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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Friday, March 27, 2009

“Commodities belonging to the late garrison at Boston”

Back on Evacuation Day, I quoted a letter printed in Britain from an American who observed the departure of the British fleet from Boston. That same letter went on to this detail.

Cambridge, March 27. Among other commodities belonging to the late garrison at Boston, we have got their orderly book, by which it appears, that General [William] Howe had 7575 effective men, exclusive of the staff, so that with the marines and sailors, he might be considered as 10,000 strong.

The following is a true list of the stores, &c. left in Boston by the ministerial troops on evacuating that place:
  • 100 pieces of cannon in town, from 9 to 32 pounders.
  • 100 ditto, at the castle.
  • 4 mortars, 13 and a half inches, two of them with beds weighing 5 tons each.
  • 2500 chaldron of sea coal.
  • 25,000 bushels of wheat.
  • 2300 bushels of barley.
  • 600 bushels of oats in one store.
  • 100 jars of oil, containing 1 barrel each.
  • 150 horses marked G. R.
The marking, short for “Georgius Rex,” signified that those horses had been claimed by the king’s army.

The copy of Howe’s orderly book wasn’t the only sensitive document left behind. Locals also discovered Ens. Henry De Berniere’s report of his scouting trips out to Worcester and Concord in early 1775, which John Gill printed for public consumption. (The orderly book from Gen. Howe printed in 1890 came from a copy in London, and I don’t know what happened to the one reportedly found in Boston in 1776.)

As for all those cannons, Gen. George Washington told the Continental Congress on 24 March:
They left a great Number of the Cannon, but have rendered all of them, except a very few, entirely useless by breaking off the Trunnions, and those they spiked up, but may be made serviceable again; some are already done.
So the Americans didn’t get quite the bounty of supplies that this letter implied.

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