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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Sunday, February 09, 2014

“A sad tale to relate”

Yesterday I noted a mistake I made in Reporting the Revolutionary War, saying that John Derby took the 28 Apr 1775 issue of the Salem Gazette to London to convince folks there that a war had broken out in New England.

Derby left Salem on 28 April, so he could have carried a copy of that day’s Salem Gazette—if there were one. But no copy of that issue exists.

It looks like printer Ezekiel Russell closed his newspaper only one issue into the war. He might have worried about economic disruptions and lack of supplies. He might have lost patronage; in Boston, friends of the royal government had paid him to put out the Censor, so folks in Salem could have seen him as a “Tory.”

But Russell was really an opportunist. He reissued his report on the first day of fighting as a broadside titled “A Bloody Butchery by the British Troops.” At the bottom was “A Funeral Elegy to the Imortal Memory” of the fallen militiamen, beginning:
Aid me ye nine! my muse assist,
A sad tale to relate,
When such a number of brave men
Met their unhappy fate.
At Lexington they met their foe
Completely all equip’d,
Their guns and swords made glit’ring show,
But their base scheme was nipp’d.
(Complete transcription of a later, inexact reprint here.)

TOMORROW: Who wrote that elegy?


Roxane said...

Interesting to learn the time it took for news to travel across the ocean in 1775. I was unable to hear your talk; I live in New York. (Please provide link to video if you can!). I was confused by the dates provided in this post and your previous as to how long it took Derby to get the colonialists' account of Lexington/Concord to London. Did he succeed in besting the Brits' time of 47 days?

J. L. Bell said...

I didn't tell the whole story on the blog this month, but John Derby did indeed cross the Atlantic much faster than the usual 47 days. He arrived in London on the evening of 28 May 1775, so his journey took only a month.