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, June 14, 2016

The Road to Concord Erratum #1

I’ve been wary of rereading The Road to Concord in published form lest I trigger some version of Gaiman’s Law: Not only will there be a typo or other error in the book you’ve been carefully working on for months, but “it will be on the page that your new book falls open to the first time you pick it up.”

Now that first moment has passed, at least. Last week George Wildrick, whom I met at the American Revolution Conference in Williamsburg, sent me an email that praised the book’s research and narrative but also asked about an anomaly.

It appears in the caption to the picture shown here. Assembling the picture section was my last big task with The Road to Concord, as I recall. I was hastening to find readily available but fresh images, trying not to delay the book but eager for that section to be more than decorative. I’m always disappointed when a book’s picture captions simply repeat remarks from its text (or vice versa, if I look at all the pictures first).

Among the photographs I proposed to the folks at Westholme Publishing is the one above, produced by the National Park Service a few years back when its staff was preparing the “Hancock” cannon for display at Minute Man National Historical Park. I was instrumental in convincing the agency of the significance of that gun, which had been tucked away in “preservation storage” for years.

At that time M.M.N.H.P. ranger Lou Sideris told me that preservationists saw signs that the cannon’s touchhole—the hole near the base where an artillerist inserted the fuse—had been spiked and drilled out again. Such damage suggests that at some point the “Hancock” came close to being captured or was actually captured before the Continental Army regained it. (In 1788 a Boston newspaper hinted at such an adventure, but I never found a follow-up article with the promised details, darn it.)

I therefore wrote a caption about the touchhole in that photo. Except, as George spotted, it’s not the touchhole. What we see is a different hole drilled near the mouth of the tube, not the base, probably for mounting. (The matching “Adams” cannon has a similar hole.)

So here’s the correct information:
  • That’s a genuine photograph of the “Hancock” cannon.
  • The touchhole of the “Hancock” cannon shows signs of having been spiked.
  • But that touchhole is not in that image.
Boston 1775 regrets the error.

1 comment:

David Kindy said...

Might that be a hole for a gun sight?