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, June 29, 2017

A Cannon in Lunenburg

Eileen O’Brien kindly shared the following extracts from the records of the Lunenburg town meeting. They add Lunenburg to the list of Massachusetts towns which in the months before the Revolutionary War officially began were discussing how to arm themselves with artillery—the focus of my book, The Road to Concord. Thanks, Eileen!

In the “Town of Lunenburg Minute & Report 1763-1796” (which is unpublished) are the following entries:
At a Legal annual Town meeting on monday ye 6th of March 1775 being Legally assembled at the publick meeting house in Lunenburg

Voted to open a Subscribtion to mount the Cannon now in town

Voted & Choose Capt Aaron Willard Lt Philip Goodridge & Mr Zebulon Dodge a Committe to forward sd Subscribtion & to See to the mounting [of] sd cannon . . .

March ye 9th: the town being meet agreeable to the adjournment—

Voted that Capt Abijah Stearns & Docr. Abraham Haskel be added to the Committe that was Choosen to open a Subscribtion for mounting the Cannon and that the Sd Committe Receve any article in the Subscribtion and turn the Same to the best advantage for Sd purpos . . .

At a Legal town meeting at the meeting hous in Lunenburg on Tusday the thirteenth Day of June 1775...

Voted that whereas there is a peace of ordnance viz a cannon carrying a Shot of 9# well mounted & fit for Service now in the town of Lunenburg the property of sd town which the Said town are willing Should be made use of for the Defence of the province or otherwise as the Committe of Safty or Congress for Sd province Shall think proper, & will convey the Same to Cambridge on there Desire or order, and also that the Select men of the Sd. town give proper notice that their is Such a peice of ordinance now at Lunenburg fit for Service, to the Said Congress or Committe of Safty for Sd province

Voted that Capt. Abijah Stearns be an officer of four men for a gard & a teamster to See that the Cannon be Safely Conveyd as above prescribed

Voted that if Capn Stearns Delivers Said Cannon that he take a proper Recipt . . .

the town being [met] December ye 11th: 1775 agreeable to the adjornment

Voted that the Selectmen be a Committe to petition the General assembley for the Chargeses of procuring & mounting a Canon for the Continential army
As Eileen O’Brien noted, the men of Lunenburg were very careful to get a receipt for their property and to ask for payment. After all, cannon don’t grow on trees, and town meetings don’t like to spend money.

TOMORROW: Some observations and questions about this situation.


rfuller said...

1) Any idea where the cannon barrel came from? A nine-pounder was a big gun to use on the battlefield. The team of horses and a proper carriage for it would have been expensive and rather large. Could this have been a fortress or naval gun?

J. L. Bell said...

I have no clue about the source of the Lunenburg cannon, except that it almost certainly had come from an armed ship or a fortification protecting the coast. Almost all the cannon in Massachusetts were of that sort. The field-pieces that the Boston militia train had used (three-pounders and smaller) were rare exceptions.

The expense of making a field carriage for such a large gun was indeed considerable. Provincial Congress records indicate that it could far exceed the cost of the gun itself. So Lunenburg was taking on a big cost when it voted to prepare that cannon for use. No wonder the townsfolk wanted reimbursement!