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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Friday, June 30, 2017

Questions Raised by Lunenburg’s Cannon

Yesterday’s posting, thanks to Eileen O’Brien, quoted from the town records of Lunenburg as its citizens voted to mount a nine-pounder cannon and then offer it to the provincial army.

Of course, the town didn’t make that offer until after 13 June 1775, almost two months after the war began. The gun might not have been fully mounted and equipped until then; the effort didn’t start until March. But the records imply that Lunenburg didn’t even alert the Massachusetts Provincial Congress that it might have a cannon until June.

The man given the most responsibility for managing this cannon was Abijah Stearns (1724-1783). He was put on the committee to collect money to mount the cannon, and he was in charge of the guard that trucked it to Cambridge in the summer of 1775.

That makes sense because Stearns had been one of Lunenburg’s representatives to the first Provincial Congress in October 1774, and he became a colonel in the state militia in 1776. His gravestone, complete with rhyming verse, appears above.

During the months when Lunenburg was discussing the cannon, however, the town’s sole representative to the second and third Provincial Congresses was Dr. John Taylor. He wasn’t linked to the gun directly, but he was the medical mentor of Dr. Abraham Haskell, who was added to the cannon committee on the same day as Stearns. So Taylor probably knew about the gun.

In early June 1775, shortly before the decision to turn over the cannon, Dr. Taylor convinced the Provincial Congress that Lunenburg should be allowed to deliver half a barrel of gunpowder instead of the one or two barrels the congress had asked for. Was that arrangement related to the cannon?

As for Lunenburg’s request to the Massachusetts General Court to pay for the cannon, I haven’t found a record of that payment coming through. (The legislature did compensate the town for some costs from April 1775.) If the Continental Army had taken that nine-pounder down to New York in the spring of 1776, the state probably passed Lunenburg’s bill on to the Continental Congress.

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