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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Saturday, April 04, 2009

“It came my turn to stand Sentury”

Daniel Granger (1762-1853) of Andover enlisted in the Continental Army during the winter of 1775-76, replacing his older brother, who was sick. Daniel was thirteen. In a memoir he finished five years before he died, Granger recalled the routine of his duties on Winter Hill beside the Mystic River:

The work of calling out the guard, was, that when any Guard or Detachment was wanted, a certain Number from each Company was given to the sargent major of the Regiment every Night & he went around to every Company & notified each Soldier, and the non Commissioned Officers, on what guard or duty he was so detailed, and to be ready at such an Hour, in the Morning.

The Sergent Major whose name was Bell, would be out at the time with his Rattan and rap on the Barracks & halloo, turn out quarter Guard, & he had a stantorian Voice, When each Officer & Soldier would turn out, who were so detailed for that Guard & there would be a Commissioned Officer to receive them on the parade. The Roll was called. If no one was missing: they were marched off to the place appointed to relieve the Guard of the preceeding Morning. . . .

The first time that I was detached, was on the main guard and I prepared my breakfast the Night before, so as to be ready, at the call of the little Bell, and not to get a caneing from him for negligence, as some others did, for when he began to wrap and to ball, the Soldiers would call out “there is the Bell, don’t you hear the Bell?”

It came my turn to stand Sentury, until about ten oclock at Night, and it was the most stormy and bitter cold Night that I ever felt, and I had to stand on the N.E. side of the Hill, where the Wind flew extremely cold, two long hours, altho I had a watch box to stand in yet I was obliged to go out for I could not see any one approaching when in the Box. I stood out my two hours and then was released. . . .

We were then marched to the Guard-house, where was a good fire, & as soon as I got warm, I wraped my Blanket round me, lie down on the cold wet floor, my Pack for a Pillow, and then slept, but some scuffled and wrassled all night rather than to sleep on a wet floor.
Eventually, Granger reported, “My Brother returned in good health, and I went home about the last of February 1776.”

The thumbnail above, courtesy of the Library of Congress, shows the Continental fortifications on Prospect Hill and Winter Hill.

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