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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Sunday, June 23, 2019

Jacob Frost’s Compensation for “Capitivity”


Back in 2017 I looked into a sketch titled “The Young Provincial” and published in The Token, for 1830.

An edition of the collected works of Nathaniel Hawthorne (above right) attributed that sketch to him. But, as literary scholars have concluded and I confirmed, the author was really the Rev. William Bourn Oliver Peabody (above left). Producing an example of the 2016 meme “You” and “The Guy She Told You Not to Worry About.”

I also concluded that “The Young Provincial” was based on the story of Pvt. Jacob Frost, captured at the Battle of Bunker Hill, but fictionalized enough that we can’t rely on it for historical detail.

I came across another period source on Jacob Frost. After his return from captivity to Tewksbury, he petitioned the Massachusetts General Court for support. The legislature summed up his request this way:
That he was a Soldier in Capt. Walkers Company in Colo. Bridges Regiment, and was in the Battle at Bunker Hill, where he was wounded, barbarously used & taken prisoner carried to Boston, & afterwards to Halifax, from whence he made his Escape out of Goal, last Sepr.

That he lost a Gun. & other Articles amounting to £4.13/ . And praying for allowance &c.
On 28 Oct 1776 the General Court resolved to pay “Twenty Eight pounds, Eighteen shillings to Jacob Frost in full for his Wages thirteen Months and a half, while in Capitivity, and for things lost in the Battle.”

Frost had been shot in the leg, locked in the Boston jail where most of his fellow prisoners died from their wounds, moved out of the colony to Nova Scotia, and then escaped and made his way back. But he was still framing his request in terms of lost wages and property. And the legislature agreed he deserved some compensation or reward.

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