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, October 07, 2008

Talk on Andrew Brown’s Newspaper, 14 Oct 2008

On 14 Oct 2008 at 7:30 P.M., the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester will host a talk by David Paul Nord titled “A City and a Newspaper: Citizen Journalism in Philadelphia during the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793.” The Federal Gazette was the only paper to publish all during the outbreak. Nord, professor of journalism and adjunct professor of history at Indiana University, will discuss what that newspaper meant to its readers, and how both elites and ordinary people used the press.

The Federal Gazette was edited by Andrew Brown (1744-1797), an intriguing figure. In the nineteenth century people said that he “came to America in 1773 as an officer in the British army, but left that service and settled in Massachusetts. He fought on the patriot side at Lexington and Bunker Hill.”

In fact, Brown came to America as an enlisted man in His Majesty’s 47th regiment. From Steve Gilbert, via Don Hagist, I understand that the regiment’s rolls state that Brown deserted on 2 Feb 1775. Samuel Adams wrote of Brown:

Immediately after the Battle of Lexington he joynd the American Army in which his Zeal & Activity was signalizd—In July 1776 he servd as Major in the Militia of this State at Ticonderoga under Genl [Horatio] Gates—In 1777 he was appointed Depy Muster Master by Col. [Joseph] Ward, and when the Convention Troops arrivd at Cambridge he was employd by Genl [William] Heath as Town Major
As town major in 1778, Brown was in charge of supplies and housing for the large number of prisoners of war captured from the Saratoga campaign. British officers, recognizing Brown as a deserter—and a lower-class Irish one at that—objected to following his instructions and depending on him for supplies. Lt. Thomas Anburey wrote:
The fellow, conscious of his baseness, when he meets an officer of that [47th] regiment, rides hastily away, but you must allow it is rather grating to be in the power and under the command of such a villain.
Gen. Heath obliquely acknowledged that problem in a letter to Gen. William Phillips, ranking British officer:
His former situation and some other Circumstances may have rendered him disagreeable to the officers, and I shall give the matter a proper Consideration.
In turn, Brown was more lenient toward prisoners from Germany than those from England, according to a couple of German sources.

After the war, Brown moved to Pennsylvania, first running a girls’ school and then going into the newspaper business. He was obviously educated and ambitious, and probably found much more opportunity in American society than he would have had in Britain. But his story ended unhappily in Philadelphia. I’ve collected more information about Andrew Brown, but there are still a lot of holes to fill, and I look forward to this lecture.

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