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, November 14, 2018

The Execution of Richard Eames

As described yesterday, on 22 Oct 1768 a general court martial in Boston convicted Pvt. Richard Eames of the 14th Regiment of desertion. A week later, the court sentenced the soldier to death.

“Some of the first ladies among us presented a petition for his pardon” on 30 October, the Boston Whigs’ “Journal of Occurrences” later reported. The town politicians managed to bring Eames’s case back to their main cause: “it was his first desertion, and in a time of peace, and which could not have happened had he been quartered agreeable to act of Parliament on Castle-Island.”

But the army command, headed by Gen. Thomas Gage, wanted to discourage other soldiers from deserting. The issue of the Boston Chronicle printed on 31 October reported that Eames
is ordered to be shot on the Common this afternoon, between the hours of 8 and 12 o’clock.—All the troops in town were ordered into the Common this morning by 6 o’clock, to attend the execution.
The regiments marched onto the Common “drumming the dead beat.” Eventually Eames was brought out “dressed in white,” accompanied by the chaplain of his regiment, reported in different sources as named Palmer or Palms.

A firing squad lined up. Eames “appeared very penitent,” the Boston News-Letter stated. The muskets fired, and Eames’s body collapsed. The Whigs wrote:
The regiment then marched round the corpes as it lay on the ground, when it was put into the coffin, which was carried by his side into the Common, and buried in a grave near where he was shot, and the church service read over him.
Some later accounts say Ames’s body was buried where it lay, but this wording suggests it was moved to the Common burying-ground.

(Local newspapers called the soldier “Ames,” but David Niescior reports that army records call him “Eames.”)

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