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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Friday, October 13, 2006

Jeduthan Baldwin's Luck Gets Worse, Then Better

Back in May I quoted from the diary of Continental Army artillery officer Jeduthan Baldwin of Brookfield, discovering on 16 July 1776 that most of his clothing had been stolen. He was not happy.

Colleagues provided him with enough clothes that he could continue to appear respectable in their camp up near Fort Ticonderoga. But shortly afterwards Baldwin's bad luck transfered to his guns. Here is his diary entry for 1 Aug 1776, spelled and punctuated as he wrote:

at Sunset one howet[zer] was fired on board a large Gundalow by way of experiment, the Shell brok in the air, one 13 inch Bomb was also thrown from the same Gundelow on bord of which were about 20 men, when the Bomb went of the Morter split & the upper part went above 20 feet in the Air over the mens heads into the water & hurt no man. the peice that blowd off weighd near a ton, I was nigh & saw the men fall down when the morter burst, & it was a great wonder no man was kild.
2 August:
this morning I went early to Independent Point where we Charged the other 13 inch morter, by way of tryal, when she was fired she burst Just in the same manner (only this was on land, & the other was upon the warter) that the other did near about the middel the whole length, so that we have no large Morter here now, these 2 morters were carried from this place to Cambridge & brought back & went Down to Canada & then back to this place, at an immence cost, altho they were worth nothing.
Yes, these big mortars were among the artillery pieces that Col. Henry Knox had famously hauled down from Fort Ticonderoga to the siege of Boston in the winter of 1775-76. And the only damage they were doing was to Americans. On 5 August:
in clearing the guns on bord of one of the gundelows one of the cannon went of as they were charging it & Killd the gunners mate he was blown into many peices & scatterd on the water. this afternoon I found in an old thiefs pack, who was discharged & going home my Sartoot, silk breeches & 2 pair of Stockings, the thif is now confind in Irons in the dungeon.
As shown in the end of that entry, however, Baldwin's luck had begun to turn: he found a man carrying some of his stolen clothing. The next day:
this morning I found my Hatt with a Serjant, in the afternoon a lad discoverd a pack in a Chimney which contained my Cloak, Laiced Coat & Jacquet, so that I have my Cloathing, except my Shirts, 3 pair of Stockings & som Necks. the Needle to my Compass, & Cash I have not found.
And on 7 August:
this morning 2 of my shirts were found and some evidence apeard with the finding of the Hatt & shirts, against Serjant Majr. O’briant who desarted yesterday, & Genl. Gates this Day sent an officer down to fort Edward or albany to apprehend & bring back the desarter of whome I hope to get the money & all those Stolen goods I have lost. I let Lt. have 12 Dollars to bair his expense in his Journey after the thief.
8 August:
2 of my Cotton Shirts were found & a fair prospect of finding the rest.
So this little story has a happy ending after all.

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