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.

Follow by Email

•••••••••••••••••

Saturday, March 23, 2019

“If one old Yankee woman can take six grenadiers…”?

In his 1864 address West Cambridge on the Nineteenth of April, 1775, Samuel Abbott Smith told the story of six regulars surrendering to “Mother Batherick” after the supply wagon they were rolling west was attacked.

Smith added:
The squib went the rounds of the English opposition papers, “If one old Yankee woman can take six grenadiers, how many soldiers will it require to conquer America?”
Within ten years, that story and that line were appearing in an American school textbook, The Franklin Fourth Reader by G. S. Hillard:
16. The drivers are said to have surrendered themselves to an old woman whom they met, whose protection they begged. Whereupon there went the rounds of the English papers belonging to the opposition this interesting sum in the Rule of Three: “If one old Yankee woman can take six grenadiers, how many soldiers will it require to conquer America?”
The line has been quoted in many histories of the battle, from Colonial Society of Massachusetts publications to Fischer’s Paul Revere’s Ride to popular compendiums published in the last few years.

But all the citations for the statements about that gibe in British newspapers appear to go back to Smith, writing almost ninety years after the event on a different continent. No author points to an actual newspaper or politician in Britain saying such a thing.

I don’t have access to a British newspaper database, but I’ve looked for such a statement quoted in American newspapers during the war and in the books and magazines scanned on Google Books. And I’m still looking.

No comments: