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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Friday, June 28, 2013

The Royal Irish Artillery at the Revere House, 29 June

On Saturday, 29 June, from 1:00 to 4:00 P.M., the Paul Revere House in the North End will host Fred Lawson, a founder of the Royal Irish Artillery reenacting group. He will show off sample artillery tools and discuss the use of those weapons in battle (though the chance of setting off cannon in downtown Boston is very small).

Revere was an artillerist, eventually commanding Massachusetts’s regiment during the 1779 expedition to Maine. He was never in the Royal Irish Artillery, of course. Instead, the site reports, “The Royal Artillery fought against Paul Revere at the Siege of Castine in Penobscot Bay.”

Histories of the Royal Irish Artillery, including David Dooks’s article on the reenacting unit’s site, say that most of the unit remained in Ireland throughout the war. Seventy men were drafted (i.e., transferred) into the Royal Artillery to accompany Gen. John Burgoyne’s thrust down from Canada in 1777. Those artillerists were captured after Saratoga.

William L. Calver’s 1922 article “The British Army Button in the American Revolution” reported that a Royal Irish Artillery button had been found in Somerville, where some of the prisoners of war from Burgoyne’s army were housed. Dooks quotes a letter saying the Irish artillerists, unlike many of their fellow captives, were to be exchanged by the end of the year. So were those men among the British forces in Maine?

Wikipedia says another Royal Irish Artillery button was found at Fort George in Castine, Maine. However, Calver wrote that such a button was found at the Fort George out on the Niagara River, so that might be a false lead.

Regardless, Lawson’s demonstration of artillery tools and tactics will be technically correct. Artillerists who don’t know their craft don’t last as long as his unit has.

And there are many more summer events at the Paul Revere House. Saturdays in July will feature music, including fife and drum, dulcimer, Benjamin Franklin’s glass harmonica, and colonial dance tunes. In August, experts will demonstrate weaving, tailoring, tinsmithing, penmanship, and other useful arts.

These events are free with admission to the museum: adults for $3.50, seniors and college students $3.00, children aged 5 to 17 $1.00. (Members and North End residents get admitted free.) For more information, check the house’s website.

(For the record, the Military Campaign dates the Royal Irish Artillery button shown above to after 1785.)


Robert S. Paul said...

Were the buttons found after a reenactment?

J. L. Bell said...

A good question. Fortunately, they were both reported in that book well before the Bicentennial, so I suspect reenacting as we know it today had not taken off yet.