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 17, 2021

A Goat from Bunker Hill?

Because today is the anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill, I’m stepping away from the topics of medical diagnosis and post-traumatic stress in the Revolutionary War to address a different burning question:

Was there a goat at the Battle of Bunker Hill?

In the first decade of this century the Royal Welch battalion of the British army, successor to the Royal Welch Fusiliers or 23rd Regiment of the eighteenth century, had a goat mascot named William Windsor. Naturally, he has his own Wikipedia page, which explains:
The tradition of having goats in the military originated in 1775,[2] when a wild goat walked onto the battlefield in Boston[2] during the American Revolutionary War and led the Welsh regimental colours at the end of the Battle of Bunker Hill.[3][4]
Look at all those citations! Of course, most of them are to 2009 newspaper articles about William Windsor’s retirement to a zoo. Others lead to the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum.

That museum offers a P.D.F. file listing all the goat mascots, but it goes back only to 1844. Those are all the “royal goats,” however, presented to the unit by Queen Victoria and her successors. There’s good evidence that the Royal Welch Fusiliers found their own goats before that.

But as to whether the 23rd adopted a wild goat on the Charlestown battlefield, for that we need primary sources, right?

TOMORROW: Voices from 1775.

(The photograph above comes from the B.B.C.’s report on the death of a more recent Royal French battalion mascot called Lance Corporal Shenkin II.)

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