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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Saturday, April 09, 2011

Rev. Samuel Cooper’s View of the War Reconstructed

The Huntington Library in California reports that it has acquired and reunited parts of the Rev. Samuel Cooper’s diary recording the start of the Revolutionary War. The library’s blog says:

The first portion covers events through April 18, 1775. The Library’s previously acquired diary picks up the narrative on the following day. Cooper then returned to this fragment of the diary on May 6 to recap the events that had taken place since his leaving Boston, where “the Troubles” were increasing.

Among the fascinating entries is Cooper’s description of his encounter with “a Lad of about 16 in ye Neighborhood…ardent to join his Friends & Neighbors in going to meet ye British Forces who had unprovok’d fired upon the People at Lexington.” The boy was begging for “ye Loan of a Gun” and finally obtained “a small old & almost useless Piece…declaring He w’d soon obtain a better.” That he did: “soon after He shot a Br. Soldier—stript him of his Arms & Cartrach [Cartridge] Box.”

Visitors will be able to view the manuscript for themselves during the month of April, when it will be on view in the Treasures Case in the east foyer of the Library Exhibition Hall.
The “Neighborhood” that the ardent lad came from was probably Weston. Cooper had left Boston for that town in early April, apparently worried about being arrested as a Whig leader. He recorded the anecdote about the boy on 18 April.

The portion of Cooper’s diary starting 19 Apr 1775 was published in the American Historical Review in 1901. The part up to 18 April is mentioned in The Divine Politician, Charles W. Akers’s 1982 biography of Cooper, but to my knowledge hasn’t been published.

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