This is Dedicated to Major John Pitcairn

Many of you are aware of my excessive interest in the patriot leader and Son of Liberty, Joseph Warren. In fact, the first novel in my series, Angels & Patriots, is dedicated to Dr. Joseph Warren and another man, who was not an American patriot—Major John Pitcairn.

I’m not sure at what point (or why) in my research, these men peaked my interest. Perhaps, it was because both men have largely been forgotten, yet they each played a vital role in the infancy of the Revolutionary War. I read and studied them until I felt I could make an attempt to write about them from their point of view, I perceived them as having some of the same characteristics— integrity, honesty, charm, and heroism.

Both Warren and Pitcairn were mortally wounded at the Battle of Bunker Hill, on June 17, 1775. Their deaths were recorded in a 1786 painting by John Trumbull – The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, June 17, 1775. This version shows the location of Warren and Pitcairn in the historically inaccurate painting.

john-trumbull-battle-of-bunker-hill

There is more information on Dr. Joseph Warren, (who died at 34) than on Major John Pitcairn (who died at 52). A biography about Warren’s life was published in 2012.

I found no dedicated writings about Pitcairn aside from resources on the internet, and a video game, Assassin’s Creed III (2012), in which Pitcairn is ultimately assassinated. Pitcairn was cast as an antagonist in the TV mini-series Sons of Liberty (2015). I wondered why he was singled out as a “bad-guy” when history describes Pitcairn as having a sense of honor and the respect of both the Loyalists and the Patriots of Boston.

After reading accounts of Pitcairn’s life, I tried to picture him as a man, not just a bunch of statistics, dates, and speculation. Ironically, there are no known likenesses of him.

John Pitcairn was baptized at St. Serf’s, Dysart, a port town in Fife, Scotland, on December 28, 1722 (Old Calendar – 1723). His date of birth is not recorded separately, so it may have been the same day.

In his early 20s, John married Elizabeth Dalrymple. Their first child, Annie, was born in Edinburgh in 1746, the year John was commissioned a Lieutenant in Cornwall’s 7th (Marines) Regiment. The couple went on to have six sons and four daughters.

The Marines were disbanded for a time and reformed on a permanent basis in 1755. John retained his lieutenancy. In the Marines, commissions were not purchased. John didn’t reach the rank of Major in the Chatham Division until 1771, at age 48. His son, William, followed him into the Marines.

In December 1774, as unrest spread in the Colony of Massachusetts, he arrived in Boston with some 600 Marines drawn from three divisions: Chatham, Portsmouth and Plymouth. The Plymouth Marines were not properly trained, had unfit officers, had no proper weather clothing or equipment, and were undisciplined. Some of the men sold their equipment to buy rum.

Here, I saw John as a humanitarian with a sense of duty and responsibility for his marines. Not as a naive task master, but as a sensible mature man who understood that respect far out lasted threats and punishments. He found it hard to apply harsh discipline. By example and patience, he managed to drill them into shape. He lived in the barracks with his men to keep them sober and succeeded in gaining their respect.

On the night of April 18, 1775, General Thomas Gage ordered a handpicked assembly of 800 troops to gather on the shores of Back Bay, in Boston. Their clandestine mission was to capture rebel weapons hidden in Concord. Gage assigned Colonel Francis Smith as officer in charge, with Major Pitcairn as Smith’s second.

Pitcairn was in charge of the companies in the vanguard of Smith’s column of British regulars. These men weren’t Pitcairn’s marines; therefore, he was unfamiliar with them and their skills. When his vanguard marched into Lexington, led by Lieutenant Jessie Adair, they accidentally veered down the wrong road and marched toward Captain John Parker’s line of militiamen. Pitcairn was genuinely horrified. I tried to imagine his sense of urgency as he galloped across Lexington Green shouting for his companies in the van to halt and hold their fire.

Still, a shot rang out, and eventually eight provincials lay dead.

After the bloodshed later that day in Concord, the exhausted and frightened British troops retreated from Concord to Boston under constant rebel fire. Pitcairn tried to maintain order among the ragged ranks even after his horse was shot, forcing him to walk.

Two months later, on June 17, 1775, John Pitcairn and his marines were ordered to stand ready as reinforcements for British General William Howe’s regulars as they attempted to march on a little rebel redoubt hastily constructed on the wrong hill on the Charlestown peninsula.

I imagined Major Pitcairn and his marines as they rushed the redoubt; Pitcairn waving his bayonet at the rebels and yelling, “Now, for the glory of the Marines!” I wondered what John’s son, William, saw and thought when a rebel in the redoubt aimed his musket at his father.

Did John Pitcairn see the man who was about to mortally wound him? What were his thoughts when he realized he had been shot in the chest? I’ve read that he knew the shot was fatal, but there had to be more rushing through his mind. Legend says he fell into his son’s arms, and was bleeding so badly that William was covered in his blood.

History paints John Pitcairn as a brave sensible man even as he faced his own death. He was taken by boat back to Boston, and put to bed in a house on Prince Street. General Gage sent a loyalist town physician, Dr. Thomas Kast, to tend to Pitcairn.

John insisted that he get his affairs in order before allowing the doctor to examine him. Hours later, Dr. Kast pulled John’s waistcoat away from his wounded chest. John hemorrhaged to death. His son cried out to the marines, “I have lost my father!”

John was buried in the crypt of Christ Church, the Old North Church, in Boston. The fatal bullet and his uniform buttons were returned to his wife and children.

JohnPlaqueMajor John Pitcairn
Fatally wounded
while rallying the Royal Marines
at the Battle of Bunker Hill
was carried from the field to the boats
on the back of his son
who kissed him and returned to duty
He died June 17, 1775 and his body
was interred beneath this church

John’s birthplace, the old manse of Dysart, was demolished over a century ago. The marble plaque John erected to his parents’ memory in 1757-8 in St. Serf’s was destroyed by vandals in the early nineteenth century, after the kirk fell into ruin. As a result, until recently there was nothing to commemorate John in his hometown.

DysartPlaque

In October, my husband and I are taking a return trip to Boston. We shall pay our respects to Major John Pitcairn.

Resources

  1. http://www.silverwhistle.co.uk/lobsters/pitcairn.html
  2. http://colonialamericans.weebly.com/major-john-pitcairn.html
  3. http://drbenjaminchurchjr.blogspot.com/2011/12/major-john-pitcairn.html
  4. Painting of “The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill” by John Trumbull the Boston Museum of Fine Arts
  5. Borneman, Walter R. American Spring: Lexington, Concord, and the Road to RevolutionNew York: Little, Brown and Company, 2014. Print.
  6. Hand-colored engraving described as “The shooting of Major
    Pitcairn (who had shed the first blood at Lexington) by the
    colored soldier Salem.” Courtesy of J. L. Bell

 

 

 

Lexington and Concord: 7 British Military Blunders

Military campaigns have been marred with blunders since man began the business of organized war. Beyond the strategies, armaments, battles, and aftermath, human error is one of the many fascinating chronicles of a mission. That isn’t to say that courage and determination and grit are not just as fascinating—they are, but for this moment, they are put aside.

There were many British military blunders surrounding the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775.  The Royal Governor of Massachusetts, General Thomas Gage planned the mission. He had intelligence that there were rebel armaments in Concord and the mission was to capture the armaments. (He may have learned at the last minute that most of those munitions had been removed from Concord).

thomas gage
General Thomas Gage
  1. General Gage handpicked the companies of light infantrymen and grenadiers from different regiments and placed them under the command of Colonel Francis Smith, with Royal Marine Major John Pitcairn as Smith’s second in command. This had the disadvantage of placing junior officers under the command of superior officers they didn’t know. Likewise, Smith and Pitcairn had no knowledge of their junior officers’ strengths and weaknesses.
  1. General Gage believed he was planning the mission in secrecy
    francissmith
    Colonel Francis Smith

    with only Colonel Francis Smith’s prior knowledge. However, Gage supposedly revealed those orders to General Lord Hugh Percy. Further, Gage’s brother-in-law, Samuel Kemble, was his private secretary, and Kemble may have written Smith’s orders for Gage. There is speculation that Gage’s wife, Margaret, may have learned of the mission and betrayed that information to Joseph Warren, which would have spurred Warren to send Paul Revere and William Dawes to issue the warning that the regulars were out. That is quite another story…

  1. The 800 regulars and 70 officers assembled on the shores of Back Bay to cross the Charles River. The crossing was slow. Longboats had to make two trips to ferry the 800 troops to the Cambridge shore. To make matters worse, they were crossing against the incoming tide.

    7b66cdfe-b58a-45fe-8a62-d6ce593483be
    Map of British Movement
  1. The regulars’ landing point was in the middle of the wetlands of the Cambridge marshes. The men, burdened with the weight of their uniforms and equipment, had to slog through the knee-deep waters of the marshes.
  1. Four hours after their initial departure from Back Bay, Smith’s regulars were marching the road to Lexington. The country folk were raising alarms and some were shooting at the regulars. Smith sent an appeal to General Gage for reinforcements.

    200px-2ndDukeOfNorthumberland2_cropped
    Lord Hugh Percy

The troops of the First Brigade should have been at the ready to march at a moment’s notice. However, they were asleep and had to be roused.

As the First Brigade prepared to march, Lord Hugh Percy waited for the battalion of Royal Marines to arrive. Two hours later, the marines had not answered the call. The marines were also asleep because the orders for reinforcements had been sent to Major John Pitcairn’s quarters, and at that moment, Major Pitcairn was marching toward Lexington.

  1. As they entered Lexington, Major John Pitcairn’s troops in the vanguard continued along the road to Concord under the watchful eye of Captain John Parker and the Lexington militia. Then, the vanguard, led by the impetuous Lieutenant Jessie Adair, veered the wrong way at the intersection and marched up Bedford Road toward Captain Parker’s forces. Major Pitcairn and several other officers galloped toward the vanguard shouting at them to halt. In the confusion, a shot rang out.

    lexingtonbattle
    The Battle of Lexington
  1. General Gage had ordered Colonel Smith not to plunder or disturb individuals or private property, but Smith’s regulars did just that in Concord and Menotomy (where the heaviest fight of April 19 took place). Those acts served to further anger the colonists.

Sources:

Philbrick, Nathaniel. Bunker Hill A City, A Siege, A Revolution New York: Penguin Books, 2013. Print.

Borneman, Walter R. American Spring: Lexington, Concord, and the Road to Revolution New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2014. Print.

Read Angels & Patriots, a historical fantasy novella by Salina B Baker for only 99 cents. 

Lexington and Concord: The Last Days Leading up to a Revolution, Part 2

The violences committed by those who have take up arms in Massachusetts Bay have appeared to me as the acts of a rude Rabble without plan, without concert, & without conduct, and therefore I think that smaller Force now, if put to the Test, would be able to encounter them with greater probability of Success….. 

….In this view of the situation of the King’s affairs, it is the opinion of the King’s servants, in which his Majesty concurs, that the essential step to be taken toward reestablishing government would be to arrest and imprison the principle actors and abettors in the Provincial Congress (whose proceedings appear in every light to be acts of treason….

~~Lord Dartmouth to General Thomas Gage, about April 16, 1775

lord dartmouth

The Earl of Dartmouth
Secretary of State for the Colonies 1772 – 1775

This was part of Lord Dartmouth’s long awaited, cross-Atlantic response to General Gage’s admonishments, which he had written to Lord Dartmouth in late January 1775, on how to handle the rebellious acts of the colonists. Those defiant acts were seemingly endless: the illegal proceedings of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and the Continental Congress, the Suffolk Resolves, smuggling, seizures of powder and munitions, and threats to march into Boston “like locusts and rid the town of every soldier.” (Philbrick quoting Rev. John Andrews, pg 71)

thomas gage

General Thomas Gage
Royal Governor of Massachusetts 1774 – 1775

General Gage did not consider himself a royalist, but part of his advice to Dartmouth was something he believed the King wanted to hear:

“It’s the opinion of most People, if a respectable Force is seen in the Field, the most obnoxious of the Leaders seized, and a Pardon proclaimed for all other’s, that Government will come off Victorious, and with less Opposition than was expected a few Months ago.”

By the time Lord Dartmouth’s lengthy letter of advice reached Thomas Gage, tempers among the British ministry, the loyalists, and the patriots in Massachusetts had simmered down. In fact at this point, there was growing discord among the patriots’ own ranks, rooted in a misguided optimism that once King George III saw for himself that his ministers had misled him, the king would withdrawal his troops and the demand for unfair taxes would withdraw with them, leaving New England free. That optimism was founded in the colonists’ previous experiences with protests and the king’s withdrawal of the transgressions.

If Gage had chosen to do nothing in response to Dartmouth’s letter that spring, the patriots may have had a difficult time maintaining a united front. Ironically, Dartmouth’s letter, based on information and instructions months old, arrived around the same time Gage was receiving valuable information from his British spies. Those things came together to lead Gage to make a series of decisions that would change the course of history.

Just as ironically, one of Thomas Gage’s spies was a trusted colleague among the members of the Sons of Liberty and the Provincial Congress: Dr. Benjamin Church.

benjamin church

Dr. Benjamin Church

When it came to rebel secrets and plotting; only Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Joseph Warren were more involved than Benjamin Church. But Benjamin had an expensive mistress, and spying brought the ready cash he needed to please her. He had no qualms about betraying his fellow patriots in exchange for the means to pay for the treasures that lay between the legs of his mistress, Phoebe Yates.

Church, among other spies, assured Gage there was a stockpile of provincial armaments located in Concord. Instead of taking Dartmouth’s advice to arrest the leaders of the Provincial Congress, Thomas Gage focused on securing and destroying the rebel military stores in Concord.

Sources:

Philbrick, Nathaniel. Bunker Hill A City, A Siege, A Revolution New York: Penguin Books, 2013. Print.

Borneman, Walter R. American Spring: Lexington, Concord, and the Road to Revolution New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2014. Print.

Read Angels & Patriots, a historical fantasy novella by Salina B Baker for only 99 cents. 

Lexington and Concord: The Last Days Leading up to a Revolution

On April 11, 1775, five days before Lord Dartmouth’s long awaited orders on how to deal with the rebels reached General Thomas Gage via the HMS Falcon, the general’s clandestine patriot informer noted, “A sudden blow struck now or immediately upon the arrival of reinforcements from England would cripple all the rebels’ plans.”

But despite this warning, the rebels already had plans.

The members of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and their president, John Hancock, feared that the sudden rapid decay between England and America would thrust them into war. All those in attendance, including Samuel Adams and Dr. Joseph Warren, recognized the portent and the need for preparedness.

The Committee of Safety put a military command structure in place, incorporating existing militia companies and regiments, and their officers. They promoted six men, of various military abilities, to generals, and tasked them with tightening the local militias in Cambridge and Watertown and Roxbury into a well-trained fighting force.

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Joseph Warren had a rebel intelligence network of tradesmen and skilled workers who frequented the Green Dragon and other Boston taverns. These members of the Sons of Liberty noted British troop movements, ship arrivals and departures, and anything out of the ordinary.

On April 7, the rebels observed longboats being moored under the sterns of British men-of-war in Boston harbor for ready access and concluded that an attack somewhere was imminent. The next day, Paul Revere saddled up to carry a message of alarm to Concord given the stockpiles of munitions and supplies located there, and to the the Committee of Safety of the Provincial Congress, which was now adjourned in Concord.

Joseph Warren did not attend the Committee of Safety sessions held in Concord after April 8. The committee had already laid plans for a watch and couriers to alarm the countryside of suspicious British army movement, and he was well-versed in those plans.

By this time, it was obvious to both John Hancock and Samuel Adams that things had deteriorated with the British to the point that it was not safe for them to return to Boston before setting out for Philadelphia and the Second Continental Congress scheduled to convene on May 10.

john hancock seated

John managed to get word to his aunt, Lydia Hancock, his fiancee, Dorothy Quincy, and his young clerk, John Howell, to leave Boston and refugee to Reverend Jonas Clarke’s house in Lexington. John was very familiar with the Clarke house. It was from that house that he had been spirited away, as a seven-year-old boy, by his uncle and aunt, Thomas and Lydia Hancock, to be raised in the world of Boston business.

samuel adams

Samuel’s wife, Betsy, left their house on Purchase Street in Boston and went to stay in the home of her father in Cambridge. Samuel’s nineteen-year-old daughter, Hannah, his child with his deceased wife, Elizabeth, joined Betsy in Cambridge.

Warren-5638

During this time, the widowed Dr. Joseph Warren was making arrangements to refugee his children and their nanny, Mercy Scollay, out of Boston. It is unclear exactly what those arrangements were and whether their destination was Roxbury or Worcester. (His children and Mercy Scollay did eventually refugee to Worcester to the home of Joseph’s colleague Dr. Elijah Dix).

In the meantime, Joseph continued to tend to his patients in Boston, but his friends were concerned for his safety. The young handsome doctor was well-known and very recognizable.

Read Angels & Patriots, a historical fantasy novella by Salina B Baker for only 99 cents. 

Sources:

Philbrick, Nathaniel. Bunker Hill A City, A Siege, A Revolution New York: Penguin Books, 2013. Print.

Borneman, Walter R. American Spring: Lexington, Concord, and the Road to Revolution New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2014. Print.

Forman, Samuel A. Dr. Joseph Warren The Boston Tea Party, Bunker Hill, and the Birth of American Liberty Gretna, Pelican Publishing, Inc, 2012. Print.

 

10 Things You Might Need For The Upcoming Patriots’ Day Celebrations!

Patriots’ Day celebrations get underway this weeked in Boston, Lexington, Concord, and other towns where citizens and visitors pay their respects to the “shot heard ’round the world” which was fired in Lexington, Massachusetts on April 19, 1775.  It was the first battle of the American Revolutionary War.

If you’re lucky enough to attend the battle reenactments in Lexington and Concord and along Battle Road, or you’re just a modern day patriot who enjoys reveling in the history of our country, you may need a few things to get in the mood and character of the celebrations.

A fife is essential so you can march into battle with music.  

The fife must be accompanied by a drum. 

A flag so the enemy can clearly identify your intentions. There are so many to choose from. The red and white flag is specific to the Sons of Liberty! 

A musket. Need I say more?

Knowledge about ammunition (flint, powder, etc) and how to load your musket.

How about a tricorn hat? Gold braiding isn’t required. 

You’ll want to get dressed before participating in the battle.

Rum is an essential beverage in colonial America. Here is a guide to it’s proper use.

The colonials didn’t use cannons during the Battles of Lexington and Concord, but the British reinforcements did. Here’s one just in case you want one anyway.

Last but not least, you’ll need an alarm clock. The battle on Lexington Green began at the crack of dawn.

Celebrate the heroes from all walks of life, who made this country great! Happy Patriots’ Day!

For more fun  Read Angels & Patriots, a historical fantasy novella by Salina B Baker for only 99 cents. 

Book Review: “American Spring: Lexington, Concord, and the Road to Revolution” by Walter R. Borneman

images“The spring of 1775 was filled with a rush of decisive events that ultimately brought a war no one had planned to fight.

American Spring is a nonfiction account of the first six months of 1775, and the opening acts of the Revolutionary War. Borneman reveals the events leading up to the war, and those who participated in those events and the struggles between Great Britain and the American colonies. We are enlightened by the lives and faces of patriots that history has forsaken, such as the handsome charismatic Dr. Joseph Warren, as well as, those whose who are well-known, like the wealthy egotistical John Hancock. The author ventures into the backgrounds of the many British participants whose stake in the future of the American colonies was equally important, and the forgotten participants: women, Native Americans, and African Americans.

Borneman illustrates the alliances of the British and Americans soldiers during the French and Indian War, and their importance. He points out, as examples, campaigns shared by the future generals, George Washington and Thomas Gage; and the military tactics Gage learned from colonial frontiersman Robert Rogers.

He brings to light little commonly known information:

Did you know that the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, led by Warren at the time, financially backed Benedict Arnold’s mission to capture cannons from the wilderness outpost Ft. Ticonderoga? And the congress’ decision to send 200 pounds of gunpowder with Arnold may have led to the colonial defeat at the battle at Bunker’ Hill?

The reader is presented with hundreds of vital questions that to this day have gone unanswered, and the author provides a variety of ways to ponder what may have actually happened:

Did Margaret Gage, the American born wife of British General Thomas Gage, slip the patriot, Dr. Joseph Warren, the information that led him to order the midnight ride of William Dawes and Paul Revere?

What of British General William Howe’s mentally instability after he led over a thousand soldiers to their death during the Battle of Bunker Hill?

American Spring is a splendidly vivid and detailed account of the choices, the blunders, the victories, the fears, and the boldness that shaped the events that led to the battles of Lexington and Concord, the ensuing calm that followed, and one of the bloodiest battles of the American Revolution: the Battle of Bunker Hill.

This book was my first resource for my research into the Revolutionary War for my WIP. I recommend this wonderful well-rounded book.

Angels & Patriots: A Novella

I’m pleased to announce that the novella is ready for pre-order on Amazon! Please go to the link at the bottom of the page for more information. Thank you and happy reading!

On the eve of the Revolutionary War, American patriots are leaving their homes and families behind to stand firm against the British. What these early Americans do not realize, is that while they prepare themselves for their battles, a war is simultaneously playing out among the soldiers—one that poses a far greater threat to their lives and souls.

 Demons that God created to kill a brotherhood of fallen angels are fanning the embers of the Revolutionary War to draw the angels out of hiding. They walk and fight alongside patriots and British soldiers alike. 

 Archangel, Colm Bohannon, leads his angel brothers to Boston to track down the demon leader and to warn John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Dr. Joseph Warren, and the Sons of Liberty that the British army is not their only threat. The patriots will need to engage with two enemy forces on the battlefield. As it stands, the band of angels is road weary and struggling with infighting and earthly temptations. Is faith a strong enough shield to fight off demon attacks and protect the patriots?

The free download offer has expired, but I’m pleased to announce that the novella is ready for pre-order on Amazon! Please click on the cover below to pre-order.  To visit my website and read excerpts from my other books, please visit my blog and click on Home at the top of the page.