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, May 27, 2017

Pvt. James Stevens Goes into the Chelsea Fight

On 27 May 1775, the New England army went into their first sustained fight against the British military since the Battle of Lexington and Concord.

That skirmish has been overshadowed by larger and more consequential battles in the previous and next months. It was initially called the fight at Chelsea or the fight over Noddle’s Island, and decades later a local historian tried to elevate it to the Battle of Chelsea Creek.

Here’s the start of a battle report from Pvt. James Stevens of Andover, whose company fought from the mainland:
Saterday ye [27] this morning I was Cald on feteg

we went & workd in the forenune we Come hom to diner & there was a perty agoing of sumer [“a party going off somewhere”] but where I cant tel

we got redy to go & there Com a expres that the regerlers was a landing some said at miskit [“Mystic” or Medford] but we marcht to miskit & then we herd that thay was at Chelsy

we marcht very fast we got dow[n] within a quarter of a mile of the fery & then halted & our ofisers went to louk out to place the canon

thay went round by the water while thay come in sight of the sconer when as son as the regerlers [actually Royal Navy marines] saw our men thay fired on them

then the firing Begun on boath sides & fired very worm

there come a man & ordered us over a nol rit into the mouths of the [British] canon

we got on to the top of the nol & the grap shot & canon bauls com so thik that we retreted back to the rode & then marcht down to the fery

the regerlers shouted very much

our men got the canon & plast them & gave them tow or three guns sids and the firing set in so[me] masure & there was a terrabel cry a monst the regerlers

thay fired wonc & a wile all night

about ten aclok the sconer run on to the wais & stuk fast

there come a slup for hur relief

thay left the sconur
Of course, Royal Navy commanders was not happy about leaving H.M.S. Diana aground near the Winnimisset ferry landing. Stevens’s commanders rightly expected that the British would be back the next morning for their ship.

TOMORROW: The fighting continues.

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