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Preparations for Raising an Army in Massachusetts. Zeal of the Committee of Safety. Circular of the Provincial Congress.
“A viceroy, I, like monarchs, stay
GAGE's Soliloquy, BY PHILIP FRENEAU, 1775.
“In their ragged regimentals
* HE events of the 19th of April, like an electric shock, thrilled every nerve § through the heart-confederated American colonies, and all over the land there was o ! a cry to arms." In Massachusetts there was no more hesitation. Who shall be *~ * aggressor 2 was an answered question. Who shall be the con*"... queror 2 was the great problem before them. It was for Massachusetts to lead the van in the contest, and her people readily stepped forth to the duty, knowing that the warm sympathy and generous aid of the sister colonies were enlisted for the war. The reassembled Provincial Congress voted to raise an army of thirteen thousand six hundred men. The Committee of Safety labored day and night, with a zeal worthy of the glorious So cause in which they were engaged. Circulars were sent out by both bodies, * calling upon the people to form an army as speedily as possible; and the other New England colonies were solicited to forward as many troops as they could spare," in order to
'The Provincial Congress of Massachusetts sent the following letter to the several committees of safety
in the province: -
“GENTLEMEN, -The barbarous Murders on our innocent Brethren on Wednesday the 19th Instant, has made it absolutely necessary that we immediately raise an army to defend our Wives and our Children from the butchering Hands of an inhuman Soldiery, who, incensed at the Obstacles they meet with in their bloody progress, and enraged at being repulsed from the Field of Slaughter, will, without the least doubt, take the first Opportunity in their Power to ravage this devoted Country with Fire and Sword. We conjure you, therefore, that you give all Assistance possible in forming an Army. Our all is at Stake. Death and Devastation are the certain Consequences of Delay; every Moment is infinitely precious; an Hour lost may deluge your Country in Blood, and entail perpetual Slavery upon the few of your Posterity who may survive the Carnage. We beg and entreat you, as you will answer it to your Country, to your own Consciences, and, above all, as you will answer to God himself, that you will hasten and encourage, by all possible Means, the Enlistment of Men to form the Army, and send them forward to Head-quarters at Cambridge, with that expedition which the vast Importance and instant Urgency of the affair demands.
“Joseph WARREN, President, P.T.”
Army collected at Boston. Organization of the Troops. Preparations to Besiege the City. Issue of Paper Money.
make up a united force of thirty thousand men. These official appeals were scarcely necessary, for as soon as the intelligence of bloodshed went abroad, the people had rushed to: ward Boston from all quarters, and by the 21st it was estimated that twenty thou- April sand men were collected in the neighborhood of that city. General Ward, by virtue 17*. of a previous appointment, took command on the 20th, and in the afternoon held a council of war with the officers present." Of course all was confusion; for the people came, some with arms in their hands, and some having none, with the inquiry marked on every countenance, What can I do?. A partial organization was effected, and preparations were made to besiege Boston. Among those who hastened thither was the veteran Putnam, then an old man of sixty years, who, it is said, left his plow in the furrow, and in his working dress, mounted one of his horses, and hastened toward Cambridge at the head of a large body of Connecticut volunteers. Colonel (afterward general) John Stark was also there, with a crowd of New Hampshire volunteers, and all were active and ardent. In the course of a few days the troops were tolerably well officered, their pay was agreed upon, and thirty thousand were enrolled. But great numbers returned home; some to attend to pressing private affairs, and others to make permanent arrangements to join the army. The number was thus suddenly much reduced, and the important pass of Boston Neck was defended for nine consecutive days and nights by only six or seven hundred men under Colonel Robinson, of Dorchester. The ranks were soon afterward well filled, and preparations for a regular siege of the city commenced. Cambridge was made the head-quar- | ters, and a line of cantonments was formed nearly twenty miles in extent, the left leaning upon the River Mystic and the right upon Roxbury, thus
TWENTY FOUR SHLi, LINGS
completely inclosing the town.
The officers who composed the council were Generals Ward, Heath, and Whitcombe; Colonels Bridge, Frye, James Prescott, William Prescott, Bullard, and Barrett; and Lieutenant-colonels Spaulding, Nixon, Whitney, Mansfield and Wheelock. Colonels Learned and Warner arrived the next day.
* This is a facsimile of the device on the back of one of the first of the Massachusetts treasury notes or bills of credit. The literal translation of the Latin inscription is “He seeks by the Sword calm repose under the auspices of Freedom.” In other words, to use a phrase of the present time, they were determined “to con
Gage's Restrictions. Gloomy Prospects of the People of Boston. Arrangements with the Selectmen. Perfidy of Gage.
bearing an interest of six per cent. They also forwarded dispatches to the general Moya. Congress which was to assemble on the 10th, suggesting the necessity for making 17*. provision for a large army, to oppose the expected troops from Great Britain.
While these transactions were taking place without Boston, General Gage was pursuing a course of rigorous surveillance over the people within the city. By his orders all arm to intercourse with the country was cut off, and none were allowed to leave the town 1775. without his permission first obtained. This measure exposed the people to great distress, for their accustomed supply of provisions and fuel was thus cut off. They at once felt all the horrors of civil war gathering around them—visions of famine, rapine, and blood clouded their thoughts, and all the miseries which gloomy anticipation delineate began to be felt. Gage himself became uneasy. Boston was surrounded by an exasperated multitude, armed and ready for combat at the least provocation; and he was justly apprehensive that, should an assault commence from without, the patriots within would rise upon his troops. In this exigency he so far receded from his haughty demeanor toward the municipal authorities as to seek an interview with the selectmen. It was obtained, and he assured them that no violence should be done to the town, provided the people would behave peaceably. A town meeting was held on the 22d, and an agreement was entered into between the selectmen and Gage, “That, upon the inhabitants in general lodging their arms in Faneuil Hall, or any other convenient place, under the care of the selectmen, marked with the names of the respective owners, all such inhabitants that are inclined might leave the town, with their families and effects, and those who remained might depend upon the protection of the gov. ernor; and that the arms aforesaid, at a suitable time, should be returned to the owners.” This measure was sanctioned by the Committee of Safety sitting at Cambridge, and the arrangement was carried out in good faith for a short time, until the removal became so general as to alarm the Tories and the governor himself.” The Tories, about this time, were excessively loyal. Two hundred of them were enrolled as a military corps under Timothy Ruggles, and, offering their services to General Gage, were put on duty. They thought the arrangement Gage had agreed to was unwise, for they apprehended that, when the patriots had all left the town with their effects, they would not scruple to burn it. They remonstrated with Gage, and their importunities and his own fears became more potent than his sense of honor. Obstructions were thrown in the way of removals, until, finally, passes were denied, or so framed that families would have to be separated, and property left behind. Gage, finally, would not allow women and children to leave Boston, but kept them there as a sort of hostages, or pledges of good behavior on the part of the patriots. This exhibition of bad faith disgusted and exasperated the people as much as any of his previous acts.
quer a peace.” The face of the bill has a neatly-engraved border of scroll-work; and on the left of the brace where the names of the committee are signed, is a circle with a ship within it. The following is a copy of one of the notes: “Colony of the * Bay, }August 18, 1775. “The Possessor of this Bill shall be paid by the Treasurer of this colony, Twenty Four Shillings, Lawful Money, by the 18th day of August, 1778, which Bill shall be received for the aforesaid sum. in all payments at the Treasury and in all other Payments by order of the General Assembly.
The following is a copy of one of the passes granted to the inhabitants who left. It is copied from one preserved in the cabinet of the Massachusetts Historical Society. “Boston, May, 1775. “Permit persons, and effects, to pass
, together with his family, consisting of
, between sunrise and sunset.
“No Arms nor Ammunition is allowed to pass.”
*Under this arrangement. 1778 fire-arms, 634 pistols, 273 bayonets, and 38 blunderbusses, were depos.
ited with the selectmen. The same day (April 27th) the Provincial Congress recommended to the inhabitants of the sea-ports the removal of their effects, &c. Gordon, i., 336.
Benevolence of the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts. Efforts of other Colonies. Organization of the Army.
May 1, The Provincial Congress of Massachusetts, in the mean time, made provision for 1775, five thousand poor people expected from Boston, who were unable to help themselves. Each town had a proportion allotted to it, and thus much suffering was prevented, while the feelings of the beneficiaries were tenderly respected by the declaration of the resolution that they were not to be numbered with the town paupers. The same provision was also made for the suffering inhabitants who remained in Charlestown, unable to remove from the danger that menaced them. So great were the alarm and distress in that thriving suburban village of Boston, that it was almost deserted. Its population of two thousand seven hundred was reduced to about two hundred.
While Massachusetts was thus exercising its patriotism and humanity, preparatory to the approaching contest, the other colonies were alive with zeal. The Rhode Island Assembly voted an army of observation of fifteen hundred men, and appointed Nathaniel Greene, a young iron master, and a Quaker by birthright, but recently disowned because of his military propensities, commander-in-chief, with the rank of brigadier. His colonels were Varnum, Hitchcock, and Church. The Connecticut Assembly voted to raise six regiments of a thousand men each ; and Wooster, Putnam, and Spencer, already commissioned as generals, were each to have a regiment. The others were to be placed under the command of Hinman, Waterbury, and Parsons. Already, as we have noticed, New Hampshire volunteers had flocked to Cambridge, with the gallant Stark, who was commissioned a colonel. Under the direction of the Committee of Safety of that colony, they were supplied with necessaries until the meeting of the Provincial Congress of their own province in May. That body resolved to, raise two thousand troops in addition to those already in the field, and Nathan Folsom was appointed commander-inchief, with the rank of brigadier. They were organized into three regiments; and two additional regiments were placed under the command of Stark and James Reed. The latter, and Enoch Poor, were commissioned colonels. New Hampshire and Rhode Island both also issued bills of credit. Although other colonies did not send soldiers to Boston, all, with the exception of New York, approved of the action of the general Continental Congress, and expressed the warmest sympathy for New England.
On the 19th of May, the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts clothed the Committee of Safety, then sitting at Cambridge, with full power to regulate the movements of the gathering army.’ General Ward, as we have seen, was appointed captain general; John Thomas was made lieutenant general; and Richard Gridley, the commissioned commander of an artillery corps authorized to be raised, was appointed chief engineer, assisted by Henry Knox, late commander of an artillery corps in Boston. To promote rapid enlistments, a resolution had been previously adopted, promising a captain's commission to every one who should raise a company of fifty-nine men, and a colonel's commission to each who should raise a regiment of ten companies. The form of the commissions of the several officers was adopted, the pay of officers and soldiers was fixed, and other provisions for organizing the army were arranged.
At the beginning of June the combined forces amounted to about sixteen thousand men.” really united only in respect to the common cause which brought them together, for each colony had absolute control over its respective troops. But by common consent, sanctioned by the several colonial authorities, obedience was rendered to General Ward as captain general. Ward, as well as Putnam, Thomas, Stark, Pomeroy, Prescott, and Gridley, had been educated in the military art in the practical school of the French and Indian war; and the militia that had assembled, familiar with their names and deeds, placed the utmost confidence in their skill and valor.
* The Committee of Safety consisted of John Hancock, Joseph Warren, Benjamin Church, Benjamin White, Joseph Palmer, Richard Devens, Abraham Watson, John Pigeon, Azor Orne, Benjamin Greenleaf. Nathan Cushing, and Samuel Holten. Hancock was necessarily absent, being a delegate to the Continental Congress.
* Massachusetts furnished 11,500; Connecticut, 2300; New Hampshire, 1200; and Rhode Island, 1000.
Increase of British Troops in Boston. Arrival of experienced Officers. Operations in the Vicinity. American Military Works.
The British force in Boston had increased, in the mean while, by fresh arrivals from England and Ireland, to ten thousand men. The Cerberus man-of-war arrived on the 25th of May, with Generals Howe, Clinton, and Burgoyne, three officers experienced in the military tactics of Europe, but little prepared for service here. They were surprised at the aspect of affairs, and Gage was reproached for his apparent supineness.” However, unity of action was necessary, and the new-comers heartily co-operated with Gage in his plans, such as they were, for dispersing the rebel host that hemmed him in. He issued a proclamation on the 12th of June, insulting in words and menacing in tone. It declared martial law; pronounced those in arms and their abettors “rebels, parricides of the Constitution,” and offered a free pardon to all who would forthwith return to their allegiance, except John Hancock and Samuel Adams, who were outlawed, and for whose apprehension as traitors a reward was offered.” This proclamation, so arrogant and insulting, served only to exasperate the people. In the mean while, several skirmishes had occurred between parties of the British regulars and the provincials, upon some of the cultivated islands that dot the harbor of Boston. Each party were employed in carrying off to their respective camps the live stock upon the islands, and on one occasion quite a severe action occurred upon Hog Island, which continued until late at night. One or two armed vessels in the harbor were engaged in the foray. A considerable number of the provincials were killed. Toward morning a British schooner got aground. The Americans boarded her, stripped her of every thing valuable, and returned to camp in triumph. In the course of these Mys. depredations the owners were completely despoiled; several hundred cattle, sheep, 1775. and lambs having been carried off by both parties, without leave or remuneration." In the attendant skirmishes the Americans were generally most successful, and they served to initiate the raw militia into the preliminary dangers of a battle.
But little progress had been made at this time, by the Americans, in erecting fortifications. Some breast-works had been thrown up at Cambridge, near the foot of Prospect Hill, and a small redoubt had been formed at Roxbury. The right wing of the besieging army, under General Thomas, was at Roxbury, consisting of four thousand Massachusetts troops, including four artillery companies, with field-pieces and a few heavy cannon. The Rhode Island forces, under Greene, were at Jamaica Plains, and near there was a greater part of General Spencer's Connecticut regiment. General Ward commanded the left wing at Cambridge, which consisted of fifteen Massachusetts regiments, the battalion of artillery under Gridley, and Putnam's regiment, with other Connecticut troops. Most of the Connecticut forces were at Inman's farm. Paterson's regiment was at the breast-work on Prospect Hill, and a large guard was stationed at Lechmere's Point. Three companies of Gerrish's regi
General Howe was a brother of the young Lord Howe who was killed at Ticonderoga in 1758. In the address of the Continental Congress to the people of Ireland, adopted on the 28th of July, 1775, the addressers say, “America is amazed to find the name of Howe in the catalogue of her enemies. She loved his brother.” * The newly-arrived generals were so assured, before leaving England, that they would have no occasion to draw the sword in support of ministerial measures, that they had prepared to amuse themselves with fishing and other diversions, instead of engaging in military service. It seems that the whole affair of the 19th of April was kept a profound secret from all his officers by Gage, except those immediately employed in it and Lord Percy, until the skirmish had ensued at Lexington, and a re-enforcement was called for. When General Haldimand, afterward Governor General of Canada, who was with Gage, was asked how the sortie happened, he said that the first he knew of it was from his barber, who came to shave him. * It has been related that when John Hancock placed his bold signature to the Declaration of Independence, on the 4th of July, 1776, he remarked, “There ! John Bull can read that name without spectacles. Now let him double his reward l’’ * It was in reference to these expeditions on the part of the British, that Freneau, the stirring song-writer of the Revolution, in his “Gage's Soliloquy,” thus wrote:
“Let others combat in the dusty field;