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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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

“Shot with an Iron Gun Rammer”

CSI: Colonial Boston now takes a field trip to New Jersey, soon after the Battle of Trenton, for a case study of a British soldier’s wound. This passage comes from an anonymous manuscript titled A Brief Narrative of the Ravages of the British and Hessians at Princeton in 1776-1777, published by the Princeton University library in 1906.

The writer seems to have used the verb “lap” to mean “to fold around something.”

On the first day of January 1777 some Regular [i.e., British] Soldiers came along the main road from over Stoney brook

One of them was very Strangely Wounded for he was shot with an Iron Gun rammer in Stead of a bullet, Which entered under his chin and came out again at his nose near his eyes one end of it, and the other end lapt round his thigh (as it is said)

Whether he was a Horsman or not I Know not, but it is very likely he was, and rideing up to the Enemy before he done charging, and perce[iv]ing that he was like to be shot with the Rammer, lean’d back on his horse to avoid it, and so received his wound in that manner, as to the Other end laping round his thigh, one end being Stopt, and the other end being heavy would continue its force until it met with something to stop it, and happened to meet with his thigh

He Languished a few days and Dyed.
And now back to your breakfasts.

(Click on the thumbnail above for a video of how one is supposed to stow a rammer, uninterrupted, courtesy of Fort McHenry.)

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