Archives for February 2014

Who is Wentworth Cheswell? Americans, I’d wager, have never heard of Wentwoth Cheswell. I believe he’s worth knowing.

Wentworth Cheswell is said to be the first African-American to be elected to office in America.  He was one quarter Black and three quarters White.  He was elected as town constable of Newmarket, New Hampshire, in 1768 and served in some government position thereafter until his death – well, to be precise, every year but one.

Wentworth’s grandfather is thought to be the first African-American to own land in New Hampshire after gaining his freedom. The date on the deed is 1717. Wentworth’s grandmother was a free white woman. Her son, Hopestill was born free because she was free.  (The law said that children took on the status of their mother.)   Hopestill was a builder and carpenter and married Katherine Keniston, who also was white.  Hopestill was prosperous enough to by 100 acres of land to farm, several other pieces of property and to give Wentworth a good education from the Governor Dummer Academy in Massachusetts.  This was an impressive thing for anyone at the time.

After completing his education, Wentworth went back to New Hampshire and was a school master himself.  He went on to hold office as town selectman, auditor, assessor and others.  He served in the Continental Army.  He married Mary Davis and they had thirteen children.

But how does Wentworth Cheswell fit in to our story of April 19th, 1775?  Well, Wentworth was elected to the Committee of Safety  which was part of the line of communication between his community and the Provincial Committee of Exeter, New Hampshire.  On the night of April 18th, when Paul Revere and William Dawes were riding to Lexington, Wentworth Cheswell was also tasked with riding.  He took the message north.  Up to one third of the Militia fighters who took on the retreating Redcoat Army were men alerted by Wentworth Cheswell.  Now, as Paul Harvey would say, you know the rest of the story.

Keep calm???


Puritan Weddings

WeddingMy first book in the Revive 1775 series will revolve around a wedding. I don’t want to give anything away at the moment but what I’ve found out about Puritans and their wedding rituals surprised me and changed things in the plan for the book.

When we 21st-Century Americans think about weddings, we have so many preconceived notions.  I’m no different.  I think about flowers and rings, the minister, the church, the wedding cake.  Then there’s the wedding party.  The bride and groom of course.  But the father of the bride giving her away.  The maid of honor.  The best man. But what I’m finding is that the Puritan wedding didn’t look like that.

The Puritans, if you remember, broke away from the Church of England.  One of the sticking points was the wedding.  Who knew?  Puritans believed that marriage was a civil contract.  Weddings, as such, were performed by the magistrate, who asked each party if they wanted to enter the contract.  If both answered in the affirmative, the deal was done.  This "ceremony" was carried out at the house and there was a modest meal served.  Nothing elaborate.  These were Puritans, remember.

The engagement actually did involve the church though.  When the engagement was announced, it was done so in church and the Rector would give a special sermon of the bride’s choosing.  Then, in the weeks preceeding the marriage contract, the bans were published.  The bans were basically a "if you know any reason" type document announcing the upcoming contract and was published on the church door.  It had to be done three weeks in a row. As I do more research, I’ll share other interesting tid-bits here with you all.  I know a few bits already that you’ll find surprising.  

The Clock

Nathaniel Mulliken (1722 -1777) Lexington, Massachusetts.

Nathaniel Mulliken made this clock.  That, in itself is not that great a deal.  What’s great about seeing this clock is that, after April 19th, 1775, there were no more clocks made my Nathaniel.

Nathaniel wasn’t dead, or even injured that we know of.  But he would never make another clock.  It is said that his youngest brother, Joseph made cabinets for clock but Joseph was only ten when Nathaniel stopped making clocks.

Okay, enough silliness and suspense.

Remember I’ve talked about how dangerous a retreating army is?  Well, that’s exactly what the town of Lexington experienced on the afternoon of April 19, 1775.  The Redcoats were in disarray.  The most feared army in the world had just been undone by the Rebel Alliance made up of farmers and tradesman and they left Concord, beating a hasty and disorganized – and just plain fearful – retreat back to Boston – 18 miles away.

They were tired, hungry, running out of ammunition and had to run the gauntlet made up of thousands of Colonial militia men and minutemen.  When they got to Lexington, thankfully, they were met by reinforcements sent by General Gage.  Lord Percy set up cannons at the Munroe Tavern and gathered the tired and wounded Redcoats there to rest and get medical attention.

Just down the road from the Tavern, lay the Mulliken home and clock shop.  It too was commandeered by the Redcoats.  At least one dead Redcoat soldier would be found later in the day with a Mulliken clock works in his pocket.  When the Redcoats left Lexington, they burned the Mulliken property and several others to the ground.

Nathaniel would soon join the Continental Army and would not return.

Hence, no more Mulliken clocks.


Elizabeth Clarke – Lexington

10D Elizabeth ClarkeElizabeth Clarke was the twelve-year-old daughter of Reverend Jonas Clarke.  I can’t wait to share more information about this amazing man.  It has been said that, if you had none of the writings of the founders, but had the writings of Jonas Clarke, you would know very well what the Revolution was about. As his daughter, Elizabeth would have been very familiar both with the reasons for the Revolution – her father taught so much about the rights the Americans had as British citizens and how they must stand for those rights.  But she also would have known the people of the times.  Sam Adams and John Hancock were at the house all the time.  John Hancock was Elizabeth’s second cousin.  John Hancock had nearly grown up in that very house. Not only did Elizabeth know Hancock and Adams, she surely knew Captain Parker, the head of the Lexington Militia, Will Munroe, who owned the tavern and was Parker’s second in command, and even Samuel Prescott, who was a High Son of Liberty and, I have little doubt, spent time at the house updating Adams and Hancock and her father Jonas on the preparations in Concord. Elizabeth would have been awakened when Revere rode up.  Yes, Will Munroe asked him to be quiet as the family was asleep, but Revere would have none of that.  She was likely awake all night with all the comings and goings and warnings sounded. And then, she watched as the Militia gathered, as her father walked among them giving them words of strength and encouragement.  Watched as Captain Parker told them to disburse.  And finally, watched as shots rang out and people she knew and loved fell dead or wounded – her father would call it murder.

Who are Roger’s Rangers?

As you read about the Militia men and Minutemen in 1775, you often find reference to Rogers Rangers?  So just who were these guys?

Well, today’s US Army Rangers claim a heritage back to Maj. Robert Rogers and his specially trained fighting men during the French and Indian war.  Yes, the original Rangers were a specialized unit of the British Army.

Wikipedia says, “It was trained by Major Robert Rogers as a rapidly deployable light infantry force tasked mainly with reconnaissance as well as conducting special operations against distant targets. Their tactics, built on earlier colonial precedents, but codified for the first time by Rogers, proved remarkably effective, so much so that the initial company was expanded into a ranging corps of more than a dozen companies (containing as many as 1,200-1,400 men at its peak). The ranger corps became the chief scouting arm of British Crown forces by the late 1750s. The British valued them highly for gathering intelligence about the enemy.”

They are often represented by a picture of a soldier with his musket and a hatchet.  These were outdoors men, adept at being on their own in the woods, able to take care of themselves.  They were said to fight much like the Indians, close in combat with a hatchet, swift and violent.  This was an elite fighting unit.  They were expert marksmen, fast, quiet and deadly.

If you couldn’t keep up because of illness or injury, Rogers sent you back to HQ (wherever that was at the time) to recover.  You were welcome to rejoin the “teams” when you were 100%.  Though they worked as a team, if surrounded or outnumbered, they could be counted on to react with individual strength and fortitude.  This was one of the traits, by the way, that set the American Militia and Minutemen apart from the Redcoats.  The Redcoats weren’t very good at reacting if their officers were taken out.

Will Munroe, owner of Munroe’s Tavern and 2nd in command of the Lexington Militia, was a former Ranger.

Note:  Thank you to my Appleseed friend GearHeadPatriot for helping me get a feel for these Rangers so I can get to know Will Munroe better.

The White Cockade

Tradition tells us that, when the militias began the march down Punkatasset Hill toward the North Bridge of Concord on that fateful day, the piper (Luther Blanchard) played a little tune called The White Cockade.  This tune was said to have been the signature tune of the Acton Minutemen, Captain Isaac Davis’s men.

This would have been an in-your-face affront to the Redcoats at the bottom of the hill.  Why?  Well, the White Cockade was a well known Jacobite tune.  It was a Scottish tune referring back to the the rebellion of Bonnie Prince Charlie during the uprising of ’45. In 1970, Robert Burns put words to the tune.

The uprising of ’45 was an attempt by the Bonnie Prince to take over the English thrown for the House of Stewart.  The Highland Scots were huge supporters of Charlie and, when the uprising was quelled by the English army, it ended with one of the bloodiest battles in all of history at Culloden.  Of note, one of the reasons General Gage was so determined to quell the resistance in the Colonies was because he’d been at Culloden and was just so tired of bloodshed.  Totally understandable.

This began the Highland clearances that send thousands and thousands of Scots to America.  Interestingly, part of the town of Lexington was, at one point, called Scotland.  The Scots/Irish were said to have made up at least forty percent of the Colonial Army. The Munroe Clan (of Munroe Tavern fame) lost the most members on April 19th.  Many other families had deep Scottish roots as well.

Here are the works Robbie Burns penned to the tune.

The White Cockade

My love was born in Aberdeen,
The bonniest lad that e’er was seen;
But now he makes our hearts fu’ sad,
He’s taen the field wi’ his white cockade.

O he’s a rantin, rovin blade,
He’s a brisk and a bonny lad,
Betide what may, my heart is glad,
To see my lad wi his white cockade.

Oh leeze me on the philabeg
The hairy hough and garten’d leg;
But aye the thing that blinds my ee,
The white cockade aboun the bree.

I’ll sell my rock, I’ll sell my reel,
My rippling-kame and spinning wheel,
To buy my lad a tartan plaid,
A braidsword, dirk, and white cockade.

I’ll sell my rokelay and my tow,
My good grey mare and hawkit cow,
that every loyal Buchan lad
May tak the field wi the white cockade.

Lyrics by Robert Burns.

The Players – The Cards


Folks have asked where to get the playing cards.  Here’s the link.

Elizabeth Rand – East Cambridge

3D Elizabeth RandThere is not very much information on Widow Rand.  Pretty much what we know is on this card. But let’s think about Mrs. Rand.  We don’t know how old she was but we know she was a widow.  Guessing that she lived alone.  She was awake because a hog had been butchered for her the day before and it was hanging on her front porch.  She was standing guard, so to speak, making sure no one stole it  At 2:30 in the morning she hears something outside that just wasn’t right. Do you think she grabbed the musket over the fireplace?  She rushed outside in her night gown to make sure her property was safe. What she saw must have made her gasp.  The Redcoat Army passing by her house on the road, eight hundred strong.  Not that it was out of the blue or a big surprise.  The whole area had been expecting something like this.  There had been several false alarms. Elizabeth jumped behind a rain barrel to hide and watch. But still.  There they were marching silently in lines of three or four.  I wonder how long it took for them to pass?  Think about a parade with a marching band of eight hundred.  Five minutes?  Fifteen minutes?  And when the final row passed.  Would there be more? At last, when she believed they were gone, she came out of hiding and high-tailed it to her neighbor Samuel Tufts.  Samuel was awake too.  He and his slave were melting lead for bullets. They’d been so busy, they hadn’t heard anything outside.  Breathlessly, she tells him that the Redcoat Army just passed by their houses.    Samuel doesn’t believe her until she takes him outside and, holding a lantern, shows him the tracks left in the road. Convinced, Samuel saddles his horse and joins the many riders that night, alerting the countryside.

Paul Revere – Boston

8C Paul ReverePaul Revere.  It seems like everyone’s heard of Revere.  “Listen my children and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.”  That’s from a poem by Longfellow about Paul’s infamous ride.

Unfortunately, it’s isn’t terribly accurate.  But neither, really, is what we learned in school.  Basically, what I learned in school was that Paul Revere rode through the countryside yelling “The British are coming, the British are coming.”  Some folk showed up in a place called Lexington Green.  A shot was heard around the world.  And the Revolutionary War started.  That’s pretty much it.

It wasn’t until a little over a year ago, when I was at an Appleseed shoot that I began to hear more.

Like Paul Revere didn’t shout “The British are coming.”  That would have been silly, since they all considered themselves British citizens.  If he yelled, he likely yelled “The Regulars are out.”  The Regulars were the Redcoats.  When they did marches through the Massachusetts countryside, it was quite unusual for them to be out after dark.  And this march was begun after ten at night.

Another thing I heard for the first time was that Revere didn’t make it to his target audience.  Sure he made it to Lexington to warn John Hancock and Sam Adams who were staying there at the Rev. Jonas Clarke’s home.  After all there was a serious price on the heads of those two men.  Warning them was essential.  Warning Lexington was essential.  But Revere’s target was Concord, another five miles east of Lexington.  This was where the Redcoat Army was headed to confiscate their arms and ammunition.

Revere didn’t make it to Concord.  He was captured on his way there by a Redcoat patrol.  He was later released but his mission was not completed.  At least not by him.

Ten points if you know who completed that mission.