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, December 25, 2007

How Jeduthan Baldwin Spent Christmas 1775

One of my favorite Revolutionary War diarists is Col. Jeduthan Baldwin of North Brookfield, Massachusetts. He was an artillery engineer, which required technical knowledge, but he had a farmer’s blunt style. He tended to punctuate casually and spell phonetically. For instance, he wrote the town name Dorchester as “Dotchester”—which is, after all, still the way it’s pronounced. And he wrote down everyday details that humanize him and his fellow high officers. On 23 Dec 1775, as on example, Baldwin recorded that he “Wore Genl. [Israel] Putnams great coat.”

How did Col. Baldwin spend the next two days? As a New Englander, he had no tradition of treating Christmas as a holiday. Indeed, Congregationalists seem to have taken pride in treating the 25th of December like any other working day. But the Continental Army’s commander-in-chief observed Anglican norms. On Christmas in 1775, therefore, Baldwin both paid a visit to Gen. George Washington and did some dirty work that he saw needed doing.

24 Lords Day & a very Snowy cold Day. Cut down the orchard at Leachmor point, & laid the trees round the fort[.] had 4 oxen Drowned coming of ye point.

25 a Very cold Day. Dind with Genl. Putnam. went upon leachmor Point at Sunset, & then went to Genl Washing. in the Evning. found & Skind ye 4 drownded oxen.
(Click on the image above for a larger map of the siege, published in the late 1800s and posted on a Phipps family genealogy page. The 1906 edition of Col. Baldwin’s diary is available through Google Books.)


Anonymous said...

Thanks John - Colonel Baldwin's diary is another nice resource that I've gleaned thanks to your blog.

I got a kick out of "Dotchester" - I think my in-laws pronounce it Dawchestuh. (My sweet wife has lost most of her accent.)

Happy Holidays! -Ron

Anonymous said...

Jeduthan Baldwin is my great, great, great uncle. I love these insights into his life.

Sheila - lighthouse1212@yahoo.com