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, February 09, 2011

Pvt. John Chatham’s “Humane Attempt”

Yesterday Don Hagist at British Soldiers, American Revolution quoted two newspaper accounts of regulars who drowned while saving children in America.

(In the first case from 1772 the soldier had been “standing on the Gunwale of the Sloop…dangling a Child in his Arms,” which doesn’t sound entirely blameless, but we let that pass in respect for the dead.)

The second example comes from Boston at the end of 1774. In addition to the newspaper account Don quotes, Lt. John Barker of the 4th Regiment also recorded the event in his diary on 28 December:

This eveng. a Soldier of the 10th was drown’d: he had jump’d off a Wharf (where he was Centry) to save a Boy who had fallen over; he succeeded in his humane attempt for which he paid with his life.
That soldier’s name does not appear in either newspaper or diary, but examining British muster rolls led Don to identify him as Pvt. John Chatham, officially listed as dying on 31 December.

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