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

 

 

 

Angels & Patriots: Book One To Be Released Fall 2017!

At last! ANGELS & PATRIOTS: BOOK ONE, the first in a series, is scheduled to release this fall! Angels & Patriots: A Novella was published in February and will continue to be offered as a free download through my website.

Thanks to everyone who has reached out on my Facebook posts and offered their interest(s) on the subject of the American Revolution, and the almost inexhaustible stories of real life heroism and failures. I have listened and will continue to do so.

So, enjoy the book description and excerpt from ANGELS & PATRIOTS: BOOK ONE and Happy July 4th!

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? Are the patriots capable of standing and fighting alongside angels?

EXCERPT

Chapter One

Wexford, Ireland May 1169

Get below decks!” Colm Bohannon shouted.

His younger brother, Michael, ignored the order and stubbornly exchanged fire with the Norman soldiers, who stood on the docks and shot flaming arrows at the men aboard the cog LE’ Eithne. With Michael open to enemy fire, the other six men under Colm’s command hesitated to take the order.

Under a waning crescent moon, the Norman lord, Robert Fitzstephen, watched and listened to the Irish die in the water and on board the cogs in the harbor. Fitzstephen’s army cut down the Irish soldiers who’d stormed the docks to defend their town and their comrades.

Colm knew his brother was destined to die in an act of defiance. An arrow pierced Michael’s left shoulder and knocked him backward. He refused to give in to the pain, and reloaded his bow. A flaming arrow struck him in the heart. His shirt and curly black hair caught fire. He collapsed and hit the cog’s railing, causing his spine to snap with a dull crack. His limp body fell overboard and splashed into the dark water.

“MICHAEL!” Patrick Cullen was frantic. He ran to the cog railing and looked into the water. “MICHAEL!”

Brandon O’Flynn ran to the railing beside Patrick and looked over. Horror stained his blue eyes as they searched for Michael’s body in the water.

Colm had tried to reach his brother in time, but failed. Enraged, he knew he couldn’t let Michael’s death render him unable to protect his other men. He jerked Brandon and Patrick away from the railing, “Get below decks, now!”

Seamus Cullen hooked an arm around Patrick’s neck and shouted over the din of screaming men and burning cogs. “Obey Colm’s order!”

Patrick struggled with his older brother. “Stop it, Seamus!”

“Everyone but Liam’s out of ammunition!” Seamus shouted.

“THEY KILLED MICHAEL!” Patrick screamed. He tried to twist his head out of the crook of Seamus’ elbow.

Ian Keogh pinned down Patrick’s flailing arms and helped Seamus drag Patrick out of harm’s way.

Liam Kavangh returned arrow fire and covered Brandon O’Flynn and Fergus Driscoll until they could get below decks. A Norman arrow pierced Liam’s right eye and embedded in his brain. He dropped dead on the deck.

Fergus Driscoll, Colm’s second in command, returned topside with a handful of javelins. He and Colm made their last stand with the cog’s only remaining weapons. There was a loud whoosh when the timbers of the LE’ Eithne caught fire. In less than a minute, the burning cog was at the bottom of the harbor. Colm Bohannon and his men were sucked into the water’s nether world.    

An ethereal rain of silver crystals spiraled down from the starry night sky and gathered on the streets of Wexford and drifted against buildings. They wet the Irish and Norman soldiers’ hair and clothing. They soaked the docks and splashed into the black waters to extinguish the flames.

The blood-rinsed waters of the harbor brightened with silver light. Green, purple, yellow, red, and blue flashed within the light.

The soldiers on both sides of the conflict feared they were witnessing the rapture. Some fled the docks in terror. Others dropped to their knees in reverence.

The lights went out. Gossamer draped reapers arrived to escort the souls of the dead to their final destination. With their souls gone, the bodies of Colm Bohannon and his men became vessels for the spirits of eight angels, who were trying to slow the relentless pursuit of demons God had created to kill them for their disobedience.

They had been running from the demons since the time of the Flood of Noah. Some of the angels had created what God had forbidden—the Nephilim—children of human women. Three angels copulated. Five angels tried to stop them. In God’s court, they were all found guilty and were banished from Heaven.

The angels’ commanding archangel was desperate to protect his tiring brotherhood. He hoped taking vessels belonging to the children of man would confuse the demons and slow their pursuit. It did for 145 years.

By 1314, the demons’ leader realized what the angels had done. He and his army of demonic spirits went to Scotland to the scene of the Battle of Bannockburn where the Scottish king, Robert the Bruce, clashed with the English king, Edward II.

There were many human vessels to be had as the soldiers died on the battlefield and the reapers ferried their souls to their final destinations. The demon leader possessed the body of an English knight, Sir Henry de Bohun, a man Robert the Bruce killed in the battle. Wearing their new vessels, Henry and his army continued their ruthless pursuit.

By 1575, the archangel saw that his angels’ were tiring again, but now, they were killing demon-possessed living humans in their desperate attempt to survive. The angels left Ireland for England, in hopes of escaping Great Britain. On April 27, 1584, the archangel, who was now known by his human name, Colm Bohannon, and his angels left England on a ship bound for North America.

It would take Henry two hundred years to find them.

Chapter Two

December 1774

Burkes Garden, Virginia

Jeremiah Killam relaxed his aim and lowered his musket when he realized it was Colm Bohannon emerging from the dense white oak and hickory forest. Flung over Colm’s left shoulder was a doe carcass; its head flopped with each step and left bloody smears on his bearskin coat and in his long wavy brown hair. A long rifle rested against his right shoulder.

Despite the seeds of Manifest Destiny that came across the Atlantic with the first colonists, King George III had issued the Proclamation of 1763, restricting settlement of Great Britain’s thirteen colonies to east of the summit line of the Appalachian Mountains. For nearly two centuries, Colm and his brotherhood had been living west of the Proclamation Line in a valley, now called Burkes Garden, Virginia. After their ship arrived in Roanoke Island in July 1584, the brotherhood of angels wandered for six months before they found this sanctuary.

Jeremiah put his musket aside and said, “Liam and Seamus have been lookin’ for you.”

Colm laid the deer on the blood-stained skinning table in front of Jeremiah’s one room cabin. He enjoyed the hunt, but he had no inclination for dressing out game. “Did they say why?”

“They didn’t say so don’t start worrin’ about ‘em.” Jeremiah slid his skinning knife from the pocket on the thigh of his breeches. He poised the knife over the deer then reconsidered. “Wait a minute. Mkwa brought whiskey, yesterday.”

He went inside the cabin, and returned with an uncorked jug. He swigged the whiskey then handed the jug to Colm. He set about skinning the doe and said, “Did I tell you what the Continental Congress is askin’ us ta do after it met last September in Philadelphia?

“What’s the Continental Congress?” Colm took a swig from the jug.

“Men representin’ the colonies called a meetin’ in response ta the Brits passin’ the Intolerable Acts ta punish Massachusetts for the Boston Tea Party. The patriots dumped 340 crates of tea inta Boston harbor ta protest the taxes Britain levied on tea. Anyway, they’re askin’ us ta boycott British goods. War’s comin’, Colm.”

Colm considered Jeremiah with his grizzly beard, disheveled dark-blonde hair, deerskin clothing, and unwashed body. He was as tough as any mountain man, but in Colm’s opinion, Jeremiah had three important divergent qualities: He could read and write, and had an appealing forty-year-old face under the beard. He was the equivalent of the town crier. Without Jeremiah, those who lived in Burkes Garden would have little knowledge of what was happening in the outside world.

“Why do ya say that?”

Jeremiah began to remove the doe’s hooves by slicing the leg off at the knee joint. “The British military’s been occupyin’ Boston all these years. Now, they’ve replaced the Royal Governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Hutchinson, with General Thomas Gage. From what I hear, Gage pulled his garrisons from other places like New York, Philadelphia, and Halifax, and formed a British naval presence in Boston. Then, he angered folks by confiscatin’ provincial gun powder from some place in Massachusetts.”

The angels had not participated in the French and Indian War because Colm had not perceived the war as a demonic threat to his brotherhood or the children of man. But what Jeremiah was describing had the potential to become a full-scale war on the thirteen colonies, and a danger to their sanctuary in Burkes Garden.

Colm thought, I wonder if Henry suspects we’re here, and he’s fanning the flames of war to smoke us out of hiding. 

There was a sudden explosion of raucous laughter. Michael Bohannon, Patrick Cullen, and Brandon O’Flynn burst out of the forest and stumbled across the clearing in front of the cabin.

Jeremiah paused and looked up. It was times like these, when the boys were happy and rowdy that he marveled over how much Michael and Patrick looked alike with their medium statures, curly black hair, and feminine facial features.

Michael reached for the whiskey jug.

“Don’t,” Jeremiah warned.

Michael sneered at Jeremiah, snatched the jug, and raised it to his lips.

“I warned you,” Jeremiah growled. He stabbed the tip of his skinning knife into Michael’s up turned elbow then jerked the jug from Michael’s hand.

“Why’d you do that?” Patrick asked Jeremiah. “He ain’t hurtin’ nothin’.”

Michael looked at his elbow. Blood wet the small tear in the elbow of his bearskin coat. He shrugged and let his arm drop to his side.

Brandon stumbled backward then lurched forward. “That’s it, Jeremiah. We’re having a go right now!” He weaved an unsteady circle around Jeremiah with upraised fists.

Jeremiah chuckled and said, “One jab, and you’re gonna fall forward.”

“He’s gonna throw up before that,” Michael snorted with laughter.

Colm crossed his arms over his chest. The boys were drunk, and it wasn’t yet nine o’clock in the morning. He suspected they’d been in the woods most of the night acting like fools and terrorizing the superstitious Shawnee with their drunken noise.

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

or  get your free download by going to my website salinabbaker.com

 

From Life to Legend: Dr. Joseph Warren 1741 – 1775

“Even in this unfortunate event he has served his country, for he has taught the sons of Freedom in America, that the laurel may be engrafted upon the cypress, and that true glory may be acquired not only in the arms of victory, but in the arms of death.”

~~ A eulogy for Joseph Warren published in Philadelphia; 1775 (author unknown).

The Day: perhaps the decisive day is come on which the fate of American depends. My bursting heart must find vent at my pen. I have just heard that our dear friend Dr. Warren is no more but fell gloriously fighting for his country-saying better to die honourably in the field than ignominiously hang upon the gallows. Great is our loss…and the tears of multitudes pay tribute to his memory…

~~Abigail Adams in a letter to her husband, John Adams: June 1775

On June 11, we celebrated Dr. Joseph Warren’s 276th birthday. Happy 276th Birthday Dr. Joseph Warren  Today is the 242nd anniversary of his death at Bunker Hill.

For this tribute, we will join Joseph Warren in the months that comprised his swan song: April – June 1775.

In early April 1775, after the adjournment of the Provincial Congress in Concord, John Hancock and Samuel Adams didn’t return to Boston for fear they would be arrested or hung. Instead, the two leaders of the American rebellion, sheltered at the home of Reverend Jonas Clarke in Lexington.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Hancock-Clarke House in Lexington, MA

Joseph ran a spy ring for the Sons of Liberty out of his home medical office. On the evening of April 18, he received word from one of his informants that, under orders from British General Thomas Gage, troops were assembling on the shore of Back Bay. Gage’s troops were readying to march to Concord, where a stockpile of rebel armaments was stored.

Joseph knew the armaments in Concord had been well-hidden or moved in early April; therefore, weapons were not his primary concern. He feared for John Hancock’s and Samuel Adams’ lives if the British discovered them hiding in Lexington. Joseph summoned Paul Revere and William Dawes to his home on Hanover Street in Boston, and then dispatched them to warn Hancock and Adams, and the countryside that the British regulars were out.

On the morning of April 19, Joseph received news of fighting in Lexington. He slipped out of Boston, and made his way to Menotomy to attend a Committee of Safety meeting. During the meeting, messengers came and went, delivering the latest news.

Afterward, Joseph fought alongside General William Heath. Heath and his men fired on the British as they retreated to Boston along what is now called Battle Road. Joseph was nearly killed when a musket ball hit a pin in his hair.

Despite his unabashed courage, Joseph knew the gallows awaited him if he returned to Boston. After the battles of Lexington and Concord, he lodged at Hastings House in Cambridge, close to the Provincial Congress and Committee of Safety meetings.  With John Hancock and Samuel Adams soon to depart for the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Joseph had emerged as the de facto leader of what a militia captain described as “the intended revolution”. [1]

On April 20, under the auspices of the Committee of Safety, Joseph issued a colony-wide, almost threatening, circular letter urging men to enlist in the provincial army. He wrote, “Death and devastation are the instant consequences of delay . . .” [2]

A few weeks later, Joseph was elected to the loftiest political position of the rebellion—president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. As president, he also presided over the Provincial Congress’ various committees.

In late April, Captain Benedict Arnold told Joseph and the Committee of Safety there was a stockpile of aging cannons in the poorly guarded Ft. Ticonderoga. The committee sent Arnold, equipped with two hundred pounds of valuable rebel gunpowder, to confiscate the cannons. It was a portent of what was to come.

benedict arnold
Colonel Benedict Arnold

Several skirmishes erupted between the British and the Americans, leaving the store of rebel gunpowder severely depleted. Joseph, General Artemas Ward, and Moses Gill, the chairman of the Committee of Supplies, sent a plea to New York to send as much gunpowder as they could spare. The supply never arrived.

By June 15, it was clear that the British were about to make a preemptive strike on Roxbury, Dorchester, and Charlestown. Joseph, who now held a major general’s commission, and the Committee of Safety decided that the provincial army must make a preemptive move of their own despite the shortage of gunpowder.

At 9:00 p.m. on Friday, June 16, nearly one thousand provincial soldiers under the command of Colonel William Prescott assembled on the common in Cambridge opposite Hastings House. Joseph was not among them as they marched toward Charlestown. General Israel Putnam and Lieutenant Colonel Richard Gridley, commander of an artillery regiment, joined Colonel Prescott just outside of Charlestown Neck.

Colonel Prescott and his men commenced building a redoubt on the Charlestown peninsula under the cover of night. The Committee of Safety’s order was to build a redoubt on Bunker Hill, but by mistake Prescott and his men built the redoubt on an unnamed (later called Breed’s Hill) hill closer to Boston.

Joseph was nowhere to be found on the morning of June 17. There are speculative reasons for his absence, but what is clear is that Joseph suffered from a sick headache that afternoon. Around 3:00 pm his former medical apprentice, Dr. David Townsend, arrived at Hastings House with the news that the men on Bunker Hill were being fired upon by the British.

After Joseph donned his elegant wedding suit, he and David made their way to Charlestown Neck. David stayed to care for men who had been wounded in the battle. Joseph went on to Bunker Hill. He encountered General Putnam. Putnam relinquished his command to major general Joseph Warren, but Joseph refused saying that his commission was not finalized, and he had come to fight as a volunteer.

180px-WarrenPutnam
Joseph Warren (right) offering to serve General Israel Putnam as a volunteer.

When Joseph entered the redoubt, Colonel Prescott and his 150 exhausted men, raised a cheer of Huzza! Huzza! The sight of their leader joining the fight invigorated them. Like Putnam, Prescott relinquished his command to Joseph, and again Joseph refused saying that he had come to fight as a volunteer.

The rebels had, thus far, repelled the British regulars. What ended the American resistance was neither lack of courage nor unstoppable British resolve. It was the depleted supply of rebel gunpowder. The British regulars, grenadiers, and marines swarmed the redoubt. The rebels tried to make their last stand by swinging their muskets or throwing rocks at the British. Colonel Prescott ordered a retreat.

Joseph was one of the last remaining men in the redoubt. There has been much debate about what happened next. What is known is that Joseph was shot, at close range, in the face just below his left eye, and probably by someone who recognized him. His biographer, Dr. Samuel Forman, wrote that Joseph would have died instantly, unlike the scene depicted in John Trumble’s painting, “The Death of General Joseph Warren at Bunker Hill”.

The_death_of_general_warren_at_the_battle_of_bunker_hill
The Death of General Joseph Warren at Bunker Hill

The British stripped Joseph of his fine clothes, mutilated his body, and buried him in a shallow grave with a farmer. Exactly who and when Joseph’s body was mutilated has been lost to lore. His youngest brother, Dr. John Warren, attempted to find Joseph’s body, but he was stopped by British sentries at Charlestown Neck.

Joseph’s body wasn’t recovered until after the Siege of Boston ended in March 1776. The corpse was badly decomposed. Paul Revere identified him by a tooth he had made for Joseph.

Joseph Warren shouldn’t have been on the battlefield that day. The people needed him to lead the patriotic movement. They needed him as a friend, brother, and physician. His four children were orphaned.

Dr. Joseph Warren sacrificed his life for liberty, and in doing so, became America’s first martyr. His death encouraged the people of a nation yet to born, to keep fighting despite their grief. It’s what he would have done.

3066_1398729748
Grave of Joseph Warren in Forest Hills Cemetery

Resources:

Painting of “The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill” by John Trumbull the Boston Museum of Fine Arts

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

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

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2626357/ Dr. Joseph Warren: leader in medicine, politics, and revolution. George C. Wildrick, MSSM, MBA

Massachusetts Gate pic

[1] (Philbrick pg 163)

[2] (Philbrick pg 163)

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.

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