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, December 27, 2011

“We was asked who would scale the walls.”

Here are two views of the action outside the city of Québec 236 years ago. The first comes from the journal of an officer identified on the manuscript as Captain Durben (Dearborn?):
26th [Dec 1775]. A return was made of the men in Coloniel [Benedict] Arnold’s Detachment who were willing to storm the town; there were only three in my company consisting of sixty three, who dissented from it.

27th. Afternoon all the troops assembled at the place of rendezvous in very high spirits, and were ready to march to the attack, when an order came from the General [Richard Montgomery] to send them back to their quarters—because he thought the night too clear and calm for the attack—though the day had been windy with snow.
Here’s Pvt. Samuel Barney’s record of the same two days in Canada:
Tuesday, December the 26th. This morning arose some better. We was asked who would scale the walls. There was (17)? Turned out.

Wednesday, December the 27th. This morning arose well and it snowed, and we had orders to go into Quebec, and all paraded, but it cleared up and we did not go.
Both those quotations appear in print for the first time in a new book called Voices from a Wilderness Expedition, by Stephen Darley. More about that book tomorrow.

(Image above of Québec on a mild day in 1768 courtesy of the Library of Congress.)


Mr Punch said...

"Captain Deabon" is Henry Dearborn, whose journal is a prominent source for the campaign.

J. L. Bell said...

True, though I’m afraid I screwed up the mystery by first typing “Deabon” instead of “Durben,” as the manuscript says.