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, February 08, 2014

Footnotes on “Reporting the Battle of Lexington”

Last night’s talk at the Lexington Historical Society was fun, and I learned new stuff while preparing it.

For instance, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston owns this John Smibert portrait of Samuel Pemberton painted in 1734 when he was eleven years old. Not too young to shave his head and wear a wig, however. In 1770, Pemberton was on the committee with James Bowdoin and Dr. Joseph Warren to prepare Boston’s official report on the Boston Massacre.

The main thesis of my talk was that the Massachusetts Patriots, and Warren in particular, learned from that episode in 1770 that they could be scooped by royal officials if they didn’t send their version of events to London quickly. So after the Battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775, Dr. Warren and his Massachusetts Provincial Congress colleagues worked fast and commissioned the Derby brothers of Salem to speed their documents to London ahead of Gen. Thomas Gage’s dispatches.

In writing about that voyage in Reporting the Revolutionary War, I said that John Derby sailed with issues of the Salem Gazette dated 21 and 28 Apr 1775. I was relying on my notes on Robert S. Rantoul’s article in the Essex Institute Historical Collections for 1900, “The Cruise of the ‘Quero’.” As shown here, Rantoul wrote that Derby “had with him copies of the Salem Gazette for April 21st and 25th.” The Salem Gazette, like almost all colonial newspapers, was a weekly, so issue dates had to be seven days apart. I figured either Rantoul or I had made a mistake in our notes and “25th” should be “28th.”

Before my talk Todd Andrlik, chief author of Reporting the Revolutionary War, sent me an image from the 27-30 May 1775 London Chronicle showing a long quotation from the 25 April Essex Gazette, published up the coast from Salem in Newburyport. So that was one of the newspapers Derby had brought to convince people in London there really had been a battle. I should have corrected Rantoul not on the date but on the name of the paper: Derby sailed with the 21 April Salem Gazette and the 25 April Essex Gazette.

1 comment:

Hugh T. Harrington said...

Thanks for the correction. I've made a note in my copy of Reporting the Revolutionary War. Wish I could have been at your talk.

Hugh T. Harrington