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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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

“Deserted from Col. Brewer’s regiment…”

On 9 Nov 1775 and again a week later, the New-England Chronicle ran this advertisement, which offers characterizations of Continental soldiers worthy of a Smollett novel:
Deserted from Col. [Jonathan] Brewer’s regiment, and Captain Harvey’s company, one Simeon Smith of Greenfield, a joiner by trade, a thin spar’d fellow, about 5 feet 4 inches high, had on blue coat and black vest, a metal button on his hat, black long hair, black eyes, his voice in the hermaphrodite fashion, the masculine rather predominant:

Likewise one Matthias Smith, a small smart fellow, a sadler by trade, grey headed, has a younger look in his face, is apt to say I swear! I swear! and between his words will spit smart; had on a green coat, and an old red great coat; he is a right gamester, although he wears something of a sober look:

Likewise one John Daby, a long hump shoulder’d fellow, a shoemaker by trade, drawls his words, and for comfortable says comfable, had a green coat, thick leather breeches, slim legs, lost some of his fore teeth:

Also one John Guilson, a man well known in Sunderland, wears a watch, midling stature, a cooper by trade, has a black beard, wears a light colour’d coat and jacket and has a surly look:

Likewise his brother in law, Gideon Graves, about a midling stature, somewhat stocky, his looks, jestures and words generally crabbed, had a sad red coat, a pale blue vest, dark brown thickset breeches, and had a large cutlass.---

They have been apt to make excuses for their running away, and intimate they took a dislike to one Eliphalet Hastings, who was put in Ensign over them, and found much fault with the continental allowance.

Whoever will take up said deserters and secure or bring hem into the camp, shall have two dollars reward for each, and all necessary charges paid by me,
Prospect-Hill, Nov. 8, 1775.

P.S. Said deserters have been gone some time, and because I expected they would return, I have omitted advertising them.
According to Massachusetts records, John Gilson deserted on 14 July; Gideon Graves, Matthias Smith, and John Daby in early August, and Simeon Smith on 16 September. So Capt. Harvey (1723-1795) had indeed waited for months before advertising for them in November.

Not that he had to get so personal.

TOMORROW: What was the problem with Ens. Hastings?

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