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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Monday, August 20, 2012

Simeon Lyman’s Sunday Shirt—and a Crazy Man

In the summer of 1775, Simeon Lyman of Sharon, Connecticut, was part of a company sent to guard the colony’s coast. Here’s his diary entry for Sunday, 20 August:

Sunday morning we got ready for to go to meeting, and the officers came and said that we must not go to meeting without breeches, and it was so hot that I could not bear to wear them, and I did not go meeting in the forenoon. I went to see a crazy man and there was a man that he knew him, and he got mad, and I think I never saw such a sight in my life. He was chained and he would spring at us and hallo at us. There was one stout man that said that he never saw a man that he was afraid of before. In the afternoon I went to meeting.
Presumably Lyman and his friends wanted to attend meeting only in their shirts. Those garments would have been long enough for modesty—as long as there were no wind gusts. Shirts were usually people’s first and only layer of underwear.

Incidentally, Lyman writes about washing his clothes more than any other Continental soldier that I remember. Not that he does it a lot, but it matters to him more than his fellow soldiers. Or maybe, at age twenty-one, he was expecting to share his diary with his mother when he got home.


Joanq said...

I am wondering how many men went insane from chewing on lead musket balls at this time.

J. L. Bell said...

I haven't seen anyone connect lead musket balls with cognitive impairment yet. And I suspect this "crazy man" probably developed mental illness because of some intrinsic precondition like schizophrenia rather than because of an environmental factor or experience. But I wish there was more information about him, such as where he lived.