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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Monday, January 10, 2011

Capt. Enys’s Canoe

Last month the Revlist brought news that the National Maritime Museum of Cornwall, England, is conserving an eighteenth-century birchbark canoe, perhaps the oldest in existence. The photograph above comes from the museum. Here‘s the Globe and Mail’s report with another, less buoyant view of the vessel.

This canoe appears to have been shipped back to the family estate in southern England by Lt. John Enys of the 29th Regiment of Foot. Born in 1757, Enys joined that regiment in 1775 in time to fight against the American invasion of Canada. He ranked as a lieutenant through the war. At the end, he was promoted to captain and stationed on the Niagara frontier. I suspect that was when he had the most time to think about acquiring a canoe.

The news stories touted this boat as a new discovery, but the canoe bobs up in a footnote of the 1976 edition of Enys’s journals about life in America. Family tradition said he had acquired it in Canada and had it transported to the Hudson. I’m not sure that makes geographic sense; wouldn’t he have sent it along the St. Lawrence? In any event, it’s in Cornwall now.


Corporal Dalton said...

A minor correction: Enys started the war as an ensign, and was promoted to Lieutenant after the loss of officers at Saratoga left openings for him to advance.

And I certainly agree it would have made a lot more sense to have it sent along the St. Lawrence, the Hudson just doesn't seem logical.

J. L. Bell said...

Thanks for the proper information on Ens./Lt./Capt. Enys!