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, April 27, 2017

“I am not sure I needed this peice of forecast”

Earlier this week we followed Sarah Deming and her household out of Boston on 20 Apr 1775. British soldiers were questioning people about whether they were carrying any arms but not stopping them. The provincial forces outside town were just getting organized.

The Demings headed down the Boston Neck to Roxbury, where one of the town ministers was the Rev. William Gordon (shown here). Sarah Deming’s letter proceeds:
When we came near opposite Mr. Gordon’s house, he saw, knew, & sprung out to us. Where are ye going my friends?

I don’t know Sir, was my answer, I believe. Mr. D.g said at ye same time, to put this frighted woman (I remember he said that) into some house, I think Mr. Weld’s.

Come in, come in here, sd he, all things are in common now. I have sent Mrs. Gordon to Dedham, am moving my goods as fast as I can, but we have beds ’eno for us to night. Step out children, call’d he to the other chaise. Come Mrs D.g I’ll lift you out myself—come in from the rain. I rejoice to see you safe out. The Lord preserve the dear multitude that are left behind. Come in, God will appear for us. . . .

Mr. Gorden, whom I had never been but once in company with, (a little while at Col. [Joseph] Jacksons), behaved to me as to a friend of long acquaintance—spoke comfortably to me, but the agny of my soul, passes description—I sat down, because I could not stand
Deming valued Gordon’s support all the more because her husband (and “Jemmy Church”) had turned around and driven their carriages back into Boston to attend to property or other people.

Eventually Gordon got to the bad news.
In the evening, Mr. Gorden told me, that he expected Genl [Thomas] Gage would send out some parties of his Troops to drive off our men who by this time were assembled in great numbers in Roxbury. That it was probable they might plunder & burn as they came along. That he had been threatened with death (which I knew) for his sermon on Thanksgiving day—they would of course therefore, come to his house in search of him, & destroy all they could find.

That he tho’t it his duty to provid for the safety of us all, as well as he could, & intended on the first alarm, to take a small Trunk of mine that Mr. D. had told him was valuable, & some other matters of vallue belonging to himself, & some others of us, into his chaise, & as cariages were not to be got, he had provided a careful man to take us women under his convoy accross the fields, & some by roads wth which he was acquainted, & conduct us to Dedham; where we might all meet & consult farther for our common safety.

Two men were to sit up in his house, & two others were to be on horse back thro’ the night, to watch the enemy’s motion, & bring intelligence. He said we would commit ourselves & our cause to God, & take our rest the fore part of the night, for we might depend upon it, the Genl would not send out till the moon was up. I am not sure I needed this peice of forecast to keep us waking thro’ the whole of the night.

I saw the moon arise, & pursue her course. As soon as day light appear’d the drums began to beat; for there had been upward of fiffty men lying upon their arms [illegible] the meeting-house & school-house all the night.
That was the same alarm in Roxbury that Samuel Haws described in his diary.

As it turned out, the British army never launched a full attack on Roxbury, but Deming and her companions still thought they were too close to the war zone.

COMING UP: Catching a stage coach.

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