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, January 31, 2017

“The Road to Concord” Runs through Lancaster, 6 Feb.

Soon after the “Powder Alarm” of 2 September 1774, Massachusetts towns began to look into their military resources. Among those towns was Lancaster, in the center of the province.

It might seem surprising that a farm town of only 328 families and 1,999 people (in 1765) would need military resources. Lancaster didn’t even have a police force. But the colonial militia system spread out the responsibility for defending society with arms. And Gen. Thomas Gage’s seizure of gunpowder in Charlestown (though within his legal powers as royal governor) made New England Whigs want to strengthen their militia to fend off further moves.

On 5 September, the Lancaster town meeting voted to “raise fifty pounds, for to buy ammunition with, to be a town stock.” Later that month the town decided to “buy one field piece for the use of the town.” On 28 September, at the same meeting in which the townspeople agreed to send a delegate to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, they raised their cannon order to “two field pieces instead of one.” And when Yankees agreed to spend money, they were serious.

By December, those guns must have arrived because Lancaster authorized a further expenditure: “to buy 5 hundred wt. of ball suitable for the field pieces.” Along with some Worcester County neighbors, the town was preparing to go to war. Lancaster was thus part of the movement I explore in The Road to Concord: How Four Stolen Cannon Ignited the Revolutionary War.

I’ll tell stories from that book and answer questions about how I came to write it on Monday, 6 February, at the Thayer Memorial Library at 717 Main Street in Lancaster. That event is scheduled to start at 6:30 P.M. It’s sponsored by the Seven Bridge Writers’ Collaborative speakers series, free to anyone who wants to attend.

Monday, January 30, 2017

2017 American Revolution Master Teachers Seminar

The American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati will host eleven secondary-level teachers at its sixth annual American Revolution Master Teachers Seminar, to be held June 26 to July 1 in Washington, D.C.

The society’s announcement says:
The goals of the seminar are to enrich understanding of the American Revolution in ways that translate to the classroom, to introduce outstanding teachers to the resources of the Institute, to develop lesson plans that can be published on the Society’s website as a resource for teachers nationwide, and to recognize and reward outstanding history teachers.

Mornings in the seminar are occupied with lectures and discussions of the Revolutionary War and teaching strategies. Afternoons are spent exploring the rich library and museum collections of the Institute, which include rare books, pamphlets, maps, prints, manuscripts, art and artifacts from the revolutionary era. The week will close with a study trip to a local site. Teachers will receive a letter documenting sixty hours of professional development. The Institute will pay for room and board, along with travel to and from Washington.

This year’s seminar will emphasize the American Revolution as part of a broader global war between France and England. Interested teachers should submit an original Revolutionary War lesson plan that addresses a topic related to international dynamics of the war. The lesson should span two class periods and correspond to their own state standards. Participants will be selected based on the potential of their lessons to enrich student understanding and appreciation of the Revolutionary War and of the Society’s collections to enrich those lessons. Preference will be given to applicants who submit a preliminary bibliography using the Institute’s online catalog related to their chosen topic.
This seminar is a residential program, with participants staying at the palatial Anderson House. (Seriously, I’ve been through it. It’s palatial.)

The instructions say, “To apply, please submit a cover letter including how your participation would benefit your students, a résumé, and a draft Revolutionary War lesson plan.” Applications are due by 6 Feb 2017 to Eleesha Tucker, Director of Education, at etucker@societyofthecincinnati.org.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Art and Poetry of Shooting Flying

In 1727 George Markland, formerly a fellow at Oxford, published Pteryplegia: or, The Art of Shooting-Flying in London.

“Shooting flying” was the term for shooting birds as they flew, rather than bagging them when they were on the ground or in the water. That was a relatively new approach in Britain, brought back from the Continent late in the previous century by Charles II and his courtiers.

In Pteryplegia Markland aimed to introduce his readers to shooting birds on the wing in verse. But he didn’t so much describe the experience in poetic terms as provide a how-to that happened to come in rhymed couplets. A taste:
Our Sport almost at hand, we charge the Gun,
Whilst ev’ry well-bred Dog lies qui’tly down.
Charge not before. If over-Night the Piece
Stands loaded, in the Morn the Prime will hiss:
Nor Prime too full; else you will surely blame
The hanging Fire, and lose the pointed Aim.
Shou’d I of This the Obvious Reason tell,
The caking Pressure does the Flame repel,
And Vulcan’s lam’d again by his own Steel.
Yet cleanse the Touch-hole first: A Partridge Wing
Most to the Field for that wise purpose bring.
In Charging, next, good Workmen never fail
To ram the Powder well, but not the Ball:
One Third the well-turn’d Shot superiour must
Arise, and overcome the Nitrous Dust,
Which, dry’d and season’d in the Oven’s Heat
Has stood in close-mouth’d Jarr the dampless Night.
Now search for Tow, and some old Saddle pierce,
No Wadding lies so close, or drives so fierce.
And here be mindful constantly to Arm
With Choice of Flints, a Turn-screw, and a Worm;
The accidental Chances of the Field,
Will for such Implements Occasion yield.
And so it went on for 32 pages. There were further editions in 1735 and 1767. Gentlemen could buy the first and third editions for a shilling, the second for only sixpence. Now it’s free on Google Books.

If that approach doesn’t grab you, in 1766 Thomas Page offered The Art of Shooting Flying: Familiarly Explain’d by Way of Dialogue, also a mere shilling. This book took the form of a conversation between Aimwell, a practiced hunter and marksman, and Friendly, a gentleman young enough to have just asked his father for permission to learn to shoot.

Page takes issue with a lot of the tips in Pteryplegia. For example:
FRIENDLY.
Do you ram your shot as much as your powder? I think I have heard some that pretend to experience say, that they ram the powder well but not the shot. What is your opinion of this?

AIMWELL.
After some experience you will find, if your gun is clean, and the wad thrust but lightly down, that in walking the shot will be apt to get loose: and if you discharge the piece in that state, it will seem, by the small resistance it makes, as if there were no shot in it: and if you try one load pretty smartly rammed over the shot, and another with the wad thrust but lightly down, at a quire of paper, you will find the charge that is rammed will penetrate deepest, and that the shot will fly as regularly as the other which is not rammed.

FRIENDLY.
Well, Sir, it seems rational enough; and I shall follow your counsel, and try it at the first opportunity, because I think it is a point necessary to be thoroughly convinced of.
Aimwell assumes Friendly has enough money to buy quires of paper to shoot at. And he no doubt does. Both men bring servants to the lessons to silently lay out targets and carry their guns.

Such stilted dialogue continues for about thirty pages. Then Page had Aimwell just give advice for seven straight pages. Finally, the author shifted to a long appendix of technical information describing his gun tests, a form I sense he would have preferred to use all along.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

“In daily expectation of Colonel Knox’s arrivall”

Yesterday I quoted the Boston businessman and court official Ezekiel Price about Col. Henry Knox and the artillery he brought from Lake Champlain in January 1776.

At that time Price was a war refugee living at Thomas Doty’s tavern in what was then Stoughton (shown here). That was also the home town of Col. Richard Gridley, Chief Engineer of the Continental Army and, until the previous fall, the commander of its artillery regiment. Price socialized with the Gridley family. He also gathered up rumors from other sources.

Price’s diary entries make clear that people like him knew about Knox’s mission to retrieve cannon and were eagerly awaiting the result.
Thursday, Jan. 11. — Went down to Milton. Could hear nothing remarkable from the American Army. It is reported that Colonel Henry Knox is on his return from Crown Point; got back as far as Worcester, and has with him a number of brass cannon and other ordnance-stores, and was expected at Cambridge last night with his artillery. Mr. William Bant [a business associate of John Hancock] called here on his way to the army, &c. Son Zek spent the day with us. Mrs. Price, Polly, &c, went home with Zek in the chaise. The weather threatens snow or rain soon.

Friday, Jan. 12.— A light snow fell in the night. The weather is moderate, and the morning agreeable for the season. Towards noon, it began to grow cold. Mrs. Gridley and daughter Beckey stopt here, in their way to Cambridge to visit Scar Gridley, who, they hear, is dangerously ill. A soldier from the army below says that nothing material has happened there within a day or two past, except that he heard Colonel Knox was on his return to Cambridge, and that a number of cannon had reached there, which Colonel Knox sent before him. It is cloudy, and has the appearance of more foul weather soon.
I’m skeptical about that “number of cannon” reaching Cambridge; no other sources confirm that secondhand information, and it looks to me like Knox went ahead of the guns instead of the other way around.

On 13 January, Gen. George Washington was still awaiting his artillery commander. He told Col. Alexander McDougall of New York, “I am in daily expectation of Colonel Knox’s arrivall.”

That same day, Price wrote, “By advices from Canada, I think Governor [Guy] Carlton’s head is pretty near the noose: so that we may hope to see him soon at headquarters.” He was expecting news of American triumph at Québec City.

In the evening Thomas Crane, representative from Stoughton to the Massachusetts General Court, told Price “that Knox, with the cannon, was at Springfield.” Which of course contradicted the earlier reports that the colonel was much closer. But Price was still optimistic.

Meanwhile, Washington kept waiting. On 16 January, he received a progress report from Gen. Philip Schuyler in Albany and wrote back: “I am much pleased, that the artillery was like to be got over the River, and am in Hopes, that Colonel Knox will arrive with it in a few Days—It is much wanted.”

Late the next day, Gen. Washington received bad news: Gen. Richard Montgomery had died in an unsuccessful assault on Québec. Washington called his generals together for a council of war the next morning to decide how many soldiers they could spare to bolster that effort against Canada. Knox, according to Gen. William Heath, finally arrived later on the 18th.

Sometime that same day, Exekiel Price also heard about Montgomery’s death. He held out hope that that “melancholy and unfortunate” report was false. But on the 19th everyone connected with the army told Price the same bad news, and he had more detail by the 20th. For the next two days he described troops preparing to head north. Despite all his anticipation of Knox’s arrival, Price never actually recorded that event or mentioned the new artillery until late February. The disastrous news from Québec completely overshadowed it.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Why Did Knox Stop His Guns at Framingham?

In response to my Wednesday posting about Col. Henry Knox’s arrival in Cambridge on 18 Jan 1776 (a week or so earlier than the traditional date), Boston 1775 friend Charles Bahne commented:
I still wonder how the town of Framingham fits into Knox’s route. The direct route to Boston (and Cambridge) from the west was the Boston Post Road, which in this area is basically today’s U.S. 20 with some minor detours. That road passes through Marlborough, Sudbury, Wayland, Weston, and Waltham. All of these, except Wayland, existed as towns in the 1770s; Wayland was still part of Sudbury. It would have been a significant detour — with all those heavy cannon! — to go to Framingham.

It’s more logical for John Adams and Elbridge Gerry to have passed through Framingham on their way from Cambridge to Philadelphia, since there was another road — today’s “Old Connecticut Path” — which branched off the Post Road at the Weston-Wayland line and headed directly to Hartford, bypassing Worcester and Springfield.
So we have a question of space as well as time. As part of my possible project on Knox, I’m reexamining the traditional stories about him. Among the most visible of those stories is his progress through New York and Massachusetts; the Knox Cannon Trail has been marked with large roadside stones starting in 1926. Yet much of that trail is based on assumptions about where Knox and his cargo passed because the records of his trip are incomplete. Some marker stones have had to be repositioned.

Following the first Knox biography, we assumed Knox brought his artillery from Springfield (a town he mentioned in a letter to Gen. George Washington) to Cambridge, arriving 24 January. And we assumed he took the straightest, most traveled route, which was the Boston Post Road. But that timetable is wrong. What if the route is an unsupported assumption as well—at least for the guns?

As shown in the map above (a detail from the 1775 “Seat of War in New England” map), the Boston Post Road leads east from Marlborough through Sudbury to Watertown. At Marlborough another road diverged southeast into Framingham toward Natick. It seems likely that Col. Knox directed his “noble train” along that second road. But why?

Gen. William Heath wrote in his diary that Knox “came to camp” on 18 January while the guns “were ordered to be stopped at Framingham.” To me that wording implies the order came from above—i.e., from Gen. Washington.

Another clue comes from the Gershom Foster orderly book at the Anderson House library of the Society of the Cincinnati. That’s an orderly book for the artillery regiment. The orders start to come from Col. Knox (in a big, dramatic way) on 28 January. So even though he was in Cambridge on 18 January and presumably received his commission as colonel then, Knox didn’t start directing the regiment for another ten days. What was keeping him busy?

I suspect Knox went ahead of the guns to meet with his commander-in-chief in Cambridge on 18 January, then hurried back west to meet the guns and stop them at Framingham, or divert them to that town. Why? Knox’s papers have a big gap at this point, and Washington’s surviving headquarters papers don’t mention him or the new artillery. (Notably, however, “Framingham” is one of the passwords of the day on 22 January.)

One possibility is that Knox always planned to take that road because he was aiming to deliver the cannon to Roxbury, not Cambridge. He had worked on the big fort in Roxbury. He might have expected to mount most of the guns in that part of the siege lines. In that case, the route through Framingham to Natick and thence to Dedham might make sense.

But it also seems likely that those cannon needed to be mounted and equipped for use in the siege. Washington may well have decided that Framingham was the place to do that work, far enough from the lines to be safe from the enemy. I haven’t found any mention of such work in Framingham, however.

It appears that Knox’s heavy cannon remained in Framingham for a month or so. On 26 February Ezekiel Price, a Boston official and businessman who collected many threads of gossip from his refuge in Stoughton, wrote in his diary:
It is said that the heavy cannon which were left at Framingham are brought down to Cambridge; the mortars are fixed in their new beds; the fort at Lechmere’s Point nearly finished; fascines going constantly to Dorchester; and every thing getting in readiness to make a push by our army.
Not all the gossip Price wrote down was that reliable (I’ll talk about that tomorrow). But it seems unlikely that he would have been wrong about the heavy cannon being left in Framingham for weeks.  And while it’s not clear what Price meant by saying they were brought “down to Cambridge” (Allston was still part of Cambridge then), this diary entry does suggest some of Knox’s artillery did indeed travel into that town. So there’s still a case for some of those markers.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

How Many Cannon Did Henry Knox Transport?

Another question about Col. Henry Knox’s mission to northern New York to collect artillery for the siege of Boston is how many pieces he brought. And how many did he leave behind?

We have a couple of counts of artillery-pieces in the region from Gen. Philip Schuyler:
Schuyler first counted 54 cannon at Fort Ti with sizes ranging from four-pounders to eighteen-pounders, but 29 of those were in a category called “Bad cannon.” By December Schuyler was counting 53 cannon in all. There were other artillery pieces as well, including swivel guns and mortars. The general sent some weapons north into Quebec with Gen. Richard Montgomery.

Henry Knox left at least three different listings of the artillery pieces he decided to transport back. The first, dated 10 Dec 1775, was transcribed in his earliest biography, by Francis S. Drake. It includes 59 pieces of artillery, including 43 cannon and 16 mortars of different sorts. Knox also determined that one brass cannon Schuyler had labeled an eighteen-pounder was instead a twenty-four-pounder; the difference in bore appears to have been less than half an inch.

On 17 December, Knox sent Gen. Washington a list of the guns he planned to bring east, probably so that Massachusetts blacksmiths could start making shot for them. That list contained only 55 guns—he left off 4 twelve-pounders from his earlier list.

Drake also transcribed the heading of Knox’s expense report for this trip:
For expenditures in a journey from the camp round Boston to New York, Albany, and Ticonderoga, and from thence, with 55 pieces of iron and brass ordnance, 1 barrel of flints, and 23 boxes of lead, back to camp (including expenses of self, brother, and servant), £520.15.8¾.
So we might think the colonel transported 55 cannon to Boston, including 43 cannon. But on 5 January he told Gen. Washington, “We got over 4 more dble fortified 12 pounders after my last to your excellency.” So his count was back to 59. Why Knox mentioned only 55 on his expense report is a mystery, but presumably his expenses were the same.

Yet another Knox document was transcribed in the first volume of the Harvard Illustrated Magazine, published in 1900.
Knox evidently made these notes during his journey, recording what ordnance went on a scow and what on a periauger. There are overlapping listings here, but at that point the freight included “42 Cannon of different Sizes” and “16 Mortars.”

Those numbers match the inventory that I quoted yesterday from John Adams, who viewed the train of artillery in Framingham in January 1776. (Of course, an editorial note indicates that the editors of the Adams papers used the Knox papers as a reference, so we should expect them to match.)

We also have Knox’s diary for the first part of his trip, and that tells us that he lost one cannon along the way. On the afternoon of 4 January, he wrote, he was “much alarm'd by hearing that one of the heaviest Cannon had fallen in to the [Mohawk] River at Half Moon Ferry.”

Three days later, near Albany, another cannon went “fell into the River notwithstanding the precautions we took.” Knox and the locals managed to get that gun out of the water the next day, but he’d had to leave the first sunken gun behind. That explains why he set out with one more iron eighteen-pounder than Adams saw.

Thus, Col. Knox set out from Lake Champlain with 59 artillery pieces, including 43 cannon; lost one eighteen-pounder; and arrived in eastern Massachusetts with the rest.

I’ve seen a report that the 59 artillery pieces Knox selected came almost evenly from Crown Point and Fort Ticonderoga. However, I haven’t found a source for that statement.

There’s also the story told in an article in the Bulletin of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum titled “History of a Wandering Cannon.” During work on a dam across the Mohawk River in the 1850s, an iron six-pounder with the royal monogram was dredged up. It was eventually displayed at the restored Fort Ti as the cannon Knox had lost back in 1776. But I’m not sure how it shrank from being an eighteen-pounder.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

When Henry Knox Came Back to Cambridge

On Thursday, 25 January 1776, John Adams and Elbridge Gerry were on their way back to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. The two Massachusetts delegates stopped at midday to dine in Framingham.

Adams wrote in his diary:
Coll. [Joseph] Buckminster after Dinner shewed us, the Train of Artillery brought down from Ticonderoga, by Coll. [Henry] Knox.

It consists of Iron—9 Eighteen Pounders, 10 Twelves, 6. six, four nine Pounders, Three 13. Inch Mortars, Two Ten Inch Mortars, one Eight Inch, and one six and an half. Howitz, one Eight Inch and an half and one Eight.

Brass Cannon. Eight Three Pounders, one four Pounder, 2 six Pounders, one Eighteen Pounder, and one 24 Pounder. One eight Inch and an half Mortar, one Seven Inch and an half Dto. and five Cohorns.
That’s fifty-eight pieces of artillery in all. (I’ll get back to that number tomorrow.)

Adams’s diary entry for this date in 1776 is notable because the traditional date for Knox reaching Cambridge with his “Noble train of Artillery” is 24 January. Here, for examples, is a Mass Moments page linked to that date. I stated that same date in my study for the National Park Service a few years back. And yet Adams tells us that on the following day all the colonel’s guns were still out in Framingham.

So did Knox leave the ordnance behind and go ahead to Cambridge to report to Gen. George Washington? That makes sense since Knox owed his position to Washington and was acting on orders he received directly from the commander-in-chief. And the historical record indicates that Knox did indeed leave his guns behind—but he did so the previous week.

Gen. William Heath’s memoirs, based on his wartime diary, state this for 18 January:
18th.–Col. Knox, of the artillery, came to camp. He brought from Ticonderoga a fine train of artillery, which had been taken from the British, both cannon and mortars, and which were ordered to be stopped at Framingham. 
At this time Heath was serving under Gen. Israel Putnam in east Cambridge. So “came to camp” almost certainly meant Knox came to Washington’s headquarters.

So where did the 24 January date for his arrival come from? It appears in the first biography of Knox, published by Francis S. Drake in 1873, but that doesn’t cite a source. And the Adams and Heath diaries say that:
  • Knox reached Cambridge six days before that date.
  • All the artillery pieces were still out in Framingham after that date.
So I apologize for repeating the 24 January date without foundation.

TOMORROW: How many cannon and mortars did Knox transport?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Upcoming History Workshops for Teachers

Here are a couple of teacher workshops coming up at historic sites.

The Massachusetts Historical Society is offering “Women in the Era of the American Revolution” on 22-23 February. It says:
Study the revolution through the words and artifacts of the women who lived it. Correspondence demonstrates that women like Abigail Adams, Hannah Winthrop, and Mercy Otis Warren were vital consumers (and boycotters) of imported goods, and functioned as heads of household while their male family members served in the military or traveled on political missions. They recorded important events of the day, and, in the case of Warren, interpreted those events for a public audience. Throughout the workshop we will explore the daily lives of revolutionary women, including those who served as soldiers and secret agents, or followed the army as cooks and laundresses.
The program includes a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts, presumably to view portraits of the women and artifacts from their lives. The registration fee is $40, and teachers can earn 45 P.D.P.’s and two graduate credits for an additional fee. For more information, contact education@masshist.org or call 617-646-0557.

Out in Deerfield this summer, the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association is presenting two sessions of “African Americans in the Making of Early New England.”

The workshop’s introductory description says:
African Americans in the Making of Early New England” will take place in the Old Deerfield Village Historic Landmark District and will focus on the 23 African American Historic sites in the District and on Royall House and Slave Quarters in Medford, MA, another National Historic Landmark. This workshop will bring together a wide range of primary resources—landscape, architecture, artifacts, documents, oral histories—along with secondary interpretations and lectures by specialists that will provide tools for K-12 educators to engage their students in learning about African Americans’ life experiences in early New England.
Here is a very detailed description of the planned program, which includes remarks by professors Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina (Mr. and Mrs. Prince: How an Extraordinary Eighteenth-Century Family Moved Out of Slavery and into Legend), Jared Hardesty (Unfreedom: Slavery and Dependence in Eighteenth-Century Boston), and Joanne Pope Melish (Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and “Race” in New England, 1780-1860).

Teachers selected to participate are eligible for a stipend, thanks to support from our National Endowment for the Humanities. The two sessions are on 9-14 July and 23-28 July. The deadline for applications is 1 March, with applicants notified if whether they are accepted by the end of that month.

Monday, January 23, 2017

John Quincy Adams’s College Entrance Exam

On 15 Mar 1786, John Quincy Adams finally took his entrance test for Harvard College. As I’ve quoted in recent postings, he had come back from Europe the year before to finish his education at his father’s alma mater. At age eighteen, he hoped to enter as a junior and to study law.

Here’s John Quincy’s description of the test from his diary:
Between 9 and 10 in the morning, I went to the President’s [Rev. Joseph Willard], and was there examined, before, the President, the four Tutors three Professors, and Librarian.

The first book was Horace, where Mr. [Eleazer] James the Latin Tutor told me to turn to the Carmen saeculare where I construed 3 stanza’s, and parsed the word sylvarum, but called potens a substantive.
Okay, a little slip there, but he can recover.
Mr. [Timothy Lindall] Jennison, the greek Tutor then put me to the beginning of the fourth Book of Homer; I construed Lines, but parsed wrong αλληλομς. I had then παραβληδην given me.
Uh-oh, the pressure might be getting to him.
I was then asked a few questions in [Isaac] Watts’s Logic [Logic, or The Right Use of Reason, in the Inquiry after Truth], by Mr. [John] Hale, and a considerable number in [John] Locke, on the Understanding [An Essay Concerning Human Understanding], very few of which I was able to answer.
This isn‘t looking good, is it?
The next thing was Geography, where Mr. [Nathan] Read ask’d me what was the figure of the Earth, and several other questions, some of which I answered; and others not.
He’s really going to have to catch up now.
Mr. [Samuel] Williams asked me if I had studied Euclid, and Arithmetic, after which the President conducted me to another Room, and gave me the following piece of English to turn into Latin, from the World.
There cannot certainly be an higher ridicule, than to give an air of Importance, to Amusements, if they are in themselves contemptible and void of taste, but if they are the object and care of the judicious and polite and really deserve that distinction, the conduct of them is certainly of Consequence.
Here’s that sentence published in the British essay series titled The World in 1756. A 1787 reprint identified the authors of some of those essays, but not that one. Can John Quincy pull this off?
I made it thus.
Nihil profecto risu dignior, potest esse, quam magni aestimare delectamenta, si per se despicienda sunt, atque sine sapore. At si res oblatae atque cura sunt sagacibus et artibus excultis, et revera hanc distinctionem merent, administratio eorum haud dubie utilitatis est.
(I take it from memory only, as no scholar is suffered to take a Copy of the Latin he made at his examination.)

The President then took it, was gone about ¼ of an hour, return’d, and said “you are admitted, Adams,” and gave me a paper to carry to the Steward [Caleb Gannett].
Yes! He did it!

Actually, there should have been little doubt of that outcome. John Quincy noted every mistake in his performance, but he probably did better than most applicants. He was already a well-traveled, educated, serious young man, with a father at the Court of St. James and a younger brother in a lower class. Among the gentlemen vouching for him were a friend on the faculty, Prof. Benjamin Waterhouse; Dr. Cotton Tufts; his uncle, the Rev. John Shaw; and his host in town and old employer, lawyer Francis Dana. There was no way the college would have rejected him.

We can see how the college president viewed his new student by how he arranged for him to share a room with Henry Ware, who had already graduated and was “keeping the town-school” in Cambridge—i.e., another mature young man. John Quincy wrote, ”He is very much esteemed and respected in college, and has an excellent chamber.”

As for the rest of the undergraduates, John Quincy’s diary entry also recorded this:
Spent the afternoon, and evening in College. The Sophimore Class had what is called in College, an high-go. They assembled all together in the Chamber, of one of the Class; where some of them got drunk, then sallied out and broke a number of windows for three of the Tutors, and after this sublime manoeuvre stagger’d to their chambers. Such are the great achievements of many of the sons of Harvard, such the delights of many of the students here.
He chose to return to Mr. Dana’s house that night instead of making new friends among the sophomores.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

John Quincy Adams Prepped for College

When John Quincy Adams prepared to enter Harvard College, he was not a typical college student.

At eighteen, he was older than most undergraduates in that period. He had already studied some subjects at the University of Leiden in Holland.

More important, the young man had worked and traveled in far higher circles than other teenagers, and than most Harvard professors. He’d been a diplomatic assistant to his father and then Francis Dana, the Congress’s minister to Russia. He’d seen several European capitals.

And, let’s face it, he was John Quincy Adams. His parents worried about his progress, but he was one of the smartest and more diligent young men around. Of course, there was still the formality of passing the college entrance exam.

As recorded in his diary (the diary he kept regularly until 1848), John Quincy arrived home in Massachusetts in the summer of 1785. Over the next several months, he visited various relatives, including his younger brother Charles, already at Harvard on the normal schedule.

As I quoted yesterday, John Adams had sent Prof. Benjamin Waterhouse a letter asking him to put in a good word for his eldest son. John Quincy finally connected with the man in Boston on 28 September, writing in his diary: “Upon Change I met Dr. Waterhouse; and found him the same man, he was four years, ago, when I was acquainted with him in Holland.” But to his sister Nabby he added:
I met on the exchange, Dr. Waterhouse, who has been at Providence these 6 weeks, delivering lectures upon natural Philosophy. He did not know me at first, and I was obliged to introduce myself to him. As soon as he found me out, he was as sociable as ever.
Waterhouse had lived with the Adams family in 1781, so clearly John Quincy had grown a great deal since he was fourteen.

The young man decided to enter the college at the end of April 1786, in time to take a couple of science classes. He would be ranked as a junior. That fall, John Quincy went out to Haverhill live with his aunt Elizabeth and her husband, the Rev. John Shaw, and refresh his knowledge before the entrance test.

And then the college sped up the schedule. In March John Quincy told his sister why he’d become too busy to write:
At the beginning of the year I was informed…I must come by the middle of March, in order to attend two courses of experimental philosophy. I might have waited till next commencement [in July], and then entered as senior;…but I should have missed one course of lectures. Besides, I had undertaken last fall, to be ready to enter before the class began upon natural philosophy.

When I found my time shortened, I determined to lay aside every thing else, and attend only to my present business. . . . And to enter here, it is not necessary to know any thing but what is found in a certain set of books, and I have heard it asserted, that some of the best scholars, after having taken their degrees, would not be received if they offered as freshmen, because they commonly forget those parts of learning which are required in a freshman. Since the first of January, I have not, upon an average, been four hours in a week (Sundays excepted) out of Mr. Shaw’s house.
So John Quincy had spent nearly the whole winter cramming.

TOMORROW: Entrance exam time at last.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

From Slaves to Soldiers at Rhode Island State House, 24 Jan.

On Tuesday, 24 January, the Rhode Island State House Library will host a book signing to celebrate the publication of From Slaves to Soldiers: The 1st Rhode Island Regiment in the American Revolution, by Robert A. Geake with Lorén M. Spears.

Here’s the publisher’s description of the book:
In December 1777, the Continental army was encamped at Valley Forge and faced weeks of cold and hunger, as well as the prospect of many troops leaving as their terms expired in the coming months. If the winter were especially cruel, large numbers of soldiers would face death or contemplate desertion. Plans were made to enlist more men, but as the states struggled to fill quotas for enlistment, Rhode Island general James Mitchell Varnum proposed the historic plan that a regiment of slaves might be recruited from his own state, the smallest in the union, but holding the largest population of slaves in New England.

The commander-in-chief’s approval of the plan would set in motion the forming of the 1st Rhode Island Regiment. The “black regiment,” as it came to be known, was composed of indentured servants, Narragansett Indians, and former slaves. This was not without controversy. While some in the Rhode Island Assembly and in other states railed that enlisting slaves would give the enemy the impression that not enough white men could be raised to fight the British, owners of large estates gladly offered their slaves and servants, both black and white, in lieu of a son or family member enlisting.

The regiment fought with distinction at the battle of Rhode Island, and once joined with the 2nd Rhode Island before the siege of Yorktown in 1781, it became the first integrated battalion in the nation’s history.
Robert A. Geake is the author of several books about Rhode Island history and proprietor of the rifootprints webpage. Loren M. Spears, M.Ed., is executive director of the Tomaquag Indian Memorial Museum; a veteran educator; and two-term tribal councilwoman of the Narragansett Tribe.

The Rhode Island Department of State will display items from its archives related to the Rhode Island Regiment, including the “original Regimental Book from 1781-83.”

The event will take place from 4:00 to 6:00 P.M. It is free and open to the public.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Bassett on “The American Sampler” in Medford, 22 Jan.

The Medford Historical Society and Museum is hosting an exhibit of needlework samplers from its collection with the title “Stitching and Learning.”

The society newsletter says:
Young women and children from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries learned to sew and embroider a variety of stitches and become dexterous with the needle as they created a needlework or darning “sampler.” Good needlework was considered essential and an absolute necessity if you were wealthy or poor. Women made or supervised the making of all clothing and household goods and the decoration of these articles. It was a mark of honor to be admired for these skills.
On Sunday, 22 January, Lynne Bassett will speak at the museum on “The American Sampler: Needlework in New England, 1700-1850.” Bassett was curator of textiles and fine arts at Old Sturbridge Village for five years and is now a freelance museum curator.

Bassett is the editor of Massachusetts Quilts: Our Common Wealth and coauthor of Northern Comfort: New England’s Early Quilts, 1780-1850. She has spoken at Colonial Williamsburg, the Museum of Fine Arts, Winterthur, Historic Deerfield, and the Peabody Essex Museum, among other sites, and has been elected a fellow or member of the American Antiquarian Society, Massachusetts Historical Society, and International Quilt Study Center.

Lynne Bassett’s talk will take place at the society at 10 Governors Avenue in Medford starting at 2:00 P.M. The exhibit can be viewed on Sundays, 12 noon to 4:00 P.M., or by appointment, through 26 February.

(Shown above is a sampler made by Deborah Robins in 1750—not part of the exhibit, but an example of what young women in Boston were making in the mid-eighteenth century.)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

“I hope he will pass muster”

As John Quincy Adams planned his return to Massachusetts from Europe in 1785, with the hope of attending Harvard College, his father John wrote to one of the professors there, Benjamin Waterhouse (1754-1846).

Waterhouse had lived with the Adams family while studying medicine in Holland in the early 1780s. It was thus natural for John Adams to ask Waterhouse to look out his son, even though he was one of the college’s first professors of physic rather than of law.

As a father, Adams had some worries about John Quincy’s preparation for college. All in all, his letter reads like what a modern anxious “helicopter parent” might write to a college admissions officer, insisting that his son was a better student than he might seem and deserved some special understanding:
This Letter will be delivered you, by your old Acquaintance, John Quincy Adams, whom I beg Leave to recommend to your Attention and favour. He is anxious to Study Sometime, at your University before he begins the Study of the Law which appears at present to be the Profession of his Choice.

He must undergo an Examination, in which I Suspect he will not appear exactly what he is. in Truth there are few who take their Degrees at Colledge, who have so much Knowledge, but his Studies having been pursued by himself, on his travells without any Steady Tutor, he will be found aukward in Speaking Latin, in Prosody, in Parsing, and even perhaps in that accuracy of Pronunciation in reading orations or Poems in that Language, which is often chiefly attended to in Such Examinations.

It seems to be necessary therefore that I make this Apology for him to you, and request you to communicate it in confidence to the Gentlemen who are to examine him, and Such others as you think prudent. If you were to examine him in English and French Poetry, I know not where you would find any body his Superiour. in Roman and English History few Persons of his Age, it is rare to find a youth possessed of So much Knowledge. He has translated Virgils Æneid, Suetonious, the whole of Sallust, and Tacituss Agricola, his Germany and Several Books of his Annals, a great Part of Horace Some of Ovid and Some of Cæsars Commentaries in Writing, besides a number of Tullys orations. These he may Shew you; and altho you will find the Translations in many Places inaccurate in point of Style, as must be expected at his Age, you will See abundant Proof, that it is impossible to make those translations without Understanding his Authors and their Language very well.

In Greek his Progress has not been equal. Yet he has Studied Morcells in Aristotles Poeticks, in Plutarch’s Lives, and Lucians Dialogues, the Choice of Hercules in Xenophon, and lately he has gone through Several Books in Homers Iliad.

in Mathematicks I hope he will pass muster. in the Course of the last year, instead of playing Cards like the fashionable World I have Spent my Evenings with him. We went with some Accuracy through the Geometry in the Præceptor the Eight Books of Simpsons Euclid, in Latin and compared it Problem by Problem and Theorem by Theorem with Le Pere Dechalles in french, We went through plain Trigonometry and plain Sailing, Fennings Algebra, and the Decimal Fractions, arithmetical and Geometrical Proportions, and the Conic Sections in Wards Mathematicks.

I then attempted a Sublime Flight and endeavoured to give him some Idea of the Differential Method of Calculation of the Marquis de L’Hospital, and the Method of Fluxions and infinite Series of Sir Isaac Newton But alass it is thirty years Since I thought of Mathematicks, and I found I had lost the little I once knew, especially of these higher Branches of Geometry, So that he is as yet but a smatterer like his Father. however he has a foundation laid which will enable him with a years Attendance on the Mathematical Professor, to make the necessary Proficiency for a Degree.

He is Studious enough and emulous enough, and when he comes to mix with his new Friends and young Companions he will make his Way well enough. I hope he will be upon his Guard against those Airs of Superiority among the Schollars, which his larger Acquaintance with the World, and his manifest Superiority in the Knowledge of Some Things, may but too naturally inspire into a young Mind, and I beg of you Sir, to be his friendly Monitor, in this Respect and in all others.
It’s always remarkable to me how much John and Abigail Adams worried about John Quincy being a good scholar. With our hindsight, we know that he was one of the most studious, diligent, and at times humorless statesmen the U.S. of A. has ever produced.

COMING UP: John Quincy Adams reaches Cambridge.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

“The Child whom you used to lead out into the common”

In April 1785, seventeen-year-old John Quincy Adams had finished his first job, as secretary and translator for American minister Francis Dana in the court of Catherine the Great.

Young J. Q. Adams returned to France, where his family was living during another diplomatic mission. He prepared to sail home to Boston and enter Harvard College.

On 27 April, John Adams wrote a letter for his son to hand to their cousin Samuel:
The Child whom you used to lead out into the common to see with detestation the British Troops and with Pleasure the Boston Militia will have the Honour to deliver you this Letter. He has since seen the Troops of most Nations in Europe, without any Ambition I hope of becoming a military Man. He thinks of the Bar and Peace and civil Life, and I hope will follow and enjoy them with less Interruption than his Father could.

If you have in Boston a virtuous Clubb, such as We used to delight and improve ourselves in, they will inspire him with Such sentiments as a young American ought to entertain, and give him less occasion for lighter Company. I think it no small Proof of his Discretion, that he chooses to go to New England rather than old [i.e., to a British university]. You and I know that it will probably be more for his Honour and his Happiness in the result but young Gentlemen of Eighteen dont always See through the same Medium with old ones of fifty.

So I am going to London [as U.S. minister to the Court of St. James]. I suppose you will threaten me with being envyed again. I have more cause to be pitied, and al[though I will] not say with Dr Cutler that “I hate [to be] pitied” I dont know why I should dread Envy.—I shall be sufficiently vexed I expect. But as Congress are about to act with Dignity I dont much fear that I shall be able to do something worth going for. If I dont I shall come home, and envy nobody, nor be envied. if they send as good a Man to Spain as they have in [John] Jay for their foreign department and will have in [Thomas] Jefferson at Versailles I shall be able to correspond in perfect Confidence with all those public Characters that I shall have most need of Assistance from and shall fear nothing.
The editors of the Adams Papers report that in his letters John Adams twice quoted “old Dr. Cutler” saying that he hated to be pitied. They posit that was an allusion to the Rev. Dr. Timothy Cutler (1684-1765), longtime minister at Christ Church (Old North) in Boston. I haven’t found any other source for the remark, nor confirmation, but Cutler was a well-known figure in New England, recognized for being haughty, so it seems like a good guess.

TOMORROW: Helicopter parenting from the land of the balloon.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Picking Up Pottery Pieces in Peabody

At the Early American Ceramics site, Justin W. Thomas just wrote about what he found at a site in Peabody, which in the eighteenth century was part of Danvers.

That site, Thomas knew, was once owned by a family of potters called Osborn. The business was established by a Quaker named Joseph Osborn in the late 1730s and grew over time; “there used to be multiple kilns located in this neighborhood, which were operated by multiple generations of Osborn family potters.”

In the early 1800s the family opened similar workshops in several other New England towns, expanding from Rhode Island to Maine and westward to New York. The Osborns sold the Peabody site to another pottery firm which stayed in business into the early 1900s.

That property is now mostly taken up by a senior citizen community center. Driving by, Thomas saw that a portion of it, never built on in recent decades, had been excavated to expand a parking lot. He got permission from the authorities to walk over the ground and pick up any artifacts on the surface that might be remnants of the early pottery works.

Thomas reported:
We discovered hundreds of artifacts. We found found kiln furniture, kiln bricks, wasters and sherds. I believe all of these objects are related to the Osborn Pottery instead of the businesses that operated afterwards. Collectively, I would say that these artifacts date from the circa 1740-1860 period.

I was amazed at some of the evidence that we were able to gather, which has never been tied to the Osborns before:

1) The abundance of thickly potted black-glazed wares: There were a number of thickly potted black-glazed utilitarian sherds with walls that were over one-inch thick, which appeared very-similar to black-glazed pottery that was produced in Buckley, England in the eighteenth-century. Were the Osborns trying to imitate the Buckley wares that were imported into places like Boston and Salem, Massachusetts in the 1700s? Are products in New England made by the Osborns mistaken for wares made in Buckley today?

2) Slip Decoration: It has been published in the past that the potters in Essex County, Massachusetts did not utilize a lot of slip-decoration in the eighteenth-century. However, I have found evidence that suggests otherwise. I think it is more a matter of tying slip-techniques to Essex County today that have been left unattributed or even attributed elsewhere in the past. I do not believe the Osborns have ever previously been linked to slip-decoration; although, we found accurate evidence of it yesterday.

3) Glazed Base: It has been published in the past that utilitarian red earthenware potters did not glaze bases in New England; however, I have recently proven that they did occasionally glaze bases in North Yarmouth, Maine. North Yarmouth was also a potter’s industry that was directly tied to Essex County. Yesterday, we found evidence of a black-glazed jug that was intentionally entirely glazed on the base by the Osborns. I have seen similar black-glazed bases in North Yarmouth.

4) A Fluid Glaze: We found evidence yesterday of a fluid glaze that was applied at the Osborn Pottery in Peabody. I have not seen this type of glaze previously associated with utilitarian potters in Essex County.

5) Glazes: We found an abundance of glazes yesterday that would not traditionally be tied to Essex County, Massachusetts today; although, Lura Woodside Watkins also confirms these type of Peabody (or South Danvers) glazes in Early England Potters and Their Wares. We found glazes that would normally be tied to Pennsylvania or elsewhere in New England (i.e., New Hampshire, Maine, etc.).
Thomas’s posting includes many photographs. The one above shows what he suspects might be the Osborns’ attempt to replicate thick black-glazed pottery from Britain.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Sylvanus Johnson in the Woods

As described yesterday, in 1754, at the age of six or seven Sylvanus Johnson was taken prisoner by Native Americans, probably Wabanaki, from Fort No. 4 in New Hampshire. (The image here, a detail from the photograph by Ann M. Little here, shows a young reenactor at that recreated fort.)

Sylvanus was adopted into a Native American family and remained with them for four years. The British authorities then “redeemed” him for cash, and Israel Putnam conducted him back to his family.

Johnson lived along the Connecticut River in New Hampshire for the rest of his life. He married and had children starting in the early 1770s. But Johnson always said the Native culture he experienced as a child was superior.

In his History of the Town of Rockingham, Vermont (1907), Lyman Simpson Hayes recorded traditions about “Uncle Vene” Johnson. The first is incredibly sad:
After paying the ransom, his white friends traveled a day’s journey and encamped for the night. So homesick was little Sylvanus for his forest home that he stole away in the darkness and followed the trail back to the wigwams of his masters. In doing so he had to cross a river, swimming over with his clothes tied on his head. His Indian friends would not speak to him or recognize him in any way. They had received the money demanded for his ransom and he was theirs no longer. During his whole life he so much preferred the modes of Indian life to the prevalent customs of civilization that he often expressed regret that he was ever ransomed.
Johnson lived into his eighties and was remembered in the region as quite a character.
The young men of North Walpole and Bellows Falls counted it a treat to be taken by Uncle Vene on a hunt. Often the old man would pretend to get lost almost in sight of home and keep the frightened and bewildered boys out all night in a shelter made in true Indian style. . . .

At one time he was crossing the river in his canoe, having indulged his appetite in the taverns at Bellows Falls. He was caught by the strong current and would have gone over the dam had not one of his neighbors put out in a boat and towed him to shore. The old gentleman was very indignant at being treated thus. When he was told that he would surely have gone over the dam he exclaimed, “Couldn’t I have put out a foot and braced?”
Adding more poignancy to that last story, two of Johnson’s sons drowned in the Connecticut River.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sylvanus Johnson “returned from captivity”

A few years ago, Ann M. Little shared this analysis of a passage, and an event, from A Narrative of the Captivity of Mrs. [Susanna] Johnson, Containing an Account of her Four Years of Suffering with the Indians and French:
First published in 1796, it told of her family’s experiences from 1754-58 as prisoners during the Seven Years War after they were captured in a raid on Fort Number Four in what’s now Charlestown, New Hampshire. Johnson relates this about the return of her son Sylvanus, whom she last saw at age six or seven. He was eleven before she saw him again:
In the October following [1758], I had the happiness to embrace my son Sylvanus; he had been above three years with the Indians, followed them in all their hunting excursions and learnt too many of their habits; to civilize him, and learn him his native language was a severe task, (136).
…In successive editions of her narrative, Susanna Johnson either gives us more details about Sylvanus’s condition, or she embroiders the story. From the 1814 third edition published after her death in 1810:
In October, 1758, I was informed that my son Sylvanus was at Northampton [Massachusetts], sick of a scald [a skin disease]. I hastened to the place, and found him in a deplorable situation; he was brought there by Major [Israel] Putnam, afterwards Gen. Putnam, with Mrs. [Jemima] How and her family, who had returned from captivity. The town of Northampton had taken the charge of him; his situation was miserable; when I found him, he had no recollection of me, but, after some conversation, he had some confused ideas of me, but no remembrance of his father. It was four years since I had seen him; he was then eleven years old. During his absence, he had entirely forgotten the English language, spoke a little broken French, but was perfect in Indian. He had been with the savages three years, and one year with the French. But his habits were somewhat Indian; he had been with them in their hunting excursions, and suffered numerous hardships; he could brandish a tomahawk or bend the bow; but these habits wore off by degrees, (130).
…The additions and changes in Susanna Johnson’s account also demonstrate the ways in which historical memory changes according to the times. Her account of her experiences in 1754-58 wasn’t published until nearly fifty years after the fact, but even then we see evidence of how the times continue to shape the story in the successive editions. By 1814, the “Indians” in the 1796 account became “the savages,” and she was much more fulsome about the injuries and changes that captivity had wrought on her young son in 1814, 1834, and perhaps successive editions too. In the later editions, what had been her “happiness to embrace [her] son Sylvanus” became a much more ambiguous account of their reunion, one that emphasized the child’s “deplorable” and “miserable” condition, as well as his trouble remembering his parents.

Henry Saunderson (among other nineteenth-century local historians) claims in his History of Charlestown, New Hampshire, that Sylvanus Johnson “so much preferred the modes of Indian life to the prevalent customs of civilization, that he often expressed regret at having been ransomed. He always maintained, and no arguments could convince him to the contrary, that the Indians were a far more moral race than the whites.” His boyhood captivity apparently had no long-term effects on his life and health, as he died at 84 in 1832, “leaving the reputation of an honest and upright man,” (458.)
Little was exploring the lives of captured children in connection with a biography she published last year, The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright. Like Sylvanus Johnson, Esther Wheelwright was seized at age seven and adopted into a Wabanaki family. Unlike him, Esther never returned to her family.

Instead, Esther Wheelwright became an Ursuline nun in French Canada and eventually a superior of her order. Her family in Boston tried to lure her back with bequests if she returned, and she never did. Her British heritage, while mostly forgotten, proved useful when Gen. James Wolfe captured Québec the year after Sylvanus Johnson returned to his mother.

TOMORROW: Sylvanus Johnson in the woods.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Princeton in the Snow

I did some public history work last weekend: read in some books, participated in a meeting about this year’s Boston Massacre, drafted some Boston 1775 postings while sitting out the snow.

But I sure didn’t do what a bunch of dedicated reenactors and living historians did in central New Jersey. The Princeton Battlefield Society, Morven Museum & Garden, and Old Barracks Museum teamed with His Majesty’s 17th Regiment of Infantry, Charles Wilson Peale’s Company of Philadelphia Associators, historian Will Tatum, and other individuals to reenact the British army’s occupation of Princeton in 1776-77.

And then the snowstorm arrived. The same snow we got here in Massachusetts, but earlier. And my goodness, that was photogenic!

The image above appears in a Facebook gallery by Wilson Freeman of Drifting Focus Photography. I heartily recommend clicking through the whole gallery. If there are other online collections of photos from this event, please recommend them in the comments.

Here’s a report on the event from Kitty Calash. No fingers or toes were lost in the snow, it’s good to know. And the participants and local spectators seem to have enjoyed an unforgettable experience.

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Distant View of Roxbury During the Siege

Here’s an image from the siege of Boston preserved in the collections of the Library of Congress.

It’s a drawing labeled “View of Roxbury from the advanced guard house at the lines.” Probably created by a British army officer, it shows what the regulars looking down Boston Neck saw.

The “Road to Roxbo.” stretches off into the distance. There’s a box next to the road labeled “b”: that’s “Our advanced guard.” Further on is what looks like a picket fence and behind it “a”: “Rebbels Centinels.”

Over the hill is “Roxbury,” centered on the spire of a meetinghouse. To the right of that is the “Rebbels encampmt.” And to the left, for those of us interested in artillery, is the warning: “here the Rebbels have 4 field pieces.”

Thursday, January 12, 2017

How John Howland Fetched Water “with two pails and a hoop”

In April 1770, at age thirteen, John Howland sailed from Newport to Providence to become an apprentice to barber Benjamin Gladding.

Apprentices, especially those who had barely begun their training, were required to do household chores. Because of the neighborhood where Gladding lived, one of those chores was especially tiring, as Howland recalled:

the water in all the wells between where the Arcade now stands and the great bridge was brackish, and the water for tea and washing was brought from the east side of the river from a pump on the Fenner estate, north of the “granite block” and the old “Coffee House.” Some of the families had rain water cisterns for their chief supply; but these were few, and it fell to the lot of the boys, some of whom were negroes, for slavery was then in fashion, to go with two pails and a hoop, across the bridge for a supply.

This was the hardest service I had yet experienced. There were so many families to be supplied, that we frequently met four or five boys at the pump at the same time, and we proceeded in procession with our pails across the bridge. On the evening before washing day the process was so often repeated that the labor was exhausting. I was one of the smallest boys, and never very stout; and while I am writing this, I seem to feel the same stretch of the joints of the elbows and shoulders, and sympathy in the back, which I then experienced.

The next year, 1771, the water-logs were laid from Field’s fountain to Weybosset bridge, to the great joy of all the boys on Weybosset Point. A few years after, as more buildings began to be erected, a contract was made with Amos Atwell to sink a fountain near Rawson’s tanyard, and lay the pipes through a narrow valley, to a place where Aborn street now is. These pipes were after extended to the old long wharf.
The water pipes were of course a great technological step forward. But I was also struck by another bit of technology Howland mentioned in passing: “two pails and a hoop.” I was familiar with how people carried matching pails or buckets on a wooden yoke carved for their shoulders (and not useful for anything else), but how was a hoop involved?

I found the answer in A Small Boy in the Sixties, a memoir written by George Sturt, born in Surrey, England, in 1863, and published by the Cambridge University Press shortly after his death in 1927.
In passing, notice should be taken of the proper way of carrying water or milk in a pail. In fact it is rather easier to carry two pails than one, for the sake of balance; but in either case it is well to have something to keep the pail from knocking against your knee and splashing you. In my childhood people used a girl’s wooden hoop for this. . . . A hoop laid on two pails (between the handles of them) did not add appreciably to the weight, and, keeping them apart, made a space to walk in. Nothing could be more convenient.
An 1895 report from the Smithsonian Institution stated, “It is a common thing in the country to see the boys and women using a hogshead hoop as a spreader.” An article in the London Mechanics’ Register of 1825 describes a similar arrangement, adding a rope draped around the carrier’s shoulders. The photo above is said to have been taken in Cornwall.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The J.A.R. Starting the Year Off Big

Over at the Journal of the American Revolution, there have been several articles of interest this year already. And not just because they arose out of conversations involving me.

First, the organization has given its 2016 Book of the Year Award to Brothers at Arms, American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved It, by Larrie D. Ferreiro.

When I first looked at that book, I thought its marketing copy was too breathless—what student of the Revolutionary War doesn’t know that America’s ultimate victory depended on help from European governments, particularly France? But then I sampled the book, and I was impressed with the detail that Ferreiro brought to exploring that history.

Honorary mention goes to Edward G. Lengel’s First Entrepreneur: How George Washington Built His—and the Nation’s—Prosperity.

Last week the site featured one of its periodic round-robins, asking several of us contributors for short answers to some (hopefully) provocative questions. This series was:
As usual, there were a range of responses, especially from those of us who have a more narrow focus in our interests—with some lumping around particular personalities.

Finally, America’s History, L.L.C., will host its annual American Revolution Conference at Colonial Williamsburg on 24-26 March 2017. I attended last year for the first time, and enjoyed myself. Although some fine academic scholars attend, this isn’t an academic conference. In fact, it reminded me more of the fan conventions I’ve been to, except that in this case the corpus to study is real.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Kamensky on Copley in Medford, 18 Jan.

Here’s a passage from Jane Kamensky’s biography of John Singleton Copley, A Revolution in Color, that I quite enjoyed. This describes a period in 1774, when Copley was embarking on his long-dreamed-of Grand Tour of Europe to study art. He had picked up an Englishman named George Carter, a “failed mercer [textile dealer] lately turned painter,” as his traveling companion.
Carter romped through a barbed picaresque worthy of Cervantes, while Copley chronicled his earnest Pilgrim’s Progress. Their differing sensibilities began to chafe, at least on Carter.

“Mr. Carter [is] well versed in traveling, has the languages…is a very polite and sensible man, who has seen much of the World,” Copley told his mother. It was “an happy event[,] the having a companion,” he assured [his wife] Sukey, “by this everything goes easy.”

The very next day Carter noted: “my Companion…is a perfect dead Wait.”

As the week's stretched to months, Carter’s litany of complaints grew longer and louder. Copley was needy, “not knowing a Syllable of the Language,” yet had “so much to say in his own…that it rather Fags the Spirits.” He could be combative and even perverse, always taking “Things at the wrong End.”

He defended the untenable, arguing that “a Huckaback Towel was softer than a Barcelona Silk Handkerchief,” or that fealty to law was nobler than unforced honor. Yet he brooked disagreement poorly. Carter’s diagnoses: Copley had been too “long the Hero of each little Tale,” allowed to believe “there is Nothing that he is not Master of.” Boston was a small pond. . . .

Carter wearied, especially, of Copley’s paeans to the colonies. Every leaf, every vista, was measured against America—and found wanting: the mirror image of Copley’s letters home. American wood burned hotter than English coal. American milk tasted sweeter than French; surely the French cows “had eat dandelion.” (This after Copley had slurped eleven cups of milky tea greedily enough.)

From Toulon, near the end of September, Carter wrote,
My Companion is solacing himself that if they go on in America for an 100 Years to come as they have for 150 years past, they shall have an independent Government…Art will then be more encouraged there, great Artists would arise and that was the great object that induced him to take this Tour to Roame.

I just hinted that it was probabl[e] he might not live to see that Period; and therefore his coming to Rome, if that was the End intended to be answered, would he not be some what mistaken in the Outset?
Copley didn’t get that.

Prof. Kamensky, director of the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, will speak about Copley at the Royall House and Slave Quarters in Medford on Wednesday, 18 January. This event will start at 7:30 P.M. Copies of A Revolution in Color will be available for purchase and signing.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Chandler on Martin Howard in Newport, 12 Jan.

On Thursday, 12 January, the Newport Historical Society will host Abby Chandler speaking on “The Life and Times of Martin Howard.”

Howard was the rare Loyalist who before the Revolutionary War managed to tick off his Whig neighbors in two separate colonies. The event description says:
During this lecture, Dr. Chandler will explore Martin Howard’s life from his time in Newport, when he inhabited the Newport Historical Society’s Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House in the mid-eighteenth century, to his time in North Carolina where he served as the colony’s Chief Justice and his final years in London.

She will share how his political position placed him in firm opposition to many Newport residents during the 1765 Stamp Act crisis, how this led to his decision to flee his Rhode Island home after his house was attacked, his figure was hung in effigy and publicly burned.
Chandler is a professor of early American history at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, researching a book on political unrest in British North America during the 1760s. She is already the author of Law and Sexual Misconduct in New England, 1650-1750: Steering Toward England.

This program will take place at the Newport Historical Society Resource Center at 82 Touro Street,  starting at 5:30 P.M. Admission is $1 for members, $5 for others. Reserve a seat online at NewportHistory.org or call 401-841-8770.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

“A comma in the middle of a phrase”

Here’s one last posting about Angelica (Schuyler) Church, for now. In the early years of the republic, she exchanged letters with a lot of American political men, and some of those letters seem flirtatious. Among those correspondents was Thomas Jefferson, whom Church met through the artist Maria Cosway.

Some authors writing about Church’s brother-in-law Alexander Hamilton take it as a near certainty that the two of them had a sexual affair: Willard Sterne Randall in Alexander Hamilton, Arnold Rogow in Fatal Friendship, Warren Roberts in A Place in History. Other authors say they just played at flirting, or never acted on their attraction, or that it’s simply impossible to know.

Me, I’m not sure Hamilton was even in Angelica Church’s league—not when her husband John Barker Church was around to supply both money and excitement. And if they were having a secret affair, I’d think they’d be less flirtatious in the letters each probably shared with his or her spouse. But it’s impossible to know.

The Hamilton show on Broadway presents the two in-laws’ relationship as an unconsummated yearning, mostly on Angelica’s part. That comes through most in a number titled “Take a Break,” in which Angelica sings:
In a letter I received from you two weeks ago
I noticed a comma in the middle of a phrase
It changed the meaning. Did you intend this?
One stroke and you’ve consumed my waking days
It says:
“My dearest Angelica”
With a comma after “dearest.” You’ve written
“My dearest, Angelica.”
In his surviving correspondence Hamilton never wrote “My dearest Angelica,” with or without a comma. (He did write “my dear Angelica” in three letters between 1794 and 1803.)

The inspiration for that verse clearly comes from an exchange between Angelica Church and Alexander Hamilton in 1787. In the first letter, Church wrote:
You had every right my dear brother to believe that I was very inattentive not to have answered your letter; but I could not relinquish the hopes that you would be tempted to ask the reason of my Silence, which would be a certain means of obtaining the second letter when perhaps had I answered the first, I should have lost all the fine things contained in the Latter. Indeed my dear, Sir if my path was strewed with as many roses, as you have filled your letter with compliments, I should not now lament my absence from America: but even Hope is weary of doing any thing for so assiduous a votary as myself. I have so often prayed at her shrine that I am now no longer heard. Church’s head is full of Politicks, he is so desirous of making once in the British house of Commons, and where I should be happy to see him if he possessed your Eloquence.
Hamilton wrote back in December:
You ladies despise the pedantry of punctuation. There was a most critical comma in your last letter. It is my interest that it should have been designed; but I presume it was accidental. Unriddle this if you can. The proof that you do it rightly may be given by the omission or repetition of the same mistake in your next.

So Mr. Church resolves to be a parliament-man. I had rather see him a member of our new Congress; but my fervent wish always is that much success may attend all his wishes. I am sincerely attached to him as well as to yourself.
Hamilton signed that letter “Adieu ma chere, soeur” (Adieu my dear, sister), to drive home the joke about punctuation. Or was it a joke?

In any event, it was Hamilton, not Church, who read meaning into a misplaced comma and wondered what it meant about the other’s affections. Hamilton even invited Church to repeat the “the same mistake” in her next letter. If she did, that document is lost. The next letter we have is from late 1789, and Church wrote:
Adieu my dear Brother, may god bless and protect you, prays your ever affectionate Angelica ever ever yours. . . . Adieu my dear Hamilton, you said I was as dear to you as a sister keep your word, and let me have the consolation to beleive that you will never forget the promise of friendship you have vowed. A thousand embraces to my dear Betsy, she will not have so bad a night as the last
No commas out of place there, plus a mention of his wife and of “the promise of friendship…as a sister.”

Angelica Church wrote that letter just as she finished a visit to New York without her husband, and some authors think that was when she and Hamilton consummated an affair. But it’s impossible to know.