We can never let a Patriots’ Day go by without reflecting on the events of April 19, 1775. How did this happen?
The people of countryside Massachusetts at that time were probably the freest and the least taxed people in the British Empire. What were they so mad about?
From my hometown of Needham, MA, almost every able bodied man went out. What motivated people that morning to grab guns and shoot at their own army?
Lately I’ve been reading Rick Atkinson’s book on the first years of the American Revolution. It’s interesting that Atkinson titled his book this, because as he himself notes:
Popular lore later credited him with a stirring battle cry – “The British are coming!” – but a witness quoted him as warning, more prosaically, “the regulars are coming out.”
The word would’ve gotten out anyway, because of information sent by light in binary code: one if by land, two if by sea. (it was two).
Atkinson does a great job of laying out how tensions and feelings and fears and resentments escalated to this point. George III and his Prime Minister Lord North (they’d grown up together, it’s possible they were half-brothers) miscalculated, misunderstood, overreacted.
North held a constituency in Banbury with fewer than two dozen eligible voters, who routinely reelected him after being plied with punch and cheese, and who were then rewarded with a haunch of venison.
The image of a stern father disciplining a disobedient child seemed to guide George III/North government thinking. Violently putting down rebellions was nothing new, even within the island of Britain. Crushing Scottish revolt had been a big part of George III’s uncle’s career, for example.
From the British side, the disobedience did seem pretty flagrant, the Boston Tea Party being a particularly outrageous and inciting example, from a city known to be full of criminals and assholes. The London government responded with the “Coercive Acts.”
With this disobedient child, the punishment didn’t go over well. The mood had gotten very, very tense in Boston when the April 19 expedition was launched.
Everything about it went wrong. Everybody was late, troops were reorganized under new commanders. Orders were screwed up, the mission was unclear. It was a show of force? A search and destroy? Both? The experience for the soldiers in on it was awful: started out cold and wet, ended up lucky if you were alive and unmangled.
What the Lexington militia was up to when they formed up opposite the arriving Redcoats is unclear. Did they intend to have a battle? Doesn’t seem like it, why would they line up in the middle of a field? There’d already been an alarm, and then a weird break where a lot of the guys went to the next door tavern and had a few.
Were they intending just kind of an armed protest and demonstration (as is common in the United States to this day)?
A lot of the guys in the Massachusetts militias had fought alongside the British army in the wars against the French and Indians. Captain Parker of Lexington had been at Louisburg and Quebec. How much was old simmering resentment of the colonial experience serving with professional British military officers a part of all this?
One way or another, a shot went off, and then it got out of hand very fast. When it was over eight Lexington guys were dead.
The painting above is by William Barnes Wollen, he painted it in 1910. Wollen was a painter of military and battle scenes. He’d been in South Africa during the Boer War, so maybe he knew what an invading army getting shot at by locals was like.
Amos Doolittle was on the scene a few days after the events, interviewed participants, walked the grounds, and rendered the scene like this.
But Doolittle had propaganda motives.
After the massacre at Lexington the British got back into formation and kept moving.
They ran into another fight at Concord Bridge.
Information and misinformation and rumor became a part of the day. The story spread that the British were burning Concord, maybe murdering people.
By now minutemen from all over were blasting away. It must’ve been horrific. Atkinson tells us that the British “Brown Bess” musket fired a lead slug that was nearly .75 of an inch in diameter (compare to, say, a Magnum .45, .45 of an inch).
How would history have been different if the British column had been completely wiped out, like Custer’s last stand? It almost happened. The expedition was saved by the timely arrival of reinforcements with two cannons.
The column avoided an ambush at Harvard Square, but several soldiers died in another gunfight near the future Beech and Elm Streets while three rebels who had built a redoubt at Watson’s Corner were encircled and bayoneted. William Marcy, described as “A simple-minded youth” who thought he was watching a parade, was shot dead while sitting on a wall, cheering.
They were able to get back across the river and into Boston, minus 73 killed, 53 missing, 174 wounded. A bad day in Massachusetts.
This event looms large in the American imagination: the gun-totin’ freedom lovers fighting off the government intrusion. But the more you read about it the more it sounds like just a catastrophe for everyone involved.
Back in Needham the Rev. West reported:
In the evening we had intelligence that several of the Needham inhabitants were among the slain, and in the morning it was confirmed that five had fallen in the action and several others had been wounded. It is remarkable that the five who fell all of them had families, and several of them very numerous families so that there were about forty widows and fatherless children made in consequence of their death. I visited these families immediately, and with a sympathetic sense of their affliction I gave to some the first intelligence they had of the dreadful event, the death of a Husband and a Parent.
Happened to turn on the TV the other day and Good Will Hunting was on. What a great movie. It’s a superhero movie.
We were right in the scene where Will backs up Ben Affleck and destroys a jerk who’s showing off his education.
One moment in this scene I’ve thought about more than necessary is when Will identifies the jerk (he’s listed as “Clark” on IMDb, played with precision by Scott William Winters) as “a first year grad student.” Given how much Clark knows about history, and his reading list, should we infer that Scott William Winters is a first year grad student in history?
WILL: See the sad thing about a guy like you is in about 50 years you’re gonna start doing some thinking on your own and you’re gonna come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life. One, don’t do that. And two, you dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a fuckin’ education you coulda got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the Public Library.
CLARK: Yeah, but I will have a degree, and you’ll be serving my kids fries at a drive-thru on our way to a skiing trip.
WILL: [smiles] Yeah, maybe. But at least I won’t be unoriginal.
It’s interesting that Clark’s brag is that Will will be “serving my kids fries on their way to a ski trip.” There are no doubt history professors living this way, but I do feel if that were your goal, becoming a grad student in academic history would be a harder way to go than like, business school or something?
Maybe that is part of the point Will is making about what a dope this guy is.
In their exchange, Will cites “Vickers, Work In Essex County.”
Had to look this one up, and boy, did I profit. I learned about Daniel Vickers, who sounds like an amazing man. From a Globe & Mail “I Remember” by Don Lepan:
Dr. Vickers went to Princeton for his PhD. It was there that he began what became his life’s work academically, but he found Princeton itself stiflingly elitist, and escaped as often as he could to Toronto or to New England towns such as Salem or Nantucket, Mass., where he would spend long hours poring over local records.
God that’s beautiful. Can you imagine sitting in Nantucket, poring over the records? (Yes).
This was followed in 2005 by Young Men and the Sea: Yankee Seafarers in the Age of Sail, in which Dr. Vickers challenged the long tradition of treating a young man’s decision to go to sea as an inherently momentous one, and the life of a seafarer as inherently exceptional; again through painstaking archival research, he demonstrated that that most young men who went to sea did so with a sense of inevitability – and that not until the late 19th century did seafaring life begin to seem exceptional. Maritime history was somewhat out of fashion with the general public when the book appeared and it sold less well than its publishers had hoped, but reviews of Dr. Vickers’s work by historians were again extraordinarily enthusiastic; the book was praised as “a masterly work” and “the most original American maritime history ever published.”
As with his first book, Dr. Vickers was aided greatly in his research by his wife, Christine.
Vickers taught at UCSD for awhile, but
the family found the suburban lifestyle and sunny consumerism of San Diego less congenial than the rocky insularity and dour humour of Newfoundland.
If you prefer Newfoundland to San Diego, come sit near me.
Wanted to share that with the Helytimes family. Have a good weekend everyone! I bet the picture of Daniel Vickers here will give you some cheer.
This one came up on Succession, a fave show. (Had to look it up because I wondered if they were doing a double joke where the guy was attributing Emerson to Thoreau)
Usually I’ll approach with tentative openness the pastoralist, simpler times, “trad” adjacent arguments of weirdbeards but Thoreau here WAY off. Maine and Texas had TONS to communicate! Who isn’t happy Maine and Texas can check in? (Saying this as a Maine fan whose wife is from Texas, fond of both states and happy for their commerce and exchange). Plus, if Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough, I WANT to hear that, that’s interesting goss!
The “broad flapping American ear” there — a snooty New England/aristocrat attitude we haven’t heard the last of. These guys are the original elites. There’s really two classes in America: Americans, and The People Who Think They’re Better Than Americans. Though they’re a tiny minority the second group wields outside power and influence over the first group. I’m a proud member of the first group though I admit I have second group tendencies due to my youthful indoctrination in the headquarters of these Concord Extremist Radicals, in fact at their head madrassa.
When you hear America assessed by Better Thans / eggheads, wait for the feint toward fatshaming. It’s always in there somewhere. American Better Thans adopted this from Europeans, whom they slavishly ape. It’s a twisted attitude, designed to take blame away from the Better Thans and their friends in the ownership.
As if it’s Americans fault that they’ve been raised associating corn-based treats with love and goodness! Or that corn-fatted meat is the easiest accessed protein on offer! You think that’s more the Americans fault, or the fault of the Better Thans, who manipulate our food system with their only goal creating shareholder value?
Is it the fault of the American that a cold soda is the best cheap pleasure in the hot and dusty interior where they don’t all have Walden Pond as a personal spa?
Thoreau. Guy makes me sick.
In researching this article I learn about Maine-ly Sandwiches, of Houston.
sent by Rhode Island desk
What is the deal here when Trump calls Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas?
At Helytimes, we like to go back to the source.
Sometime between 1987 and 1992 Elizabeth Warren put down on a faculty directory that she was Native American. Says Snopes:
it is true that while Warren was at U. Penn. Law School she put herself on the “Minority Law Teacher” list as Native American) in the faculty directory of the Association of American Law Schools
This became a story in 2012, when Elizabeth Warren was running for Senate against Scott Brown. In late April of that year, The Boston Herald, a NY Post style tabloid, dug up a 1996 article in the Harvard Crimson by Theresa J. Chung that says this:
Of 71 current Law School professors and assistant professors, 11 are women, five are black, one is Native American and one is Hispanic, said Mike Chmura, spokesperson for the Law School.
Although the conventional wisdom among students and faculty is that the Law School faculty includes no minority women, Chmura said Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren is Native American.
Asked about it, here’s what Elizabeth Warren said:
From there the story kinda spun out of control. It came up in the Senate debate, and there were ads about it on both sides.
A genealogist looked into it, and determined that Warren was 1/32nd Cherokee, or about as Cherokee as Helytimes is West African. But then even that was disputed.
Her inability to name any specific Native American ancestor has kept the story alive, though, as pundits left and right have argued the case. Supporters touted her as part Cherokee after genealogist Christopher Child of the New England Historic Genealogical Society said he’d found a marriage certificate that described her great-great-great-grandmother, who was born in the late 18th century, as a Cherokee. But that story fell apart once people looked at it more closely. The Society, it turned out, was referencing a quote by an amateur genealogist in the March 2006 Buracker & Boraker Family History Research Newsletters about an application for a marriage certificate.
Well, Elizabeth Warren won. Now Scott Brown is Donald Trump’s Ambassador to New Zealand, where he’s doing an amazing job.
The part of the story that lit me up was this:
The best argument she’s got in her defense is that, based on the public evidence so far, she doesn’t appear to have used her claim of Native American ancestry to gain access to anything much more significant than a cookbook; in 1984 she contributed five recipes to the Pow Wow Chow cookbook published by the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee, signing the items, “Elizabeth Warren — Cherokee.”
What is the best way to handle it, the best strategy, when the President is treating you like a third grade bully, repeatedly and publicly calling you a mean name?
Best advice to someone getting bullied? I googled:
We would amend “don’t show your feelings” to stay calm. We would urge any kid to put “tell an adult” as a last resort.
- if the problem persists, hit back as hard as possible, calmly but forcefully, at the bully’s weakest, tenderest points.
Such a Lisa Simpson / Nelson vibe to Warren / Trump. Are all our elections gonna be Lisa vs. Nelson for awhile?
from this 2003 episode:
Lisa easily wins the election. Worried by her determination and popularity, the faculty discusses how to control her.
In 1693 Cotton Mather wrote a book called Wonders Of The Invisible World, defending the Salem Witch Trials.
A few years later a guy named Robert Calef wrote More Wonders Of The Invisible World, which was kind of a sarcastic slam on Cotton Mather.
Calef objected to proceedings that lead to “a Biggotted Zeal, stirring up a Blind and most Bloody rage, not against Enemies, or Irreligious Proffligate Persons, But (in Judgment of Charity, and to view) against as Vertuous and Religious as any they have left behind them in this Country, which have suffered as Evil doers with the utmost extent of rigour.”
Can’t say I got a ton out of the book, but I did get some good stuff from the introduction, by Chadwick Hansen.
If a witch is attacking you boil a pin in urine:
Even Chadwick Hansen appears ultimately baffled by what Robert Calef was up to, since much of his book is lies about how Cotton Mather fondled up a girl named Margaret Rule while curing her of bewitchment.
Hansen attempts to provide the context to a baffling historical period.
Later Mather would write a book called The Right Way To Shake Off A Viper:
Wild times in old Massachusetts. Few people who were taken to the Salem Witch Museum in childhood ever forgot it.
There’s a lot of crime fiction about Boston, America, but is there any about Boston, UK? I went looking and was directed to the works of Colin Watson, who writes about a fictional town, Flaxborough, which is based on Boston (UK version)?
I can’t say it was totally compelling to me but cheers to Colin Watson.
Watson was the first person to successfully sue Private Eye for libel, for an article in issue 25 when he objected to being described as: “the little-known author who . . . was writing a novel, very Wodehouse but without the jokes”. He was awarded £750.
Remember The Old Man Of The Mountain?
Discovered a serious error in my DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer
You can’t actually drive from Moon Island to Long Island! There’s a road on the map that’s just not there!
Be careful out there guys and ALWAYS double check visual clues before attempting to drive from one island to another.
Because people were talking about Baby Driver, I started singing it in my head to the tune of Bob Marley’s Slave Driver.
What a song. So then I went looking for Slave Driver on Spotify. I found a recording of Bob Marley and The Wailers, Live At The Music Hall, Boston, 1978. “Easy Skanking In Boston ’78” is the title, which I don’t love saying. “Bob Marley and The Wailers Live At The Music Hall – Boston – 1978” seems like it gives you what you need?
Somehow shocking that Boston would be the scene of a legendary Marley concert. Who was in the crowd?!
Steve Morse wrote about this recording for The Boston Globe when the album was released in 2015:
My one meeting with Bob Marley was memorable. I was sent by the Globe to interview him at the Essex Hotel in New York before his show at Boston’s Music Hall in 1978. I walked in to Marley’s room, which looked out over Central Park, at 11 a.m. It was a chaotic scene. Four or five members of his entourage were kicking a soccer ball that banged off the picture windows. Two king-size joints were being passed around. Bob sat on a couch, reading aloud from the Book of Revelation.
Realizing I was in over my head, I waited a while before daring to ask Marley about his music. He agreed to talk, shut the Bible, quelled the soccer noise, and stated his worldview: “Everything is going to be united now. Everything is going to be cool. Forget the past and unite.”
Marley’s response to a country politically divided and stricken with gun violence was notably cooler and more Christian than the NRA’s response.
Two months later he’d be in Boston.
(Minute 34-38 or so a good sample)
June 8, 1978 was a Thursday, a hot night, 89 degrees. The Red Sox had an off day, but that weekend they’d start a ten game win streak on the road in the West Coast.
The Sox would win 99 games that year, but lose a one game playoff to the Yankees at home in Fenway Park.
Ned Martin would call the game for WITS radio.
Years later he’d die of a heart attack in a shuttle bus at the Raleigh airport on his way home from Ted Williams’ memorial.
Worth remembering that the American Revolution started when the federal government sent troops to take away people’s guns and ammunition.
More men from Needham died on April 19, 1775, I believe, than from any other town except Lexington:
The detail in that footnote! What she remembers, the old blind woman: how many of the soldiers had thrown away their coats! It was under the will of this venerable lady that he first received a legacy!
History gets so much more interesting when you get into how do we know this? what is the source? who claims this? who saw it happen?
The Needham Public Library.
Amos Doolittle wasn’t there but he showed up a few weeks later:
My favorite book on this topic is:
Tourtellot is really kind of funny when he rips into his least favorite patriot, vain old John Hancock:
that illustration up top from:
a British book – is there a pro-Redcoat bias?
seen on Inside The NFL on Showtime.
MORE ON public lands under Trump to come, but first we have to address a reader email:
Will you continue your tradition of discussing the Super Bowl coaches, in anticipation of Big Game LI?
So writes reader Abigail J. in Wellesley, Mass.
Thanks for writing Abigail! Last year, we profiled the somewhat dim personalities of Ron Rivera and Gary Kubiak.
Rivera’s Panther’s may have controlled their APE but it wasn’t enough.
This year we have a return for Bill Belichick, whom we investigated to the edge of known facts before the epic XLIX game. In that battle he squared off against Pete Carroll, the most compelling coaching figure in the NFL and subject of an in-depth Helytimes profile.
This year comes Dan Quinn.
He won a Super Bowl under Pete Carroll in 2014, and seems more Carroll than Belichick for sure. Here’s an article about him from the AJC by Jeff Schultz. Bumper stickers are a theme:
Quinnisms: Iron sharpens iron. Do right longer. Do what we do. It’s about the ball. It’s about the process (Former coach Mike Smith left that one behind.)
Quinn also has had a dozen T-shirts or hats with punchy thoughts made up during the season, the latest being, “Ready to Ride, Dog.” The week of the first playoff win over Seattle, players wore shirts reading: “Arrive violently.” Those words were referenced by Neal after the game.
Don’t have much more to add. In light of Belichick’s Trump support perhaps this a revealing moment, from Inside the NFL:
We’ll see what happens in Houston.
At the moment, who can fail to find NBA coaches more compelling?:
The entire film takes place in Massachusetts, yet no one is seen going to Dunkin Donuts or holding a Dunkin Donuts cup.
A short examination of New England and Massachusetts psychology is at the beginning of this book:
I don’t like to give bad reviews to books on Helytimes. Why call limited attention to bad books? However I must condemn this book.
Let me admit that I didn’t read it.
I oppose it because:
1) I was not consulted on it and didn’t hear about it until it was published
2) I was not included in it
3) many geniuses were not included in it, and the selections don’t represent anything like a best of.
Impossible in an anthology to please everyone. But I suspect anyone familiar with the Lampoon will find the table of contents to be the funniest part.
(That’s the only part I read.)
4) No art?
The Lampoon is full of beautiful art that makes the words tolerable.
A mistake to print an all words anthology.
5) the whole point of the Lampoon is you can write and “publish” dumb bad practice material that no one will ever see.
On the other hand: I was lucky and was given issues of the Lampoon by my cousin when I was a senior in high school. That gift changed my life. So maybe this book will do that for someone.
Here’s a funny review by one Helen Andrews of Sydney, Australia in the Weekly Standard. (Shoutout to Chris McKenna who I guess reads The Weekly Standard?)
I think you’ll get more value for your book dollar in:
Bill Belichick’s IT guy. Lucky Coach says he is happy with Dan Famosi.
Another incredible title for a travel book. This one from the missionary Juan Crespí, who in 1769 took a walk from Baja California to San Francisco and back.
Really appreciate the translation with careful annotations by Alan K. Brown. Here’s Crespí on the origin of the name Carpinteria.
I wonder if he stopped to get a burger at The Spot.
My favorite part of the book so far though is this poem.
I found it a soothing pastime late one evening to make a map of Crepsí’s trip.
He must’ve seen some interesting stuff.
Much boring stuff as well:
That photo from the collection of Harry Crosby, who photo’g’d much of Crespí’s trail in Baja California.
Not to be confused with the other Harry Crosby:
But he yearned to escape the rigidity of everyday life in Boston. His experience in France made it unbearable to live among what he called “dreary, drearier, dreariest Boston” and to put up with “Boston virgins who are brought up among sexless surroundings, who wear canvas drawers and flat-heeled shoes.” He wanted to escape “the horrors of Boston and particularly of Boston virgins.” Any sense of propriety was wiped out by a lust for living in the moment, forgetting all risks and possible consequences.
The Fire Princess
On July 9, 1928, Crosby met 20-year-old Josephine Noyes Rotch, the daughter of Arthur and Helen Ludington Rotch in Boston. Ten years his junior, they met while she was shopping inVenice at the Lido for her wedding trousseau… “She was dark and intense… since the season of her coming out in 1926-7, she had been known around Boston as fast, a ‘bad egg’…with a good deal of sex appeal.”
They met for sex as often as her eight days in Venice would allow.
Fair’s where you kiss a pig and give it a blue ribbon.
Massachusetts alt version: fair’s where you go to see a giant pumpkin.