REVOLUTIONARY WAR JOURNAL.
"OUR PEOPLE BEHAVED WITH THE UTMOST BRAVERY."
Manuscript Journal of Timothy Newell, 22 pp recto and verso, 8vo (158 x 95 mm), [Boston], dated April 19, 1775 to March 16, 1776 but likely made in the days or weeks immediately after, with frequent insertions and amendments. Nearly unstitched, first and last leaves a little edgeworn affecting a few letters, fol 4 with a closed tear, generally very good.
THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR JOURNAL OF A BOSTON SELECTMAN COVERING THE COMPLETE PERIOD OF THE SIEGE OF BOSTON AND INCLUDING A DESCRIPTION OF THE BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL.
The Boston Board of Selectmen (usually 7 men) was the governing body of the town of Boston through the colonial period till 1822. Timothy Newell was Selectman for six years: in 1767 and 1768 at the time of the Townshend Acts and the first arrival of British troops; and also from 1772 to 1775, witnessing the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, the Intolerable Acts, etc. John Hancock was a fellow Selectman for all the years in which Newell served. Newell was also a deacon of Brattle Street Church. His entries appear to be written somewhat after the events and so consolidate information. Newell was a moderate. He remained in Boston and did not join the Provisional Congress at Lexington as Hancock and Samuel Adams did at this juncture. However, his journal does show the bias of a patriot, for example in exaggerating the disadvantage that Revolutionary troops ("our people") had at the Battle of Bunker Hill and in his mounting hostility towards General Gage and his men. Boston was the first city to experience action in the Revolutionary War and this account by a prominent citizen is an invaluable primary resource. A few excerpts are as follows. The complete transcriptnearly all of which relates specifically to the siege, cannonade, and skirmishes with the Provincials, and no other mattersis available on request.
APRIL 19, 1775: BATTLES OF LEXINGTON AND CONCORD, AND BOSTON IS UNDER SIEGE: "Last night the King's Troops marcht out from the Bottom of the common, crost over to Phip's farm marcht on till they came to Lexington where they fired and kill'd 8 of our people, and proceeded to Concord where they were sent to destroy magazines of Provisions and after doing some damage ... they halted and were soon attackt by our people, upon which they retreated ... upon their retreat they were found by a Brigade commanded by Lord Piercy who continued the retreat and were beat by our people from there down to Charlestown which fight was continued till Sunset. Our people behaved with the utmost bravery...."
JUNE 17, 1775: BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL: "The Provincials last night began an Entrenchment upon Charleston (Bunker) Hill before sunrise. Men of War & the Battery from Cops hill began a cannonade about two o'clock A.M. Genl Howe with [?] cannons and 3 Thou men landed on Charles point and marched up to the Redoubt after a great slaughter killed and wounded 112 officers...1325 of the Regulars and of the Provincials 50 killed 180 wounded ... The Garrison gave way. A constant fire from the Men of Wat &c all ye nights following."
JULY 20, 1775: NEAR-EXECUTION OF A SUPPOSED SPY BY THE BRITISH: "Mr. Carpenter was taken by the night patrole upon examination he had swam over to Dorchester and back again was tried here that day and sentence of death pronounced him and to be executed the next day. His coffin brought into the gaol yard, his hatter brought, and dressed as criminals are before execution. Sentence was appealed and few days after he was pardoned...."
AUGUST 1, 1775: THE FOOD SHORTAGE: "Very trying Scenes. This day was invited by two Gentlemen to dine upon Ratts."
OCTOBER-NOVEMBER 1775: THE FUEL SHORTAGE AND THE BRITISH DIGGING IN TO PREPARE FOR WINTER: "The spacious old So. Meeting House taken possession of by the Light Horse 17 Regmt ... The beautiful carved Pew with ye Silk furniture of Deacon Hubbards, was taken down and carried to [?] house by an Officer & made into a Hogg sty: the above was Effected by ye Solicitation of General Burgoyne" (October 25). "Many people turned out of their houses for the troops to enter. The keys of our meeting house cellar demanded of me by Major Sheriff, by order of General Howe. Houses, fences, trees are pulled down and carried off for fuel. My wharf and barn pulled down by order of General Revington..." (November 16).
FEBRUARY-MARCH 1776: GEORGE WASHINGTON AND HENRY KNOX'S FORTIFICATIONS ARE NEARLY COMPLETE: "From the accounts of Dr. Gilson and some other deserters from the continental army great preparations were making to attack the town, causing very alarming apprehensions and distress of the inhabitants..." (February 25). "The last night and this day the troops are very heavily employed in removing their stores and cannon, ammunition. Some of the dragoons on board...ship their goods. The selectmen write to the command officer in the earnest desire of the inhabitants and Roxbury by permission of General Howe... " (March 7).
MARCH 15-16, 1776: THE BRITISH RETREAT TO THE SEA: "The General sent to the selectmen and desired their immediate attendance which we did accordingly. It was to acquaint us that as he was about retreating from the town and it was his advice for all the inhabitants to keep in their houses and that his orders were to injure no person. He could not be answerable for any irregularities of his troops. The General told us that the Man of War would continue in the harbour loaded with Carcases & combustibles that in Case the King's Troops met with any Obstructions in their retreat; he should set fire to the Town ... that he thought it his duty to destroy much of the property in the town to prevent it being useful to the Rebel Army...."
References: Newell's journal was published by the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1852 and frequently cited thereafter. See, for example: Berger, Diary of America, 1957; Humphrey, Voices of Revolutionary America, 2011; Carr, After the Siege, 2005; Winsor, Memorial History of Boston, 1882; and more.
SOLD WITH: An oil painting attributed to Henry Sargent [American, 1770-1845], 16 by 12 inches, identified by his descendants as a portrait of Timothy Newell, with an old manuscript label on the verso.
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