Archives for May 2017

New England: Clearing up the Confusion for the Rest of Us

I’m not from there.  I’m from out West – Colorado to be specific.  Never been back east except to fly through on my way to Germany in my Army-wife days.  I could tell you stories about that one night in Trenton, New Jersey, though.  Trust me.

But that’s for another time and another place.

I’ll state for the record that I only “got” this a few years ago, looking at this flag. 


I know some of my online friends like J.L. Bell ( and Liz Covart (Ben Franklin’s World) are laughing at me about now.  Go ahead.  I can take it.

Hmmm.  There aren’t 13 colonies on this flag.  What’s the deal?  Surely as well-versed in 1775 as I am I can just guess. Ahem.

SC and NC – okay, those are no-brainers.

Then there’s V – Vermont?  Virginia?

And M – Massachusetts – yeah, that was a prominent one.  Oh, wait, Maryland.

NJ and NY are good, right?

That leaves NE.  North. . .  New. . .

Okay, I’ll admit, this exercise took about 30 seconds in my head looking at this flag.  Then I realized I needed Google.

On this flag, we have – from the tail forward – South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and. . . NEW ENGLAND.

So what was New England?  To be precise, it was (and still is, I hear) Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.  (Since my Revolutionary War decendants came from Connecticut, you'd think I'd know this.)

So, count them up and you have 7 colonies and New England, which was 6 more.

Maybe I’m the only one who didn’t know this.  But before I talk about the New England Restraining Act in the next post, I realized that it wouldn’t hurt to clear up any confusion. 

(And here's to someday getting to see Battle Road for myself.)

Fighting for a Reputation

As you read in the last blog post, I have just released Patriot's Day – a little book that was published in 1895 – that tells the story of Lexington and Concord on April 19th, 1775. 

Ezra Ripleyl_Page_08The next book I'm going to put out was written in 1827 and is titled History of the Fight at Concord, on the 19th of April, 1775 by Ezra Ripley. 

The subtitle tells a deeper story of this book.


Here are a few of the opening paragraphs. 


It may be thought singular, that, at this late period, a particular account of the Fight at Concord, on the memorable 19th of April 1775, should now for the first time make its appearance. Some apology may be thought due to the public for neglecting so long a matter of acknowledged importance, which, we apprehend, will be manifest in the following statement.

During nearly half a century, it was, as we supposed, the universal belief that the first regular and forcible resistance to the invading British soldiers was made at Concord North Bridge; —that there the fire of the British was first returned by the Americans; —that there the first British blood was shed; and of course that there commenced the war that terminated in the Independence of the United States. We had no idea that any persons ever would or could seriously entertain a different opinion. We had supposed that public records, numerous historical sketches, and common consent were sufficient to perpetuate material facts and prominent characters. When therefore, the "History of the Battle of Lexington," appeared in 1825, we were surprised. Nothing could have been more unexpected. That pamphlet has made impressions on the minds of many, unfavorable, in some respects, as we believe, to the truth, and to some worthy and patriotic characters. The same causes which originated these errors, have given rise to opinions and publications in Great Britain and the United States equally erroneous. A large portion of the people do not possess the means of better information ; and those who do, have been unwilling to come forward in a controversy very unpleasant and attended with many difficulties.

******   And a bit further on   ******

We have no objections to the historical account given by Major Phinney of the march of the British troops from Boston to Lexington, their outrageous behavior while there, &c. except so far as relates to the returning of the fire of the British. This we mean to controvert, and to shew by testimony and evidence that cannot be resisted nor rationally disputed, that the inhabitants of Lexington, very recently, have made an unjust claim upon the public faith ;—that they have appropriated to themselves facts and honors to which they had no right, and have thereby attempted to wrest from the inhabitants of Concord and adjacent towns, the legitimate honors which their brave and patriotic fathers achieved and bequeathed to them.

Typical New England rivalry?  Looks like. 

I hope you'll enjoy Patriot's Day.  It is truly a little treasure.  I'll let you know when this one is ready. 

Patriot’s Day by Geo. Varney

It's with great pleasure that I announce that we at Battle Road Books have produced a replica of this wonderful little book:  Patriots' Day by George Varney

Our goal at Battle Road Books is to keep the history of the Revolutionary War alive and vibrant and easily accessible.  We also don’t think you should pay an arm and a leg just to read these old books.

Patriot's Day

On the left is the original book.  It's a little book – I'm finding that many of the old books I'm buying are small – just a bit smaller than 5"x7".  On the right, of course, is the "reincarnation."  It is not a scanned copy – have you seen those? – they're a mess.  Nope.  We lovingly went through every page of this book and made each page as close to the original as possible. 

It is a book that was produced in 1895, written by George Varney, as a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord.  I love this book and am thrilled that you'll be able to love it too. 

Here's the Preface:


The bill abolishing the practice of appointing annually a day of ''fasting and prayer,'' having passed the Massachusetts House of Representatives, received the approving vote of the Senate on March 16, 1894, and was on the same day signed by the governor, Frederic T. Greenhalge. The bill also established the nineteenth day of April as an annual holiday. The latter, therefore, is the legitimate successor of Fast Day, which had come to be observed chiefly by its desecration.

The first proclamation of the new holiday was issued on the eleventh day of April, 1894, and gave it, most appropriately, the name Patriots' Day. Neither the statute nor the proclamation prescribed any definite form of celebration; consequently, there is ample scope and freedom for the preferences of communities and organizations in its observance. The proclamation was as follows: —

''By an act of the Legislature, duly approved, the nineteenth day of April has been made a legal holiday.

''This is a day rich with historical and significant events which are precious in the eyes of patriots. It may well be called Patriots' Day. On this day, in 1775, at Lexington and Concord, was begun the great war of the Revolution; on this day, in 1783, just eight years afterwards, the cessation of war and the triumph of independence were formally proclaimed; and on this day, in 1861, the first blood was shed in the war for the Union.

''Thus the day is grand with the memories of the mighty struggles which in one instance brought liberty, and in the other union, to the country.

''It is fitting, therefore, that the day should be celebrated as the anniversary of the birth of Liberty and Union.

''Let this day be dedicated, then, to solemn religious and patriotic services, which may adequately express our deep sense of the trials and tribulations of the patriots of the earlier and of the latter days, and also especially our gratitude to Almighty God, who crowned the heroic struggles of the founders and preservers of our country with victory and peace.''

It is earnestly and devoutly to be desired that the sentiments of this proclamation shall imbue every breast; that patriotism shall more and more take the form of

religion, holding relation, not to one nation only, but to all the peoples of the earth; that the happy time may come when justice, forbearance, and magnanimity will so prevail among men that violent and destructive differences between individuals, communities, states, and nations will be prevented by wise tribunals chosen and empowered to adjudicate disputes and establish peace and amity in all lands.

For the incidents and data of this presentation of the opening conflict of our Revolutionary War, I am indebted in part to several works, a list of which may be found on the last page of this volume.

The illustrative views, except the view of Lexington Green, the two flags, and the diagrams of Concord and Lexington, are from photographs made since 1875; and most of the objects remain the same to the present date.

The view of the conflict at Lexington is from a copper-plate engraving made previous to December, 1775, and accurately represents the scene as preserved also by history and tradition. A room in the building at the left (Buckman's Tavern) was used by John Hancock as an office while the Provincial Congress held its sessions in Concord. The large building in the middle is the first church, with the belfry on the ground nearby, as it stood at the time. Another illustration in the poems is from a recent photograph of the same belfry as it now appears.

It should be explained that the patriots' guns were not pointed as shown in the picture until the British had opened fire. In the background appear the ranks of the main body of the ''Regulars'' on the march towards Concord, nearly seven miles to the right of Lexington Green, or  ''Common'' as it has been called in recent years.

Boston, April 3, 1895.

Posts taken from this book:

The Scar of Lexington"  

A Minuteman's Story of the Concord Fight

Stories Heard on Father's Lap

Stories Heard on Grandpa's Lap

Brown Beauty – hero of Lexington and Concord

Brown Beauty – hero of Lexington and Concord – It could be said.

We know that Paul Revere, on that famous night, was rowed across Back Bay to meet up with rebel forces in Charleston.  There, waiting for him, were Whigs that provided him with a horse. 

The horse belonged to Samuel Larking, a fisherman and chair maker from Charleston.  It was requested by John Larkin, a very wealthy merchant and deacon from Charleston.  Often history tells us that it was “Deacon Larkin’s horse.”  Apparently it was his father’s.

Paul Revere StatueThere are many versions of the story with a number of names for this equine hero.  Among them, Sparky.  That doesn’t sound very heroic.  The Larkin family history says the horse was named Brown Beauty.  Still, not all that heroic a name.  Seems like it should have been William Wallace or something.  But I digress.

Though we don’t know for sure what breed of horse Brown Beauty was, she was likely a Naragansett.

Horse Show Central’s article says this, “Brown Beauty was probably of a breed of horse that was very popular at that time on the East Coast. Instead of the jarring two-beat trot, the Narragansett offered a smooth four-beat saddle gait, favored for its speed and comfort. In addition the breed had an amiable, courageous temperament vital in times of crisis. The Narragansetts were a direct derivative from Old English Ambler (palfreys) which had been taken across the Atlantic by the pioneers and later became extinct in Britain; and of course are the forerunners of today s American Saddlebred.” 

The Narragansett is now extinct. 

What happened to Brown Beauty?

Well, the horse was confiscated by the Redcoats that captured Paul Revere – um, no, he didn’t make it to Concord.

Legend has it that the sergeant that stole the horse from Revere rode her to death that night.  At any rate, the horse was never returned.

But Brown Beauty wasn’t the only Larkin family loss in 1775. 

According to the Larkin Genealogy page, “During the Battle of Bunker Hill, some British troops marched through the Boston suburb of Charlestown, Massachusetts, where the Larkin families lived. John's brother, Ebenezer Larkin (1740-1794), fired a musket from a window of his home at the British troops, who in reprisal, burned the Larkin homes to the ground. John Larkin and his family fled, unscathed, to Cambridge where they lived in a house once occupied by General Washington and later by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.”

Sons of Liberty Flag

The Sons of Liberty Flag was originally flown in Boston by the Sons of Liberty, a loose knit association of colonists resisting British efforts to take away their liberties. The flag had 9 vertical red and white stripes. The flag became known as the "Rebellious Stripes" and was eventually outlawed by the British. The colonists reversed the stripes to horizontal and kept using it in protests against tyrannical attempts to tax them against their will. Eventually the stripes grew to 13, representing unified resistance from all 13 British colonies.


History of the Sons of Liberty Flag

The Sons of Liberty were formed in Boston around the time of the Stamp Act protests in 1765. Local patriots would meet at a large elm tree to protest. This became known as the Liberty Tree. They began to fly this flag whenever the leaders would want to call the townspeople together and it became known as the Sons of Liberty Flag or the Liberty Tree Flag. Legend says the 9 stripes represented the 9 colonies that attended the Stamp Act Congress to coordinate their dissent.

The Liberty Tree became a popular meeting place for the Sons of Liberty to express their dissent. Unpopular officials were hung and burned in effigy from the tree. Colonists posted notices threatening citizens who cooperated with British taxation schemes. The British finally cut the tree down in an effort to stop the dissent. The colonists erected a pole in its place called the "Liberty Pole" and flew the Sons of Liberty Flag from it instead. The flag came to be known as the "Rebellious Stripes" and was outlawed by the British. The colonists simply reversed the stripes and kept using it.

As word spread about the Liberty Tree and Liberty Pole in Boston, similar Liberty Trees and Liberty Poles sprung up around the colonies as meeting places for resistance against the British. Sons of Liberty groups formed across the colonies as well. The Boston Sons of Liberty reached the height of their influence at the Boston Tea Party in 1773, when they threw tea from the British East India Company into the harbor to protest unlawful British taxes. By the time the Revolutionary War started in 1775, the stripes had grown to 13, representing the unified resistance of all 13 colonies. From around 1776 to 1800, the Sons of Liberty Flag was used as a United States merchant flag for merchant shipping, so is sometimes called the Colonial Merchant Ensign (an ensign is a flag).

Questions about the history of the Sons of Liberty Flag

There are a few questions pointed out by historians about the traditional history of this flag. First of all, there is a very old Sons of Liberty Flag held by the Old State House in Boston that was featured in the July 1936 National Geographic Magazine. This flag was donated to the State House by a John C. Fernald in 1893. The year earlier he had loaned it to the Columbian Expedition in Chicago, which wrote this about the flag in its official catalogue of items:

Furnald told the State House he had purchased the flag from the grand-daughter of a wireworker named Samuel Adams who had died in 1855 at the age of 96. The idea that it had once flown from the Liberty Tree was passed on down through the family over the years. The problem is that this story cannot be verified from any other sources. It was purely a verbal tradition passed down in the family.

The story has several historical problems. First, the Liberty Tree was not on Boston Common, but a few blocks away. Second, there were likely no mass meetings of the Sons of Liberty at the tree in 1775 because there were so many British troops in the city. Third, Mr. Adams would have been 16 in 1775 and as a teenager would not likely have been given the responsibility of caring for the Sons of Liberty's flag, although it could have belonged to his father or grandfather before him.

The last problem is that modern historians have examined this Sons of Liberty Flag and believe it does not date from the Revolutionary War period due to its machine woven cotton cloth. Cotton cloth was not widely available until 1800 and machine woven cloth was very rare in 1775 as machine looms were very new at the time. Most cloth was still hand woven at this time.

Some historians believe this flag was not flown from the Liberty Tree at all, but instead, the flag flown was a British Red Ensign, the official flag of Great Britain and hence the official flag of the British colonies. Flying the British Red Ensign would have been illegal for colonists as the flag was reserved for military uses, but they may have flown it and added white stripes to symbolize their rebellion. This may have been the origin of the "rebellious stripes" label.

These historians point out that there are many contemporary references to the Boston patriots flying a flag from the Liberty Tree, but none of them describe the Sons of Liberty Flag with 9 red and white stripes. Instead, nearly all of those who describe the flag describe a red flag and call it a British or Union Flag (the Union representing the union of England and Scotland into Great Britain). If this is the case, as it appears to be, the Sons of Liberty Flag developed out of the British Red Ensign. Perhaps the colonists removed the British Union Jack from the corner of the flag as a gesture of defiance when the war began.

Sons of Liberty Flag in the Revolutionary War and Beyond

The Grand Union Flag, which was the first unofficial, though commonly used, flag of the united colonies, added 6 white stripes to a traditional British Red Ensign, the official flag of Great Britain. This may have been an effort to emulate the Sons of Liberty's "rebellious stripes."

The Sons of Liberty Flag may also be the basis from which the First Navy Jack Flag, the first US naval flag, was created, as well as the the first 13 star flag, the first official flag of the United States.

You may find a few variations of the Sons of Liberty Flag showing a snake, a cup of tea or other symbols in the center of the red and white stripes. These are not flags from the Revolutionary War era, but are modern variations of the flag. The only exception to this is the First Navy Jack Flag which has a snake over the words "Don't Tread On Me." This is traditionally considered to be the United States navy's first flag.


This article is a re-post from Revolutionary War and Beyond, our sister site. 

To Cite or Not to Cite. . .

As you may know, I buy too many books.  Well, define “too many.”  Here’s my excuse:  I have to become immersed in the history and culture of 1775 in order to write the novel.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Recently I bought the book Angel in the Whirlwind: The Triumph of the American Revolution by Benson Bobrick.  It has pretty good reviews. 

Upon opening the book, I did what I always seem to do – I turned to the section on April 19th.  Since I know more about that day than other bits and pieces of Rev War history, my sensors are more tuned to see things that just might be “off.”

Now, don’t get me wrong here – it’s probably a fine book. 

The first thing I found, though, that made me go “hmmm” was when the author stated (page 113) that “he (Gage) dispatched 800 troops under Colonel Francis Smith and Major John Pitcairn to capture Adams and Hancock and seize the rebels’ stores.”  The sentence was not footnoted. 

Citation neededNow certainly, Gage had been told in a letter from the Earl of Dartmouth, dated January 27, 1775, “It is the opinion of the King’s servants, in which His majesty concurs, that the first and essential step to be taken toward reestablishing Government, would be to arrest and imprison the principal actors and abettors of the Provincial Congress whose proceedings appear in every light to be acts of treason and rebellion.”  

And there are speculations that one of the reasons the Lexington training band was on the green that morning was their suspicion of just that.  Some believe (and I don’t think it’s unreasonable) that Captain Parker had his men there to protect Hancock and Adams, who were staying at the Clarke residence just up the road from the green.

But I haven’t seen primary sources that Smith’s orders included arresting Hancock and Adams. Here are Smith’s orders:

Tuesday, April 18, 1775

Orders from General Thomas Gage

to Lieut. Colonel Smith, 10th Regiment 'Foot

Boston, April 18, 1775

Lieut. Colonel Smith, 10th Regiment 'Foot,


Having received intelligence, that a quantity of Ammunition, Provisions, Artillery, Tents and small Arms, have been collected at Concord, for the Avowed Purpose of raising and supporting a Rebellion against His Majesty, you will March with a Corps of Grenadiers and Light Infantry, put under your Command, with the utmost expedition and Secrecy to Concord, where you will seize and destroy all Artillery, Ammunition, Provisions, Tents, Small Arms, and all Military Stores whatever. But you will take care that the Soldiers do not plunder the Inhabitants, or hurt private property.

You have a Draught of Concord, on which is marked the Houses, Barns, &c, which contain the above military Stores. You will order a Trunion to be knocked off each Gun, but if it’s found impracticable on any, they must be spiked, and the Carriages destroyed. The Powder and flower must be shook out of the Barrels into the River, the Tents burnt, Pork or Beef destroyed in the best way you can devise. And the Men may put Balls of lead in their pockets, throwing them by degrees into Ponds, Ditches &c., but no Quantity together, so that they may be recovered afterwards. If you meet any Brass Artillery, you will order their muzzles to be beat in so as to render them useless.

You will observe by the Draught that it will be necessary to secure the two Bridges as soon as possible, you will therefore Order a party of the best Marchers, to go on with expedition for the purpose.

A small party of Horseback is ordered out to stop all advice of your March getting to Concord before you, and a small number of Artillery go out in Chaises to wait for you on the road, with Sledge Hammers, Spikes, &c.

You will open your business and return with the Troops, as soon as possible, which I must leave to your own Judgment and Discretion.

I am, Sir,

Your most obedient humble servant

Thos. Gage.

Now I have never claimed to be a scholar.  I have no letters behind my name indicating degrees in anything.  I am merely a self-taught writer who is fascinated by history. 

But as I study and read, I find myself looking at claims like this one and wanting the citation.  I am determined to get the history as right as I can as I write this blog and as I write the novel(s).

And when I digress from what the primary sources tell us, I say so.  (Someday I’ll tell you my theory of Sam Prescott ending up on that road to Concord that night. It is totally a theory, but an “educated” one.)

I guess the question that’s hanging out there now is how much I cite my writing.  Maybe not enough. And is that even something that blog readers care about? 

I don’t know.  You tell me.

By the way, I did find other things in that chapter that could have been worded more precisely and left the wrong impression.  I may pick up the book again.  But I might not, too.

From Rabble to Respect

Coming into April 19th, 1775, the Redcoats thought of the Americans as mere shop-keepers and farmers.  They totally underestimated the colonial forces.  For example, we’ll look at some of the words of Lord Hugh Percy.  If you’ll recall, he brought the reinforcements that in his words saved Smith’s forces “from inevitable destruction.”

But first, a bit about him.

Portrait_of_Hugh_Percy,_Second_Duke_of_Northumberland_by_Gilbert_Stuart,_c._1788Lord Hugh Percy was aristocracy.  He was heir to a vast fortune, maybe the greatest in the western world at that time.  He was a professional soldier from his teenage years and, when he came to America, was 32 years old.

In 1774, he arrived in Boston as a colonel of his own regiment.  He was generous with his money lived in a fine house, entertaining his officers and friends lavishly.  He was a good leader and, when he arrived in America, had positive feelings about the colonists.  In England, he had voted against the Stamp Act and though the American policies were foolish.  

With regards to fighting the colonies, he said, “Nothing less than the total loss or conquest of the colonies must be the end of it, either, indeed is disagreeable.”

But that all changed.  Over the next months, Percy’s view of the Americans flipped.

Just weeks after coming to America:
“. . . A set of sly, artful, hypocritial rascals, cruel, and cowards.”
“Like all cowards, they are cruel and tyrannical.”
He thought the colonists had “not the least idea of religion or morality,” and that they “talk much and do little.”  “I cannot but despise them completely.”  
On April 19th, though, his opinion changed.

“During the whole affair, the rebels attacked us in a very scattered, irregular manner, but with perseverance and resolution, nor did they ever dare to form into any regular body.  Indeed they knew too well what was proper, to do so.  Whoever looks upon them as an irregulr mob, will find himself very much mistaken.  They have men amongst them who know very well what they are about. . .”
“For my part, I never believed, I confess, that they would have attacked the king’s troops, or have had the perseverance I found in them yesterday.”

(Note:  All quotes taked from Paul Revere's Ride, by David Hackett Fischer.)