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, March 17, 2010

“What we had so bravely won”

Here’s Gen. John Sullivan’s account, in a 19 Mar 1776 letter to John Adams, of warily investigating British fortifications in Charlestown two days earlier, after seeing the British soldiers going aboard ships:

I then took my Horse, & rode down to Charlestown Neck, where I had a clear view of Bunker Hill. I saw the Sentrys standing as usual with their Firelocks shouldered, but finding they never moved, I soon suspected what Regiment they belonged to; and upon taking a clear view with my Glass found they were only Effigies set there by the flying Enemy.

This convinced me that they were actually fled, for if they meant to Decoy us, they would have taken away every appearance of man. By this time, I was joined by Colo. [Thomas] Mifflin, who, with my Brigade Major agreed to go up, sending two persons round the works to Examine whether there was any of them in the Rear of the works, while we went up in the front. I, at the same time sent for a strong party to follow us on to the Hill, to assist us in running away (if necessary).

We found no person there & bravely took a fortress Defended by Lifeless Sentries. I then brought on the Party to secure what we had so bravely won, & went down to the other works where we found all abandoned, but the works not injured in any part. We hailed the ferry Boat, which came over & Informed us that they had abandoned the Town.

We then gave Information to the General [Washington], who ordered me with the Troops under my Command to take possession of Charlestown, & General [Israel] Putnam with 2000 men, to take possession of the works in Boston; and on Monday morning His Excellency made his Entry into Boston, & Repaired to Mr. [John] Hancock’s House, where we found his Furniture left without Injury or Diminution.
Gen. Henry Clinton had used Hancock’s Beacon Hill mansion as his quarters, which spared it from being looted.

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