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, September 10, 2011

Whatever Happened to Major Box?

After the Revolutionary War, Maj. Daniel Box petitioned the Rhode Island government for support, stating that his fall from a horse back in December 1776 had “so fractured the arm that several pieces of the bone have been extracted, and the wound is still open and the hand entirely useless.”

The state granted him a pension. And when I first read that, I assumed it meant that the fall had put him out of action.

But other records show that Box remained active in the Continental Army despite his injury. He was still a brigade-major until 1779, when the Continental Congress reorganized its military and did away with that post. That December, the Rhode Island legislature voted to pay Box over £449 “for his pay and subsistence as major of brigade.” The following July, the state recognized him as having been “in Continuous service since 1775.”

Box’s name also appears in a report on the Continental Army mutinies of 1781, but it’s unclear to me which side of that conflict he was on. It’s striking that he remained at the same rank from 1775 on.

In 1782, Daniel Box married Polly Field of Rhode Island. Six years later, he was the administrator of her father’s estate. They had one child, also named Polly, according to Frederick Clifton Pierce’s Field Genealogy.

On 14 Sept 1782, the Newport Mercury ran the first of many advertisements from Box announcing the tobacco he had on sale as a wholesaler in Providence. (The thumbnail above shows a 1777 map of Narragansett Bay, with Providence at the upper left; Box had his business at “Colonel William Wall’s Wharff.”)

Five years later, Box and George Tiffany advertised a school for “READING, WRITING, and ARITHMETIC.” Box taught the same subjects in the evening while Tiffany offered lessons in Latin and Greek. There are also records of the state paying Box as a teacher in the late 1780s and 1790s. He was probably supporting himself in his old age with the same writing skills that had allowed him to rise to sergeant in the British army, and then an administrative officer in the American.

Box died in May 1800 at an “advanced age,” according to the United States Chronicle of Providence. That newspaper called him “an active and useful Officer during our Revolutionary War.” The Providence Journal reported that his funeral included “Masonic honours.”


Jordan Goffin said...

Thanks for the interesting post!

Just a quick note: While the original website hosting the image of the map identifies it as Providence, it's actually a map of Newport. Another image of the 1777 Blaskowitz map of Newport is available through the Library of Congress's website.

J. L. Bell said...

Thanks for the catch! I replaced that image with a thumbnail of another 1777 Blaskowitz map that at least includes Providence in one corner.