Major Henry Vassall, a brother of Colonel John Vassall, died about six years ago and left the house in the hands of his widow. It is a very fine old mansion, showing signs of wealth in its owners, and there are some peculiarities in its style of building. Major Appleton called my attention one day to a large panel in the wall near the fire-place, opening which he stepped into the cavity and shut the door. I found it hard to believe my eyes as I saw him disappear in the wall, but afterwards made assurance doubly sure by peeping into the closet myself and discovered ample space for hiding treasures of any description, and for secreting a fugitive could he find air to keep him alive. The grounds of the Vassall house extend to those of the Brattle estate, which Major Mifflin has just taken as his residence. These grounds are exquisitely laid out, and are really the finest in New England. Many of the convalescent soldiers, able to stroll about in the soft summer air, have found welcome for them to the Brattle grounds in the nodding leaves and grasses and the sweet odors of the flowers and the gentle call of the fountain. The kind Major and his gentle lady, herself delicate in health, both extend warm sympathy and hospitality to our brave soldiers. So you see, my friend that my life for a time runs in a different current from its wont. Our hands are soldiers’ property now; jellies are to be made, lint to be scraped, bandages to be prepared for waiting wounds. Embroidery is laid aside and spinning takes its place. Oh, there is such urgent need for economy! No one, out of the secret, would believe how little ammunition is in the possession of our army. If you will walk with me through the old burying ground I will show you holes in the tombs of our revered ancestors, made by the removal of the leaden coats-of-arms. This, you may be sure, would not be allowed unless necessity required. You know the graves here , date back fully a century and a quarter, and count among them those of the first presidents of our college, as well as many who were held in honor in both public and private life. President Charles Chauncy, the second who held the office, died in 1672, and a long Latin inscription testifies to his virtues and his labors. His wife died four years previous, and I have found her epitaph which I will copy for you.
There is an element in our camp life not to be overlooked I mean the negroes, many of them slaves, who, heart and soul, enter into the interests of our country and render valuable service both in tent and field. It was a colored soldier, you know, who shot Major Pitcairn at Bunker Hill. Many of them are scattered through the ranks of the army, and in the hospitals and the camp faithfully fill offices of various kinds. Is it not a curious custom, that of naming the black boys and girls for heathen gods and goddesses? I often laugh at the dusky Junos and Venuses which hold sway in the kitchen and the Jupiters and Neptunes and Mercuries who in the old days used to guide the rein and flourish the whip in proud consciousness of family dignity, and now that their Tory masters have gone, enlist their powers for the comfort and care of the soldiers.
I shall expect a reply to my letter by your first opportunity for sending. Be sure to write me as fully of your life as I have written of my own. With love in abundance, dearest Esther, I am your very affectionate friend,
General Richard Montgomery, who distinguished himself in the French war, and is one of the brigadier-generals appointed by Congress, is in command in Canada. He is a very valuable general, trusty, prompt, and brave, and yet retiring, choosing the quiet and seclusion of home to the noise and distractions of the army. His wife is a daughter of Robert R. Livingston of New York, whose father, the aged Robert Livingston, died soon after the battle of Bunker Hill. This venerable man had always been a staunch patriot, and predicted the Revolution. Often he would say to his grandson, “Robert, you will live to see this country independent.” The last words of this octogenarian patriot, as he lay calmly awaiting the death angel, were: “What news from Boston.'”
Arnold’s expedition will join Montgomery, and the united forces do their utmost to conquer the city of Quebec.
Great excitement is occasioned by the discovery of a secret correspondence which Dr. Benjamin Church has been carrying on with the enemy. Dr. Church has had the highest confidence of all, as a member of our vigilance committee, and was specially recommended to General Washington on his arrival in camp as a trustworthy and valuable man and one deputed to meet the Commander-in-chief and escort him from Springfield to Cambridge. To think of his being at heart a Tory all the time! I have a letter of his which was intercepted and never reached its destination. No date, but written apparently soon after the battle of Bunker Hill.
“I hope this will reach you. Three attempts have I made without success in effecting. The last the man was discovered in attempting his escape, but fortunately my letter was sewed in the waist-band of his breeches. He was confined a few days, during which time you may guess my feelings; but a little art and a little cash settled the matter. It is a month since my return from Philadelphia. I went by way of Providence to visit mother. The committee for warlike stores made me a formal tender of 12 pieces of cannon, 18 and 24 pounders, they having took a previous resolution to make the offer to Gen. Ward. To make a merit of my service I sent them down, and when they received them they sent them to Stoughton to be out of danger, even though they had formed the resolution as I before hinted of fortifying Bunker’s Hill, which with the cowardice of the clumsy Col. Gerrish & Col. Seaman was the lucky occasion of their defeat. This affair happened before my return from Philadelphia. We lost 165 killed, and since dead of their wounds. 120 now he wounded the chief will recover. They boast you have 1400 killed and wounded in that action. You say the Rebels lost 1500 I suppose with equal truth. The people of Connecticut are raving in the cause of liberty. A number from that colony, from the town of Stamford, robbed the King’s stores at New York, with some small assistance the New Yorkers lent them. These were growing very turbulent. I counted 200 cannon from 24 to 3 pds. at King’s bridge, which the committee had secured for the use of the Colonies. The Jersies are not a whit behind them in Connecticut in zeal. The Philadelphians exceed them both. I saw 1200 men in review there by General Lee, consisting of Quakers and other inhabitants in uniform, with 1000 riflemen and 40 horse, who together made a most warlike appearance. I mingled frequently & freely with the members of the Continental Congress. They were united and determined in opposition and appeared assured of success. Now to come home, the opposition has become formidable. 1800 men, brave & determined, with Washington and Lee at their head, are no contemptible enemy. Adjutant General Gates is indefatigable in arranging the army. Provisions are very plenty, clothes are manufacturing in almost every town for the soldiers, 20 tons of powder lately arrived at Philadelphia, Connecticut, and Providence, upwards of 20 tons are now in camp. Saltpeter is made in every colony, powder mills are erected and constantly employed in New York and Philadelphia. Volunteers of the first fortunes are daily flocking to the camp, 1000 riflemen in 2 or 3 days. Recruits are new levying to augment the army to 22000 men. 10,000 militia are appointed in this Government to appear on the first summons. The bills of all the colonies circulate freely and are readily exchanged for cash. Add to this that unless some plan of accommodation takes place immediately, their harbors will swarm with privateers. An army will be raised in the middle colonies to take possession of Canada. For the sake of the miserable convulsed empire solicit peace repeal the acts or Britain is undone. This advice is the result of a warm affection to my King and to the realm. Remember I never deceived you. Every article here sent you is sacredly true. The papers will announce to you that I am again a member for. Boston. You will there see our motley council. A general arrangement of officers will take place, except the chief which will be suspended but for a little while to see what part Great Britain takes in consequence of the late Continental petition. A view to Independence grows more and more general. Should Britain declare war against the Colonies they are lost forever. Should Spain declare war against England, the colonies will declare neutrality which will doubtless produce an offensive and defensive league between them; for God’s sake prevent it by a speedy accommodation.
“Writing this employed a day. I have been to Salem to reconnect, but could not escape the geese in the Capitol. Tomorrow I set out for Newport on purpose to send you this. I write you fully, it being scarcely possible to prevent discovery. I am out of place here by choice, therefore out of pay & am determined to be so unless something is offered in my way. I wish you would contrive to write me largely in ciphers by way of Newport, addressed to Tom Richards, merchant, enclosed in a cover to me, intimating that I am a perfect stranger to you, but being recommended to you as a gentleman of Honor you took the liberty to enclose that letter, entreating me to deliver it, as directed, the person, as you are informed, living at Cambridge! Sign some fictitious name. This you may send to some confidential friend at Newport to be delivered to me at Watertown. Make use of every precaution or I perish. B. Church.”
I saw the prisoners, as under a strong guard they left the court-house after their condemnation to that horrible place. The reports of that underground dungeon are enough to make one shudder. Chained to the damp ground, far below the upper world, out of reach of the sun’s rays or a breath of pure air, how can it be possible for life to go on? Surely only the most hardened wretches are entitled to such a fate!
Towards the latter end of summer in the next year the learned, reverend, and judicious Mr. Henry Dunster -came over, and was pointed out by the Lord, “with his unerring finger,” as the one to take the direction of the young institution, now pretty firmly established with funds, as well as in the faith of the people. More money was soon sent from across the sea, for the enterprise was considered past the reach of a poor pilgrim people. Over the college there were twelve overseers, six being magistrates and six ministers; and the students had the advantage of being “under the orthodox and soul-flourishing ministry of Mr. Thomas Shepard,” a fact that is said to have had great influence in deciding the place at which the college was established. In 1641, a class of nine bachelors, who had probably been under instruction for some time previous to the arrival of Mr. Dunster, was graduated. People rejoiced greatly at the progress of these young men in learning and godliness. Some of the rules of the college provided that no one should be admitted that could not understand Tully, or such like classical author ex tempore, and make and speak true Latin in verse and prose. They were to understand that the main end of this life is “to know God and Jesus Christ; and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.” “And seeing the Lord only gives wisdom, let everyone seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of Him.'” Further, they were to exercise themselves in reading the Scriptures twice a day. They could not “go abroad to other towns ” without permission; and were directed to eschew all profanity of God’s Name, Attributes, Word, Ordinances, and Times of Worship. These rules ‘ were not ignored; and it is said that on the first Commencement Day “two young men of good quality, lately come, out of England,” were complained of “for foul misbehavior, in swearing and ribaldry speeches,” were corrected in the college, and sequestered for a time. For the most part, however, the young men came with a purpose, and worked with a will. They suffered privations, and their parents did also. Money was scarce in the Colony then, and the steward’s bills were paid with beef, veal, pork, mutton, poultry, grain, malt, eggs, butter, cheese, apples, cider, fuel, candles, cloth, leather, shoes, and sometimes with tobacco, and even the products of the still. President Dunster labored against financial odds for fourteen years, and was at last compelled to resign on account of certain views on baptism that were considered by some to have originated with the Evil One. Mr. Wadsworth says he was never able to see exactly why a college president should have been compelled to resign for such reasons. The Rev. Charles Chauncy was next president; and during his term of office the financial difficulties increased so greatly that the General Court was appealed to for aid for what was called then “the sinking college.” Pubic grants and private munificence, however, did not fail, and the work went on. Mr. Leonard Hoar, of the class of 1650, became president in 1672, and the same year the library was largely increased by a bequest of Theophilus Gale. President Hoar was a sagacious man, and very creditable every way to his Alma Mater? In 1685, the Rev. Increase Mather of Boston, of the class of 1656, became president, and held the office sixteen years. Old Mr. Wadsworth tells me of a curious visit made to the college in July, 1680, by two Dutchmen from Friesland. They were Jasper Bankers and Peter Sluyter, who were making a tour in several American colonies, and made the following records in their diary:
This account shows that the rules about the use of tobacco and the study of Latin were not always observed, and also that the students in those days were not above having a little fun at the expense of innocent strangers. Increase Mather was an absentee from Cambridge, with the exception of three months and a week, and appears to have considered his collegiate duties of much less importance than those he was called to render the state, and the people of the North Street Church, Boston. Meanwhile, the students were well instructed by tutors Brattle and Leverett of the class of 1680. It was during the presidency of Mather, in 1700, that the book of Robert Calef, on the “Wonders of the Invisible World,” was burned in the college yard. The next year Samuel Willard was appointed acting president. He was followed by John Leverett, Benjamin Wadsworth, Edward Holyoke, Samuel Locke, and, a year ago last October, by the Reverend Samuel Langdon, our present earnest, learned, and patriotic president. May he long hold the office! Massachusetts Hall was built in 1720, when Mr. Levprett was president. In 1725, the college faculty was organized. It seems that discipline had grown loose, for, two years before, there were reports that the students were some of them guilty of “stealing, lying, swearing, idleness, picking of locks, and too frequent use of strong drink.” These practices were found difficult to be entirely abolished.
In January, 1764 – it seems as if the terrible event were but yesterday, the college met with its great loss in the burning of Harvard Hall, in which the General Court was sitting. The members were very active in their efforts to save the building; but it went, and with it the library of some six thousand volumes, the gift of Mr. John Harvard, Dr. Lightfoot, Bishop Berkeley, and others: the portraits and curiosities, the apparatus given by Mr. Houis, and many other articles that can never be restored. This disaster was the occasion of a great display of good feeling, and many gifts of books, apparatus, and furniture were primarily made to the college by friends in America and England. Soon, however, the relations between the Colony and the mother country changed; and, as a token of their feelings, the senior class voted to take their degrees in homespun clothes. Their patriotism was loudly applauded; and they seem to have been led by this fact, and by the atmosphere of rebellion about them, to disobey}’ a rule of the Faculty that was of small importance. I forget what Mr. Wadsworth says it was.
In 1769, the General Court met in the college chapel, and before proceeding to business listened to an impassioned address from Mr. James Otis, of the class of 1743. In 1770, the General Court met again in Cambridge, but I must stop. My interest in tile whole subject of the relations of the college to our present terrible struggle has carried me on and on, until I am surprised at the number of pages I have devoted to it. I hope the record may prove of value to me at some future time, when the matter is less fresh in my memory.
December 18th. Mrs. Washington was at church yesterday with the General. She is a fine-looking lady, with regular features, dark chestnut hair and hazel eyes, and certain gravity in her carriage which becomes her position. She was a widow when General Washington married her, rich and attractive, and he was taken captive at first sight. They say General and Mrs. Gates came with them, and occupied a pew near. Dr. Appleton prayed most earnestly for our country and its defenders, alluding pointedly and affectionately to the chief officer of the army. For some time it has not been customary to pray for the King. Independence is much thought and talked of, and any sign of allegiance to the mother country is very offensive. Mrs. Washington has expressed a wish that Christ Church may be put in readiness for services, and orders have gone forth to that effect.
January 1st, 1776. Yesterday service was held in Christ Church. I was invited to be present. Colonel William Palfrey, at request of Mrs. Washington, read the service and made a prayer of a form different from that commonly used for the King.” O Lord, our Heavenly Father, high and mighty. King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who hast made of one blood all the nations upon earth, and whose common bounty is liberally bestowed upon thy unworthy creatures; most heartily we beseech Thee to look down with mercy upon his Majesty, George the Third. Open his eyes and enlighten his understanding, that he may pursue the true interest of the people over whom Thou in Thy Providence hast placed him. Remove far from him all wicked, corrupt men, and evil counselors, that his throne may be established injustice and righteousness; and so replenish him with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that he may incline to Thy will and walk in Thy way. Have pity, O most merciful Father, upon the distresses of the inhabitants of this Western world. To that end we humbly pray Thee to bless the Continental Congress. Preside over their councils, and may they be led to such measures as may tend to Thy glory, to the advancement of true religion, and to the happiness and prosperity of Thy people. We also pray Thee to bless our provincial assemblies, magistrates, and all in subordinate places of power and trust. Be with Thy servant, the Commander-in-chief of the American forces. Afford him Thy presence in all his undertakings; strengthen him that he may vanquish and overcome all his enemies; and grant that we may in due time be restored to the enjoyment of those inestimable blessings we have been deprived of by the devices of cruel and bloodthirsty men, for the sake of Thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
General and Mrs. Washington, Mrs. Gates, Mrs. Morgan, Mrs. Mifflin, Mrs. Curtis, and many others, including officers, were present. The General is loyal to his church as to his country, though he has identified himself with our parish during his residence among us. There was something grand and yet incongruous in the service in this church, which has so lately sheltered the rollicking soldiers. Doors shattered and windows broken out, organ destroyed, and the elegance and beauty of the building greatly marred. It has been imperfectly repaired at the request of one whom its former aristocratic worshippers hold in supreme contempt as a rebel against his Majesty’s most righteous rule. How very different was the scene from that in the days before the war. The General’s majestic figure, bent reverently in prayer, as with devout earnestness he entered into the service; the smallness of the band of worshippers, and the strangeness of the circumstances and the surroundings. There was nothing but the contrast to recall the wealth and fashion which were wont to congregate there. I remember the families as they used to sit in church. First, in front of the chancel were the Temples, who every Sabbath drove from Ten Hills Farm – Mr. Robert Temple and his accomplished wife and lovely daughters. Their estate, which is a very fine one, is on the supposed site of Governor Winthrop’s house as early as 1631, and where, it is thought, the little bark, the Blessing of the Bay, the first vessel built in American waters, was launched for its first voyage across the ocean. Mr. Temple is a staunch loyalist, and at the beginning of war took passage for England, leaving his family at the Farm under General Ward’s protection. The vessel, however, was detained, and he obliged to take up his residence in our camp. Behind the Temples sat the Royalls, relatives of Mrs. Henry Vassall, the Inmans and the Borlands, who owned and occupied the Bishop’s Palace, as the magnificent mansion, built by Rev. Mr. Apthorp, opposite the president’s house, is called. The house is grand in proportions and architecture, and is fitted in every respect to bear the name which clings to it. It was thought that Mr. Apthorp had an eye to the bishopric when he came to take charge of Christ Church, and put up this house of stately elegance. But whatever his wishes may have been, they were not realized, for he abruptly terminated his ministry in Cambridge after a few years. Among his congregation were the Faneuils, the Lechmeres, the Lees, the Olivers, the Ruggleses, the Phippses, and the Vassalls. Many of these families were connected by relationship. Mrs. Lee, Mrs. Lechmere, and Mrs. Vassall the elder, are sisters of Colonel David Phipps, and daughters of Lieutenant-Governor Spencer Phipps. The “pretty little, dapper man. Colonel Oliver,” as Reverend Mr. Sergeant used to call in sport our sometime lieutenant-governor, married a sister of Colonel John Vassall the younger, and Colonel Vassall married his. Mrs. Ruggles and Mrs Borland are aunts of Colonel Vassall’s. These families were on intimate terms with one another, and scarcely a day passed that did not bring them together for social pleasures. Judge Jonathan Sewall, who afterwards occupied Judge Richard Lechmere’s house, married a daughter of Mr. Edmund Quincy, an elder sister of Mrs. John Hancock. I well remember the train of carriages that rolled up to the church door, bearing the worshippers to the Sabbath service. The inevitable red cloak of Judge Joseph Lee. his badge of office in the King’s service, hung in graceful folds around his stately form; the beauty and elegance of the ladies were conspicuous, as silks and brocades rustled at every motion, and India shawls told of wealth and luxury. The ties of blood and friendship were strengthened by those of a common faith, and the treasury of the church was filled by cheerful givers from their abundance. Now everything is changed all who took such deep interest in the welfare of the church, all the original subscribers for the building are gone, with exception of Judge Joseph Lee, who is unmolested on account of his moderate principles, and Mr. John Pigeon, who is a patriot. The very first article of plate this church possessed Was a handsome silver christening basin, the gift of Madame Grizzel Apthorp, Dr. East Apthorp’s mother, the first year of its existence as a church and of his duties as rector. It is inscribed: –
CANTABRIGI^ IN NOVA ANGLIA
The communion service, silver flagon and covered cup, was presented by Governor Thomas Hutchinson through Dr. Caner, rector of King’s Chapel, who had received a new service of communion plate from King George 111. for the use of the chapel in Boston. This flagon and cup are inscribed with the royal arms and these words:
THE GIFT OF
K. WILLIAM AND Q. MARY
TO YE REV’d SAMLL MYLES,
FOR YE USE OF
THEIR MAJESTIES CHAPELL IN N. ENGLAND,
The Union Flag on Prospect Hill
January 2nd. – Yesterday a union flag was raised on Prospect Hill. It has thirteen stripes of alternate red and white, emblematic of the thirteen united colonies, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia, and on a blue ground in the corner are the united red and white crosses of St. George and St. Andrew. As it was flung to the breeze and tossed and spread itself in graceful glee, a volley of thirteen guns thundered forth a glad greeting to our national banner. If one can trust the index of patriotism and determination and bravery, unswerving in the face of dreadful discouragements, this our national flag will ere long proudly wave over a free country. There it is now, flaunting defiantly in the very eyes of his Majesty’s troops, who are bewildered by the loud huzzas which fill the air. Yesterday was the birthday of our new Continental army. The first hastily organized one has been disbanded, within gunshot, too, of twenty or thirty British regiments. The supply of fire-arms is so small that the guns of the retiring soldiers were taken from them to do service a second time in the hands of those who now step into their places. This of course occasions dissatisfaction, as many of the men brought their own muskets when they enlisted. But, I am sure, they will submit to the situation pleasantly when they see the necessities of the government. General Howe shows no disposition to leave Boston, nor does General Washington feel secure enough in the strength of his army to attempt to drive him away just yet. One of our officers from General Putnam’s division, speaking of the January thaw, expresses the universal want of the soldiers: “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! “Congress has resolved” That if General Washington and his council of war should be of opinion that a successful attack may be made on the troops in Boston, he do it in any manner he may think expedient, notwithstanding the town and property in it may be destroyed.” President Hancock, in communicating this resolve, wrote: “You will notice the resolution relative to an attack upon Boston. This passed after a most serious debate in a committee of the whole house, and the execution was referred to you. May God crown your attempt with success. I most heartily wish it, though individually I may be the greatest sufferer.” January 4th. – His Majesty’s “most gracious “speech has been received.
It breathes the tenderness compassion for his deluded American subjects. Yet there is an under-current of revenge and threatening of destruction, if continued rebellion is persisted in. It seems that the day of the flag-raising on Prospect Hill, the speech was sent to General Washington from Boston, and the British, hearing the noise of the shouting soldiers, misinterpreted it as a signal of submission to the King, and are daily looking for a formal surrender of our lines. How very different is the case from that of their anticipations! The colonists are more united than ever in their resistance. They have burnt the speech, and in every way in their power sought to express their indignation. General Greene says: “America must raise an empire of permanent duration, supported upon the grand pillars of truth, freedom, and religion, based upon justice, and defended by her own patriotic sons. From the sincerity of my heart, ready at all times to bleed in my country’s cause, I recommend a declaration of independence, and call upon the world, and the great God who governs it, to witness the necessity, propriety, and rectitude thereof.” Great Britain is to hire Hessians to crush our rebellious Colonies. All their efforts will but encounter the most spirited opposition, and we firmly believe will result in nothing but disaster to themselves.
Boston buildings desecrated
January 16th. – How our Boston buildings are desecrated by the British soldiers! Faneuil Hall, which has rung with the eloquence of patriots, is used as a theatre, where ridiculous plays are performed and our army and its commanders turned into sport. Sometimes the playbills are sent to our officers in camp. A few evenings ago, while they were amusing themselves with a performance called “The Blockade of Boston,” in which General Washington was represented as an uncouth countryman, dressed shabbily, with large wig and long rusty sword, suddenly a sergeant appeared and cried out, “The Yankees are attacking our works on Bunker Hill.” Immediately General Howe gave the order,” Officers to your alarm posts!”and there was a hasty breaking up of the assembly. The alarm was caused by an attempt of our soldiers to burn the remaining houses in Charlestown, – those that had escaped the general conflagration last June, and which are used for fuel by the British. The flames aroused the enemy on Bunker Hill, and there was some firing on both sides, though only one life was lost on the enemy’s side. None of our men were hurt.
January 22nd. – A most curious delegation of Indians is in town, of the Caghnawaga tribe, come to visit our army and pay their respects to its Commander-in-chief. General Washington treats them with great attention, and will exert himself to make their stay one of enjoyment, that they may go away feeling the greatness and strength of our government, and our friendship toward their nation.
January 24th. – Have been honored by an introduction to several sachems and warriors of the Caghnawaga Indians. Major Mifflin made a large dinner company, Today, in their honor and I was invited. The Redmen are very courteous in .Indian fashion, and the profound bows and scrapes they made to those favored with presentation are truly remarkable. One of the sachems is of English birth, a native of Massachusetts, carried away in infancy by the savages and brought up as one of their own children. Another has French blood in his veins. They go to-morrow, I believe, to Roxbury, to view the lines under General Thomas’s command, and will be laden with presents of clothing and trinkets of various kinds when they return to their own people. Mr. John Adams, our member of Congress, was at Major Mifflin’s Today. He came from Roxbury this morning, and to-morrow continues his journey to Philadelphia to join the Continental Congress. The Indians, when told his relations to government, showed signs of curiosity and regarded him with great attention. Mr. Adams is a fine looking man, with a broad, capacious head, seemingly equal to a large amount of brainwork, pleasant though serious expression, a figure a little below the medium in height, and inclining to be stout. He stands among the foremost men in Congress, and his ability to weigh the important matters of state is undoubted. He it is who nominated General Washington for commander-in-chief, and the clearness of his judgment in making that motion is acknowledged by everyone.
January 2Sth. – There is a pamphlet going the rounds which awakens universal interest, and the sentiments are much admired for their boldness and patriotism. The writer is one Thomas Paine, an English Quaker who has been in America a little over a year, but has made acquaintance with Franklin, Samuel Adams, Rush, and other prominent public men. This book was shown to them for criticism, and called by Rush by the title of
“Common Sense.” It says: –
“The sun never shone on a cause of greater worth. T is not the affair of a city, a county, a province, or a kingdom, but of a continent, of at least one eight part of the habitable globe. T’is not the concern of a day, a year, or an age, posterity are virtually involved in it even to the end of time. All men, whether in England or America, confess that a separation between the countries will take place one time or other. To find out the very time, we need not go far, for the time hath found us. The present, likewise, is that peculiar time which never happens to a nation but once, the time of forming itself into a government. Until we consent that the seat of government in America be legally and authoritatively occupied, where will be our freedom ? Where our property ? Nothing can settle our affairs so expeditiously as an open and determined declaration of independence. The blood of the slain, the weeping voice of nature cries, ’tis time to part. A government of our own is our natural right. Freedom hath been hunted round the globe, Europe regards her as a stranger, and England hath given her warning to depart. Oh! receive the fugitive and prepare an asylum for mankind.”
The Attach on Quebec
January 29th. – The expedition which left Cambridge last autumn for Canada under command of Benedict Arnold, encountered terrible trials, and many, frightened at the hardships of the march, returned. Those who remained endured almost incredible sufferings, cold, hunger, exhaustion, combined to render them wretched and incapable of service. Their clothes were torn by the forest bushes, their bodies scratched by numberless thorns, and their shoes worn by constant walking over the rough ground, so ‘ that many were forced to go barefoot, their food so scarce that many a meal was furnished by the faithful dogs of the party. Here and there a man was left behind to die on the road, as it was impossible to be burdened with helpless invalids. The middle of November the expedition – that part which survived the horrors of the march, reached Quebec, and the third day of last month was joined by General Montgomery, who left the conquered city of Montreal with a subordinate foster, and came to attempt the conquest of the strongest fortified city in America. For several weeks the besieging army surrounded the city, and on the last day of December an assault was made, headed by the brave general. He compelled none to follow him in the attack, he wanted with him “no persons who went with reluctance.” To his own soldiers he said: “Men of New York, you will not fear to follow where your general leads. Push on, brave boys, Quebec is ours!”Pressing forward directly in front of the cannon, he was greeted with a volley of grapeshot which laid him dead, and with him his young aid-de-camp, McPherson, and eleven others. Consternation seized, the expedition at the fall of its commander, and an immediate retreat was ordered. General Montgomery was an experienced soldier and a valued officer. His loss is mourned all over the country. At news of his death “the whole city of Philadelphia was in tears, every person seemed to have lost his nearest relative or heart friend.” Congress publicly expressed for him “their grateful remembrance, profound respect, and high veneration, and desiring to transmit to future ages a truly worthy example of patriotism, conduct, boldness of enterprise, insuperable perseverance, and contempt of danger and death, resolve to rear a marble monument to the glory of Richard Montgomery.” Not in public life alone was he beloved and honored, in all the relations of home he was faithful, – kind, upright, modest, every one held him in high esteem. He and his aid-de-camp were buried with military honors by the governor and council of Quebec.
January 30th. – Madame Washington has enlivened the monotony of her winter among us by a reception, on the seventeenth anniversary of her wedding day. The fine old Vassall mansion was in gala dress, and the coming and going of guests brightened the sober aspect of the General’s head-quarters. The General and his wife stood in the drawing-room at the left of the front entrance, and there received the company. General Washington’s study is the room opposite, and opening out of this, the one set apart for his military family. These of course were all thrown open for the accommodation of the guests. There was much chatting and walking to and fro, and easy and social manners were the rule. The General does not talk much, but is gracious and courteous to all. His lady is very unceremonious and easy like other Virginia ladies, though there is no lack of dignity in her manner. Of course simplicity of dress was noticeable, – no jewels or costly ornaments, – though tasteful gowns, daintily trimmed by their owner’s fingers, were numerous. The occasion was a most enjoyable one.
February 3rd. – How very exact General Washington is, in all the little details of his business! I have a letter, that he wrote to General Sullivan this week, giving directions about the pay of soldiers under his command, which illustrates this:
Dr Sir, I quite forgot to enquire last night (when you were showing me the Militia Pay Roll) at what rates the officers pay was charged – I am willing to allow them the same pay as the Troops have had and have – that is, to the first of Jany agreeable to the old establishment – (more I cannot) – & For the month of Jany according to the present pay. This is putting of them in all respects up on a footing with the continental army. – You will consider therefore how far this alteration will square with your mode of making up the Pay Rolls, as the manner of charging & extending the sums she appear clear upon the face of the accts – I must again desire you to request the Captains to be very correct in making up their acc’^ not only because they are to swear to them, but because I must for my own Justification have all the extensions & additions tried. – Should any of them therefore prove wrong, they will not only give themselves a good deal of trouble & delay for nothing but me also, and I must again desire that they may be cautioned against Including men that have enlisted into the Continental service, as I will take a good deal of pains to prevent, and if not prevented, to detect an evil, which I am apprehensive will be practiced. If I recollect the Roll you showed me last night men of the same Company and as I suppose from the same Town are charged a different number of days, whereas I think the Engagement is, that they are to be paid from the time of their marching from the Town – however as I was engaged in reading letters & news papers at the time, I might have mistaken the matter. As I understand the muster Rolls of these Companies (from New Hampshire) are lodged with you I should be glad to receive them with your account. of the money expended. – If the mileage is drawn for in the manner proposed by you, the Com. should be appraised of it, as he told me some of the militia captains paid without distinguishing of which Government were applying to settle with him.
I am Sir Yr most obedient servant Geo Washington.
P. S. If you are not engaged I should be glad of your company at dinner at 2 o’clock.
February 4th, Sunday. – Dr. Langdon preached this morning from Micah iv. 5, “For all people will walk everyone in the name of his God, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever.”
His sermon in the afternoon was from the text: “Lord, when thy hand is lifted up, they will not see: but they shall see, and be ashamed for their envy at the people, yea, the fire of thine enemies shall devour ‘ them.” They were warm, earnest discourses, burning with patriotism and loyalty to God. It is a pleasure to listen to the words of our good President, whenever he visits the camp and occupies Dr. Appleton’s pulpit.
February 11th. – Today the pulpit was filled by Rev. Mr. Noble of Newburyport, who preached a good sermon from Revelation XIX. 5: “And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God all ye his servants, and ye that fear Him, both small and great.” The meeting-house was well filled, in spite of the intense cold which crept through the doors and windows, and did its best to turn us all into icicles. The wind whistled it’s loudest, and blew its heaviest, so that the good minister’s voice was often lost in the tumult. Having no cellar under the building, cold feet are the order of the day these wintry Sabbaths, for all who are not provided with a foot-stove, to send its pleasant warmth through the whole body. I wonder when the time will come that the meeting-house will be allowed the comfort of a stove!
Preparations for the Attach of Boston
February 27th. – General Washington has issued orders, that “all officers, non-commissioned officers, and soldiers, are positively forbid playing at cards and other games of chance. At this time of public distress, men may find enough to do in the service of their God and their country, without abandoning themselves to vice and immorality. As the season is now fast approaching when every man must expect to be drawn into the field of action, it is highly important that he should prepare his mind as well as everything necessary for it. It is a noble cause we are engaged in, it is the cause of virtue and mankind, every temporal advantage and comfort to us and our posterity, depends upon the vigor of our exertions, in short, freedom or slavery must be the result of our conduct, there can therefore be no greater inducement to men to behave well. But it may not be amiss for the troops to know that if any man in action shall presume to skulk, hide himself, or retreat from the enemy without the orders of his commanding officer, he will be instantly shot down as an example of cowardice, cowards having too frequently disconcerted the best formed troops by their dastardly behavior.” There has been a good deal of card playing and gambling of various kinds. The enforced quiet of the soldiers has been irksome, and they enlivened the monotony in any way they could devise. Many have had opportunity to work at their trades of shoemaking, tailoring, and the like, or to add to their income by selling such things as nuts’, apples, and cider, which > make a little variety in the daily rations. They are well fed, having a good supply of substantial food – corned beef and pork four days in a week, salt fish one day, and fresh beef two days. As milk is out of the question in the winter, they are allowed one pound and a half of beef, or eighteen ounces of pork every day. A half pint of rice, or a pint of Indian meal, is given them for a week, a quart of spruce beer daily, or nine gallons of molasses to one hundred men per week. Every man has one pound of flour every day except one, in a week, when hard bread takes its place. Butter is given out at the rate of six ounces a week, to each man. Pease, beans, or other vegetables, such as potatoes, turnips, onions, are dealt out in weekly portions. These short winter days, candles are quite a necessary article, and are given every week to the soldiers, six pounds for one hundred men. I have made this schedule of the soldiers’ rations, because everything that concerns their comfort has a special interest for me. We seem to be quartered right in the midst of the army, and all the minutiae of their daily life are an open book before us.
March 2nd. – General Washington has been as anxious as any one of the soldiers to attack Boston and dislodge the British troops, but not till now has he felt that he could safely undertake it. Under many difficulties, owing to the hard, frozen ground, works have been thrown up on Lechmere’s Point and heavy ordnance placed there. Strong guards are mounted on the works, and everything ready for an attack. I saw some mortars carried over to the Point Today. The camp begins to look as if battle was resolved upon. Militia from the neighboring towns is pouring in, in response to General Washington’s order. Large quantities of fagots and screwed hay are collected for entrenching purposes, and what tells a plainer story than all other preparations, two thousand bandages are in readiness for the wounds which it is expected will need them. About a fortnight ago we had some very severe weather which made strong ice between Dorchester and Boston Neck and also between Roxbury and the Common. General Washington wished to take that opportunity to make the long anticipated assault upon the troops in Boston, by marching our forces over the ice. But the other generals of the council of war thought it hazardous, so the attack has been waiting for a more favorable time.
March 4th, Monday. – Saturday evening the house shook with the roar of cannon which our troops were firing upon poor Boston from Lechmere’s Point 1 and Cobble Hill 2 and Roxbury. The British returned the fire, and a shell from their batteries fell on Prospect Hill. Five of our mortars were burst during the bombardment, a great misfortune to us. Yesterday it remained quiet during the day, but the firing began again toward night. Three regiments went from here to Roxbury yesterday and carried some field pieces with them, and cannon also went to Lechmere’s Point.
Dorchester Heights occupied
March 5th. – Last night about seven o’clock firing began again, and immediately a detachment of two thousand men under command of General Thomas marched to Dorchester Heights and took possession. They moved very quietly and worked so rapidly at the entrenchments, that before daybreak this morning they had raised them high enough to cover themselves from the enemy’s shot. These works command Boston, and it is expected that General Howe will think it best to evacuate the town very soon, or else come out to meet our soldiers in battle. Today is the sixth anniversary of the Boston Massacre, and Washington has inflamed the desire of our men for a contest by saying: “Remember, it is the fifth of March, a day never to be forgotten, avenge the death of your brethren.” The hills around Boston are covered with eager and anxious spectators waiting for the conflict. As many as four thousand men are under parade near Fort Number Two, commanded by Old Put, and this afternoon they are to embark in boats near the mouth of the river and attack Boston.
March 6th. – A most furious gale of wind yesterday afternoon prevented the anticipated engagement. Today the rain pours in torrents, and the wind is very rough. The situation of General Howe and his troops is not enviable. Their fleet cannot ride safely in such a turbulent sea, exposed, besides, to the fire of our batteries on Dorchester Heights. These batteries are a source of wonder to the British, who say “they were raised with an expedition equal to that of the genii belonging to Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp.” General Howe thinks “the rebels have done more in one night than his whole army would have done in a month,” and believes “it must have been the employment of at least twelve thousand men.”
March 7th. – Fast Day. General Washington has issued this order: – Headquarters, Cambridge, March 6, 1776. Countersign: Putnam. Parole: Lechmere.
Thursday, the 7th instant, being set apart by the honorable the Legislature of this Province, as a Day of fasting, prayer, and humiliation, “to implore the Lord and Giver of all victory, to’ pardon our manifold sins and wickednesses and that it would please him to bless the Continental arms with his divine favor and protection,” all officers and soldiers are strictly enjoined to pay all due reverence and attention on that day to the sacred duties to the Lord of hosts for his mercies already received and for those blessings which our holiness and uprightness of life can alone encourage us to hope through his mercy to obtain.” Our meeting-house was well filled, and Dr. Appleton preached a sermon full of earnestness and devotion, setting before us our manifold causes for humiliation before God.
March 18th. – Boston is free at last. Yesterday General Howe and his entire force sailed away from the wharves in a great number of boats. Immediately General Putnam with several regiments crossed the river and landed at Sewall’s Point. Sentinels were apparently standing at their posts on Bunker Hill, but on closer view were found to be wooden men left by the retreating troops to mislead us. When the hoax was discovered a great shout of joy arose, and the cry went out, “Boston is ours! Boston is ours!” The evacuation was looked for several days ago, and was probably hastened by the erection of a battery on Nook’s Hill, the part of Dorchester nearest Boston, specially dreaded by General Howe since it completely commands the town. A terrible cannonade was kept up a great part of the time from the first occupation of Dorchester Heights till the departure of the King’s troops. Today General Washington entered the town, accompanied by Mrs. Washington. He has ordered General Heath to assume the command of five regiments and a portion of artillery and march immediately to New York, as it is thought that town will be the next object of British investment. The fleet is still in Nantucket Roads, much to our annoyance.
March 19th. – Boston is not much injured outwardly, I believe. Most of the houses remain as they were, a few old wooden buildings only having been pulled down for fuel. General Washington will not allow any person “to enter the town without a pass, owing to the prevalence of small-pox, and has issued order that “as soon as the selectmen report the town to be cleansed from infection, liberty will be given to those who have business there to go in. The inhabitants belonging to the town will be permitted to return to their habitations, proper persons being appointed at the Neck and at Charlestown Ferry, to grant them passes.”
March 20th. – The main body of the army entered Boston Today. As they marched through the streets so long closed against them, doors and windows were crowded with the long imprisoned people, whose faces brightened with welcome as they passed. After eleven months’ siege, meaning, as it did for them, cruelty and insult and want, how glad to their ears were the sounds of soldiers’ tread, keeping time to the music of Yankee Doodle, and the shouts of American regiments, as cheer after cheer was borne upon the air. With drums beating and colors flying, they traversed the town from end to end. Universal joy prevails at the recovery of this town, which has been contended for by both armies, and which Great Britain considers of enough importance to spend minions of money for its possession.
March 21st. – General Washington has issued a proclamation to the people of Boston, and the troops which are quartered there; assuring the former of the good will of the army, and calling upon them to give information of any provisions or military stores that may have been hidden by the retreating army. It also charges the officers to do all in their power to bring peace and good order out of the confusion that reigns at present.
March 23rd. – The town is open for all who wish to go in, and yesterday an immense concourse of people from all the surrounding country crowded the streets. Many went from curiosity, others to see again the friends and relatives they had so long been parted from. It was very touching to witness the tearful meeting of mothers with their children, of sisters and brothers whom the terrors and sufferings of the past months have kept ignorant of one another’s condition. Washington was overwhelmed with expressions of gratitude, and was addressed by the selectmen in the name of the people. They said . ”Next to the divine power, we ascribe to your wisdom that this acquisition has been made with so little effusion of human blood.” The chief replied in graceful words, commending their wonderful and heroic patriotism and endurance, and ascribing this victory more to the courage and skill of the soldiers than to himself. There have been less than twenty men killed in our army during all the months since Washington assumed the command. This is remarkable: so large a victory at so small a price!
March 27th. – Most of the British fleet, which has been lying outside the place is what Washington has been waiting for, before ordering the army to the south. Today a brigade under General Sullivan has marched. Congress, on the motion of Mr. John Adams, have “resolved that the thanks of Congress in their own name, and in the name of the Thirteen United Colonies whom they represent, be presented to his Excellency General Washington, and the officers and soldiers under his command, for their wise and spirited conduct in the siege and acquisition of Boston, and that a medal of gold be struck in commemoration of this great event, and presented to his Excellency, and that a committee of three be appointed to prepare a letter of thanks and a proper device for the medal.” Our noble Commander-in-chief has disclaimed all merit of the victory, and transferred the praise to the men under his command. He said: “They were, indeed, at first, a band of undisciplined husbandmen, but it is, under God, to their bravery and attention to duty, that I am indebted for that success which has procured me the only reward I wish to receive – the affection and esteem of my countrymen.”
March 29th. – Another address of congratulation and commendation to General Washington. This from the two branches of the legislature combined. They say: “Go on, still go on, approved by Heaven, – revered by all good men, and dreaded by tyrants, may future generations, in the peaceful enjoyment of that freedom which your sword shall have established, raise the most lasting monuments to the name of Washington.” Yesterday he attended the long-established Thursday lecture, which Boston has kept up since the days of Winthrop and Wilson, but which the troubles of the last months have interrupted. It was a season of joyful gratitude to God, who had delivered this New England Zion from the power of its oppressor, and had brought peace and quietness once more into its homes. The good old town they call “a tabernacle that should never be taken down, of which not one of the stakes should ever be removed, nor one of the cords be broken.”
April 4th. – Today General Washington has left Cambridge and gone to ¦New York. All the troops, with the exception of five regiments under the command of General Ward, have left with him. It is feared that the British fleet may return, after putting us off our guard, and works are building rapidly in defense of the harbor. General Ward has stationed two regiments in Boston, one at Dorchester Heights, one at Charlestown, and one at Beverly.
April 7th, Sunday. – Dr. Appleton preached Today from Proverbs XXII. I: “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.” A beautiful sermon, alluding tenderly and with reverence to our beloved Commander-in-chief, who has gloriously earned all the affection which is lavished upon him, whose name will live in New England hearts forever, as that of our deliverer from slavery. The good Doctor applied the text to us individually and as a nation, urging us to see to it that history, as she sends our record to the future, writes only of truth, godliness, and courage, untainted by covetousness, or cowardice, or deceit.
Boston, April l0th. – Here I am in our much-suffering town, which is cleared at last of its persecutors. Mrs. McHenry invited me to accompany her husband and herself yesterday to spend a few days with her sister, and I gladly embraced the opportunity. The eight miles’ ride seemed longer than ever in our impatience to stand once more in the streets consecrated by the blood of martyrs. At the Neck we passed the British fortifications, and looked upon the works on Dorchester Heights, which were so great a source of terror to General Howe’s troops, and which effectually drove them away from our shores. We rode through Orange and Newbury streets ^ to Hanover Square,^ and there our eyes were saddened by the sight of – not the grand old Liberty Tree which has spread its limbs for more than a hundred years – but only its stump. Of all the magnificent trees in this elm neighborhood, this was the finest of there all, but its name and the remembrance of the many treasonable acts it has sanctioned in Liberty Hall,^ were enough to enlist against it the detestation of British soldiers. Last August it fell a victim to the ax, and provided for the comfort of its destroyers full fourteen cords of wood. From Newbury Street we passed into Marlborough Street, and stopped in front of the Old South Church. This has been desecrated by the soldiers, who used it as a riding school, covering the floors with many hundred cart-loads of gravel, after removing the pulpit and pews, which they used as fuel. Many of the valuable papers and books of Rev. Thomas Prince, which were kept in the tower, were used to kindle fires for the lawless soldiery, and the parsonage adjoining, with several noble sycamore trees in front, were pulled down for firewood.
Turning toward our left hand, the Old Province House reared its stately walls before us, every brick of which was made thousands of miles away in Holland, and was brought across the rolling ocean nearly a hundred years ago, by Mr. Peter Sergeant, whose initials, with the year of its erection, stand forth prominently in the iron fence which surmounts the portico: –
16 P. S. 79
Boston after the Siege
How many governors, appointed by his Majesty to rule our new rebellious Colony, have, during the last sixty years, ascended those massive steps! Often have they stood upon the balcony in front to address the throng of loyal colonists in the street below, and in response to their loud huzzas, bowed in courtly dignity. The old building remains tile same as when they held their grand levees within its fine apartments, and received homage as viceroys of the King, but we fondly believe that the times have so far changed that Sir William Howe will be the very last of his Majesty’s representatives whose authority will be respected in Massachusetts. Here he held consultation with General Gage before the disastrous battle of Bunker Hill, and from the cupola which crowns * he summit, he watched the approach of our besieging army, before which, at last, he beat an ignominious retreat. The gilded Indian which acts as weather-vane, was pointing his arrow directly east as we passed, and over him and the mansion he faithfully guarded, floated our Union flag of thirteen stripes. Continuing our journey through Marlborough Street to the State House, above which waved the same glorious banner, we looked down King Street, where the memorable Massacre took place six years ago. Up Cornhill, past the shop of Paul Revere, the intrepid patriot and skilful mechanic, into Queen Street, and then we paused at the foot of Pemberton Hill. The hill is terraced, and a long flight of steps leads to the magnificent mansion on its brow.^ The grounds are tastefully laid out, nature and art uniting to make this one of the finest private residences in Boston. Lord Percy, I believe, lived here during a part of his stay in town. Then we passed on to our destination on Beacon Hill. Mrs. McHenry’s sister, Mrs. Elwyn, received us most cordially. Her home is not far from Mr. Hancock’s house, and overlooks the Common, which affords pasturage for numberless cows, which make continual music with the tinkling of their bells and their contented lowing from morning till night. These fifty acres of hills and valleys reach from the granary graveyard on the one side, to the ebb and flow of the busy Charles river, which washes the lower end. Grand old trees shade its walks in the summer months, and now are beginning to awake after a winter’s sleep, and put forth delicate buds in token of life. The great elm which has watched the growth of the town from its earliest settlement, is still as strong and full of vigor as ever. This morning we have been sauntering through the grounds so lately covered with the camp of the British troops. Walked up Frog Lane to Common Street, and turned into Blott’s Lane, past the house of Sam Adams, thence back to the enclosure, crossing which we found ourselves in front of Mr. Hancock’s house, which was occupied by General Clinton and Lord Percy at different times during the siege. The house and stables were both used for the wounded after Bunker Hill battle. The magnificent mansion, standing, as it does, on the brow of the hill, commanding an extensive view of the country around, is typical of the prominence and exalted station of its owner, who has incurred the deadly displeasure of the royal government, by reason of his determined patriotism. After the Lexington affair the house was pillaged by the soldiers, who broke down the fences and did Aome slight damage in other ways. It has been repaired, however, and looks now as in the good old days before British tyranny crushed our liberties to the ground. The same massive stone walls, supporting a tiled roof, from which several dormer windows look forth upon the town and its surroundings, the same projecting balcony over the front door, the same broad stone steps and paved walk leading from the street, so often trodden by old Thomas Hancock and pranced over by the boyish feet of President Hancock, thirty years ago. We went over the house, into the grand drawing-room at the right, where hang portraits of the Hancock family, back to the days of the early Puritans, into the immense dining hall opening out of this, designed for large companies, into the family drawing-room at the left of the entrance, and the smaller dining-room out of it, and through the spacious halls and chambers elegantly furnished and hung with pictures of various kinds. Things are not injured nearly as much as was feared. The furniture and pictures are in good condition. This afternoon Mrs. Elwyn took us to drive through the North End. We passed through Common Street ‘ to School Street, and stopped at King’s Chapel. Here we found ourselves on the oldest ground probably, built upon in Boston. The British officers worshipped in the chapel during the occupation of Boston by their troops, and when they evacuated the town, Dr. Caner, its rector, went with them to Halifax, taking with him all the church registers, plate, and vestments. His residence is just north of the chapel. We alighted at the old burying ground, and walked reverently among the graves, some of them a century old, read the inscription upon the monument to Rev. John Cotton, the first minister of the church, as well as that of old Governor Winthrop of beloved memory. On Long Acre we rode over the same ground where, one year ago this month. Lord Percy’s brigade formed in line of march to hasten to the assistance of the royal troops in Lexington. Looking down School Street the old Latin School rose before us. Here Dr. Franklin went to school for a year, and John Hancock was taught in childhood. The appearance of Percy’s troops on that memorable April morning, stretching their glittering length past School Street, was the signal to dismiss the awe-struck scholars who, as a school, have never met since. We rode through Tremont Street into Gay Alley,” and paused a moment at the handsome new church, built only four years ago. Dr. Cooper, its pastor, a true-hearted patriot, left Boston after Lexington fight, and General Gage quartered a British regiment here for a while. But services were sometimes held in Brattle Church during the siege. It did not escape in the bombardment of the town, having been struck by a twenty-four pound cannon ball from our batteries at Lechmere’s Point. At our right stood Faneuil Hall, the Cradle of Liberty, whose walls have echoed the burning words of Otis, and Adams, and Warren. Turning into Middle Street,’ we passed the residence of Dr. Warren, where, as a skilful physician, no less than a warm and earnest patriot, he attracted to himself the affection and esteem of his townsmen. In our ride we passed the Orange Tree Tavern,* the houses of Paul Revere and James Otis, and the Green Dragon Tavern, where “treasonable” meetings were held by Boston mechanics for the purpose of conferring as to the best methods of thwarting the movements of the Tories and the British soldiers. These meetings were very secret, the subject discussed being made known to only a few of the leading patriots, like Hancock, Adams, Warren, Otis, Church. But unaccountable as it seemed. General Gage was always informed of their movements, and not till the arrest of Dr. Church did the mystery explain itself. Then it was easy to trace the treachery.
The North Church was full of interest to us as the place where the lanterns hung and flashed forth their warning light to the eyes of the waiting Paul Revere, on the evening of April i8, 1775.^ On the opposite Charlestown shore he paced impatiently back and forth, casting many a look toward the spire which for fifty years had pointed upward with steady finger. At last the signal flamed forth through the darkness, and the midnight rider sprang to his horse and was off on his patriotic errand. Here on Copp’s Hill were British redoubts, behind which, June 17th, our soldiers on Bunker Hill were fired upon, and on that day so full of disaster to the royal troops, the hill and all houses near were covered with eager spectators of the battle. General Gage witnessed the affair from the steeple of the North Church, they say. I must not forget the graves in Copp’s Hill Cemetery, through which we walked. Here are buried Dr. Increase Mather and his son Rev. Cotton Mather, and many others, who have filled places of honor in church and state. Some of the graves are fully a hundred and fifty years old. Major Pitcairn of Lexington fame, who was killed at Bunker Hill by the bullet of a negro soldier, is interred under Christ Church. They say the British major was a brave officer, just and impartial in his treatment of his soldiers, and greatly beloved by them. He fell mortally wounded into the arms of his son, who bore him in a boat across the river, to a house near the ferry. General Gage, it is said, sent his own physician to attend him, but he lived but a short time. We passed the fine old mansion of Governor Hutchinson, which was so injured by the mob ten years ago, during the Stamp Act troubles. Thomas Hutchinson was held in high esteem before the tyrannical conduct of the mother country aroused the spirit of liberty in our Colonies, and the part he played at the beginning of the contest, made him as offensive as before he had been popular. He departed for England two years ago, leaving this grand old house built by his father, the place of his birth and residence for nearly sixty-five years. It is built of brick, with six Corinthian pilasters in front and the crown of Great Britain surmounting each window. The interior is replete with magnificence, and the grounds are extensive and tasteful. The Governor’s library, which was of great value, including many choice manuscripts, and the furniture which was rich and costly, were destroyed by the enraged mob, August 26, 1765.
“Impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a levy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse’s side,
Now gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle-girth,
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry-tower of the old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and somber and still.
And lo! as he looks, in the belfry’s height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns.
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns,”
Affairs in Cambridge
Letter from Dorothy Dudley to Miss Esther Livingstone.
Cambridge, April 15th, 1776,
My DEAREST Esther, – Your long-promised visit to our little town not made yet! I am impatient to show you its beauties now that spring is peeping at us with tearful eyes while all the time her face is ripping with laughter. You know that this is the first anniversary of the never-to-be-forgotten day which began the dreadful war that is upon us. This year has been one of severe trial for us all. Of course there has been reason for great economy both in household expenses and in dress. Tea is a comfort put from us with resolution, though its absence from our tables is cuttingly felt by many. As far as it is possible we patronize only home manufactures, and ourselves use the spindle to diminish the necessity for foreign material. The residence among us of so large a body of soldiers has made our life in some sense a military one, our hands, our sympathies, and our time having been devoted to their interests. I. find, in looking over my diary, that the entries are almost without exception relating to the doings of the army,^ and, indeed were you with us you would not wonder at this. There have been no interests separate from the soldiers, or I ought to say from our country’s. Your letter received by Major Heath was very welcome. I am glad you have so warm a friendship with Mrs. Hancock. Her sister, Miss Katy Ouincy, is expecting to go to Philadelphia in a few weeks, and I hope you will make her acquaintance. She is somewhat older than Mrs. Hancock, who is, I think, the youngest of the family. Mrs. Judge Sewall, you know, is another sister. They are a charming family, and Mr. Quincy is a devoted father, warmly beloved by them all.
You ask for descriptions of some of the persons of note that have favored our town with their presence. First and foremost of all I place our Commander-in-chief, but I am sure you already know from other sources his characteristics, mental and physical. I will only say he has a fine face, a noble manner, and is the personification of truth and uprightness. General Charles Lee you have seen, and need no words of mine to bring before you his tall, lanky figure and prominent features, marked by uniform carelessness of the opinion of others. ”Old Put” is a rough, fiery genius, ready for hard work whenever and wherever it presents itself, spurring his men on to great achievements, and beloved by them all, because of the good, honest heart hidden behind the prickly burr. General Nathaniel Greene, who has had command under General Lee at Prospect Hill, is the only general, they say, that showed his pleasure at the appointment of Washington to the chief command by addressing words of welcome to him for himself and soldiers upon his arrival at Cambridge. He was a Quaker before the war called out his fighting genius and awoke his slumbering patriotism. He took his first lessons in the military school by watching the British soldiers exercise on Boston Common, and followed them up by vigorous study of books and military life as he saw it around him. He learned so rapidly that few generals stand higher in the confidence of his peers than General Greene. He is rather a large man, with a face indicating fire and firmness, tempered by the innate goodness which looks out of his clear, quiet eyes. General Harry Knox is his most intimate and trusted friend. The two were almost constantly together in days when both were studying the art of war, and Mr. Knox kept a bookstore on Cornhill. He, like his friend, is the soul of honor, gentle as well as brave, and possessed of a manly heart brimming with benevolence. You know our veterans. Ward and Pomeroy, and are well acquainted with that queer little man, our excellent quartermaster general, Thomas Mifflin, who is the right man in the right place, everyone agrees. General John Stark, who so distinguished himself in the French war, has won commendation by the part he has played this year. At the alarm of war he hastily formed a regiment in New Hampshire and marched immediately for our camp, figured bravely at Bunker Hill, and, with his impetuous nature boiling for action, he has been on tiptoe for battle ever since. • He looks much like an Indian with his high cheek-bones and prominent nose, and tall, erect figure, and his soul is as full of courage and as impatient of restraint as that of any wild son of the forest. His wife, Molly Stark, as he familiarly calls her, followed her husband to camp, and when our troops occupied Dorchester Heights, at his desire she mounted a horse to watch the passage of his regiment over the river to West Boston, and to be ready at a moment’s notice to spread the alarm, if opposition arose. Are they not a well-mated pair ? General Sullivan is a popular officer, a good soldier, and a pleasant gentleman. His quarters were at Winter Hill. I might go on and enumerate officers who hold honorable places in the services, Preble, Heath, Patterson, Arnold, Gates, and others, not as well known, but I fear you will tire of the list.
I thank you for your pleasant pictures of Philadelphia life and sketches of the prominent figures there. Some of your great men belong to us. The venerable Franklin, the two Adamses, and your excellent President of Congress, we claim by right of birth. The patriot Sam Adams, the “stirrer up of the Revolution,” with his nervous energy of tongue and pen, his wit and sarcasm, his dignity and integrity and magnanimity, is second to no one in the weight of his influence. His tall, graceful figure and courteous bearing are very familiar to Boston people, as are also the features and character of John Hancock.
Our winter has been a very quiet one, but little disturbed by the roar of cannon and the terrors of bloodshed. But few dinner parties or receptions have broken the monotony. I have been twice to Major Mifflin’s, once in December to meet Mrs. John Adams, again in January, when her husband was present. Mrs. Adams I cannot enough admire. There is evidence of a mind of uncommon clearness, sharpened by reading and study, and a heart warm and true, while her graceful accomplishments make her a lady of more than common attractions. Her husband you know. They seem to be admirably suited to one another. Mrs. Washington held a levee in January and I was honored with an invitation. Colonel Vassall’s house is perhaps the most elegant and spacious in New England,^ and the reception was everything one could wish. No display, no extravagance, but simple taste suited to the time of universal economy, characterized all the arrangements. The magnificent rooms, elaborately carved and paneled, are becomingly furnished, though I believe the whole house is not in common use.
Mrs. Morgan, wife of Dr. Morgan, who is in traitor Church’s place as director-general of the hospital, Mrs. Mifflin, Mrs. Remington, Mrs. Curtis, Mrs. Gates, Mrs. Trowbridge, Mrs. Appleton and her daughters, Mrs. McHenry, Mrs. Wigglesworth, Mrs. Hastings and Miss Rebecca Hastings, and many others whom you do not know, were there. Several officers were also present. It was much like the companies at Major Mifflin’s, in numbers, and many of the faces were the same.
The event of the spring, the joy which has crowned the patient waiting of the winter, is the evacuation of Boston by General Sir William Howe and his Majesty’s troops. It was accomplished with so little bloodshed that we have deep cause for gratitude. Among the throng who greeted Washington on his triumphant entry to the town, March i8th, there were none in sorrow for the loss of dear friends. There have been less than two hundred American lives lost in battle during all the months that British and New England armies have been confronting one another, and now our Colony, we hope and believe, is freed from the incubus that has weighed upon her so long, and it only remains to push from the harbor all remnants of the British navy, to be once more at liberty to breathe. You cannot know what a relief it is to be able to go and come, feeling sure that the Redcoats are at a distance, and not likely to burden us again with their presence. Boston is not injured nearly as much as was feared, owing to the orders of General Howe, who allowed no plundering unless the necessities of the army called for it, and whose orders were so strict as to punish with death any disobedience of this command. The soldiers were obliged to pay due attention to dress, and to never appear at parade “without having the hair properly and smoothly clubbed.” The officers must wear sashes on duty, and none were to appear under arms with tobacco in their mouths. This one of General Howe’s orders gives us a little glimpse of life in the British camp.” The commanding officer is surprised to find the necessity of repeating orders, that long since ought to have been complied with, as the men on all duties appear in the following manner, viz: hair not smooth and badly powdered, several without slings to their firelocks, hats not bound, pouches in a shameful and dirty condition, no frills to their shirts, and their linen very dirty, leggings hanging in a slovenly manner about their knees, some men without uniform stocks, and their arms and accoutrements by no means so clean as they ought to be. These un-soldier like neglects must be immediately remedied.”
I have been spending a few days in Boston with Mrs Elwyn, and drove about the town to look at the changes which have gone on under the British rule. The North End is very interesting to me as the place where many plans for the furtherance of American liberty were hatched. Paul Revere and Joseph Warren and James Otis lived in that quarter. At Copp’s Hill we drove up to the cemetery just as a funeral procession was winding its way into the enclosure. It was that of a man in the prime of life, as we learned afterwards, a Mr. John Wihiston, who died from the effects of privations during the siege. Dr. Mather Byles, who has been pastor of Hollis Street Church for more than forty years, made a prayer at the grave, and Robert Newman, the sexton of Christ Church, was in attendance. Remembering your passion for epitaphs, I copied several from the grave-stones, some of them black with age. Here is one: –
“Time, what an empty vapor ’tis,
And days, how swift they flay!
Our life is ever on the wing,
And death is ever nigh.
The moment when our lives begin,
We all begin to die.”
Here is another from a stone more than half a century old: “Life’s little stage is a small eminence, inch high, the grave above – that home of man where dwells the multitude. We gaze around, we read their monuments, we sigh, and while we sigh, we sink, and are what we deplore.” These lines were on an old monument without name or date, and it was with difficulty I could decipher the words:
“What is ‘t fond mortal ye thou wouldn’t obtain
By spinning out a painful life of cares,
Thou livest to act thy childhood o’er again,
And naught intends but grief and seeing years.
Who leaves this world like me, just in my prime,
Speeds all my business in a * * * time.”
I paused at a little grave, my eye caught by my own name, Dorothy, and read on the sunken, aged stone, that Dorothy Green Ough Aged 4 Years & 8 Months Dyed ye 20 October 1667.
Dr. Byles and his Preaching
You have heard of Dr. Byles, who is so distinguished for his wit and wisdom. He is a descendant of Richard Mather and John Cotton. His son, Mather Byles, Jr., rector of Christ Church, was so determined a royalist that he left his flock and sailed for Halifax with the King’s troops. The old Doctor was very non-committal in politics, rarely mentioning them, and never introducing the subject in the pulpit. When asked why he so steadfastly avoided it, he said: “I have thrown up four breastworks, behind which I have entrenched myself, neither of which can be enforced. In the first place, I do not understand politics, in the second place, you all do, every man and mother’s son of you, in the third place, you have politics all the week, pray let one day in seven be devoted to religion, in the fourth place, I am engaged in work of infinitely greater importance, give me any subject to preach by of more consequence than the truth I bring to you, and I will preach on it, the next Sabbath.”
His preaching is very effective, savoring of earnestness and sincerity, and filled with the truth of the Gospel. His manner, too, is attractive, and his voice powerful and melodious. Out of the pulpit he is brimming over with fun, never at a loss for a repartee, and quick to see the ludicrous. It is said that in his young days he made advances to a lady who refused to favor his suit. Afterwards she married a Mr. Quincy, and Dr. Byles, the next time he saw her, remarked: “So, madam, it appears that you prefer a Quincy to Byles. “Yes,” she raped, “for if there had been anything worse than boils, God would have afflicted Job with them.” At one time, the road in front of his house was in a very bad condition, so that in wet weather the mud was much like the slough we read about in Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress.” All his efforts to arouse the town government to remedy the trouble were without success. One day, two of the selectmen, the very ones who had charge of the streets, in riding past the house, found themselves stuck in the mud, and were obliged to alight from the carriage to extricate it from the slough. As they did so, the tall, commanding figure of Dr. Byles appeared before them, and bowing gracefully and respectfully, he said: “Gentlemen, I have often complained to you of this nuisance, without any attention being paid to it, and I am very glad to see you stirring in this matter now.” The good old Doctor has made many an enemy by his unsparing sarcasm, which he cannot forbear using, even if it cuts its victim to the quick. His family are determined loyalists, every one, and public opinion says, if Dr. Mather Byles did not close his mouth so tight, in political matters, Tory principles would be sure to find utterance.
Dr. Byles is a poet of no mean fame, having written many verses of both a serious and trifling nature. On one occasion Governor Belcher, who was a warm friend and admirer of the Doctor’s, invited him to visit the Province of Maine in his company. Doctor Byles undecided, but the Governor, nothing daunted by the refusal, set himself to work to devise some way of securing the wished-for pleasure. He persuaded the punning parson ^ to take tea, one Sabbath afternoon, on board the Scarborough ship-of-war, and as the friends were cozily seated at table, engaged in conversation and quaffing fragrant draughts of steaming hyson, slowly but surely the ship was carrying them out to sea. When the Doctor discovered the stratagem, he resigned himself to the voyage with a very good grace. The next Sabbath, in lack of a suitable hymn for service at sea, he composed a very excellent one, the first stanza of which I remember: –
“Great God, thy works our wonder raise,
To thee our swelling notes belong,
While skies, and winds, and rocks, and seas, •
Around shall echo to our song.”
Almost every Tory has taken his departure from Boston with the British soldiers. There are none to be seen in the streets in this time of general thanksgiving, and except for the manifest signs of suffering consequent upon the reign of war, the town looks as in the far away days of peace.
April 20th. – If you were with me this lovely spring day we would persuade Tony Vassall, the quondam coachman of Mrs. Penelope Vassall, to drive us about the town. It seems very lonely since the tents have disappeared,. and with them the soldiers whose busy life was incorporated with our own for nearly a twelve-month. Since you cannot see Cambridge as it looks Today, let my eyes do service instead, and, if you enlist your imagination, perhaps you will be able to discern the picture, First, you must look at our college halls, now vacant. They rear their walls of brick as proudly as if conscious of their importance to the world of letters. You know they did good service during the last year, sheltering nearly two thousand soldiers from the snows and blows of winter. We will let Tony drive us slowly past the meeting-house, where Dr. Nathaniel Appleton has preached for twenty years, and for nearly forty years previous in the old meeting-house, of which this takes the place. Dr. Increase Mather preached his installation sermon, and Dr. Cotton Mather extended the right hand of fellowship. The good Doctor has lived for more than fourscore years, and we fear he must leave us before long. Here the first Provincial Congress of Massachusetts was held, until adjourned to Watertown, and here for many years the College Commencements were celebrated in midsummer. Look across the road to the court-house, which lifts its tower high in the air as a warning, perhaps, to miscreants. We turn the corner, past the stately tree which for years has outstretched its sheltering arms over the heads of passing man and beasts, and come abruptly upon the president’s house, which has harbored all the revered men who stood at the head of the College Faculty since President Wadsworth. Riding slowly toward the south we come next to Professor Wigglesworth’s house, which is very old, having been built, I have heard, by old President Leverett, before this century came in. The worthy professor is a great student, as was his father, the first Hollis Professor of Divinity in the college, and, in proof of this, there is a hole worn through the floor by their feet under the desk of the room used, by father and son, as a study. Next to this interesting house is the old parsonage, which has stood for a hundred years, the residence of Dr. Urian Oakes, who was not only pastor of the church, but college president as well, of Rev. Nathaniel Gookin and Rev. William Brattle, as well as our present beloved and aged pastor. Dr. Appleton. This venerable house has undergone some repairs which have materially altered its appearance and freshened its life. Long may it stand as a reminder of the lives of the holy men who have done so much for Cambridge by their influence and their labors.
Now Tony will turn the horse’s head toward the right and we will ride down to Butler’s Hill, past Mr. Dana’s house, which is a noble mansion set in the midst of orchards and grounds which are finely cultivated. Further down we come to Mr. Inman’s estate, which, since the departure of the soldiers, has been occupied by two ladies, one of them Miss Betsey Murray, a niece of Mrs. Inman’s, though the fact of her being there is a secret, known only to a few. Mr. Ralph Inman you have often heard of as one of the aristocrats of our town, and members of Christ Church. Mrs. Inman is really a remarkable woman. She belongs to the Murray family, which proudly dates back to the Norman conquest in England, and claims kindred blood with the Philiphaugh family of Murrays in Selkirkshire. She is a staunch Scotch woman, and has the energy of character and charming frankness and honesty so common to that people. She has crossed the ocean many times in company with her brother, Mr. James Murray, a gentleman of upright character and great success as a merchant. She has been three times married, to Mr. Inman about five years since. When she was Elizabeth Murray, I have been told that she carried on business in a shop, corner of Queen Street and Cornhill in Boston, and made for herself a very comfortable income, and during her first two marriages she continued the business, and still owns the building. Her property, acquired by her own exertions, is considerable, and her husband, Mr. Smith, left her his whole estate, so that she has had all the comforts and luxuries of wealth. She is classed among the Tories because of her associations with the British officers of government, her husband, Mr. Inman, having been an addresser to General Gage last year. Her education and social advantages have united to make her a most delightful companion, and one whose presence was eagerly sought. She has remained in this vicinity during all the troubles, though Mr. Inman fled into Boston, and owing to her acquaintance with General Putnam, Major Mifflin, and others among our officers, has been secured from molestation by our soldiers. I heard Today that General Putnam deputed his son to remain in Cambridge on the day of Bunker Hill battle, to guard Mrs. Inman – a proof certainly of the high regard he entertained for her.
The Inman House
The house is large and elegant in its appointments, but now the air of carelessness which is visible around the place is very sad. Barracks disfigure the eastern border of the grounds, and here and there we come upon traces of soldiers’ life. Everywhere in our ride we see the evidences of war. Cambridge Homes stretch themselves from Butler’s Hill to the river, and forts are plentifully sprinkled over the town for our protection. Turning our house around (for at Mr. Inman’s farm we find ourselves at the limit of civilization in Cambridge), we drive back to Butler’s Hill. On this eminence you can have a good view of our fortified town. Do you see that redoubt at our left, just at the bend of the river ? That is Fort Number One.^ We would drive around by it and follow the course of the river to the causeway from Boston, if the road was sufficiently travelled to render it pleasant riding. But only heavy country wagons laden with produce ever come into this part of our village. So Tony gives the pony a smart touch with the whip, and soon we are in front of Colonel Phipps’s handsome house whose grounds extend down to the river. Colonel David Phipps is a brother, you know, of Mrs. Vassall, Mrs. Lee, Mrs. Lechmere, and Mrs. Boardman. His house was taken last spring when he left the town for Boston, and was used as a hospital during the summer. Look at those wooden Indians standing guard upon the gate posts, barbarous in dress and expression, deliberately taking aim with unerring arrow at the heads of unwelcome guests. They are a source of terror to many childish minds, believing, as they do, that these savage sentinels are especially devoted to the destruction of naughty children, and the road past their domain is traversed by flying feet when necessity makes it a road to duty.
The Whitefield Elm
Pursuing our journey, we pass the house some people say President Dunster occupied at one time, though he lived, I believe, in the old college house in the college yard during most of his presidency, through the square to Judge Remington’s house, past the jail and the jailer’s house to the road which is the thoroughfare from Boston. Looking down toward the river you see the tavern kept by Ebenezer Bradish, so popular an inn particularly at Commencement seasons, and which the students were wont to patronize so freely. Here we are at the borders of the Brattle grounds, which are unique in their elegance, and which by the departure of both father and son are left to be used by our government. They extend down to the river, and toward the west to the estate of the Widow Vassall. A private driveway leads up to the substantial house which stands as sentinel in the centre of the grounds. We will turn to the right and pass again the courthouse, and meeting-house, old Massachusetts, Stoughton, and Harvard, little Holden Chapel, and Hollis halls, till we reach the garbler-roofed house, which shields itself behind a row of Lombardy poplars, at the further limits of the college green, beyond the road to Charlestown. This is Mr. Hastings’s house, famous as the head-quarters of the Committee of Safety, and honored often by the presence of Washington during his residence in Cambridge. On the opposite side of the Common we see the magnificent wide spreading elm immortalized by our Commander-in-chief, when, standing beneath its shade the third day of last July, he formally assumed the command of all the troops of the Colonies. In a line with this giant tree stand two others which for a century and more have been silent witnesses of the life of the village. These three venerable elms saw the uprising of the old wooden building where gathered the nucleus of Harvard College, they heard the ringing of the desecrating axe as it laid low many of their companions of the forest, and looked on, as the seminary, growing in proportions as in years, added, one by one, the more imposing structures which now stand within the college yard. How many stories they could tell us, were their long silence to be broken, of the men of the past who have walked beneath their shade, and how many secrets would be unlocked to us which will never be recorded on history’s page! Beneath one of them, the next neighbor to the Washington elm, stood Rev. George Whitefield,^ I am told, when, thirty years ago, he visited Cambridge and preached to the students of Harvard. How the venerable tree must have echoed with the eloquence of the gifted preacher, as with burning words he pleaded with his hearers who thronged the Common, beseeching them for Christ’s sake to be reconciled to God. North of the Hastings house lived Mr. Moses Richardson, one of the three brave men who were killed one year ago Today and were so hastily buried in the rude grave within the old cemetery. Dr. Warren little thought, when with sympathizing words he promised a better burial to them, to soothe the grief-stricken friends, that he himself would so soon lie low, away from the terrors and trials of earth. Some time we hope to raise a stone to commemorate their patriotism and heroic death. Further up the road to Menotomy lives Captain Walton of the militia, whose company was out, of course, on that day of terror. Tony himself has a snug little home on this road, where with his wife, Lucy, and Darby his wide-awake seven-year-old, he has lived since the flight of his mistress. But few houses are scattered along this road. Mr. Frost’s house, a good way beyond, sheltered a number of soldiers while the army was stationed in Cambridge. He, I believe, built the house which Rev. Mr. Sergeant, rector of Christ Church, occupied for a time, and which we are passing now in going from Menotomy Road to Christ Church. Let us ride further, for I would like you to see Church Row, or Tory Row, as latterly it has been called. The Brattle estate we touch, on its western border, as we ride past. Widow Vassall’s on our left and Colonel John Vassall’s on our right. I mention these houses by the names of their Tory owners, but in reality they have passed from their hands and are now used by our government. General Washington has a glorious view from his windows in the magnificent house of his choice. The blue hills stretch their hazy length for several miles along the opposite shore of the river. Today the sun lights up the dimpling stream with numberless diamond flashes, and over the whole landscape he has thrown a bright halo of glory. Next above our General’s head primeval “are dear, and the feeling of regret and almost of indignation at its final sacrifice was extensive.
“Thy room was wanted, huge old Elm,
Magnate of Nature’s realm!
Thou hast stood forth too long,
Putting thy pillared strength
Our rattling courts among;
And thou hast met thy doom at length,
Deserving a lament in nobler song!
“Down, then, with thy enormous bulk,
Thy crazed unwieldy hulk!
This time of rushing haste
Will not abide the old,
Has not a thought to waste
On bygone memories idly told,
Nor brooks one obstacle from age misplaced.”
quarters we come to the sometime residence of Judge Richard Lechmere,! and later of Judge Jonathan Sewall, both aristocrats and Tories, who left town some time ago. The Phipps farm, which comprises the eastern part of Cambridge, passed into the hands of Judge Lechmere on his marriage with Miss Phipps, and it is known often as Lechmere’s Point, celebrated as the place of landing of the Redcoats under Pitcairn and Smith, as intent on an errand of destruction they left Boston one year ago last night. Judge Sewall is a genial, upright gentleman – an intimate friend of our own John Adams, though Jonathan and John have politically walked far apart of late. Judge Sewall is now in England. The house is one of the best on this highway, which has none but elegant mansions to grace its borders. The limits of the Sewall estate bring us to Judge Joseph Lee’s, where the courteous and affable gentleman still lives. Though forced to resign his position as councilor in the troubles of September, 1774, he was allowed to remain in his home, provided he would not interfere in politics. This he readily promised, and thus retains the noble house which he has owned for nearly twenty years. It is very old, but substantial in its building, looking as if it would outlive many of the younger houses which are hastily erected in this generation. He bought it, I have heard, of the widow of Cornelius Waldo and on a window pane is found, scratched with a diamond, the name of Daniel Waldo (Rev.). The frame of this mansion was brought from England, not because Massachusetts had no trees, but because it was feared that capable workmen could not be found to put it together to suit the fastidious taste of its owner. The walls are of double thickness, every room being shut o& from the one adjoining, by a space of perhaps a foot, enclosed by two solid walls, so that voices can never be heard in the next room unless a door is open. Judge Lee is highly respected as an honorable, man, true to his principles, warm in his friendships, and genial and kindly in manner. In my childish days I used occasionally to visit at his house, and my eyes always found a world of pleasure to explore in the pleasant rooms hung with landscape paper and well stocked with pictures and ornaments, while the wide window seats afforded a resting-place for me to view the surrounding landscape. I remember with especial pleasure a complete set of linen coverings on the furniture and bed in an upper chamber. The gay figures of birds perched upon trees scarcely larger than themselves, the tempting strawberries corresponding in size to the plants by their side, the dogs and deer, and animals I could find no names for, all worked in gorgeous colored worsteds by the aristocratic fingers of Mrs. Lee, these had a peculiar fascination for me.
Mr. Lowell’s House
Next in our ride we come to a large square mansion, formerly the residence of Mr. George Ruggles, which he left in affright after the war began, and on the opposite side of the road stands the house of Lieutenant-Governor Oliver.^ We will drive up the broad carriage road and alight at the door. This lordly house is surrounded by a grove of noble elms and pines, and by wide lawns which are growing green with the touch of spring. The interior is in keeping with its outward appearance, grand in proportions, reminding one of the generous and kindly nature of its proprietor. Of course we do not find it as in the days of his ownership, for soldiers’ feet have trod its halls and sick men’s moans have been heard in its chambers since the departure of our last royal lieutenant-governor. Its hospital uses interfered in some measure, of course, with the elegance of its former state. Governor Oliver was appointed successor to Andrew Oliver the unpopular lieutenant governor who died in March, 1774, and was also president of the council of Massachusetts, but owing to the troublous times and the manner of his appointment as councilor, became so obnoxious to the people that he was forced to resign September 2d, only a few months after entering upon his duties. A mob surrounded his house and presented him with a written document to which they demanded his signature. Persistently he refused, until their fury became such as to endanger his life and the safety of his family. Then he took the paper, and hastily casting his eyes over its contents, which was a formal resignation of his office, he wrote these words: “My house at Cambridge being surrounded by four thousand people, in compliance with their commands, I sign my name, Thomas Oliver.” Immediately after this he left his Cambridge home and never returned. The field opposite Colonel Oliver’s and Captain Ruggles’s estates is used as a burying-ground for the brave men who had been wounded at Bunker Hill and died in the two neighboring houses. We are now in Watertown. Shall we ride still further or shall Tony turn the horse and drive us home again ? You have seen a good deal of our beautiful town by proxy, and I hope it will not be long before you see it with your own eyes. Till then, dearest Esther, believe me, with tenderest affection, your very sincere friend,
May 9th. – Dr. Church and his friends have sent a petition to Congress for his release from prison, as his health is suffering. The plea is granted, only on condition that he gives his word of honor, with sureties of one thousand pounds, that he will not hold any correspondence with the enemy, and that he be brought to Massachusetts to be in charge of the council of this Colony, and not privileged to go out of its limits without a license.
May 17th. – Fast day, by resolution of Congress. Dr. Appleton preached to us this morning a faithful and patriotic sermon. This evening news comes to us of the capture of one of the British transport ships, Hope, (isn’t it a misnomer ?) by the schooner Franklin, commanded by Captain James Mugford of Marblehead. It is a prize worth capturing, containing, as it does, fifteen hundred barrels of powder and other valuable loading, and one thousand carbines.
May 20th. – Yesterday there was a sharp battle in the harbor. The British navy, it seems, will not let Hope go without a struggle, and last night about thirteen boats from the men-of-war at Nantucket attacked the Franklin, and a small privateer, the Lady Washington, anchored near, and there was determined fighting on both sides. Two of the enemy’s boats were sunk. Brave Captain IV Tugford was mortally wounded, but still kept up the courage of his men, crying: “Do not give up the ship, – you will beat them off!”They did beat them off, but the noble captain did not live to see the victory. He was the only man killed on our side. Today they have carried him to his home in Marblehead, to bury him.
May 28th. – Massachusetts has taken the lead in the movement for independence. There is scarcely anything else spoken of. The Provincial Congress, May loth, acted in reference to it, and our town held a meeting the other day, the record of which my friend, the^ town clerk, has copied for me.
Cambridge, May 2-jih 1776.
At a meeting of the Freeholders & other Inhabitants of the Town Legally warned to Instruct & advise their Representatives, whether, that if the Honorable Congress should for the Safety of the Colonies declare them Independent of. the Kingdom of Great Britain, they then said Inhabitants will solemnly engage with their Lives & Fortunes to Support them in the Measure. Cap’ Ebenezer Stedman chosen Moderator.
Unanimously voted, Whereas in the late House of Representatives of this Colony May lo* 1776, it was Resolved as the Opinion of that House, that the Inhabitants of each Town in this Colony ought in full Town Meeting warned for that purpose, to advise the Person or Persons who shall -be chosen to Represent them in the next General Court, whether that if the Honorable Congress should for the Safety of the said Colonies declare them Independent of the Kingdom of great Britain, they then said Inhabitants will solemnly engage with their Lives & Fortunes to support them in the measure.
“We the Inhabitants of the Town of Cambridge in full Town meeting assembled, & warned for the Purpose aforesaid, do solemnly engage with our Lives & Fortunes to support them in the Measure.”
Last of the British Fleet
June 13th. – When are we to be rid of the British fleet ? Our harbor has given space to them surely long enough. They say there are several hundred Highlanders, on board the eight ships, two brigs, and one schooner, which compose it. General Benjamin Lincoln has a plan for driving them off to sea, and Today orders were given to the people of Boston, to build fortifications in the lower harbor, in anticipation of any trouble. Troops have embarked for Pettick’s Island and Hull, about six hundred men at each place, and bodies of militia and artillery are stationed on Moon Island, at Hoff’s Neck, and at Point Alderton. On Long Island, also, a detachment is posted, with two eighteen pound guns, and a thirteen inch mortar. Colonel Whitcomb commands the whole.
June 14th. – This morning the fleet was fired upon from Long Island, and returned the fire with vigor. At last one of the ships was pierced with a shot, and the Commodore gave orders to put to sea, which was done immediately, after first blowing up the light-house. Just two years Today since Boston harbor was closed by British tyranny to American vessels! The anniversary is celebrated by the expulsion of his Majesty’s ships from the same bay, which will not hold them again we hope, unless as prisoners of war.
June 17th. – At last the students have come back, after a banishment of fourteen months from their college halls. It seems like old times to see the college yard dotted with familiar forms, wending their way, books in hand, from Massachusetts to Harvard, from Hollis to Stoughton and Holden, and promenading through the grounds which our brave Bluecoats so lately trod with martial step and soldiers’ bearing. Their home in Concord was without many of the comforts and conveniences they had come to consider necessary to successful study. No halls, but few books, or maps, or apparatus, to aid them up the hill of learning, no wonder that the privilege of return to the college is hailed with joy. It is a time of general thanksgiving, and yesterday our honored President preached a sermon full of gratitude to our Heavenly Father, who has so kindly cared for the interests of Harvard, and brought it back again to its ancient home. Good old Dr. Watts’ hymn on God’s condescension to human affairs, never seemed more appropriate than when it rung out to the music of manly voices, through the Sabbath stillness, waking an answering song of praise from the birds, the winged worshippers in God’s outer temple of nature: –
“1. Up to the Lord that reigns on high,
And views the nations from afar,
Let everlasting praises fly,
And tell how large His bounties are.
2. He that can shake the worlds He made,
Or with His word or with His rod,
His goodness, how amazing great!
And what a condescending God!
3. God that pust stoop to view the skies,
And bow to see what angels do,
Down to the earth He casts His eyes,
And bends His footsteps downwards too.
4. He overrules all mortal things,
And manages our mean affairs,
On humble souls the King of Kings
Bestows His counsels and His cares.
5. Our sorrows and our tears we pour,
Into the bosom of our God,
He hears us in the mournful hour.
And helps to bear the heavy load.
6. In vain might lofty princes try
Such condescension to perform!
For worms were never raised sq high
Above their meanest fellow-worm.
7. Oh! could our thankful hearts devise
A tribute equal to Thy grace, #
To the third heaven tunings should rise,
And teach the golden harps Thy praise.”
Most of the students were present, and the meeting-house was full. Today is the first anniversary of the battle which cost us the loss of General Joseph Warren, of fragrant memory, and with him many soldiers brave and loyal to their country. These anniversaries are sad, and yet there is an element of thankfulness in our feelings, as we remember the honors so gloriously earned by our noble men, and the proofs given to all the world, of their patriotism and unflinching courage.
July 3rd. – Another anniversary, not of a contest of arms, but of an occasion of very great importance to the country. Just one year Today since General Washington, under the superb elm which we love to call by his name, formally assumed the command of our immense body of armed men. An army it could scarcely be called, it was so sadly in need of all the requisite implements of war, and the discipline which his firm hand and wise head brought to the disorderly mass. At this distance of time we can more easily understand the dreadful difficulties he had to surmount to preserve the appearance of a well-equipped army in the eyes of the Redcoats under Sir William Howe. For eleven months they stood in awe of our guns, and would not venture forth from beleaguered Boston to attack the surrounding strongholds. Their final evacuation on St. Patrick’s Day was regarded with astonishment in England, where the indomitable perseverance . and unequalled skill of our great general* are not understood. Mr. Hancock’s letter to General Washington, on that occasion, expressed the universal feeling of gratitude and admiration extended to him: –
“Philadelphia, 2nd Aprils 1776.
Letter to Ms. Livingstone
Sir, – It gives me the most sensible pleasure to convey to you, by order of Congress, the only tribute which a free people will ever consent to pay, the tribute of thanks and gratitude to their friends and benefactors. The disinterested and patriotic principles, which led you to the field, have also led you to glory, and it affords no little consolation to your countrymen to reflect, that, as a peculiar greatness of mind induced you to decline any compensation for serving them, except the pleasure of promoting their happiness, they may without your permission, bestow upon you the largest share of their affections and esteem.
Those pages in the annals of America will record your title to a conspicuous place in the temple of fame, which, shall inform posterity, that, under your direction, an undisciplined band of husbandmen in the course of a few months became soldiers, and that the desolation meditated against the country by a brave army of veterans, commanded by the most experienced generals, but employed by bad men in the worst of causes, was, by the fortitude of your troops, and the address of their officers, next to the kind interposition of Providence, confined for near a year within such narrow limits, as scarcely to admit more room than was necessary for the encampments and fortifications they lately abandoned. Accept, therefore, Sir, the thanks of the United Colonies, unanimously declared by their delegates to be due to you, and the brave officers and troops under your command, and be pleased to communicate to them this distinguished mark of the approbation of their country. The Congress have ordered a golden medal, adapted to the occasion, to be struck, and when finished, to be presented to you.
I have the honor to be, with every sentiment of esteem, Sir, your most obedient and very humble servant John Hancock, President.
July 5th. – My friend Esther Livingstone has .sent me copies of two letters from Mr. Edmund Quincy to his daughter Katy. Esther has become well acquainted with Miss Quincy, and knowing the interest they would possess for me, begged to be allowed to copy the letters for my pleasure.
Letter of Edmund Quincy
Lancaster, May 27, 1776.
To Miss Katy Quincy.
Dear Child. – As you are called in the Providence of God, to take so long a journey as from hence to Philadelphia at ye request of Mr. Hancock & Y Sister, to accompany & be a comfort to her who by -p same providence has been conducted thither & there it’s probable she may have her residence, yet for some considerable time, if ye present civil war should by Him be permitted to continue to another year. I am to wish you a safe & comfortable journey, & that it may prove advantageous to y health, & that ye may meet y Br & S’ in an equal enjoyment of theirs.
The parent country and these united provinces are doubtless for very wise reasons & ends suffered to be involved in one common calamity, that of a civil & bloody war. Yet we have great cause of thankfulness in this province especially in which year the war began: (1775 Apr. 19) having on ye 17th of March last been kindly delivered (nearly without bloodshed) from so large a no of troops collected in our Capital who, as you know, I have always viewed as a merciful token of a General hopeless Evacuation of ye most atrocious & savage as well as impolitic undertaking to subjugate 3 mills of people, distant 3200 geographic miles, united in 13 colonies, nor is anything similar to be found in either ancient or modern History. Those who may have to see ye close of ye present century will doubtless discern that in infinite wisdom & goodness God has permitted ye present evil day to overtake us.
Societies very much thro’ the lust of pride & thirst of power over their Brethren wh. will appear on both sides of the water, to have ye original of y« present strange event. Probably as many of this class of aspiring men may have sprung from this province as any other & perhaps more as it is certain One among those who have thought it best to exile themselves from their native land, has been ever charged with’ acting such a part, thro’ the whole of his pub’ admon & upon every private occasion as finally to fix ye foregoing character upon him, especially among those who have been contemporary in govern’ (who have been numerous he beginning very young) W the fatal issue may prove to those who have listed under his Banners, none can tell – this is certain and awful that their Salvation, if obtained, must arise from ye destruction of ye Liberty of America & probably of mankind. We may discern some things in ye present scene of things, but we are doomed to blindness as to the future – we have nevertheless our several parts to act & those especially in Government, in these days of trial are indisputably called in their several departments to provide such means of resistance as may be judged adequate to that defense we are under the necessity of making. Still may our confidence be placed on him whose’ arm alone can and will save us, as he has often done our fathers in this land, with little better than a howling desert. They were never indeed called to a similar trial but they were more than once in danger of total excision from ye savage nations of the wilderness, yet ye wisest of our predecessors, never surely formed an Idea of ye possibility of any B. Europeans making assault upon their best friends in so savage a manner, no way very dissimilar (except in ye Naval armament) to the victories of Fire & Sword, when our fathers suffered from their Indian enemies, more cruel than ye beasts of prey. I have often pictured to you what I thought of ye original of ye remarkable change in ye Governors of ye B. Nation touching ye subordinates rule among ye cols. I suspect they will very soon have reason to tremble at ye approaching breach w* France & Spain. It must prove ye dangerous war G. B. has been for more than a century past involved in. The patriotic D. of Richmond & good B. of St. Asaph have wrote eno to confirm every sensible man in the same sentiments which they have very freely paid in ye 1774.
My devout wish is that ye Brit, people may soon see ye Errs of their present Rulers, & that God may have mercy upon them and early prevent their final ruin – which certainly awaits them unless saved by repentance & reform –
“I w’d have you give me (under Mr. H & Frank) ye earliest notice of y safe arrival at P. and of his & yr sister’s state of health: also chi-g Dr. Y. home with his neglect of correspondence- if ye effect of an extensive practice it will be some excuse. don’ forget ye pamphlet called ye 2d appeal to Justice of Jany 10, last – of wh. we . had some clauses in ye Boston paper. – if at Philadelphia upon return of Mr. Bant send me anything which is worth sending, & Desire Dr. Young to comply with his promise of a copy ye City new government- My best wishes attend you in y present long journey & hope under Mr. Bants convoy you’ll arrive in at least a comfortable manner. If you should consent to be inoculated I hope you’ll be attended by a skilful Physician: – at ye same time you’ll remember to fix y chief trust in ye Great Physician of soul & body. To whose kind providence I commend you & remain D’ Child yr very afft Fa & Friend.”
Lancaster June 10th, 1776.
Dear Dr Katy. Since y departure we’ve no certain advices from our army in Canada, only that there has been a very important battle between them and Carlton’s troops & that in gen’ our army obtains a victory – possibly the particulars have reached P. ere this will come to hand. We are not a little concerned least Burgoine may have arrived with his troops, time eno. to prevent our gaining ye fortress of Q. however we must submit to ye determine of a wise provider, not doubting the issue will be in our favor. We hear from Halifax that sickness prevails among the troops there. By a ship there from G. B. there comes advice that ye Fleet, sailed for America had met with such bad weather, as to disperse’ almost ye whole, some of which had put into Lisbon, others into France & some retreated with disaster possibly a much less formidable force will arrive safe than has been feared by some & wished for by others – it is certain, we have as yet no certain ace’ of ye arrival of any large force at “H nevertheless the fortifications are going forward at Boston with vigor, & it’s expected their strength will be very sufficient to oppose an entrance into ye upper harbor, should an attempt be made by Adam Howe, but I rather think that his grand effort will be against N. Yr not by nature so capable of defense as Boston, w^ his Br ab’ 3 mo. ago so unexpectedly and shamelessly evacuated, ye advise of wh., we may expect to hear, has been more surprising to ye Adam (if arrived) than anything he had before met with: as it must have in a great measure disconcerted ye ministerial plan of operation, & should some more of the most important store-ships of Parker’s Fleet be lost, or delayed by their repairs in any port wh. they might have made after ye Storm, the summer may prove too short for ye Execution of their infernal design, for it appears to me it will deserve no softer Epithet: and I think I know the source, & am very little at a loss, as to ye general issue of the present nonpareil controversy – The Britons tell us, though with singular impropriety & very little truth, that they have with great care & expenses, settled, nourished & defended these No American Cols from their infancy & therefore that they are chargeable with ye blackest ingratitude as well as ye greatest injustice in ye resistance wh. they have dared to make at ye sovereign authority of ye B. empire. Administration has, from the first forming of their plan of subject, flattered them. that ye Cols would not unite in an opposition, being, as I apprehend, judicially blinded fro. ye are beginning, even so far as to assure them. that 13 considerable provinces under a free Gov’ wd be freighted into an immediate compliance with their demand – upon ye sight of a Comparatively Small no. of troops parading in ye Streets of Boston, & a few large ships in its harbor, ready to cooperate with the same upon opposition. To this egregious blunder of ye B. Govt ye present safety of these A. Cols, has been, & is, greatly owing, inasmuch as it has, for several years, prevented y« ministry from. applying to Pt for such a formidable force as they threaten this year to bring against us. We hear of sundry prize ships, sent into several parts since you left us – 2 sugar ships from Jamaica, one 450 tons – 30 Gent”& ladies passengers – w* 20000 dollars on besides a valuable Cargo – ye passengers by agreement were landed at Providence – this morning advise of a Scotch ship with a no of highlanders & others near about 140 w* Cargo bro’ into Salem as soldiers – they are best under our command. Let me know if any good manufacturers are hopefully rising in or near P. The present Scarcity of B. Commods is & will prove of vast advance to ye whole Am “Community – though’ a fatal stab to ye B. commerce. To prevent ye latter, I presume, adm io has made an argument of ye apparent danger to persuade B. merchants & manufacturers to lend them aid to ye present grand preparations, with many premises of compensation for all their losses out of ye American forfeited estates. One would almost think that Reason as well as virtue had taken its flight from the most important ranks of B. Subjects.”
Independence at Last
July 19th. – Independence is declared at last! The glorious document which proclaims our Colonies to be free and independent States, has been read from the balcony of the State House and in Faneuil Hall, and greeted with cheers of welcome from thousands of patriotic throats. The thought of independence has been a familiar one for many months, and the fiery enthusiasm which now flames forth from all quarters tells of the universal joy of the nation. The seventh day of June Mr. Richard Henry Lee of Virginia made a motion in Congress, that “these United Colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent States,” and proposed that they dissolve all connection with the mother country. The question was debated vigorously and eloquently, and on the eleventh of June a committee, consisting of Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of our own Colony, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, and Robert R. Livingston of New York, was appointed to draft a Declaration of Independence. Each member of the committee drew up such a paper as expressed his own views and feelings, and then the five met for consultation. Mr. Jefferson’s paper was read first, and so entirely met the approval of the others, that it was unanimously adopted as being in every way superior to their own. This was reported to Congress, and after being discussed several days and slightly altered, was agreed to on the fourth day of July. The streets of Philadelphia, on that day, were filled with eager crowds, waiting to know the decision of Congress. The bell-ringer of the State House stood at his post in the steeple, from the early morning that he might be prompt to announce to the people that their independence was formally declared. His little boy was stationed where he could get the earliest news of the event and at last, as the old man grew impatient at the long delay, the boyish voice rung through the air: “Ring! Ring, Father! Ring!”And then the bells sent forth a triumphant peal which was answered by shouts of joy from the excited multitude. The declaration thus concludes: “We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America in General Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare. That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be. Free and Independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is, and ought to be, totally dissolved, and that, as Free and Independent States, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
Though this declaration was agreed to on the fourth, the resolution adopting it was passed on the second day of July, and Mr. John Adams, writing on the day after that memorable event, says: “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America, to be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival, commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore. I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these States, yet through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory, that the end is worth all the means, that posterity will triumph in that day’s transaction, even though we should rue it, which I trust in God we shall’ not.”