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, March 11, 2013

Two Lectures in One Week

Thanks to the Friends of Minute Man National Park and their guests for coming out to my talk yesterday on Gen. George Washington’s espionage efforts and surprises in the first year of the Revolutionary War. It was gratifying to see such a turnout. (Nothing I like better than helping volunteers scramble to put out more chairs.)

The question-and-answer session was thought-provoking as usual. Among the topics we discussed were:
  • Did Margaret Gage disclose her husband’s military secrets to Dr. Joseph Warren? (Check out the link to her name for my thoughts in detail.)
  • How did New Englanders react to the signs of Dr. Benjamin Church’s treachery? (Patriots were astonished, Patriots’ wives less so since he had already betrayed his wife, and Bostonians rioted when it looked like he was going to be exchanged.)
  • Did Maj. John André leave any descendants in the U.S. of A.? (He died a bachelor, and several modern authors have concluded that he was gay, so I’m guessing not.)
I’m always impressed by how well people in this area know Revolutionary history.

My next talk is this Thursday, 14 March, at Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site in Cambridge at 6:00 P.M. The topic is “George Washington, Crisis Manager: The Shaky Start-Up of the Continental Army Headquarters.”

When Washington arrived in Massachusetts in July 1775, he took on responsibility for an army that was supposed to include 20,000 men. That was larger than any group he had administered before, larger by more than an order of magnitude. He had to find the right people and the right systems to manage that force. I plan to talk about the aides Washington ended up with, the methods they used, and the lessons they learned.

To reserve a space for that lecture, email the rangers at Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters. Be aware that there’s very little public parking nearby, especially with the latest snow. (Photo above by Len Edgerly in 2006.)

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