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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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Arrests and Artillery at the End of May

The fighting over Noddle’s Island seemed to confirm that the Revolutionary War was going to be a real shooting war, and on 31 May 1775 Boston selectman Timothy Newell wrote in his diary:

These several days last past we have been repeatedly alarmed with expectation of a general battle or attack on the town; many people put under guard and some sent on board the Men of war for the most trifling supposed offences.
Newell and his fellow elected officials supported the Patriots, but they also had to worry about the welfare of the townspeople. Which was worse—having the royal military detaining people or forcing them onto warships, or being bombarded by the guns of your own side?

Contrary to what many latter-day chroniclers have written about the provincial forces, portraying them as unequipped underdogs, there was a not-inconsiderable artillery force outside Boston even before Henry Knox brought back large guns from Fort Ticonderoga in the winter of 1775-76. On the same day that Newell was worrying about an attack, Lt. John Barker of His Majesty’s 4th Regiment of Foot wrote in his diary: “Nothing extraordinary but the Rebels practising with Cannon up the Country.”

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