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, August 01, 2007

Chewing Upon Salt Pork, Salt Beef, and Rat

Boston selectman Timothy Newell caught up on his diary on 1 Aug 1775:

This week passed tolerably quiet. Last night at half past 12 oclock was awoke with a heavy firing from a Man of War at the Provincials on Phip’s farm [in Cambridge]. From the lines at Charlestown and Boston it appeared as if a general attack was made,—the firing continued till 6 oclock. The George Tavern [on the Neck] was burnt by the Regulars and the house at the Light house by the Provincials (about 300) who took about 30 Soldiers and a number of Carpenters. This morning half past 4 oclock awoke with cannonade and small arm from Charlestown which lasted till eleven oclock after that.

Very trying scenes.

This day was invited by two Gentlemen to dine upon rats.—The whole of this day till sunset a constant fire up Mistic River from the lines and out Centinels at Charlestown and the Provincials from Mount Prospect.
Another inhabitant of Boston who wrote of rats for dinner was Judge Peter Oliver, exercising his usual bitter wit in a 10 June letter to former governor Thomas Hutchinson:
You who riot in pleasure in London, know nothing of the distress in Boston: you can regale upon delicacies, whilst we are in the rotations of salt beef and salt pork one day, and the next, chewing upon salt pork and salt beef.

The very rats are grown so familiar that they ask you to eat them, for they say that they have ate up the sills already, and they must now go upon the clapboards. Indeed, now [and] then a hog swims across the water, and thinks it more honorable to be cut up in town, and ate at a shilling L. M. [legal money] here per pound, than wasted out of town at 4 pence pr pound.

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