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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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gen. Lee on the New England Regiments

What did Gen. Charles Lee think of the regiments he discovered in along the siege lines outside Boston? Here are his comments to Dr. Benjamin Rush on 20 July 1775:

Upon my Soul the materials here (I mean the private men) are [admira]ble—had they proper uniforms, arms, and proper officers, their zeal, youth, bodily strength, good humour [and dext]erity, must make em an invincible army.

The Rhode [Islanders] are well off in the article of officers and the young [officers of] the other Provinces are willing, and with a little time will do very well—but from the old big wigs[—libera] nos Domine [God save us]—the abilities of their Engineers are not [evi?]dant—I really believe not a single man of ’em is [capable] of constructing an Oven
And to Robert Morris on 27 July:
Our miserable defect of Engineers imposes upon me eternal work in a department to which I am rather a stranger—the undoing what we found done gives us more trouble than doing what was left undone—however we have contrived to make ourselves pretty secure—the Enemy seem to aim at the same object—Upon the whole they act and I believe will act upon the defensive unless they turn to a piratical war [i.e., Royal Navy operations] . . .

This announces at least a lowness of pulse. If I were General [George] Washington however I should jump at the offer of your third Battalion [of] Riflemen—indeed I should demand some entire Battalion from your Province—and should propose disbanding the same number of Battalions of Massachusetts—Not but the Private men are admirable and the young officers tolerable but they have in fact engaged for more than they can perform, Eight Thousand are full as much as they can compleat. Connecticut, N. Hampshire could furnish many more than is settled by the Congress.
Lee had told Morris something similar at the start of the month. But he spoke less favorably about the Connecticut troops that fall.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

To add a bit to Lee's biography -- or rather postmortem biography -- my cousins' family owns Prato Rio, the home in West Virginia where Lee retired after he was cashiered. (Or they did the last I knew.) Today it's an impressive stone house, but I understand that the original part was just a slovenly two-story shack. That part was incorporated into the present-day home. Anyway, the story is that sometimes Lee can be heard clunking around the attic, still mad at General Washington. -- Joe Bauman