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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Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Desertion I’d Most Like to See Reenacted

From Daniel McCurtin’s “Journal of the Times at the Siege of Boston Since Our Arrival at Cambridge, near Boston,” printed in Papers Chiefly Relating to the Maryland Line during the Revolution (1857), the entry dated 29 Dec 1775:

This day five Regular soldiers skated over the Bay on the ice to us, and landed on Brookline, there were several small arms fired after, but they came safe to us.

3 comments:

Robert S. Paul said...

I'll mention this to the British when we see them at Battle Road this year. :)

Larry Dudley said...

For those of us who (most unfortunately!) don't live in the Boston area-- has the bay actually ever frozen over in modern times? The climate was colder then.

J. L. Bell said...

In 1904 the New York Times ran the headline, “BOSTON HARBOR FROZEN OVER: For First Times Since 1855 Ice Extends Mile from Shore.”

But the area these British soldiers “skated” across wasn’t the habror. It was shallow water between the South End of Boston and the mainland. That’s almost certainly dry land today. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, Boston filled in most of the shallow parts of the bay around the city, which in the 1700s were mudflats at lowest tide.

In addition to these deserters crossing that ice, British soldiers attacked across it, and Gen. Washington wanted to counterattack.