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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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

“He was an awful sight as I ever saw.”

Here are some more reports of gun accidents from the Revolutionary War. I found these through the advanced research method of searching Google Books for the words “accidental,” “shot,” and “Revolutionary.” I’m sure there are more incidents to be found.

From the diary of Capt. Thomas Rodney, spending 4 Jan 1777 in Pluckemin, New Jersey:

Here Sergeant McKnatt was accidentally shot through the arm by one of our own people, who fired off his musket to light a fire and as there was not one surgeon in the whole army I was forced to dress it myself and the next day got one of the prisoners to do it.
Asa Fitch wrote home to his father from Ticonderoga on 23 June 1777:
There was one man shot himself accidentally as he stood talking with his brother, and had the gun before him leaning his chin on it, she accidentally went off, and the ball, together with the whole charge of powder went into his head and tore it all to bits. He was an awful sight as I ever saw.
Here’s the 23 Aug 1779 entry from the journals of Lt. Col. Henry Dearborn:
a Soldier very accidentally discharg’d a musket charged with a ball & several buckshot, 3 of which unfortunately struck Capt. Kimbal of Colo. Cilleys Regt. Who was standing at some distance in a tent with several other officers, in such a manner that he expired within 10 or 15 minutes. . . . one of the shot wounded a soldier in the leg who was setting at some distance from the tent Capt. Kimball was in.
Away from the front, there’s the 9 Jan 1779 incident involving Benjamin Andrews, Benjamin Hichborn, and a pair of pistols, told back here.

Out on the early American frontier, more men used guns for their subsistence, but that didn’t mean they avoided firearms accidents. One of the earliest memories of Davy Crockett (1786-1836) was the aftermath of his uncle Joseph Hawkins shooting a neighbor while hunting. George Hunter wounded himself in the hand and face during an expedition for President Thomas Jefferson on 22 Nov 1804. Meriwether Lewis was shot while hunting during a similar expedition on 11 Aug 1806, as narrated here. Three years later, of course, Lewis apparently shot himself to death.


Bruce Venter said...

How about the hunting accident that killed James Rogers, father of the famous ranger, Robert Rogers. He was shot by a friend who thought he was a bear. See John Ross' War on the Run (p. 61)

Daud said...

Don't forget General Knox who blew off a couple of fingers in a hunting accident when he was young.

J. L. Bell said...

Henry's in the queue for next week!