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, October 24, 2012

“Looked for accommodations for my companies”

Ebenezer Storrs was a lieutenant colonel commissioned by Connecticut in the spring of 1775. These are entries from his diary describing what he found when he arrived in Cambridge to add his forces to the New England army.
[2 June 1775] Ordered the companies to proceed as far as Leeson’s in Waltham and make a halt for the night, then left them under the care of Lieut. Gray, and proceeded with Lieut. Dane to Cambridge, at Col. [Joseph] Lee’s house, where we expected to have tarried; found 3 companies. Went to head quarters to Gen. [Israel] Putnam, he came with us to our proposed quarters, looked for accommodations for my companies. Conclude to march in to-morrow. Came out to Watertown with Lieut. Dane; tarried there.

[3 June] Towards noon the companies arrived. Sat off with them to Cambridge; met Gen. Putnam on the road. Come to the house of Mr. [Thomas] Fairweather, where we make our quarters; after dinner went up to head quarters to show ourselves to the General [Artemas Ward]; he recommends our being immediately provided for action.

[4 June] Lord’s day. Heard Mr. [Abiel] Leonard our chaplin on the common.

[5 June] Attended prayers this morning with the companies. Spent some time in aprising the arms, &c., from Mansfield. Ordered the companies to discipline 15 men. Sent to clear the house at head quarters, after prayers at night at head quarters.

[6 June] Sent a letter to Mr. Salter respecting printing the sermon he delivered to our companies on our departure from Mansfield; had liberty for 4 of my men who have been here since the allarrum to return home on a furlough of 12 days. Deacon Freeman and Aaron Hovey at our lodgings. Walked the grand rounds with them and Col. Freeman to view the various fortifications in this place and at Charlestown.

[7 June] Unwell, bad cold. Returning from prayers had orders to take the command of the guard today; unacquainted with the business, unwell; however I am willing to learn my duty, as I have all the customs and rules of the camp to learn; not much sleep to-night, many prisoners. Some drunk, noisy and crazy.

[8 June] Relieved this morning, came home and went to sleep. Mr. Fairweather came home last night out of humor as they tell me. No wonder, his house filled up with soldiers, and perhaps his [financial] interest suffers as it really must. Sent for me, yet appears to act the part of a gentleman. Went to sleep, took some refreshment and am some better, but have a bad cough.

[9 June] Went to Gen. Putnam to make return of my companies to draw soap, beer, &c, out of the Connecticut store; he declines coming to a settlement about it, my company uneasy for want of beer and soap for washing; many visitors from Windham.
Thomas Fayerweather had bought his house in Cambridge (shown above) from Loyalist George Ruggles just a few months before. Though he supported the Patriot cause, Fayerweather was evidently dismayed to find his property quite so full of troops in need of “beer and soap for washing.”

It’s striking how often Storrs’s diary speaks of sermons and prayers. This was the New England army, composed largely of rural descendants of the Puritans. I also find it interesting how many men from the home province just showed up to see how the siege was going. Presumably they slept somewhere else.

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