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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Thursday, March 16, 2017

“The rifle company divided and executed their plan”

Here’s a description of one of the Pennsylvania riflemen’s first actions in the Revolutionary War, as described in a letter written from Cambridge on 31 July 1775.

Indeed, there’s reason to believe this letter was written from the commander-in-chief’s headquarters, where I’ll speak about the riflemen tonight, by either Joseph Reed or Thomas Mifflin.

This letter was extracted along with others in the 9 August Pennsylvania Journal:
In the evening orders were given to the York county rifle company, to march down to our advanced post on Charlestown Neck, to endeavour to surround the enemy’s advanced guard, and to bring off some prisoners; from whom we expected to learn the enemies design in throwing up the abbates on the Neck.

The rifle company divided and executed their plan in the following manner: Capt. [Michael] Dowdle with 39 men filed off to the right of Bunker’s Hill, and creeping on their hands and knees, got into the rear of the enemies centries, without being discovered.—

The other division of 40 men, under Lieut. [Henry] Miller, were equally successful in getting behind the centries on the left, and were within a few yards of joining the division on the right, when a party of regulars came down the hill to relieve their guard, and crossed our rifle men under Capt. Dowdle, as they were lying on the ground in an Indian file.

The regulars were within 20 yards of our rifle men before they saw them, and immediately fired. The rifle men returned the salute; killed several, and brought off two prisoners and their musquets, with the loss of Corporal Crouse, who is supposed to be killed as he has not been heard of since the affair.
Cpl. Walter Cruise had actually been taken alive. He was locked up in the Boston jail, then taken to Halifax when the British evacuated, and kept prisoner until early 1777. For his trouble Cruise got a promotion in the Continentals, eventually becoming a captain.

The photo above, from Waymarking, shows a plaque in York, Pennsylvania, commemorating the muster of Capt. Doudel’s rifle company before they set out for Boston.

1 comment:

Gerald said...

Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

Your article is very well done, a good read.