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, August 01, 2018

In Captivity with Gen. Charles Lee

Gen. Charles Lee was captured in New Jersey on 13 Dec 1776.

On 28 Jan 1777 he wrote from British-occupied New York to Robert Morris in Philadelphia:
I am extremely obliged to you for your kindness and attention—the money for the bill I am told I shall get to-day—I have nothing to request at present but that you will write to Mr. Nourse to take care of what belongs to me—and if that my servant Guiseppe is well enough you will send him and desire him to bring the Dogs with him as I am much in want of their Company—God bless you My respects to Mrs. Morris
“Guiseppe” was Giuseppe Minghini, an Italian whom Lee had hired as a personal servant while he was traveling in Europe. The general was asking Minghini to join him in captivity—and to bring the dogs as well.

It might not be surprising that Minghini didn’t immediately set out. Lee was still in New York on 4 April, and he renewed his instructions directly to the Italian:
If your health permits I desire you will without a moments delay set out for this place—your establishment & fortune depend on your compliance—bring with you as many summer cloaths as you can silk stockings, linnen wastecoats and breeches tights, boots and a new hat—some books likewise particularly Ainsworth’s [Latin] Dictionary & the six french books, l’histoire politique—if any of the Dogs are with you bring them. Mr. Rob Morris will furnish you with the necessary money. Addio—come immediately
Minghini brought one dog to keep Lee company until the trio was finally released on 21 Apr 1778. By then the general had also picked up a mistress whom Elias Boudinot called “a miserable dirty hussy…(a British Sergeants Wife).”

One might think that Minghini brought the general’s his favorite pet, Mr. Spado, but that dog wasn’t available.

TOMORROW: What happened to Spado?

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