Monday, July 9, 2018

The First Cruise of the USS Ranger in 1777-1778 as Remembered in Veterans' Pension Applications (Part I)

The first cruise of the United States Sloop of War Ranger under Captain John Paul Jones is celebrated in the annals of US Naval History for its daring and audacious raids on the British home islands, the taking of six prizes and the destruction of several more, and the defeat and capture of the 20-gun Sloop of War Drake after a bloody engagement in the Irish Sea.  The cruise is well-documented in Volumes 10-12 of the Naval Documents of the American Revolution (NDAR), but there are other details-some of them unique in the surviving record - preserved within the pension application files on the service of some of the officers, seamen and marines who served on the Ranger in 1777 and 1778.

Perhaps the most comprehensive and revealing of these accounts lies in the narrative of Revolutionary service presented by Solomon Hutchins of Kittery Maine, who made not one but three voyages on the Ranger and was one of the last of her crew to apply for and receive a pension in 1832 (S.2504).  Hutchins was no fan of Captain Jones - he omits the honorific "Esq." which most of the other applicants appended to their Captain's name - and some of the fo'c'sle gossip he offers in his account as explanations for John Paul Jones' behavior during the cruise should be considered in the light of other conflicting documentation.  Nonetheless his narrative on the whole is remarkably consistent with other declarations by Ranger veterans and official accounts and Hutchins provides a wealth of eye-witness detail that makes it clear that he was either an observer or participant in the episodes he describes.

In this, the first of a multi-part series on the first cruise of the USS Ranger in 1777-1778 as remembered in their pension applications by those who served on board during this time, we follow Solomon Hutchins from his enlistment in Portsmouth as a marine through his service as a seaman under Captain Jones and then with Captain Simpson on the return home across the Atlantic, and his subsequent service under Simpson that resulted in his twice being captures and his saving a part of the Ranger's pennant by fashioning it into a handkerchief.  This transcription has being broken up into paragraphs for ease of reading but is otherwise as recorded in 1832 in Hutchin's pension application:

"…he entered as a marine aboard the ship Ranger for twelve months the time he does not recollect but it was while the said ship was lying at Portsmouth N.H. that he served as a sailor aboard said ship – that he sailed from said Portsmouth in the fall of the year [Novemner 1, 1777] and returned the next fall [October 1778] that when he sailed said ship was commanded by John Paul Jones    [Thomas] Simpson of said Portsmouth was first Lieutenant – [Elijah] Hall of said Portsmouth was second Lieutenant  - and [David] Cullam was sailing master That he does not recollect the name of the captain of Marines [1.][Samuel] Wallingford was Lieutenant of Marines and killed in the battle between the Ranger and Drake [on April 24, 1778] by a musket ball entering his forehead and passing through his head that all of the officers of the Ranger are dead

– that when the Ranger sailed from Portsmouth as aforesaid she sailed for France on her way took a brig loaded with Malaga Wine raisins & grapes [2] and entered a place called Piu Beef [Paimboeff near the mouth of the River Loire] below Nantes] that the Ranger then sailed to Brest

after that he cruised in the Irish Channel and when opposite a fort the name of which he does not recollect [Carrickfergus near Belfast, Northern Ireland] a ship was discovered lying close under the guns of the fort [the 18-gun Sloop of War Drake] – that in the night the Ranger run in and attempted to cut the ship out and run in with close reefed topsails throwed out her anchor ahead in order to enable her to lay along side or cut the ship out the Ranger swung under the stern of the ship the cable of the Ranger was cut and she was put about and stood out for White haven [3].  When opposite White haven Capt. Jones went ashore in the night time with two boat crews he returned aboard the next morning and brought one or two prisoners and it was expected aboard the Ranger that Jones had spiked the cannon – That he the said Hutchins did not accompany the party [4].

that the Ranger then went down the Channel and it was said aboard robbed his old master of his plate and brought it aboard in bags that the said Hutchins did not see the plate [5].

that he the said Hutchins sailed for the port where the said ship was lying and run in as near as they durst then put about crowded all sail and the ship weighed her anchor at the same time took up the one the Ranger had lost when her cable was cut as aforesaid and followed the Ranger and came up with her an action commenced that continued an hour and five minutes that the Ranger took the ship which was the Drake after the battle Jones took the boat of the Drake and give it to a fisherman whose boat Jones had lost Jones put the fore top sail of the Drake aboard the boat also a number of boys and sent the sail as it was said as a present to Governor [6].

after repairing the vessels they sailed for Brest and in passing the Channel having the Drake in toe (sp) they saw a large ship about day break and Jones commanded Simpson to cut the hawser for he was going to give chance Jones gave Simpson no orders to follow him and Simpson stood for Brest Jones in the Ranger run the Drake out of sight and made signals for the Drake to come up that he the said Hutchins went up into the top and help make the signals – the next morning the Drake was right ahead of the Ranger The vessels were hove to and Simpson was confined to the cabin of the Drake and Hall put aboard as commander – They were then opposite some rocks called Scylla [Scilly] as he the said Hutchins things – they then stood for Brest where they arrived and Jones put Simpson in prison afterwards on petition of the officers and even to the agent Simpson was taken from prison put into command of the Ranger and Jones taken out of the ship [7].

that they remained at Brest til the ships Boston and Providence arrived and that he then returned in the Ranger to Portsmouth New Hampshire where he was discharged having served more than his time he returned home to Kittery in the County of York and the District of Maine and there remained two or three months that he then entered again aboard said ship Ranger  the lying at said Portsmouth that he entered as a sailor for one year and was appointed coxswain of one of her boats The officers of the Ranger were the same as in the first cruise except Jones and the Lieutenant of Marines –that he sailed in the Ranger in company with the Boston, Providence and Queen of France and they took nine sail of the Jamaica Fleet –that he was put aboard one of the prizes and the prize retaken and carried to Halifax where he remained a prisoner till a cartel arrived when he was redeemed carried to Boston Ms and from there returned to said Portsmouth where the Ranger was lying and went aboard the Ranger and there remained and was aboard her when she sailed for Charlestown South Carolina in company with the Boston and Providence & Queen of France where they arrived were blockaded and finally taken by the British that he struck the Ranger’s pennant and remained a prisoner till he was exchanged sent to Philadelphia and from there returned home the time for which he had enlisted having expired that he returned home in June or July and enlisted in the spring the year before that he wore the star part of said pennant home on his neck [8]…” 

[1.] Marine Captain Matthew Clarke, the only one of Jones' officers whom he himself appointed, was dismissed in February, 1778, after the Ship's Lieutenants and Sailing Master complained that a marine officer of his rank being carried on the rolls of a 20-gun ship was an infringement on their 3/20th share of prize money.  This was but one of the divisions between Captain Jones and his junior officers and crew that would lead to a state of near mutiny during this voyage.  It is evident that Hutchins sided with those who felt the Captain was in the wrong.

[2]  Ranger took two brigantines on her outbound voyage, both on route from 
Málaga, Spain to England with wine and fruit.  The first was the Mary, taken on November 23rd, and the second was the George, taken on the 26th.  The Mary made port at Nantes, while the George sailed to Bordeaux. The names of the prize crew on board the George are recorded in the Ranger's log and Hutchins is not among their number.  Possibly he was put on board the Mary with Midshipman Joseph Green as prize master, or he may simply have neglected to record the second ship taken.

[3] This episode is very consistent with John Paul Jones own account of his attempt to cut out the Drake, including the lost of the "best bower anchor" which the Drake subsequently recovered.

[4]  The raid on White Haven in Cumberland, England during the night of April 22-23 included an attempt by Captain Jones with his shore party to set fire to the shipping in the port, which by various mishaps and the less than attentive efforts of some of the Ranger's crew resulted in the lost of only a couple of British vessels.  The guns of the fort were spiked, except for one or two which fired belatedly on the Ranger's withdrawing boats.

[5]  Although he was once an apprentice to a Whitehaven shipowner and was born at nearby 
Kirkdean in nearby Scotland, there is no evidence that his master was ever the Earl of Selkirk, whose family silver was taken (and later returned by Jones) after the Captain and a party from the Ranger landed on St Mary's Isle the morning after the White Haven raid in an effort to capture the Earl who was not to be found.

[6]  Jones gave the boat to the fisherman, whose own craft he had detained on his first approach to Carrickfergus and had subsequently drifted away.  The sail was not a gift to the Governor, though a prize taken earlier that month did contain furniture belonging to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.  Jones describes the incident with the fishermen in his May 27, 1778 report of his recent cruise to the American Commissioners in France; "
It was now time to release the honest Fishermen whom I took up here on the 21st.—And as the poor fellows had lost their Boat, she having sunk in the late stormy Weather, I was happy in having it in my Power to give them the necessary Sum to purchase every thing new which they had lost.—I gave them also a good Boat to transport themselves ashore and sent with them Two infirm Men on whom I bestowed the last Guinea in my Possession to defray their travelling Expences to their proper home at Dublin—they took with them One of the Drakes Sails which would sufficiently explain what had happened to the Volunteers.—The grateful Fishermen were in Raptures and expressed their Joy in three Huzzas as they passed the Rangers Quarter."

[7]  The arrest and imprisonment of Lt. Simpson, who had earlier been made Prize master of the Drake, brought tensions between the junior officers of the Ranger and their Captain to a head.  Petitions by the prize crew of the Drake and from Lt. Hall, Sailing master Cullam and the ship's doctor in favor of Lieutenant Simpson denounced captain Jones's actions as unjust, while Jones felt that his junior officers had encouraged a state of near mutiny.  Arguments have been made on both sides by historians ever since.  Captain Jones did remain in France, because he had always wanted a larger ship and expected command of a Frigate, and Lt. Simpson was restored from prison and sailed the Ranger home has her captain at the end of the cruise, retaining commander of her thereafter.

[8]  This amazing detail indicates that Coxswain Hutchins not only struck the Ranger's pennant before she was taken after the fall of Charleston on May 12, 1780, but he at least managed to conceal a portion of it - its blue ensign and white stars - during his time as a prisoner, wearing it a s a handkerchief about his neck when he was released.  In order to have done so, it must have been one of the top mast pennants, rather than the Ranger's largest naval flag, which Hutchins took down.  Perhaps it was made of silk.  The image of this veteran sailor returning from war with the famous stars of his ship's flag knotted jauntily about his neck like a bandana in true sailor fashion is truly marvelous and may very well have happened that way.

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Memoirs of Ebenezer Foot, Revolutionary War Veteran (Part II)

[Part I can be read here]

After I got home my Master received my wages and I continued to work for him until April, at which time I was twenty one years of age.  I then worked two months with Mr. Wells, received my wages and went to Colchester, where I informed my father of my inclination to go to sea.  He appeared Rather Mortified at my Resolution, but to demonstrate that he wished my success he proposed my Postponing the Measure until he could provide me with necceries [neccesities], and engage a birth on board some Vessel, commanded by a man of good Character, he accordingly went to New London and engaged the Steward’s place for me on board the Industrious Bee [1.] , Privateer, commanded by Captain George Allen [2.] of [Providence] Rhode Island.  I embarked on board and engaged for a cruise of 6 months.  We had not been long out of port, until I had occasion to suspect our Commander was not a man of Courage.  After the novelty of the business I was engaged in, had subsided, and I began to reflect on my employment, being only a licensed Robber, and associated with some of the most infamous characters on Earth, our crew of 80 men consisting of some of the most abandoned rascals of all Nations, I grew heartily sick of my situation, and on falling in with the French Fleet under the command of Comte de Estang (sic), I obtained my discharge of the Captain and accompanied the French Fleet into the harbor of New-Port, where I continued until the retreat & disaster that Befel (sic) the Fleet in the Storm off the Coast.  After arriving at Boston with the ships dismasted and shattered, I returned to my father Moneyless, and ashamed of the employment I had been engaged in, and sincerely hope none of my Posterity will ever engage in Robbing and Plundering their fellow Creatures, on account of it being sanctioned by law or custom – It is in my opinion both wicked and base. 



After residing at my father about two weeks, I was employed by Col. Henry Champion in the Purchasing Commissary Department [Champion was made Commissary General in May, 1781, which does not accord with the timeline of this narrative], and being ordered to camp to receive Beef Cattle and deliver to the Army  I contracted an acquaintance with a number of Respectable Military Characters – being stationed in the county of Westchester in the winter of 1778 -9.  I contracted an acquaintance with Jerusha Purdy [of Yorktown, Westchester County, New York], who I married the October following.  The Enemy that summer having ravaged almost the whole Country, I removed her to my Father’s in Connecticut, where I left her and returned to Camp.  The winter following winter I was stationed at Fish Kill – appointed Superintendent of Live Stock for the whole army, in which station I continued until the Purchasing Commissaries Department was abolished in 1782.  I then returned to Crumpond [Crum Pond village, now part of Yorktown, NY] resided with my wife in the house of her Brother.  I being unqualified in some degree to Labour by habits [imbibed?] in the Army, concluded to commence trader or merchant, and began to traffic in such line as my finances would enable, which to be sure was not large, having very little Property at my Command.  My accounts being unsettled, and the greater part of the property bequeathed to my wife being destroyed, and sunk in paper Money,  I however made shift to support myself and her without getting into debt – until the year 1784 at which time my accounts were settled, and I had the pleasure to procure sufficient vouchers for all the Public property that was ever committed to my care, and rec’d a certificate from the Commissioners for settling the Public accounts certifying that there was due to me 3795 dollars and 55-90th of a dollar, to which sum I was entitled to at an Interest rate of 6 per cent pr annum.  This was the amount of all my property & was hardly earned by faithful services performed for my Country.  I contemplated having justice done me by my Country, and ventured to embark in trade on a much larger scale than I had hitherto done – this proved my ruin as to Property.”

[1.]  Industrious Bee is listed, briefly, as a Rhode Island privateer, George Allen, Master, in William P. Sheffield's 1882 address to the Rhode Island Historical Society entitled Rhode Island Privateers and Privateersmen.  This in not to be confused with the prize Brigantine "Industrious Bee" that was bought into Continental service and renamed "General Gates".

[2.]  George Allen is an elusive figure.  He may also have been the Master of another equally difficult to document Rhode Island privateer, "Opdyke."

The Memoirs of Ebenezer Foote, Connecticut Revolutionary War Veteran (Part I)


The following [annotated] transcript was copied from the voluminous veteran's pension claim on the Revolutionary War service of Ebenezer Foote (1756 - 1829) of Colchester Connecticut.  It is a lively and engaging account of service on land and sea, with anecdotes of incidents during the Siege of Boston, the defense of Long Island and the loss of Manhattan, and subsequent service on a Rhode Island privateer, with the French Fleet off Newport, and in the Commissary Department in Westchester County, New York.  Some of Foote's quite detailed account can be independently corroborated.  I have tried to transcribe it accurately, with only minor standardization of spelling and adding paragraph breaks where they assist the narrative.  I have divided it into two parts and will post them sequentially.

“Memoirs of the Life of Ebenezer Foote” [Siege of Boston 1776, New York-Trenton 1776]

I was the 6th child of Daniel Foote, the son of Nathaniel, whose father came from Durham in England and settled in a town of the same name in Connecticut.  My grandfather was one of the proprietors, and first settlers of the town of Colchester where I was born on the 12th day of April, 1756.  My father having a numerous family, and barely possessing a competency to support them was unable to give his children an education equal to their wishes, They were however taught to read and write a legible hand I was allowed to go to school until I was eleven years old , after which I never was at school a day.  When I was in my tenth year, having a desire to see the world, I left my Father’s house in the night and traveled to New London, a seaport town about 20 miles distant, with an intent to embark for the West Indies with my oldest brother, but after spending two nights in a barn in the month of December, the Captain discovered and sent me back to my father, who received me without correction, a think rather uncommon as he was severe in his discipline.

The following Spring I was sent alone and on foot to Brookfield, in order to learn the trade of House Carpenter & Chaise Maker of one Hitchcock, a relative of my Mother’s, he being a morose, unjovial fellow, I soon got sick of him and his trade.  In the Fall I had a severe fit of the bilious Cholic (sp), which nearly deprived me of life, but getting better My Father sent for Me home.  In the Spring I was bound an apprentice to one Chamberlin of East Windsor to learn the trade of Hat Makeing (sp), where I continued to serve him faithfully until the year 1775, when the unhappy affair at Lexington announced the approaching war.  By consent of my Master I enlisted as a private soldier in [Lt.-Col] Col.  George Pitkin’s Company [of Hinman’s 4th Connecticut Regt.] and arrived at Camp at Roxbury, time enough to share in the famous Battle of Bunker Hill, where the brave Warren fell.  Just after the British entered the works, after we retreated from the Hill, I repaired immediately to Roxbury and joined my Company, where I was severely reprimanded for absenting myself and going to Cambridge and Bunker Hill without leave of my officers.


During the Campaign but few opportunities offered of seeing the enemy out of their entrenchments, and being a private soldier I had no means of gratifying the inclination I then felt.    However one afternoon I got leave to go out in Boston bay a fishing with two others of the company in two whale Boats.  During the time we were a fishing, I discovered a few of the British on Moon Island [in Quincy Bay], and after a little persuasion prevailed on my comrades to land, which we did, and found the enemy consisting of a Sergeant’s guard on the retreat, we proceeded on and set fire to about 40 thousand Rails and 20 tons of hay they had collected to carry to Boston.  The alarm was given and boats were dispatched by the Boyne ship of war [3rd Rate, Captain Hartwell] and the Castle.  My comrades by the persuasion of one [Aaron] Olmsted the Adjutant embarked while I was setting fire to the furthermost bale of Hay, and left me, but on coming to the point and calling to them one boat returned and we got safe to Squantum [in Quincy] though the British were very near overtaking us, and kept up a heavy fire which generally went over us.  The Troops on shore were alarmed & paraded on our landing.  The officers after enquiring (sp) the Cause of alarm gave me a severe reprimand and ordered that I should go no more on fishing voyages, as the whole was charged to my account. 

The next Spring I went a volunteer on Dorchester Point, when the first works were erected on that and Nook Point, where I stayed seven days and caught a violent cold which almost deprived me of my eye sight for 2 months.  Our terms of enlistment being expired, I returned Home and settled with my Master who received all my wages and bounty money. 
I worked about six weeks at my trade, and then enlisted in Captain Simon Woolcots Company [of Fisher Gay's Regiment of Connecticut Levies]  raised in East Windsor to go to New York, I set out in capacity of Corporal.  After we arrived at New York I was ordered by the Col. Fisher Gay to learn the officers of the Regiment the Manual Exercise, which I found was a very hard task, as they were generally very ignorant and by no means willing to submit to discipline, being generally old honest Farmers who thought it inconsistent with the character for freemen to submit to the strict discipline necessary to form the character of a soldier.  I was however releived (sic) from that duty about two weeks after we were ordered on Long Island, as the British landed there and gave us other business to transact. 

The night that it was said the British were landing there was a most violent Thunder storm, and there being no artillerymen at Brooklyn, I turned out a volunteer with others to assist Captain [Thomas?] Randall [of the 3rd Continental Artillery?] in taking 2 Brass 6 pounders and one nine inch Brass Howitzer to Graves End in order to oppose the landing of the British.  We had a Horrid night of it, being obliged to draw the pieces ourselves, and the frequent flashes of Lightning rendering us blind to the road.  We arrived at the high ground near Graves End, about 4 oclock in the Morning, where we continued until the next day, when we were ordered to occupy the high ground to the Eastward overlooking the flat land [Flat Bush] near the church, which station we kept until the battle of Long Island, frequently going down and fireing (sic) on the British, at and near the Church.  In one of those excursions we were covered by a party of Rifle men under the command of Maj. Green [ I have been unable to positively identity this officer] , and had orders to burn the wheat stacks where the enimy’s (sic) picket guard was kept, which was performed, but not without the loss of some men killed, and a few men wounded amongst which was Maj. Green and Captain Thompson [I am unable to positively identity these officers or their unit(s)] of the Rifle Men, we had one of our guns dismounted by a shot, which struck the barrel over the trunnion (sic), but we saved it.  Our howitzer was struck on one side of the muzzle by a shot and battered 6 inches.  Three horses we had received the day before were killed, so that we were obliged once more to draw our pieces back by hand. 


Soon after the Enemy made a general attack on the advance part of our army, in which we were driven back to our lines with the loss of our field artillery, and some of our best troops.  The seven succeeding days our duty was constant and very fatiguing, being obliged to stand great part of the time in the water up to our Middle and being kept under arms night and day, until we retreated from the Island which happily effected with very little loss although the enemy pressed our rear very hard and fired on the boats from the shore.  I being overcome with fatigue and want of sleep, set myself down by the side of a stoop near the Fly Market [at Dock St. a block from the Long Island Ferry] and fell asleep.  In the afternoon when I woke up I found myself at least 2 rods from the place where I sat down, without discovering when I was removed. Three days later this our Regiment was all ordered on guard to Turtle Bay and the Marsh south of it, we took our posts about sunset, at 12 oclock at night we discovered four or five of the Enemys (sic) ships under way coming up the East River, they passed us and came to anchor in Turtle Bay, on the morning of 15th September we were ordered into a small ditch opposite the above ships within half pistol shot of two of them, we got possession of our ground just before sunrise and could with truth say that a worse place was never occupied by any troop, The ditch was so narrow that two could not lay abreast in it, nor could we cover ourselves from the Enemies Musquetry.  When we were flat on the ground in the bottom our our Intrenchment (as it was termed) consequently we lost a number of Men during the time of the Enemies landing, which commenced about 10 oclock in the morning and was completed about 1 oclock P.M. during all which time a most tremendous fire was kept up by all the ships, five in number, though fortunately for us their Common shot were all directed over us and we were annoyed only with small arms and swivels which however killed and wounded an great number of our men.  About half an hour after they had landed their last Division the Shiping ceased  fireing (sic) upon which all our troops who were able, left the ditch and marched up the Hill in the utmost confusion and disorder, the men being almost famished with hunger and thirst, were More desirous of allaying it than of preparing to defend themselves against the enemy they knew was in their rear.  Consequently as soon as we had reached the level ground on top of the hill and were all trying to get water from a Neighboring well, The Hessian Grenadiers who had been concealed in a thick wood adjoining the orchard in which we were began the attack, and in about 15 minutes the whole regiment were cut to pieces and made prisoners, except as few cowardly souls who quit their ground the first onset, and with the Brigadier General and Major made their escape.  The General name was [James] Wadsworth from Durham in Connecticut, and the Major’s name was [Edward] Mott [ of Gay's Regiment] from Plainfield in the same State, and two greater Poltroons never has commissions.  After the enemy had done killing those who they though refractory, they Marched on toward the City with their prisoners of which I was one. 



We were extremely ill used and not allowed either victuals or drink that day.  At night the
[y] were shut up in Bridwell [Prison, located at what is now City Hall Park] and a Guard of Hessians placed on the outside of the yard.  Myself and eleven others watching an opportunity when the Guard were carousing, and inattentive, made an escape over the fence, and proceeded along the Bank of the North River as far as Greenwich in hopes of getting a boat in which we might cross the River, the whole of us being strangers to the way to King’s Bridge, we were however disappointed there being none to be found, we then held a consultation what to do, and finally a large majority agreed to go back and give themselves up, but Myself and one John Wood Sergeant Major of the Regiment [ Col. Gay's, enlisted June 24, 1776, discharged Dec 29th, 1776] determined on attempting an escape by way of the River we took an affectionate leave of our fellow prisoners who accompanied us to the waters edge and saw us set off on each of us a Pine Board numbers of which lay near the River, and after about Five and a half hours exertion we had the good fortune to reach the Jersey Shore at a village called  Communipaw below Powles Hook, but at the time of our landing I was so Much exhausted that I could not stand & had it not been for the assistance of my Comrade, who was a stout hearty man, I could never have landed, by his assistance I got to a House near the waters Edge, where by being dried by the fire & having my body & limbs rubbed, I recovered strength sufficient to set off from thence a little before day light.  The good man at whose house we were gave us a little Milk which was the only nourishment I had taken for more than 48 hours, except my own urine and the Salt water out of the River.  He also gave us such directions as enabled us to cross the Marsh and get into Bergen Wood before day light. 


About 10 oclock in the Morning we arrived at the English Neighbourhood where we got refreshment & found many sick belonging to the Army.  In the Afternoon we crossed the River at Fort Washington and joined the army again, where I continued through all the fatigues and hardships until after the Hessians were taken at Trenton with no other clothing but what I had on when I crossed the
[River] consisted of a Shirt, Hat, overalls, one Flow’d vest, Handkerchief & pair of old Linen Stockings – General Washington discharged us with his thanks after taking the Hessians at Trenton, and I arrived in Connecticut on the 7th day of February – From the 15th of September my shirt had never been washed without being put on again wet, or I had remained naked until it was dry, and the greater part of the time I was tormented with Lice & the Itch.
  
[Part 2 continues here]

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

A Memorial for Litchfield's Soldiers of the Revolutionary War

Americans did not erect statues of Continental soldiers in their town squares in the decades following the American Revolution, nor list the names of their war dead on pedestals.  Such commemorations belong to a later time and reflect the sensibilities and mourning customs of the 19th and 20th centuries.  The revolutionary generation had other priorities after the war.

It is true that Congress authorized a memorial in January, 1776 to the fallen Brigadier General Montgomery, and had Benjamin Franklin oversee the contract with a French sculptor, but it honored one individual and was installed in 1788 within New York’s St. Paul’s chapel rather than the public square.  The Prison Ship Martyrs monument began in 1808 as a modest effort to collect and inter the bones of those who had died on prison ships in Wallout Bay, but the crypt and memorial were relocated and redesigned on an increasingly grand scale in 1867, 1873 and 1908. 


Like many New England communities, Litchfield Connecticut has a number of war memorials on its Town Green, as well as a monument to the 2nd CT Heavy Artillery near the field where the regiment mustered in 1862. Aside from a tree planted in 1902 on Arbor Day by the Mary Floyd Tallmage Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, there is nothing on the Green dedicated to the memory of the men of Litchfield who served in the Revolution.   There is now an effort in the community to erect such a monument, anticipating Litchfield’s tercentenary in 2019, and I have been invited to assist.



There are a number of challenges to overcome, in addition to the financial cost of commissioning a new memorial and the intricacies of the various stakeholder interests involved in its design and approval.  There is also the question of which names should be included on the monument.  It becomes a problem of geography, of documentation, and above all of accuracy, for what we write in stone has authority.



The D.A.R. compiled a list in 1912 of 507 names associated with Litchfield on its Honor Roll of Revolutionary War soldiers, including reference citations for each name.  Among these are men like Ethan Allen who were born here but moved away and whose service is associated with other places.  It also includes prominent veterans like Benjamin Tallmage who moved to Litchfield after the war and whose notable service gave luster to the community.  Some of the men on the list served with distinction, while others deserted.  Some died in service.  Some served from Morris that was once part of Litchfield but was later incorporated with the name of one of its illustrious veterans.   Some men, though perhaps not very many, should have been included on the Honor Roll as veterans from Litchfield but were not.  This will all have to be sorted out.



Names on a plaque do not tell the story.   30 men from Litchfield in a company of 36 either died during the capture of Fort Washington in November, 1776, or of disease and neglect in captivity over the next few months.  Several more were missing in action at Germantown with no record of subsequent captivity.  One, a man of 78 years, responded to the Danbury Alarm and was shot in the head after helping pursue the Crown forces back to Long Island Sound.  One died in the taking of Stony Point.  One served in the Carolinas and fought at Guildford Court House and the Siege of Ninety Six.  One transferred from the 5th Connecticut to the Georgia battalion in 1777 and may have previously been a British deserter.  One was a bombardier with Lamb’s Artillery.  One was carried half a mile by his brother before being captured after Germantown.  Three were African Americans.  Ten received supplies for their families as part of an enlistment incentive in 1777.



In subsequent posts, I will share some of their stories.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

History Carnival CLXII: Double LP Edition

Mismatched buckles and shoes
http://historycarnival.org/
Welcome to History Carnival 162 at "Another Pair Not Fellows", so named because certain "runaway" advertisements from colonial American newspapers default to this archaic phrase when describing absconders wearing mismatched sleeve links, stockings or shoe buckles. To give but one example: a Dutch serving man in New Jersey took to his heels back in 1773 with

"a broad brimmed Felt Hat, Snuff coloured Jacket, old cloth coloured ditto, old Blue breeches, white shirt, coarse grey stockings, and new shoes, with Buckles not Fellows [emphasis mine]."

This is my third time at the turntable as host of the History Carnival (see HC 56 and HC 100) but it is the first time in many years.  It is also the first time at this blog, where my 18th Century historical interpretation and material culture research interests went to live after I put Walking the Berkshires on ice.  So let me be your DeeJay and I'll lay some righteous history grooves on you here at Another Pair, &c.

DISC ONE

TRACK 1: "1985" - BOWLING FOR SOUP.  You get two phat months for the price of one with History Carnival 162, covering both December of last year and January of this one.  Hipster youth, and others like me who are old enough to be their parents, will appreciate that this happy circumstance is akin to savoring the double LP of "Blonde on Blonde" or "The White Album" in all its sprawling glory.  In keeping with this musical vein, Not Another Music History Cliché unravels some Mozart Myths.  For a history of the spinning discs themselves, from the shellac era to the rebirth of vinyl, look no further than this post at Vinyl Lovers Unite.

TRACK 2: "AMERICAN PIE" - DON McLEAN.  If you prefer platters of a different sort, you might be inspired, as was Rich Halpern while at the AHA 2017 Annual Meeting this month, to investigate The Muddled History of the Denver Omlete at the AHA Blog.  Early Modern Whale is making Umble Pie, while Four Pounds of Flour makes a Chicken Country Captain from the 1850s and ponders naturalization.  A Tapster turned Highwayman is revealed at the blog Here Begynneth a Lytell Geste of Robin Hood.  At Process: a blog for american history, Mario Sifuentez makes a good case for lying to his students by offering "a class called the history of food but it’s about workers."

Photo credit: Wilson Freeman
Drifting Focus Photography
TRACK 3:  "THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED" - GIL SCOTT-HERON.  Because the era of American Independence is an old standard here at "Not Fellows", the next cuts on our Carnival relate to research and historical interpretation of this general period.  Don Hagist at British Soldiers, American Revolution continues to document the lives of otherwise anonymous enlisted men with a profile of Robert Mason of the 23rd Regiment of foot, who first appears on the battalion rolls at the tender age of seven.   Kitty Calash's post,  Occupy Princeton, describes a brilliantly conceived public history event in which a force of military occupation and its impact on the lives of local civilians (mainly women) had center stage.  British Tars 1740-1790 examines A New Sea Quadrant, 1748, and describes this useful navigation aid as well as the apparel worn by the sailor depicted with it. J.L. Bell at Boston, 1775 looks for evidence of "a comma in the middle of a phrase."  At the Sign of the Golden Scissors describes a contract to design clothing for two figures - woman and child camp followers - for a permanent exhibit at the new Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia.

TRACK 4: "DON'T YOU (FORGET ABOUT ME)" - SIMPLE MINDS.  Judith Weingarten at Zenobia: Empress of the East, asks "Where are the Real Women of the Ancient World?" Where indeed, and while we are at it, Yvonne Seale wonders, "where are the Medieval women in your college survey course?" Phoebe Evans Letocha guest blogs at Medical Heritage Library on Women Veterans of World War I Our Girl History dares to interpret the untold.   Over at Last Real Indians; Trace L. Hentz calls out selective memories and historians and institutions that are that are late in acknowledging suppressed and oppressed history.  It is a nettlesome read and worth taking the the time to do so, particularly for insights like this:

"So, how DO you keep violence alive in a museum exhibit or book but not make people throw up or pass out? Very carefully...Memory Studies are a new big thing. Memory is emotional, so history done right is capable of invoking a wide range of emotions..to create empathy but not traumatize."

TRACK 5: "AIN'T GWINE WHISTLE DIXIE" - TAJ MAHAL.  Kevin Levin
, who has been deeply engaged with memory studies for more than a decade at Civil War Memory, shares his excitement about the newly designated Reconstruction Era National Monument at Beaufort, South CarolinaMillard Fillmore's Bathtub examines a letter written by its eponymous ex-president to Abraham Lincoln in 1861.

TRACK 6: "RESPECT" - ARETHA FRANKLIN. The Women's History Network introduces us to Edith Morely, Britain's first female professor, while Historiann laments; A woman's work is never done (part II), and even when it is, it's not on the syllabus
The Australian Women's History Network hosts a tribute in celebration of the internationalism of feminist historian Marilyn Lake, with reminiscences by her many colleagues and friends.


TRACK 7: "THE EDISON MUSEUM" - THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS.  Blogs hosted by institutions large and small weigh in with such fascinating posts as a 2,000-year-old pet cemetery at Smithsonian.com (hat tip: World History Blog) and Gremsdoodle Library with 22 blocks in Schenectady.  Another Upstate story is revealed by Hoxie! in a post about armless train announcer Fred Lillie.  Just a short way up the canal, the Friends of Scoharie Crossing tell us about the notorious locks known as The Sixteens.  Our friends at Fort Ticonderoga blog discuss the heavy casualties taken by provincial rangers under Robert Rogers during the Battle on Snowshoes in 1757.

DISC TWO

TRACK 8: "OLD AND IN THE WAY - DAVID GRISMAN".  David Gills at Looting Matters looks back at disputed cultural property and illegal trafficking in antiquities during 2016.  Dumpdiggers lauds the trend in office lobby museums and describes an artifact of office printing technology from the 1880s, now on display at a business in Toronto.  Flavia at Ferule and Fescue muses about the relevance of reference books in the digital age.

TRACK 9:  "U.N.I.T.Y." - QUEEN LATIFA. The group blog The Australian Women's History Network generated a number of excellent posts as activism against gender violence.  Among these are Lucinda Horrick's Out of the Closets: A Homosexual History of Melbourne; Dianne Hall on Early Modern Domestic Violence; Sheilagh Ilona O’Brien on Witchcraft and Communal Violence and Vera Mackie discussing militarized sexual abuse during the Asia-Pacific War.

TRACK 10: "EVERY DAY I WRITE THE BOOK" - ELVIS COSTELLO & THE ATTRACTIONS. Up next, we've got a number of book reviews. Casey Schmitt at The Junto discusses Sowande' Mustakeem's Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex and Sickness in the Middle Passage.   Viola at bookaddiction shares her thoughts on Paula Byrne's biography of Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy.  Jonathan Dresner at Frog in a Well offers a thought on military and transnational history in lieu of a review of Kenneth Swope’s A Dragon’s Head and a Serpent’s Tail: Ming China and the First Great East Asian War. The Renaissance Mathematicus reads an excellent biography on Kepler's mom.  Legal History Blog offers lessons learned from writing The Chapter from Hell.

TRACK 11:  "PLASTIC FANTASTIC LOVER" - JEFFERSON AIRPLANE.  It is hard difficult to resist a scholarly blog named Dirty Sexy History, or a post in which Jessica Cale investigates unabashedly whether Rasputin really was a love machine. Among other things, a case is made that while the Mad Monk was hot, sex for and with him was a spiritual experience. At this same blog, Dr. Stephen Carver offers a straight faced, though hardly straight laced study of The Ancient Lays of Rome.  Expect to hear more from DSH, as they will be hosting HC 163 in March.

Tim O'Brien #alternatefacts
TRACK 12: "HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN" - THE ANIMALS.  At Art and Architecture, Mainly, Hels highlights Greenwich Village in New York - Art , Literature, Progressive Politics.  English Buildings profiles The Victoria and Albert Museum. For period architecture of quite a different sort, check out the extraordinary, scratch-built 28mm scale model siheyuan block at the historical war-gaming blog Major Thomas Foolery's War Room.  Museum dioramas were my gateway to history as a little boy, and the research and artistry brought to this grownup project are of the highest order.

TRACK 13:  "WHAT IT MEANS" - DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS.  Alternate facts abound with America's post-expert POTUS. Historians know the difference and they document the hell out of it. Executed Today burns a werewolfThe Many-headed Monster examines the history of Fake News in the 17th century and compares it to that of the present day. Airminded investigates claims of Death Ray development between the wars.

TRACK 14. "HELP SAVE THE YOUTH OF AMERICA" - BILLY BRAGG.  The verdict of The Progressive Professor puts Barack Obama in the top 10 (now of 45) American Presidents.  Politics and Letters calls out Henry the K and compares him to Doctor Strangelove at the ending of the American Century, adviser as he is to the now President Trump while he slams the Open Door of US Foreign Policy. The Broken Elbow chronicles the lengthy record of Martin McGuinness as IRA Chief of Staff.  Patrick Rael demystifies the 13th Amendment and its impact on mass incarceration at Black Perspectives.  Nigerian History Channel considers models of national reconciliation 47 years after the end of the Nigerian Civil War.  Timothy Burke cautions at Easily Distracted that we need to start to recognize our connections to conspiratorial readings as well as our alienation from them.  Chris Gehrz writes at The Anxious Bench on Faith, Resistance and Self-Sacrifice and concludes;

"if we find ourselves...governed by 'an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct' — then I can only pray that God will give me and you the strength not to hesitate, not to calculate or procrastinate, but to defend what is right without fear."

Public History flashback:
Naval Impressment, Newport Rhode Island, 1765
 Photograph by John Collins
BONUS TRACK:  "FIGHT FOR YOUR MIND" - BEN HARPER.   My favorite sign from the global Women's Marches in January reads as follows:

"What do we want? Evidence-based Science!"
"When do we want it?  After Peer Review!"


So say we all.

Your Humble Blogger,
resplendent in striped calimancoe
LINER NOTES: 

Time to face the music.  Yes, this was actually a carnival of history's untold stories and under-represented voices, all served up with musical accompaniment.  I actively sought to highlight these posts and bloggers and you can too.

The next edition of the History Carnival -
No. 163 - will be at Dirty Sexy History. Be sure to nominate the Best History Blog Posts of February, 2017 and consider hosting this Carnival yourself.

There's no school like Old School. 
Rock on.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Buckets, Bags and Engines at the Boston Massacre


I'll be portraying a citizen of Boston at this year's commemoration of the Boston Massacre who, responding to the ringing of church bells at an unaccustomed hour, turned out thinking there was a fire.  There are numerous contemporary accounts in eyewitness testimony that describe people in the crowd carrying fire buckets and other equipment, at least two fire engines hauled to the vicinity of the confrontation at the Customs House, and people asking directions to a fire.  I've decided to adopt the persona of one of these eyewitnesses, Thomas Wilkinson, who reported:

"The Old South bell rung for nine as usual; about a quarter after I heard Mr. Cooper's bell ring, I went out and saw the Old South engine hauled out.  I ran down as far as the town pump.  There seemed to be a considerable body of people, and some with buckets...The Old Brick bell began to ring, and the people seemed to come along fast, with buckets and bags."

Wilkinson describes a full array of fire-fighting responses from the citizens of Boston, although there was, in fact, no fire.  Fellow Bostonian John Colburn recounted;

"being alarmed by the cry of fire and ringing of bells, ran out of my house with my bags and buckets; upon going to Mr. Payne's door, he told me it was not fire, it was a riot. I sent my buckets home again..."

Newtown Prince, another witness to the events that night, recalled "When the bells rung I was at my own house.  I run to the door and heard the cry of fire.  I went out and asked where the fire was; somebody said it was something better than fire.  I met some with clubs, some with buckets and bags, and some running before me with sticks in their hands."

Dr. John Jeffries and William Whittington gave similar testimony:

Dr. John Jeffries - "I then passed up the alley myself into Cornhill; as soon as I got out of the alley I heard the Old Brick bell ring.  There were many in the street running, some with buckets, inquiring where the fire was..."

William Whittington - "In a little time I heard the bells ring, and made a stop and asked what was the matter?  They said fire.  I saw several people with buckets, &c., and I asked them where they were going?  They said there is fire somewhere."

Just what were these buckets, bags and engines described by these and other witnesses to the Boston Massacre? 

Boston had a long history of fire-fighting, developing an elaborate system of public and private resources to respond to blazes and protect life and property.  The first fire engine, a wheeled wooden reservoir equipped with hand pumps and a nozzle, was imported for use in the Town in 1678, a year which also saw the establishment of the first paid fire department.  By 1770 there were ten fire engines in Boston, including two that were the very first built in America, constructed by local blacksmith and engine captain David Wheeler. The Selectmen's Minutes from March 10th, 1766 record:

" Messrs. John Green and David Wheeler having at their own cost and charge, built and Compleated a Fire Engine, which upon tryal does honor to the Country as well as to the Constructers; the use thereof on all Ocassions by means of Fire that may happen they may offer the Town, provided they will keep the same in good repair, and allow the Men belonging thereto, the Exceptions and Priviledges indulged the other Engine-Men - it is therefore Voted that the Town do accept the said generous proposal."

The following week David Wheeler was appointed Captain of the new engine, designated No. 10 and called the Green Engine. Later that year in November, Wheeler proposed building an Engine House at Pond Lane near the intersection with Newbury Street. Although David Wheeler was later replaced as Engine Captain, other Wheelers maintained control of the Engine. On the night of the Massacre, one participant testified that Wheeler's engine responded to the bells.


Thomas Greenwood - "...spending the evening at Mrs. Wheeler's, I was alarmed by the bells ringing and the people's crying fire, upon which I turned out with Mrs. Wheeler's three sons and helped Mr. Wheeler's engine as far as the Old South meeting house."

It should be noted that his contemporaries considered Greenwood an unreliable witness - he was a servant to the Customs collectors and gave wildly conflicting testimony about his involvement in the "Massacre"- but this detail may, in itself, be more credible. From No.10's Engine House to the South Meeting House was about three long blocks, a bit more than half the distance to the head of King Street at the Town House.

We already know from Thomas Wilkinson's report that the Old South Engine (No. 7) was out at this time, and probably was one of the two later reported together at King Street by eyewitness Benjamin Frizwell:


"The deponent proceeded about his business, as far as Wheeler's Point, and while there, the bell rang as usual for fire, and he with others ran to the Town-house; two engines being there drawn, the men attending, left them on the west end of the Town-house." 

According to another participant, Benjamin Davis; "I...went into King street, and saw some with buckets; the engine was in King street, but nobody with it."  He may be referring either to the South Engine or to the one kept at the Town House - No. 5, called The Marlborough Engine - that would have been closest to the commotion. Shubael Hewes, who was south of the Custom Hosue when the bells began ringing, reported;  

"I spent the evening with an acquaintance near the Town dock; sitting in the room, the Master of the house came into the room, and said fire was cried, and the bells a ringing; as I belonged to the engine, I was first out of the door, with my surtout and stick...I thought I should meet our engine coming down the lane or Cornhill..."  


Mr. Hewes belonged to Engine No. 5, and would succeed its long-serving Engine Captain Thomas Read in 1772.

From this we can conclude that at least two fire engines reached the head of King Street by the North end of the Town House (No. 5 and No. 7.) when the bells rang, and perhaps one more responded at least part way (Engine No. 10).

The paid fire companies were not the only ones who turned out that night, however. There were also
volunteer Fire Societies, associations of 25 to 30 neighbors and merchants who pledged to come to each others' assistance in case of fire. Some of the regulations and orders of these ancient associations have been preserved. One of the more colorfully named was the Anti-Stamp Fire Company, established in 1763 but evidently renamed when it published its bylaws in 1765 (republished in 1776). In addition to specifying fines for member non-attendance or non-compliance, the rules of the Society made specific mention of fire equipment that each member was to maintain and bring with him in case of fire:

Jonathon Rowe's Fire Bucket

Fire buckets were made of leather and waterproofed with pitch.   They sometime bore elaborate "folk art" designs in addition to the identifying names and numbers associated with their owners.  Fire Societies sometimes painted their motto on their buckets, though I have been unable find documentation for any that may have been associated with the Anti-Stamp F.S.   It is tempting to imagine the thundering words of James Otis rendered as a Latin motto, and I could not resist doing so, but it is purely conjectural:

                Tributum Çine RepræÇentatione Tryannus eÇt.


The other fire-fighting equipment referenced in the rules of the society was standard salvage gear.  Once a blaze took hold, the threat to personal household property was of more immediate urgency than saving the structure, which in turn was a threat to the Town.  While some members formed bucket brigades, others used their fire bags to rescue items from the burning buildings.  These bags were made of linen duck or other strong canvas, and often had a draw string to secure their contents.  A surviving Portsmouth, New Hampshire fire bag used during this period by a member of a local Fire Society appears at right.

The reference to a "Bed-Winch" actually indicates a bed-wrench, a specialized forged iron tool used to disassemble the heavy wooden beds that  were often the most valuable possession in the household. These wrenches included ends that could draw recessed bolts that joined the posts and the frames of the bedstead.  Though their form and complexity evolved over time, bed-wrenches or bed keys remained an essential part of the fire-fighter's tool kit well into the 19th century.

The fact that many people turned out for a fire when the alarm bells rang was an important point of testimony during the aftermath of the Boston Massacre.  It was necessary to establish what people held in their hands, whether buckets and bags or more dangerous items such as clubs, because it could very well affect the verdict if the soldiers acted in self defense.  Thomas Wilkinson thought there was a fire, and he described buckets, bags and engines in his account.  Although one cannot be certain that he brought any fire-fighting supplies to the scene himself, I am prepared to play him that way, with bucket in hand, when the showdown at the Customs House plays out once again this year for the Boston Massacre commemoration.  It remains to be seen whether I shall take liberties with the motto or stick to the plain requirements of name and number.

_________________________________________________________________________________
Sources:

Arthur W. Brayley; A Complete History of the Boston Fire Department: Including the Fire-Alarm Service and the Protective Department; from 1630 to 1888; Boston, Massachusetts: John P. Dale & Co., 1889

Frederick Kidder, History of the Boston Massacre,, March 5, 1770, Consisting of the Narrative of the Town, the Trial of the Soldiers, and a Historical Introduction; Albany, New York: Joel Munsell, 1870

"Rules and Orders to be Observed by the Anti-Stamp Fire Society", 1763

"Rules and Orders to be Observed by the Anti-Stamp Fire Society, Instituted at Boston, October 1763, Revised and Corrected November 1776"

Selectmen's Minutes (vol 7) 1769-1775; Boston, Massachusetts; Rockwell & Churchill, 1893