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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Friday, June 02, 2006

History Channel series starts with "Bloody Boston"

On Sunday, 4 June, the History Channel starts its new series The Revolution [that would be the American Revolution, naturally] with an episode titled "Boston, Bloody Boston." The network's description:

The opening episode dramatizes the controversies and conflicts leading to war, including the Stamp Act riots, the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, and Lexington and Concord. The key players of the Revolution emerge, including Samuel Adams, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, Thomas Hutchinson, as well as England's King George III and British General Thomas Gage.
That's Sunday at 10:00, right after The Sopranos. Talk about bloody. Which reminds me...

The word "bloody" was one of the dividing lines between the British military and Boston populace in 1775. To London gentlemen, it was terribly rude. To locals, it was simple description. In delivering an oration about the Boston Massacre on 6 March 1775, to an audience that included regular army officers, Dr. Joseph Warren avoided the word, though he described other forms of gore.
Hither let me call the gay companion; here let him drop a farewell tear upon that body which so late he saw vigorous and warm with social mirth; hither let me lead the tender mother to weep over her beloved son: come widowed mourner, here satiate thy grief; behold thy murdered husband gasping on the ground, and to complete the pompous show of wretchedness, bring in each hand thy infant children to bewail their father's fate. Take heed, ye orphan babes, lest, whilst your streaming eyes are fixed upon the ghastly corpse, your feet glide on the stones bespattered with your father's brains.
Yadda yadda yadda.

Samuel Adams wasn't one to compromise local standards, however. He rose at the end of Warren's speech, offered thanks on behalf of the town, and proposed that Boston commission a similar oration the next year to commemorate the...bloody Massacre.

"Fie, fie!" shouted the officers. (In army life, it appears, they were unused to hearing profanity.)

Many Bostonians heard those calls as "Fire, fire!" The crowd scrambled out of the Old South Meeting-House, running smack into a passing regiment. Only by luck did that day not turn out, well, bloody.

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