Chapter 17

    Proceedings in the Province of Massachusetts Bay, whilst the Country was in a State of Anarchy and Rebellion. 1775

    February 1775

    Several of the Inhabitants of Marshfield, having represented to the General that they were under apprehensions of assaults and violences from the people in the neighbouring Towns, as they had shewed themselves well disposed to Government: the General ordered a party of one hundred Men, under the command of Captain Balfour to be posted at Marshfield, for the protection of the well[-]disposed subjects.123

    Towards the close of this month, many of the inhabitants, from the interior part of the Province, took shelter from the [319] persecution of the people in the Country, who were assembled in many places in Arms, with intention as it was said to disarm all those called Tories or such as would not join in their measures. A number of Inhabitants in the town of Petersham, who had entered into an association for their mutual defence, finding the spirit of persecution very strong against them, assembled together in an house, resolving to defend themselves to the utmost.

    The house was soon surrounded by many hundreds of the people, and they were obliged after some days to capitulate and submit. The people, after [320] disarming them, ordered them to remain each at his own house, not to depart from thence, or any two of them to be seen together upon pain of death. And in most parts of the Country a Watch was set upon such as were reputed Tories, that they should not remove from their dwellings in order, as is supposed, that the people may be able to secure them, whenever any of their own party shall be taken up by Government.

    The General having received information of some Ordnance and Military Stores being secreted in a building at Salem, Colonel Leslie was ordered down from Castle W[illia]m, [321] with part of the 64th Regiment. They disembarked from the Transport on Sunday the 26th February at Marblehead, marched into Salem during afternoon service, and after meeting with some detention at a draw Bridge they passed over, and not finding the stores where they were expected, they returned to Marblehead, and reembarked in the Evening. That night many hundred people got under Arms in the neighbouring towns, and marched towards Salem, but the Troops met with no obstruction from the people at Salem, or Marblehead.124

    March 1775

    One of the Inhabitants at Petersham, who [322] had submitted as before mentioned, returned to Boston for security, and afterwards went to visit his friends in the country. But his own relations assisted in laying hold of his person, and inflicting a punishment upon him; he was condemned to hard labour for three weeks, chained at night to the floor and on Sunday was led into the Meeting, and received a spiritual admonition from the Minister for his erronios conduct.

    A Ship arrived at New York from London. The Master landed some part of the Cargo in the Jersies, contrary to the resolves of the [323] Continental Congress. And the Merchants being detected, the Goods were taken by the Committee of Elizabeth Town, and the Merchants submitted to an humble confession of their offence, left the Goods to be dealt with as the Committee should see fit, and engaged to give £200 towards building the Hospital, in order to be restored to the favour of their fellow Citizens.

    The General Committee of Charles Town, South Carolina, interdicted all Commerce with Georgia, as they had not acceded to the Continental association.

    A Country man from Ballerica [Billerica] having tempted a soldier [324] to sell his Arms, was detected and secured at the Guard on the Neck. And the next day the Man was drummed through the town, on a sled, tarred, and feathered. This brought great resentment against the Officer of the Guard, who permitted this kind of punishment to be inflicted on the Culprit, and a Committee from Belerica waited on the General, and delivered to him a most insolent and audacious remonstrance on the subject.125

    Governour Wentworth of New Hampshire dismissed several Persons from their Civil and Military employments, who had been leaders in the attack and robbing of the King’s Fort in December last. [325]

    In the first part of this month the Accounts from New York of the proceedings of their Assembly, and of the Merchants and Traders in town, were such as showed a disposition in them to refuse acquiescence to the measures of the General Congress, but the body of the people soon after voted for chusing Delegates to the Congress, intended to meet in May. And the General Assembly of that Province voted most of the Acts of Parliament that has passed in the present reign relative to America, to be Grievances.126

    The Provincial Congress of Massachusetts Bay, assembled at Concord, on the 22nd March, and entered on business, by publishing [326] a Resolve urging the people to persevere in the measures that had been recommended, for put[t]ing the Colony in a compleat state of defence.

    March 20th

    An Express arrived from a place called Westminster in New York Government, bordering on the extreme part of the province to the northwest, to acquaint the General that the people had obstructed the sit[t]ing of the Court of Justice, that the sheriff had raised the posse to get possession of the sessions house, and before he could drive out the intruders, he had been obliged to fire on them, in which one man was killed, and another wounded. That the people being afterwards joined by others, had drove off the sheriff’s party, and taken [327] him and other prisoners, and kept them confined in Jail.


    Early in this month advice was received that the two houses of Parliament had addressed His Majesty on the subject of the disturbances in America, expressing that the Province of Massachusetts was in a state of actual Rebellion, and praying his Majesty to take effectual measures for the suppression of it.127

    The Provincial Congress was then sit[t]ing at Concord, and upon these advices, a difference arose in opinion as to the Steps to be taken. A parson Murray, who was a delagate for three or four towns, had already a good deal embarrassed the proceedings of the Congress, during this sit[t]ing, [328] by insisting on satisfaction being made to the East India Company for the loss sustained in the destruction of the Tea, prior to every other business; urging that they never could expect the smiles of Heaven on their resistance, till they had made compensation for that flagrant act of injustice. This man, by his great volubility of speech, drew many members to his opinions, and was so great a bar to Mr. [Samuel] Adams, who was for precipitating measures, that the latter moved to expel him from the meeting, but could not get such a vote to pass. Deputies attended this congress from Rhode Island and Connecticut. And they, and the other provinces to the Southward, advised the [329] Massachusetts Congress to wait till the meeting of the Continental Congress in May, before they proceeded to extremities; and indeed, the members themselves, when they came to cast about the expence of maintaining an Army, and foresaw the difficulties of raising Money, and providing necessary provision, and stores, were greatly disheartened at the prospect before them.

    The Provincial Congress at Concord voted themselves a pay of 5/ a day, during their sitting, to be paid out of the Monies in the hands of H J Gardner, who had been named Treasurer of the Province by a former Congress. But however well disposed the people might [330] be to the cause, yet few had ventured to pay their receipt of Taxes to Mr. Gardner, and all that he had received made but an inconsiderable sum.

    Adams and Hancock, thinking it not safe for them to return to Boston, each made a motion for the other to be requested by the Congress to remain with the body. Upon a suggestion that they wanted to go to Boston, upon their own affairs and the Congress voted their presences absolutely necessary, to remain and assist in the business they were upon.

    These Leaders, who had nothing else for it, but to precipitate the matters, and [331] keep up the spirit of the people by every means, were urgent to plunge them deeper in rebellion, and terrified them with a thousand fears of their own creating, in case the King’s Troops were successful. And they had such influence over the inhabitants of Boston, that soon after the first advices in April, many families dayly left the Town; others sent all their valuable Effects, and furniture into the Country. And all seemed desireous of moving from thence, though without any habitation to fly to, or where they could [332] have a prospect of procuring any of the comforts of life.

    They seemed to expect some sudden Judgement or destruction to fall on the Town, or that the Military would destroy the people. Though Boston was certainly the only place of security in the Province to those who were disposed to remain quiet in their dwellings.

    April 10th

    Colonel Gilbert of Free Town had for a considerable time past been obliged to keep [333] himself with some of his friends in a posture of defence in his dwelling house, being much threatened by the people; as from his principles, and conduct, he was greatly the object of their resentment; being known to be a man of great resolution, they had not dared to make an assault, but lay on the lurch to catch him, if he should dare to go abroad. However, growing weary of delay and watching, at length they assembled the [334] minute men of the County, to the amount of 1500, who went armed and accoutered, to take this single Man; but he escaped on board a Man of War, at Newport. They then divided into parties, and went to the houses of his friends, and took 29 people, whom they called Tories, prisoners, spoiling them of their Arms, and ammunition, and compelled them to make such acknowledgements as they thought fit to impose upon them. Eleven of them being more obstinate than the rest, they condemned them to Simsbury mines in Connecticut, but on [335] their road there, they were brought to submit to sign such articles as the people were pleased to dictate to them.

    April 14

    The Provincial Congress published an Ordinance for the accommodating such of the Inhabitants of Boston as should at this time remove into the Country. And the next day they issued a proclamation for a fast on the 11th May, and then adjourned to the 10th of May.

    On the 18th, at eleven at night, about eight hundred Grenadiers, and Light Infantry under [336] the command of Lt. Col. [Francis] Smith, were ferryed across the Bay to Cambridge, from whence they marched to Concord about twenty miles.

    The Congress had been lately assembled at that place, and it was imagined that the General had intelligence of a Magazine being formed there, and that they were sent to destroy it.

    It seems upon the Troops embarking, the signal, by a light from one the steeples[,] was given to Charles town across the Water, and this was forwarded through the Country, so that before daybreak the people in general [337] were in Arms, and on their march to Concord. About daybreak a number of them appeared before the Troops near the meeting house at Lexington. They were called to, to disperse, when they fired on the Troops, and ran off; upon which the Light Infantry pursued them, and brought down about 15 of them.

    The Troops went on to Concord, and executed the business they were sent on, and on their return, found two or three of their people not yet dead, yet scalped, and their noses and Ears cut off, which exasperated them very much. [338]

    A prodigious number of people now occupied the hills, Woods, and stone Walls along the road.

    The light troops drove some Parties from the hills, but all the road being inclosed with stone Walls, served for a cover to the people, from whence they fired on the troops, still run[n]ing off whenever they had fired, but still supplied with fresh numbers, who came from many parts of the Country. In this manner were the troops harrassed in their return, for seven or eight miles. They then were almost exhausted, and had expended near [339] the whole of their Ammunition, when to their great joy they were relieved by a Brigade of Troops under the command of Lord Percy, with two pieces of Artillery. The Troops now combatted with fresh ardor, and marched on their return, with the best countenance, receiving sheets of fire all the way for many miles, and yet having no visible Enemy to combat with, for they always skulked, and fired from behind Walls, and trees. They likewise possessed themselves of the houses on the road side, and fired from the Windows on the Troops, [340] but this cost them dear, for the Soldiers entered those dwellings, and put all the men to death.

    Lord Percy has gained great honour by his conduct through this day of severe service. He was exposed to the hottest of the fire, and animated the Troops with great coolness, and spirit. Several Officers were wounded, and about 150 of the soldiers were killed and wounded, but many hundreds of the people have fallen.

    The Troops returned to Charles town about sunset, after having marched forty, some near fifty miles, and being engaged from daybreak in action, without respite or refreshment. Happily [341] the Somerset Man of War of 64 Guns had been stationed between Charlestown and Boston, a few days before, and she awed the people of Charlestown in such a manner, that on the return of the troops, they sent to Lord Percy assurances of their peaceable behaviour. However, he did not march immediately into the Town, for being pressed by fresh numbers of the People arriving from the neighbourhood of Salem, when he got to Charlestown neck, he possessed himself of the heights above the town, and was releived by a fresh body of six hundred troops from Boston, under the Command of [342] Brigadier General Pigot, and my Lord’s party returned about ten in the evening to Boston.128

    The Troops who occupied the heights above Charlestown early the next morning threw up intrenchments, and prepared to secure the heights with artillery, in order to maintain that Post. But the people from the Country coming down in great numbers on the Boston side, and possessing themselves of the heights and Roxbury meeting house, and all parts round from Cambridge to Dorchester, the General ordered back the party from Charlestown, [343] and evacuated the heights above it, and immediately further dispositions were made, for strengthening the Lines, and fortifying the Town on the side of the Common by raising Batteries on the several eminences and throwing up Intrenchments, where it was judged most proper for defence.

    The Troops were much harrassed with all this duty, but went through it with great chearfulness, but besides guarding against the attempts that might be made from without, they had a more dangerous Enemy within the town.

    The communication with the Country had been cut off from [344] the 19th April, and during the early part of that month, many of the inhabitants had been removing themselves into the Country, and there was a general opinion amongst the people that some sudden and great calamity was to befall the town, and several persons who were supposed to be in the secret, were very urgent with their friends in town to remove out of it as soon as possible; and it was pressed upon them in such a manner, as expressed some speedy destruction being to fall on the place.

    The Inhabitants of Boston were known to be all provided [345] with fire Arms, and upwards of four thousand men were supposed to be in the town, ready to rise up on any signal of an attack being to be made from without.129

    After the intercourse with the Country was cut off, and no persons were allowed to go out of the town, the inhabitants grew very urgent and clamorous to be let out to their brethren in the Country: And the select Men had several interviews with the General, to settle the conditions on which they should be allowed to quit the Town.

    At length it was agreed, that upon delivering up their Arms, they should be suffered to leave the place, taking with [346] them their necessary furniture and effects. In consequence of this, about fifteen hundred Arms were delivered up, and passes were granted to such people as applied for them, and the inhabitants kept removing into the Country, from day to day, in great numbers.

    There was now very strong reasons for judging what the threatened destruction before mentioned was to have been, and which made the affair of the 19th April to be considered as an happy event by the servants of Government, and the people called Tories in Boston.

    Many of the Officers of the Army lodged in private [347] houses in the Town. On Monday the 24th April it was intended to have a publick dinner for the servants of the Crown, in honor of St. George, and Lord Percy was to have given a Ball on the Wednesday following.

    Now from all circumstances it was generally believed, that there was a plot laid, to have sacrificed the Officers of the Crown, on one of these two nights. That the Military were either to have been taken off in their Lodgings, after their return home on the 24 at night, when they were to be supposed to be in liquor, or that the whole assembly were intended to have [348] been blown up at Lord Percy’s ball. And upon the rising of the inhabitants in Town, on one of these occasions the People of the Country who were all ready, were to have rushed down in thousands on the Lines.130

    The Detachment of Troops that had been stationed at Marshfield for some time past were now called in, and a number of the Inhabitants of that place who had rendered themselves obnoxious to the people in general, by their attachment to Government, came up with them to Boston for refuge.131 [349]

    Transports were sent to Halifax to bring up the remainder of the 59th Regiment from thence to strengthen the Garrison, and whilst the Army within were employed besides their ordinary duty in the works of the Lines, in raising Batterys, and throwing up intrenchments, four Ships of the Line, and several frigates, and Sloops, were stationed in the best manner for the defence of the Town, and Castle, and their Boats employed in watching and Guarding the harbour.

    The Rebels[,] who occupied all the Country in the [350] neighbourhood of Boston, did not make any advances towards the Town or preparations for attacking it by throwing up Intrenchments, and raising Batteries. The people from the neighbouring Towns who first formed the Blockade, were said to have been relieved by those from the remote parts of the Country, and the first were said to be returned to their farms, to be ready to join the body when any signal should be made to them for that purpose.

    Many families from the neighbourhood of Boston [351] had fled into town on the first alarm, after the begin[n]ing of the action on the 19th and had not time to bring any of their effects off with them.

    The Rebels made free with the provisions, apparel, and furniture in these dwellings, drank all the liquors that were in Store, and wasted and destroyed such part of the property as they could not consume.

    During all this time there was great dread amongst most of the inhabitants of Boston, both friends and foes to Government; lest the town should be destroyed whilst they were in it. And yet to any rational person, [352] after so many of the ill-disposed inhabitants had removed themselves out of it, there was no danger to be apprehended, except from some of the Desperadoes that remained behind, lest they should set it on fire; however, many who were well disposed went by Water to Halifax, Nantucket, London, and other parts, and for those who were otherwise, they either joined themselves to or sought for refuge from the Rebels without.

    The Rebels had stoped the Posts and opened the Mails, and prevented all supplies of provision being sent into town, so [353] that most people were soon reduced to salt provisions, and what fish could be caught in the harbour.

    The refugees from Boston soon filled the houses & barns in the neighbouring Country, their Goods remained in the open fields, and they without any provision for their support.

    A Provincial Congress was now sitting at Watertown, and they thought fit to issue an order for the distribution and reception of the Refugees from Boston, who might be so poor as not to be able to provide for themselves, these they calculated to be about five thousand, and apportioned them to be received into all the towns of the [354] Province that were upwards of ten or twelve miles from Boston, which part was supposed to be occupied by their troops, or furnishing to their supply.

    The expence attending the support of these people, this Congress took upon themselves to say should be made good by some future Congress, or Provincial Assembly, out of the Province Treasury.

    Very exaggerated reports of the affair of the 19th April were spread over the Country, and no sooner were they arrived at New York, than the people rose [355] in great ferment, and being urged on by the presence of Mr. Adams and Mr. Hancock of Boston, who were on their Road to Philadelphia to meet the Continental Congress, they proceeded to great licentiousness and disorder, obliging all the inhabitants to swear to abide by the resolves of the Continental Congress, whatever they should be. Many persons fled from the dread they were under from these violent invaders of Government, and embarked immediately for England. The Assembly of the Colony of Connecticut was [356] sit[t]ing when they received an account of the affair of the 19th April, and they immediately dispatched two of their Members, Dr. Johnson and Mr. Wallcot, with a letter from their Governor to General Gage, to be informed of the truth of Facts. As report had been made to them, they had conceived a very disadvantageous impression of the behavior of the King’s Troops, but from the General’s answer to their Governor’s letter, both of which were printed, there should seem great reason for them to be satisfyd with the Conduct of His Majesty’s forces [357] on that occasion, and with the means pointed out by the General for a reconciliation with Great Britain; and the Gentlemen who were sent on the part of the Colony, appeared satisfied of the truth of the reports they had here heard, and disposed to endeavour to prevent their Assembly from entering into any violent measures on the occasion; but whatever report they may make, that thwarts with the prejudices of the people, one cannot expect to have much [358] weight with them, as the whole Country seems entirely given up to frantic Enthusiasm, and will accept nothing as truth that combats with their absurd notions.


    The Provincial Congress at Watertown published two resolves, one for the several towns to elect Members to a new Provincial Congress to meet at Watertown the 31 May, and another declairing General Gage utterly disqualified to serve the Colony as [359] a Governour, and in every other capacity, and that no obedience ought to be paid to his Writts for calling an Assembly, or to his Proclamations, or any other of his acts or doings, but that he ought to be considered, and guarded against, as an unnatural and inveterate Enemy to the Country.132

    In the course of this month, several transports arrived from England, with Marines and Recruits for the Army at Boston, and towards the latter end, three General Officers arrived in the [360] Cerberus Frigate, viz. General [William] Howe, General [John] Burgoine, and General [Henry] Clinton.

    The assemblies of Rhode Island interdicted the Export of Provision from those Colonies, in order to prevent the supply of His Majesty’s troops, and every measure was taken by the people to prevent fresh provision and forage getting into Boston. A detachment of Troops was sent down to an Island in the Harbour, which was near to the Continent, to bring off a quantity of Hay, but a large body of the People assembled on the shore, [361] fired on the party, and obliged them to go off without compleating their business, and afterwards they burnt the hay that was left behind.

    Encouraged by this success, a week after they landed from Chelsea on Hog Island, and Noddles Island, near the town, and carried off the stock that was on them. The Schooner Diana being sent against them got aground, and was a long time exposed to the fire of a large body of People near Chelsea; at length she was burnt, [362] but Lt. Graves, who commanded her and defended her with great bravery for many hours, withdrew with his people before she was destroyed. The Rebels returned the next day to the Islands, carried off what they could of the remaining Stock, and burnt the houses on Noddles island, and set fire to Hay that was on other Islands in the Harbour.


    Advices have been received that a body of people [363] from Connecticut have surprized the fort of Ticonderoga, made the Garrison prisoners, and removed them to Hartford Goal, that they afterwards proceeded across Lake Champlain, and coming suddenly to St. Johns they took the King’s Sloop and made prisoners a Sergant and 12 men, who were stationed there, but that some Canadians and a part of the Regiment from Montreal had come down upon them and oblige them to retire with loss.

    This expedition was concerted by the Boston Delegates [364] to the Continental Congress, along with Mr. Trumball the Governor of Connecticut, at Hartford, and must have been undertaken at the time that Doctor Johnston and Mr. Wallcot were sent with the letter before mentioned to General Gage.

    Advices were received from Piscataqua, and the Eastward, of violent proceedings of the people of the Country, who were all in Arms, and frequently entered the town of Portsmouth in large bodies, terrifying the inhabitants, and searching their houses for obnoxious persons under various pretences. [365]

    About the middle of June a number of transport Ships arrived from Cork with 3 Regiment [of] foot, and one of Light horse, when General Gage issued a Proclamation, promising his Majesty’s pardon to all those who should forthwith lay down their Arms, and return to the duties of peaceable subjects, excepting Samuel Adams and John Hancock, and ordering the use and exercise of the Law Martial, throughout the Province.133 [366]