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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Friday, February 13, 2015

Visit Washington’s Headquarters, 19 Feb.

On Thursday, 19 February, Ranger Garrett Cloer of the National Park Service will lead special tours of the Cambridge mansion that was Gen. George Washington’s home and headquarters from July 1775 to early April 1776. That estate is now the Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site.

How did the generalissimo spend his own birthday there? Probably working. Washington’s earlier diaries don’t note any special events or reflections on the two days that could be considered his birthday: 11 February (the date on which he was born under the Julian Calendar) or 22 February (the equivalent under the Gregorian Calendar, which he eventually preferred for birthday celebrations).

Gen. Washington’s letter to Gov. Jonathan Trumbull of Connecticut on 22 Feb 1776 gives a taste of the matters he was dealing with:
In my letter to you of the 19th instant [i.e., of this month] I mentioned to you that I was sorry to find there would come but 4217 pounds of powder instead of 6 or 8000 I had expectations of—I had taken my information from [Rhode Island] Governor [Nicholas] Cooke’s letter which upon a reperusal I find mentions that weight including the Casks. I have since had it weighed by the Commissary, an exact return of which you have inclosed; by which you will see, that the Net weight is 3577 lbs. 577 lbs. thereof will be placed to the credit of your Colony and the whole settled for in whatever manner will be most agreeable.

I have just received a letter from J[abez]. Huntington Esqr. with the agreeable account of his having forwarded two tons of powder to this Camp, by your order. Accept Sir of my thanks for this seasonable supply. When it arrives I shall send you an account of it; and when you point out the mode it shall be paid for, or replaced in the manner you and the rest of your legislature shall think proper.
In a couple of weeks, that gunpowder would be used to start an artillery attack on British-held Boston, which in turn covered up a move onto the heights of the Dorchester peninsula.

Back to the tours of Washington’s headquarters! They start in the visitor center at the back of 105 Brattle Street in Cambridge. They’ll begin on the hour from 3:00 to 6:00 P.M. and last forty-five minutes. These tours are free, but space is limited, so call 617-876-4491 to reserve a spot.


G. Lovely said...

The headline says "Jan.", it should be "Feb.".

J. L. Bell said...

Oops! Late night. Thank you.

Jordan said...

Awesome post! It's interesting, and a little sad, that Washington could not even take his birthday off. Of course, I'm sure that's what happens when you are leading a revolution.