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Friday, June 23, 2017

"Purest Principles of Loyalty to My Late Sovereign" - Why Loyalists Remained Faithful to the Crown

Despite popular belief most loyalists did not support the crown out of blind loyalty or a misguided sense of patriotism. Instead, most chose to remain loyal due to a variety of personal, societal and religious principles. For some, religious teachings demanded loyalty to the Crown. For others, economic opportunity guided fealty to King George. For more than a few, cultural beliefs dictated support of the British government. Yet regardless of their respective motivations, the American loyalists found themselves quickly at odds with their “patriot” counterparts.

One guiding principle which influenced Tories to remain loyal to the Crown was religious beliefs. Regardless of religious affiliation, many loyalists followed interpretations of the bible and religious teachings that required solemn allegiance to the Crown. For Anglicans, many ministers firmly believed they were bound by oath to be loyal to the king. The Reverend Benjamin Pickman insisted he had to remain loyal out of the “purest Principles of Loyalty to my late Sovereign”. Fellow minister John Amory refused to support the American cause because: “ I could not with a quiet conscience...take an Oath that I would bear Arms against the King of Great Britain to whom I had already sworn Allegiance.” 

Likewise, not all Congregationalists supported the revolutionary rhetoric that was frequently espoused from the pulpit in New England. Isaac Smith justified his loyalty to the crown upon religious principles. He argued his position at Harvard and his profession as Congregational minister forbade him to be disobedient to his king or Parliament, because they obliged him to “liberal enquiry.”

Sandemanians, a pacifist sect of Congregationalists, believed that the bible commanded absolute loyalty to the Crown. Samuel Pike, a prominent Sandemanian, personified this belief when he declared in 1766 that every Christian must be a loyal subject to civil authority, even if that ruler was tyrannical. In turn, many Sandemanians became outspoken critics of the American cause and quickly became embroiled in the political crisis of the 1760s and early 1770s. The Sandemanians were the first to brand the Sons of Liberty and other political organizations as traitors to the Crown. Sandemanian minister Colburn Barrell declared that the Boston Massacre was the direct result of treasonous Congregationalist ministers who defied the laws of the land.

Roman Catholics, often seen as the scourge of the British Empire, quickly found themselves being forced to side with the Crown. Following the aftermath of the French and Indian Wars, many Catholic priests who resided in the upper regions of New York Colony openly welcomed black slaves and local Mohawks into their parishes and churches. With the passage of the Quebec Act of 1774, the practice of the Catholic faith was no longer subject to restrictions in certain regions of North America. The concept of Roman Catholics openly practicing their religious beliefs in New York, let alone with slaves and “savages”, deeply concerned their Congregationalist and Anglican neighbors. Members of the New York Provincial Congress quickly warned, “the indulgence and establishment of Popery all along the interior confines of the Protestant Colonies tends not only to obstruct their growth, but to weaken their security.”

Yet religious principles were not the only motivating factor to remain loyal to the crown. Often, economic dependency and patronage dictated one’s loyalty. Political appointees like William Woolton, Thomas Hutchinson and Andrew Oliver naturally sided with the British government because their respective colonial posts ensured potential profit. For many merchants, siding with the rebel mobs almost guaranteed financial ruin. Joseph Hooper, also known as “King Hooper”, of Marblehead was heavily dependent on trade with England. John Amory feared economic losses if he ended his business relationships with England. Amory was among the merchants who protested against the “Solemn League and Covenant of 1774,” suspending all commercial business with Great Britain. A business trip to England, which he coincidentally made during the Battle of Lexington, branded him a “Tory” in the eyes of his countrymen.

However, loyalty to the Crown so as to preserve economic profit was not limited to wealthy businessmen. Many tenant farmers of Albany, Ulster and Tryon Counties, New York were heavily dependent upon their loyalist land lords for continued economic success. In short, if rebel policies and practices drove their masters to financial ruin, economic destruction would surely follow for the tenants as well.

Likewise, economic opportunity in the form of recruitment bounties attracted many to the loyalist cause. Bounties were offered to prospective recruits; however, more important was the promise of freehold land. As early as 1775 recruiters for the Royal Highland Emigrants, a corps of loyalist Scot Highlanders, promised 200 acres of land to prospective soldiers. In March 1777 the governor of Quebec promised loyalists who “shall continue to serve His Majesty until the rebellion is suppressed and peace restored ... His Majesty's bounty of 200 acres of land.” In May 1781, when recruiting was more difficult, recruits were promised the same land after only three years of service and were given six guineas for enlisting. Recruiters in Bergen County, New Jersey, were even more generous, promising 200 acres of land for each adult male, 100 acres for his wife, and fifty acres for each child. Promises of land were also made by loyalist officers. Ebenezer Jessup, lieutenant-colonel of the King's Loyal Americans and a large landowner, pledged 24,000 acres of his land to those who “would serve faithfully during the War ... and 20,000 more to such of my officers as shuld merit the same by their good conduct.” 

A desire for public safety and order also influenced many colonists who remained loyal to the Crown. Looking back at the origins of the American Revolution, key players such as Jonathan Sewall viewed the original conflict not with the Stamp Act Crisis or the attempt by the British government to collect on its debt from the French Wars. Instead, many loyalists saw the Writ of Assistance case as the ignition of conflict. To many loyal to the Crown, the Writ of Assistance case was viewed as an attempt by ambitious politicians to overthrow the political establishment and replace it with a lawless or populist mob.

Most loyalists detested the mob rule that spread from Boston and New York City to the countryside and abhorred the lack of order. As tensions grew between the colonies and England, many colonists attempted to remain neutral. However, as radicals seized power, neutrality became impossible. Dr. William Paine gave up his neutrality and declared himself a loyalist after he experienced "too many abuses" and "insults" from Patriots. Samuel Curwen, Judge of Admiralty, complained Whig “tempers get more and more soured and malevolent against all moderate men, whom they see fit to reproach as enemies of their country by the name of Tories, among whom I am unhappily (although unjustly) ranked.” The Reverend Samuel Seabury of Westchester, New York, lashed out at the patriot mobs who routinely and illegally entered and searched loyalist homes:

Do as you please: If you like it better, choose your Committee, or suffer it to be
Chosen by half a dozen Fools in your neighborhood – open your doors to them
let them examine your tea canisters, and molasses-jugs, and your wives and 
daughters pettycoats – bow and cringe and tremble and quake – fall down and 
worship our sovereign Lord the Mob . . . and shall my house be entered into 
and my mode of living enquired into, by a domineering Committee-man? Before
I submit I will die, live you and be slaves.

For many loyalists in the New York region, especially those of Scottish descent, loyalty to the Crown was determined by cultural beliefs. Following the conclusion of the French and Indian War, many Scottish veterans from the 42nd, 77th, and 78th Regiments settled in the Albany area. Almost immediately, these newcomers clashed with their Dutch neighbors who sided with the rebels. In a society where clan ties were often paramount, many Scottish residents in the Albany area viewed King George III as their Laird or clan chieftain. As a result, most refused to sign “association” documents or loyalty oaths put forth by the Tory Committee due to the fact such documents were viewed as breaking an oath of allegiance to the King. As Captain Alexander McDonald, formerly of the 77th Regiment, warned “I am determined to be true to the trust reposed in me and discharge my duty with honour . . . as long as I live.”

Finally, for those colonists who attempted to remain neutral or initially sided with the “patriot” cause, the Declaration of Independence instead drove many individuals over to the side of the Crown. Seen as either a radical document or an extreme reaction to the dispute with the Crown, men such as Justus Sherwood, renounced their affiliation with the American cause and took up arms for the King.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Ale Flip Recipe

Happy Father's Day!

Nothing says "I love you dad" like plying him with Ale Flip! To make this 18th drink that was extremely popular in Newburyport, you'll need:

Boston shaker or 2 pint glasses
1 1/2 fl. oz. (3 tablespoons) rum
1 tablespoon molasses
1 large egg
8 fl. oz. (1 cup) dark beer such as brown ale, porter, or stout
Freshly grated nutmeg for garnish

Pour the rum and molasses into one of the pint/shaker glasses. Crack the egg into the other glass and beat well with a fork. Warm the beer in a small saucepan over low heat just until it begins to froth and steam; don’t let it come to a boil.

Pour the beer into the glass filled with rum, then pour the egg into the beer. Continue to pour the drink back and forth between the pint glasses until smooth and well-blended, then transfer to a mug or other clean and heat-safe drinking glass.

Grate fresh nutmeg over the flip and serve immediately.


Monday, June 12, 2017

"To Cruise Against the Enemies of the United States" - The Privateer General Arnold

The Privateer General Arnold was a two hundred and fifty ton merchant vessel that was converted into a privateer in early 1778.  It was owned by Nathaniel Tracy of Newburyport and authorized on April 16, 1778 by the State of Massachusetts "to cruise against the enemies of the United States."  She was commanded by Captain Moses Brown and was armed with 18 guns.

This ship was NOT the same General Arnold that was destroyed in Plymouth Harbor during a blizzard in December, 1778.

The privateer departed Newburyport in early May on its first cruise.  Shortly thereafter, an accident occurred.  According to Captain Brown, "The first gun that was fired burst and killed or wounded all my officers"   As a result, Brown and his crew were forced to return to Newburyport.

The ship was refitted with new guns which apparently were worse than the originals.  "They  proved my guns, and burst four more of them"  After some delay, Brown was able to secure proper cannons and set sail in early August.  "Cruised three months and took a brig, which was re-taken, and returned in November."

By February, 1779, the General Arnold was already on its third cruise.  It appears the ship had multiple engagements and secured several prizes.  Sailing master Thomas Greele described one such encounter.  "March 28th Sunday at 6 A. M. St Michaels bore S. S. E. distant nine or ten miles. Saw a sail under St. Michaels which gave us chase. At ten she came up with us and proved to be the British ship Gregson, a Liver pool privateer, mounting twenty twelve pounders and one hundred and eighty men. After an action of two hours and fifteen minutes, she sheared off and made sail; but we could not come up with her as our spars, rigging and sails were much cut up; her loss unknown but from appearances it must have been deplorable indeed."

Two months later, Captain Brown and his crew was cruising off the coast of Spain.  "April 4th took the ship William, Capt. John Gregory, from Gibralter, bound to New York; put Mr. Samuel Robinson on board as prize master. . . April 19th anchored in Corunna, in Spain, refitting till May 19th."

On May 20, 1779, the General Arnold attacked the Nanny off the coast of Cape Finisterre, Spain.  Its captain, Thomas Beynon, described the encounter.  "The following are the particulars of an engagement we had with the General Arnold, Captain Moses Brown, of eighteen six pounders and one hundred men on the 20th of May off Cape Finisterre. Saw a ship in chase of us, and being resolved to know her weight of metal before I gave up your property I prepared to make the best defence I could. Between 8 and 9 o'clock he came along side with American colors, and three fire pots out, one on each fore yard arm and one at his jib boom end. Hailed and told me to haul down my colors. I desired him to begin and blaze away for I was determined to know his force before I gave up to him. The battle began and lasted two hours, our ships being close together, having only room to keep clear of each other. Our guns told well on both sides ; we were soon left destitute of rigging and sails. As I engaged under top sails and jib, and we were shattered below and aloft, I got the Nanny before the wind, and fought an hour that way, one pump going, till we had seven feet of water in the hold. I thought it then almost time to give up the battle, as our ship was a long time in re covering her sallies, and began to be water logged. We were so close that I told him I had struck and hauled down my colors."

Shortly after surrendering, the Nanny sunk.  "By the time we were out of the Nanny, the water was up to her lower deck. When Captain Brown heard the number of men I had he asked me what I meant by engaging him so long. I told him I was then his prisoner and hoped he would not call me to account for what I had done before the colors were hauled down. He said he approved of all I had done and treated my officers and myself like gentlemen and my people as his own."

However, the General Arnold did not emerge unscathed either.  According to Beynon, "The privateer [General Arnold] was in a shattered condition; his fore yard shot away in the slings and lying on her fore castle and a piece out of his main mast, so that he could make no sail until it was fixed: all his running rigging entirely gone, and a great part of his shrouds and back stays. None of his sails escaped except his main sail."

Despite the damage sustained, the privateer was still able to capture two more vessels off the Spanish coast on May 30th and June 1st.  Unfortunately, on June 2, 1779, the General Arnold encountered the 50 gun ship HMS Experiment.  The privateer was in no condition to fight.  As Sailing Master Greele correctly surmised the General Arnold "was captured by His Britannic Majesty's ship, Experiment, fifty guns, Sir James Wallace, commander. So ends our cruise."

Captain Brown and his crew were first taken to Madeira, Portugal and then to Savannah, Georgia.  Upon arrival, they were confined to a prison hulk.  They were released in 1780.  Brown returned to Newburyport in January, 1781.

Friday, June 2, 2017

"With the Design, Probably, To Spread Infection" - Rumors of Biological Warfare During the Siege of Boston

When General George Washington assumed command of the American army in July, 1775, one of his primary concerns was preventing his troops from being exposed to the smallpox virus. From Washington's perspective, "smallpox is in every part of Boston. The [British] soldiers who have never had it are, we are told, under inoculation, and considered as a surety against any attempt of ours to attack. If we escape the smallpox in this camp, and the country around, it will be miraculous. Every precaution that can be is taken, to guard against this evil, both by the General Court and myself."

Although smallpox was present in 1775 Boston, it did not reach the catastrophic levels Washington believed existed. Nevertheless, the general and his staff were concerned that the British army could utilize the disease as a biological weapon. Historians and period accounts have suggested British authorities occasionally explored the use of smallpox as a means to weaken or eradicate enemies. For example, evidence suggests Lord Jeffery Amherst authorized a plan to expose Native Americans to smallpox. General Thomas Gage allegedly approved a bill in 1763 for "Sundries got to Replace in kind those which were taken from people in the Hospital to Convey the Smallpox to the Indians." In 1777, a British officer suggested to defeat the American rebellion the military should "dip arrows in matter of smallpox, and twang them at the American rebels.... This would ... disband these stubborn, ignorant, enthusiastic savages.... Such is their dread and fear of that disorder." 

Of course, many colonists believed the British army planned to intentionally introduce small pox to the Massachusetts population. One Boston resident noted as early as January, 1775 that "soldiers try all they can to spread the smallpox but I hope they will be disappointed." Seth Pomeroy wrote in May 1775, "If it is In General Gages power I expect he will Send ye Small pox." On December 3, 1775, Robert H. Harrison noted that "four [British] deserters have just arrived at headquarters giving an account that several persons are to be sent out of Boston . . that have lately been inoculated with the smallpox, with the design, probably, to spread infection to distress us as much as possible."

Washington received reports in early December, 1775 that the British army was exploring germ warfare to weaken the American siege. However, the general suspected that any biological attack was not to designed to decimate the Massachusetts countryside but rather cripple the American army outside of Boston. On December 14, 1775, Washington complained to John Hancock, that "smallpox rages all over the town. Some of the military [British] as had it not before, are now under inoculation. This, I apprehend, is a weapon of defense they are using against us."

Washington's suspicions were corroborated when he received a report that "General Howe is going to send out a number of the Inhabitants. ... A Sailor says that a Number of these coming out have been inoculated with the design of Spreading the Small pox through this Country and Camp." Three days later, the general grimly reported to Congress "the information I received that the Enemy intended spreading the smallpox amongst us, I could not suppose them capable of; I now must give some credit to it, as it has made its appearance on several of those who last came out of Boston."

Fortunately, Washington was proactive in combating the spread of the disease. Less than twenty four hours after his arrival outside of Boston, the general cautioned soldiers against travelling to infected areas "as there may be danger of introducing smallpox into the army." By July 20th, Washington noted in correspondence to Congress that he had "been particularly attentive to the least Symptoms of the Small Pox, hitherto we have been so fortunate, as to have every Person removed so soon, as not only to prevent any Communication, but any Apprehension or Alarm it might give in the camp. We shall continue the utmost Vigilance against this most dangerous Enemy."

Lieutenant Colonel Loammi Baldwin was ordered to "prevent any of your officers from any intercourse with the people who ... came out of Boston . . . there is great reason to suspect that the smallpox is amongst them, which every precaution must be used to prevent its spreading." The efforts appeared to have been somewhat successful as General Horatio Gates later commented to Artemas Ward that Washington had "taken every possible precaution in his power ... to prevent the Enemy from communicating this infection of the Small pox to this Army."

Photograph by Jack Boudreau
As the siege progressed, the threat of smallpox remained an issue for Washington. Even as the British army prepared to evacuate, the general expressed some reservation that the enemy may coordinate a biological attack. A spy reported to the general in March, 1776 "our Enemies in that place had laid several schemes for communicating the infection of the small-pox, to the Continental Army, when they get out of town." In response, Washington ordered "that neither officer, nor Soldier, presume to go into Boston, without leave.... As the enemy with malicious assiduity, have spread the infection of the smallpox through all parts of the town, nothing but the utmost caution on our part, can prevent that fatal disease from spreading thro' the army, and country, to the infinite detriment of both. . . Therefore no officer or soldier may go into Boston when the enemy evacuates the Town."

Two days after the British fled from Boston, Washington ordered Israel Putnam and one thousand Continental Soldiers to occupy a key position outside of the town. The general was so concerned about exposure that he also specified that all of the troops assigned to Putnam must have already had smallpox and thus were immune to the virus.

Monday, May 22, 2017

"With a Company-Wide Space Between the Two" - Two Lexington Companies?

An analysis of the various accounts and reports of the Battle of Lexington suggest that the battlefield must have been a visual mess as the British column approached. The combination of darkness, spectators gathered in small clusters and militiamen coming and going from the common must have contributed to Major Pitcairn and Lieutenant Sutherland’s false impression that a large number of armed provincials were drawn up on the common.

However, despite the confusion, there is an account that suggest Captain Parker's Company was sufficiently disciplined and drawn up in military order. Specifically, Ensign Henry De Berniere of the 10th Foot provided an account of the Lexington men being drawn up in two divisions "with a company-wide space between the two."

Of course, based upon De Berniere's account, this begs the question: is it possible that there were two companies of Lexington militia on the common on April 19th? Most likely the answer is "no".

"Lexington Green" by Don Troiani

Almost a month after the battle Daniel Harrington recounted that when the militia mustered earlier in the morning, “the train band or Militia, and the alarm men (consisting of the aged and others exempted from turning out, excepting upon alarm) repaired in general to the common, close in with the meeting-house, the usual place of parade; and there were present when the roll was called over about one hundred and thirty of both.”

Unfortunately, Harrington is silent as to whether the alarm list and training band mustered together or as separate entities. When the militia assembled for a second time just before the Battle of Lexington, Harrington makes no reference to a second company. Instead, those who mustered are merely referred to as “the remains of the company.” 

Likewise, not a single deposition signed by spectators and Lexington militiamen makes reference to more than one company mustering on the field.

Of course, Loyalist and Boston resident George Leonard, who accompanied Percy’s relief column as a scout and was not a witness to the Battle of Lexington, indirectly suggested in his deposition that another company, perhaps unattached to Parker's Company, was nearby.

“That being on horseback . . .he several times went forward of the Brigade; in one of which excursions he met with a Countryman who was wounded supported by two others who were armed . . .the Deponent then asked what provoked [the regulars] to do it . . . he said that Some of our people upon the Regulars . . . he said further that it was not the Company he belonged to that fired but some of our Country people that were on the other Side of the Road.”

However, Leonard’s deposition is in direct contradiction with a statement given by James Marr, of the 4th Regiment of Foot, to the Reverend William Gordon. According to Marr, “when they and the others were advanced, Major Pitcairn said to the Lexington Company, (which, by the by, was the only one there), stop, you rebels! And he supposed that the design was to take away their arms.”

So what did the ensign actually see? Henry De Berniere probably observed a well drilled militia company that had been organized into platoons or divisions by its commanding officer.

There is no doubt Parker and his men were actively drilling in the months leading up to the battle. Period accounts document at least six occasions, as recent as the night before the battle, that the Lexington Company was drilling and performing maneuvers.

Interestingly, one period drill available to Captain Parker instructs officers of companies with more than forty men to divide the company into divisions, “in which case the captain leads the first, and the ensign the third, the lieutenant bringing up the rear. In general, the rule is, that the chief or commanding officer leads the whole, the second in command brings up the rear and the others lead the intermediate divisions.”

It is likely that Captain Parker followed this instruction and organized his company into “divisions” on the Lexington Common. This decision is corroborated by Lieutenant Colonel Smith's report on the engagement. "I understand, from the report of Major Pitcairn, who was with them, and from many officers, that they found on a green close to the road a body of the country people drawn up in military order, with arms and accoutrement, and, as appeared after, loaded."

Thursday, May 18, 2017

It's Too Hot...

It's too hot to blog today.  So we'll be at the beach...playing in the Victorian clothing.

Image of a family with the Plum Island Lighthouse (Newburyport, Massachusetts) behind them (c.1900). This particular lighthouse was built in 1898.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Shrub, Rattle Skull and Fish House Punch! (Oh My!)

Admittedly, the nerds of Historical Nerdery have been busy dealing with their students and moody teenage soccer players.  So our apologies for the delay in posting.

To make amends, and in recognition of the warm weather that will arrive in Massachusetts later this week, here are some historically themed cocktail recipes we highly recommend!



2 oz. of dark rum
Club soda
½ oz. of Shrub syrup

NOTE: To make the shrub syrup: In a medium bowl, mash the berries with the sugar and let sit for one and a half hours. Strain through a fine sieve into a clean bowl, pressing on the fruit to extract as much liquid as possible. Stir in vinegar and pour into a bottle or jar and refrigerate. The syrup can be kept in the fridge for up to two months.

Rattle Skull

2 oz. of dark rum
2 oz. of brandy
Juice of ½ a lime
1 pint of dark beer 

Fish House Punch

3/4 ounce dark rum
3/4 ounce Cognac
3/4 ounce peach brandy
1/2 ounce Simple Syrup
1/4 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 lime slice
1 maraschino cherry

Shandy Gaff   

5 oz of beer
5 oz of ginger beer or ginger ale


1 egg
1 tsp of brown sugar
2 oz. of golden/dark rum
Whole nutmeg
Combine egg, sugar, and rum in a shaker with ice.  After shaking hard, strain into a chilled glass.  Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

And why not a 20th century bonus recipe as well...

Mary Pickford

1.5 oz white rum
1.5 oz pineapple juice
1 tsp grenadine
6 drops Maraschino liqueur

Thursday, May 11, 2017

"Sinful Pleasures and Vicious Courses" or Those Munro Girls...

According to Robert Gross, author of The Minutemen and Their World, on the eve of the American Revolution one out of three first born children were conceived out of wedlock. In the 1740’s, nineteen percent of all first births were prenuptial conceptions. From the 1740’s onward, births less than nine months after marriage steadily increased. By 1774, forty-one percent of all first born children were conceived out of wedlock.

Lexington youth were no exception to this growing trend and according to period accounts, their promiscuous behavior drew the attention of the Reverend Jonas Clarke. The influential minister was so alarmed by the immoral conduct that he preached a sermon directed towards the town's youth. Entitled A Sermon Preached in the Evening to the Youth, Clarke warned against the "sinful Pleasures and vicious Courses to which there are so many and such strong and alluring Temptation in this Part of Life. . . young People . . . were surrounded by the alluring Snares, Wiles, and Temptations."

Clarke urged his young audience not to be “tempted and allured away from God and their Deity to Sinful Pleasure and vicious Courses to their Shame and Sorrow, and finally to their Destruction" and encouraged them to “choose other courses.”

Of course, Clarke's sermon must have fallen on deaf ears as the promiscuous behavior of several young adults from Lexington eventually played out in the Middlesex County Court. All of these hearings addressed the birth of "bastard" children born outside of wedlock. 

In the 18th Century the birth of illegitimate children were treated as criminal in nature and punished by the imposition of a fine.

For example, "Sarah Mead of Lexington in the County of Middlesex, spinster, being presented for the crime of fornication on file comes into the court and pleads guilty and says she was delivered of a bastard female child born of her body in Lexington aforesaid on the 13th day of January last, which child is still living, and she charges Thomas Nunning of Bedford in the same County, husbandman, with being the father of said child... Sept. 8, 1772."

Likewise, "Lydia Simends of Lexington in the County of Middlesex, spinster, comes into court and confesses she has been guilty of the crime of fornication at said Woburn... whereof she there afterward had a bastard male child born of her body on the 15th day of September last which child is still living. The court having considered her offense ordered that the said Lydia five shillings to be disposed of as the law directs and that she pay fees and costs, standing committed til performed. March 8, 1774."

Curiously, it appears that four girls from two Lexington Munro families appeared before the Court on five occasions. Rachel Munro, daughter of Marrett Munro, was fined for "fornication and says she was delivered of a bastard child at Lexington on the first day of December last (which child still living) and she charges Thomas Godding ofLexington, cordwainer, with being the father of said child.... Date March 12, 1765." Four years later she was back before the Court again. "Rachel Munro, spinster, presented for the crime of fornication, resulted in birth of bastard girl on Nov. 30, 1769. Pleads guilty and charges Benjamin Bodge of Charlestown as father. Case dated April 2, 1770."

Rachel's younger sister Bethia also appeared before the Court in 1775. "Bethia Munro of Lexington in the County of Middlesex, single woman, comes into the court and confesses she has been guilty of the crime of fornication in said Lexington whereof she there afterwards had a bastard male child born of her body on the 24th day of February 1775 which child is still living and she charges Samuel Bowman of said Lexington with being the father of said child. The Court orders that Bethia Munro pay a fine of six shillings to be disposed of as the law directs and that she pay fees and costs, standing committed til performed."

Two of Thomas Munro's daughters were also hauled before the Court. "Sarah Munro [of Lexington], spinster, presented for the crime of fornication, resulted in birth of bastard girl on Dec. 20, 1767. Pleads guilty and charges Wm. Swaney of Charlestown." 

Finally, "Abigail Munro, crime of fornication resulted in the birth of bastard girl on Oct. 27, 1769. Pleads guilty and charges Jonathan Peirce of Lexington. Case dated Nov. 27, 1770."

Friday, May 5, 2017

"A Schooner of Forty-Five Tons . . . Intended for the Enemy in Boston" - Interdiction of British Supplies by Massachusetts Privateers

In our last post, we discussed efforts by the Massachusetts Committee of Safety to prevent provisions from reaching the British Army trapped in Boston.  Today we'll examine accounts detailing the activities of Massachusetts privateers.

It appears that by early fall of 1775, privateers from Newburyport, Beverly, Salem and Plymouth were actively cruising the waters off of Massachusetts Bay in search of supply ships destined for Boston.  Many of these privateers traveled in "wolf packs" that varied in size from a few ships to over twenty.  One such wolf pack from Newburyport consisted of twenty-five vessels and over 2800 men.  A second Newburyport armada boasted thirty vessels.   

According to reports from the Essex Gazette, Massachusetts privateers were far more successful in cutting off supplies than their land based counterparts.  As early as September 9, 1775, the newspaper reported that "Last Saturday a privateer belonging to Newburyport carried into Portsmouth a schooner of forty-five tons, loaded with potatoes and turnips intended for the enemy in Boston."  

Two months later, the Lee, a privateer under the command of one Captain Manly, captured the British vessel Nancy.  According to a December 7, 1775 description, "Captain Manly, in the Lee, a vessel of war, in the service of the United Colonies, carried into Cape Ann a large brig called the Nancy which he took off that place, bound from London to Boston, laden with about three hundred and fifty caldrons of coal; and a quantity of bale goods, taken by Captain Manly, was carried into Salem. She is about two hundred tons burthen, and is almost a new ship."  

Of course, the Nancy was a military ordinance supply ship from Woolwich, England and also contained several brass cannons and a large quantity of arms and ammunition. 

Interestingly, that same account hints that Massachusetts privateers were becoming problematic for the British.  "Several vessels loaded with fuel, provisions of various kinds, &c, bound to Boston, have been carried into Salem and Beverly within a few days past." 

A few weeks after the capture of the Nancy, the Essex Gazette announced Captain Manly had struck again.  "Captain Manly has, within a few days past, taken another valuable prize, a sloop from Virginia bound for Boston, loaded with corn and oats; fitted out and sent by Lord Dunniore."    

On Christmas Day, a Plymouth based privateer successfully intercepted a supply sloop from New York.  "On the 25th of December last [1775] was taken by a Plymouth privateer and carried in there a small sloop from New York, Moses Wyman, Master, laden with provisions fur the ministerial army in Boston, consisting of thirty-five fresh hogs, one hundred barrels of pork, fifty barrels fine New York pippins, twenty firkins hog's feet, some quarters of beef, turkeys, &c., &c."  

Less than six months after Massachusetts privateer operations commenced, eight captured vessels had already been brought into Newburyport.  One period account from March 6, 1776 describes the fifth vessel captured.  "A few days since, the Yankee Hero sent into Newburyport another prize, a fine brig of about two hundred tons burthen, laden with coal, cheese, &c, bound for White Haven, for the use of the ministerial butchers, under the command of General Howe, Governor of Boston. This is the fifth prize out of eight which sailed states from the above port, and we are in hopes of giving a good account of the three remaining."

Even as the British army was preparing to evacuate Boston, the famed Captain Manly was still harassing Crown shipping lanes.  On March 14, 1776 "a transport brig of sixteen guns, laden with naval stores and provisions bound from Boston for the ministerial fleet at the southward  was taken. A ship of two hundred and forty tons also captured by Captain Manly about this time was shipped with six double fortified four-pounders, two swivels, and three barrels of powder, while the cargo consisted of one hundred and seventy-five butts of porter, twelve packages of medicine with largo quantities of coal, sourkrout, &c, besides a great number of packages for the officers in Boston. She also brought out sixty live hogs, but only one of them was alive when she was carried in."

Privateering proved to be quite profitable for Massachusetts coastal towns.  At the height of the war, almost one hundred privateer vessels hailed from Newburyport alone.  According to historian George Clark, over a period of four months (November 1775 to March 1776) the number of British vessels captured en route to Boston "amounted to thirty-one, their tonnage to 3,045 tons."  


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"For the Prevention of Any Provisions Being Carried Into the Town of Boston" - Early War Efforts to Cut Off Supplies From Boston

Following the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the Massachusetts Grand Army surrounded Boston and began to lay siege to it. The Massachusetts Committee of Safety quickly recognized that in order to drive the British army from Boston, it had to starve them out. 

On May 7, 1775, the Committee passed a resolution ordering selectmen and Committee of Correspondence members for Chelsea "to take effectual methods for the prevention of any Provisions being carried into the Town of Boston." 

Unfortunately, the resolution proved to be difficult for the town as Chelsea selectmen lacked the authority to order the Massachusetts Army to mobilize. Likewise, some residents believed the execution of the order would have a negative impact on their livelihoods. William Harris, a manager at Oliver Wendell's farm on Hog's Island, later confided that he was "very uneasy, the people from the Men of War frequently go to the Island to Buy fresh Provision, his own safety obliges him to sell to them, on the other Hand the Committee of Safety have threatened if he sells anything to the Army or Navy, that they will take all the Cattle from the Island, & our folks tell him they shall handle him rufly."

The Committee of Safety recognized Chelsea could not go it alone and revisited the issue on May 14, 1775. After some debate, it was decided that the best way to prevent provisions from falling into enemy hands was to remove them altogether. Hence, the committee instructed “that all the live-stock be taken from Noddle’s Island, Hog Island, and Snake Island, and from that part of Chelsea near the seacoast, and be driven back.”  In turn, the Committee ordered “Committee of Correspondence and Selectmen of the Towns of Medford, Malden, Chelsea, and Lynn, and that they be supplied with such men as they shall need, from the Regiment now at Medford.”  

The "regiment now at Medford" was the 1st New Hampshire Regiment under the command of John Stark.  Unfortunately, Stark reported that his unit could not carry out the mission because it was too poorly equipped.  After receiving this news, the Committee of Safety resumed debate on how to best undertake interdiction operations.   

Meanwhile the British  army began to dispatch forage parties to Grape Island.

Provincial leaders scrambled to find a way to prevent further such raids and stop the flow of supplies into Boston.  The Committee of Safety drafted a new resolution to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress on May 23, 1775.  The Committee urged the Provincial Congress to use its authority to secure resources on the harbor islands and Massachusetts seacoast.  The next day, the Committee issued a second resolution, stating "Resolved, That it be recommended to Congress immediately to take such order respecting the removal of the Sheep and Hay from Noddle’s Island, as they may judge proper, together with the stock on adjacent islands."

In compliance with the Committee of Safety resolutions, Major General Artemas Ward, commander-in-chief of the army surrounding Boston, convened a council of war to discuss removing or destroying all supplies on Noddle’s and Hog Islands.  From this meeting a plan would be formulated regarding the removal of resources from some of the nearby Boston Harbor islands.  Unfortunately, the end result of the plan would be the Battle of Chelsea Creek. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

"Turn Out! Turn Out! Or You will All Be Killed!" - The Great Ipswich Fright

Two days after the Battles of Lexington and Concord, widespread panic set in among the residents of several North Shore Massachusetts towns. Known as the "Ipswich Fright", this psychological phenomenon led to the mass abandonment of homes and the evacuation of Essex County residents into New Hampshire.

Local tradition suggests that on the morning of April 21, 1775, A British naval cutter anchored at the mouth of the Ipswich River. In response, the local alarm list mobilized but did not engage the enemy. No fighting ever broke out between the ship's crew and the militiaman. Nevertheless, an unfounded rumor began to spread inside the town that British regulars had landed and were laying waste to everything before them. With most Essex County minute and militia men away at the Siege of Boston, a massive panic set in.  The rumor quickly spread to other towns.

A few hours later, it reached as far away as Newburyport. A minister named Carey was holding a meeting when alarm rider Ebenezer Todd interrupted the meeting and announced "“Turn out, turn out, for God’s sake,” he cried, “or you will be all killed! The regulars are marching on us; they are at Ipswich now, cutting and slashing all before them!”

The fright continued west to Haverhill and Andover.  An early 19th century account of the incident suggests an alarm rider instructed Haverhill residents to "Turn out! Get a musket! Turn out . . . the regulars are landing on Plum Island!"

As panic set in, many residents began to gather their valuables and fled as far north as Exeter and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  Many Essex County residents overwhelmed ferries as they tried to cross the Merrimack River.  Period accounts suggest Amesbury, Salisbury and Rowley were completely abandoned by its residents.

The residents were so overcome with fear and despair that they began to turn on each other in order to secure their escape. According to one period account "a Mr. ___, having placed his family on board of a boat, to go to Ram island, for safety, was so annoyed with the crying of one of his children, that he exclaimed, in a great fright, 'do throw that squalling brat overboard, or we shall all be discovered!'"  

Some residents refused to flee. One Newbury account suggests an elderly resident took up a defensive post at his front door, loaded his musket and declared he intended to “shoot the devils" when they arrived.

The panic continued well into the early morning of April 22, 1775.  By then, residents of Exeter had begun to suspect the entire ordeal was an unfounded rumor.  In turn, the town dispatched an alarm rider towards Newburyport with a message that the account of a British army invading Essex County were false.  

Shortly thereafter, many residents returned to their homes.  

Friday, April 21, 2017

"You Would Have Been Shocked at the Destruction" - The Aftermath of April 19th in Lexington

Last week, Historical Nerdery posted about the civilian evacuation of the Lexington area on April 19, 1775. Today, we'd like to share some accounts regarding the destruction of Lexington property by the British troops. 

In addition to suffering the highest casualty rate of the American forces for on that day, Lexington also suffered extensive property damage. Several homes were burned or destroyed and while others were looted. Andover minute man Thomas Boynton noted "after we came into Concord road we saw houses burning and others plundered and dead bodies of the enemy lying by the way, others taken prisoners."

Another Andover soldier, James Stevens, recalled "we went in to Lecentown. We went to the metinghous & there we come to the distraction of the Reegerlers thay cild eight of our men & shot a Canon Ball throug the metin hous. we went a long through Lecintown & we saw severel regerlers ded on the rod & som of our men & three or fore houses was Burnt & som hoses & hogs was cild thay plaindered in every hous thay could git in to thay stove in windows & broke in tops of desks."

According to the Reverend William Gordon, "you would have been shocked at the destruction which has been made by the Regulars, as they are miscalled, had you been present with me to have beheld it. Many houses were plundered of every thing valuable that could be taken away, and what could not be carried off was destroyed; looking-glasses, pots, pans, etc. were broke all to pieces; doors when not fastened, sashes and windows wantonly damaged and destroyed. The people say that the soldiers are worse than the Indians."

Lydia Mulliken lost everything when her house and clock making shop were burned to the ground. The only surviving valuables were the silver that she had hidden in a stone wall behind her house. Lydia's daughter, Rebecca Mulliken, particularly mourned the loss of “a pocket which with great pride she had embroiders with crewels." The Loring family also lost everything, including all household furnishing and every stitch of linens and clothing. Fifer Jonathan Harrington's family lost “an eight-day clock, clothes, books, moose-skins and other articles.”

Upon returning home, some Lexington residents discovered their residences had also been vandalized and defiled. A "Mrs. Muzzy" discovered that British soldiers had broken her mirror, valuable crockery, fired bullets into the wall and left the floor smeared with blood. When Anna Munroe returned to her family tavern, she quickly noted that the retreating soldiers had eaten her freshly baked bread, broken into her supplies, and consumed all the alcohol in the shop. Her household linens were used as bandages for wounded soldiers. She also discovered the soldiers had piled up her furniture, including a mahogany table, and set it on fire in an attempt to burn the tavern down.

Pursuant to 18th Century law, the illegal breaking and entering into a home was a capital offense punishable by death. Thus, from Lexington's point of view, the plundering and burning of homes was not only highly offensive, it also served to fuel their anger even further.

In the aftermath of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, many Lexington residents started to compile a running list of lost, stolen or destroyed property. Ultimately, claims for compensation for property lost or destroyed were submitted to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. Those petitions can be viewed here.  

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

"This is My Little Girl That I Was So Afraid the Red Coats Would Get" - The Civilian Evacuation of Lexington

In our last post, we discussed an interpretive program that McAlpin's Corps of American Volunteers would be undertaking this Saturday at Minute Man National Historic Park. The program will bring attention to the April 19, 1775 civilian evacuation of the homes along the Battle Road.

In order to give the event proper context, we at Historical Nerdery would like to share additional accounts of Lexington civilians fleeing from the British column. Keep in mind the civilians of Lexington evacuated the town twice. Once before the Battle of Lexington and once afterwards.

During the initial evacuation, it appears that many non-combatants left their homes between midnight and two o'clock in the morning. Understandably, many were anxious as to what the day would bring. Anna Munroe, wife of tavern-keeper William Munroe, would later admit, “I mixed my bread last night with tears coming, for I feared I should have no husband when the next mixing came."

Most Lexington women and children escaped to the safety of nearby woods and fields. Abigail Harrington, took her younger children “down a lane back of the house across a meadow to the old place on Smock Farm.” Anna Munroe fled Munroe Tavern with her three children and hid on a hill behind the establishment.
Of course, others traveled to nearby towns. As news of the fighting spread, the Mead women fled to Burlington. Likewise, at the Reverend Clarke parsonage, the family bundled the children and also fled to Burlington.

The Rev. William Gordon of Roxbury recounted “the inhabitants had quitted their houses in the general area upon the road, leaving almost everything behind them, and thinking themselves well off in escaping with their lives.” Some escaped with a few select belongings. Others quickly hid or buried valuables before leaving. One 19th century Lexington account suggests many residents "hid their silver and mirrors and many other things in Russell’s swamp beyond Munroe’s brook." The Reverend Clarke's family hid “money, watches, and anything down in the potatoes.”

For some women, the flight was particularly difficult. Four women (Sarah Marrett, Amity Pierce, Sarah Reed and Betty White) were likely still in bed after recently giving birth over the past month. Three others (Dorcus Parker, Elizabeth Estabrook and Lydia Harrington) were within a few weeks of delivering. In fact, Sarah Reed and her newborn child had to be carried out her home on a mattress by her husband and parents.

Francis Brown’s widow recalled that the Lexington roads were clogged with “women and children weeping."

Unfortunately, some families waited until the last moment to escape and came in direct contact with the British army. Anna Munroe, daughter of William and Anna, was five years old when the Battles of Lexington and Concord took place. After returning to Munroe Tavern following the first evacuation, the family was forced to flee again. According to her 19th Century account, Anna “...could remember seeing the men in red coats coming toward the house and how frightened her mother was when they ran from the house. That was all she could remember, but her mother told her of her very unhappy afternoon. She held Anna by the hand, brother William by her side and baby Sally in her arms . . . She could hear the cannon firing over her head on the hill. She could smell the smoke of the three buildings which the British burned between here and the center of Lexington. And she did not know what was happening to her husband, who was fighting, or what was happening within her house. . . Anna’s mother used to talk to her of what happened on April 19th and she remembered that her mother used to take her on her lap and say: ‘This is my little girl that I was so afraid the Red coats would get.’”

In our next posting Historical Nerdery will discuss the aftermath of the British Retreat through Lexington.

Friday, April 7, 2017

"The Women and Children Had Been so Scattered and Dispersed" - The Civilian Evacuation Along the Battle Road

Next weekend, Minute Man National Historical Park will be hosting a variety of educational activities focusing on the events of April 19, 1775.  On Saturday, April 15th,  the site will sponsor a tactical scenario highlighting the American ambush at "Parker's Revenge".  However, immediately before the reenactment, McAlpin’s Corps of American Volunteers will oversee an interpretive program focusing on the civilian evacuation of homes along the Battle Road.  

McAlpin's Corps of American Volunteers is a progressive living history organization that usually portrays Loyalist refugees from the Burgoyne Campaign.  Recently, the organization has branched out and is starting to take on documented non-traditional roles at the annual Battle Road reenactment.  For example, last year McAlpin's portrayed Loyalist guides who led the British expeditionary force to Concord.  This year, with the Park’s support, McAlpin's will be calling attention to the trials and tribulations of those civilians who were forced to evacuate their homes as the British column retreated from Concord.

Historical evidence suggests a panic sets in when residents recognized that a military force under continuous attack was marching towards them. Women, children and some men who resided along or near the Battle Road quickly vacated their homes.  Many civilians fled to nearby woods and fields.  Women gathered their valuables and led their families to the safety of nearby woods and fields or to homes far away from the route of the British retreat.  

Lexington’s Lydia Parker, “took all the valuables and hid them in a hollow trunk of a tree standing some distance from the house.”    Lydia Mulliken and her daughters, hurriedly buried the family’s silver and other valuables in a wall near the clock shop, then fled to distant safety.  Mary Sanderson gathered her children and “taking such articles as they could hurriedly collect and carry in their arms…[and made their way] to a refuge, the home of her father.”  The Loring family scurried to hide the communion silver in a brush heap back of the house before fleeing.  Abigail Harrington, took the younger children “down a lane back of the house across a meadow to the old place on Smock farm.”  

By the time the retiring British column reached the Lincoln-Lexington line, one early 19th account suggests “the women and children had been so scattered and dispersed, that most of them were out of the way.”

This interpretive program will take place approximately 15 to 20 minutes prior to the start of the tactical scenario and will include civilians fleeing down the Battle Road towards the Bluff and a family vacating one of the Park’s properties.  

Next week Historical Nerdery will share additional accounts of the civilian evacuations of April 19, 1775!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

"Sideways . . . Thro' the Air" - The Amesbury Tornado of 1773

The nerds of Historical Nerdery would like to apologize for our absence over the past week. We got a little distracted doing battle with a gaggle of girls from our u14 soccer team. Someone we survived...

With the current erratic weather patterns in New England, we figured it would be a proper time to turn our attention to an unusual but devastating event that occurred in Amesbury, Massachusetts on August 14, 1773.

Between 7 and 8 o'clock in the morning, a weather front passed over Northeastern Massachusetts and a series of violent storms sprung up. According to one period account, the storms consisted of "heavy rain and gross darkness".  At some point, a water spout formed somewhere along the Salisbury section of the Merrimack River. It quickly moved northwest along the river and landed in Amesbury at the junction of the Merrimack and Powwow Rivers.

In 1773 this part of Amesbury was a prosperous shipbuilding and fishing community. It also had a ferry that connected the town with Newbury. Several active farms were located on the outskirts of the village.  Five years after the storm, the famed Continental naval frigate USS Alliance would be launched from one of the local shipyards.

When the tornado landed, homes and shops were leveled. Building supplies, including shingles, timber and bricks, were thrown upwards of 140 feet in all directions. Apple trees were leveled and farm animals killed. A sail loft (and its occupants) was pulled off of its foundation and carried almost 100 feet down a roadway. Witnesses described trees and ship planks striking homes "with the velocity of cannon balls".

 The twister was so powerful that it lifted a pair of recently constructed 90 ton vessels out of their berths and carried them "sideways . . . thro' the air".

According to Amesbury's Samuel Williams, the tornado lasted approximately four minutes and traveled for almost a mile. The Essex Gazette reported that the tornado also left a mile wide swath of destruction. If this newspaper account is accurate, it is possible the tornado was at least a F4 on the Fujita Scale.

Over one hundred and twenty buildings were destroyed or damaged. Several residents were trapped in cellars and had to be dug out. Miraculously, no one was killed. Only two people suffered serious injuries.     


Thursday, March 23, 2017

"The Church is Also Burnt but not the Meeting House" - The Burning of Falmouth

One of the often overlooked events of the early months of the American Revolution was the burning of Falmouth (now Portland), Maine. In an effort to crush the rebellious spirit of Massachusetts, Vice-Admiral Samuel Graves, commander of the British North Atlantic fleet, ordered Royal Navy Captain Henry Mowat to “carry on such Operations upon the Sea Coasts … as you shall judge most effective for suppressing … the Rebellion… to "lay waste burn and destroy such Sea Port towns as are accessible to His Majesty’s ships."

Captain Mowat already had a poor relationship with Massachusetts colonists, especially those from Falmouth. In April 1775, he and his ship, the HMS Canceaux, were dispatched to the coastal town to protect a British merchant vessel that had arrived in March. While onshore, Mowat was kidnapped by local militiamen and held for ransom. The Royal Navy was forced to pay for his release.

After receiving Graves orders', Mowat and his squadron bypassed the coastal towns situated along Cape Ann, the Merrimack Valley and the New Hampshire Seacoast and instead sailed directly for Falmouth. On October 17, 1775, the ships appeared in the town's inner harbor. A naval lieutenant landed and quickly delivered Mowat's communication to the town. 

"After many premeditated attacks on the legal Prerogatives of the best of Sovereigns. After repeated Instances you have experienced in Britain’s long forbearance of the Rod of Correction; and the Merciful and Paternal extension of her Hands to embrace you, again and again have been regarded as vain and nugatory: And in place of a dutiful and grateful return to your King and Parent state, you have been guilty of the most unpardon- -able Rebellion, supported by the Ambition of a set of designing men, whose insidious views have cruelly imposed on the credulity of their fellow creatures, and at last have brought the whole into the same Dilemma, which leads me to feel not a little for the Innocent of them, in particular on the present occasion, having it in orders to execute a just Punishment on the Town of Falmouth: In the name of which Authority I previously warn you to remove without delay the Human Species out of the said town, for which purpose I give you the time of two hours, at the period of which, a Red pendant will be hoisted at the Maintop- -gallant Masthead with a gun. but should your imprudence lead you to show the least resistance, you will in that case free me of that Humanity, so strongly pointed 6 pointed out in my orders as well as my own Inclination. I also observe that all those who did upon a former occasion fly to the King’s Ship under my Command for protection, that the same door is now open and ready to receive them. The Officer who will deliver this letter I expect to return unmolested. I am &c H. Mowat"

As soon as they received this ultimatum, the townspeople sent a committee to plead with Mowat for mercy. He promised to withhold an attack if the town swore an oath of allegiance to the Crown and surrender all their small arms, powder and artillery carriages. The residents quickly deliberated Mowat's demands and chose to evacuate the town instead.

By the morning of October 18th, the town appeared abandoned.  Mowat ordered his squadron to open fire. According to one eye witness, "The firing began from all the vessels with all possible briskness, discharging on all parts of the town ... a horrible shower of balls from three to nine pounds weight, bombs, carcasses live shells, grapeshot and musketballs. ... The firing lasted, with little cessation, until six o'clock." Not satisfied with the bombardment, Mowat dispatched landing parties to burn any building that was still standing. By evening, according to Mowat, "the body of the town was in one flame."

Surprisingly, Falmouth had a large Loyalist population at the time of the raid and one recounted the impact of bombardment. 

"On the 18th Octbr last a Fleet under the command of Capt Mowatt burnt the Town of Falmouth as you’ve undoubtedly heard by Mr T—. Your House Barn Out Houses. Fences & Office are all in Ashes. We had so few Hours notice of our Destruction, that we had no Time nor Team to save either your Furniture or mine – I was obliged to flee for my Life – I knew not where till a Quaker offered me a lodging in his House, which had not a finished room in it— However I was obliged by the offer— and my wife & I were were forced to foot it with large Bundles on our Arms about 6 or 8 Miles & abused as we passed the Road What little time I had was employed in throwing my Furniture into the Garden from whence a good deal was stole and the most of the remainder broken or torn in pieces— The Church is also burnt but not the Meeting House— All below Doct r Watts except a few Houses in Back Street and Bradbury & Mrs Ross’s two Houses are clean gone— The upper End of the Town supposed to be about one third of the whole is standing among which is the House I lived in by reason of that fortunate Event, I saved some of my Furniture but am Still in the Woods, where if I cant get off either to London, Boston or Hallifax."

More than 400 buildings and houses were damaged or destroyed by fire. In his report to Graves, Mowat stated that eleven small vessels were destroyed in the harbor itself, and four captured, at the cost of one man killed and one wounded. 
A visitor to the town reported that, a month later, there was "no lodging, eating or housekeeping in Falmouth." 

The events of Falmouth cause an uproar in the colonies and further galvanized the American rebellious spirit. Mowat's career suffered as a result of his actions. He was repeatedly passed over for promotion, and achieved it only when he downplayed his role in the event, or omitted it entirely from his record.

Monday, March 20, 2017

"Struck Severely with Such a Spectacle" - The Privateer Yankee Hero

The Privateer Yankee Hero of Newburyport was a 14 gun sloop-of-war that was part of General Washington's 1775-1776 “Wolf Pack”.  This small fleet of privateers from the North Shore region of Massachusetts routinely harassed British shipping en route to resupply British troops trapped in Boston.  Following the Evacuation of Boston on March 17, 1776, the Yankee Hero continued to patrol Cape Ann for enemy supply ships that strayed too close to the Massachusetts coast.

On June 6, 1776, she encountered the HMS Milford off of Cape Ann. Following a two hour battle, the Yankee Hero was forced to strike her colors and surrender.

On August 22, 1776, the Essex Gazette published an account of the engagement and the suspected fate of the privateer’s crew.  

“August 12. –A correspondent gives the following account of the capture of the privateer Yankee Hero: –Captain James Tracy sailed from Newburyport, in New Hampshire, on the seventh of June, in the Yankee Hero, for Boston, with twenty-six men only, including officers. This number was not a quarter of his complement; he was provisioned for a six months’ cruise, and was to take in the remainder of his men at Boston. The afternoon he went out, going round Cape Ann, he observed a sail in the offing, but in his situation did not think of looking after her. Two boats full, manned with their muskets, who had put out after the sail, came on board and informed him a number of transports had been close into the Cape that day, and fourteen men from the two boats joined him, and sent their boats on shore. He had now forty hands in the whole, (only a third of his complement,) and with these he put away for the sail, which bore E. S. E., about five leagues distance, the wind being then westerly. At six miles distance they perceived her to be a ship, and soon, from her management, to be a ship-of-war. As a contest with her must have been very unequal, Captain Tracy, who intended to make a harbor that night, ordered the brig to be put about for the shore, not then suspecting that the ship would come up with him. But he had not tacked ten minutes before the westerly wind died away, and the ship taking a fresh southerly breeze, came fast in, endeavoring to cut the brig off from the shore. After some time, the ship thus getting in the wake of the brig, the wind again came fresh to the westward, upon which the brig hauled to the wind in the best angle for the shore. The ship gave chase, and in an hour came up within half a mile, and began to fire her bow chasers, which the brig only answered with a swivel, Captain Tracy reserving his whole fire until the ship, keeping a constant fire, came up within pistol shot upon his lee quarter, when the brig gave her the best return they could make from their main and quarter deck guns, swivels, and small arms, and after kept up a constant fire. The ship was soon up alongside, and with twelve nine-pounders on a side, upon one deck, besides forecastle and quarter deck guns, and with her marines overlooking the brig as high as her leading blocks, kept up a continual fire. After some time, the ship hauled her wind so close (which obliged the brig to do the same) that Captain Tracy was unable to sight his lee guns. Upon this he backed under her stern, but the ship, which sailed much faster and worked as quick, had the advantage, and brought her broadside again upon him, which he could not evade. In this manner they lay, not a hundred feet from each other, yawing to and fro, for an hour and twenty minutes, the privateer’s men valiantly maintaining their quarters against such a superior force. About this time, the ship’s foremast guns beginning to slack fire. Captain Tracy tacked under her stern, and when clear of the smoke and fire, perceived his rigging to be most shockingly cut, yards flying about without braces, some of his principal sails shot to rags, and half his men, to appearance, dying and wounded.

Mr. Main, his first lieutenant, was among the first wounded, and Mr. Davis, one of the prize masters, fell in the last attack. In this situation they went to work to refit the rigging, and to carry the wounded below, the ship having then taken a broad sheer some way off, and none of her guns bearing. But before they could get their yards to rights, which they zealously tried for in hopes still to get clear of the ship, as they were now nearer in shore, or to part from her under the night, she again came up and renewed the attack, which obliged Captain Tracy to have recourse to his guns again, though he still kept some hands aloft to his rigging; but before the brig had again fired two broadsides, Captain Tracy received a wound in his right thigh, and in a few minutes he could not stand. He laid himself over the arm chest and barricade, determined to keep up the fire; but in a short time, from pain and loss of blood, he was unable to command, growing faint, and they helped him below. As soon as he came to, he found his firing had ceased, and his people round him wounded, and, not having a surgeon with them, in a most distressed situation, most of them groaning and some expiring.

Struck severely with such a spectacle, Captain Tracy ordered his people to take him up in a chair upon the quarter deck, and resolved again to attack the ship, which was all this time keeping up her fire. But after getting into the air, he was again so faint that he was for some time unable to speak, and finding no alternative, but they must be taken or sunk, for the sake of the brave men that remained, he ordered them to strike to the ship.

Thus was this action maintained upwards of two hours, in a low single-decked vessel, with not half the metal the ship had, against an English frigate, whose navy has been the dread of nations, and by a quarter the number of people in the one as in the other; yet the victors exulted as though they had overcome a force as much superior as this was inferior to them. The brig had four men killed and thirteen wounded, including officers. The number in the Milford wounded is not known, though there were some. The deprivation of these brave officers and men is to be regretted by all friends to this country. With justice to Captain Burr, of the Milford, it must be acknowledged he treated with humanity and politeness the officers and men that were wounded; but to the eternal disgrace of Britain, and the present King and Parliament, let it be recorded, that in this very action above related, upwards of thirty Americans, prisoners in the Milford, were forced, at the forfeit of their lives, to fight against their countrymen; and the officers and men of the Yankee Hero, that were not wounded, are now detained in several of their ships, and may meet with the same cruel fate; an exaction that even savages have not been known to require. It is to the credit of the Hero’s men, that not one would enter upon the ship’s books, though not only urged by every persuasion, but by threats.”

Following her capture, the Yankee Hero was pressed into service for the Crown and renamed the HMS Postillion.  The vessel was part of the British Navy until it was sold in Halifax for £450.