‘I saw with my own eyes the fires of Charleston […] and heard Britannia’s thunders in the battle… and witnessed the tears of my mother and mingled them with my own at the fall of Dr. Joseph Warren, a dear friend of my father, and a beloved physician to me.’ Only days before his death, Warren had devised an ingenious array of splints to save John Quincy’s finger from amputation after the boy had suffered a bad fracture. […]
The memory of Bunker Hill, he said, 'riveted my abhorrence of war to my soul…with abhorrence of tyrants and oppressors…[who] wage war against the rights of human nature and the liberties and rightful interests of my country.’
I learned an interesting tidbit while visiting the Old South Meeting House in Boston on the job today! On March 5, 1770 the Boston Massacre occurred. The next day many people gathered in the Old South Meeting House to hear an oration on the Massacre by Joseph Warren, but the crowd was so big that Warren had to enter the hall by climbing through the window above the pulpit! What a climb!
Ok but seriously I need to give you the scoop on some of the ridiculousness that went down during Lexington and Concord because it was insane. These are just some of my favorites:
John Hancock and Samuel Adams are hiding out at Hancock’s cousin Lucy’s house in Lexington. When Paul Revere shows up to tell them to leave, William Munroe, a militiaman who was guarding the door, tells Revere to shut up and go away because everyone was asleep.
Hancock’s fiancee Dolly asks him to take her to Boston so that she can rescue her father. Hancock tells her that she isn’t allowed to go back there while the British are still occupying the city. She reminds him that they aren’t actually married yet so she can technically do whatever she wants without his permission.
Paul Revere and William Dawes meet a Concord doctor named Samuel Prescott, who just happens to be out at 1am because he had spent the day with his girlfriend and presumably got kicked out of her house. When a group of British soldiers chase them, Revere is captured, Dawes comically falls off his horse, and Prescott manages to get away with the alarm message to Concord. His getting the message across in time meant that there were enough soldiers in Concord to beat the British, meaning that his walk of shame basically caused us to win the battle.
Paul Revere tells the soldiers who captured him that there are hundreds or armed and angry country hicks converging on Lexington center who are prepared to slaughter the British; the soldiers get so scared they just let him and the other captives go and run away.
Elijah Sanderson, one of the Lexington militiamen, is sent out, unarmed, as a scout, and is captured. Luckily he is in the same group of captives as Revere and is also let go. After telling the Lexingtonians what is going on he is so exhausted that he sits down next to the fireplace in the tavern and falls asleep, only waking up when the drum starts beating. Once he gets outside he realizes that he had never actually gone home to get his gun and so has to hide in the tavern during the battle.
Joseph Warren somehow sneaks out of Boston to join the fighting and almost get himself killed. At one point a bullet whizzes by so closely it knocks a bobby pin out of his wig.
After the battle at the North Bridge in Concord a man named Elias Brown, who was mentally disabled and did not really comprehend what was happening, starts wandering through the crowd selling hard cider to the soldiers on both sides and getting everyone drunk.
A British officer named Jeremy Lister was not assigned to the expedition, but had volunteered when another officer said he was sick and couldn’t go. He is shot at Meriam’s Corner and the bullet shatters his elbow, leaving his arm immobile for the rest of his life. After he recovers he is informed the other officer had been faking it to get out of work.
A British soldier and an American soldier have a standoff in front of a well when they show up at the same time to get a drink. Both men pull out a gun and fire a shot; both of them die.
Samuel Whittemore, an 80 year old man from Menotomy, hides behind a wall and starts picking off British soldiers with dueling pistols. Eventually one of them manages to get through, shoot him in the face, and bayonet him several times. Some friends find him several minutes later still trying to reload his gun. They drag him home kicking and screaming, assuming that he will be dead soon. He lives to be 98.
A woman in Lexington, Mary Sanderson, hides in the woods with her family and then comes home to find a half-conscious British soldier lying in her bed. When her husband Samuel gets home he finds Mary raining obscenities upon the poor injured man. Samuel tells her that if they didn’t give him some food he will never have the energy to leave, but the soldier is so terrified of Mary he refuses to eat, only taking the food after making Samuel eat it to make sure it wasn’t poisoned.
Dr. John Warren was a well known surgeon and educator in Boston. Those who attended his lectures in Cambridge received this certificate. 1780 engraving by Paul Revere. Warren was the brother of the revolutionary hero, Joseph Warren, and a founder of Harvard Medical School.
What if we are obsessed with a historical figure because they're watching us in the after life and are fascinated with us?
i think this is the most beautiful thought and the ardent prayer of all Historians.
And what if their obsessions matches our own?
When Lin Manuel Miranda gets to Heaven, is Alexander Hamilton going to have a musical for Lin?
When Lora Innes of @thedreamercomic gets to the pearly gates, does she get a welcome from Joseph Warren and Knowlton’s Rangers?
And when @ladyhistory wakes up to the Great Mount Vernon in the sky, who will be there to greet her? George Washington with His Captioned Adventures T-Shirt or Teddy Roosevelt handing her a rough rider’s hat?
Does HBO John Adams miniseries have any historical inaccuracies?
There was a incorrect, wrong-headed depiction of Samuel Adams as a dangerous and corrupt mob-master, complete with a fictitious schism between Sam and his more moral cousin John.
John Adams is depicted as still suspicious of his cousin Samuel and Samuel’s allies, worrying they are plotting to take over the government for their own ends. In reality, John in these years was a consistent political ally of Samuel.
When Adams joins the delegates to the first Continental Congress in 1774, the delegates listed are actually those sent to the second Congress the following year.
Adams is shown riding into the immediate aftermath of the bloody fighting at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775; this is false- by his own account, he only rode out some days later to the militia encampment at Cambridge.
News of Bunker Hill, sent by Abigail allows John to rally the Congress and achieve the establishment of a continental army, with George Washington as its commander. In reality, Adams was central in urging the creation of a continental army, but Congress voted to do so on June 14, appointing Washington its commander on the 15th- two days before Bunker Hill even happened.
The militia, withdrawing from Bunker Hill, passed directly by Abigail Adams’s door and she sees the mutilated body of Joseph Warren drawn by in a cart. But, Bunker Hill was on the opposite side of Boston Harbor, and the Adams home was entirely off the militia’s line of march.
General Henry Knox rides by Abigail’s door with the cannon captured from Fort Ticonderoga when in fact, his route took him nowhere near her.
The committee to prepare a declaration of independence is shown being created as a casual afterthought: in fact, this committee was established by a proper vote of Congress.
Dickinson did oppose John Adams, but the New York delegation- shown as violently hostile to Adams and his opinions- actually supported independence, though they still lacked authorization to vote for it.
The initial vote was not 9-4, but 9-2 with two abstentions (New York and Delaware).
Abigail and her children did not undergo the smallpox innoculation in isolation, but with relatives in Boston. The virus was not taken from the gory pustules of the dying but from those less severely afflicted, in hopes that inoculation would produce as mild a reaction as possible.
The hostility of South Carolina’s Edward Rutledge is exaggerated.
Adams did not fire the first shot in the engagement between a ship pursuing his in the Atlantic crossing. The officer shown dying was actually wounded later, when a cannon exploded while saluting a French vessel, and the stricken officer only died a week after that.
Adams’s lack of French: while this was true at first, he quickly became proficient.
He did not go to straight to Holland in search of loans: he instead returned briefly to Massachusetts.
October 1779, after John completed his service with the Massachusetts constitutional convention, he was sent back to France by Congress, appointed to negotiate peace-terms with Britain should opportunity arise. He took his son John Quincy with him, as he had in 1778 and he also took Charles.
In 1784, it was not just Abigail Adams who joined her husband in Europe, but also their daughter Nabby abandoned.
In reality, she first rejoined him in London. Only later did they take a house in France and go there together, along with Nabby and John Quincy.
Nabby’s presence in England is omitted (John Quincy had now returned to America), as is her courtship in London with Adams’s aide, Colonel William Smith, whom she in fact married there in 1786.
The “Citizen Genêt” affair is exaggerated, made both a factor in the 1792 election (Genêt actually arrived in the Spring of 1793).
The ratification of the Jay treaty was distorted not only of fact. In the series, the Senate is deadlocked 15 to 15 on ratification. Vice President Adams is thus forced to step in and cast the tie-breaking vote, saving the treaty for the Washington administration. But according to the Constitution, then and now, treaties must be ratified by two-thirds of the Senate. There was not and could not be a tie. The Jay Treaty passed with exactly the required two-thirds, 20-10. Adams had no vote.
Adams, for example, is shown after his inauguration, suggesting that Jefferson serve as a special emissary to France. In reality, Adams made this proposal months earlier, before his inauguration.
Adams is shown as being caught off guard by the Alien and Sedition Acts. Congress sends to him the bills for signature; he seems anguished, reluctant to approve such harsh employment of government power. Finally, urged on by Abigail, he signs them. While it is true that Adams did not specifically urge the Alien and Sedition Acts on Congress, he was aware of them while they were under discussion.
In the series, Adams angrily rejects Smith’s requests for posts in the new national army, declaring openly that he has lost all confidence in Smith due to the latter’s financial speculations. Despite reservations about his son-in-law’s character, Adams did recommend Smith for the new army’s general staff: it was the Senate that rejected the appointment because of Smith’s questionable private affairs. Despite the embarrassment this had already caused him, Adams then pressed to get Smith a colonel’s commission, which the Senate reluctantly approved.
The last episode depicts the death of Nabby Adams from breast cancer. An on-screen caption marks the start of Nabby’s ordeal as “1803.” In fact, the cancer was diagnosed in 1810; her mastectomy followed in 1811.
It also emphasizes Benjamin Rush’s personal examination of Nabby in Quincy, and his personal performance of her mastectomy. In reality, the tumor was diagnosed before Nabby returned to her parents’ home, Rush consulted on the case only by letter, and the surgery was performed by local Boston doctors.
What the series shows is Abigail Adams dies in 1818; John’s friend Benjamin Rush urges that he write to Jefferson about his loss, hoping the two elder statesmen can provide each other with comfort in their final years; Adams does so; Jefferson’s first reply is dated to 1819; the correspondence flowers, friendship is renewed. This entire sequence is very untrue. Rush was indeed was instrumental in renewing contact between Adams and Jefferson, but he was definitely not available to counsel Adams after Abigail’s death in 1818: Rush had died five years earlier. Rush had, in reality, worked carefully to bring the two former presidents back into harmony, but his efforts had culminated in 1812- it was then that the Adams-Jefferson correspondence actually resumed, and Abigail herself was personally involved in the exchange for its first six years.
John Adams never went to see John Trumbull’s painting. “Do not let our posterity be deluded with fictions under the guise of poetical or graphical license.” This scene itself is actually partly fictionalized: the quote comes from a letter written several years earlier, when Adams first heard of Trumbull’s project.
The American Revolutionary War began with a series of military
engagements between the towns of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. This
became known as the “Shot Heard ‘round the World” and marks the outbreak
of armed conflict between Great Britain and the American colonies.
On April 18th, Gage was ordered to send his army to Concord to
destroy a stash of Militia military supplies (including weapons and gunpowder). Upon hearing of these orders and believing that the objective was the
capture of Samuel Adams and John Hancock, Doctor Joseph Warren sent William
Dawes and Paul Revere to warn them.
After making sure Adams and Hancock were safely hidden and
protected, it was agreed that they would continue to Concord and make sure the
supplies were safe. So Dawes, Revere and several other riders rode out to
spread word and raise the militias. On the way, Dawes and Revere came across
Samuel Prescott who was on his way home to Concord and decided to join them men
in alerting the colonists. The three of them made it halfway to Concord when
they were detained by British patrol. Dawes and Revere were captured (later
released to make their way back to Lexington) but Prescott got away and
continued on to Concord.
The British Army’s advanced guard, under Pitcairn, were met at
Lexington by the Lexington militiamen on April 19, 1775. Amongst a great deal
of confusion and yelling a shot rang out as the two armies met. Nobody knew then,
nor knows today, who fired but that shot was to be the first shot of the
American Revolution. This is what is now known as the “Shot Heard ‘round the World”.
The Lexington militiamen were defeated and the British
troops moved forward towards Concord. The militiamen at
Concord were ready for the British Army thanks to the raised alarm and managed
to encircle the regulars who were advancing on Concord. After numerous casualties, the British commander ordered his troops to return to Boston. The British regulars, having been routed by the militiamen, began their march back to Lexington and Boston.
their return march, they were faced with several groups of militiamen who
caused a great deal of damage to their troops. The
total number of losses were roughly 300 British and 100 Americans. The battles of
Lexington and Concord roused New Englanders to begin the Siege of Boston which resulted
in the British evacuation by March 1776 and thus beginning the American War for Independence.
Our country is in danger, but not to be despaired of. Our enemies are numerous and powerful; but we have many friends, determining to be free, and heaven and earth will aid the resolution. On you depend the fortunes of America. You are to decide the important question, on which rest the happiness and liberty of millions yet unborn. Act worthy of yourselves.
This painting is called The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, June 17, 1775, and is one of the most famous Revolutionary War paintings we have. It was painted by John Trumbull (he of the aide-de-camp of 19 days) who would become a famous painter and paint many other Revolutionary War scenes.
The scene is dramatic and breathtaking and almost 100% false, other than the fact that Major Pitcairn did die (he’s the British officer being held in is son’s arms) and that General Warren did die (he’s the one on the ground.
Propaganda in art has existed for a long time, though of course this wasn’t the earliest propaganda piece of the Revolution, not by a long shot. That might have to go to Paul Revere’s engraving of the Boston Massacre (which he totally plagiarized), or maybe even Benjamin Franklin’s “Unite or Die!” snake, though most people consider that the first political cartoon rather than propaganda (though there’s nothing that says they can’t be the same.
Joseph Warren was an incredibly influential person in the early Revolution and he’s almost forgotten now. He was a doctor in Boston who served on the Committee of Correspondence. He was the one who sent out dispatch riders (including Revere) on the night of April 18, 1775 to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams that British Regulars were on the way to arrest them and seize the several tons of arms stored at Concord. He would narrowly miss death as he joined the fighting at Lexington and Concord, would be elected as President of the Continental Congress, and would be promoted as a Major General in the Massachusetts militia, but would join the fighting at Bunker Hill as a private soldier because he had no unit as of yet. He was one of the last men killed as the forces were leaving the redoubt built on top of the hill.