Saturday, 17 September, is this year’s Cambridge Discovery Day. The city’s historical commission is promoting free walking tours in several neighborhoods, as laid out in the schedule here.
I’m going to lead a tour called “Children of the Revolution: Boys & Girls in Cambridge During the Siege of Boston.” The description explains:
Hear the stories of children caught up in the start of the Revolution as political refugees, members of the army, servants in generals’ houses, and more.This is a new tour, though still focused on the territory around Harvard Square. That was the center of Cambridge in the 1770s, after all. We’ll start at the Tory Row marker on the corner of Brattle and Mason Streets at 3:00 P.M.
One child I plan to talk about was John Greenwood, who grew up in Boston’s North End. When the war broke out, he ran away from his uncle in Maine to make his way back down toward Boston, hoping to get into the besieged town to see his parents. But the ferry from Charlestown was cut off. He later wrote:
Charlestown was at the time generally deserted by the inhabitants, and the houses were, with few exceptions, empty; so, not knowing what to do nor where to go and without a penny in my pockets, if I remember rightly, I entered a very large tavern that was filled with all descriptions of people. Here I saw three or four persons whom I knew, and, my fife sticking in the front of my coat, they asked me, after many questions, to play them a tune. I complied forthwith, but although the fife is somewhat of a noisy instrument to pay upon, it could hardly be heard for the din and confusion around.Greenwood’s name as fifer appears on the roll of Capt. Bliss’s company dated 1 Aug 1775, which records his service so far as two months and six days—i.e., since the last week of May. He ended up serving almost two years.
After I had rattled off several tunes, there was one Hardy Pierce [Boston man, corporal of Capt. T. T. Bliss’s company] who, with Enoch Howard [Boston man, enlisted as private in Capt. Lemuel Trescott’s company, 24 May 1775] and three or four others, invited me to go up to Cambridge to their quarters, as they called it. When there they tried to persuade me to enlist as a fifer, telling me it was only for eight months, and that I would receive eight dollars a month and be found in provisions; moreover, they calculated to quickly drive the British from Boston, when I would have an opportunity of seeing my parents.
[The photograph above shows the William Diamond Junior Fife & Drum Corps about fifteen years ago at the Sudbury Muster. That event is coming up again on 24 September.]