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.

Follow by Email


Saturday, August 20, 2016

“A British grenadier made prisoner”

In his History of the Rise, Progress, and Establishment, of the Independence of the United States of America, in a section dated to late 1776, the Rev. William Gordon included this anecdote of the war:
It happened, that a garden of a widow woman, which lay between the two camps, was robbed at night. Her son, a mere boy and little of his age, asked leave for finding out and securing the pilferer, in case he should return; which being granted, he concealed himself with a gun among the weeds.

A British grenadier, a strapping highlander, came and filled his large bag; when he had it on his shoulder, the boy left his covers came softly behind him, cocked his gun, and called out to the fellow, “You are my prisoner; if you attempt to throw your bag down I will shoot you dead: go forward in that road.” The boy kept close to him, threatened, and was alway prepared to execute his threatening. Thus the boy drove him into the American camp, where he was secured.

When the grenadier was at liberty to throw down his bag, and saw who had made him prisoner, he was most horridly mortified, and exclaimed—“A British grenadier made prisoner by such a d——d brat—by such a d——d brat.”

The American officers were highly entertained with the adventure; made a collection for the boy, and gave him some pounds. He returned fully satisfied with the losses his mother had sustained.

The soldier had side arms, but they were of no use, as he could not get rid of his bag.
In a footnote Gordon added, “Mr. Vanbrugh Livingston of New York told me, he had this from major Ross of Lancaster in Pennsylvania, who saw the soldier brought in.” That was presumably James Ross (1753-1808), son of Declaration of Independence signer George Ross.


G. Thomas Fitzpatrick said...

The photo is spot-on! That is a regimental coat of the 42nd or Royal Highland Regiment of Foot, and he is wearing a grenadier cap! Arranged or happy coincidence?

J. L. Bell said...

That's a photo I took at least ten years ago at the end of a reenactment on a very hot day. That young fellow was helping his father pack up, I believe. Seeing this story from the Rev. Mr. Gordon reminded me of the image, so I dug it out. Presumably that grenadier mascot is now working in finance or something.

John L Smith Jr said...

George Ross also (may have been) a relative to Betsy Ross. ?

J. L. Bell said...

James Ross, the likely source of this story, was a first cousin of John Ross, who eloped with Betsy Griscom. As of the time of this anecdote, John had died, probably in Philadelphia's preparation for war.