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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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Arrests After the Battle of Bunker Hill

For the past two days I quoted responses to the Battle of Bunker Hill from people who were on their best behavior. But not everyone reacts to stress in such an admirable way. Merchant Isaac Smith, Sr. (shown here) described this fallout from the battle in a letter dated 30 July 1775, after leaving Boston for Salem:

Poor, harmless Shrimpton Hunt, standing by the door at the time of the engagement, was overheard saying he hoped our people would get the better of the others, was taken up and confined in gaol.

Sam. Gore, for calling over to his sister to come and see a funeral pass, was taken up and confined some time; and a person who came out by water yesterday says Jemmy Lovell is in close gaol or in the dungeon, but nobody can tell for what.
Hunt was a shopkeeper in his fifties, not active in politics. And is it possible to have a more harmless-sounding name than “Shrimpton”?

I presume painter Samuel Gore’s offense was referring to British soldiers, either on their way to the battlefield or on the way from it to the hospital, as a funeral procession. Despite his nasty joke, he was probably let out after a short time because his father was a Loyalist. The military authorities didn’t know the extent of Gore’s Patriot activities, and his father probably didn’t, either. In 1773 Gore had participated in the Boston Tea Party, and in 1774 he had helped remove the Boston militia artillery company’s cannons from an armory under redcoat guard.

Gore’s father left town with the British military in March 1776. Samuel stayed—and in April the Massachusetts Provincial Congress ordered his arrest, along with a lot of other men who had remained in town through the siege. He might not have gone to jail that time; one of the magistrates charged with arresting people was his brother-in-law, Thomas Crafts. But Gore might have the rare distinction of being arrested by both sides of the war.

James “Jemmy” Lovell was the usher (assistant teacher) at the South Latin School. He was an avid Patriot, delivering the town’s first official oration about the Boston Massacre in 1771. He thought about leaving to join the provincial army, but in May 1775 he wrote that “a most violent Diarhea, from being too long in a damp place, has confirm’d Doctr. [Joseph] Gardners advice to me not to go into the Trenches.”

Instead, Lovell remained in Boston, sending what seems to have been sensitive information to Dr. Joseph Warren. The British army found those papers on the doctor’s body after the battle. Lovell was locked up for the rest of the siege and taken to Nova Scotia in chains.

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