J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

A James Wilson Memorial Award for Gen. Charles Lee

When I saw the movie musical 1776 during the Bicentennial, it left me with a strong impression of James Wilson. He was the Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress shown casting the decisive vote for independence. In the movie Wilson, played by Emory Bass, is a dithering, insecure man who finally chooses sides because he prefers to be in the crowd rather than be remembered for standing up to it.

In real life, Wilson was a highly respected Pennsylvania judge who in 1774 published an important pamphlet on the limits of Parliament’s authority over the colonies. In the Congress he advocated independence early on, withholding his vote only until he felt sure the people of Pennsylvania were behind it.

At the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Wilson was one of the leading theorists of government and a member of the committee of detail, which produced the first draft. After the federal government was in place, President George Washington nominated him to be one of the first Associate Justices of the Supreme Court.

None of those contributions to the country are in 1776. The movie Wilson is simply a pawn in the dramatic conflict between the hard-driving John Adams and the more reluctant revolutionary John Dickinson. I knew that the real Wilson wasn’t part of a singing chorus, of course, and that the conversations in the Congress didn’t proceed precisely as shown. But I didn’t expect the creators of 1776 would distort a historical figure so much.

How did Wilson become vulnerable to such distortion? He had stopped being a household name, even in Pennsylvania. That allowed the playwright Peter Stone to sacrifice Wilson’s real career for the cause of drama.

In the twenty-first century, the Revolutionary figure most deserving of a James Wilson Memorial Award for being misrepresented in historical drama seems to be Gen. Charles Lee. Versions of Lee are supporting characters in both the first two seasons of the television series Turn: Washington’s Spies and the Broadway musical Hamilton. But both stories bend the facts of Lee’s life.

Turn depicts Lee’s capture at the end of 1776, portraying him (played by Brian T. Finney) as caught during a sex game. That’s not so far off as there have been rumors that Lee was visiting a mistress at the New Jersey tavern where British dragoons found him.

In the second season Lee becomes a British secret agent, trying to throw the Battle of Monmouth. Again, there’s a historical inspiration for that plot twist—the captive general did offer Gen. Sir William Howe ideas on how to defeat the colonists—but Lee never tried to undermine the Americans as Turn shows. Instead, as the book discussed yesterday argues, he performed well on the battlefield, causing trouble off of it, mostly for himself.

Even so, that depiction of Lee as a treacherous villain is nothing compared to how he appears as an incompetent buffoon in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. That show features the duel between Lee and Col. John Laurens, with Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton as their seconds. (Burr gets inserted into a number of events to increase dramatic unity.) That scene serves to set up the duel everyone knows is coming at the end.

In the play Hamilton refers to Lee as a Virginian, classifying him with his adversaries Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. While Lee did buy land on the Virginian frontier in 1775, he was English by birth and upbringing.

In the musical number “Stay Alive,” Hamilton complains of Washington, “Instead of me, he promotes Charles Lee, makes him second-in-command.” To which Lee, most often played by Jon Rua, memorably responds, “I’m a general. Whee!

Lee could have responded that the Continental Congress had made him its third-ranking general in June 1775, when Hamilton was still a private in his college militia company. The next spring, with Artemas Ward staying in Massachusetts, Lee became second-in-command. He and Hamilton were never up for the same job.

Later, Hamilton asks, “How many died because Lee was inexperienced and ruinous?"

Lee was the Continental general with the widest military experience when the war began. He had been a professional soldier since his teens and actually studied military science. He had fought in major campaigns and sieges, in the American wilderness and on European plains. Americans were delighted that Lee brought all that experience to their army.

As with Judge Wilson, not many people know about Gen. Lee these days. That’s left dramatists free to reshape the details of his career to serve their stories. Given Hamilton’s popularity, a generation of young people is being introduced to Charles Lee as an inexperienced rival to Hamilton from Virginia.

The irony is that there’s no need to change anything about Charles Lee to create drama. He was drama on horseback, roving restlessly through the nascent U.S. of A. with his Italian manservant and his portable Shakespeare and his dogs. The man was a larger-than-life character: smart, slovenly, hot-tempered, witty, eccentric, and self-defeating. Someday I hope we’ll see a more accurate representation of Lee, writing political pamphlets and military plans and indiscreet letters, Washington’s most experienced officer and his biggest headache. Now that would be a show.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Charles Lee on a Fatal Sunday

Mount Vernon just shared an interview with Mark Edward Lender and Garry Wheeler Stone about their recently published book, Fatal Sunday: George Washington, the Monmouth Campaign, and the Politics of Battle.

Here’s the authors’ positive appraisal of how Gen. Charles Lee behaved as a battlefield commander on 28 June 1778:
Charles Lee had a difficult assignment. He had to lead a vanguard of some 3,500 to 4,000 men of mixed commands, led by officers he didn’t know, into terrain he didn’t know, against an enemy whose strength and intentions were unknown. He had to do this in the face of conflicting intelligence reports and without adequate cavalry or other scouting capabilities.

Nevertheless Lee executed a nearly perfect movement to contact, quickly assessed the enemy situation, and formulated a reasonable plan to cut off what he thought was a relatively small British rear guard. It would have been exactly the limited blow and victory [George] Washington had in mind. When faced with an overwhelming British counter-attack, and an unauthorized retreat by a sizable part of his command, Lee pulled back in fairly good order, looking for a place to make a stand until Washington brought up the main army.

When he met the commander-in-chief—and the two generals had their famous contretemps—Lee in fact was headed for the very ground on which Washington organized the main American line. Lee then fought an admirable delaying action at the Hedgerow, buying the time Washington needed to form the main army. Charles Lee certainly made some mistakes—lots of officers did that day—but all in all he fought a good battle at Monmouth.
Of course, after quarreling with Washington, Lee demanded a public vindication which took the form of a court-martial. He thus destroyed his American career, turning a battlefield draw into a permanent defeat as surely as Washington had turned it into a victory.

TOMORROW: Charles Lee in the 21st century.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Celebrating the National Park Service Centennial

On 25 August the National Park Service is celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the law that founded the agency. Parks are charging no fees on 25-28 August. In addition, many N.P.S. sites have special events planned.

Not all those events relate to the Revolutionary period, even in greater Boston. Boston National Historical Park, for instance, is focusing on World War II. But here’s a selection that fit our period:

Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters, Cambridge—
In addition to family activities, a teddy bear tea, a 1916 jazz concert, a poetry slam, and a teen centennial celebration on different days, the site will host a showing of the movie 1776 on the evening of Saturday, 27 August. This musical was part of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s inspiration for Hamilton; his book even quotes a line from its opening number. The showing will be outside after sunset, so hope that day’s weather is like Philadelphia in the summer of 1776: no rain and warm.

Minute Man National Historical Park
At the visitor center near the Lexington-Lincoln border, activities scheduled all weekend include “Junior Ranger Centennial Activity Books.” There will also be a Battle Road Trail Walk starting at the visitor center at 12:30 P.M. on Saturday; “Bring plenty of water and wear comfortable shoes!” And there will be cake.

At the North Bridge in Concord, on Saturday at 2:30, there will be a presentation on “Sculpting an American Icon: Daniel Chester French and the Minute Man” by Donna Hassler of Chesterwood and David Wood of the Concord Museum. Rep. Niki Tsongas, N.P.S. Deputy Regional Director Rose Fennell, park superintendent Nancy Nelson, and local officials will also speak. And there will be cake.

On Sunday, the world-famous Middlesex County Volunteers Fife & Drum Corps will perform at the North Bridge at 11:00 A.M. No cake promised.

Adams National Historical Park, Quincy
On Thursday from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. the park will host visits from a young John Adams (as portrayed by Michael Lepage) and a matriarchal Abigail Adams (Patricia Bridgman), as well as John Quincy Adams (Jim Cooke) and his wife Louisa Catherine Adams (Judy Bernstein, 1:00-2:00 only).

For more details on each of these events and others, please visit the N.P.S.’s own websites.

Finally, Oxford University Press is honoring the Park Service by launching a webpage that “has brought together, and made freely available, some of its best online, scholarly content related to the National Park Service.” I can’t say I’m impressed with the range of resources so far, but I found the O.D.N.B. biography of Lord George Germain.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Jackson on Calhoun and Clay

One Presidential candidate’s recent suggestion of a “Second Amendment” response to losing the election prompted a Twitter discussion of Presidents threatening violence to their opponents. I noted the precedent of a reported remark from Andrew Jackson: “My only regrets are that I never shot Henry Clay or hanged John C. Calhoun.”

And then I realized that I was repeating a story without checking its sources, something I chide others for doing when it comes to the Revolutionary period. The Jackson administration is well past the period I research, to be sure. But as a teenager he did fight in the Revolutionary War, as shown in the print above. So I figured I could stretch a little.

The anecdote about Jackson’s regrets is quite widespread. Robert V. Remini, the leading Jackson biographer of our time, cites the story in his biography of Henry Clay. Harry Truman told it multiple times, including at a public dinner in 1951.

On the other hand, I found that authors split on when Jackson made that remark. Some say he said it on leaving the White House in 1837. Others date the statement to Jackson’s final illness in 1845. So that’s a red flag.

The earliest recounting of the remark that I could find through Google Books is an address titled “Precedents of Ex-Presidents,” delivered to the Nebraska Bar Association by George Whitelock in 1911. He said, “Old Hickory had had his drastic way, except, as he sadly lamented when departing for the Hermitage near Nashville, old, ill and in debt, that he had never got a chance to shoot Henry Clay, or to hang John C. Calhoun.” It’s notable that that’s not a direct quotation, just an expression of sentiment.

And there are some fairly authoritative sources for Jackson’s sentiment as far as Calhoun is concerned. James Parton’s three-volume biography of Jackson, published in 1860, includes this passage:
The old Jackson men of the inner set still speak of Mr. Calhoun in terms which show that they consider him at once the most wicked and the most despicable of American statesmen. He was a coward, conspirator, hypocrite, traitor, and fool, say they. He strove, schemed, dreamed, lived, only for the presidency; and when he despaired of reaching that office by honorable means, he sought to rise upon the ruins of his country—thinking it better to reign in South Carolina than to serve in the United States. General Jackson lived and died in this opinion. In his last sickness he declared that, in reflecting upon his administration, he chiefly regretted that he had not had John C. Calhoun executed for treason. “My country,” said the General, “would have sustained me in the act, and his fate would have been a warning to traitors in all time to come.”
In 1886 the journalist Benjamin Perley Poore published Perley’s Reminiscences of Sixty Years in the National Metropolis. Now Poore started counting those sixty years from his first visit to Washington, D.C., as a six-year-old. He didn’t enter journalism until after the Jackson administration. Nonetheless, he was a nationally known correspondent and Washington insider; indeed, Poore founded the Gridiron Club. So his stories carried weight.

Like Parton, Poore presented Jackson’s extreme dislike of Calhoun as a matter of hanging:
During the last days of General Jackson at the Hermitage, while slowly sinking under the ravages of consumption, he was one day speaking of his Administration, and with glowing interest he inquired of his physician:

“What act in my Administration, in your opinion, will posterity condemn with the greatest severity?”

The physician replied that he was unable to answer, that it might be the removal of the deposits.

“Oh! no,” said the General.

“Then it may be the specie circular?”

“Not at all!”

“What is it, then?”

“I can tell you,” said Jackson, rising in his bed, his eyes kindling up—“I can tell you; posterity will condemn me more because I was persuaded not to hang John C. Calhoun as a traitor than for any other act in my life.”

This was in accord with an earlier answer made by “Old Hickory,” before he had so far succumbed to disease and prior to his union with the Presbyterian Church. When his old friend and physician, Dr. Edgar, then asked him, “What would you have done with Calhoun and the other nullifiers, if they had kept on?”

“Hung them, sir, as high as Haman!” was his emphatic reply.
John Todd Edgar—a doctor of theology, not of medicine—had also been a source for Parton. He converted Jackson to Presbyterianism near the end of his life, though only after some brinksmanship involving an unbaptized child. So it looks like we’re on solid ground to say that Edgar, who was close to Jackson in his last years, told the story of the former President expressing regret for not having hanged Calhoun as a traitor.

That said, Parton’s 1860 Life of Andrew Jackson also includes this statement about the President’s departure from the White House:
It appears to rest upon good testimony that, during his stay at Cincinnati, he expressed regret at having become estranged from Henry Clay. Clay and himself, he said, ought to have been friends, and would have been, but for the slander and cowardice of an individual whom he denominated “that Pennsylvania reptile,” and whom he said he would have “crushed,” if friends had not interceded in his behalf.
For this information Parton cited, “N. Y. Evening Post, March 21st, 1859. Communication.” (I haven’t had a view at that newspaper for any more clues.)

So the part of the famous anecdote that involves shooting Clay not only doesn’t appear to have nineteenth-century backing, but there’s actually evidence that Jackson’s major regret toward Clay was not being friends.

On the other hand, we seem to be on fairly safe ground in saying that Andrew Jackson felt John C. Calhoun deserved to hang. So much so that none of the anecdotes portrays him as wanting to put Calhoun on trial first.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Finding Stuff on Boston 1775

As Boston 1775 has grown to contain so many stories and articles, it’s become harder to find postings about particular topics simply by glancing around the front page. So here are some tips for more efficient searching.

Instructions for that task are complicated by how Blogger websites can appear differently on small mobile devices, and sometimes in different browser programs. So these tips are based on the standard desktop version of the site.

1) Use your browser program’s function for finding text on the current webpage (usually “Find”) to search for the name of a person, place, battle or other event, or for a broad topic like “riots” or “animals.” If I’ve used that name or phrase as a label on Boston 1775, your browser will highlight that label in the column on the right side of the page. Then you can see how many postings I’ve tagged with that label—a number that might seem manageable or daunting.

2) At the upper left of the screen, next to Blogger’s trademark orange B, is the service’s own search box. Enter a word or phrase there, and the service will search Boston 1775 for any posting with that text. Put quotation marks around a phrase if you want to narrow down the search. The top results will be posts with the text in their titles, followed by posts with the words in their interiors.

3) Go to Google (Blogger’s parent company) and use its search function. Type “site:boston1775.blogspot.com” and the words you want to search for to restrict the results to Boston 1775 postings. This method could be especially useful if you’re seeking a particular quotation (put a distinctive phrase in quotation marks) or you want to narrow down the many Boston 1775 posts on, say, John Adams to only those about John Adams and pudding. (Avoid searching for phrases that are already labels in the right-hand column; since they appear on every blog page, that won’t narrow down anything.) Due to how Blogger/Google archives blogs, the results take two forms: links to specific postings or links to months in which those postings appear.

4) If you end up with a Boston 1775 page that contains many postings, go back to your browser program’s command for finding text on the current webpage (“Find”). Use that to quickly move through the postings to what you want.

Be aware that eighteenth-century spelling was very variable, even for proper names. Transcriptions can also vary, and nineteenth-century books often cleaned up the spelling and grammar of a Revolutionary text. I try to quote sources exactly, strange spellings and all, which affects what text a search will find. Also, people often shared the same names, so postings labeled with, say, “Josiah Quincy” might refer to multiple separate people.

Finally, I hope you have enough time to enjoy the search and check out cross-references. I think of Revolutionary New England as a vast network of relationships. It’s usually eye-opening to follow threads branching off from my initial topic to see who and what else is connected.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

“A British grenadier made prisoner”

In his History of the Rise, Progress, and Establishment, of the Independence of the United States of America, in a section dated to late 1776, the Rev. William Gordon included this anecdote of the war:
It happened, that a garden of a widow woman, which lay between the two camps, was robbed at night. Her son, a mere boy and little of his age, asked leave for finding out and securing the pilferer, in case he should return; which being granted, he concealed himself with a gun among the weeds.

A British grenadier, a strapping highlander, came and filled his large bag; when he had it on his shoulder, the boy left his covers came softly behind him, cocked his gun, and called out to the fellow, “You are my prisoner; if you attempt to throw your bag down I will shoot you dead: go forward in that road.” The boy kept close to him, threatened, and was alway prepared to execute his threatening. Thus the boy drove him into the American camp, where he was secured.

When the grenadier was at liberty to throw down his bag, and saw who had made him prisoner, he was most horridly mortified, and exclaimed—“A British grenadier made prisoner by such a d——d brat—by such a d——d brat.”

The American officers were highly entertained with the adventure; made a collection for the boy, and gave him some pounds. He returned fully satisfied with the losses his mother had sustained.

The soldier had side arms, but they were of no use, as he could not get rid of his bag.
In a footnote Gordon added, “Mr. Vanbrugh Livingston of New York told me, he had this from major Ross of Lancaster in Pennsylvania, who saw the soldier brought in.” That was presumably James Ross (1753-1808), son of Declaration of Independence signer George Ross.

Friday, August 19, 2016

An Impressive Reenactment in Newport, 27 August

Next Saturday, 27 August, the Newport Historical Society is sponsoring another of its fine large-scale reenactments in the center of town: “Naval Impressment: A 1765 Reenactment in Colonial Newport.”

The society explains:
On the afternoon of August 27, 2016, visitors to downtown Newport’s Washington Square, Perotti Park and the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House can “step back in time” to the summer of 1765. From 1pm-4pm, the Newport Historical Society will host a large scale living history event with dozens of costumed interpreters who will recreate a naval press gang incident.

In June 1765, members of the Royal Navy from HMS Maidstone impressed sailors into service from the area that is today Washington Square. In reaction to this incident, citizens stole Maidstone’s longboat which they set on fire. This negative treatment is one incident that prompted many men to participate in the Stamp Act riots in August 1765.
Rhode Islanders would go on to destroy the Customs ship Liberty in 1769 and H.M.S. Gaspee in 1772. (In contrast, Bostonians destroyed Customs Commissioner Joseph Harrison’s personal boat in 1768 and of course those shiploads of tea in 1773 and 1774. So why did the Crown focus so much of its attention on Boston? I get the feeling the ministers in London already knew Rhode Island was ungovernable.)

There will be three distinct areas of reenactment which the public can watch:
  • At Perotti Park (39 America’s Cup Avenue), interpreters will represent life in the Royal Navy as “impressed sailors” train and discuss life at sea. Visitors can also view a reproduction eighteenth-century boat moored in the harbor.
  • At the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House (17 Broadway), interpreters portraying middle- and upper-class residents will discuss the views on the naval incident and how the loss of sailors impacts their personal economic stance.
  • And Washington Square will be occupied with reenactors portraying many aspects of eighteenth-century daily life including a fish market, a merchant captain, tavern life, a sailmaker, printer, and much more.
There will also be children’s activities and a “family scavenger hunt.”

These activities take place out in Newport’s streets and parks. They are therefore free to all, with the reenactors being hard-working volunteers. Some costs of the event will be defrayed by selling handmade clay tankards which visitors can fill with apple cider at each site. Those tankards cost $25; they can be ordered in advance by calling the Brick Market: Museum & Shop at 401-841-8770 or bought there on the day of the program.

In addition, on 27 August the Newport Restoration Foundation will offer free tours of the William Vernon House, which served as General Rochambeau’s headquarters during the French occupation of the town in 1780-1781. It’s now a private residence, making this thirty-minute tour a rare opportunity to see the interior architectural craftsmanship and and eighteenth-century Chinoiserie parlor panels.

Those tours will run from 11:00 A.M. to 12:30 P.M., starting every half-hour. Tickets are free but must be ordered in advance online or by email to Liz@newportrestoration.org.

To read up on the history behind the Maidstone conflict, visit Timothy Abbott’s “Another Pair Not Fellows” blog. He has a four-part discussion of naval impressment in the eighteenth century starting here, as well as a look at the work behind creating a Royal Navy uniform for the young midshipman in charge of recruiting sailors by any means necessary.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

“Five thousand acres of land from Government”

As I described yesterday, the war separated Thomas and Eunice Hazard of Newport, Rhode Island for more than three years, starting when he left the town with the British military in late 1779.

Thomas had to leave since he was an active Loyalist—raiding New England shores for livestock before the British evacuation, spying on Newport’s defenses and commanding an outpost on Long Island afterward.

But with the end of the war in 1783, Thomas Hazard decided to come back to his home state. The Rhode Island Assembly had assigned Eunice his estate (at least, the part not taken to pay debts). What’s more, his older brother Jonathan J. Hazard, who had supported the Continental cause, was an influential member of that legislature.

I’ve found a couple of accounts of how Rhode Islanders received Thomas Hazard. Based on family tradition, his grandson Wilkins Updike wrote in his History of the Episcopal Church, in Naragansett, Rhode-Island (1847):
After the war, Mr. Hazard returned to this State, and the General Assembly, through the influence of his brother, Jonathan J. Hazard, a leading Whig, were inclined to restore his estates if a satisfactory submission should be made. This he indignantly refused, and the confiscation was consummated.
A couple of years ago the Loyalist Trails newsletter drew on Hazard’s own contemporaneous correspondence to provide this account:
Having successfully settled his financial matters in Martha’s Vineyard, Thomas Hazard returned to his Rhode Island home. He anchored his schooner in a convenient harbour and went ashore to see his family. Rebels arrested him, and imprisoned him for five days. They confiscated his vessel and seized all of its contents. The rebels then threatened to execute Hazard unless he paid “the most extravagant charges” to let him go. Ransoming himself, the loyalist was told never to return to Rhode Island “upon pain of death”. Hazard was furious. He concluded his letter to [Gen. Sir Guy] Carleton by saying “if the friends to Government are to be treated in this manner and no notice taken of it, I should be glad to know how to conduct myself for the future.”
Hazard’s attempt to get Carleton to restart the war on his behalf didn’t work.

His Loyalism reinvigorated, Thomas Hazard sailed to England in 1785 and petitioned the Crown for a reward. He received a large land grant in the new colony on St. John’s, now Prince Edward Island. In 1786 he summoned Eunice and his children to come settle with him there.

The three surviving children of Thomas’s first marriage had married in Rhode Island, however. He wrote to his daughter Abigail Watson, inviting her to emigrate:
I have got five thousand acres of land from Government, and am to settle it in one year, or give up that which will not be settled on. I have for you, if your husband will come and settle on it, five hundred acres of good land that lies on a harbor, where you can catch plenty of all kinds of fish, and there is good timber and hay on it; if you do not come or send and settle on it this summer, you cannot have it in the same place.
Neither Abigail nor her full siblings took up that offer to resettle in Canada.

Eunice made the move with her children, their ages then ranging from early twentysomething to preteen. That branch of the family changed the spelling of their surname to Haszard (which Thomas might have used previously). Reunited as a couple, Thomas Haszard died in April 1804 and Eunice five years later.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

“Left her three years ago in a condition almost helpless”

Yesterday we left Eunice Hazard and her children in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1779 after her husband Thomas evacuated the town with the British military.

In February 1782 she described her situation in a petition to the Rhode Island Assembly:
that she is the wife of Thomas Hazard, late of Narragansett, now a refugee in New York; that the said Thomas Hazard left her three years ago in a condition almost helpless, with seven young children, one of them at the breast, and the rest unable to subsist themselves; and that from that time to this, she has encountered many difficulties in bringing up and supporting the said children, and hath at length exhausted all the resources in her power, and expended not only what remained in her hands of her said husband’s effects, but also nearly the whole of what came to her particular use from the estate of her late honored father; and thereupon she prayed this Assembly to take her unhappy case under consideration, and extend unto her and her children such grace and favor as may seem meet, and in particular to grant her that house and lot of land lying in Newport, which was her said husband’s late estate…
Eunice was a genteel descendant of Rhode Island founder Roger Williams, so she commanded sympathy. Pending their final decision, the legislature ordered the official managing the Hazard estate to give her the current year’s rent.

That vote was striking since the state had decreed in July 1780 that Thomas Hazard had “joined the enemy.” Which he had. He had supported the British army during the occupation of Newport by raiding the New England coast for livestock.

Furthermore, in that same month of July 1780, as Christian M. McBurney reveals in Spies in Revolutionary Rhode Island, Hazard had landed back in Rhode Island to gather information on the newly arrived French fleet. After four days stranded behind enemy lines, Hazard escaped back to New York. He then drew a map of the French warships and land defenses that survives in Gen. Sir Henry Clinton’s papers.

In September 1780, Hazard was setting up a military unit at Manor St. George on Long Island. Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge, Continental dragoons officer and spy manager, raided that site in November. The Americans carried off at least one of Hazard’s soldiers—a black man named Misick Parlay.

Despite her husband’s work, in November 1782 the Rhode Island Assembly decided that Eunice Hazard could have his property. But only that part remaining after some was “surrendered to the creditors of the said Thomas Hazard.” And only after she paid the state for “a debt due from the said estate to Martin Howard, Jr.,” apparently the same man who had been colony’s stamp agent in 1765.

Several months later, the war ended. And Thomas Hazard decided to return to his family.

TOMORROW: So how did that go?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Hazards of Thomas Hazard

Thomas Hazard was born 22 Feb 1727 on the west side of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay. He was the descendant of a man of the same name who had come to Boston in the 1630s Puritan migration, then helped to found Newport in 1639.

Hazard inherited a large farm in an area of Kingstown called “Boston Neck.” (Why Rhode Islanders called the western side of Narragansett Bay “Boston Neck” I don’t know, but it’s very confusing.) But Hazard was more interested in the mercantile trade.

About the time he turned twenty, Hazard married Mary Bowdoin. Her grandfather was a Huguenot emigré to Maine; her father moved to Virginia while her uncle James settled in Boston. Mary Hazard was thus a cousin to the James Bowdoin who helped to lead the Boston Whigs and later became governor of Massachusetts.

By marrying a Virginia woman, Thomas Hazard became known as “Virginia Tom,” which distinguished him from his cousin “College Tom” and several other Thomas Hazards living in Rhode Island at the time. The Puritans and their descendants tended to keep reusing the same names.

Thomas and Mary Hazard had nine children, but only three survived to adulthood. The youngest was born Susannah in 1758. When she was a little over a year old, her four-year-old sister Mary died. Susannah was then renamed Mary after her sister and mother, who died in early 1760. Like I said, reusing the same names.

In 1761 Thomas Hazard married nineteen-year-old Eunice Rhodes, a descendant of Rhode Island’s founder, Roger Williams. The next year, she bore her first child. Thomas and Eunice had eight children in all, and seven grew to adulthood. By the last two the family had apparently run out of family first names and had to reuse the surnames of Thomas Hazard’s two wives, Bowdoin and Rhodes.

In 1760, Thomas Hazard and Henry Wall had financed a privateer (possibly the Success, captained by Abel Mincheson) to fight in the Seven Years’ War. It captured a French ship, burdening the investors with “eleven Frenchmen” as prisoners of war. Hazard and Wall secured permission from the Rhode Island Assembly to exchange those men in the Caribbean for “so many English prisoners to be brought back into Newport as the vessel will carry.”

When the Revolutionary War began, Rhode Island was split in two. The British seized Aquidneck Island in December 1776. The rest of the state remained independent. Thomas and Eunice Hazard were in occupied Newport along with their children, ranging from two twentysomethings from Thomas’s first marriage to little Rhodes, born in September 1777.

Soon, as Christian M. McBurney describes in Spies in Revolutionary Rhode Island, Thomas Hazard was participating in raids on the New England coast to collect meat for the Newport garrison. With “sixteen Refugees” he first “brought off a flock of sheep,” outracing ”two privateers” to get back into harbor.

Hazard then signed up under George Leonard, a Plymouth Loyalist who had been one of Lt. Col. Francis Smith’s guides out to Concord on 18-19 Apr 1775. Leonard was organizing Newport Loyalists into military units for both naval and land operations.

Working under Leonard’s command in May 1779, Hazard reported, “We went by my advice to Point Judith and brought off eleven hundred sheep (one hundred of which was my own property). Also brought off sixty head of cattle.” On another they “took a Rebel guard of sixteen men and some inhabitants,” though at the cost of “a Negro man (his property).” Then Hazard “bought a share in an armed vessel” for more raids and scouting missions.

Then the British military pulled out of Newport in October 1779. Hazard sailed with them to New York, leaving Eunice and the children behind.

TOMORROW: Can this marriage be saved?

(Map of Narragansett Bay from 1777 courtesy of Graham Arader.)