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, January 27, 2021

“Severall Cannon the property of said Ingraham”

As I described yesterday, my suggestion in The Road to Concord that the people of Concord divested the Loyalist-leaning Duncan Ingraham of four cannon in October 1774 caught the eye of Robert A. Gross, dean of Concord scholars.

I based my guess on brief mentions in the Massachusetts house of representatives’ published records of Ingraham petitioning to be compensated for those cannon in 1778 and 1791. His first attempt was unsuccessful; there was a war on, and, even though Ingraham hadn’t gone over to the enemy and had even served a short time as a militia officer, people may still have had their suspicions about him.

In 1788 Ingraham worked his way into his neighbors’ graces to be elected to the Massachusetts house himself. He served three terms, forming connections that made it easier for him to lobby for his cause. In March 1792 the state granted him £58.13s.4d. for the cannon.

Behind the legislature’s officially reported petitions and votes were more documents, not published but (we hope) saved in the Massachusetts Archives. Bob Gross asked John Hannigan, curator at the state archives, what papers survived from Ingraham. It turned out his 1778 petition and supporting documents were tossed out at some point, but the 1791 request remains. And those papers offer more detail about how the merchant captain lost control of his cannon.

I’d assumed that since Duncan Ingraham moved to Concord in 1772, he brought all his property—including stray artillery—with him. Thus, the cannon must have been confiscated in Concord. But it turns out he left a lot behind in Boston. Which makes sense since the traditional use for such small, privately owned cannon was to arm merchant ships during wartime, and the closer the guns were to a port the more valuable they were—as long as Ingraham had a business agent he could trust in town.

The affidavits Ingraham collected to support his 1791 petition show that back in 1774 he still owned a house in Boston that he rented to Samuel Breck (1747-1809), a young merchant (and father of the Samuel Breck whose childhood experiences I’ve cited).

Breck’s partner in a business at the “Corner of Greene’s Wharf” was Benjamin Hammatt, Jr. (1746-1829). The partnership dissolved in 1778, and the Brecks eventually moved to Philadelphia, but Hammatt remained in Boston and was available to testify in 1791. He wrote:
severall Cannon the property of said Ingraham were conveyed away from the Stable of said House, and I fully believe by the Authority and for the Use of the State.
So Ingraham lost his cannon from a stable he’d rented out in Boston, not in Concord.

TOMORROW: Just who “conveyed away” those cannon?

[The image above is a detail of Duncan Ingraham’s gravestone.]

1 comment:

briancam said...

good detective work hope you can edit into your book