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, September 25, 2020

“Less fortunate in my Military reputation than some others”

As I recounted yesterday, Gen. George Washington dismissed Maj. Scarborough Gridley from the Continental Army on 24 Sept 1775.

Dealing with the major’s father, Col. Richard Gridley, was harder. It took a lot of maneuvering by the commander-in-chief, Continental Congress delegates, and the young man Washington wanted in Gridley’s place, Henry Knox.

In November, Col. Gridley was kicked upstairs to the post of Chief Engineer of the Continental Army. When Washington moved south to New York in April 1776, he left the colonel behind in the “Eastern Department,” fortifying Boston harbor.

What happened to Scarborough Gridley? In 1781, he petitioned the Massachusetts General Court for back pay, evidently for service in Gen. John Sullivan’s push against the British in Newport in 1778. That April, the state legislature resolved to pay Gridley “forty five Pounds New England” and asked Gov. John Hancock to write to Gen. Washington asking what rank Gridley had held in the Continental Army and “from whence he is to receive his pay.”

Nothing happened. On 21 Feb 1784 Gridley penned a letter to Elbridge Gerry, one of Massachusetts’s delegates to the Confederation Congress. In it he stated:
At the evacuation of the Town of Boston by the British troops my Father was stationed here by his Excellency General Washington for the purpose of Fortifying the Town and Harbour; the Extension of the Works made it necessary that he should have an Assistant; he appointed me and reported the appointment to His Excellency who confirmed it and order’d me pay accordingly—

I continued in service and received pay as long as any General Officer remained to grant me Warrants—My last warrant for June & July 1779 for 40 dollrs. pay and three rations subsistance was given by General [Horatio] Gates a[t] Providence: since which I have received neither pay nor Subsistance excepting one ration of Provisions to January 1781—

When Military opperations commenced at Rhode Island I repaired to General Sullivans Camp, and on my return to the works in Boston, received the Public thanks of the General for my services on that Expedition. . . .

Notwithstanding my repeated and assiduous application Governor Hancock has not written on the subject. At some times he informed me that he had written at others that it had escaped his memory. . . . that I should be kept from the reward given in common to others by the Neglect of an individual (however high in Office) is humiliating—

If in the early days of the War I have been less fortunate in my Military reputation than some others, I hope it will not be esteemed presumption in me to believe that my subsequent services and the Assiduity with which I have executed every order I have received have entirely effaced every disadvantageous impression on my Character.
That last paragraph was clearly a reference to how Gridley had been cashiered from the army for his behavior during Bunker Hill.

Scar Gridley closed by asking Gerry to request a certificate of his service from Gen. Washington so he could “settle my accounts with the publick and the State.”

TOMORROW: Oh, this will go well.

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