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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Monday, April 10, 2017

“The peopel hear gott 2 of mr Paddocks cannon one night”

Here’s another report of the removal of cannon from Charlestown and Boston in September 1774 which I came across only last week.

It’s a letter from Deborah Cushing to her husband Thomas Cushing (shown here), speaker of the Massachusetts House. He was away at the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia. She was trying to keep up a correspondence with him even though, she told him on 14 September, “you know righting is a thing I am so very avers too and considering the Important Buisness you are gon upon.”

On 19 September, Deborah Cushing reported:
The fleet and army are kept in perpettual fears which that may thank themselves for thair takeing the cannon and forttifiing the neck with thair takeing the powder and so forth [on 1 September] has made our peopel keep a good look out and in many instanses have ben too sharp for them

the charlstown peopel caryed thare cannon to Watertown or Waltham [starting on 7 September]

the peopel hear gott 2 of mr [Adino] Paddocks cannon one night [14 September] which ocasined the other two to be put under gard but in a night or two [16 September] our peopel got the other too which made the officers mad saying thay belived the Devil had got them away for it was not half an hour ago thay had thair hands on them Desired the solders to go into the common and take care of thair one for the people were so Devilish slie that they would have tharn before morning
This letter doesn’t offer reliable new information on the disappearance of all those guns, but it’s significant in a couple of ways. It shows how Bostonians were talking about them—even Deborah Cushing, who devoted most of her letters to matters of etiquette and piety. In fact, she’s the first woman I’ve found commenting on the stolen cannon.

In addition, Cushing’s letter shows that Massachusetts’s Continental Congress delegation learned about those missing cannon almost immediately. They knew that people back home were taking control of military resources.

Deborah Cushing concluded this part of her letter by writing, “I wish the peopel may be composed for I think we may due without fighting if thay would Exercise a littel patiance and self denial.” At the time, most people in New England probably shared her hope for a peaceful solution. But in case that didn’t happen, it never hurt to have cannon.

When this letter was published in The Historical Magazine in 1862, the spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure were heavily cleaned up. So last week I went to the Massachusetts Historical Society to look at the original. It can also be viewed online.

TOMORROW: Cushing comments on Phillis Wheatley.

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