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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Saturday, August 06, 2016

Ebenezer Stevens Exhibit in New York

The New-York Historical Society is featuring what I expect is a small but thorough exhibit on Ebenezer Stevens, a lieutenant colonel in the Continental artillery.

Stevens was a Boston mechanic who participated in the Tea Party, carefully avoiding the view of his brother-in-law Alexander Hodgdon, a mate aboard one of the ships. Sometime in the next few months Stevens and John Crane, a fellow carpenter and Tea Party veteran, moved to Rhode Island—perhaps because Boston’s economy was squeezed by the Boston Port Bill, perhaps because they feared arrest.

In December the Rhode Island assembly voted to form an artillery unit. As I’ll discuss in a talk for the Newport Historical Society late this year, the commanders of that unit were men from Boston, including Crane and Stevens. They returned to Massachusetts at the start of the siege.

At first Stevens served as one of Col. Crane’s subordinate officers, but he had further ambitions. He led a separate Provisional Artillery Battalion in the Saratoga campaign. Finally, he switched to Col. John Lamb’s artillery regiment to become a lieutenant colonel.

After the war, Stevens settled in New York and raised his family there while building a mercantile business. His descendants included the novelist Edith Wharton. And his papers and souvenirs of military service went to the New-York Historical Society. This exhibit includes “Stevens’ Society of Cincinnati badge and officer’s tailcoat.”

The Ebenezer Stevens display will be up through 2 October. That means it coincides with some other exhibits of interest at the N.Y.H.S.:

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