Southside Revolutionary Virginia 1775 Tour – October 12, 2019

From our friends at the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond 

Tour Leader –  Dr. Patrick H. (Pat) Hannum, Professor, Joint Forces Staff College, National Defense University, Lt Col USMC (Ret)

Great Bridge
Great Bridge Battlefield (courtesy of Great Bridge Battlefield & Waterways History Foundation)

This tour will visit three critically important Revolutionary War sites, in the modern Cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, in order to help inform the important events and explain how the Whig Government ousted the Royal Governor, Lord Dunmore, and British military forces from the State of Virginia. These events largely unfolded in the fall of 1775 and culminated with the destruction of the City of Norfolk in early 1776. Strategically important, these events led to near uncontested Whig control of the State of Virginia for three and one-half years. The British defeat at Yorktown in October 1781 traces its roots to the critical decisions and decisive actions of the Whig Governments of Virginia and North Carolina in the fall of 1775.  We will visit: Continue reading “Southside Revolutionary Virginia 1775 Tour – October 12, 2019”

Review: Founding Martyr, The Life and Death of Dr. Joseph Warren, the American Revolution’s Lost Hero by Christian Di Spigna

ERW Book Reviews (1)

Doctor. Major General. President of the Provincial Congress. Author of political tracts. A true patriot. Forgotten.

41mPwaMUWfL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_All these words, plus many more, are titles that depict the life of Dr. Joseph Warren. However, the last term is most synonymous with the Massachusetts doctor who fell in the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775 in the early stages of the American Revolutionary War. That last word, forgotten, is exactly what author and historian Christian Di Spigna is hoping to expunge with his new biography, Founding Martyr. 

Di Spigna, an early American history expert and Colonial Williamsburg volunteer, focuses his account of Dr. Warren on not the events immediately surrounding his death at Bunker Hill and subsequent martyrdom but “to fill in the more obscure parts of Warren’s life” which will lead to understanding more of the “key period in the formation of his character, his special networks, and ultimately his medical and political careers” (pg. 7). Continue reading “Review: Founding Martyr, The Life and Death of Dr. Joseph Warren, the American Revolution’s Lost Hero by Christian Di Spigna”

A Title

asb

When writing a book, one of the most important initial aspects is picking a title. The author needs one that is expressive, attracts attention, but has some overall tie-in that provides a fitting capture of the essence of the book.

One of the advantages of writing history is the use of quotes. Let the participants, combatants, or witnesses of the event provide the context for a title. When one resonates, go with it!

With the recent publication, the co-author, Robert Orrison and myself bounced various potential titles off each other. Then we had a list of our favorites included in the initial information sheet sent to Ted Savas, of Savas Beatie, LLC, the publisher. Yet, one continued to stand out, as it was written in a diary by a British junior officer slightly more than a month before the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

 

The entire inscription is below:

“It is certain both sides were ripe for it, and a single blow would have occasioned the commencement of hostilities.” —Lieutenant Frederick Mackenzie, Royal Welch Fusiliers, March 6, 1775.

Mackenzie’s uncanny foresight predicted the exact outcome of the fighting that erupted on April 19, 1775. With casualties suffered by both sides, the war of words and near-misses became a war of shot and shell.

Hostilities had commenced and we had a title. A Single Blow: The Battles of Lexington and Concord and the The Beginning of the American Revolution. 

 

 

 

An Account of April 19, 1775

“the Country was an amazing strong one; full of Hills, Woods, stone Walls, & c., which the Rebels did not fail to take advantage of, for they were all lined with People who kept an incessant fire upon us…”

From the diary of Lieutenant Frederick Mackenzie who was part of the 23rd Regiment–the Royal Welch Fusiliers that survived the ordeal of April 19, 1775. He would keep a diary until the early 1790’s and chronicled his experiences in the American Revolutionary War. His account on April 19, of the retreat from Concord is most descriptive. The British did not just take the brunt of the firing as the marched hurriedly back toward Boston and safety, but;

“as we did too upon them, but not with the same advantage, as they were so concealed there was hardly any seeing them: in this way we marched between 9 and 10 miles, their numbers increasing from all parts…”

The column was led by Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith and had been tasked by General Thomas Gage, British military leader in North America, to root out the military supplies being stored in Concord by the colonials. The mission, albeit supposedly secretive, did not remain so for long, and the colonials got word out to the countryside. After initial firing at Lexington Green and then at the North Bridge in Concord, the British had to march back through the countryside, facing arriving militia and minute men.

“while ours was reducing by deaths, wounds, and fatigue; and  we were totally surrounded with such an incessant fire as it is impossible to conceive; our ammunition was likewise near expended.”  

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Modern-day view along Battle Road, the route the British column retreated back toward Boston on (author collection)

Luckily, for Mackenzie and the other struggling British officers and rank-and-file, on a rise in the ground, outside the town of Menotomy, was a relief column, ready to provide a few moments’ respite.

 

 

The Battle of Groton Heights, September 6, 1781: The Fort Griswold Massacre

Part One

Benedict Arnold
Benedict Arnold

After turning coat, Benedict Arnold received a commission as a brigadier general in the British army as part of the deal that he made in order to betray his country.

In August 1781, George Washington decided to shift forces in order to attack the army of Lt. Gen. Lord Charles Cornwallis in Virginia. Washington began pulling troops from the New York area. Lt. Gen. Sir Henry Clinton, the British commander-in-chief in America, realized on September 2 that Washington’s tactics had deceived him, leaving him unable to mobilize quickly enough to help Cornwallis. Further, there was still a significant force of Continentals facing him in front of New York, and Clinton did not feel that he could detach troops to reinforce Cornwallis as a result.

Sir Henry ClintonInstead, Clinton decided to launch a raid into Connecticut in the hope of forcing Washington to respond. Clinton intended that this be a raid, but he also recognized that New London could be used as a permanent base of operations into the interior of New England. Clinton appointed Arnold to command the raid because he was from Connecticut and knew the terrain.

Arnold commanded about 1,700 British solders, divided into two battalions. Lt. Col. Edmund Eyre commanded a battalion consisting of the 40th and 54th Regiments of Foot and Cortland Skinner’s New Jersey Volunteers, a Loyalist unit. Arnold himself commanded the other battalion, made up of the 38th Regiment of Foot and various Loyalist units, including the Loyal American Regiment and Arnold’s American Legion. Arnold also had about 100 Hessian Jägers, and three six-pound guns. This was a formidable force anchored by the three Regular regiments. Continue reading “The Battle of Groton Heights, September 6, 1781: The Fort Griswold Massacre”

ERW Weekender: Bunker Hill Monument & Museum

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historian Katie Turner Getty. 

Towering over Charlestown, Massachusetts, its foundation set in sacred battleground soil, the Bunker Hill Monument is a 221 foot obelisk commemorating the Battle of Bunker Hill. The cornerstone of the monument was laid by the Marquis De Lafayette in 1825, fifty years after the battle was fought on June 17, 1775.

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Bunker Hill Monument (author collection)

Although the land surrounding the monument has been greatly developed since the battle, visitors today can get still get a sense of the 18th-century landscape just by walking through Charlestown and climbing the hill to reach Monument Square. Approaching visitors are greeted by the statue of Colonel William Prescott, the gray granite of the monument serving as an impressive backdrop behind him. Continue reading “ERW Weekender: Bunker Hill Monument & Museum”

Ankle Deep In Blood: The Jason Russell House

Emerging Revolutionary War is honored to welcome back historian Katie Turner Getty. Biography of Ms. Getty is below the post. 

On April 19, 1775, the placid farm of fifty-eight-year-old Jason Russell of Menotomy erupted into carnage when he, along with eleven other Americans, were shot and bayonetted by British soldiers in his home and yard.

Image1-KTGetty
Jason Russell House (author collection)

As American militia and minutemen poured in from surrounding towns, the British—fatigued yet furious—found themselves under increasingly heavy musket fire. As they pulled back from Concord and retreated to Boston, the main column passed near Russell’s house which stood near the battle road. Russell had just returned home after secreting his family at a nearby farm. Unbeknownst to him, American minutemen and British soldiers would soon converge upon his property and a desperate battle would occur within the walls of his own house.

Earlier that day, twenty-six-year-old Gideon Foster had set off from Danvers with a company of minutemen. The men had set a scorching pace and made the sixteen mile journey to Menotomy in four hours, running half the way.[1] Upon arriving, Foster’s men joined others from Lynn, Beverly, Salem, Dedham, and Needham.[2]  Some took cover behind trees and others in Russell’s yard, where a breastwork was constructed out of shingles.

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The Fight at the Jason Russell House, bicentennial painting by Ruth Linnell Berry (1974). Appearing with permission from the Arlington Historical Society.

The men focused their attention on the approaching main column of British troops and fired upon them. Capt. Israel Hutchinson, a seasoned French and Indian War veteran, warned that flank-guards would likely be traversing the fields alongside the road[3], helping the main column to pass unmolested. But before the men could reconsider their position or move to a more defensible location, the flank-guard was upon them, trapping the men against the main column.

In a frantic search for cover, many of the men bolted into Russell’s house. Jason Russell, too, attempted to dash inside but was slowed by his lame leg.[4] He was shot twice and fell on his doorstep. The soldiers tore inside the house in hot pursuit of the men, bayonetting Jason Russell’s body eleven times as they passed.

Once inside the house, the Americans had no choice but to fight for their lives in rooms with no egress, in very close quarters, against raging, bayonet-wielding soldiers. It was a bloodbath. With two rooms on the bottom floor, a narrow stairwell, and two rooms on the top floor, Jason Russell’s house offered very little refuge.  Soldiers outside the house hailed musket fire into the windows.

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Sign depicting what happened at the Jason Russell House on April 19, 1775

With nowhere else to go, several men rushed into the cellar. What at first would seem to be an ill-advised hiding spot turned out to be the only sanctuary that Russell’s home could offer. Taking position near the bottom of the stairs, the men raised their muskets and shot dead the first soldier who descended.[5] Any other soldiers who attempted to follow were met with blazing musket fire. Holes left by musket balls are still visible in the stairwell, attesting to the firestorm.

Soon, the house grew quiet. All of the men who had sought safety in the house had been killed, with the exception of the men who took refuge in the cellar. The British ransacked the house then left.[6]

In 1835, sixty years after the bloodbath at Russell’s house, a memorial was erected in Danvers to commemorate the townsmen who lost their lives in Menotomy that day. Danvers lost the second highest number of men, after Lexington[7], and all of them at Jason Russell’s house. Foster, the commander of the company of minutemen who had ran halfway to Menotomy, was by then the last surviving Danvers veteran of the war. Aged eighty-six, he addressed the crowd assembled for the dedication of the monument and recounted the events of April 19th:

On that morning, more than one hundred of my townsmen hastened to the field of battle…ready to offer their lives on the altar of their liberties. Seven of those who thus started in the prime of life and vigor of manhood, ere that day’s sun descended in the west, were numbered with the dead.[8]  

Foster called the dedication of the memorial “One of the happiest days and most pleasing events of my life.”[9]

In total, twelve Americans were killed at Jason Russell’s house.  Jason’s wife, Elizabeth, returned home to find her husband dead. He and the other fallen Americans, their bodies riddled with musket balls and slashed by bayonets, had been laid out on the floor in the kitchen, the blood from their wounds pooling around them. Elizabeth later said that “the blood in the room was almost ankle deep”.[10]

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Musket ball damage to the staircase of the Russell House

 

 

 

*Biography: Katie Turner Getty is a lawyer, history enthusiast, and lifelong resident of Boston. She holds an A.A. from Bunker Hill Community College in Charlestown, Massachusetts, a B.A. in History from Wellesley College, and a J.D. from New England Law Boston. She can often be found exploring historic sites both on and off the Freedom Trail.

*Sources*

The Jason Russell House is located at 7 Jason Street in Arlington, Massachusetts. Their website is http://www.arlingtonhistorical.org/visit/jason-russell-house/ 

[1] Daniel P. King, An Address Commemorative of Seven Young Men of Danvers. (Salem, 1835), 28.

[2] Arlington Historical Society http://www.arlingtonhistorical.org/learn/articles/the-battle-of-menotomy/

[3] J.W. Hanson, History of the Town of Danvers (Danvers, 1848), 107.

[4] Samuel Abbot Smith, West Cambridge 1775, 3rd ed. (Boston, 1864),  38. https://archive.org/details/westcambridge17700smit

[5] Ibid., 38.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Hanson, 91.   

[8] King, Appendix, 27.

[9] King, 28.

[10] Smith, 39.

“Adams and Jefferson: A Revolutionary Friendship”

On February 1, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. join Emerging Revolutionary War’s Derek Maxfield for the launch of the “Historical Horizons Lecture Series” sponsored by the Genesee Community College History Club.

Two of the most important men in American History are John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  From the time they met in Philadelphia in 1775 until their deaths in 1826, these two men had a most fascinating relationship; much of the time it was one of admiration and love, but it was interrupted by a period of intense partisan strife that nearly ended the friendship.  Come hear the intriguing story of how the friendship was restored.

The lecture is part of the Historical Horizons Lecture Series sponsored by the GCC History Club.  Get the complete spring semester line-up here: https://gcchistoricalhorizons.wordpress.com/

All events are FREE and open to the public at the Genesee Community College Batavia campus, room T102 of the Conable Technology Building.

The Epic Tarring and Feathering of John Malcom

Emerging Revolutionary War is honored to welcome back historian Katie Turner Getty.

“Mr. Malcom, I hope you are not going to strike this boy with that stick.”[1]

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George Robert Twelves Hewes portrait, entitled “The Centenarian” by Joseph G. Cole, 1835.

The speaker was 31-year-old Boston shoemaker and Tea Party participant, George Robert Twelves Hewes. Hewes had been walking along Fore Street in Boston on the afternoon of January 25, 1774 when he came across 50-year-old Loyalist and Customs officer, John Malcom, furiously shaking a large, heavy cane at the head of a small boy.

Five weeks earlier, on December 16, 1773, Hewes had “dressed [himself] in the costume of an Indian, painted [his] face and hands with coal dust in the shop of a blacksmith”[2] and participated in the Tea Party.  Appointed boatswain, he and his company boarded one of the three ships and proceeded to soak 342 chests of East India Company tea in Boston Harbor. After dumping the tea that night, the men “quietly retired to [their] several places of residence… No disorder took place… and the stillest night ensued that Boston had enjoyed for many months.”[3]

Hewes had encountered no trouble when destroying the tea that night. But on this frigid Tuesday afternoon in January, trouble had found him—and was brandishing a cane.

Malcom turned his attention from the small boy to the shoemaker and exclaimed, “You are an impertinent rascal! It is none of your business!”[4]

Undeterred, five-foot, one-inch Hewes further protested Malcom’s rough treatment of the boy. Malcom called Hewes a “vagabond” and further declared that Hewes “should not speak to a gentleman in the street.”[5]

Hewes replied that he was “neither a rascal nor a vagabond, and though a poor man, was in as good credit in town as [Malcom] was.”[6] The exchange between the two men became even more heated.

Malcom called Hewes a liar and Hewes then retorted, “be that as it will, I never was tarred and feathered any how.”[7]

Malcom, overcome with fury, then struck Hewes in the head with his heavy cane, opening a bloody gash in the shoemaker’s forehead and causing him to fall to the ground unconscious.

John Malcom was one of the few people in the American colonies who had been tarred and feathered. Before this night was through, he would earn the dubious distinction of having been tarred and feathered twice.

gettymacaronymaking
“A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practised at Boston”, 1774.

Malcom’s first encounter with a sticky suit of tar and feathers was in October of 1773 in Falmouth (now Portland, Maine). While working as a Customs officer, Malcom had overzealously seized a ship called the Brothers for not having a register. Once aboard the ship, he “heartily damned the sailors, menaced the mate, [and] threatened to sheath his sword in the bowels of any one who dared dispute his authority.”[8]

So enraged were local sailors by Malcom’s behavior, that he was “disarm’d of Sword, Cane, Hat & Wig”[9], tarred and feathered over his clothes, and paraded through the streets for about an hour before being released.

This episode was common knowledge in Boston. In a letter to the Earl of Dartmouth, Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson indicated that Malcom had complained to him on several occasions of “being hooted at in the Streets for having been tarred and feathered”[10]  Clearly, the Boston populace was not sympathetic to Malcom. And after his assault on Hewes, they would become even less so.

When Hewes regained consciousness, he found himself surrounded by a crowd of onlookers who urged him to visit the prominent Boston physician, Dr. Joseph Warren, to have his wound treated. In the meantime, Malcom had “contrived to get a weapon in his hand and keep [the crowd] at bay, till he could flee to his house”[11] on Cross Street.

When Hewes visited Dr. Warren at his office on Hanover Street, the doctor made a cheerful comment relating to the fortuitous thickness of Hewes’s skull. He said, “you are the luckiest man I know of, to have such a skull—nothing else could have saved you.”[12]

Word of Malcom’s assault on Hewes had quickly spread through Boston and people had started gathering outside his house. Far from being cowed by the unfriendly crowd, Malcom “bullied the people”[13], slinging verbal taunts and threats. In response to jeers, Malcom shouted “You say I was tarred and feathered, and that it was not done in a proper manner, damn you let me see the man that dare do it better!”[14]

Even 243 years later, Malcom’s defiance of the crowd is astonishing. From inside his house, he ran his sword out through the window and inflicted a flesh wound on an unlucky bystander named Waddel. He threatened the crowd with pistols and proclaimed that he would receive a thirty pound reward for every person he killed[15]. The formidable Malcom was eventually removed from his house “amidst the huzzas of thousand[s]”[16] He was dragged on a sled to King Street, site of the Boston Massacre, and was stripped of his clothes.

In Falmouth, during his first tar and feathering in 1773, the tar was splashed onto his clothes. This time, Malcom’s clothing was torn off, exposing him to the frigid winter air. The tar was poured over his bare flesh. He was then transferred to a cart and gleefully hauled to various points across town.

Sixty years later, Hewes reflected upon the event in his biography. “Then they drove to Liberty Tree—to the gallows on the Neck—back to the Tree—to Butcher’s Hall again—to Charlestown Ferry—to  Copp’s Hill—flogging the miserable wretch at every one of these places.”[17] Four hours later, he was unceremoniously deposited at the doorstep of his house, frostbitten and senseless.

The reader may feel a slight twinge of disappointment, or perhaps even a grudging respect, upon learning that throughout his ordeal, John Malcom comported himself with “Great Fortitude and Resolution”.[18] Malcom’s recovery was lengthy. When frostbite caused his tarred and feathered flesh to peel off in strips, Malcom packed the skin in a box to preserve it and present to the King as proof of his service and sufferings.[19]

In May, 1774 Malcom sailed for England (presumably with his box of tarred flesh and feathers). Once in England, Malcom embarked on a letter-writing campaign to request redress for all of the suffering and expense he endured in America in furtherance of his service to the King.

In 1776, Malcom wrote a letter to the Lords of the Treasury. In referencing the altercation with Hewes in Boston and his subsequent tarring and feathering, Malcom stated that in “endeavoring to do my Duty in getting the Tea landed, [he] was barbarously and inhumanely treated…[and] was obliged to quit America”.[20]

Also in the letter, he accused his former Customs supervisor in Falmouth, Francis Waldo, of various misdeeds. Waldo had strongly disagreed with Malcom’s seizure of the Brothers and the two had never reconciled.

Waldo’s ire is still palpable 240 years later as, in response, he meticulously dismantles Malcom’s claims in a letter to the Lords of the Treasury, point by painstaking point:

“Mr Malcom went to Boston and brought upon himself a second Taring [sic] and Feathering…which happened some time after the India Companys Teas were destroyed and was occasioned by his beating a Boy in the Street in such a manner as to raise a Mob”[21]

Many factors probably contributed to the second tarring and feathering of Malcom, but any efforts he might have made to land the tea were not among them. As Waldo pointed out, the tea had been destroyed over a month before Malcom was tarred. Malcom was already unpopular in town due to objectionable past actions such as the Brothers seizure. He was a particularly overzealous and aggressive Customs officer. And the man he assaulted was a Patriot and tea party participant.

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“Bostonian’s Paying the Excise-Man, or Tarring and Feathering”, attributed to Philip Dawe, London, 1774.

Additionally, Bostonians felt a simmering resentment toward the authorities. When some men tried to persuade the crowd to stop tormenting Malcom, they refused to relinquish him.[22] They believed the government would fail to punish him for his wrongs—assaulting the boy and Hewes, threatening the populace, and sticking Waddel with his sword. Instead, the crowd chose to maintain possession of Malcom and mete out the justice that they believed the government would not.

Malcom was in England barely a year before he demonstrated a desire to return to Boston. In a petition to the King, Malcom states that he “long[s] to be sent out to my Family in Boston and to my Business in the Customs in the Boston Government…I would Humbly Implore your Majesty let Me be soon sent from London to Boston…”[23]

In the end, Malcom was assigned to the Independent Company of Invalids at the Plymouth Garrison. He penned several more letters and petitions asking for additional compensation from the British government.

In 1782, the Commissioners on American Loyalist Claims reviewed his case and decided to allow him another 60 pounds per year on account of his having been tarred and feathered, but in no small part because “he appears to be in some degree insane.”[24]

Malcom lived out the rest of his days in England, passing away in 1788 at age 65. He never went back to Boston, nor ever saw his wife or children again.

Hewes lived to be 98 years old. In 1775, after war broke out, he escaped from Boston in a fishing boat and went to Wrentham, Massachusetts. He served in the militia until the end of the war. Eventually he moved to upstate New York. He was married for 70 years until his wife, Sally, passed away at the age of 87. By all accounts, he was lively and spry until the end. On the 4th of July, 1840, he was preparing to attend a celebration as a special veteran guest. On that day, George Robert Twelves Hewes stumbled while stepping into a carriage and suffered a serious injury. He died that November.

 

 

 

 

*Sources

[1] Boston-Gazette and Country Journal, 31 January 1774. The Annotated Newspapers of Harbottle Dorr Jr., Massachusetts Historical Society http://www.masshist.org/dorr/volume/4/sequence/522 Hereinafter cited as Boston-Gazette.

[2] A Citizen of New York [James Hawkes], A Retrospect of the Boston Tea-Party, with a Memoir of George R. T. Hewes, a Survivor of- the Little Band of Patriots Who Drowned the Tea in Boston Harbour in 1773 (New York: S. Bliss, printer, 1834), 38. https://archive.org/details/retrospectofbost00hawk Hereinafter cited as Hawkes.

[3] Ibid., 39-40.

[4] Boston-Gazette.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Boston-Gazette.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Boston-Gazette and Country Journal, 14 February 1774, quoted in Frank W.C. Hersey, Tar and Feathers: The Adventures of Captain John Malcom, reprinted from the Transactions of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, volume XXXIV, (Boston: D.B. Updike, The Merrymount Press, 1943), 440.

[9] Boston-Gazette and Country-Journal, 15 November 1773, quoted in Hersey, 440.

[10] Governor Thomas Hutchinson letter to Earl of Dartmouth, 28 January 1774, quoted in Hersey, 448.

[11] A Bostonian [Benjamin Bussey Thatcher], Traits of the Tea Party; Being a Memoir of George R. T. Hewes, One of the Last of Its Survivors; With a History of That Transaction; Reminiscences of the Massacre, and the Siege, and Other Stories of Old Times (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1835), 128. https://archive.org/details/traitsteapartyb00thatgoog Hereinafter cited as Thatcher.

 

[12] Ibid., 132.

[13] Boston-Gazette.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Massachusetts Spy, 27 January 1774, quoted in Hersey, 444.

[16] Boston-Gazette.

[17] Thatcher, 131.

[18] John Rowe, Anne Rowe Cunningham, Edward Lilly Pierce, Letters and diary of John Rowe: Boston merchant, 1759-1762, 1764-1779, (Boston: W.B. Clark Co., 1903), 261.

[19] Hawkes, 35.

[20] Hersey, 442.

[21] Francis Waldo, letter to Lords of the Treasury, November 21, 1776, quoted in Hersey, 442.

[22] Massachusetts Spy, 26 January 1774, quoted in Hersey, 445.

[23] John Malcom, petition to King George the Third, January 12, 1775, quoted in Hersey, 463.

[24] Commissioners on American Loyalist Claims, Decision, as quoted in Hersey, 469.