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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Saturday, April 30, 2022

“Underrepresented Voices” Conference in Boston, 14–16 July

The Massachusetts Historical Society has announced details of its upcoming conference on “Underrepresented Voices of the American Revolution,” to take place over three days from 14 to 16 July.

The conference introduction says:
In recent decades, scholars have unearthed and revived stories of a diverse and wide-ranging cast of characters who lived through America’s political formation. This much-needed corrective has unraveled a traditional narrative of wealthy white male revolutionaries rebelling against a white male dominated imperial government.

The lead up to the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence offers an opportunity to highlight and share the latest scholarship on the topic of underrepresented voices of the American Revolution whether that be from the perspective of Native Americans, women, African Americans, loyalists, ethnic and religious minorities, children, or neutrals in a global war that put the question of representation at its core. This conference will bring together scholars to explore the broad themes associated with historic individuals or groups not traditionally considered in discussing the American Revolutionary Era.
The program for Thursday, 14 July, will take place at the M.H.S., starting in the afternoon. There will be one panel with two papers, a reception, and finally keynote remarks by Profs. Colin Calloway, Kathleen DuVal, and Chernoh Sesay. This part of the conference is free to all who register.

On Friday, 15 July, the action will move to Sargent Hall at Suffolk University. This full day’s program consists of four sessions, each with two panels featuring two to four academic papers and discussion (P.D.F. download of the full schedule). Registration for both Thursday and Friday costs $30.

Finally, on 16 July, K-12 teachers can participate in a full-day workshop led by Prof. Chernoh Sesay, Prof. (and former schoolteacher) G. Patrick O’Brien, master teachers, and M.H.S. education staff. The goals will be to “identify important takeaways from the conference, reflect on the accessibility of current scholarship for the K-12 classroom, and discuss best practices for introducing the major themes of the conference to our students.” Participants will have a chance to develop their own instructional materials in collaboration with scholars and fellow educators. This day also costs $30.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Two Revolutionary Conferences in Central New York

Two Revolutionary history conferences are coming up in central New York this spring, both put together by experienced organizers and featuring expert speakers.

Saturday, 14 May, 9:00 A.M.–4:00 P.M.
Women in War: The Revolutionary Experience
Saratoga Town Hall, 12 Spring Street, Schuylerville

The presentations at this symposium will be:
  • Dr. Holly Mayer, Professor Emerita at Duquesne University, “Women Warriors”
  • Todd Braisted, “The Loyalist Women”
  • Jenna Schnitzer, “The Army’s Essential Support—‘Camp Followers’”
  • Jonathon House, “The Baroness Frederika Riedesel, a Revolutionary Sojourn and the Marshall House, Saratoga”
  • Lois Huey, “Molly Brant, Native American Leader in Colonial America”
This event will benefit the historic Marshall House in Schuylerville, New York. The Saratoga County 250th American Revolution Commission and the Saratoga County History Center are co-sponsors.

Attendees must register in advance. Registration is $50 per person and includes a luncheon and refreshments. Attendees can visit the Marshall House following the event. To register, follow this link.

Thursday through Sunday, 9–12 June
2022 American Revolution Conference in the Mohawk Valley
Fulton-Montgomery Community College, Johnstown

The Fort Plain Museum’s annual conference will start with an optional “Drums Along the Mohawk” bus tour of the region on 9 June, including visits to the Fort Plain Museum, Fort Stanwix National Monument, Oriskany Battlefield, and more.

Presentations are scheduled to begin on Friday afternoon, with a speaker schedule too long and packed to reproduce entirely here. Topics include the war on the New York frontier, Samuel Adams and John Hancock, the Valley Forge winter, the southern campaigns to Yorktown, Washington and the “Newburgh conspiracy,” Continental officers’ ideas of honor, and an American privateer’s attack on British slaving vessels.

For the full schedule, visit this page (and check back since the lineup may change).

Thursday, April 28, 2022

“Styling: Historic Hair” at Historic Deerfield, 29 Apr.

Historic Deerfield is hosting a symposium on historic hairdressing and wigs tomorrow, and it’s still possible to register for online viewing by 1:00 P.M. today.

“Styling: Historic Hair and Beauty Practices” explores the visual and material culture of hairdressing in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Atlantic World.

At the start of that period, influential men like the Rev. Increase Mather and Samuel Pepys expressed misgivings about the new fashion for wigs. Eventually wigs for men became de rigueur, a style we have a hard time understanding now. But maybe this one-day forum can help.

The event description says:
For the fashionable, interest in hair and hairdressing became as integral as clothing to the creation of a cosmopolitan appearance. The resulting confections reached new literal and figurative heights in the quest for distinction on both sides of the Atlantic.

Influences on hair and head dressing came from many sources. France was an acknowledged leader in all things à la mode, but other countries also contributed styles, materials, talent, and inspiration to dress the head. As important as appearance was, the question of who had access to the latest news and services of hairdressers and fashion merchants, and who did not, is also noteworthy. By the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, people traditionally marginalized from the dominant fashion conversations nonetheless expressed themselves through hair and inspired others in equally inventive ways.
The presenters are:
  • Debbie Turpin, Colonial Williamsburg, “18th Century Wig-Making, From Shaven Head to Style.”
  • Philippe Halbert, Yale University, “War Paint and Rouge: Keeping up Appearances in New France.”
  • Ned Lazaro, Historic Deerfield, “‘This famous roll’: New England’s Hairstories.”
  • Jonathan Michael Square, Parsons School of Design, “Hair, Headwrapping, and Black Beauty Culture.”
  • Kimberly Chrisman Campbell, fashion historian, “Poufs and Politics: Women, Hair, and Power in the Reign of Louis XVI.”
For the schedule and registration information, go to this webpage by 1:00 P.M. today

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

“Money to pay said Company for said service”

Yesterday we reached the moment in Westborough’s town meeting on 30 Dec 1774 when the town voted not to pay its minute men anything extra.

Someone at the meeting then asked “if the Town expected any thing more of the Minit men than they did of other men.” The clerk’s notes don’t say who, but I can’t help but imagine it was Edmund Brigham or some other officer of the minute company, possibly working hard to keep his temper. After all, those men had already been training for months. Other towns had chosen to pay for extra training.

But that question, too, “past in ye negative.” Westborough officially decided to make no distinction between the minute company and its other militia companies aside from the name that the minute men had apparently taken for themselves.

Another town meeting stretched over 7 and 8 Feb 1775. Some citizens again brought up the question of special duties or pay for Westborough’s minute men. Ultimately the town “Voted at that all the Soldiers both minit men and others Train once a Fortnit four hours in a Day without pay.” This was a significant increase from the usual pace of four militia training days a year, but the majority of the town still wouldn’t expend any extra money or grant the minute company special status.

Someone—again we don’t know who—asked the town to reconsider that vote. The attendees agreed and went home for the night. Perhaps they agreed in order to go home for the night.

Official town records don’t describe any other meeting until March. However, on 20 Feb the Rev. Ebenezer Parkman wrote in his diary about an imminent “Town Meeting on many Accounts, viz. whether they shall pay Minute Men; Contribution to Relief of Boston etc.” Charity for Boston’s poor was another financial question.

Parkman attended what he called a “Town Meeting and Training” the following afternoon. He spoke in favor of charity. He also told his congregants “exerting themselves to obtain Military skill, Arms, Ammunition etc., to improve their Time Well when they have T[own]. Meetings and Trainings — to endeavour after Unity and Harmony (for I perceived there were Jarrs).” One of Samuel Johnson’s definitions for the word “jar” was “Clash; discord; debate.”

That public discussion never went on the records as an official town meeting. There’s still no record of Westborough deciding to treat the minute company differently. People appear to have tried to get along.

On 6 March the town had its traditional big meeting of the year, electing officials and handling other annual business. That long gathering decided to make the men training on the town’s cannon part of the minute company.

Then war broke out on 19 April. Three Westborough militia companies mobilized, as David A. Nourse’s thorough research has shown. Some of those men signed on to serve for the rest of the year as part of the Massachusetts army, then the Continental Army. Others turned out for later militia duty on behalf of the state.

On 27 November, Capt. Brigham tried one more time. He submitted a document to the Westborough selectmen that said:

The following is an Exact Acct. [of] what Service the Minute company performd in the training field according to the vote of the Town pass’d sometime in the last winter, and desire you wd. give me an order on the treasurer for the money to pay said Company for said service.
The document then listed forty-six men. Most were labeled as having served seven days, a couple six or five.

Notably, Westborough had just convened another town meeting on 13 November to discuss town bills, including extra pay for the Rev. Mr. Parkman, but pay for militia training didn’t come up.

At the big town meeting on 4 Mar 1776, the town elected Edmund Brigham as a constable. One of his new duties was to collect taxes. There was still no official mention of pay for his company.

However, if we look on the back of Brigham’s request for training pay, there’s a date of 16 Mar 1776 and the signatures of all the men named on the front, attesting that they had indeed received pay. Somehow, fourteen months after the issue was first raised, despite two town meetings voting to the contrary and no recorded vote in favor, Westborough officials came up with money for the minute men.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

“To yncorage ye minit men so called”

In the fall of 1774, as I described yesterday, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress invited towns to form militia companies of “fifty privates, at the least, who shall equip and hold themselves in readiness, on the shortest notice.”

These special companies became known as “minute companies” or, alliteratively, “minute men.”

Not every town acted on the congress’s suggestion, however. For example, the smallish town of Lexington never formed a minute company. Technically, none of the militiamen on Lexington common during the first skirmish of the war were minute men.

Towns also differed in how they defined their minute men. Braintree, a larger town, fielded several companies of militia. Its town meeting decided to pay all members of the militia the same hourly rate for extra drills, but it asked ordinary companies to train for three hours every week and the minute company to train for four hours. Everyone was doing more military training that winter.

For Westborough we have two sources of information now handily digitized and on the internet. One is the handwritten record of the town meetings. The other is the diary of the town’s longtime minister, the Rev. Ebenezer Parkman.

As early as June 13, Westborough started to beef up its military defenses, approving the purchase of a cannon and the equipment to use it. In September, men from the town participated in closing Worcester County’s court and in the county convention that issued the first call for minute companies. But the meeting records don’t mention starting a minute company that summer or fall.

On 28 November, the Rev. Mr. Parkman wrote that there was a “Training of the Company of Minute Men, and Capt. [Seth] Morse’s Company.” Other entries identified the captain of the minute company as Edmund Brigham, who at the time was involved in a simmering dispute with the minister over a church matter. Evidently Brigham and his men had decided on their own to start doing more drills.

The Parkman diary mentions other groups, including “two artillery companys” active by August and “the (more Elderly) Alarm Men.” The alarm list was a standard part of the militia system, composed of men over age fifty and generally assigned lighter duties close to home.

Parkman also noted “a Number of Boys under their Capt. Moses Warrin.” Moses Warren (1760-1851) was only fourteen and not yet eligible to serve in the militia. His gang was probably just playing at being a military company, learning the drill to show off.

The first time the Westborough town records explicitly mention the minute company came on December 30. A town meeting on that date addressed the question:
To see if ye Town will grant any money to yncorage ye minit men so called to Train & Exercise themselves so that they may be fit & Quallified for Public Service if called there unto.
Everyone understood that “money to yncorage ye minit men” meant paying those men for their extra training. How Westborough defined its minute company thus came down to the issue that always roils town meetings—money.

The records show that proposal “past in the Negative”—i.e., the voters of Westborough chose not to pay the town’s minute men.

TOMORROW: Reconsidering.

Monday, April 25, 2022

“To be ready to act at a minute’s warning”

The minute man (or minuteman) has become an icon of the American Revolution, especially in New England.

Indeed, the term was invented just before the outbreak of war as a response to the population’s growing rift with the royal government.

The concept had deeper roots. As John R. Galvin showed in The Minute Men, the Massachusetts militia system had a tradition of developing companies of men who could turn out quickly during emergencies, fully equipped and well trained. A 1645 regulation told company commanders to choose thirty out of a hundred men “who shall be ready at half an hour’s warning.”

Other seventeenth-century wartime laws spoke of “a day’s warning” and “an hour’s warning,” based on the proximity of the danger. In 1675, as the conflict later named King Philip’s War broke out, a document spoke of militiamen “ready to march on a moment’s warning.”

In August 1774 the Massachusetts Government Act arrived from London, rewriting the colony’s constitution from above. This provoked widespread resistance in the countryside, with crowds forcing magistrates not to open the courts and driving royal appointees away. The militancy grew worse after the “Powder Alarm” of 1–2 September.

In those months, Worcester County towns were holding a series of conventions. The 21 September gathering issued a call for towns to reorganize their militia units to remove officers who accepted the Massachusetts Government Act. Another part of that call proposed that “each town of the county...enlist one third of the men of their respective towns, between sixteen and sixty years of age, to be ready to act at a minute’s warning.”

Within three weeks, on 5 October, the Boston merchant John Andrews told a relative in Philadelphia that Worcester County towns had “incorporated seven regiments” who “turn out twice a week to perfect themselves in the military art—which are call’d minute men, i.e., to be ready at a minute’s warning with a fortnight’s provision, and ammunition and arms.”

That phrasing shows that Andrews’s contemporaries were starting to use the term “minute men,” but it was still new enough to need explaining.

On 7 October, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress convened as a shadow legislature stepping into the vacuum of government outside Boston. About three weeks later that body started to organize a military force under its committee of safety. Among the steps the congress recommended to town militia companies was that officers
enlist one quarter, at the least, of the number of the respective companies, and form them into companies of fifty privates, at the least, who shall equip and hold themselves in readiness, on the shortest notice from the said committee of safety, to march to the place of rendezvous.
That official act didn’t specify a “minute,” but by November the congress was using the term “minute men” for these companies.

Nonetheless, the provincial congress issued its resolutions as recommendations, not requirements. The authority of town governments was firmer than its own, and this was supposed to be a bottoms-up rebuilding of a legitimate government. Thus, it was up to each town to decide whether to establish minute companies and how to define them.

TOMORROW: How that played out in Westborough.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Missing Militia Companies from Westborough

In 1975, during the Bicentennial, the town of Westborough dedicated a swath of land next to its reservoir, Sandra Pond, as Minuteman Park.

The town installed a bronze marker listing the names of all the members of its minute company from 1775. Those names appear to have come from the first part of The History of Westborough, Massachusetts, written by the Rev. Heman Packard DeForest and published in 1891.

More recently, Westborough resident David A. Nourse noticed some problems with that marker.

There were small errors, such as naming the captain of the minuteman company as Edward Brigham instead of (as the name appears in the local history, the original muster roll, and other documents) Edmund Brigham. Nourse spotted several other names changed to more common present-day spellings, one man with the wrong rank, and what looks like a last-minute substitute left off entirely.

But the bigger problem, Nourse felt, was that the marker commemorated only one company of local men who responded to the Lexington Alarm. Westborough had three militia companies, and all three submitted rolls to the Massachusetts government listing men who had marched on 19 April. In all there were 101 militiamen, and the plaque named only 46.

In April 2021, Nourse submitted a proposal to the Westborough select board proposing an additional plaque listing all 101 men, making sure the names appeared as they did in the muster rolls.

Nourse’s proposal on “Westborough’s Two Forgotten Revolutionary War Militia Companies” came with an impressive amount of historical documentation, including images of the three muster rolls from the state archives submitted by Brigham, Capt. Seth Morse, and Capt. Joseph Baker.

Nourse also found that DeForest’s book hadn’t transcribed any of those muster rolls but rather Brigham’s November 1775 record of distributing pay for five to seven days of training in the preceding winter. This sheet of paper includes every man’s signature as he received his pay—a striking historical record but not exactly the same thing as an April 1775 muster roll.

The select board referred the question of a new monument to the town’s Trustees of Soldiers’ Memorials. Before making any rash expenditures, they sought to have Nourse’s research vetted. That’s when a new corps entered the action: bloggers.

Anthony Vaver is both Westborough’s Local History Librarian and the creator of the Early American Crime site. On behalf of the town, he contacted me and Alexander Cain, who shares his Revolutionary research at Historical Nerdery. Vaver told me:
the Trustees are particularly interested in learning the difference between a “Minuteman” vs. a “Militiaman,” if indeed there is one. The park where the memorial sits is called Minuteman Park, and the memorial, of course, is meant to honor that name. We want to make sure that the definitions we are using are commonly, if not universally, accepted.
It turned out that Westborough had debated that very question in 1774 and 1775.

TOMORROW: The invention of the minutemen.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

“I suppose they have all read it years ago”

In defending himself against the Crown’s charge of seditious libel in July 1777, the Rev. John Horne wanted to show it was reasonable of him to write two years before that Americans had been “inhumanly murdered by the king’s troops at Lexington and Concord.”

As a radical political activist, Horne probably also wanted to get the evidence behind that belief out to the public.

The Crown authorities, meanwhile, wanted to squelch Horne and his message.

One of Horne’s sources was a deposition signed in April 1775 by Lt. Edward Thoroton Gould, then a wounded prisoner in American hands. The trial record shows Horne’s struggle to get Gould’s words out in court over the obstacles of his prosecutor, Attorney General Edward Thurlow (shown here), and the presiding judge, Lord Chief Justice Mansfield.

Horne’s questioning of Gould continued like this:
I shall ask you no questions that you dislike; give me a hint if there is any one you wish to decline—Did you make any affidavit?

Yes, I did.

Will you please to read that? [Giving the witness the Public Advertiser, May 31, 1775.] I believe that to be the exact substance of the affidavit that I made.

Lord Mansfield. It cannot be read without the Attorney-General consents to it.

Attorney General. I don’t consent.

Lord Mansfield. If he consents to it, I have no objection.

Mr. Horne. May I give it to the jury?

Lord Mansfield. No; I suppose they have all read it years ago.

Mr. Horne. My lord, that is my misfortune that it is so long ago. [Mr. Horne begins to read it.]

Lord Mansfield. You must not read it.

Mr. Home. I have proved the publication by the printer.

Lord Mansfield. It will have a different consequence, if you only mean to prove that there was such an affidavit published. If you mean to make that use of it, then you may produce the affidavit, or have it read.—If you mean to prove the contents of it, they must come from the witness, and then you will have a right to have it read.

Mr. Horne. I mean both to prove the contents true, and the publication of the affidavit: that indeed, I have already proved.

Lord Mansfield. Then you may read the affidavit, if you make use of the publication of it.

Mr. Horne. I make use of both; that it was so published, and charged, and that it is true. “The Public Advertiser, Wednesday, May 31st, 1775.” [The affidavit read.]
Gould’s deposition still wasn’t included in the published trial record.

The former lieutenant agreed that the published text was accurate, but he reminded the jury he had said those things “at the time I was wounded and taken prisoner.”

Gould then went on to testify about how he and other officers marching to Lexington could see and hear the Middlesex County militia mobilizing around them. He talked about hearing “alarm guns,” even “cannon.” (“Did you say cannon?” asked Lord Mansfield.)

A juryman asked for clarification: “Pray who did the alarm guns belong to; to the Americans or our corps?” Gould affirmed those were signals from the provincials to each other.

The testimony that Horne elicited thus portrayed the Massachusetts populace as turning out for a military fight. He decided not to call Lord Percy, then in the courtroom, to add any details and rested his case.

Attorney General Thurlow then delivered a long legal argument, calling no witnesses. Chief Justice Mansfield summed up the case, particularly citing Gould’s testimony.

The jury took ninety minutes to decide the Rev. John Horne was guilty of seditious libel. He spent the next year in prison.

Friday, April 22, 2022

“Were you present at Lexington and Concord?”

The Rev. John Horne (later John Horne Tooke) was one of Britain’s political radicals in the 1770s.

He started the decade as a minister allied with John Wilkes. They quarreled, and he resigned his pulpit in order to study law (though eventually the bar wouldn’t accept him on the excuse that he had taken holy orders).

When London received the first word of the Revolutionary War breaking out, Horne immediately criticized the royal government. He even announced that he was raising money for the families of Americans “murdered by the king’s troops at Lexington and Concord.” He had fully adopted the version of the first day of the war propagated by the Massachusetts Provincial Congress.

The Crown brought Horne into court on the charge of seditious libel for using the word “murdered.” On 4 July 1777, coincidentally one year after the Declaration of Independence, he went on trial in London with Lord Chief Justice Mansfield presiding. A detailed record of the trial was made and published many times since.

Horne tried to call Lord George Germain, the Secretary of State, and Gen. Thomas Gage as witnesses. When the judges unsurprisingly didn’t allow that, he called Edward Thornton Gould, a former lieutenant in the 4th Regiment.

That young, wealthy officer had been wounded and captured in the battle. While in American hands, Gould signed a deposition that I quoted way back here.

In describing the skirmish at Lexington, Gould said, “which party fired first I can not exactly say.” About Concord he stated, “the provincials came down upon us, upon which we engaged and gave the first fire.” While this was far from supporting the charge of “murdering,” it differed from most army officers and Gen. Gage’s official report in not blaming the provincials for firing first.

At the trial, Horne, representing himself, questioned Gould this way:
Did you in the year 1775 serve in a regiment of foot belonging to his majesty?

I did.

Were you present at Lexington and Concord on the 19th of April 1775?

I was.

How came you to be there?

As a subaltern officer, ordered there.

Ordered by whom?

General Gage.

At what time did you receive those orders?

I don’t recollect immediately the time.

Was it on the 19th, 18th, or 17th of April?

I believe it was on the 18th in the evening.

Did you receive them personally from general Gage?

No such thing.

Whom then?

From the adjutant of the regiment.

When did you set out from Boston for Lexington?

I cannot exactly say the time in the morning, but it was very early, two or three o’clock.

That is in the night in April, was it dark?

It was.

Did you march with drums beating?

No, we did not.

Did you march as silently as you could?

There were not any particular orders given for silence.

Was it observed?

No, it was not observed, not particularly by me.

Were you taken prisoner at Lexington or Concord, or either of them?

At the place called Monottama, in my return from Lexington.
Then Horne turned to introducing the testimony that Gould had sworn to when he was a wounded prisoner.

TOMORROW: Getting testimony on the record.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

George on William Eustis in Roxbury, 23 Apr.

At the start of 1775, William Eustis was a twenty-one-year-old Harvard College graduate studying medicine with Dr. Joseph Warren.

The Rev. Dr. G. W. Porter’s 1887 profile of Eustis for the Lexington Historical Society relates his experiences at the start of the war:
On the 19th of April, 1775, while Mr. Eustis was a student with General Warren, an express arrived in Boston. The general mounted his horse, called Mr. Eustis, and said: “I am going to Lexington. You go round and take care of the patients.”

In making the visits, the youthful physician found everything in confusion. The patriots were continually coming to the house of Dr. Warren for news; and his own mind became so inspired with patriotic ardor that, having discharged his duties to the sick, he felt that his place was at the scene of conflict.

At mid-day… [Moses] Gill conveyed him to Lexington and Concord. The next day, Mr. Eustis returned to Cambridge. The American troops were fast assembling. The time of general and combined resistance to armed aggression had come. Regiments were formed. General Warren said to his youthful and patriotic pupil, “You must be surgeon of one of these regiments.”

His answer was: “I am too young. I expect that such men as you and Dr. [Benjamin] Church will be surgeons, and that we shall be mates [i.e., assistants].”

“We have more important affairs to attend to,” said the general; “and you have seen more practice than most of these gentlemen from the country.” Accordingly, Mr. Eustis was made surgeon.
William Eustis became the surgeon of Col. Richard Gridley’s artillery regiment, later Col. Henry Knox’s. He practiced medicine after the war but soon went into politics, serving in the U.S. House, in President James Madison’s cabinet, as minister to Holland, and for the last two years of his life as governor of Massachusetts.

Tamsen Evans George has just published a biography of the doctor and statesman, Allegiance: The Life and Times of William Eustis. On Saturday, 23 April, she will sell and sign copies of that book at the Shirley-Eustis House, the Roxbury mansion that Eustis owned from 1819 until his death in 1825. The event description says:
Eustis is a fascinating figure, he was both political insider—he knew everyone, and outsider—a Republican in Federalist Massachusetts. His personal charm, discretion and devotion to friends brought him notable, albeit thankless roles in a national government and eventually propelled him to the office of Governor of Massachusetts. Drawing extensively from his correspondence, Ms. George provides an insider’s view of some of the most momentous events in the founding of the United States.
This event is scheduled to start at 11:00 A.M. It will take place in the carriage house at 17 Rockford Street if it’s warm, in the mansion otherwise. The event is free, but seating is limited. To reserve a space, register through this link or call 617-442-2275. Masks are encouraged; after all, one wouldn’t want to catch a preventable disease at an event about a doctor.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

The First British Army Casualty of the Revolutionary War

In describing the skirmish at Lexington, the senior British officer on the scene, Maj. John Pitcairn of the Marines, wrote:
…some of the rebels who had jumped over the wall fired four or five shots at the soldiers, which wounded a man of the Tenth and my horse was wounded in two places, from some quarter or other, and at the same time several shots were fired from a meeting house on our left.
Reporting that the provincials had shot “a man of the Tenth” was significant for Pitcairn and army commander Gen. Thomas Gage. They wanted to portray the locals as starting the fight. But British officers typically didn’t care much about enlisted men as individuals. Maj. Pitcairn gave that wounded private about as much space as his horse.

Not until 1782, when a younger British army officer named Jeremy Lister wrote out his memoirs of army life, did our sources record the name of the wounded man—the first British casualty of the Revolutionary War.

Back in 1775 Lister was an ensign, the lowest-ranking officer, in the 10th Regiment of Foot. He volunteered to go with that regiment’s light infantry company on the 18–19 April expedition to Concord. That company became part of the vanguard of the British column. As they passed through the center of Lexington, they found a large portion of the town’s militiamen lined up on their common with firearms.

Ens. Lister’s account of that event was:
we saw one of their Compys. drawn up in regular order Major Pitcairn of the Marines second in Command call’d to them to disperce, but their not seeming willing he desired us to mind our space which we did when they gave us a fire then run of to get behind a wall.

we had one man wounded of our Compy in the Leg his Name was Johnson also Major Pitcairns Horse was shot in the Flank we return’d their Salute, and before we proceeded on our March from Lexington I believe we Kill’d and Wounded either 7 or 8 Men.
One curiosity about Lister’s report is that the 10th Regiment’s light infantry company didn’t have anyone named Johnson on its muster roll for 19 Apr 1775. So did Lister just make up that name seven years later, or assign a common name to a soldier he dimly remembered?

In Paul Revere’s Ride, David Hackett Fischer noted that muster rolls show a private named Thomas Johnson transferred into the light infantry company from another part of the 10th Regiment just five days after that battle. Was that date just an artifact of the paperwork, and Pvt. Thomas Johnson was already with the company on the 19th? That seems like the most likely explanation for Lister’s statement, though it would be nice if the evidence were more definite.

Whatever injury Johnson sustained, it didn’t stop him from proceeding with the column all the way to Concord. The lights of the 10th Regiment were among the companies deployed to guard the area around the North Bridge while other soldiers proceeded to James Barrett’s farm to search for artillery. Pvt. Johnson thus got to participate in the first two fatal exchanges of fire in the war.

As the redcoats left Concord, the provincial militia companies began a more concerted attack. Ens. Lister wrote, “I recd a shot through my Right Elbow joint which efectually disabled that Arme.” A military surgeon removed the ball at Lexington, but for weeks the ensign thought he would lose that arm.

The British soldiers made their way under fire to Charlestown by evening. Ens. Lister rode a couple of miles on a horse, but decided that made him too big a target, so he walked most of the way. We don’t know if Johnson made the whole journey on foot or became one of the wounded soldiers who crowded onto horses, artillery carriages, and confiscated vehicles. At the end of the day the 10th Regiment reported seventeen wounded, one killed, and one missing.

Parts of the 10th Regiment also fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill in June. Ens. Lister was still recovering from his wound in Boston. Pvt. Thomas Johnson went into the battle and was killed.

[The photograph above shows a member of the recreated 10th Regiment, which has been portraying the soldiers at the start of the Revolutionary War for over fifty years.]

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

More Frictions at James Madison’s Montpelier

Late last month I passed on news that the Montpelier Foundation had changed its bylaws to reverse an earlier decision assigning the Montpelier Descendants Committee authority to name three members to the foundation board.

The Descendants Committee, made up of people who claim descent from the workers enslaved at Montpelier in the late 1700s and early 1800s, protested that decision. Most of the Montpelier staff joined them.

Yesterday the Washington Post reported that the foundation had fired four top staffers for publicly objecting to the bylaw change. Among the people removed were:
  • executive vice president and chief curator Elizabeth Chew
  • director of archaeology Matt Reeves, who has worked at the site for twenty-two years
  • director of communications Christy Moriarty
  • events manager Alex Walsh
Two other employees involved in the archeology program have been suspended.

The Montpelier Descendants Committee added that foundation president Roy Young fired those employees “After making repeated public statements that the Foundation would not retaliate against staff for opposing the Board’s abandonment of its commitment” to work with the committee.

The Montpelier Foundation manages the property, once owned by President James Madison and then his widow Dolley Madison, for its actual owner, the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The trust already criticized the bylaws change. In response to the firings, it issued a statement:
The National Trust strongly condemns these actions against highly regarded and nationally recognized professionals, which will impede the effective stewardship of Montpelier and diminish important public programming at this highly significant historic site. . . . these and other recent actions by the Foundation lead us to question whether a resolution is possible under the current leadership of the Foundation.
Those current leaders of the Montpelier Foundation continue to state that they are proceeding with the plan announced last year to have half the board of directors be descendants of enslaved workers. The Descendants Committee doesn’t stand in the way of that plan, which it helped to develop; it supports that goal and proposed many possible board members.

Indeed, the board can have up to twenty-five members, or nine more than currently. The present board could appoint nine new members from among the descendants, with or without the support of the three board members originally nominated by the Descendants Committee, and immediately achieve the stated goal of parity.

Instead, at this point the site’s management appears to be decimating its respected staff, alienating the historical community, and turning off a fair proportion of potential visitors.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Two Online Talks about The Road to Concord

I’m doing a couple of online author talks about the start of the Revolutionary War this month.

On Tuesday, 19 April, the exact anniversary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, I’ll speak with Roger S. Williams at History Author Talks.

While the anchor of that discussion will be The Road to Concord, I expect we’ll also cover what happened after the British army set out along that road, myths and misconceptions about that day, and the uses of Revolutionary heritage in modern culture and politics.

Use this page to register for this free event. We’ll start at 7:00 P.M. There’s a chance to send questions to Roger during the session, and he makes the videos available online afterward.

On Monday, 25 April, I’ll do an online presentation about The Road to Concord and answer questions for the American Revolution Round Table of Philadelphia.

That event is for members only, and it won’t be recorded, but there’s still time to join that organization and gain access to upcoming author talks. The list of past speakers shows that the group brings in some excellent authors, as well as myself.

Finally, if you want a signed copy of The Road to Concord for yourself or a valued friend, you can order one or more through this page at the History List.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Beck’s Blow-by-Blow Analysis

A century after Frank Warren Coburn shared his conclusions about which town militia companies fought the British troops at the Battle of Lexington and Concord, Derek W. Beck produced a new analysis.

Coburn sorted out the action by the towns where fighting occurred. In Igniting the American Revolution, 1773–1775, Beck focused more closely on individual skirmishes. Here’s his analysis about which towns’ companies joined the fighting and where.
Coburn listed the Watertown company as entering the fray in Arlington. Beck described those men following an order from Gen. William Heath and sticking near the bridge over the Charles River in Cambridge. In his memoir, Heath wrote (speaking of himself in the third person):
From the committee, he took a cross road to Watertown, the British being in possession of the Lexington road. At Watertown, finding some militia who had not marched, but applied for orders, he sent them down to Cambridge, with directions to take up the planks, barricade the south end of the bridge, and there to take post; that, in case the British should, on their return, take that road to Boston, their retreat might be impeded.
Watertown had an unusually large number of men under Capt. Samuel Barnard, so it’s possible some of them went into the fight on the north side of the Charles while others held the bridge. But Col. Percy avoided any confrontation at the river by turning east from Cambridge toward Charlestown. (Beck suggests the Watertown men might have then come up from the bridge to fight.)

Another town Coburn listed as taking part in the battle but Beck found no place for is Newton. Coburn wrote that three Newton companies joined the fight at Lexington, citing mainly Samuel F. Smith’s town history.

Smith gave a lot of space to a narrative passed down in the Jackson family, which actually says the Newton men started fighting in Concord and carried on all the way to when the redcoats got into their boats at Lechmere’s Point in Cambridge—which never happened.

However, Smith and another local historian, Francis Jackson, also printed a story about Capt. Jeremiah Wiswall’s company, how his seventy-five-year-old father insisted on marching along, and how the old man was shot in the hand. I quoted those passages back here.

It strikes me as potentially significant that two of the Newton companies said they “Marched from Newton to head quarters at Cambridge” while the third, Capt. Wiswall’s, went “upon the Alarm in Newton to Lexington.” That third muster roll includes “Mr. Noah Wiswall,” the captain’s father. Contemporaneous accounts do list Noah Wiswall among the wounded provincials.

All told, I therefore lean toward including Capt. Wiswall’s Newton company among the units that actually engaged the British troops in either east Lexington or west Cambridge. I’m not sure about the other two seeing combat, and the muster rolls contradict the Jackson family tradition.

[Full disclosure: I’m from Newton.]

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Frank W. Coburn’s Twenty-three Towns—and Four Extra?

About a century ago, Frank Warren Coburn of Lexington set out to document the names of the militiamen who fought in the Battle of Lexington and Concord. Not just the men who marched, but those in companies that exchanged fire with the British troops.

Coburn scoured the available sources to determine which towns’ companies probably saw fighting. Then he went through the Massachusetts state archives, looking for payrolls submitted from those towns. He also sought lists of militiamen from other sources, such as town histories and manuscripts.

Coburn printed all the names he found in an appendix to his 1912 history (full title: The Battle of April 19, 1775, in Lexington, Concord, Lincoln, Arlington, Cambridge, Somerville and Charlestown, Massachusetts). His list of towns was:
  • Lexington, of course
  • Concord, Acton, Bedford, Lincoln, Billerica, Chelmsford, Framingham, Reading, Sudbury, Woburn; all “entered the contest at Concord,” which could mean either at the North Bridge or later as the regulars withdrew from the town
  • Cambridge, which “entered the contest at Lincoln”
  • Newton, which “entered the contest at Lexington”
  • Brookline, Watertown, Medford, Malden, Roxbury, Dedham, Needham, Lynn, Beverly, and Danvers, which all “entered the contest at Arlington”
Twenty-three towns—but Coburn’s appendix also included four more places.

He listed Arlington separately from Cambridge even though in 1775 Arlington was a precinct of Cambridge called Menotomy. Coburn didn’t find a militia muster roll for Capt. Benjamin Locke’s company from that area. Instead, he relied on town histories by Lucius R. Paige and Samuel A. Smith.

It’s worth noting that Coburn didn’t treat Burlington and Winchester the same way. Those towns calved off of Woburn in the 1799 and 1850, respectively, and militiamen from those areas were part of the Woburn companies. But Burlington and Winchester didn’t get their own entries as Arlington did. Likewise, Carlisle was treated as part of Concord, Wayland as part of Sudbury, and so on. 

Coburn also began his appendix with a statement setting off three more towns:
These Companies were all participants, with the exception of those of Dracut, Stow, and Westford. I have given them, as they came so nearly into the contest.
That implies Coburn decided to give the men from those towns an honorable mention for trying extra hard.

That certainly seems to be the case for Dracut, located up at the New Hampshire border. That town’s company made much better time than their neighbors. Coburn wrote, “The men of Dracut did not reach the scene of actual conflict but tried to, and came so near the British rear guard as to deserve a place in this record.” Good effort, Dracut! Way to hustle!

In similar fashion, Coburn wrote, “The men from Westford did not reach Concord in time to enter the engagement, but pursued the British so closely as to deserve especial mention.” And the same sentence about Stow.

As I noted yesterday, Stow actually suffered a casualty in the battle: Daniel Conant, wounded. However, he lived in the part of the Stow that became Maynard in 1871. The Stow Independent reported in 2014:
Conant wasn’t on the [William] Whitcomb company’s list, where he should have been. The theory is he lived closer to North Maynard—and, hence, Concord—at the time, so he marched ahead on his own…
In that case, Conant’s position within shooting range wouldn’t say anything about how close the Stow companies got.

At another point in his book, Coburn wrote that one Stow company “did not reach North Bridge until about noon, too late to be in the action there, but in ample time to be active in the pursuit.” And the three companies from Westford also “reached the North Bridge too late, but were active afterwards.”

What did Coburn mean by “active” or “active in the pursuit”? Especially when he concluded that those same companies were not “participants” but “came…nearly into the contest”? Did they come in sight of the redcoat column, but not within firing range? If so, did they conceivably affect the British soldiers’ behavior? And what about the Salem regiment, which also reportedly came close enough to see the redcoats?

TOMORROW: Another analysis, skirmish by skirmish.

Friday, April 15, 2022

What Towns Fought in the Battle of Lexington and Concord?

Twice in the past few weeks I’ve found myself discussing the question of which towns’ militia companies were actually in the fighting on 19 Apr 1775.

That’s not the same question as which towns saw fighting. There were fatal exchanges of fire in (west to east) Concord, Lincoln, Lexington, Cambridge, and Charlestown.

Later the west Cambridge village of Menotomy became the town of Arlington, and the west Charlestown area formed Somerville, so those modern municipalities are also on the Battle Road, but they didn’t exist as legal entities in 1775.

Scores of other towns mobilized their militia companies that day. Indeed, the “Lexington Alarm” continued to spread, so even more towns got the word the day after, and the day after that. Within a week there were men from western Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut on the siege lines around Boston.

But because of geography, timing, and the way Lt. Col. Francis Smith and Col. Percy directed the British army column as it withdrew to the east, only some militia companies came close enough to exchange fire with the redcoats.

All the militia companies that turned out in April 1775 could apply to the Massachusetts government for pay for the days they were active. The surviving pay records, now in the state archives, offer data on the companies, commanders, and men. They’re often reprinted in local histories. But those documents don’t differentiate between the units that saw combat and those that were ready to but didn’t.

To identify the towns that did exchange fire, therefore, we have to turn to news accounts (especially casualties), memoirs, anecdotes, and lore. Frank Warren Coburn set out to do this in The Battle of April 19, 1775 (1912), particularly the special edition with a long appendix of muster rolls, digitized here. Derek W. Beck retraced that research in Igniting the American Revolution, 1773-1775 (2015), appendix 14.

The towns with men killed or wounded were, in alphabetical order: Acton, Bedford, Beverly, Billerica, Brookline, Cambridge, Concord, Charlestown, Chelmsford, Danvers, Dedham, Framingham, Lexington, Lincoln, Lynn, Medford, Needham, Newton, Roxbury, Salem, Sudbury, Stow, Watertown, and Woburn.

However, the man from Salem who died, Benjamin Peirce, appears not to have marched with the Salem companies. The commander of that regiment, Col. Timothy Pickering, was bitterly criticized for not moving fast enough to engage the British. Peirce died in the fighting at Menotomy along with several men from Danvers and Lynn, so he had probably mustered in the company of a neighboring town.

Likewise, although two people from Charlestown were shot and killed—septuagenarian James Miller and teenager Edward Barber—that town’s militia company may never have officially mustered and entered the fight. According to Jacob Rogers:
In the afternoon Mr. James Russell [a town official and appointee to the mandamus Council] received a letter from General [Thomas] Gage, importing that he was informed the people of Charlestown had gone out armed to oppose his majesty’s troops, and that if one single man more went out armed, we might expect the most disagreeable consequences.
Since the most populated part of Charlestown was well within range of British army and naval artillery, town leaders had good reason to keep the militia company out of action. Miller and a friend were apparently shooting at the redcoats on their own in west Charlestown. Barber was a non-combatant looking out a window of his family home.

Thus, while the list of towns that suffered casualties is a good guide to which towns’ companies were in combat, it’s not the same.

TOMORROW: Coburn and his honorable mentions.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

More Lectures in Lexington

A few days ago I shared links to various organizations’ calendars for Patriots’ Day. Many of those events recur every year, but here are a couple of new presentations from the Lexington Historical Society.

Thursday, 14 April, 6:00 P.M.
Memorial Dedication to Jack and Dinah
Dr. Robert Bellinger
Lexington Depot

In 2019, Lexington Historical Society began the journey of researching the history of slavery in eighteenth-century Lexington, focusing on the Hancock-Clarke House, where the Hancock family enslaved two individuals named Jack and Dinah in the years leading up to the Revolution. Dr. Robert Bellinger of Suffolk University, consulting historian for this project, will present his research looking into the lives of black families in town, both enslaved and free, in the eighteenth century.

Then, as part of the reinterpretation of the house, the Society has partnered with Stopping Stones, an organization which creates memorials for enslaved people throughout the United States, to place such a memorial to Jack and Dinah at the Hancock-Clarke House site. Attendees will have the opportunity to walk through the museum following the dedication.

This museum will also be open for tours all Patriots’ Day weekend. The Hancock-Clarke House tour has been revamped to incorporate the new research about Jack and Dinah, enhancing our understanding of the complexities of the Revolution as people of all social classes, races, and genders debated the meaning of freedom and liberty here in Lexington and beyond.

This in-person event is free. Registration is recommended but not required.

Thursday, 21 April, 7:00 to 8:30 P.M.
“Your Petitioner Is So Much Hurted”: John Robbins and His Wound
Joel Bohy and Dr. Douglas D. Scott

After the smoke cleared on the evening of April 19th, the town of Lexington mourned its dead. Others who participated in the battle that morning survived with injuries that plagued them for the rest of their lives. View a presentation by historic arms expert Joel Bohy and archaeologist Dr. Douglas D. Scott as they discuss the struggles of John Robbins, a soldier in Captain John Parker’s militia company.

Robbins suffered horrific injuries in the battle, rendering him “truly Pitiable being unable to Contribute anything to the Support of a wife & five small Children.” Who was this man? How extensive were his injuries? And was he ever able to receive a pension? Afterward, participate in a live Q&A with the speakers to dive deeper into the ballistic history of the battle.

Register for this online program here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Capt. William Browne’s War

William Browne received his commission as a captain in the British army on 24 June 1771. He must have enlisted at a lower rank a few years earlier, but because his name was so common and because officers moved from one regiment to another for promotions, I’m not sure when his military career began.

While the 52nd Regiment was in Boston, Capt. Browne commanded its light infantry company. That means he led those men out to Concord on 18–19 Apr 1775.

Browne had been to Concord before. On 20 March, he and Ens. Henry DeBerniere visited the town in civilian guise to confirm a local informant’s reports to Gen. Thomas Gage that militia colonel James Barrett was amassing arms there, including four cannon spirited out of Boston armories.

The two army officers did confirm that the Patriots had those four brass cannon “concealed in some place behind the town, in a wood.” That wording suggests they didn’t see the hiding-place but were told where it was. One source of information was probably the local lawyer Daniel Bliss, who felt so unsafe having suspicious visitors in his house that he went into Boston with Brown and DeBerniere. (Gage’s original informant remained in town.)

Browne, DeBerniere, and Bliss returned as part of the army expedition to Concord on 18–19 April. In fact, we know from other officers’ reports that Capt. Browne and his light infantrymen were among the three companies who went all the way to Barrett’s farm, a mile past the North Bridge (shown above).

Those redcoats didn’t find significant amounts of ordnance at that farm. On their way back, they did find some of their fellow soldiers killed at the bridge. That was the start of the column’s difficult fight back to Boston.

The 52nd Regiment was also in the Battle of Bunker Hill two months later. According to one source, the regiment ended that day camped closest to the provincial lines on the isthmus of the Charlestown peninsula. Capt. Browne was listed among the wounded.

On 1 August, the British command in London made Capt. Browne a brigade major, an administrative post with a corresponding rise in pay. Gen. William Howe announced that promotion in his orders from Halifax the following May. In 1778, the 52nd Regiment was drafted, meaning its men were distributed to other regiments and it began to recruit new soldiers.

Around that time, Browne was promoted to be the major of the 49th Regiment. Later in 1778 that unit took part in the British conquest of St. Lucia from the French. In 1780 the 49th moved to Ireland. Around the start of 1783 Browne became a lieutenant-colonel in the army. Henry Lawes Luttrell, then serving in the Irish Parliament, told that legislature that:
Colonel Brown was one of the best officers in the army, that he had distinguished himself on service, and was remarkable for a strict observance of discipline in the regiment, and an excellent corps of officers emulated his example—
If only that praise had come from a more respectable man.

That’s as far as I can trace William Browne. Again, his common name makes him easy to lose in a crowd.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Naming Captain Brown of the 52nd

On 22 Feb 1775, Gen. Thomas Gage dispatched two army officers (and the servant of one of them) to scout out the roads to Worcester and learn what they could about artillery that Patriots were collecting in that town.

The report those officers eventually filed was left behind in the British evacuation of Boston, printed in 1779 by John Gill, and reprinted in 1816 by the Massachusetts Historical Society. The original document is long gone, but the reprints provide the names of the two officers—sort of.

One of those names was printed as D’Bernicre, which was wrong but close enough to lead researchers to Ens. Henry DeBerniere of the 10th Regiment of Foot. His name was spelled in additional ways in period documents (D’Berniere, De Berniere, de Birniere), but because it was such a rare name he’s easy to identify. In fact, I traced his whole career before and after the war.

The other officer’s last name was Brown.

Naturally, that common surname poses more of a challenge. However, the report tells us that this was “Capt. Brown 52d regiment.” The British Army Lists for 1773 and 1778 and Worthington C. Ford’s British Officers Serving in the American Revolution, 1774-1783, which was assembled using more of those lists, yields only one candidate in that regiment: Capt. William Browne. (If I could, I’d go back and use the “Browne” spelling for his label on this blog since that seems to be the prevalent one, though not in the report to Gage.)

Several scholars identified DeBerniere’s companion as William Browne in the 1900s, including Elizabeth Ellery Dana, the editor of John Barker’s diary; John Bakeless; and Bernhard Knollenberg.

However, in Paul Revere’s Ride (1994), David Hackett Fischer wrote of “two enterprising young officers, Captain John Brown and Ensign Henry De Berniere of the 10th Foot.” That book offers no explanation for the name John, which appears in the report as the first name of Capt. Brown’s servant. 

Since then, several more authorities apparently relying on Fischer have used the name “John Brown.” That group includes the very helpful Massachusetts Historical Society webpage offering scans and a transcription of the report as first printed by Gill. But there was no such captain in the 52nd Regiment or other regiments in Boston.

TOMORROW: William Browne’s war.

Monday, April 11, 2022

The Return of Public Patriots’ Day Events

We’ve entered into the Patriots’ Day season, commemorating the Battle of Lexington and Concord and subsequent transition of the American Revolution into outright war on 19 Apr 1775.

For the past two years, the pandemic canceled all or most public ceremonies. We produced videos instead of talks, parades, and battle reenactments.

Now, between vaccinations and complacency [an average of 500 people died of Covid-19 in the U.S. of A. each day of the past week], we’re going back to public events. With intelligent precautions, I hope.

Massachusetts municipalities and organizations celebrate Patriots’ Day in many different ways, and it’s proven impossible to aggregate them all. The Boston Discovery Guide counted more than sixty separate events, and it doesn’t include most smaller community celebrations. Battleroad.org offers a long list of happenings and links to major organizations. Here’s my less systematic round-up.

The Concord Museum will host “Patriots’ Day Town Night” on Tuesday, 12 April, starting with gallery talks and including a presentation and a conversation with Prof. Jane Kamensky, author of A Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley. On Monday, 18 April, the museum will have an encampment outside and free admission inside.

Old North Church holds its Lantern2022 fundraiser on Wednesday, 13 April, this year honoring area native Michael Bloomberg. At 8:00 P.M. on Sunday, 17 April, the church will light two lanterns in its steeple.

At Minute Man National Historical Park there are reenactments and other mostly outdoor programs each day from Saturday to Tuesday, recreating particular skirmishes, highlighting the civilian experiences of war, and hiking the length of the park. To support such events, folks can join Friends of Minute Man Park.

In Lexington, the town’s website lists local events from Saturday to Monday, including reenactments, film screenings, and community celebrations. The historic taverns and parsonage of the Lexington Historical Society will offer special programs all weekend.

Patriots Day is also the start of a school vacation week in Massachusetts, and the Paul Revere House invites families to meet Paul Revere, his wife Rachel, and their daughter Harriet, and to hear period music, on various days from Saturday, 16 April, to Thursday, 21 April.

I can’t confirm whether some other usually annual events will take place this year, so I’m not listing them. But as long as the weather holds out, there will be plenty to keep us busy while we keep ourselves healthy.

(The photo above shows drummers of the William Diamond Junior Fife and Drum Corps this past New Year’s Eve.)

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Online Talks about Patriots of Color and Their Legacy

This month, the Boston Public Library and the National Park Service are teaming up for two online events that look at the Revolutionary War and its legacy.

Tuesday, 12 April, 6:00–7:00 P.M.
Patriots of Color

More than 2,100 men of color from Massachusetts served the Patriot cause during the American Revolution. They served as militiamen in emergencies, and as professional soldiers who marched in campaigns from Boston to Saratoga, from Monmouth to Yorktown.

As the nation plans for its 250th anniversary, join National Parks of Boston staff and interns as they share their emerging research that explores select life stories of Patriots of Color during and long after they served on the Revolutionary battlefields.

Register for this event through this link on this page.

Tuesday, 26 April, 6:00–7:00 P.M.
Connecting Past, Present, and Future: The Descendants of Darby Vassall on the Legacy of Slavery and Freedom

In 1774, the family of Darby Vassall—enslaved in Cambridge and surrounding towns—seized their freedom. Vassall dedicated the rest of his life to the struggle for freedom, education, and equality for greater Boston’s black community.

In this virtual program, join Vassall’s descendants for a conversation on the significance of surfacing the past, present, and future. Members of the Lloyd family and other descendants will reflect on the process of finding their ancestors’ history, and the critical importance of making this history—of the legacy of slavery, the value of freedom, and the beauty of the struggle—known to this and future generations.

Staff from the Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site and other historical organizations will also briefly discuss collaborative efforts to research and memorialize the legacy of the Vassall family and slavery in greater Boston.

Register through this page.

Saturday, April 09, 2022

Ben Carp on the History Extra Podcast

I’ve recommended episodes of the History Extra podcast before. That’s the website for BBC History Magazine, which in turn is a licensee of the British Broadcasting Corporation.

This is the type of podcast based around interviews with experts, often authors of fairly recent books. The company has the resources to put out a new episode every day.

History Extra’s choice of topics and perspectives on those topics are British, albeit of a cosmopolitan strain. The hosts assume that listeners, like themselves, have had a traditional British schooling but as adults really want a broader perspective.

Every so often the show airs an “Everything You Wanted to Know” episode, based on asking a scholarly expert questions sent in by readers and pulled off search engine queries. Which means the first question on a given topic is “What is [given topic]?” as if one is finally getting around to researching a school report a few hours before it is due.

At the end of February, History Extra offered “The American Revolutionary War: Everything You Wanted to Know.” And even better, the expert recruited to answer people’s questions on that topic was Prof. Benjamin Carp of Brooklyn College.

Ben is a longtime friend of Boston 1775 and author of Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party and the Making of America, Rebels Rising: Cities and the American Revolution, and the upcoming The Great New York Fire of 1776: A Lost Story of the American Revolution. Check out the conversation via that link.

If you like the format, here’s the History Extra page for podcasts. And here’s its page for content tagged “Georgian,” including articles short and long.