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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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Valentine’s Letter from Québec

In May 1774, Lt. Col. Valentine Jones (c. 1723-1779) was the officer in charge of the 52nd Regiment of Foot and the highest-ranking British army officer in Québec City.

The local British merchants sent him this address:
It is with much concern we learn that his Majesty’s service at this time calls for you and the Regiment under your command from this province; and we should on this occasion be much short of the respect due to you, and which Truth demands of us, if we did not take this public method of returning you our most sincere and hearty thanks for the obliging, regular and humane conduct you have ever observed for the many years you have resided among us; during which you have always paid that just regard to the protection of Civil Rights, and the proper Discipline of the Troops under your Command, as become the prudent and experienced officer.

We heartily wish you and the gentlemen of the Corps under your Command a safe and pleasant voyage, and doubt not that in your next quarters his Majesty’s Subjects may have equal cause to bear Testimony of the uprightness of your conduct as the citizens of Quebec.
I think the Québecers were responding to rumors that Jones and the 52nd Regiment would be moved to Boston to subdue that town after the Boston Tea Party.

As it happened, the regiment was still in Canada in early September. But only a few days after the “Powder Alarm,” Gen. Thomas Gage ordered virtually all the British troops in Québec down to Boston to help bolster its defenses against the rebellious countryside.

Gage made Jones the commander of one brigade in Boston. That job brought him the rank of general in North America. He participated in the Crown’s successful campaign to retake New York in 1776.

However, at the end of that year Gen. Sir William Howe told Lord George Germain that Jones, in his fifties, was “too inactive and infirm” to take a leading role in his strategy for the next year. Maj. James Wemyss later recalled Jones as “An honest hotheaded Welchman, altogether destitute of abilities; but hospitable and friendly.”

Jones returned to Britain in late 1778, receiving the rank of lieutenant general and the honor of an audience with King George III. But his health was failing. He visited Bath and then Buxton Wells to treat “the Asthma and Rheumatism” but then developed gout. On 3 May 1779 he went out riding, again for his health, but fell off his horse and ended up unable to “turn in my Bed or be but upon the Broad of my Back or sleep but when seated in an armed chair.”

Jones had already been granted leave from the army. He returned to Wales, where he died in the middle of 1779, aged fifty-six.


Don N. Hagist said...

When Valentine wrote this letter, he was surely expecting to being going home soon, rather than going to Boston. The 52nd Regiment had been in Canada since 1765 and the men were literally packing their bags to go back to Great Britain in the summer of 1774 as part of a normal rotation. Events in Boston caused them to delay their departure, then take what was expected to be a detour; it sure didn't work out that way.

J. L. Bell said...

Thanks, Don!