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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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Representing Washington in Cambridge, 14 July

On Saturday, 14 July, the Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site in Cambridge will welcome three guests representing Gen. George Washington in different ways.

Washington used that Georgian mansion, originally built by friend of government John Vassall, from mid-July 1775 to early April 1776. Martha Washington joined him there in December. In those months the commander-in-chief made plans to reorganize the Continental Army for a wider campaign (including a reversal of his initial decision not to enlist any black soldiers), launched unusual attacks on the Crown at sea and in Canada, and learned crucial lessons about using his staff, working with civil governments, managing intelligence and counterintelligence, and more.

From noon to 4:00 P.M., John Koopman will portray Gen. Washington at the site, and Sandy Spector will join him as Martha. Visitors can converse with the Washingtons and ask questions about their wartime experiences, take and/or pose in photographs, play historic games, and enjoy other activities. Koopman plays the title role in Mount Vernon’s short movie “Washington’s War,” now available through various streaming services. (Alas, this presentation lacks the “snow” that falls in the Mount Vernon theater during winter scenes.)

From 1:00 to 2:00 P.M., Roxane Orgill will read from and speak about her new book Siege: How General Washington Kicked the British Out of Boston and Launched a Revolution. This is a novel in verse about Washington’s time in Cambridge. Though written with young people in mind, it evokes the difficult moments and decisions for all readers. Orgill is the author of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winner Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph, and other books.

At 2:30, a National Park Service ranger will lead a “Road to Revolution” walking tour of nearby sites involved in the “Powder Alarm,” the siege of Boston, the housing of the Convention Army, and other moments in the move toward American independence.

All these events are free and open to the public, as are tours of the mansion. The Longfellow–Washington site is at 105 Brattle Street, only half a mile from Harvard Square. Parking in this part of Cambridge is extremely limited, so plan to walk.

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