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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Sunday, January 16, 2011

“General Lee is a perfect original”

And speaking of Gen. Charles Lee, here’s one of my favorite anecdotes about him. On 21 Oct 1775, the Rev. Jeremy Belknap dined in Cambridge at the house of Thomas Mifflin, quartermaster general for the American army. The other guests included:

It’s testament to Lee’s forceful personality that Belknap’s journal entry about the dinner was almost entirely about him:
General Lee is a perfect original, a good scholar and soldier, and an odd genius; full of fire and passion, and but little good manners; a great sloven, wretchedly profane, and a great admirer of dogs,—of which he had two at dinner with him, one of them a native of Pomerania, which I should have taken for a bear had I seen him in the woods.

A letter which he wrote General [Israel] Putnam yesterday is a copy of his odd mind. It is, as nearly as I can recollect, as follows; being a letter of introduction of one Page, a Church [of England] clergyman: —
Hobgoblin Hall, Oct. 19, 1775.

Dear General,—

Mr. Page, the bearer of this, is a Mr. Page. He has the laudable ambition of seeing the great General Putnam. I therefore desire you would array yourself in all your majesty and terrors for his reception. Your blue and gold must be mounted, your pistols stuck in your girdle; and it would not be amiss if you should black one half of your face.

I am, dear general, with fear and trembling, your humble servant,
Charles Lee.
This Page is suspected by some to be a spy, as he has a plan of the lines, and is bound to England.
And of course one general should introduce a suspected spy to another.

I wonder if this Page was the same man who preached in Newport in March 1773 and got the Rev. Ezra Stiles all gossipy. He claimed to be a chaplain to the Countess of Huntingdon, who was financing Methodism back in Britain. I can’t find a record of that minister’s first name.


Charles Bahne said...

I'm always happy to see a reference to General Lee's dogs. But Pomeranians are very small, like the picture that J.L. posted today. So I'm very puzzled by Rev. Jeremy Belknap's comment, that one of these dogs could easily have been mistaken for a bear!

J. L. Bell said...

The general’s favorite, Spado, even has his own webpage.