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, March 24, 2009

George Washington’s Pistols

I recently wrote about Capt. Nathan Barrett offering Gen. George Washington two ornate pistols that had been captured with a British officer’s runaway horse on 19 Apr 1775. (Also see Nat Taylor’s further research on the likely identity of that officer, squeezed in while the Taylor family grew by one.)

Why, we might ask, would Capt. Barrett have thought the generalissimo needed pistols? Couldn’t a Virginia gentleman acquire his own weapons? Well, there’s a curious entry in Washington’s personal accounts on 1 Sept 1775:

To Cash for recovering my Pistols which had been stolen, & for repairing them afterwards...£1.10s.
I haven’t found any other information about this moment, alas.

And what might those pistols have looked like? Here’s an entry in Col. William Henshaw’s orderly book for 9 Mar 1776; it didn’t appear in Washington’s general orders, and was therefore probably meant only for troops in the southern wing of the army:
His Excellency the General lost one of his pistols yesterday upon Dorchester Neck, whoever will bring it to him or leave it with General [John] Thomas shall receive two dollars reward and no questions asked. It is a skrew’d barrel’d pistol, mounted with silver, and a head resembling a pugg dog at the butt.
The commander-in-chief was “upon Dorchester Neck,” of course, to see how the final bombardment of Boston was going.

Image above courtesy of the Pug Dog Encephalitis Project.

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