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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Monday, June 12, 2017

Moses Parker and His Comrades in the Redoubt

As I said yesterday, Col. Ebenezer Bridge’s regiment was one of the New England units ordered onto the Charlestown peninsula on the night of 16 June 1775. Maj. John Brooks and three companies stayed behind at first for other duties, but Bridge, Lt. Col. Moses Parker, and the rest of the regiment crossed the isthmus to Bunker’s Hill.

That meant those men helped to dig the redoubt on Breed’s Hill during the morning of 17 June. The soldier usually said to be first killed in the battle was a member of the regiment: Asa Pollard of Billerica. Men from Bridge’s regiment were presumably those who wanted to give their comrade a religious burial while Col. William Prescott insisted they keep digging.

In the same regiment, Capt. Ebenezer Bancroft’s company used a cannon to widen embrasures in the redoubt, as discussed here. Capt. John Ford and his men fired another of the cannon left behind by members of the Massachusetts artillery regiment.

During the battle Col. Bridge suffered wounds from a sword, indicating close combat at the end of the battle. Nonetheless, some junior officers accused him of “misbehaviour and neglect of duty,” saying he had cowered behind the walls of the redoubt. On 20 August, Gen. George Washington ordered “A Court of enquiry to sit this day, at three in the afternoon, to examine into the Reasons for a complaint exhibited against Col. Ebenezer Bridge.” On that board was Col. Prescott, who knew more than anyone about the conditions in the redoubt.

That board of officers recommended a general court-martial to adjudicate Bridge’s case. On 11 September, Washington’s general orders announced “The Court are of opinion that Indisposition of body, render’d the prisoner incapable of action, and do therefore acquit him.” Ebenezer Bridge remained with the army until December, then held military posts in Massachusetts for many years.

In that battle Bridge’s regiment suffered 16 or 17 men dead and 25 wounded. Lt. Col. Parker was shot in the thigh (or knee, according to one source) and left wounded in the redoubt. As the British troops swept over the fortification and up to Bunker’s Hill, they made Parker and the other wounded provincials into prisoners of war.

Reporting rumors from inside Boston, Abigail Adams wrote on 5 July:
Our prisoners were brought over to the long wharff and there laid all night without any care of their wounds or any resting place but the pavements till the next day, when they exchanged it for the jail, since which we hear they are civily treated. Their living cannot be good, as they can have no fresh provisions.
Later American accounts declared that the conditions inside the Boston jail were terrible, though no jail at that time was healthy. This period was when Boston suffered the worst food shortages since the British government’s supply ships hadn’t yet started to arrive.

Parker’s wound apparently became infected. Surgeons amputated his leg, probably a desperate measure. On 4 July 1775, he died.

TOMORROW: Remembering Moses Parker.

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