Samuel Adams Drake.

Historic fields and mansions of Middlesex online

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tant, untenable to the enemy, and to drive his ships and float-
ing-batteries, from Avhich they had experienced the greatest
annoyance, out of the river. The arrival of Colonel Knox Avith
the heavy artillery from Ticonderoga and Crown Point supplied
the Avant that had all along been so keenly felt. On the 25th
of February, 1776, Knox orders Burbeck, his lieutenant-colonel,
to arm the batteries at Lechmere's Point Avith two 18 and two
24 pounders, to be removed from Prospect Hill ; and on the
26th Washington "announces the mounting there of heaA^y
ordnance and the preparation of two platforms for mortars, but
laments the Avant of the thing essential to offensive operations.
An officer Avrites in January of this poverty of ammunition : —

" The bay is open, — everything thaws here except Old Put. He
is still as hard as ever crying out for powder, powder ! ye gods, give
us powder ! "

From this point Boston was successfully bombarded on the
2d March, 1776. A number of houses in Avhat is now the
West End Avere struck, — Peter Chardon's, in Bowdoin Square,



182 HISTOEIC FIELDS AND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

where the granite church now stands, being hit several times.
The ball which so long remained in Brattle Street Church, a
visible memorial of the siege, was undoubtedly thrown from
Lechmere's Point. The fort here, Avhich we are justified in
considering the most important of all the American works,
commanded the town of Boston as fully as the hills in Dor-
chester did on that side. It was to resist the works here and
on Cobble Hill that the British erected batteries on Beacon
Hill and at Barton's Point in Boston, — the point Avhere
Craigie's Bridge leaves the shore.

The following extracts from the letter of a Britisli officer
of rank, begun on the 3d of March, 1776, and continued in
the form of a joui'nal until the embarkation, gives an account
of the bombardment and manner in which the American artil-
lery was served by Colonel Knox : —

" For the last six weeks, or near two months, we have been better
amused than could possibly be expected in our situation. We had a
theatre, we had balls, and there is actually a subscription on foot for
a masquerade. England seems to have forgot us, and we endeavored
to forget ourselves. But we were roused to a sense of our situation
last night in a manner unpleasant enough. The rebels have been
erecting for some time a bomb battery, and last night they began
to play upon us. Two shells fell not far from me. One fell upon
Colonel Monckton's house and broke all the windows, but luckily
did not burst until it had crossed the street. Many houses were
damaged, but no lives lost. What makes this matter more provoking
is, that their barracks are so scattered and at such a distance tliat we
cannot disturb them, although from a battery near the water-side
they can reach us easily.

" 4th. The rebel army is not brave, I believe, but it is conceded on
all hands that their artillery officers are at least equal to our own.
In the number of shells that they flung last night not above three
failed. This morning we flung four, and three of them burst in
the air.

" 5th. We underwent last night a severe cannonade, which dam-
aged a number of houses and killed some men."

The Eoyal Artillery endeavored for fourteen days unsuccess-
fully to silence the American batteries on the east and west of



lechmeee's point. 183

Boston. On the 6th orders were issued to embark tlie artillery
and stores. Colonel Cleaveland "writes as follows uf the diffi-
culties he encountered : —

" The transports for the cannon, etc., which were ordered to the
wharf were without a sailor on board and half stowed witli hunber.
At the same time most of my heavy camion and all the field artil-
lery, with a great c|uantity of arms, was to be brought in from
Charlestown and other distant posts. I was obliged to send iron
ordnance to supply their places, to keep up a fire on the enemy and
prevent their breaking ground on Forster Hill (South Boston). On
the fifth day most of the stores were on board, with the exception of
four iron mortars and their beds, weighing near six tons each. With
great difficulty I brought three of them from the batter^', but on
getting them on board the transport the blocks gave way, and a
mortar fell into the sea, where I afterwards threw the other two."

Four companies of the 3d Battalion of Artillery had joined
before the troops left Boston. I7ntil their arrival there was not
a relief for the men who were kept constantly on duty. One
hundred and fifty A'essels were employed in transporting the
army and stores to Halifax.

It was related by Colonel Burbeck that the battery contain-
ing the " Congress " mortar was placed under the command of
Colonel David Mason. With this mortar Mason was ordered
to set fire to Boston. His first shell was aimed at the Old
South, and passed just above the steeple. The next shell was
aimed more accurately at the roof, which it Avould doubtless
have entered had not the mortar burst, grievously wounding
the colonel and killing a number of his men. From this anil
similar accidents at the batteries, Boston escaped destruction.
Through the inexperience of those who served them, four other
mortars were burst during the bombardment which preceded
the •occupation of Dorchester Heights.

Early in March Washington evidently expected an attack,
as his dispositions were made with that view. That Lech-
mere's Point was the object of his solicitude is clear from the
precautions taken to guard that important po.st. Upon any
alarm Patterson, whose regiment garrisoned No. 3, was ordered



184 HISTORIC FIELDS Als^D MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

to march to the Point, leaving a strong guard in the work lead-
ing to the bridge. Bond's was to garrison Cobble Hill, and
Sargeant's the IS'orth, South, and Middle Eedoubts. Heath's,
Sidlivan's, Greene's, and Frye's brigades were, in rotation,
to march a regiment an hour before day into the works at
Lechmere's Point and Cobble Hill, — five companies to the
former and three to the latter post, where they were to remain
until suiu'ise.

The fort was situated on the summit of the hill, which has
lost considerable of its altitude, the southeast angle being about
where the old Unitarian Church now stands, and the northern
bastion on the spot now occupied by Thomas Hastings's house,
on the corner of 4th and Otis Streets ; the latter street is laid
out through the fort. A breastwork parallel with the creek and
flanking it extended some distance down the hill.

Lechmere's Point obtained an unenviable reputation as the
place of execution for Middlesex. Many criminals were hung
here ; among others the notorious Mike Martin, sometimes
called " the last of the highwaymen."

Michael Martin, alias Captain Lightfoot, after a checkered
career as a highway robber in Ireland, his native country, and
in Scotland, became a fugitive to America in 1819, landing at
Salem, where he obtained employment as a farm laborer of
Elias Hasket Derby. A life of honest toil not being congenial,
Martin, after passing through numerous vicissitudes, again took
to the road, making Canada the theatre of his exploits.

At length, after committing many robberies in Vermont and
New Hampshire, Martin arrived at Boston, and at once com-
menced his bold operations. His first and last victim here was
Major John Bray of Boston, who was stopped and robbed by
Martin as he was returning to town in his chaise over the
Medford turnpike. Martin had learned that there was to be
a dinner-party at Governor Brooks's house on that afternoon,
and, with native shrewdness, had guessed that some of the
guests might be worth plundering.

Martin fled. He was pursued and arrested in bed at Spring-
field. After being removed to East Cambridge jail, he was



lechmeke's point. 185

tried, convicted of highway robbery, and sentenced to be
hanged. This was the hrst trial that had occurred under the
statute for such an offence, and naturally created great interest.
The knight of the road was perfectly cool during his trial, and,
after sentence was pronounced, observed : " Well, that is the
worst you can do for me."

While awaiting his fate, Martin made a desperate effort to
escape from prison. He had succeeded in filing off the chains
by which he was secured, so that he could remove them at
pleasure ; and one mornmg when Mr. Coolidge, the turnkey,
came to his cell, the prisoner struck him a savage blow with his
irons, and, leaving him senseless on the floor, rushed into the
prison yard. By throwing himself repeatedly and with great
force against the strong oaken gate, Martin at last emerged into
the street, but was, after a short flight, recaptured and returned
to his cell. After this attempt he was guarded with greater
vigilance, and sufi'ered the penalty of his crimes.

Of the two half-moon batteries which Washington caused to
be thrown up in November, between Leclunere's Point and the
mouth of Charles Eiver, the vestiges of one only are remaining.
They were not designed for permanent occupation, but only for
occasional use, to repel an attempt by the enemy to land. The
good taste of the authorities of Cainbridge has preserved the
little semicircular battery situated on the farthest reach of firm
ground on the Cambridge shore. It is protected by a hand-
some iron fence, composed of military emblems, and is called
Fort Washington, — a name rather too pretending for a work
of this class. Looking towards Boston, we see in front of us
the southerly side of the Common, where the enemy had
erected works. The battery has three embrasures, and on a
tall flagstaff is the inscription : —

" 1775 Fort Washington 1857
This hattery thro^v-n up by Washington Nov. 1775."

Struck with the perfect condition of the earthwork, we found
iipon in(|uiry that the city of Cambridge had, about fifteen
years ago, thoroughly restored the rampart, which was then in



186 HISTOKIC FIELDS AND MAjSTSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

good preservation. The guns noAv mounted there were, at that
time, furnished by the United States government. The situ-
ation is very bleak and exposed, and the cold north-winds must
have pierced the poor fellows through and through as they
delved in the frozen gravel of the beach to construct this work.
The other battery was probably on the little hill where the
powder-magazine now stands.

Having arrived at the limit T)f the exterior or offensive lines
between the Mystic and Charles, we may briefly sketch the re-
maining positions on this side, constructed for defence only, in
the earlier stages of the investment. These lines connected
Prospect Hill with. Charles Eiver by a series of detached forts
and redoubts. Of the former there were three, numbered from
right to left. No. 1 was on the bank of Charles Eiver, at the
point where it makes a southerly bend. I^ext was a redoubt
situated a short distance south of the main street leading to the
Colleges, and in the angle formed by Putnam Street. The emi-
nence is being levelled as rapidly as possible, and no marks of
the work remain. Connected with this redoubt were the Cam-
bridge lines, called No. 2, a series of redans, six in number, joined
together by curtains. These were carried across the road, and
up the slope of what was then called Butler's, smce known as
Dana Hill, terminating at their northerly extremity in another
redoubt, situated on the crest and in the angle of Broadway and
Maple Avenue, on the Greenough estate. The soil being a
hard clay, the earth to build this work was carried from the
lower ground on the Hovey estate to the top of the hill. To
the north of Cambridge Street a breastwork was continued in
a northeasterly direction through Mr. C. M. Hovey's nursery.
Cannon-shot and other vestiges of military occupation have
been unearthed there by Mr. Hovej^ A hundred yards behind
this line, but of less extent, was another rampart of earth, hav-
ing a tenaille, or inverted redan, in the centre. The right flank
rested on the main road, which divided the more advanced
work nearly at right angles. Eemains of these works have
existed within twenty-five years.

Continuing to trace the lines eastward, — their general direc-



Putnam's headquartees. 187

tion being from east to west, — Ave find tliat two little half-
moons were thrown up on each side of the Charlestown road at
the point where it crossed the west branch of Willis's Creek.

Xo. 3 lay to the southwest of Prospect Hill, a little south of
the point where the main road from Charlestown (Washington
Street) was intersected by that from Medford and Menotomy,
and Avhich pass it Avas designed to defend. It was a strong,
Avell-constructed Avork, and shoidd be placed A'ery near Union
Square, in Somerville. These defences AA^ere, fur the most part,
planned by Eichard Gridley, the A^eteran engineer, assisted by
his son and by Captain Josiah Waters, of Boston, and Captain
Jonathan BaldAA'in, of Brookfield, afterwards colonel of engi-
neers. Colonel Knox occasionally lent his aid before receiving
his rank in the army.

In coming from CharlestoAvn or Lechmere's Point by the old
county road hitherto described, and before the day of bridges
had created Avhat is noAv Cambridgeport out of the marshes, the
first object of interest Avas the farm of Ralph Inman, a Avell-to-
do, retired merchant of the capital. His mansion-house and
outbuildings formed a small hamlet, and stood in the angle of
the road as it turned sharp to the right and stretched aAA^ay to
the Colleges.

The Avorld would not haA^e cared to knoAV Avho Ralph Inman
was had not his house become interAVOA'en AAdth the history of
the siege as the headquarters of that rough, fiery genius, Israel
Putnam. It could not have been better situated, in a military
view, for Old Put's residence. The General's OAvn regiment
and most of the Connecticut troops lay encamped near at hand
in Inman's green fields and fragrant pine woods. It Avas but a
short gallop to the commander-in-chief's, or to the posts on the
river. Remove all the houses that now intervene between
Inman Street and the Charles, and Ave see that the gallant old
man had crouched as near the enemy as it AA^as possible for him
to do, and lay like a Avatch-dog at the door of the American
lines.

Ralph Inman Avas, of course, a royalist. ^Nature does not
more certainly abhor a vacuum than does your man of sub-



188 HISTORIC FIELDS AND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

stance a revolution. Strong domestic ties bound him to his
allegiance. He was of the Church of England too, and his
associates were cast in the same tory moidd with himself. He
had been a merchant in Boston in 1764, and the agent of Sir
Charles Frankland when that gentleman went abroad. He
kept his coach and his liveried servants for state occasions, and
the indispensable four-wheeled chaise universally affected by
the gentry of his day for more ordinary use. If he was not a
Scotsman by descent, we have not read aright the meaning of
the thistle, which Inman loved to see around him.

The house had a plain outside, unostentatious, but speak-
ing eloquently of solid comfort and good cheer within. It
was of wood, of three stories, with a pitched roof. From his
veranda Inman had an unobstructed outlook over the mead-
ows, the salt marshes, and across the bay, to the town of
Boston. What really claim our admiration about this estate
were the trees by which it was glorified, and of which a few
noble elms have been spared. Approaching such a house, as it
lay environed by shrubbery and screened from the noonday
sun by its giant guardians, with the tame pigeons perched
upon the parapet and the domestic fowls cackling a noisy re-
frain in the barn-yard, you would have said, " Here is good
old-fashioned thrift and hospitality ; let us enter," and you
would not have done ill to let instant execution follow the
happy thought.

Besides his tory neighbors — and at the time of which we
write what we now call Old Cambridge was parcelled out
among a dozen of these — Inman was a good deal visited by
the loyal faction of the town. The officers of his Majesty's
army and navy liked to ride out to Inman's to dine or sup, and
one of them lost his heart there.

John Linzee, captain of H. M. ship Beaver, met with Sukey
Inman (Ralph's eldest daughter) in some royalist coterie, - —
as like as not at the house of her bosom friend, Lucy Flucker,
— and found his heart pierced through and through by her
bright glances. He struck his flag, and, being incapable of
resistance, became Sukey's lawful prize. He came with Dal-



PUTNAM'S HEADQUAKTERS. 189

ryniple, Montague, and his brother officers ostensibly to sip
Ealph's mulled port or Yidania, but really, as Ave may believe,
to see the daughter of the house. For some unknown cause
the father did not fiivor Linzee's suit. There was an aunt
whom Sukey visited in town, and to whose house the gallant
captain had the open sesame, but who manoeuvred, as only
aunts in 1772 (and they have not forgot their cunning) knew
how, to keep the lovers apart.

But John Linzee was no faint-heart, and he married Sukey
Inman. George Inman, her brother, entered the British army.
Linzee commanded the Falcon at the battle of Bunker Hill,
where he did us all the mischief he could, and figured else-
where on our coasts. In 1789 he happened again to cast
anchor in Boston harbor, and opened his batteries this time
with a peaceful salute to the famous stars and stripes flying
from the Castle. It is well known that Prescott, the historian,
married a granddaughter of Captain Linzee.

The interior of Inman's house possessed no striking features.
It was roomy, but so low-studded that you could easily reach
the ceilings with your hand when standing upright. The deej)
fireplaces, capacious clipboards, and secret closets were all
there. Our last visit to the mansion was to find it divided
asunder, and being rolled away to another part of the toAvn,
where we have no wish to foUow. It was not a pleasant sight
to see this old house thus mutilated, Avith its halls agape and
its cosey bedchambers literally turned out of doors, — a veri-
table wreck ashore.

Inman was arrested in 1776. ' He had been of the king's
council and an addresser of Hutchinson. He became a refugee
in Boston, and his mansion passed into the custody of the Pro-
vincial Congress, who assigned it to General Putnam.

Putnam, as we remember, commanded the centre of the
American position, comprising the works and camps in Cam-
bridge. The commission of major-general was then no sine-
cure, and we may opine that Old Put had his hands busily
employed. Those long summer days of 1775 were full of care
and toil, but the summer eveninfjs were not less <2iorious than



190 HISTORIC FIELDS AND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

now, and the General must have often sat on the refugee's
lawn, watching the camp-fires of the investing army, or tracing
in the heavens the course of some fiery ambassador from the
hostile shore.

One day while Putnam was on Prospect Hill he summoned
all his captains to headquarters. It was stated to them that a
hazardous service was contemplated, for which one of their
number was desired to volunteer. A candidate stepped for-
ward, eager to signalize himself. A draft of six men from each
company Avas then made. At the appointed time the chosen
band appeared before the General's C{uarters, fully armed and
equipped. Old Put complimented their appearance and com-
mended their sjjirit. He then ordered every man to lay aside
his arms for an axe, and directed their march to a neighboring
swamp to cut fascines.

When Putnam was with Amherst in Canada, that general, to
his great annoyance, found that the French had a vessel of
twelve guns stationed on a lake he meant to pass over with his
army. While pondering upon the unexpected dilemma he was
accosted by Putnam with the remark, " General, that ship must
be taken." " Ay," says Amherst, " I 'd give the Avorld she
were taken." " I '11 take her," says Old Put. " Give me some
wedges, a beetle, and a few men of my own choice." Amherst,
though unable to see how the ship was to be taken by such
means, willingly complied. At night Putnam took a boat, and,
gaining the ship's stern unperceived, with a few quick blows
drove his Avedges in such a manner as to disable the rudder.
In the morning the vessel, being unmanageable, came ashore,
and was taken.

With the single exception of Washington there is not a
name on the roll of the EeA'olution more honored in the popu-
lar heart than that of Putnam. He was emphatically a man of
action and of purpose. At what time he received his famous
sobriquet we are unable to say, but he was Old Put at Cam-
bridge, and will be to posterity.

We can imagine the young fledglings of the army calling the
then gray-haired veteran by this familiar nickname, but when



Putnam's headquarters. . 191

it comes to the dignified commander-in-chief, it shows us not
only that he had a grim sense of tlie humorous, but that he was
capable of relaxing a little from his habitual dignity of thought
and expression. " I suppose," says Joseph Reed, in a letter to
Washington, — "I suppose ' Old Put ' was to command the de-
tachment intended for Boston on the 5th instant, as I do not
know of any officer but himself who could have been depended
on for so hazardous a service." And the General replies : " The
four thousand men destined for Boston on the 5th, if the minis-
terialists had attempted our works at Dorchester or the lines at
Eoxbury, were to have been headed by Old Put."

He had nearly attained threescore when the war broke out,
but the fires which a life filled with extraordinary adventures
had not dimmed still burned brightly in the old man's breast.
Only think of a sexagenarian so stirred at the scent of battle as
to mount his horse and gallop a hundred and fifty miles to the
scene of conflict. Whether we remember him in the Avolfs
lair, at the Indian torture, or fighting for his country, we
recognize a spirit Avhich knew not fear and never blenched at
danger.

If the General sometimes swore big oaths, — and we are not
disposed to dispute it, — they were, in a measure, inocuous ;
such, for example, as Uncle Toby used at the bedside of the
dying lieutenant. Your camp is a sad leveller, and though the
Continental officers could not have had a more correct example
than their illustrious chief, yet it was much the fashion among
gentlemen of quality of that day, and especially such as em-
braced the military profession, to indulge themselves in a little
profanity. Say what we Avill, our Washingtons and our Have-
locks are the vara avis of the camp. We have history for it
that " our army swore terribly in Flanders." We believe the
Eevolution furnishes a similar example ; and we fear the Great
Pebellion tells the same story.

It was perhaps to remedy this tendency, and that the
spiritual wants of the soldiery might not suffer, that a prayer
was composed by Eev. Abiel Leonard, chaplain to General Put-
nam's regiment, and printed by the Messrs. Hall in Harvard



192 HISTORIC FIELDS AND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

College in 1775. Putnam was no courtier, but brusque, heart j,
and honest. The words attributed to the Moor might have
been his own : —

" Rude am I in my speech,
And little blessed with the set phrase of peace ;
For since these arms of mine had seven years' pith,
Till now some nine moons wasted, they liave used
Their dearest action in the tented field."

Putnam's summer costume was a waistcoat without sleeves
for his upper garment. Across his braAvny shoulders was
thrown a broad leathern belt, from which depended a hanger,
and tlius he appeared as he bestrode his horse among the
camps at Cambridge. Those sneering Marylanders scouted this
carelessness in the bluff old captain's attire, and said he was
much better to head a band of sicklemen or ditchers than
musketeers.

The day following the battle of Bunker Hill, a young lady
who had been assisting Dr. Eustis in the care of our wounded
wished to send a letter to her parents in Boston. Her heart
was full of anguish at the death of Warren, and her pen un-
skilled in cold set phrase. The officer at the lines to whom
she handed her missive, in order that it might go in with the
first flag, returned it, saying, " It is too d — d saucy." The lady
went to General "Ward, who advised her to soften the expres-
sions a little. General Putnam, who was sitting by, read the
letter attentively, and exclaimed, " It shall go in if I send it at
the mouth of a cannon ! " He demanded a pass for it, and the



Online LibrarySamuel Adams DrakeHistoric fields and mansions of Middlesex → online text (page 17 of 39)