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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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Meeting the “Men of the Boston Garrison” in Lincoln Tonight

Tonight Don Hagist of British Soldiers, American Revolution will speak about “The Men of the Boston Garrison, 1775-1776” at 7:30 P.M. in Bemis Hall, 15 Bedford Road, Lincoln. This event is free and open to the public.

Don has a huge database of research on the British soldiers stationed in New England during the Revolutionary War, seeking information about those men as individuals rather than a faceless, red-coated mass. He’s found the data to upend some myths and stereotypes about what sort of men filled the British army.

Last weekend Don shared the story of Pvt. Robert Vaughn of the 52nd Regiment, starting on 3 Mar 1775:
At about 6:30 that night, two sentries from the 23rd Regiment posted at a way leading to a ferry were approached by the fully-uniformed Vaughn. Vaughn called out to some boatman and inquired for someone. The sentries told him he ought to go home; Vaughn claimed to have a pass to be out until ten o’clock, and had no cause to go until then. He claimed to be looking for a ferryman who was an acquaintance, and finally attempted to pass the sentries and go to the ferry. The sentries stopped him and after some more discourse Vaughn, apparently very drunk, “placed himself against a Post, and soon dropt down as if Dead, and did not say any thing more.” The sentries called for assistance and other soldiers took Vaughn to the officer of the guard. . . .

When the officer of the guard searched Vaughn’s coat pockets “two pair of Stockings was found, and on opening his Waistcoat to give him Air, a clean Shirt was found tied round his Waist.” The officer then searched the pockets of Vaughn’s breeches but found nothing in them.

Vaughn was tried the next day by a general court martial. Among the questions asked by the court was whether Vaughn’s necessaries had been examined recently before he was taken, to which the sergeant replied that they had; it was therefore clear that things were missing. Vaughn, in his defense, offered that he was “so much in Liquor, that he has not the least rememberance of what he was about, that he had not any intention to desert.” Hoping to win the favor of the court, he also pointed out that he had “been a long time in the Service, and at several Sieges.” . . .

The court found Vaughn guilty of desertion and sentenced him to the maximum penalty, death. Even though Vaughn was absent only for a matter of hours and was drunk when apprehended, the court no doubt looked on the methodical way in which he concealed his spare clothing, along with his attempt to get to a ferry, as proof that he was trying to leave the British garrison. Vaughn’s sentence was quickly approved, and General Thomas Gage, commanding the army in Boston, ordered on 8 March that it be “put in execution to morrow morning at seven o’Clock, by shooting the Prisoner Robert Vaughan to death by a platoon of the Regiment to which he belongs. The place of execution to be near the water below the Guard on the common.”
What happened next, and what happened after that? Check out British Soldiers, American Revolution for all that we know about Pvt. Vaughn.

(Photo above by Jerry Callaghan, courtesy of Friends of Minute Man National Park.)


Tyson said...

Speaking of lectures, will you be attending David McCullough's Boston Speaker event Wednesday night?

J. L. Bell said...

No, I was already booked for that night. I believe McCullough will be speaking about the topic of his latest book: Americans in Paris, mostly in the 1800s.