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, January 21, 2010

Dr. Windship Assures Gen. Washington

Yesterday we left Dr. Amos Windship stuck in Boston at the start of the Revolutionary War. According to Dr. Ephraim Eliot, recording stories he’d heard from and about the man:

In the disguise of a sailor, with his head shaved & covered with a milled cap, he escaped from the town
That was in July 1775, and Windship, with a drive for social climbing, appears to have gone right to the top. On 21 July, Gen. George Washington reported to John Hancock, chairman of the Continental Congress:
I have also received a more authentick account of the loss of the enemy in the late battle [Bunker Hill], than any yet received. Doctor Winship, who lodged in the same house with an Officer of the Marines, assures me they had exactly one thousand and forty-three killed and wounded, of whom three hundred fell on the field, or died within a few hours; many of the wounded are since dead.
That was a fairly accurate count; Windship might even have helped in treating the British wounded, as some Whiggish physicians did from a sense of professional responsibility.

Washington’s report is interesting in a couple of other ways. It suggests that Windship had heard the memorable stories of Maj. John Pitcairn’s death from the Marine officer. And in an ironic twist nobody could have foreseen, Washington’s headquarters, where the doctor probably went to make his report (shown above, courtesy of the National Park Service), would after the war become the home of Nathaniel Tracy, who had gotten Windship booted out of Harvard.

During the siege, according to Eliot, Windship
got employment as a surgeon in the military hospital at Cambridge, where he continued several months, was every intimate with the Director general Doctor [Benjamin] Church, who being charged with holding a treasonable correspondence with the Enemy, our Doctor was suspected of having concern with him, but the suspicion soon died away, and he was never called to an account.
No evidence has ever surfaced that Windship was involved in Dr. Church’s espionage. This was probably just an example of his knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time just when he thought he was doing well.

TOMORROW: I know this series is supposed to be about Maj. Pitcairn’s body, but I have to share an anecdote about Dr. Windship and Abigail Adams.

1 comment:

Mike Golch said...

intesesting posting.came for a visit from Tao 1776 site.I liked what i saw and I'm now following you.