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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Tuesday, August 02, 2022

“Independence Booth was Born”

The New England troops that enlisted in their colonies’ armies in the spring of 1775, and then became the Continental Army in June, agreed to serve until the end of the year.

Some Connecticut troops in fact believed the end of their stint was in mid-December and tried to leave camp then, prompting a confrontation between those men and regiments from other colonies obeying the commands of Gen. George Washington to keep everyone in camp. (I discussed that episode back here.)

Washington also wrote to the New England governors asking them to order some militia regiments to the Boston siege lines to maintain numbers until new Continental recruits and re-enlistees started to arrive in mid-winter. Connecticut governor Jonathan Trumbull activated Col. Erastus Wolcott and his regiment from December to February.

French and Indian War veteran Joseph Booth of Enfield was a junior officer in Wolcott’s regiment. A few weeks before Booth set out for Massachusetts, he and his wife, Mary, conceived their eighth child. Around the time Booth returned home, Mary’s pregnancy began to show. The baby, a little girl, arrived in July.

By then Booth was commissioned in another state regiment, under Col. Comfort Sage, to serve in the expected New York campaign. I like to think that Joseph Booth’s fellow militia officers arranged for him to stay in Enfield until the baby came. But it’s also possible that Mary Booth was home with only her other children (the oldest still only twelve), relatives, and neighbors.

In the little notebook Joseph Booth kept for his occasional diary, accounts, and memoranda, he recorded the arrival of his new daughter this way:
Independence Booth was Born Sunday July 14th: about 4 oclok in the Morning and in the year 1776 which was 10 Days after the united Colonies were Declard. to be Independent Stats by the Continantel Congress
The timeline of events works out this way.
  • 4 July 1776: The Second Continental Congress declared independence.
  • 12 July: Declaration of Independence published in New London’s Connecticut Gazette.
  • 14 July: The Booths’ baby girl was born.
  • 15 July: Declaration of Independence published in Hartford’s Connecticut Courant.
  • 21 July: The baby was baptized Independence.
  • 29 July: That christening was reported in the Connecticut Courant.
The Booth family genealogies I cited yesterday give different dates for Independence Booth’s birth, and neither matches what her father wrote in his notebook. J. H. Booth said she was born on 17 July. Charles Edwin Booth gave the date of 4 July, based on Enfield records, while acknowledging what her father wrote.

Basically, it appears that Independence Booth, her family, and her neighbors eventually decided to believe she was born on Independence Day. Even though news of the Declaration wouldn’t have reached central Connecticut by 4 July, that’s the date that appears on her gravestone.

TOMORROW: Independence Booth grows up.

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