressed into service aboard the Milford.

The Privateer "Avon", Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA

As the two British warships sat off the Massachusetts coast, the Yankee Hero’s owner Nathaniel Tracy filed an emergency petition with the Massachusetts government seeking the release of the American prisoners. “To the hon'ble Council of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay . . . Nathaniel Tracy of Newburyport in the County of Essex, merchant, lately one of the owners of the Yankee Hero Privateer [humbly shews] that on the seventh day of May instant the said Privateer was unfortunately engaged with a ship of Force belonging to the enemy & after an engagement of more than two Hours Length she was taken & carried into Boston Harbour. Your Petitioner has Reason to believe that the Hon'ble Major General Ward, if your Honours shall see tit to recommend the measure to him, would send a Flag to the Commander of the Enemy's Fleet & propose an Exchange of Prisoners taken by some of the Vessells of this Colony for the brave men who were taken in said Privateer. An Interposition of this kind your Petitioner humbly conceives would not only relieve a number of our Friends who deserve well of the Community & have repeatedly exerted themselves in its Defence, but be an encouragement to others more freely to engage in the same service when they may be assured that in Case of their misfortunes they will not be neglected,and as in Duty bound will ever pray.”

That same day, the Massachusetts government agreed to intervene on behalf of the prisoners. “In Council, June 10, 1776 . . .It having been represented to this Board that the Brig called the Yankee Hero lately belonging to Nath' Tracy Esq. & others has been taken by the enemy & carried into Boston Harbor by which a number of our friends who deserve well of the Community & have repeatedly exerted themselves in its defence, are made prisoners. It is therefore recommended to his Honor Gen' Ward to propose to the Commander of the enemy's fleet in said Harbour an exchange of the same number of prisoners now in our hands for ye men taken in said Yankee Hero. In the name & by order of the Council . . . Caleb. CusHiNG, Presd.”

The next day an American party under a flag of truce sailed to the Renown to negotiate an exchange of prisoners. Royal Naval Captain Francis Banks met with the negotiators but informed them he lacked the authority to exchange prisoners or dictate terms of release. Although he assured the Americans he would contact his superiors to secure an exchange, Banks also cautioned against any attempt to retake the prize ship as “no men could fight better than ours on board the Yankey Hero.”

Unfortunately, no further negotiations occurred as both the Milford and Renown departed from Boston Harbor and sailed for Halifax, Nova Scotia on June 14, 1776. Both vessels arrived in Halifax on June 23rd. Although the wounded and most of the remaining prisoners were brought ashore, three additional privateers were pressed into service and an American lieutenant was held prisoner onboard the Renown.

Almost a month later, on July 18, 1776, the Massachusetts government made a second attempt to secure the release of the Yankee Hero’s crew and petitioned General George Washington for assistance.

“Sir: Messrs Jackson, Tracy & Tracy, Merchants of Newburport, are very solicitous to procure the Release of the officers & men of their late Privateer (Yankee Hero) which was taken after a brave & manlv Resistance by the Milford Frigate; they are now in the hands of our Enemies. We take leave to recommend their case to yr Excellnys Consideration not doubting but you will attend to every application made to you on their behalf by the Gentlemen above named and afford every reasonable assistance to accomplish their benevolent puipose: and if they shod be happy enough to affect it, it will give us a particular pleasure, as those men by their past Conduct merit our regard & sho'd they be obtained may be greatly serviceable in the American Navy.”

In communications with British authorities, Washington was able to arrange a meeting between General Howe and Nathaniel Tracy. “I have the pleasure to inform you there is a prospect of an early exchange of the prisoners taken in the Yankee Hero privateer. As Mr. Tracy negotiated this matter and had an interview with Lord Howe on board the Eagle, man of war, I must refer you to him for particulars.”

The officers and men of the Yankee Hero were eventually transferred from Halifax to Staten Island, New York in preparation for an exchange. Unfortunately, due to administrative entanglements, most of the American prisoners were not released from captivity until November 4, 1776.

A lone American lieutenant remained in captivity until he was paroled on January 16, 1777.