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.
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”→
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.
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. Upon arriving, Foster’s men joined others from Lynn, Beverly, Salem, Dedham, and Needham. Some took cover behind trees and others in Russell’s yard, where a breastwork was constructed out of shingles.
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, 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. 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.
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. 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.
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, 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.
Foster called the dedication of the memorial “One of the happiest days and most pleasing events of my life.”
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”.
*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.
Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historian Katie Turner Getty
“Fire! Fire! You dare not fire!” “Cowardly rascals!” “Lobsters!”
Shouts pierced the icy stillness of the night as a raucous crowd gathered in Boston’s King Street on the night of March 5, 1770. With their voices carrying through the wintry air all the way to Long Wharf, the crowd hurled insults at eight British soldiers and their captain. The soldiers’ muskets rattled as snowballs, oyster shells, and chunks of ice lobbed by the unruly crowd rained down upon them.
The soldiers shot eleven townspeople that night. Three died in the snow where they stood. Two more would later die from their wounds. The remaining six would survive. All of the victims were male.
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.”
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” 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.”
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!”
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.”
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.” 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.”
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.
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.”
So enraged were local sailors by Malcom’s behavior, that he was “disarm’d of Sword, Cane, Hat & Wig”, 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” 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” 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.”
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”, 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!”
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. The formidable Malcom was eventually removed from his house “amidst the huzzas of thousand[s]” 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.” 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”. 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.
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”.
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”
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.
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. 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…”
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.”
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.
 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.
 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.
 Boston-Gazette and Country-Journal, 15 November 1773, quoted in Hersey, 440.
 Governor Thomas Hutchinson letter to Earl of Dartmouth, 28 January 1774, quoted in Hersey, 448.
 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.
Emerging Revolutionary War is honored to welcome guest historian Katie Turner Getty. A short biography is at the bottom of the post.
In terms of historical significance, few American cities rival Boston, where shades and shadows of the Revolution can be found around every corner. By walking the city’s famous Freedom Trail, one can follow in the literal footsteps of the inhabitants who left such an indelible mark on the city. Indeed, many heroes of revolutionary Boston—Revere, Adams, Otis—lie in their eternal repose in burying grounds mere steps from busy thoroughfares.
The presence of those revolutionaries still looms large in Boston and many of their old stomping grounds still stand. Several buildings located on the Freedom Trail played unforgettable parts in the revolution. From the fiery speeches at Old South Meeting House on the eve of the tea party to the blood shed by those massacred outside the Old State House*, these sites are popular and are frequently visited.
But there is one site not located on the Freedom Trail that is yet imbued with great historical import. Indeed, it is the site of the 1768 arrival of British warships in Boston Harbor and the troops who first took those fateful steps into Boston for the purposes of occupying the city.
The name of this site, so often overlooked, is Long Wharf.
Long Wharf has stretched into the Atlantic from Boston for 300 years, serving as the world’s great doorway to the city. It was the longest wharf in Boston, extending 1,586 feet into the deep water of the harbor allowing up to 50 ships to dock at one time. It would have been a place of great bustle—the loading and unloading of cargo by longshoremen, transporting of such cargo to the busy warehouses and shops that lined the wharf, and then the purchase of such goods by local people.
On Friday, September 30, the Beaver, the Senegal, the Martin, the Glasgow, the Mermaid, the Romney**, the Launceston, and the Bonetta anchored in the harbor. On board the ships were “the 14th and 29th Regiments, a detachment from the 59th regiment, and an artillery train”. The next day, Bostonians warily watched as “the war ships maneuvered closer to the town and ranged themselves as if for a siege.” Then, carried off the warships by small boats, British troops stepped onto Long Wharf and into American history.
These ships and troops had arrived in the port of Boston as a response to colonial opposition to the Townshend Acts which were enacted by Parliament in 1767 in an effort to enforce their sovereignty over the colonies and raise revenue. The Townshend Acts imposed a tax on imports such as tea, glass, paper, and paints, as well as instituted a Customs board to help enforce British trade regulations and deter smuggling activity. Many Bostonians were opposed to the Townshend Acts and protested by gathering in mobs and harassing officials.
Paul Revere immortalized the landing of the troops in an engraving entitled “A View Of Part of the Town of Boston In New England And Brittish [sic] Ships of War Landing Their Troops! 1768”. The image depicts the eight British ships of war arrived in the harbor, with smaller boats carrying red-coated soldiers to Long Wharf. Some troops are already amassed on the wharf, gathering into formation.
Revere’s engraving also shows many buildings running along the north side of Long Wharf in an uninterrupted line toward the town. They were warehouses, counting houses, shops, and dwellings. One of these buildings was John Hancock’s Counting House, which still stands on Long Wharf today. Currently incarnated as a restaurant called the Chart House, it is the oldest extant building on Long Wharf, built in 1763. John Hancock’s original wall safe is actually still set in the red brick wall of the second floor dining room. The safe is not off-limits; visitors may freely open and close the safe’s inner and outer doors or even run a hand over the smooth metal.
When standing at the wall safe, take a few steps to the right and look out the front windows of the building. Look down to the ground level to see the path of the troops as they passed right by Hancock’s Counting House, “with insolent parade, drums beating, fifes playing, and colours flying, up King Street” as they headed down the wharf and into the town. The soldiers were marching to the Town House, at the base of King Street. And beyond that, to Boston Common.
Long Wharf at the time (as it is today) was really just an extension of King Street, which ran all the way from the Town House (later to become the site of the Boston Massacre), down to the shoreline, then continued along in the form of a wharf, out into the harbor. After the Revolution, King Street was (perhaps appropriately) renamed State Street and is known by that decidedly more American moniker today.
The soldiers’ route may be traced today by any perambulating history enthusiast. Walk out past Hancock’s Counting House, to the terminus of Long Wharf and stand where the British soldiers disembarked. As you gaze out across the cold gray Atlantic, feel the stiff sea breeze rolling in off the water just as they did. Then turn your gaze away from the Atlantic and look back toward the city. The view is the same as in 1768—the Town House will be in your direct line of sight. As the soldiers marched down the wharf in a straight line, they too would have seen the Town House quite clearly.
A pamphlet published by the Boston Redevelopment Authority in the 1980s reveals that although the wooden timbers of Long Wharf are experiencing decay, the 17th and 18th century granite bulkheads beneath the wharf are still intact. It is a thrill for any revolutionary history enthusiast to walk out to the end of Long Wharf, knowing that deep beneath his or her feet are the very same granite blocks, impervious to time and history, that bore silent witness to the arrival of the British soldiers who stepped onto Long Wharf and into history when they came to occupy Boston.
*The building known today as the Old State House was known in the 1770s as the Town House.
**The Romney actually arrived in Boston Harbor in May 1768 to help enforce customs and discourage the flouting of trade regulations, attempting to seize John Hancock’s ship, Liberty.
*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.