J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Jeduthan Baldwin loses his clothes and his temper

Here are spicy excerpts from The Revolutionary Journal of Col. Jeduthan Baldwin, 1775-1778, published in 1906. Baldwin was a farmer with a big estate in Brookfield, Massachusetts, born in 1732. At the start of the Revolution he joined the Massachusetts artillery regiment, which became part of the Continental Army in June 1775.

Around the time of Congress’s Declaration of Independence, Baldwin was in upstate New York as an engineer and artillery commander. He had recently recovered from smallpox. The American army was in retreat from Canada. And on 16 July 1776 Baldwin woke up to a bad surprise:

in the morning between day and sunrise I heard some persons say that how come that Chest open, another person answerd sombody has robd it they have pulld up the tent pins & taken the chest out, upon which I arose in my shirt & went out & found that I was robd of my Hatt, a Camblet Cloak a Surtoot, a blieu Coat & Jacoat full trimd with a narrow Gold lace, a pair of Silk breeches, a Snuff colourd Coat turnd up with white, a Velvet Jacoat, 3 cotton & 3 Wollon Shirts, 3 Stocks, 2 linen Handkfs, 2 pair of linen & 2 pair of woolen Stockings, a pair of Silver Shoe & knee buckels, a Surveyors Compass or theodiler, & between 35 & 40 Dollars in paper money, an ink pot, a knife, key & a Number of papers, & other articles.

I immediately sent to all the Commanding officers present, & at the landing, acquainting them with my loss, the Army was all turnd out & a genl. Sirch made but none of my things found. I borrowed of a friend, a Coat & Jacoat & hatt, for I had none lift, I was Stript to the Shirt, my breeches & watch that lay under my head were saved only.

Just at evning I heard that my coat turnd up with white & Velvet Jacoat was found with the buckles &c. in the pockets, hid in a blind place.
The next day brought more bad news, and Baldwin lost his temper:
in the Morning a part of my Compass was found break to pieces & soon after the rest of it except the Needle. this Day I wrote to Genl. Sullivan to remind him of the request I had made of a discharge from the Army, desiring him to use his intrest in my behalf while at the Congress, as I am heartily tired of this Retreating, Raged Starved, lousey, thevish, Pockey Army in this unhealthy Country.
In addition to being a fine show of emotion, these extracts are interesting as:
  1. a nearly complete inventory of what clothing a genteel but not especially wealthy New England officer took on campaign in the army.
  2. a taste of how even gentlemen of that class spelled words in the eighteenth century.

ADDENDUM: Does Col. Baldwin find his clothes?

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