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Posts Tagged ‘revolutionary war’

Today marks the 250th anniversary of Boston’s first Stamp Act Riot, or as one of the blog posts I’ve read today more delicately phrases it, “the 250th anniversary of the Liberty Tree protests in Boston.” Here in what were then colonies, this is considered one of the major events in the lead-up to the American Revolution. At HistoryCamp 2014, I attended a talk on the Boston bankruptcies of 1765 by J. L. Bell of the blog Boston 1775, wherein he said that in his opinion, the bankruptcy crisis occurring in Boston at the time the Stamp Act was passed probably contributed towards local hostility towards the Stamp Act, since it included court fees and so many people here in Boston were interacting with local courts at the time. I found this helpful in understanding why events occurred as they did, and as those of us with the benefit of hindsight know, it was part of a string of events that would lead to rebellion.

While some members of my own family had been early colonists in the Boston area, they had moved away by the time of the Stamp Act Riots and my folks still in New England at the time formed a crescent-moon shape around eastern Massachusetts, with families in western Connecticut and central and western Massachusetts, shortly to be joined by folks who moved up to western Vermont in the time between the Stamp Act Riots and the beginning of fighting in the Revolution. There weren’t too many newspapers yet, and some of these New Englanders likely read Boston papers, on a time delay that is probably unimaginable to many today. Perhaps they bought the papers themselves; perhaps their neighbors passed it on at one of their homes or in the local tavern. It is hard to imagine that the reactions flamed by many newspapers, such as this reprint of the New-York Gazette in the Boston Post-Boy & Advertiser, went unremarked in these locations. With New England’s literacy rate so much higher at the time than in most of the American colonies, a large percentage of people could read and many of those could also write. But only with specific records can a researcher know for sure whether any particular person was literate, much less whether they read a newspaper article or what they thought of the contents or of the events that were occurring around them.

This, I think, has been one of the key differences historically between practicing historians and practicing genealogists – historians, by the nature of their work, have tended to focus on larger trends and on people for whom a decent number of records are known to be extant and available to view, while genealogists, by the nature of their work, have tended to focus on individual people, families, social networks, and communities, regardless of how many records there are for these smaller units. This has understandably led to historians sometimes expressing the opinion that genealogists are missing the forest for the trees and genealogists sometimes expressing the opinion that by focusing on the forest, an historian who wrote an overview work may have missed important information to be found by studying the individual trees. In my own opinion, anyone who wants to practice solid genealogical research will reach the point where they realize they need to look at more than the individual or the family – hence my including social networks and communities in the above list – and will look at the location in general and at scholarly works about that location and about topics that influenced the location and the lives of the people in it. However, the perception still persists amongst many outside of the genealogical community that American genealogists are all retirees from the ‘upper crust’ who are ‘just’ dabbling in their family’s history, and are probably doing so in the hopes of finding a famous relative or noble ancestor.

Earlier this year I attended the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s 2015 Annual Seminar, which was on “The Who, What, and Why of Early New England.” In one of the lectures, Robert Charles Anderson, director of the Great Migration Study Project, mentioned that he had come to decide on his master’s thesis topic over 30 years ago because he had noticed in his research that people in western Vermont tended to side with the revolutionaries while people in eastern Vermont tended to side with the Crown, and he wondered why. Having personally researched in western Vermont of that era but not eastern Vermont, I had not realized there was a strong geographical predictor of one’s likely overt sympathies until he mentioned it. I had used historical records to construct much of the lives and Revolution activities of my folks who were living in western Vermont at the time, and knew that according to surviving records, they were ardent supporters of the Revolution, including many of the men fighting in it. How much their geographic location influenced their actions, or whether it influenced them at all, is not clear from these records. As John Colletta said in his 2015 National Genealogical Society Conference lecture on researching the reasons why people did things, historians’ works are a great place to learn the reasons why a person, family, or small group may have done something, but any researcher of specific individuals, whether the research’s main focus is genealogical or historical, needs to utilize specific records to try to determine the reason(s) why people actually did something. This is how writing about any kind of research into the past moves from qualifiers like “may have” or “possibly” to qualifiers like “almost certainly” or “according to X’s diary, they…”

One of my posts on this blog, over four years ago now, was on using records to investigate a Revolution-era local history story on my own ancestor Gideon Ormsby of Manchester, Vermont. A few years before Boston’s Stamp Act Riots, Gideon and his family had moved from the disputed part of the Rhode Island/Massachusetts border to Amenia, Dutchess County, New York, as had Gideon’s relative Jonathan Ormsby and Jonathan’s family. I find it almost impossible to imagine that they did not hear about, and probably discuss, the Stamp Act Riots in Boston and in Newport, Rhode Island. But I do not know whether the Stamp Act Riots influenced their behavior, beliefs, or decisions.

Speculators had become proprietors of the area of land in Vermont that later became Manchester, but colonists had not yet moved there. The two Ormsby families’ move to Amenia would prove fortuitous for the family, as a group of travelers from Amenia were exploring this area of Vermont in 1761, saw the land, and expressed interest in it, leading them to become the new proprietors. Gideon and Jonathan were two of these new proprietors, and Jonathan was chosen proprietor’s clerk at their first meeting in Amenia in February 1764. At the same meeting, Samuel Rose was chosen moderator. The proprietors started laying out the lots shortly thereafter, and Gideon was one of the people appointed to lay out the highway. While local histories state that it is not clear whether families spent the first winter in Vermont, the births of Gideon and his wife Mercy’s children indicate that at least some of the families stayed in Amenia or returned to it over the first couple of winters.

The ripples sent out by events like the Stamp Act Riots would reverberate down the years and eventually tear apart cohesive groups like the proprietors of Manchester. That local history story I investigated in records was about the Rose family. The Roses had been the first white family to settle permanently in Manchester, but – bucking the geographic trend – Samuel Rose was believed to side with the Crown in the Revolution, and as part of Gideon Orsmby’s responsibilities as one of the higher-up Revolution-era militiamen in the area, Gideon was tasked with capturing Samuel and coordinating the guarding of him. Samuel was arrested and taken to Northampton’s gaol (jail), and his lands were confiscated by the Vermont government. Whatever Gideon and the other early colonists of the area may have thought, they showed no visible sentiment in this capture and confiscation, and some of them went on to buy Samuel’s lands at auction. When I first discovered this, it seemed like a conflict of interest; I have since discovered that this was rather common in many areas where land was confiscated, though it still seems like a rather dubious chain of events to me. When I wrote my previous post, I had not yet realized that Samuel Rose had been instrumental in the founding of Manchester, and to me it adds depth to the story. It is possible to write a local history without the details of this Revolution-era conflict – and indeed, many have already been written – and genealogical research that doesn’t include this level of detail could certainly be considered adequate. But to me, both historical and genealogical works really come to life when they go in depth about both the area and the people in it.

Over the time I have been doing research, I have come to believe that there is likely no such thing as an ‘average person’ or ‘ordinary person’ in any time period or place, and that conclusions to that effect are probably due more to a lack of extant records that flesh them out as people than because of any one person themselves. However, one’s loved ones, one’s social network, and one’s community at large greatly shaped one’s choices and the personas that one presented to others, and news events of a nearby town or a distant one often influenced people then as well as today, although of course news typically took much longer then to spread very far. Wherever your research subjects were living – whether they be your own families or your biographical subjects as an historian or biographer – it is interesting to contemplate what effect news of the Stamp Act Riots may have had on them, and perhaps to read newspaper coverage of how it was presented in the colony or country you are researching, if it was covered at all.

For those that live in this area today, there are several events this weekend commemorating the 250th anniversary of Boston’s first Stamp Act Riot. If you are interested in history, please consider attending one or more of them, regardless of whether you had any family in Boston (or in the colonies at all) at the time, to help keep alive the collective memory of these events that were (literally and figuratively) so formative to this country.

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Memorial Day, formerly more commonly known as Decoration Day, is today here in the U. S. While to many Americans today it is primarily a long weekend to relax while kicking off the summer season, I grew up in Gettysburg, where the bloodiest multi-day battle on American soil was fought, and where Memorial Day still retains its traditional meaning. In honor of Memorial Day, I am posting some memorials I have photographed here, along with transcriptions so that the names will be findable via search engines.

This blog post is part of a project called the Honor Roll Project that is run by Heather Wilkinson Rojo of the blog Nutfield Genealogy, where bloggers post photos and transcriptions of memorials at their own blogs and Heather compiles the posts into a list hosted at hers. I am also submitting copies of my relevant photos and transcriptions to the Lost Ancestors War Memorials project, hosted at their site, to maximize exposure. I first began photographing local memorials primarily to help increase the small U. S. memorial presence on the Lost Ancestors’ project.

I’ve arranged the memorials by town, with the towns in alphabetical order by the modern name of the town. Click on any photo to see a larger version of it.

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Revolutionary War: Arlington (formerly Menotomy and West Cambridge), Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA

There are two memorial plaques to what we Americans call the Revolutionary War or American Revolution at Old Burying Ground in the town that is now known as Arlington. They are both on a single monument.

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Here is a wider shot of the Old Burying Ground showing the full memorial from a distance. It is the tallest one visible.

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One of the plaques is for soldiers from area towns who were killed at Menotomy (now Arlington) in the opening battle of the Revolution and were known to be buried in this Old Burying Ground. While Lexington and Concord are the famous towns now, there was also deadly fighting in Menotomy. There is an article on the the Menotomy section of the battle here. Based on the material used to create this memorial, I suspect that it was originally a freestanding memorial (shaped & placed like a gravestone) that was later moved to this monument.

memorial-to-revolutionary-war-dead-in-old-burying-ground-arlington-ma-050712-died-at-menotomy-plaque

___ AMERICAN SOLDIERS

KILLED AT MENOTOMY APR 19 1775

AND BURIED HERE

LIEUT JOHN BACON – NEEDHAM

AMOS MILLS

ELIAS HAVEN – DEDHAM

WILLIAM FLINT – LYNN

THOMAS HADLEY

ABEDNECO RAMSDELL

BENJAMIN PEIRCE – SALEM

JONATHAN PARKER – NEEDHAM

NATHAN CHAMBERLIN

The other plaque was erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in 1941. Please note that: a) They did not necessarily die during the War; b) just because they were buried here, that doesn’t necessarily mean they were living here during the War or even that they died here; c) since this was belatedly erected and done via DAR, it was likely compiled using DAR’s records, which would mean that anyone on the plaque probably has a DAR file researchers could utilize but also that there may be soldiers buried here who weren’t in DAR records and/or that research since 1941 may have changed DAR’s opinion on any particular person on the plaque. Also keep in mind that by DAR’s definition, the people that are labelled “Patriot” on the plaque did supporting things rather than officially being in the military.

memorial-to-revolutionary-war-soldiers-in-old-burying-ground-arlington-ma-050712-dar-plaque

AMERICAN

REVOLUTIONARY SOLDIERS

KNOWN TO BE

BURIED IN THIS CEMETERY

JOHN ADAMS * THOMAS HADLEY

JOSEPH ADAMS * ELIAS HAVEN

WILLIAM ADAMS * JOHN HILL

JOHN BACON * THOMAS HILL

JOSEPH BALCH * JOSEPH LOCKE

JOSEPH BELKNAP, JR. * AMOS MILLS

NATHANIEL CHADWICK * JONATHAN PARKER

NATHAN CHAMBERLIN * BENJAMIN PEIRCE

AMMI CUTTER * SOLOMON PEIRCE

AMMI CUTTER, JR. * JAMES PERRY

SAMUEL CUTTER * ABEDNECO RAMSDELL

WILLIAM CUTTER * JEDUTHAN WELLINGTON

WILLIAM DICKSON * SAMUEL WHITTEMORE

WILLIAM FLINT * JOHN WINSHIP

EPHRAIM FROST * JASON RUSSELL, PATRIOT

SAMUEL FROST * JASON WINSHIP, PATRIOT

STEPHEN FROST * JABEZ WYMAN, PATRIOT

ERECTED BY

MENOTOMY CHAPTER DAUGHTERS

OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

1941

There is also supposed to be a memorial to the Loyalists in the War, but I have searched the entire cemetery and been unable to locate it. This cemetery has had problems with vandalism and I suspect someone may have stolen it.

The Jason Russell house, where most of the 19 April 1775 fighting in Menotomy occurred, is a few blocks from the Old Burying Ground. Here is the house:

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Here is the most modern sign by the house:

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Jason Russell House 1740

and

Smith Museum

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Site of the bloodiest fighting between the

Minutemen and the Redcoats on the

first day of the American Revolution

April 19, 1775

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The Arlington Historical Society

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Civil War: Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA

The 54th Massachusetts Regiment was the first officially commissioned African-American unit in the Civil War. Many Americans know it primarily if not totally via the partially historically accurate film Glory. Many people in the 54th lost their lives at the Battle of Fort Wagner on 18 July 1863. This monument is dedicated to the 54th in general and specifically to those that lost their lives at the Battle of Fort Wagner. The sculpture, seen below, was done by the famous sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. It took him 14 years to complete. He took his time making each face unique to clearly show individuals. It was dedicated on 31 May 1897 on Beacon Street, where the 54th had marched out of Boston. The late Robert Gould Shaw’s mother Sarah Shaw, an ardent abolitionist who had been part of the driving force behind Shaw taking command of the unit, was at the unveiling and praised the monument to Saint-Gaudens as a great tribute to her son and to her beloved city, Boston. Many of the living veterans of the 54th returned to Boston for the dedication. The sculpture part of the memorial faces the Massachusetts State House, which is on the other side of Beacon Street from it.

memorial-massachusetts-54th-infantry-in-boston-ma-sep2012

Underneath the sculpture is an inscription in memory of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who is shown here on the horse. My photo of it did not turn out very well.

The rest of the inscriptions are on the back, facing Boston Commons in the opposite direction. The names of the other white officers who died at the Battle of Fort Wagner are by the wreaths in the below photo.

memorial-massachusetts-54th-infantry-in-boston-ma-inscription-sep2012

CABOT JACKSON RUSSEL * CAPTAIN

WILLIAM HARRIS SIMPKINS * CAPTAIN

EDWARD LEWIS STEVENS * 1ST LIEUTENANT

DAVID REID * 1ST LIEUTENANT

FREDERICK HEDGE WEBSTER * 2ND LIEUTENANT

The names of the African-American soldiers who died at the Battle of Fort Wagner are in the main inscription by the lion’s heads.

memorial-to-54th-massachusetts-infantry-boston-ma-taken-sep12

THE MEMORY OF THE JUST IS BLESSED

HENRY ALBERT * THOMAS R. AMPLEY * THOMAS BOWMAN * WILLIAM BRADY

ABRAHAM BROWN * JAMES H. BUCHANAN * HENRY F. BURGHARDT * ELISHA BURKETT

JASON CHAMPLIN * ANDREW CLARK * LEWIS CLARK * HENRY CRAIG

JOSEPHUS CURRY * EDWARD DARKS * HENRY DENNIS * WILLIAM EDGERLY

ALBERT EVANS * WILLIAM S. EVERSON * SAMUEL FORD * RICHARD M. FOSTER * CHARLES S. GAMRELL * LEWIS C. GREEN

JOHN HALL * WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON II * EDWARD HINES * BENJAMIN HOGAN * CHARLES M. HOLLOWAY * GEORGE JACKSON

JAMES P. JOHNSON * JOHN H. JOHNSON * DANIEL A. KELLEY * HENRY KING * CYRUS KRUNKLETON * AUGUSTUS LEWIS

THOMAS LLOYD * WILLIAM LLOYD * LEWIS J. LOCARD * FRANCIS LOWE * ROBERT MCJOHNSON * JOHN MILLER

JAMES H. MILLS * WILLIAM H. MORRIS * CHARLES E. NELSON * STEPHEN NEWTON * HARRISON PIERCE

CORNELIUS PRICE * THOMAS PETER RIGGS * DAVID R. ROPER * ANTHONY SCHENCK * THOMAS SHELDON

WILLIAM J. SMITH * SAMUEL SUFSHAY * JOHN TANNER * WILLIAM THOMAS * CHARLES VAN ALLEN

GEORGE VANDERPOOL * CORNELIUS WATSON * EDWARD WILLIAMS * FRANKLIN WILLIS

JOSEPH D. WILSON * WILLIAM WILSON * JOHN W. WINSLOW

INSCRIBED MCMLXXXII

Another shot of this memorial.

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Here is the descriptive plaque that is by the memorial.

memorial-to-54th-massachusetts-infantry-boston-ma-taken-sep12-description

And here is a plaque on Saint-Gaudens that is also by the memorial.

memorial-to-54th-massachusetts-infantry-boston-ma-taken-sep12-info-on-gaudens

The 54th’s flag-bearer, Sergeant William Carney, was wounded three times in his duties but survived the war. He was subsequently the first African-American awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

A brisk but pleasant walk from the Boston Commons takes one to the Boston Public Library. In the main staircase of the library’s original building, there are monuments to two regiments from Massachusetts, the 20th Massachusetts Infantry and the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry. The 20th was known as the “Harvard Regiment” due to the high percentage of men in it who were associated with Harvard University. Two photos of the memorial to the 20th are featured below, followed by one photo of the memorial to the 2nd. (I am not transcribing these memorials.)

memorial-to-massachusetts-20th-infantry-at-bpl-sep2012

memorial-to-massachusetts-20th-infantry-at-bpl-sep2012-front

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Revolutionary War: Cambridge (originally Newtown/Newtowne), Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA

The Cambridge Historical Commission has put up a good number of plaques around Cambridge, including a few on the fence at Cambridge’s Old Burying Ground, which is located in what is now Harvard Square. While their graves are unmarked, the Cambridge Historical Commission put up a plaque commemorating the Revolutionary War service of two African-Americans buried there.

oldburyingground-cambridge-ma-black-revwar-soldiers-plaque-123110

REVOLUTIONARY SOLDIERS

BLACK SOLDIERS OF THE CONTINENTAL ARMY

CATO STEDMAN AND NEPTUNE FROST

ARE BURIED IN THIS GROUND

1775

Christ Church is the Anglican Church in the neighborhood and is one of two churches adjacent to the Old Burying Ground. The church was where those that wanted to curry favor with the Crown worshipped before the American Revolution. Consequently, many of them were Loyalists who fled with the Crown. There is a sign about the Revolution on the church’s front wall:

cambridge-ma-christ-church-sign-regarding-revolutionary-war-taken-aug12

CHRIST CHURCH was established in 1759

to serve Cambridge’s Anglican community,

including students at Harvard College.

Peter Harrison, the preeminent architect of his day,

designed this church, King’s Chapel in Boston, and

Touro Synagogue in Newport, North America’s first synagogue.

The Rev. East Apthorp presided at the

first service, 15 October 1761.

Most of the congregation fled to Boston in 1774

and left with the British on Evacuation Day,

17 March 1776. The vacant church sheltered

Connecticut troops

during the summer and fall of 1775.

Gen. George and Martha Washington

worshipped here 31 December 1775, as the

Continental Army under his command

laid siege to Boston.

The exterior of Christ Church:

cambridge-ma-christ-church-exterior-taken-aug12

[Correction, June 2013: When I first wrote this post I said the exterior “is more recent than the Revolution, though it is on the spot where the original church was located.” This is based on information I had read that turns out to be somewhat incorrect. During Cambridge Open Archives 2013 in June 2013, I toured Christ Church and met its archivist and another staff member. They said that the current church was active as a house of worship before the Revolution although the final construction work on the church did not finish until after the Revolution, due to much of the congregation fleeing Cambridge and to the general upheaval  the Revolutionary War caused.]

Though the interior of the church is usually closed to non-congregants, I happened to go by one day when it was open:

cambridge-ma-christ-church-taken-aug12-interior

Brattle Street in Cambridge is a short walk from the Old Burying Ground and Christ Church. It was known as “Tory Row” because so many people on it were Loyalists to the Crown. Many of them initially thought they would be able to quickly return home and simply left their homes unattended, including the family that was residing in what is now known as Longfellow House/Washington’s Headquarters on Brattle Street, which became General Washington’s Boston Headquarters and later the home of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and is now run by the National Park Service. A Cambridge Historical Commission plaque on Brattle Street commemorates “Tory Row”:

cambridge-ma-tory-row-plaque-011111TORY ROW

WEALTHY FAMILIES LOYAL TO THE CROWN

LIVED ALONG BRATTLE STREET

BEFORE THE REVOLUTION

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Revolutionary War: Somerville (then part of Charlestown), Middlesex County, Massachusetts

This marker is now beside the curb on Elm Street in West Somerville, between Porter Square and Davis Square. At the time this “sharp fight occurred,” Somerville was part of Charlestown. The Battle of April 19, 1775: In Lexington, Concord, Lincoln, Arlington, Cambridge, Somerville and Charlestown, Massachusetts, written by Frank Warren Coburn and published in 1912, states that the marker was already there then, but unfortunately does not list the names of the British who were killed here, only that “quite a number of Britons” were killed there by American sharpshooters and buried where they fell; you can read the page here. (Unlike the other photos in this post, this photo was taken with my cellphone.)

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A SHARP FIGHT OCCURRED HERE,

BETWEEN THE PATRIOTS AND THE BRITISH,

APRIL 19, 1775.

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THIS MARKS BRITISH SOLDIERS’ GRAVES.

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Massachusetts: Modern Memorial Day Commemoration

As anywhere else, people here continue to commemorate Memorial Day. This year, a group called the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund placed 33,000 flags on Boston Commons to honor those from Massachusetts that had been killed in wars from the Civil War to the present. They termed their project a Flag Garden. A few photos follow from this commemoration on Boston Commons the weekend of Memorial Day 2013.

This shot is looking from the top of the hill down into the Commons.

memorial-to-fallen-massachusetts-military-from-civil-war-to-present-for-memorial-day-on-boston-commons-052613

This shot is looking from the bottom of the hill up towards the Civil War memorial that tops the hill on the Commons.

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This shot looks from the flags towards adjacent downtown Boston.

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Here is a photo of the signs explaining the project.

memorial-to-fallen-massachusetts-military-from-civil-war-to-present-for-memorial-day-on-boston-commons-052613-signs

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