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, December 04, 2008

John Loring, Prisoner of War

In April 1776, fourteen- or fifteen-year-old midshipman John Loring was headed back to Boston on board the Valent, a merchant schooner that H.M.S. Scarborough had captured earlier in the year. The schooner was under the command of Edward Marsh, a Royal Navy mate working as prize-master. His mission was to bring food to the besieged British troops in Boston.

Unfortunately, by that time there were no besieged British troops in Boston. They had all left on 17 March. According to the 26 Apr 1776 Essex Journal:

The schooner...on last Friday se’nnight (not knowing the ministerial fleet and army had evacuated the town) meeting with a heavy gale of wind, she put into the Vineyard, where she was properly taken care of by some boats from thence.
In other words, provincial militiamen from Martha’s Vineyard recaptured the Valent, and took the British naval officers commanding her as their prisoners.

On 16 April, Maj. Barachiah Bassett of the Vineyard wrote to the commanding officer at Boston:
I have sent you, under the care of a Sergeant, four prisoners, taken aboard the Schooner Valent, at Martha’s Vineyard, bound for Boston, viz: Edward Marsh, Master; the Mate, and two passengers in the employment of the Ministerial Forces.
The sergeant was named Samuell Bassett, and the Massachusetts Council reimbursed him for bringing those men to their meeting-place in Watertown, at the Edmund Fowle House (shown above).

On the 20th, the Council examined the four prisoners and issued these orders:
That they be sent to Concord Jail; Edward Marsh and John Loring, two of said Prisoners, not to have the privilege of pen, ink, or paper, nor any person to be suffered to speak to them, but in the presence of the Keeper of said Jail.

The other two persons, viz: Basil Cooper and David Lang, to have the liberty of that part of the Jail yard that is enclosed, during their good behaviour, and giving their parole in writing not to depart without the limits of the same, in failure of which, they are to be committed to close prison; and that a mittimus go out accordingly.
So off the prisoners went to Concord. But it turned out young Loring still had influential friends.

TOMORROW: John Loring gets out of jail, and gets into trouble.

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