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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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gen. Washington in Cambridge, 19 July

This Saturday, 19 July, Gen. George Washington will return to his Cambridge headquarters, at least in the form of reenactor John Koopman. He’s scheduled to be at Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site from noon to 4:00 P.M., and that federal site is free to all visitors.

Abigail Adams had met the new commander a few days before he moved into that mansion, and on 16 July wrote to her husband John, assuring him that the Continental Congress had made the right choices:
The appointment of the Generals Washington and [Charles] Lee, gives universal satisfaction. The people have the highest opinion of Lees abilities, but you know the continuation of the popular Breath, depends much upon favorable events.

I had the pleasure of seeing both the Generals and their Aid de camps soon after their arrival and of being personally made known to them. They very politely express their regard for you. Major [Thomas] Miflin said he had orders from you to visit me at Braintree. I told him I should be very happy to see him there, and accordingly sent Mr. [John] Thaxter to Cambridge with a card to him and Mr. [Joseph] Read to dine with me. Mrs. [Mercy] Warren and her Son were to be with me. They very politely received the Message and lamented that they were not able to upon account of Expresses which they were that day to get in readiness to send of.

I was struck with General Washington. You had prepaired me to entertain a favorable opinion of him, but I thought the one half was not told me. Dignity with ease, and complacency, the Gentleman and Soldier look agreably blended in him. Modesty marks every line and feture of his face. Those lines of Dryden instantly occurd to me
“Mark his Majestick fabrick! he’s a temple
Sacred by birth, and built by hands divine
His Souls the Deity that lodges there.
Nor is the pile unworthy of the God.”
General Lee looks like a careless hardy Veteran and from his appear­ence brought to my mind his namesake Charls the 12, king of Sweeden. The Elegance of his pen far exceeds that of his person.
Washington and his retinue never made it out to the Adamses’ home at Braintree, and it doesn’t look like Abigail ever visited the Cambridge headquarters, though John did. This letter did, however, eventually lead Abigail to a second meeting with Gen. Lee.

TOMORROW: Abigail Adams passes on a request for a commission.

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