Samuel Adams Drake.

Historic fields and mansions of Middlesex online

. (page 22 of 39)
Online LibrarySamuel Adams DrakeHistoric fields and mansions of Middlesex → online text (page 22 of 39)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

themselves as under restraint. They, however, opened their
session under protest, by a vote of 59 j'eas to 2.9 nays. Urgent
public business gave the Governor a triumph, which was ren-
dered as empty as possible by every annoyance the members in


their ingenuity could invent. The preceding May the election
of councillors had been held in Cambridge, conformably to
Governor Hutchinson's orders, but contrary to the charter and
the sense of the whole province. This was done to prevent
any popular demonstration in Boston, but the patriotic party
celebrated the day there, and their friends flocked into town
from the country as usual. An ox was roasted whole on the
Common and given to the populace.

The tragic events of the 5th of March, 17^0, had occasioned
great indignation and uneasiness, which the acquittal of Cap-
tain Preston and his soldiers contributed to keep alive. The
following is a copy of the paper posted upon the door of Boston
Town House (Old State House), December 13, 1770, and for
which Governor Hutchinson oflered a reward of a hundred
pounds lawful money, to be paid out of the public treasury.
Otway's " Venice Preserved " seems to have furnished the text
to the writer : —

" To see the sufferings of my fellow -toumsmen
And own myself a man ; To see the Court
Cheat the INJURED people with a shew
Of justice, which we ne'er can taste of ;
Drive ns like wrecks clown the rough tide of power,
While no liold is left to save ns from destruction,
All that bear this are slaves, and tve as such,
Not to rouse up at the great call of Nature
And free the world from such domestic tyrants."

Harvard has not been free from those insurrectionary ebulli-
tions common to universities. In most instances they have
originated in Commons Hall ; the grievances of the stomach,
if not promptly redressed, leading to direful results. Sydney
Smith once remarked, that " old friendships are destroyed by
toasted cheese, and hard salted meat has led to suicide." The
stomachs of the students seem, on sundry occasions, to have
been no less sensitive.

In 1674 all the scholars, except three or four whose friends
lived in Cambridge, left the College, In the State archives
exists a curious document relative to a difficulty about com-
mons at an early period in the history of the College. It is the
11 r


confession of Xatlianiel Eaton and wife, who were cited before
the General Court for misdemeanors in providing diet for the
students. In Mrs. Eaton's confession the following passage
occurs : —

" And for bad fish, that they had it brought to table, I am sorry
there was that cause of offence given them. I acknowledge my sin
in it. And for their mackerel, brought to them with their guts in
them, and goat's dung in their hasty pudding, its utterly unknown
to me ; but I am much ashamed it sliould be in the family and not
preA'ented by myself or servants and I humbly acknowledge my
negligence in it."

The affair of the resignation of Dr. Langdon has been men-
tioned. In 1807 there was a general revolt of aU the classes
against their commons, wliich brought the affairs of the College
nearl}^ to a stand for about a month. The classes, having en
masse, refused to attend commons, were considered in the light
of outlaws by the government, and were obliged to subscribe to
a form of apology dictated by it to obtain readmission. Many
refused to sign a confession a little humiliating, and left the
College ; but the greater number of the prodigals accepted the
alternative, though we do not learn that any fatted calf was
killed to celebrate the return of harmony. This was during
Dr. "Webber's presidency.

The students have ever been imbued with strong patriotic
feelings. In 1768 the Seniors unanimously agreed to take their
degrees at Commencement dressed in black cloth of the manu-
facture of the country. In 1812 they proceeded in a body to
work on the forts in Boston harbor. In the great Rebellion the
names of Harvard's sons are inscribed among the heroic, living
or dead for their country.

The seal of Harvard was " adopted at the first meeting of the
governors of the College after the first charter was obtained.
On the 27th of December, 1643, a College seal was adopted,
having, as at present, three open books on the field of an
heraldic shield, Avith the motto Veritas inscribed." This, says
Mr. Quincy, is the only seal which has the sanction of any
record. The first seal actually used had the motto "/« Christi


Gloynam," which conveys the idea of a school of theology, and
is indirectly sanctioned by the later motto, Christo et Ecclesice.

The Americans threw up works on the College green in
1775, which were probably among the earliest erected by the
Colony forces. They were begun in May, and extended towards
the river. An aged resident of Cambridge informed the writer
that a fort had existed in what is now Holyoke Place, leading
from Mount Auburn Street, — a point which may be assumed
to indicate the right flank of the hrst position. The lines in
the vicinity of the College Avere carefully effaced, some few
traces being remarked in 1824. They were, in all probability,
hastily planned, and soon abandoned for the Dana Hill posi-
tion, by which they were commanded.

The first official action upon fortifications which appears on
record is the recommendation of a joint committee of the Com-
mittee of Safety and the council of war — a body composed of
the general officers — to throw i\p Avorks on Charlestown road,
a redoubt on what is supposed to have been Prospect Hill to
be armed with 9-pounders, and a strong redoubt on Bunker
Hill to be mounted with cannon. These works were proposed
on the 12th of May. The reader knows that the execution of
the last-named work brought on the battle on that ground.

Ever since Lexington the Americans looked for another sally
of the royal forces. They expected it would be by way of
Charlestown, and have the camps at Cambridge for its object.
By landing a force on Charlestown !N'eck, which the command
of the water always enabled them to do, the enemy Avere within
a little more than two miles of headquarters, while a force
coming from Eoxbury side must first beat Thomas's troops sta-
tioned there, and tlien haA^e a long detour of seA^eral miles be-
fore they could reach the river, Avhere the passage might be
expected to be blocked by the destruction of the bridge, and
would at any rate cost a seA^ere action, under great clisadA^antage,
to have forced. A landing along the Cambridge shore Avas im-
practicable. It Avas a continuous marsh, intersected here and
there by a fcAV farm-roads, impassable for artillery, Avithout
Avhich the king's troops Avould not have moA^ed. The Lexing-


ton expedition forced its way through, these marshes with
infinite difficulty. The EngHsh commander might land his
troops at Ten HiUs, as had already been done ; but to prevent
this was the object of the possession of Bunker Hill. He was
therefore reduced to the choice of the two great highways lead-
ing into Boston, with the advantages greatly in favor of that
which passed on the side of Charlestown.

The advanced post of the Americans on old Charlestown
road, which was meant to secure the camp on this side,
was near the point where it is now intersected by Beacon
Street. It was distant about five eighths of a mile from Cam-
bridge Common. The road, Avhich has here been straightened,
formerly curved towards the north, crossing the head of the
west fork of Willis Creek (Miller's Eiver), by what was called
Pillon Bridge. The road also passed over the east branch of
the same stream near the present crossing of the Fitchburg
Eailway, where a mere rivulet appears to indicate its vicinity.
The works at Pillon Bridge were on each side of the road ; that
on the north running up the declivity of the hill now crossed
by Park Street, and occupying a commanding site. The ex-
istence of a watercourse here may still be traced in the vener-
able willows which once skirted its banks, and even by the dry
bed of the stream itself The bridge, according to appearances,
was situated seventy-five or a hundred yards north of the pres-
ent point of junction of the two roads, now known as Wash-
ington and Beacon Streets. At the Cambridge line the former
takes the name of Kirkland Street.




" Father and I went down to camp
Along with Captain Gooding,
And there we see the men and boys
As thick as hasty pudding."

THEEE is a certain historical coincidence in the fact that
the armies of the Parliament in England and of the
Congress in America were each mustered in Cambridge. Okt
Cambridge, in 1642-43, was generally for the king, and the
University tried unsuccessfully to send its plate out of Oliver's
reach. In 1775 the wealth and influence of American Cam-
bridge were also for the king, but the University was stanch
for the Revolution.

We confess we should like to see, on a spot so historic as
Cambridge Common, an equestrian statue to George Washing-
ton, " Fate?', Liberator, Defensor Patrice. " Besides being the
muster-field where the American army of the Revolution had
its being, it is consecrated by other memories. It was the
place of arms of the settlers of 1G31, who selected it for their
strotig fortress and intrenched camp. Within this field the
flag of thirteen stripes was first unfolded to the air. We have
already had occasion to refer to the uprising of Middlesex in
1774, when the crown servitors resident in Cambridge had their
judicial commissions revoked in the name of the peojDle. It
was also the place where George the Third's speech, sent out by
the " Boston gentry," was committed to the flames. '

Before reviewing the Continental camp, a brief retrosj^ect of
the military organization of the early colonists will not be
deemed inappropriate. In the year 1644 the militia was or-
ganized, and the old soldier, Dudley, appointed major-general.
Eudicott was the next incumbent of this new ofiice ; Gibbons,


the third, had first commanded the Suffolk regiments ; Sedg-
wick, the fourth, the Middlesex regiment. After' Sedgwick
came Atherton, Denison, Leverett, and Gookin, who was the
last major-general under the old charter. These officers were
also styled sergeants major-general, a title borrowed from Old
England. They were chosen annually by the freemen, at the
same time as the governor and assistants, while the other mili-
tary officers held for life.

Old Edward Jolinson, describing the train-bands in Gibbons's
time, says his forts were in good repair, his artillery well
mounted and cleanly kept, half-cannon, cidverins, and sakers,
as also fieldpieces of brass, very ready for service.

A soldier in 1630-40 wore a steel cap or head-piece, breast
and back piece, buff coat, bandoleer, containing his powder, and
carried a matchlock. He was also armed with a long sword
suspended by a belt from the shoulder. In the time of Phihp's
War the Colony forces were provided with blunderbusses and also
with hand-grenadoes, which were found effectual in driving the
Indians from an ambush. A troop at this time numbered sixty
horse, besides the officers', all v*'ell mounted and completely
armed with back, breast, head-piece, buff coat, sword, carbine,
and pistols. Each of the twelve troops in the Colony were
distinguished by their coats. In time of war the pay of a cap-
tain of horse was £ 6 per month ; of a captain of foot, <£ 4 ; of a
private soldier, one shilling a day. INIilitary punishments were
severe ; the strapado, or liding the wooden horse so as to bring
the blood, being commonly inflicted for offences one grade be-
low the death-penalty. The governor had the chief command,
but the major-generals did not take the field, their offices being
more for profit than for fighting.

With improved fire-arms, Avhen battles were no more to be
decided by hand-to-hand encounters, armor gradually went out
of fashion.

" Farewell, then, ancient men of might !
Crusader, eiTant-sqnire, and knight !
Our coats and customs soften ;
To rise would only make you weep ;
Sleep on, in rusty iron sleep,
As in a safety coffin."


Bayonets as first used in England (about 1680) had a
"wooden liaft, whicli was inserted in the mouth of the piece,
answering thus the purpose of a partisan. The French, with
whom the weapon originated, anticipated the English in fixing
it with a socket. A Erench and British regiment in one of the
wars of AVilliam III. encountered in Flanders, where this dif-
ference in the manner of using the bayonet was near deciding
the day in favor of the French battalion. This weapon, once
so important that the British infantry made it their peculiar
boast, is now seldom used, except perhaps as a defence against
cavalry. Some confidence it still gives to the soldier, but its
most important function in these days of long-range small-
arms is the splendor Avith which it invests the array of a bat-
talion as it stands on parade. "\Ve do not know of a com-
mander who would now order a bayonet-charge, although in
the early battles of the Revolution it often turned the scale
against us.

After the battle of Lexington the Committee of Safety re-
solved to enlist eight thousand men for seven months. A com-
pany was to consist of one captain, one lieutenant, one ensign,
four sergeants, a drummer and fifer, and seventy privates.
Xine companies formed a regiment, of which the field-officers
were a colonel, lieutenant-colonel, and major. Each of the
field-officers had a company which was called his own, as
each of the general officers, beginning with "Ward himself, had
his regiment. The aggregate of the rank and file was, two
days afterward, reduced to fifty. This must be considered
as the first organization of the army of the Thirteen Colo-
nies, — as they afterwards adopted it as their own, — the army
which fought at Bunker Hill, and opened the trenches around,

This Common was the grand parade of the army. Here
were formed every morning, under supervision of the Brigadier
of the Day, the guards for Lechmere's Point, Cobble Hill,
White House, Xorth, South, and INIiddle Eedoubts, Lechmere's
Point tete du pont, and the main guards for AVinter Hill,
Prospect Hill, and Cambridge. Hither were marched the de-


tachments which assembled on their regimental parades at
eight o'clock. Arms, accoutrements, and clothing underwent
the scrutiny of Greene, Sullivan, or Heath. This finished,
the grand guard broke off into small bodies, which marched
to their designated stations to the music of the fife and

We may here mention that the " ear-piercing fife " was in-
troduced into the British army after the campaign of Flanders
in 1748. This instrument was first adopted by the Royal
Eegiment of Artillery, the musicians receiving their instruction
from John Ulrich, a Hanoverian fifer, brought from Flanders
by Colonel Belford when the allied army separated. Nothing
puts life into the soldier like this noisy little reed. You shall
see a band of weary, footsore men, after a long march, fall into
step, close up their ranks, and move on, a serried phalanx, at
the scream of the fife.

Fortunate indeed was he who Avitnessed this old-fashioned
guard-mount, where the first efi'orts to range in order the non-
descript battalia must have filled the few old soldiers present
with despair. There was no uniformity in weapons, dress, or
equipment, and until the arrival of Washington not an epau-
lette in camp. The officers could not have been picked out of
the line for any insignia of rank or superiority of attire over
the common soldiers. Some, perhaps, had been fortunate
enough to secure a gorget, a sword, or espontoon, but all car-
ried their trusty fusees. All that went to make up the outward
pomp of the soldier was wanting. Compared with the scarlet
uniforms, burnished arms, and compact files of the troops to
whom they were opposed, our own poor fellows were the veriest
ragamuffins ; but the contrast in this was not more striking
than were the differeiit motives with Avhich each combated :
the Briton fought the battle of las king, the American soldier
his own.

The curse of the American army was in the short enlistments.
Men were taken for two, three, and six months, and scarcely
arrived in camp before they infected it with that dangerous dis-
ease, homesickness. The same experience awaited the nation in


the great civil war. In truth, if history is philosophy teaching
by example, we make little progress in forming armies out of
the crude material.

If the Americans were so contemptible in infantry, they were
even more so in artillery, — ■ as for cavalry, it was a thing as
yet unknown in an army in which many field-officers could not
obtain a mount. The enemy was well supplied with field and
siege pieces, abundant supplies of which had been sent out,
while the reserves of the Castle and fleet were drawn upon
as circumstances demanded. The unenterprising spirit of the
British commander rendered all tliis disparity much less alarm-
ing than it would have been with a Carleton or Cornwallis,
instead of a Gage or Howe, An eyewitness relates that

"The British appeai'ed so inoffensive that the Americans enjoyed
"at Cambridge the conviviality of the season. The ladies of the prin-
cipal American officers repaired to the camp. Civility and mutual
forbearance appeared between the ofScers of the royal and conti-
nental armies, and a frequent interchange of flags was mdulged for
the gratification of the different partisans."

The earliest arrangement of this chrysalis of an army was
about as foUoAvs. The regiments were encamped in tents as
fast as possible, but as this supply soon gave out, old sails, con-
tributed by the seaport towns, were issued as a substitute.
Patterson's, Whitcomlj's, Doolittle's, and Gridley's pitched their
tents, and Avere soon joined under canvas by Glover. Nixon's
lay on Charlestown road ; a part of the regiment in ]\Ir. Fox-
croft's barn. The houses were at first used chiefly as hospitals
for the sick. Patterson's hospital was in Andrew Boardman's
house, near his encampment ; Gridley's, in Mr. Eobshaw's.
Sheriff Phip's house was hospital Xo. 2, over which Dr. Duns-
more presided. Drs. John Warren, Isaac Eand, William Eustis,
James Thacher, Isaac Foster, and others officiated in the hospi-
tals, under the chief direction of Dr. Church. John Pigeon
was commissary-general to the forces.

We are able to give an exact return of all the regiments in
Cambridge on the 10th of July, 1775, with the number of men
in each : —

11 *


Jonathan Ward,


James Scammon,


William Prescott,


.Thomas Gardner,


Asa Whitcomb,


Jonathan Brewer,


Epliraim Doolittle,


B. Ruggles Woodbridge,


James Fry,


Paul Dudley Sargeant,


Richard Gridley,


Samuel Gerrish,


John Nixon,


John Mansfield,


John Glover,


Edmund Phinney,


John Patterson,


Moses Little,


Ebenezer Brid^'e,


Two companies of Bond's and two of Gerrish's were at Med-
ford. Maiden, and Chelsea. Phinney had. only three companies
in camp. This seems to have been before the troops were
arranged in grand divisions and newly brigaded by Washing-
ton. The aggregate of the troops in Cambridge jDresented by
the above return was 8,076, of which probably not many in
excess of six thousand were for duty. Under the new arrange-
ment of forces Scammon's was ordered to Xo. 1 and the redoubt
on the flank of K'o. 2, Heath's to No. 2, Patterson to Xo. 3,
and Prescott to Sewall's Point. On the 10th of January, 1 776,
when the returns of the whole army only amounted to 8,212
men, but 5,582 were returned fit for duty.

Gridley calls for fascines, gabions, pickets, etc., for the bat-
teries, and makes requisitions for the service of a siege-train.
The artillery, such as it was, but lately dragged from places of
concealment, was without carriages, horses, or harness. There
were no intrenching tools except such as cordd be obtained of
private persons, no furnaces for casting shot, — Jio anything
but pluck and resolution, and of that there w^as enough and to

Armorers were set to work repairing the men's firelocks.
Knox, Burbeck, Crane, Mason, and Crafts mounted the artil-
lery. Sailmakers were employed making tents, carpenters to
build barracks, and shoemakers and tailors as fast as they
could be obtained, — the former in making shoes, cartouch-
boxes, etc., the latter in clothing the soldiers. Shipwrights
Avere building bateaux on the river. In this condition of ac-


tivity and chaos Washington found his army, and realized, per-
haps for the first time, the magnitude of the work before him.
From the Mystic to the Charles and from the Charles to the
sea the air echoed to the sotind of the hammer or the blows of
the axe, the crash of falling trees or the word of command.
Another Carthage might have been reliuilding by another
Cresar, and the ground trembled beneath the tread of armed

Imagine such an army, Avithout artillery or effective small-
arms, without magazines or discipline, and unable to execute
the smallest tactical manoeuvre should their lines be forced at
any point, laying siege to a town containing ten thousand
troops, the first in the world. It Avas, moreover, Avithout a flag
or a commander having absolute authority until Washington

Picture to yourself a grimy figure behind a rank of gabions,
his head Avrapped in an old bandanna, a short pipe betAveen his
teeth, stripped of his upper garments, his lower limbs encased
in leather breeches, yarn stockings, and hob-nailed shoes, indus-
triously plying mattock or spade, and your provincial soldier
of '75 stands before you. Multiply him by ten thousand, and
you have the proAdncial army.

It is certain that no common flag had been adopted by any
authority up to February, 1776, though the flag of thirteen
stripes had been displayed in January. The following extract
from a regimental order book Avill ansAver the oft-repeated in-
quiry as to Avhether the contingents from the diflerent Colonies
fought under the same flag in 1775 :

"Head Quarters 20tli Febniai-y 1776.
" Parole Manchester : Countersign Boyle.

" As it is necessary that every regiment should be furnished Avith
colours and that those colours bear some kind of similitude to the
regiment to Avhich they belong, the colonels Avith their respectiA^e
Brigadiers and Avith the Q. M. G. may fix upon any such as are
proper and can be procured. There must be for each regiment the
standard for regimental colours and colours for each gTand division,
the Avhole to be small and light. The number of the reoiment is to


be marked on the colours and such a motto as the colonels may
choose, in fixing upon which the general advises a consultation
among them. The colonels are to delay no time in getting the mat-
ter fix'd that the Q. M. General may provide the colours for them as
soon as possible. G? Washington."

Washington's first requisition on arriving in camp was for
one hundred axes and^ bunting for colors. At the battle of
Long Island, fought August, 1776, a regimental color of red
damask, having only the word " Liberty " on the field, was
captured by the British. As late as Monmouth there were no
distinctive colors.

The whipping-post, where minor offences against military law-
were expiated, was to be met wdth in every camp. The prison-
ers received the sentence of the court-martial on their naked
backs; from twent}^ to forty lashes (the limit of the Jewish
law) with a cat-o'-nine-tails being the usual punishment. This
barbarous custom, inherited from the English service, was long
retained in the American army. Its disuse in the navy is too
recent to need special mention. Incorrigible offenders were
drummed out of camp ; but though there are instances of the
death-penalty having been adjudged by courts- martial, there is
not a recorded case of military execution in the American army
during the whole siege.

The men in general were healthy, — much more so in Eox-

Online LibrarySamuel Adams DrakeHistoric fields and mansions of Middlesex → online text (page 22 of 39)