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, October 21, 2020

Investigating the Jason Russell House

The Arlington Historical Society just provided an interim report on various investigations into one of its historic properties, the Jason Russell House.

This building was the focus of the deadliest skirmish on 19 Apr 1775. Russell and eleven militiamen, mostly from Danvers, were killed in and around the house after being caught by a flanking guard of regulars protecting the main British column.

Joel Bohy has assembled a team to study the bullet holes preserved in the fabric of the house. They found more holes than had been previously identified, some at trajectories indicating they were ”fired through the [upper] windows from the street below, either as a preventative measure or to target a person shooting out of them.”

The dispatch describes how those bullet holes are being studied:
The team examined every hole and strike and measured with calipers to determine the caliber, which can often determine whether the projectile was discharged by a British soldier or provincial. They used metal detectors and a video scope to investigate within the walls. Scott swabbed each hole to detect for lead residue, and the team used ballistics rods and laser lights to determine the trajectory of each musket ball.
Other ongoing investigations include 3-D laser mapping of the building and grounds, a scan of the grounds by ground-penetrating radar, and even experiments firing flintlock muskets at targets built to mimic the house’s walls.

In addition, the society is still hunting for the house’s bullet-riddled door, which the Russell family sold to a collector in the late 1800s.

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