Boston

Founded in 1630, Boston developed into the center of English emigration to New England. By the turn of the 18th century, it was the largest city in British North America. Situated on a narrow peninsula surrounded by water, Boston’s size was limited, which made maritime trade central to its economy. Although resistance to British imperial policy was not limited to Boston, the city was a center of colonial political agitation. In December of 1773, Bostonians protested parliamentary measures by destroying shiploads of imported tea, later dubbed the “Boston Tea Party.” In response, the British issued the Port Act and shut down the port of Boston, which had immediate and dire effects on the city’s livelihood.

When General Thomas Gage was appointed as governor of Massachusetts and relocated to Boston, the city became the headquarters of the British military in America. Colonists began preparing for war in the surrounding countryside. Active hostilities began on April 19, 1775, when British troops were ordered to destroy military supplies in Concord, 18 miles northwest of Boston. Massachusetts forces responded and chased the British troops back to Boston, where they were easily isolated thanks to the city’s geography. American forces encircled Boston, confining the British to the city, but the Royal Navy was still able to resupply them by sea. The Americans lacked the artillery needed to bombard Boston and force the British to evacuate. This changed when Henry Knox arrived in January of 1776 with 58 guns, the majority taken from Ticonderoga and Crown Point. With the city in the range of the new American artillery, the British finally evacuated Boston on March 17, 1776.

While the war’s active front largely moved away from Boston after the evacuation, the city’s size and strategic position continued to make it an important location. The Continental Army’s Eastern Department, covering most of New England, was headquartered there. Privateers and Continental Navy vessels embarked from the port, including the largest American fleet assembled during the war, which set sail in 1779. After entering the war in 1778, the French Navy made use of Boston’s harbor and in 1782, the Comte de Rochambeau’s French army departed North America from Boston.

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Founded in 1630, Boston developed into the center of English emigration to New England. By the turn of the 18th century, it was the largest city in British North America. Situated on a narrow peninsula surrounded by water, Boston’s size was limited, which made maritime trade central to its economy. Although resistance to British imperial policy was not limited to Boston, the city was a center of colonial political agitation. In December of 1773, Bostonians protested parliamentary measures by destroying shiploads of imported tea, later dubbed the “Boston Tea Party.” In response, the British issued the Port Act and shut down the port of Boston, which had immediate and dire effects on the city’s livelihood.When General Thomas Gage was appointed as governor of Massachusetts and relocated to Boston, the city became the headquarters of the British military in America. Colonists began preparing for war in the surrounding countryside. Active hostilities began on April 19, 1775, when British troops were ordered to destroy military supplies in Concord, 18 miles northwest of Boston. Massachusetts forces responded and chased the British troops back to Boston, where they were easily isolated thanks to the city’s geography. American forces encircled Boston, confining the British to the city, but the Royal Navy was still able to resupply them by sea. The Americans lacked the artillery needed to bombard Boston and force the British to evacuate. This changed when Henry Knox arrived in January of 1776 with 58 guns, the majority taken from Ticonderoga and Crown Point. With the city in the range of the new American artillery, the British finally evacuated Boston on March 17, 1776.

While the war’s active front largely moved away from Boston after the evacuation, the city’s size and strategic position continued to make it an important location. The Continental Army’s Eastern Department, covering most of New England, was headquartered there. Privateers and Continental Navy vessels embarked from the port, including the largest American fleet assembled during the war, which set sail in 1779. After entering the war in 1778, the French Navy made use of Boston’s harbor and in 1782, the Comte de Rochambeau’s French army departed North America from Boston.

Objects in the Boston case

British Troops in Boston

After the Boston “massacre” in 1770, British troops were removed from the agitated city, and the small British military presence was confined to Castle William on Castle Island (now attached to the mainland of South Boston). New troops began arriving in the spring of 1774 with the return of General Thomas Gage, who now jointly held the positions of commander in chief for North America and governor of Massachusetts. Throughout 1774 and 1775, additional troops arrived to bolster the army as tensions rose, and continued arriving after the opening shots of the war were fired on April 19, 1775.

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After the Boston “massacre” in 1770, British troops were removed from the agitated city, and the small British military presence was confined to Castle William on Castle Island (now attached to the mainland of South Boston). New troops began arriving in the spring of 1774 with the return of General Thomas Gage, who now jointly held the positions of commander in chief for North America and governor of Massachusetts. Throughout 1774 and 1775, additional troops arrived to bolster the army as tensions rose, and continued arriving after the opening shots of the war were fired on April 19, 1775.

Officer’s Belt Plate, 5th Regiment of Foot

The 5th Regiment arrived in Boston in 1774 along with British General Thomas Gage and remained until the British evacuated the city in March of 1776. The light infantry and grenadiers of the regiment were part of the expedition to Concord on April 19, 1775 where the Revolutionary War began. The regiment also fought at Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775. This officer’s silver belt plate bears London hallmarks from the following year, 1776, along with the regiment’s distinctive badge, St. George slaying the dragon.

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The 5th Regiment arrived in Boston in 1774 along with British General Thomas Gage and remained until the British evacuated the city in March of 1776. The light infantry and grenadiers of the regiment were part of the expedition to Concord on April 19, 1775 where the Revolutionary War began. The regiment also fought at Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775. This officer’s silver belt plate bears London hallmarks from the following year, 1776, along with the regiment’s distinctive badge, St. George slaying the dragon.

Infantry Hanger, 23rd Regiment of Foot

This short sword, or hanger, was specifically made for the 23rd Regiment of Foot, the Royal Welch Fusiliers. As one of the army’s three fusilier regiments, they had a somewhat higher status than the ordinary regiments of the army and wore special insignia. Their distinctive emblem was the three feathers of the Prince of Wales, which appeared prominently on their buttons, badges, caps, and the hilts of their swords. The pattern of this sword probably dates to the late 1750s, when all ranks carried swords. Some soldiers, such as drummers and grenadiers, retained swords through the time of the American Revolution. The 23rd arrived in Boston from New York in 1774. The flank companies served at Lexington and Concord, as well as at Bunker Hill, where they suffered high casualties.

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This short sword, or hanger, was specifically made for the 23rd Regiment of Foot, the Royal Welch Fusiliers. As one of the army’s three fusilier regiments, they had a somewhat higher status than the ordinary regiments of the army and wore special insignia. Their distinctive emblem was the three feathers of the Prince of Wales, which appeared prominently on their buttons, badges, caps, and the hilts of their swords. The pattern of this sword probably dates to the late 1750s, when all ranks carried swords. Some soldiers, such as drummers and grenadiers, retained swords through the time of the American Revolution. The 23rd arrived in Boston from New York in 1774. The flank companies served at Lexington and Concord, as well as at Bunker Hill, where they suffered high casualties.

Long Land Service Musket, 63rd Regiment of Foot

British troops continued to arrive in Boston in response to General Thomas Gage’s demands for more men to suppress the rebellion. The 63rd Regiment of Foot was one of these later reinforcements. As such, they missed Lexington and Concord, but arrived just in time to be ferried from Boston to reinforce the British troops late in the Battle of Bunker Hill. The regiment continued to serve through the rest of the Revolutionary War in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

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British troops continued to arrive in Boston in response to General Thomas Gage’s demands for more men to suppress the rebellion. The 63rd Regiment of Foot was one of these later reinforcements. As such, they missed Lexington and Concord, but arrived just in time to be ferried from Boston to reinforce the British troops late in the Battle of Bunker Hill. The regiment continued to serve through the rest of the Revolutionary War in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

Sergeant’s Halberd, 45th Regiment of Foot

This intimidating weapon is known as a halberd. By the time of the revolution it was only used by sergeants in the British Army. The height and distinctive shape of halberds made them instantly recognizable to soldiers and officers. Like other pieces of military equipment, they were often marked to ensure equipment was properly maintained and accounted for. This particular halberd is marked to the 45th Regiment of Foot. In America many halberds were replaced by firearms such as light muskets or carbines, although some regiments did not turn in their halberds until as late as 1777.

The 45th Regiment was one of those that arrived in Boston in 1775, after Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill. The regiment fought at New York in 1776, where it remained until being “drafted” in 1778. At that time, soldiers of the 45th were sent to other regiments to bring them up to strength, and the regiment’s officers and sergeants went back to Britain to recruit new men.

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This intimidating weapon is known as a halberd. By the time of the revolution it was only used by sergeants in the British Army. The height and distinctive shape of halberds made them instantly recognizable to soldiers and officers. Like other pieces of military equipment, they were often marked to ensure equipment was properly maintained and accounted for. This particular halberd is marked to the 45th Regiment of Foot. In America many halberds were replaced by firearms such as light muskets or carbines, although some regiments did not turn in their halberds until as late as 1777.

The 45th Regiment was one of those that arrived in Boston in 1775, after Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill. The regiment fought at New York in 1776, where it remained until being “drafted” in 1778. At that time, soldiers of the 45th were sent to other regiments to bring them up to strength, and the regiment’s officers and sergeants went back to Britain to recruit new men.

Silhouette portrait of Isaac Bissell

After British troops exchanged shots with the Massachusetts militia at Lexington on April 19, 1775, the Massachusetts Committee of Safety tasked Isaac Bissell (sometimes mis-identified as Israel) with spreading news of the battle as far as the colony of Connecticut. Leaving around 10am, Bissell rode hard from Watertown to Worcester, raising the alarm the entire way, and then ultimately to Hartford, Connecticut, arriving by the 20th. Four thousand Connecticut men were on the march within days of the news.

Bissell sat for this silhouette portrait years after the Revolution in Charles Willson Peale’s Philadelphia Museum. It was made using a unique machine known as a physiognotrace, where the motion of a stylus tracing the silhouette was transmitted to another pencil on paper. The drawn shape was then cut out of paper, backed with black to highlight the color, and embossed with the words “Peale’s Museum.” From 1802 to 1823, such silhouettes at the museum were cut by a free Black man named Moses Williams.

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After British troops exchanged shots with the Massachusetts militia at Lexington on April 19, 1775, the Massachusetts Committee of Safety tasked Isaac Bissell (sometimes mis-identified as Israel) with spreading news of the battle as far as the colony of Connecticut. Leaving around 10am, Bissell rode hard from Watertown to Worcester, raising the alarm the entire way, and then ultimately to Hartford, Connecticut, arriving by the 20th. Four thousand Connecticut men were on the march within days of the news.

Bissell sat for this silhouette portrait years after the Revolution in Charles Willson Peale’s Philadelphia Museum. It was made using a unique machine known as a physiognotrace, where the motion of a stylus tracing the silhouette was transmitted to another pencil on paper. The drawn shape was then cut out of paper, backed with black to highlight the color, and embossed with the words “Peale’s Museum.” From 1802 to 1823, such silhouettes at the museum were cut by a free Black man named Moses Williams.

Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775

In the early morning of June 17, 1775, American troops occupied Breed’s Hill near Charlestown, Massachusetts, across the harbor from and within range of Boston. They quickly threw up an earthwork to defend their position. The British prepared to evict the Americans, burning nearby Charlestown and deploying thousands of troops to storm the hill. The resulting frontal assaults by the British were successful, forcing the Americans to pull back from the Charlestown Peninsula, but resulted in such staggering casualties that the battle was, and is still, seen as an American victory.

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In the early morning of June 17, 1775, American troops occupied Breed’s Hill near Charlestown, Massachusetts, across the harbor from and within range of Boston. They quickly threw up an earthwork to defend their position. The British prepared to evict the Americans, burning nearby Charlestown and deploying thousands of troops to storm the hill. The resulting frontal assaults by the British were successful, forcing the Americans to pull back from the Charlestown Peninsula, but resulted in such staggering casualties that the battle was, and is still, seen as an American victory.

British Bearskin Grenadier Cap

The grenadier companies were the elite of the British regiments in Boston. Nominally drawn from the tallest and strongest men, they were kept at full strength by drawing the best soldiers in the regiment. When formed in line they occupied the right, the position of honor, and were trained to operate independently, covering advances and retreats or storming enemy positions. As such, the grenadiers, along with the light infantry, were often detached for special assignments. The grenadiers of eleven regiments formed the expedition to Concord on April 19 and spearheaded the British assault on Bunker (Breed’s) Hill on June 17.

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The grenadier companies were the elite of the British regiments in Boston. Nominally drawn from the tallest and strongest men, they were kept at full strength by drawing the best soldiers in the regiment. When formed in line they occupied the right, the position of honor, and were trained to operate independently, covering advances and retreats or storming enemy positions. As such, the grenadiers, along with the light infantry, were often detached for special assignments. The grenadiers of eleven regiments formed the expedition to Concord on April 19 and spearheaded the British assault on Bunker (Breed’s) Hill on June 17.

Joseph Spaulding’s Lieutenant’s Commission

Joseph Spaulding, 37 years old, from Pepperell, Massachusetts, had marched toward Boston in April 1775. By May, he received this commission as a lieutenant in Colonel Prescott’s Regiment in Massachusetts’ Grand Army. This army was administered by the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, a government created in late 1774 in opposition to the royal governor and his General Court. Spaulding’s commission is signed by the president pro tempore, Doctor Joseph Warren. Doctor Warren was a charismatic leader of the resistance movement; shortly after signing this commission, he was made president of the Massachusetts Congress and a general in the province’s service. Both Spaulding and Warren were killed in the fighting on Breed’s Hill.

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Joseph Spaulding, 37 years old, from Pepperell, Massachusetts, had marched toward Boston in April 1775. By May, he received this commission as a lieutenant in Colonel Prescott’s Regiment in Massachusetts’ Grand Army. This army was administered by the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, a government created in late 1774 in opposition to the royal governor and his General Court. Spaulding’s commission is signed by the president pro tempore, Doctor Joseph Warren. Doctor Warren was a charismatic leader of the resistance movement; shortly after signing this commission, he was made president of the Massachusetts Congress and a general in the province’s service. Both Spaulding and Warren were killed in the fighting on Breed’s Hill.

John Gordon’s Musket

John Gordon of Stow, Massachusetts, served in Captain Parker’s company of Colonel Prescott’s Massachusetts Regiment. Like many New Englanders his weapon was a combination of parts. The lock, stock, barrel, and other fittings are from a French hunting gun. These were then remounted on a maple stock in Massachusetts. Unlike the original French fowling gun, the stock is cut back to accept a socket bayonet, allowing this weapon to be used for war as well as game.

Gordon was on Breed’s Hill on June 17, just yards from Dr. Warren and Lieutenant Spaulding, whose commission is also on display here. Lieutenant Spaulding and Gordon were both in Colonel Prescott’s Regiment, and all three were in the redoubt at the top of the hill, where the British focused their attacks. Although made a general, Warren served as a volunteer and did not attempt to command the officers and men already on the ground. Over the course of the day, both Spaulding and Warren were killed. Gordon died two days later from wounds received in the battle.

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John Gordon of Stow, Massachusetts, served in Captain Parker’s company of Colonel Prescott’s Massachusetts Regiment. Like many New Englanders his weapon was a combination of parts. The lock, stock, barrel, and other fittings are from a French hunting gun. These were then remounted on a maple stock in Massachusetts. Unlike the original French fowling gun, the stock is cut back to accept a socket bayonet, allowing this weapon to be used for war as well as game.

Gordon was on Breed’s Hill on June 17, just yards from Dr. Warren and Lieutenant Spaulding, who’s commission is also on display here. Lieutenant Spaulding and Gordon were both in Colonel Prescott’s Regiment, and all three were in the redoubt at the top of the hill, where the British focused their attacks. Although made a general, Warren served as a volunteer and did not attempt to command the officers and men already on the ground. Over the course of the day, both Spaulding and Warren were killed. Gordon died two days later from wounds received in the battle.

Satirical print titled Bunkers Hill

This print was part of a series commenting both on British political and military events and on the extravagance of popular hairstyles. The press in England followed the war in America closely, which fueled public opinion both for and against the war. Matthew Darly and his wife Mary Darly were prolific printmakers in London, poking fun at a variety of issues and fashions. They remained active during the early part of the war, producing prints that specifically addressed events in America and other topics, until Matthew’s death in 1780 and Mary’s in 1781.

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This print was part of a series commenting both on British political and military events and on the extravagance of popular hairstyles. The press in England followed the war in America closely, which fueled public opinion both for and against the war. Matthew Darly and his wife Mary Darly were prolific printmakers in London, poking fun at a variety of issues and fashions. They remained active during the early part of the war, producing prints that specifically addressed events in America and other topics, until Matthew’s death in 1780 and Mary’s in 1781.

Artillery Calipers

The Massachusetts Train of Artillery was a state artillery regiment largely responsible for the defense of Boston Harbor. The regiment’s lieutenant Colonel was Paul Revere, who likely engraved this pair of calipers that belonged to Jonathan W. Edes, a captain in the regiment. As a skilled silversmith and engraver, Revere made other artillery calipers. Such calipers allowed an officer to quickly gauge the caliber of a cannonball or cannon without having to measure or weigh it.

Massachusetts, like a number of other states, raised state regiments in addition to the state’s militia and their quota of Continental Army soldiers. These units generally remained in the state during service and offered generous bounties to potential recruits. This made them a popular alternative to Continental service, where soldiers could be ordered anywhere and where payment was often poor. The Massachusetts Train of Artillery served twice outside of Boston, first during the Rhode Island campaign of 1778 and then during the disastrous 1779 Penobscot expedition, in which Massachusetts forces sought to eject the British from the Maine coast. Revere was accused of disobeying orders during the latter and court-martialed, but was eventually exonerated.

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The Massachusetts Train of Artillery was a state artillery regiment largely responsible for the defense of Boston Harbor. The regiment’s lieutenant Colonel was Paul Revere, who likely engraved this pair of calipers that belonged to Jonathan W. Edes, a captain in the regiment. As a skilled silversmith and engraver, Revere made other artillery calipers. Such calipers allowed an officer to quickly gauge the caliber of a cannonball or cannon without having to measure or weigh it.

Massachusetts, like a number of other states, raised state regiments in addition to the state’s militia and their quota of Continental Army soldiers. These units generally remained in the state during service and offered generous bounties to potential recruits. This made them a popular alternative to Continental service, where soldiers could be ordered anywhere and where payment was often poor. The Massachusetts Train of Artillery served twice outside of Boston, first during the Rhode Island campaign of 1778 and then during the disastrous 1779 Penobscot expedition, in which Massachusetts forces sought to eject the British from the Maine coast. Revere was accused of disobeying orders during the latter and court-martialed, but was eventually exonerated.

To view more information about the objects in this exhibit, visit the Ticonderoga Online Collections Database!