My book explores how Massachusetts Patriots were furiously collecting cannon months before the war broke out in April of 1775, but of course keeping that effort as quiet as possible.
Today I’ll share a glimpse of one such cannon from the diary of Israel Litchfield, a sergeant in Scituate’s minute company. The town militiamen were drilling on 19 April when they heard a rumor of fighting between locals and redcoats in Concord. “Some Discredited it and Some Believed it,” Litchfield wrote, but gradually the new situation became clear.
The next day, the Scituate militia companies mustered. They took a few local Loyalists prisoner. But they didn’t march toward Boston because, as I discussed last year, there was a contingent of British soldiers a lot closer, in the neighboring town of Marshfield. Furthermore, seaside communities worried about the Royal Navy—shouldn’t the militia companies stay close to home to guard against a possible attack from the sea?
On 21 April, Litchfield and his company were ordered to bring in the big guns—well, one big gun—evidently to push the redcoats out of Marshfield. The sergeant wrote:
Colonel [John] Bailey I Say ordered our Companey the Rangers and Capt. Galen Clapps Company to march up to [Atherton] Wales’s [tavern in Hanover] to gaurd a Cannon down to marshfield. We were very Loath to go because there was Several tenders playing off and on upon our Coasts. However we were obliged to goSo everything ended almost peacefully in that part of the province. Sgt. Litchfield didn’t record what happened to the cannon his company had left behind on the road. Was it taken up to the siege lines around Boston or kept nearby to guard a local harbor?
So we marched up to upriver meeting house and Joind Capt. Galen Claps Company. We marched up to wales’s and took the Cannon under our protection. We march’d from Wales’s to Dr. [Jeremiah] Halls in pembroke. There we heard a rumur that there was 500 Regulars Landing in Scituate.
We Sent posts to the Col. for Leave to march Back to Scituate, which after we had marcd. aboute a mile beyond Dr. Halls the major Came to us and ordered us to march back to Scituate. The Sun was aboute an hour high.
We marchd down to upriver meeting house where we heard that there was nothing in the rumur of mens Landing in Scituate but that the Regulars were embarkd on board a tender and gone off.
I’ll have more answers about other cannon at Falmouth on Tuesday. My talk will begin at 7:00 P.M. at the historical society’s Cultural Center, 55 Palmer Avenue. I believe the admission cost is $5 for members and $8 for others. I’ll stay after the talk to answer questions, sign books, and chat about the Revolution.
[The photograph above shows Atherton Wales’s tavern in Hanover as the building appeared in the 1900s.]