Earl Percy's Dinner-Table


ON the afternoon of July 5, 1774, a crowd was gathering in King Street in the town of Boston in New England. In the open space before the Town House, where a few years before Captain Preston’s men had fired their historic fusillade, knots of people stood about, gazing down towards the Long Wharf, beyond which gleamed the untroubled waters of the harbor. Another act in the enforcement of the Port Bill was about to be played, and the announcement had gone forth that His Majesty’s 5th Regiment of Foot was to land that day and join the troops encamped upon the Common. It was a part of the humane policy of General Gage that no effort should be spared to impress with the pomp and show of force the wrong-headed people of the provincial capital, and within a fortnight the 4th, the 38th, and the 43d Regiments had marched from their transports to the Common, in all the pride of “insolent parade,” with colors flying and to the inspiring music of their bands. The 5th Regiment had long been expected, and something more than common interest was felt in this fine corps, because it was commanded by Hugh, Earl Percy, an officer of exalted birth, and of continental experience, who had served as a volunteer in Lord Granby’s cavalry on the never-to-be-forgotten day of Minden. The Tories in the town were ready to welcome with open arms the heir to the great Northumberland dukedom; and a few, who, like the celebrated Mr. Byles, affected literary tastes, were eager to pay their addresses to the nobleman whose parents were renowned as patrons of the arts.

The rebellious element in Boston held the Northumbrian duke as not unfriendly to their cause, and were inclined to regard the noble Colonel of the 5th as perhaps a friend in military disguise. So people of all shades of faith and opinion were in the street to witness the British march ; but as the afternoon wore away and the shadow of Beacon Hill stole across the town, there was a thinning of the crowd, and the word was passed about that the landing was delayed and that the troops would spend the night aboard the transports.

But the Colonel of the 5th Foot, after the experience of nine long weeks at sea, was in no mood, either for lingering aboard his foul and dingy ships, or for attempting any jaunty evolutions to inspire the onlookers of the street with a sense of the strong arm of King George’s ministers. The day was over, the gloom of night had settled on the narrow, crooked ways, lights twinkled in the taverns and coffee-houses all along the ill-paved length of King Street, when, timed to the tap of drum, the heavy tramp of the 5th Regiment was heard approaching. The tavern doors and windows filled in a moment with surprised onlookers; a group of officers poured out of the British Coffee House to shout a rough welcome to comrades on the march, and the dusky column swept on, by the Town House, up the hill of Queen Street into Tremont Street, by Dr. Caner’s stone chapel, and so out upon the gray expanse of the Common, where a canvas city had arisen, and where the dull glow of campfires flickered here and there on rows of tented streets. It was clear that Earl Percy was no playactor, and in that shadowy mass of marching men expectant Toryism had no chance to mark its idol.

As General Gage was residing in Salem, which in the operation of the Port Bill had become the seat of the provincial governor, he appointed Percy as acting brigadier, and then conferred upon him the command of all the troops in Boston. On August 7 there arrived in Boston from New York “His Majesty’s Royal Regiment of Welch Fuzileers,” under command of Colonel Barnard ; and headed by their famous band they marched to Fort Hill and pitched their camp. They were hailed in the Massachusetts Gazette as “one of the six renowned British Corps, to whose valor and intrepidity the ever memorable victory at Minden was gloriously acquired, the 1st of August, 1759.” It is “a clever little army,” that he commands, so the earl writes to Dr. Percy in London.

As we glance over the letters written by his Lordship from Boston in 1774, and as we turn the stained and faded files of the Boston newspapers of that day, we can gain some faint idea of what the town was like, and of what went on within it. Percy has little to say of the town itself. Mr. John Adams, coming to Boston from the seclusion of Braintree, was driven half mad by the bustle and distractions of the New England metropolis. He was bewildered by “the crowd of men, women, beasts and carriages,” and his attention solicited every moment by some new sight or some new sound. But Percy would hardly have been oppressed by feelings like these, and the town that drove Mr. Adams wild with its uproar was doubtless dull enough to him. There was nothing in Boston to suggest the whirl of life that surged along Fleet Street and under Temple Bar; the gayety of the Mall only hinted dimly at what one found in St. James Park on a sunny afternoon, or at Vauxhall or Ranelagh on a gala night. Moreover, Percy was used to looking out from the windows of Northumberland House upon the rush and roar of traffic that seethed about Charing Cross, where, according to Samuel Johnson, “the full tide of human existence ” ebbed and flowed.

One of Percy’s first transactions in the town was to buy a three-year-old horse for which he paid £450, but he was obliged to send to New York for a pair of chaise horses that were to his mind. Equipped in this fashion he finds time to ride or drive into the suburbs, and then his enthusiasm is mightily moved. The view of the Thames from Sion House had never stirred him as the vistas of the Charles from the road that led to the Colleges in Cambridge. The varied landscape with its gently sloping hillsides, interspersed everywhere with trees and bright waters, filled him with delight, and he assured his father that Nature in this favored land had achieved effects that put to the blush the carefully nurtured acres of the great park at Alnwick. “This is the most beautiful country I ever saw in my life,” he writes, “and if the people were only like it, we shd do very well.” He had come out well inclined toward the Province and its inhabitants. He had almost yielded to the advice of the duke his father and declined to serve in America, but his sense of soldierly obedience prevailed, and he had brought out his regiment with small admiration for its mission. His good will toward the people did not long outlive his arrival upon the Common. They “are a set of sly, artful, hypocritical rascalls, cruel, & cowards.”Such was his comment in August. “I must own I cannot but despise them compleately. . . . To hear them talk, you would imagine that they would attack us & demolish us every night.” His Lordship, like the majority of the English officers, could not understand how the civil disorders, and the treasonable sentiments that animated press and pulpit, could flourish in a community where prosperity and personal liberty were so universally enjoyed as in His Majesty’s Province of the Massachusetts Bay. What were the evils of which these people complained? As for tea, Boston might drink it more cheaply than London, if it would. It was the loyal element in the community that suffered and was threatened with the loss of free speech and all protection of the law. The crimes of these people consisted in their protesting treason and in their approval of Hutchinson’s government, and the indignities and violence inflicted upon them were the work of men who had recourse to solemn fasts and who cited the Almighty as their unswerving ally. The bewildered gentlemen of the army were not experts at law, and they could not comprehend the local readings of the Massachusetts Charter. It must be admitted that they were in much the position of Mr. Boswell when he declared that he had “read little and thought little on the subject of America.”

Having delivered his opinion of the country and of the people, Earl Percy took up in his correspondence a third phase of his environment. “Our climate is horribly inconstant,” this was the burden of his comment. “ It is ten times more inconstant than in England, for I have been in the Torrid & Frigid Zone frequently in the space of 24 hours. At some times, so hot as scarce to bear my shirt, at others so cold that an additional blanket was scarcely sufficient.” Here is matter to convince us that, however conditions may have changed in Boston since the Year of Grace 1774, the climate of Earl Percy’s time still reigns supreme upon the shores of Massachusetts Bay.

Despite his disgust for the townspeople, Percy dealt fairly by them and won the confidence and good will of the selectmen. He informed these gentry that any disorder on the part of the soldiery would be promptly punished, and that all lawabiding citizens should look upon the army as a safeguard and not as a menace. When a midnight fire broke out in Mr. Morton’s house in Fish Street, and threatened the destruction of the North End, we are told that. “Earl Percy politely offered the Service of the Soldiery” to fight the flames, and was thanked “for his Kindness” by the authorities. But when the artisans laboring on barracks for the winter accommodation of the troops, left their work through fear of the displeasure of their friends without the town, the earl abandoned all hope of the local population, as a community who were bent on mischief and of their own will had gone over to the Devil.

Before the close of the autumn the garrison of five regiments had been increased to nine, with an efficient train of the Royal Artillery. We find mention at this time of activity and turmoil among the Boston militia. Mr. John Hancock, as a foe to government, was removed by Gage from the command of the Independent Company of Cadets, whereupon the members disbanded and the resignations of the officers and the colors of the corps were handed to the governor at Danvers. We read, too, of an early October day when the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company concluded their training for the year by a march from the Town House to Copp’s Hill. One wonders if Earl Percy saw them pass, and how their drill and discipline compared with that of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. There was hard and constant work on the Common for the British troops, and the fair Dorothy Quincy has left us memories of the time when her morning slumbers were disturbed by Earl Percy drilling his regiment in the fields before the Hancock mansion.

Here on the Common all Boston gathers to witness, with varying sentiments, the evolutions of the troops. Mr. John Hancock in purple and fine linen looks out from his coach upon the scene. Dr. Joseph Warren, quietly but fashionably dressed, stands chatting with Major Small, whom all Boston holds in high regard. The major hopes that his elegant young friend in gazing upon the martial spectacle will realize the futility of the Provincial contention and will urge his people to bow in submission to the might of Britain. But the feelings stirred in Warren are of a different sort, and he is to put them into words for a memorable occasion.1 Near by, a group is gathered about a burly red-faced man in the garb of a farmer, who is warmly greeted by more than one English officer who marks him in the throng. Israel Putnam of Connecticut is the hero of many an exploit and hairbreadth escape in the French war, and he is fighting his battles over again with Colonel Abercrombie of the 22d Regiment. Those within sound of Putnam’s boisterous voice will discover that, however great his courage, he is not a modest man. Major Small taunts him in passing upon being an old rebel, and he noisily admits the impeachment. And here is Mather Byles punning for the delight of the bystanders, and pointing to the scarlet ranks, thanking God that at last he sees the grievances of the colony “ red-dressed.” Charles Lee, lank and ungainly, described in the Boston press as one of “the greatest military characters of the present age,” blusters about, hungry for admiration, disregarded and snubbed by his old companions in arms. And then the eye falls on the honest face and sturdy form of Nathaniel Greene, of Rhode Island. His face burns with admiration as the serried lines of the 5th Foot sweep by him, and he thinks it would be joy to fight with or against such men as these. When the troops return to their camps and the crowd has melted away, you will find this military enthusiast at the shop of Mr. Knox on Cornhill, or poring over the volumes of some other bookseller for works that have to do with the Art of War.

We have noted the comments in Earl Percy’s correspondence in regard to the country, the people, and the climate of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. On August 15 he writes to his father concerning another important matter. “What I feel myself the most comfortable in acquiring, is a good house to dine in (for we are all obliged to remain at other times & sleep in the camp). By this convenience I am enabled to ask the officers of the Line, & occasionally the Gentlemen of the country, to dine with me; & as I have the command of the Troops here, I have always a table of 12 covers every day.”

The house occupied by Percy stood within its garden at the head of Winter Street.2 It had been built early in the century, and its windows looked out upon lhe open pasturage of the Common. Through the thin foliage of those youthful elms which Mr. Paddock planted, loomed the crest of Beacon Hill with its gaunt signal drawn like a gibbet against the sky, while more to the west and down the slope there was a glimpse of the bright waters of the Charles, with the wooded heights of Brookline and Newton beyond. The location was most convenient for the earl, who was always within a stone’s throw of the camps.

It is pleasant to see him crossing the Common each afternoon to do the honors of his mansion; and day by day and week by week it is interesting to watch his guests passing in and out the great door. It opens to officers in scarlet and gold and to officers in the blue of the Royal Navy, to gentlemen in silk and brocade and to gentlemen in velvet and lace. Old Dr. Caner goes up the path leaning on his cane; the great coach of Colonel Royall lumbers up to the garden gate; the chaise of Judge Lee waits in Long Acre to carry His Honor back to Cambridge. All those who love the king within this stern old New England town rejoice in the polite summons that brings them to Earl Percy’s dinner-table.

And now, as the darkness of an early spring day comes on, let us in imagination look into Earl Percy’s dining-room and see what passes there. The newly lighted candles are burning brightly on the broad table around which the earl’s eleven guests are sitting at their ease, all but three in the uniform of the Royal Army. The dinner is cleared away and the port and madeira are going their rounds. The earl is chatting with a strapping officer on his left, whose handsome face is a fair legacy from the race of which he comes. This is Lieutenant-Colonel John Gunning of the 43d Foot, who has the honor to be the brother of the famous Gunning sisters, and through them a brother-in-law to the Duke of Argyll, and to the Earl of Coventry. “My sister the duchess,” and “My sister the late Countess of Coventry,” are well-worn phrases with Colonel Gunning, and within a year his pride has been stirred again by the marriage of his niece with Lord Stanley, the heir to the affluent Earl of Derby. The handsome colonel speaks with something of a brogue, betraying his Irish origin; and if his memory is good he can recall dark days of childhood when the family fortunes were low, dishonor imminent, and when the situation was saved by warm-hearted George Anne Bellamy of the Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin. But those days are long past, and Colonel Gunning glories not only in his connection with great families in England, and in his rapid rise in the army, but also in an honest and complacent conviction that he is thirty-second in descent from Charlemagne.

On the right of Lord Percy is a lad of twelve or thirteen years, who is the hero of the occasion. This is Roger Sheaffe, son to the faithful customs collector whose memory is abhorred by rebellious Boston. He has won his way into the affection of the earl, who has promised to see to it that he gains a commission in his regiment. The plans are laid and the youth is about to set sail for England to gain such training as shall fit him for his profession. The earl has presented him to-night to his future comrades of the army, and the radiant face of the boy must be a pleasant sight in his Lordship’s eyes.

Standing by the chair of the future soldier, and calling the blushes to his face with their banter, are two young officers who wear the insignia of the rank of lieutenant. One is Francis, Lord Rawdon, of the Grenadier Company of Percy’s regiment, the son of the Earl of Moira, a tall elegant young fellow with a future before him, the earl thinks; the other is Edward Thoroton Gould of the 4th or King’s Own Regiment, short and slight, with restless dark eyes and lines of dissipation on his pale face. His friends declare that he is a good soldier, if something of a rake withal.

The rather stout officer who sits beyond Sheaffe, playing with his wineglass and occasionally exchanging a word with Lord Rawdon, is the Hon. Henry Edward Fox, the youngest son of the late Lord Holland, and a captain in the 38th Regiment. Any one familiar with the prominent faces at Westminster, at Brookes’s Club, or on the track at Newmarket, would recognize in the captain a near kinsman to the celebrated Charles James Fox, who has just come to what may mean the end of his public career in his removal by the king’s command from the commissionership of the Treasury. Harry Fox is said to have little of his brother’s brilliancy and none of his vices, and when the 38th sailed for America, Mr. Horace Walpole of Strawberry Hill informed Sir Horace Mann that they took with them Lord Holland’s “only good son.” He sits quiet and good-humored at Earl Percy’s table, with little but his increasing flesh to worry him, and bears himself with a certain well-bred air that Gunning, with all his handsome face and kinsmen by marriage, would give much to attain.

At the side of Fox is George Harris, Lord Rawdon’s captain, a well-built young officer, with clear, honest eyes and the glow of health in his cheeks. He regards himself as an untried and inexperienced soldier, but Percy will affirm that he is a model officer with a genius for commanding men. His reputation for courage is secure. Half the army knows of that gallant rescue of a brother officer from the swift and cruel current of the Ouse, and of that duel in Ireland where his coolness and pluck were matched by his generosity and forbearance. Harris is talking across the table with Captain William Glanville Evelyn of the King’s Own, a man of quiet, serious countenance, marked with the scars of smallpox. Captain Evelyn is not a youngster, and fifteen years have passed since he first donned the king’s uniform. He is one of those faithful, hard-working soldiers who progress slowly because of lack of influence. His letters home contain every now and then an appeal for an introduction to “the great people” at Boston, or for a good word to the great ones at home. He is flattered and happy to sit at Earl Percy’s table to-night. Scandal has not left the captain’s name unsullied, and the curious among his acquaintance would know more of pretty Peggie Wright who has come out to him from England. It is whispered that she was a servant in his father’s household. Major Pitcairn sitting at the foot of the board has heard the gossip, but if you ask for his opinion of what Evelyn means and what the future holds for Peggie Wright, he, as an honest husband with nine children dependent on his modest pay, will merely say, “God knows.” Captain Evelyn has more than his own fortunes and those of Peggie Wright to think of now, for he has in his care that rather prim young soldier who is with him at the table, his kinsman George Evelyn Boscawen, of the King’s Own. Ensign Boscawen is the sole surviving son of the late Admiral Boscawen. He is the nephew and heir of the childless Viscount Falmouth, and he is here on active service in the army despite the prayers and tears of the fondest of mothers. Young Boscawen is brother-in-law to Admiral John Leveson Gower and to the Duke of Beaufort, and it is to Lady Gower that Evelyn writes by every ship concerning the most trivial happenings in the ensign’s career. Boscawen has the enthusiasm of youth and has already discovered some shocking flaws in the English army system. So he has been laughed down by his mess and is known in the regiment by the nickname of “the General.” He bears this promotion meekly and henceforward inclines to speak only a fragment of what he thinks. He is an object of interest to the youth in the blue of the Royal Navy who sits between Captain Harris and the Reverend Mather Byles. This is Cuthbert Collingwood, of the Somerset man-of-war, which lies at anchor in the stream off Charlestown ferry. Collingwood knows his profession, and knowing too something of the naval history of Great Britain, he wonders whether it will ever be his luck to do as good work as Boscawen’s father wrought against the French at Louisburg and in Lagos Bay.

At the foot of the table the Reverend Mather Byles is discoursing with Major John Pitcairn of the Royal Marines, and keeping that staid old officer in a state of uproarious laughter. Poor Dr. Byles labors under the disadvantage of being considered not only a preacher but a poet and wit as well. Within the year a doggerel rhyme describing the local clergy has gone the rounds in Boston,and in the two stanzas devoted to Byles even his friends admit that a lively portrait has been drawn.

There’s punning Byles provokes our smiles,
A man of stately parts ;
Who visits folks to crack his jokes,
That never mend their hearts.
With strutting gait and wig so great,
He walks along the streets,
And throws out wit, or what’s like it,
To every one he meets.

Though not of the Church of England, Dr. Byles is in the eyes of the army the most sensible as well as the most delightful clergyman in Boston. He has correspondents among the brightest literary lights in England, and will show with pride volumes from his library with the loving inscription of his dear friend the late Mr. Pope of immortal memory. At heart an arrant Tory, he has kept his congregation in order by asserting that his functions are spiritual and that it is not for him to profane his pulpit by discussing the political problems of the day. The local clergy is a hearty rebel body, and they have small opinion of a man who prays for the king in meeting, and refuses to choose his texts for the elucidation of public questions. It is no aid to the doctor’s standing with his flock that he consorts with the gentlemen of the army, and allows his daughters to promenade the Mall with these enemies of American Liberty. The band of the 5th Regiment has played sweet serenades beneath the windows of the Misses Byles, and now here is the doctor himself sipping his wine and throwing old Pitcairn into convulsions of laughter at Earl Percy’s dinner-table.

There is that in the major which attracts the Reverend Byles, as it must all men who admire honest simplicity and courage. Here in rebellious Boston, hotheaded townspeople, affronted by quarrelsome or drunken soldiers, are glad to leave their grievances in Pitcairn’s hands for reparation. Blunt and outspoken, he is yet a modest man, and in the long years that have passed since he left his Fifeshire home he feels that he has made little of his life. He has been knocking about on land and sea, fighting the king’s battles, until he wonders whether all his children would remember his lined and weather-beaten face. He thinks with pride of that good brother who has risen to the presidency of the College of Physicians in London, and thanks God that distinction has come to his family, though he must remain in obscurity as a mere major of marines. Were he gifted with second sight, he would see that his time on earth is short, but he would also see his brilliant son rising in another generation to be the pride and envy of the medical profession in London. If the time shall come, which God forbid, that the sword is really drawn in this distracted province, he will do his full duty to the king, and do it humanely by firing low with shotted muskets. In the mean time he is accomplishing as much for peace as any man in Boston who wears King George’s livery.

Had Captain Evelyn been possessed of the peculiar talents of Mr. Boswell of Scotland he might have left us some such narrative as this:—

This evening I dined with Earl Percy at his house at the head of Winter Street. George and I were glad of this opportunity to sit at his Lordship’s table, and we met there, besides young Roger Sheaffe, a Boston lad who is much in Percy’s favor, Colonel Gunning, Major Pitcairn of the Marines,young Collingwood of the Navy, Lord Ruwdon and Captain Harris of the 5th, Fox of the 38th, the Reverend Doctor Byles who preaches at the meetinghouse on Hollis Street, and little Gould of Ours. Earl Percy presided at his table with the elegance of a man of fashion, and was most civil to me. He displayed at once the good breeding of a gentleman of birth with the frank comradeship of the soldier. After dinner he called upon us to drink the health of “Captain Sheaffe who loved a red coat,” and lavished upon the boy many remarks of approbation. His Lordship told us that he was under great obligation to the family of Master Sheaffe for many courtesies received in Boston, and that a few days since the lad had expressed the hope that some day he might wear the red coat, and be hailed as “Captain Sheaffe.” “And so,” the earl continued, “it is to be my pleasure to see this boy properly schooled and trained for His Majesty’s service, and he is here to-night to meet the gentlemen of the army who are to be his future comrades and friends.” Then turning to Collingwood, he made some pleasant remark to the effect that though his young charge preferred the red coat to the blue, yet he would be trained in all admiration for the service which Collingwood had chosen, and which Mr. Boscawen’s noble father had so conspicuously adorned. This remark, which his Lordship made most graciously, put at least two young men in that room in excellent humour. Sheaffe discovered many signs of his happiness and confusion. He was greeted by all the gentlemen present, and old Pitcairn, who they say has a legion of sons of his own, put his hands on his shoulders, told him he was a fine lad, and hoped that we should all live to see him a general. When we had become quiet again, the earl went on to say that Roger was not the first of his mother’s family to embrace the red coat. A few years before, his sister had married Ponsonby Molesworth, then a captain of the 29th and stationed in Boston. It was love at first sight. The regiment had just landed and was halting in Queen Street on the way to the Common. Molesworth saw Susannah Sheaffe leaning from the balcony of her father’s house and declared to an officer near him, “That girl seals my fate!” So there was a brief courtship and a marriage, and tempted by domestic bliss Molesworth sold out his commission and settled down in Devonshire. “ So,” the earl continued, “the Sheaffes having drawn one good soldier from the king’s colours are to give another in his place.” The lad, as though feeling that his sister’s loyalty had been questioned, then said in very pretty fashion, that if Mr. Molesworth was not now of the army, yet his sister still loved the red coat. He had seen only the other day a letter she had written her mother from Devonshire, regretting that she was obliged to stay “in that riotous Boston where misguided rebels were giving such trouble to our good King George.” There was an honest ring to this and we cheered the boy with a will. Had we been at Colonel Nesbitt’s or at General Pigot’s, I think Gould would have started a stanza of “ Hot Stuff,”3 but even he did not dare risk it at Earl Percy’s table.

The earl spoke of the beauty of the wooded country about Jamaica Plain, which led Harris to say that he thought the entrance to the harbour and the view of the town from it to be the most charming thing he ever saw, surpassing indeed the far-famed Bay of Dublin. For himself he would prefer some less favoured country where an active campaign was afoot. I was stirred to say some very harsh things of this generation of vipers that is troubling Massachusetts, and to express the belief that Harris would not have long to wait nor far to travel to find use for his powder and ball. I think they were of my mind on our side the table, but on the other Dr. Byles had something to say for Boston. Mr. Fox said nothing. He has a way of saying little when there is much talk —a trait, I am told, in Lord Holland’s family. Harris declared that while he should like to try what stuff he was made of, yet he would rather the trial should be with others than these poor fellows of kindred blood. Gould prayed to be delivered from all such kinsmen and alluded to the decoration of Tory doorways with “Hillsborough paint.” Some one called attention to the mean attack on Colonel Ruggles’s house and the maiming of his animals. Pitcairn declared the worst cowards to be those who in fear of the rebels were publishing in the papers their regrets for having signed the farewell address to Governor Hutchinson. His Lordship was inclined to think that these gentlemen were in a bad situation if located in the country, where the protection of the troops did not reach. He spoke of the insults heaped upon the court officers at Worcester and at other places and thought that the general might soon dispatch a brigade up into the country to support the authorities, who were endeavoring to maintain the law in riotous communities. Pitcairn believed he could march a battalion of marines straight through Massachusetts, and bring the people to terms without the radical use of force. Mr. Fox roused himself at this and remarked that he had heard that old Putnam, the Connecticut ranger, had said that the king’s troops could march over the continent provided “they behaved themselves civilly and paid well for everything they wanted.” Dr. Byles saw wit in this and ventured a mild defense of the holy hypocrites who are ruiuing this province. He believed the disorderly element was not numerous, and that with a little patience on the part of the authorities and the military, the present troubles would subside and all become again loyal and law-abiding subjects of the king. “I recall,” he said, “when patience has served me well in dealing with our selectmen. A foul quagmire had long stood in the street before my door and my complaints at the Town House brought me no relief. One day from my window I saw a chaise containing two of our selectmen wallowing in the bog and quite unable to flounder out. I could not refrain from shouting, ‘I am glad at last, gentlemen, to see you stirring in that matter.'” A roar of laughter greeted this speech of the reverend gentleman who has a great local reputation as a wit.

I did not think that Pitcairn relished the implied criticism of the troops in the last remark of Captain Fox, and I own I was offended by it. No sooner had Dr. Byles subsided than Mr. Fox spoke again, to say that a wise Parliament at Westminster and a wise Ministry at St. James were quite as essential to peace in the province as patient soldiers in Boston. His Lordship smiled at this, and said that soldiers were fortunate in not having to assume the burdens of Parliament or of ministers, having only to execute loyally the king’s commands. Mr. Fox quite unabashed replied that he believed the army had not been above reproach in its sphere, and that too many of the officers had earned the reproaches and enmity of the townspeople. Pitcairn, who had flushed red at the first remark of Mr. Fox, to my surprise loudly assented to this, and thanked God that the marines had never been concerned in the disorders charged to the military. He deplored the destruction of King Hancock’s fence, the scandalous doings at Miss Erskine’s, and the attack by drunken soldiers on the Providence coach. Officers should keep sober, and should keep their men in order, if they had to flog them by companies. The major’s allusion to the affair of the coach was an unhappy one, for Captain Gore of Percy’s regiment is believed to have been the chief offender. His Lordship passed over the matter gracefully and informed the major that he believed that the incident had been much exaggerated. A remark of mine stirred the controversial spirit of Captain Fox, though I must own that his bearing was both quiet and polite. When I referred to Mr. Samuel Adams of this town as a man of “desperate fortune whose political existence depended upon the continuance of the present dispute,” Fox remarked that it became all of us to speak respectfully of the man for whom two regiments in His Majesty’s service had been named.4 This caused a general laugh in which Earl Percy joined, while Mr. Byles called out from the foot of the table that he hoped Roger Sheaffe would not quote this sally of Captain Fox to Mr. Molesworth, late of the 29th Regiment.

Gould alluded to the gossip in regard to Captain Scawen of the Guards and the wife of Captain Horneck of the same regiment. The earl, perhaps out of consideration for the youth of Roger Sheaffe, or because his own matrimonial affairs are not in a good state, diverted the talk from the line in which Gould would have pressed it. He turned the subject by asking Dr. Byles across the table if he admired the verse of Dr. Goldsmith whose death has occurred within the year. Dr. Byles replied that he regarded Goldsmith as an ingenious man of excellent talent, though not to be compared with his old friend and correspondent Mr. Pope, whose work he believed would endure till the end of time. The earl had heard it said that “the Captain in Lace ” mentioned in Dr. Goldsmith’s poem of Retaliation was none other than the Captain Horneck to whom Mr. Gould had referred. “I have often heard,” said the earl, “my friend Dr. Percy mention Dr. Goldsmith with respect, and it was through him that the poet was first presented to my father at Northumberland House. A number of years since, Dr. Goldsmith wrote a poem which he sent in manuscript to my mother, and which she had printed for distribution among her friends. I have heard that these verses were afterwards incorporated in Dr. Goldsmith’s novel of The Vicar of Wakefield.” The earl continued that he had heard much from Dr. Percy of Goldsmith’s odd manners and improvident habits, and how on one occasion he strayed into the Duke of Northumberland’s lodgings in Bath, mistaking them, he believed, for the house of his friend Lord Clare. His Grace, who had a great respect for Dr. Goldsmith and would have helped him had he known his necessities, prevailed upon him on this occasion to atone for his error by remaining to dinner.

Captain Fox said that he believed Goldsmith was well known to his brother Charles, as they were members together of a literary club in London. He had heard his brother speak in warmest praise of Mr. Goldsmith’s merits, and knew that he regarded the Traveller as “one of the finest poems in the English language.” He feared that the poet’s death had been hastened by the burden of heavy debts. Here Gould muttered in my ear to wonder whether, if Lord Holland had not come to the financial relief of Charles Fox, that portly gambler would have been crushed as easily as the duke’s scribbling friend from Grub Street.

Some allusion being made to the Battle of Minden, the conversation became for a time professional in character. George, with his head full of theories, asked whether it was not a mistake to detach the flank companies of regiments of foot for separate service. But the poor lad had not gone far in his argument before Gould was patting his back and hailing him as “the General,” till, confused and abashed, he took refuge in blushes. Pitcairn hoped that no more regiments on the Irish establishment would come out. He had never known such a record of desertions on foreign service, and the rascals recruited in Ireland showed a clear willingness to fight on the rebel side. The earl explained that there had been much exaggeration in these matters. The other day there had been a statement published in Boston that one hundred men of the Royal Irish had deserted and gone into the country. As there were only three companies of the regiment stationed in Boston this would be a substantial loss, yet the earl could assure the major that the battalion was in good condition with fairly full ranks. Pitcairn was glad to have his Lordship’s assurance on this point, but thought it a matter for regret that no Scotch regiments had been sent to Boston. The Scots were an orderly people, and he believed Fraser’s made a fine record with Wolfe. Mr. Byles here remarked that the House of Brunswick had not always regarded the Scotch as an orderly people, and said gayly that he was not sure that the major himself had not been out in the Forty-five.5 Pitcairn had a retort ready, but Colonel Gunning interrupted to say that he was glad to hear the 78th mentioned as having been at Quebec. He had always understood that the 43d had seen some fighting on the Plains of Abraham, but since the landing of the 47th in Boston, the impression seemed to be that Montcalm was beaten by a few companies of “Wolfe’s Own.” The earl laughed at this outbreak, and bowing very politely to Gunning, said that the glorious record of the 43d was better known than the colonel would admit, and then added that the major would be glad to know that as Ireland had been drawn on so heavily for troops the new regiments were almost certain to be sent from England. Then, turning again to Colonel Gunning, the earl remarked that it had been decided that General Burgoyne was coming out in a few weeks. It seems that Burgoyne and Gunning are both uncles to Lord Stanley, whose fête champêtre of last year in honour of his marriage with Lady Betty Hamilton was for months the talk of the town. Upon mention of this gorgeous affair, the earl stated that George Selwyn had said that it had every appearance of having been planned by Burgoyne and paid for by Lord Stanley, at which Gun-

Mr. Fox had become engaged in a discussion with Lord Rawdon upon the value of the American breed of horses as compared with the English stock, and was showing vast animation, for him. Mr. Byles, interrupting, suggested Pitcairn as a competent man to judge the dispute. The major affirmed that, while he knew little of the complicated workmanship of the beast, he could handle any quadruped that neighed. Every Fife man could ride, and he would race the doctor on a wager, from the North Battery to the Neck. The earl said that he had supposed the major would declare for the Scottish animal as his standard, and asked Harris whether he had forgotten the good horses they saw on the track at Kelso when they went from Alnwick to the races in 1772. Harris remembered the bonny lasses he saw that day far better than the horses, whereupon the major, forgetting his challenge, burst forth into a fine encomium upon the ladies of his native land.

We rose as the bell on the South Meeting-House was striking nine. The evening was one of the pleasantest I have passed in Boston. I believe I am regarded favourably by his Lordship, and shall study to win his interest. We went out pretty much together: Master Sheaffe walked down Tremont Street with Collingwood and Pitcairn; the Reverend Byles was sent home in his Lordship’s coach. As we crossed the street to the Common, the earl was already coming out of his garden with his cloak about him, to make his evening rounds.


The coming of General Gage to reside in Boston relieved Earl Percy of many responsibilities, but there is no reason to believe that the hospitality of the Province House dimmed the attractions of the mansion at the head of Winter Street.

Throughout the season we meet the earl here and there about his duties. The season is not a harsh one, but the townspeople are amazed that he walks and rides with bosom open and wears no greatcoat. The mild winter melts into an early spring and mid-April finds the grass green upon the Common, while the trees along the Mall are already bursting into foliage.

Doubtless Boston slept well on the night of the 18th of April, 1775, but we have it on good authority that it was otherwise with Earl Percy. We can place him on the Common not far from midnight, where he overhears the remark of a townsman that the British have marched upon a vain errand. From here we can follow him to the Province House, where, behind closed doors, it is believed that he consumed the early morning hours in consulting with his commander and in upbraiding him with having confided an important secret to an unworthy confidant.6 A few hours later and he is mounted upon a white charger, and with pistols in holster is riding up and down the line of soldiery that extends all the way from Queen Street along Tremont Street almost to the bottom of the Mall.

When early risers on this historic morning attempt to cross the thoroughfare that skirts the Common, they are amazed at the imposing display of force that blocks the way. All sorts of wild stories are afloat as to what this commotion means. The townsmen hear that the Grenadiers and Light Infantry of the garrison went into the country last night, leaving the town by water from the bottom of the Common. It is whispered that their aim is the cannon at Concord, and perhaps the arrest of John Hancock and Samuel Adams. It is said that secret measures were taken early to warn these men and that signal lanterns burned last evening in the steeple of the North Church. It is believed that they have bad news at the Province House and that the troops now forming are going out under Earl Percy to reinforce last night’s expedition.

The army hears that the Grenadiers and Light Infantry have gone out on a secret mission, that Smith of the 10th is in command, and that the general has had the good sense to send Pitcairn along to keep an eye on things; that an express arrived from Smith before dawn, saying that the country was aroused and asking for reinforcements; that there is a stupid blunder somewhere in the orders, and so the brigade is not all mustered yet. Now everything is awaiting the arrival of the marines, and it is clear that Percy is disgusted and in bad humor.

Eight o’clock has sounded from the Old South tower, and at last the belated marines are arriving. The sergeants bustle about among their men, the lines are dressed, and as the hands of the town clocks are nearing nine the command to march passes along the street. Harrison Gray Otis on his way to the Latin School is turned back on Queen Street by a brusque officer, and makes his way up School Street in time to see the soldiers and hear those famous words of dismissal from Master Lovell. As the boys pour out of the building that is closing for many a long month, the troops are moving, the drums are rolling, and the fifes are screaming the shrill strains of Yankee Doodle. The head of the column is below West Street, and to all those in the throng who love the British flag it is an inspiring sight. The marines go by erect and solid, the best men Pitcairn thinks who ever fixed bayonet on musket; then follows a fine regiment which from the king’s cipher and the royal lion on theircolors we recognize as the King’s Own. But the flank companies are missing, which means that Evelyn, Boscawen, and Gould went out with Smith last night. And here is the 47th, “Wolfe’s Own,” the famous corps that fought on the Plains of Abraham and saw its commander die victorious under the walls of Quebec; and then comes glittering rank on rank of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, the custodians of a proud record, with Minden emblazoned on their standards. We catch glimpses of Earl Percy riding slowly up and down the line, and the expression on his Lordship’s face is not the one we find in Mr. Stuart’s painting, nor that familiar to guests at his dinner-table. Two field-pieces rumble on after the column, and the wagons with supplies and ammunition bring up the rear. The music dies away, the crowd disperses, and Earl Percy and his brigade have passed on to a hard day’s work.

The 19th was an anxious day in Boston. It was known in the forenoon at the Province House that the troops and the Minute Men had been in collision at Lexington, but Gage, lacking definite details, caused it to be given out that no lives had been lost. Later all sorts of wild rumors passed from mouth to mouth. It was repeatedly asserted in the afternoon that Earl Percy had been killed, and all through the day Beacon Hill was crowded by citizens and soldiers gazing westward for some sign of what was taking place. But from this airy height Boston looked down that day upon a land where all seemed peace, the fields and hills of Middlesex smiling in the sun, from the rippling current of the Charles to the hazy heights of Waltham. But toward sundown the situation became more clear, fires were burning in Menotomy, and to the eastward of the Colleges in Cambridge were drifting puffs of dust and smoke to tell the story of hard marching and of carnage. Then as darkness fell the flickering of musketry was visible all along the base of Prospect Hill, until it became clear that the troops were following the road into Charlestown. Late in the evening it was known in Boston that Percy was in the town across the ferry, and those stationed along the north water front could see the Somerset lowering her boats for service. All through the night the sailors rowed to and fro, bringing to town the wounded men who had fallen in that long heart-rending march from Concord Bridge. Earl Percy was doubtless at the Province House before morning, to report upon his day’s work. We can fancy the agitation of the gentle-hearted governor when his elegant brigadier confronted him, dirt-covered and powder-blackened, his voice gone, and with that rent in his dusty coat where the peasant’s bullet had almost robbed a dukedom of its heir.

The events of the 19th of April wrought a change in the whole current of life in Boston. War had begun, and all New England in armed revolt was encamped about the town. Sympathizers with the popular cause passed out into the rebel camps, while the Loyalists, helpless in the face of the popular uprising, fled to Boston to dwell within the protection of the troops. These movements of the people were fostered by the British and by the provincial authorities, so that before the close of the month well-known faces were missed and strange faces had appeared in Boston. The presence of the wounded had a marked effect upon the temper of the people. The care of nearly two hundred stricken men kept the army surgeons well employed, while the prevalence of crutches and bandages upon the streets brought home to all the realities of grimvisaged war.

It had fallen to Captain Harris to cover the retreat with his company of Percy’s regiment, and the earl told how he met him under fire, bareheaded on the dusty road, carrying his grenadier hat full of water for the comfort of the wounded. Harris had seen Lieutenant Baker and more than half of his tall fellows shot down by invisible marksmen, and he had lost all sense of kinship with the stealthy, straight-shooting people of the province. “I trust the Americans may be brought to a sense of their duty,” he stormed. “One good drubbing which I long to give them by way of retaliation might have a good effect toward it.”

There was gloom at Captain Evelyn’s lodgings, for Joe Knight, the only officer killed, was a lieutenant in the King’s Own, while little Gould, shot through the leg, had been taken prisoner in Menotomy as he was hobbling home ahead of the column. “He was the most amiable and worthy man in the world,” sobbed Evelyn over the loss of poor Knight, while Boscawen’s grief was pathetic to witness. But Joe Knight, though cut off on the threshold of his career, was honored in his friendships and in dying as a good soldier should. He did not live to attain distinction in his profession, but his gentle character was to be enshrined in that series of loving letters which the Honorable Mrs. Boscawen addressed to Mrs. Delaney. The fate of Knight impressed Evelyn with the risks to which his young charge was exposed. “I wish,” he wrote to his father, “they would purchase a lieutenantcy for him at home, for I am very uneasy lest anything befall him while he is with me.”

But there was no depression in the army over the affair of April 19. The officers declared that this was far different from campaigning in Germany, and that discipline and high training were useless in a contest where not above ten of the enemy could be seen in a body, and where all gave their fire from behind trees and walls, “and then reloaded on their bellies.” Percy became at once the darling of the army. All through the march from Lexington to Charlestown Common he had his men in good control, and whenever opportunity offered to strike a blow he was quick to see and improve it. He left the marks of his heavy hand all along the roads of Menotomy and Cambridge, and it was cool design and not uncontrolled savagery that filled the evening air with the smoke of flaming dwellings. When Percy first saw Smith’s demoralized infantry in Lexington, exhausted, powderless, and cumbered with their wounded, he realized that this was war and determined to play a strong part in it. For long years after, his name was abhorred by the Provincials, who had hovered on his flanks and who had suffered at his hands that April afternoon. The officers of the line, the commander-inchief in Boston, the king in London, all combined in praising “the masterly officership ” that had brought off the troops “with so little loss through a severe and incessant fire for twenty miles;” and the Duke of Northumberland received, from ministers who loved him not, congratulations upon the conduct of his son.

And Percy himself, who had despised his foes,described the day in these words: “During the whole affair the Rebels attacked us in a very scattered, irregular manner, but with perseverance and resolution, nor did they ever dare to form into any regular body. Indeed, they knew too well what was proper, to do so. Whoever looks upon them as an irregular mob, will find himself much mistaken. They have men amongst them who know very well what they are about, having been employed as Rangers against the Indians and Canadians, and this country being much cov’d with wood and hilly, is very advantageous for their method of fighting. Nor are several of their men void of a spirit of enthusiasm, as we experienced yesterday, for many of them concealed themselves in houses and advanced within 10 yards to fire at me and other officers tho’ they were morally certain of being put to death themselves in an instant. . . . For my part, I never believed I confess that they wd have attacked the King’s troops, or have had the perseverance I found in them yesterday.” In this frank fashion did Earl Percy acknowledge his error and pay his tribute to the courage of the men of Massachusetts.

Though Colonel Smith of the 10th and Barnard of the Fusiliers were both wounded in the April fighting, it was Major Pitcairn who retained the most disagreeable memories of the day. His story of that morning was always told with simple, straightforward frankness. He saw the militia drawn up under arms on the village green, and riding up ordered them to disperse, and damned them as they deserved for a set of disloyal villains. They did not obey on the moment and he turned about to order his troops to surround and disarm them. Then came two or three scattered shots, which he did not see but believed to have been fired by the militia, followed by a sudden and promiscuous fusillade from a part of his own men. Though he struck his sword downwards with all earnestness as the signal to forbear or cease firing, the damage was done in an instant. This in effect was Pitcairn’s story, and though he rested under no criticism from the general, he did not regard it a creditable tale. He could laugh over the loss of his horse and his pistols; the slaying of a few peasants did not disturb him, for the rascals had tempted fate by facing the king’s troops in arms. But the old veteran was pained that a detachment serving under him should get out of hand and fire without orders. He had only one comfort in his trial, —the offenders were merely light infantry and not the marines.

It is likely that the damage inflicted upon the regiments, the shifting of the population, and the work of fortifying the town, checked for a time all social life in the garrison. But the incoming of the Loyalist families was an agreeable event to the officers, and we are told that Lady Frankland was an object of especial interest when she came down from Hopkinton to open her great mansion at the North End. On May 25 there arrived the Cerberus frigate with the three majorgenerals aboard, — Howe, Clinton, and Burgoyne, — and at the same time that she cast anchor in the harbor, the transports came in with the three regiments of foot and the Queen’s Light Dragoons. With these reinforcements the military population of the town exceeded the civil element, and as the most ardent rebels had crossed the Charles, Boston became in effect a loyal community. By the last of May the morale of the garrison was higher than at any time since Percy’s arrival, and confidence was widespread among both the soldiery and the Tory refugees, that a decisive movement was imminent that would crush out rebellion in the province and bring all loyal souls in Boston to their own again.

With the arrival of the Cerberus the receptions and dinners at the Province House took on more imposing state, and the great rooms of the governor’s mansion were thronged with the bravest and the fairest that the town could boast. We can fancy too that, though Percy’s army rank seemed less imposing since the landing of the major-generals, his house was not neglected, and that day by day he did the honors of his table. One is tempted to glance again into the old dining-room and mark the new faces that gather there: to hear Colonel Saltonstall and Mr. Vassall lament the inconveniences of the time, to hear Clinton tell his memories of the fighting Prince of Brunswick, and listen to Burgoyne’s graceful and racy recital of the gossip that is amusing high life in London. But it is not necessary to call at Earl Percy’s to find Burgoyne. You may see him on the Mall, where he saunters with handsome Tory ladies; at the bookshops on Cornhill, where he handles the volumes with loving hands and chats charmingly of their contents; or you may meet him coming down the steps of the Province House, after a conference with his Excellency, a queer smile on his face as he thinks how absurd it is that His Majesty’s army in Boston should be commanded by a timid old woman.

The night of the 16th of June was quiet so quiet that officers on duty remarked it, and the “All’s well" from the men-of-war at anchor in the harbor was plainly audible in the town. With the first flush of dawn came the boom of a cannon, then another, followed by the roll and roar of great guns bombarding. The town was alarmed by this harsh awakening, and there was a rush of soldiers and citizens to Copp’s and Beacon Hills, from which the Royal vessels in the Charles were descried enshrouded in the smoke of their own guns.

At first it was not clear what caused the commotion in the fleet, but soon practiced eyes discovered beyond the river a low redoubt on the crest of Breed’s Hill, whose grassy slopes formed a pleasant background for the clustering roofs of Charlestown. Officers rubbed their eyes in amazement. There was no room for doubt that during the few short hours of darkness the daring Provincials had done a work that was meant as a challenge to the troops in Boston.

There was a hurried conference of the generals at the Province House, as a result of which a force of two thousand men was assigned to Howe with orders to clear the hill, while Earl Percy was sent to Roxbury Neck to maintain a bombardment, and prevent any hostile move from that quarter. Clinton had urged a landing in the rear of the redoubt, with a view of cutting off the retreat of the Provincials and capturing the whole body, but others clamored for an attack in front. On the 19th of April the troops had complained that they could not see their foes; now they had them in plain sight and would beat them handsomely in the face of the whole country. The rascals would not stand to receive the bayonet, and losses would be trifling. Even Gage was carried away by the enthusiasm of his advisers. The excitement in Boston was intense. Groups gathered at corners discussed in whispers the intentions of the rebels, and as the roar of the bombardment went echoing through the streets their faces blanched with terror. The Province House was early thronged with officers who sought a place in the attacking column. Orderlies galloped through the streets on important errands, and from all parts of the town came the rolling of drums and the alarms of the bugle. Before noon the regiments were on the march, and the music of the bands and the screaming of the fifes was heard on every hand.

The 43d is passing down Hanover Street on its way to the North Battery, and Colonel Gunning makes a handsome figure at its head. But the bands are playing in King Street, and as we hurry in that direction we can see through narrow lanes the glitter of moving steel. The scarlet ranks sweep down the famous street in an unceasing stream, 舒 grenadiers, light infantry, the 38th, and Earl Percy’s 5th. We see Abercrombie leading the grenadiers, and not far behind is Captain Harris, whose chance to thrash the rebels is close at hand. Lord Rawdon’s face is turned away as he scans the alignment of his men; and then comes Evelyn, erect and stern, his mind filled with misgivings for the lad who is marching gayly at his heels. Now the colors of the 38th are tossing above the glare of bayonets, and in a moment we see Harry Fox go by, with the easy swing of a man of lighter build, cursing inwardly the duty upon which he is bound, but with the same imperturbable expression on his face that he wore at Earl Percy’s dinner-table. As the column pours on to the Long Wharf, the boats and barges are ready and the work of embarkation is beautifully carried out. The naval officer in charge will win promotion for this day’s work, and as he moves about the wharf we recognize the face of Collingwood.

Burgoyne was not to have a share in the day’s fighting. His literary and not his military qualities were to be asserted on this occasion, and his famous letter to Lord Stanley will remain for all time the most vivid pen picture of the Battle of Bunker Hill.

We shall find him with Clinton on Copp’s Hill where the Royal Artillerymen are busy with their guns. High above them, in the tower of Christ Church, Gage is looking down upon the battlefield and watching Prescott of Pepperell as he saunters along the distant rampart. The day is beautiful but intensely warm; the roofs and spires of Boston are black with excited humanity. Across the river the highlands of Middlesex are sprinkled with onlookers, while in strange contrast to all this eager life the village of Charlestown lies sleeping in the sun, silent and deserted.

The advance is about to commence. The ships of war are concentrating their fire upon the redoubt,and the gunners on Copp’s Hill toil with renewed energy at their heated pieces. The glittering files of the soldiery move up the slope with a precision and proud bearing that awes the spectators and draws forth the remark from the critical Burgoyne that “ Howe’s disposition is exceedingly soldierlike.” Not a sign of life is visible in Charlestown or about the redoubt. The troops advance steadily, though impeded, it is clear, by the bad ground and by the stout fences that cross the slope. As the leading platoons deliver their fire with parade accuracy, the batteries on sea and land cease their roaring, and like the rolling back of a curtain the billowy clouds of powder smoke drifting seaward open up the whole battlefield to the view of those in Boston. The troops seem to have almost reached the redoubt; Burgoyne fears that the peasants have already withdrawn, when there is a sudden glancing of flame, a crash, and the provincial works are ablaze from end to end with musketry. Dense smoke envelopes the crest of the hill and completely screens the combatants from view. For ten minutes the awful roll and rattle continues; scarlet groups appear wavering here and there along the lower edge of the seething cloud; and then the thinned and broken lines of the soldiery come fully into view, swaying backward down the slope in orderly but unmistakable retreat.

The officers on Copp’s Hill are stung with chagrin and shame. The whole country has witnessed the repulse of the troops. But it is clear that Howe is going up again, and all along the lines the swords of the officers can be seen flashing in the sunlight as they rally and reform the broken battalions. It is now that Howe gives the order for the burning of Charlestown. As the battery on Copp’s Hill sends its bombs into the doomed town a boatload of sailors is seen pulling out from the Somerset, to make sure of the work. In a few moments Charlestown begins to burn. The fire leaps up in a dozen places and spreads rapidly; the church spire sends a thin column of gray smoke skyward and then puffs out into blinding flames. In the shadow of the smoke which now drifts in dense volumes over the field of death, and supported by the renewed cannonading from the ships, the royal troops again move forward to the assault. Again there is the steady advance, though now the way is sadly cumbered with the fallen, and again the troops deliver their beautiful but useless volleys. As the din of the bombardment dies away, there comes a hush so deep that the roar of the flames and the crash of falling roofs in Charlestown is distinctly heard in Boston. Then again the redoubt breaks into awful life and the scarlet columns seem to shrink and wither before the fiery blast. In a short half-hour from Howe’s second order to advance, the wreck of his detachment has been thrown back down the hill, almost to the beach.

There were few among the spectators on either side of the river who after this awful slaughter did not regard the battle as over, for the day at least. The scene upon the beach beggared description. Fully one-third of the attacking force had fallen. Regiments were reduced to battalions, and companies had been literally annihilated. Major Small with a detachment of marines now put off from Boston, and Clinton, unable longer to behold the discomfiture of the soldiery, threw himself into the boat as a volunteer. There was no appeal from Howe for fresh regiments, there was no move on the part of Gage to relieve the broken battalions that had twice scaled these fatal heights.

There were scores among the officers who had crossed the river with Howe who had called the Provincials cowards. The survivors of those two attacks were never to repeat the charge. And these gentlemen who so despised their foe had been loud in proclaiming the invincibility of the British arms. They at least were no vain braggarts; they had indulged in no empty boasting. Ardent patriots, thrilling with the brave work of their countrymen behind that low redoubt, could scarce believe their senses, they could scarce withhold their admiration, when it became clear that the indomitable infantry which Howe commanded was still unbeaten. As the artillery was pushed forward through the swampy ground to rake the redoubt in flank, the soldiers, throwing aside knapsacks, coats, and all useless weight, were again reforming their now pitifully thin lines. All the world knows the rest of that day’s work. How Howe, abandoning all parade formations, used the strength that was left him as it should have been used against a powerful and determined foe; how the provincial powder ran low, and how at last that fierce torrent of British steel burst into the redoubt and wrought awful vengeance upon brave and almost defenseless men who would not beg for quarter. “The day ended with glory,” said Burgoyne, “and the success was most important, considering the ascendency it gave the regular troops; but the loss was uncommon in officers for the numbers engaged.”

But in addressing the noble lord in England, Burgoyne hardly did justice to the awful carnage which the army had sustained. “We were exulting in seeing the flight of our enemies,” writes an ardent Tory of the town, “but in an hour or two we had occasion to mourn and lament. Dear was the purchase of our safety. In the evening the streets were filled with the wounded and the dying; the sight of which, with the lamentations of the women and children over their husbands and fathers, pierced one to the soul. We were now every moment hearing of some officer, or other of our friends and acquaintance, who had fallen in our defense, and in supporting the honor of our country.” In another account we read : “The Saturday night and Sabbath were taken up in carrying over the dead and wounded; and all the wood carts in town it is said were employed, chaises and coaches for the officers.”

Percy coming down from Roxbury Neck in the early evening may well have been shocked at these evidences of the desperate fighting of the day. He hears that Pitcairn has been killed and that Abercrombie, mortally wounded, had made a last appeal to his men to treat old Putnam kindly if they took him. Major Small declares that he owes his own life to Putnam, who “rushed forward and struck up the muzzles of guns that were aimed at him.” Percy is doubtless proud to learn that “his regiment suffered the most and behaved the best,” and is pleased to hear from Burgoyne that Lord Rawdon has “behaved to a charm,” and has established his name for life. But when they tell him that Harris is dangerously wounded, and that there were only eight men of his company left to follow Lord Rawdon into the redoubt, the earl’s pride and pleasure are tempered by grief. Down at the marine barracks in the North End strong men are weeping like children for Pitcairn. They tell how he was bleeding from two wounds when he placed himself in front of the battalion for the third attack, and how as he pointed to the enemy he called out for the last time, “Now for the glory of the marines ! ” He was struck by four bullets as he entered the redoubt, and they believe at the barracks that he died as he had always wished to die, and that his closing eyes must have beheld his marines victorious. “ We have lost a father.” That is the wail of Pitcairn’s bereaved command.

No one could complain of the way the 43d was handled at Bunker Hill, and Colonel Gunning came out unscathed, to be warmly commended by the general. That night, back in the Boston camp, Evelyn bethought himself of the dangers that beset us in this troubled life; he thought too of Peggie Wright, and then and there drew up his modest will. Harry Fox bore himself in every emergency as became an officer of the 38th, and as he pored over the gaps in his company roll, he must have thought what a shameful waste it was to send His Majesty’s troops against men of English blood.

Percy was fortunate in having none of his regimental officers slain. There were wounds in plenty, and the life of Harris was saved by trepanning. Years after he left the Boston hospital, he would laughingly tell how the doctors had allowed him to behold his own brains in a mirror.

For weeks the town was a hospital, and scores of soldiers who succumbed to their wounds were buried in trenches on the Common. “Many of the wounded are daily dying,” writes an army surgeon at this time, “and many must have both legs amputated. The Provincials either exhausted their ball, or they were determined that every wound should prove mortal. Their muskets were charged with old nails and angular pieces of iron.” We read how Lady Frankland gave up her mansion for a hospital, and how Clinton abandoned the Hancock House that it might be put to the same use. In the mess-rooms of the garrison, Minden lost its standing as a bloody battle. Minden was a dress parade to Bunker Hill, so the talk ran, and the far-famed French grenadier a really harmless animal when compared to the American peasant with a wall in front of him and powder and ball in his pouch.

We have only meagre records of what went on in Boston between July, 1775, when Washington arrived in Cambridge, and March, 1776, when he placed his heavy guns in position on Dorchester Heights. We know that the winter was not a mild one, and that low temperatures were rendered more fearful by the lack of fuel and by the rough gales that howled across the Common and through the narrow streets. Food was scarce, and the occasional skirmishes between outposts not being frequent nor warm enough to keep the troops in heart, it was a hard task to restrain them from vandalism and excess. All lived in the hope of that long-deferred campaign which was to put everything to rights.

Burgoyne was a conspicuous figure in the town until the day of his departure. He converted the Old South MeetingHouse into a riding school for his pet regiment of horse, and it is probable that almost any day one might have seen the Honorable Tom Stanley leaping his horse over the barriers. This was the young man for whom Burgoyne had yearned as he stood on Copp’s Hill on the 17th of June, and who arrived in Boston shortly after the events of that day. Burgoyne was a good disciplinarian, but during his stay in town he was more active with his pen than with his sword. He found time to waste ink in a fruitless controversy with Charles Lee, and these letters, with the pompous proclamations he wrote for Gage, have proved the enduring part of his literary labors. His wit as a playwright and his efficiency as a stage manager were his best offerings to the royal cause in Boston. He wrote the prologue for a performance of Zarah at Faneuil Hall, and Lord Rawdon spoke the lines. We can fancy that the young man performed this task with far less confidence than he played his part at Bunker Hill. “The theatre flourishes surprisingly and has brought out some capital performers,” writes George Evelyn, who, having succeeded in getting Boscawen sent home on recruiting duty, breathed free again. Burgoyne’s piece of The Blockade of Boston was not acted until after the sailing of the accomplished author, and the first performance in Faneuil Hall was broken up by the alarm of a Yankee attack. Officers were ordered to their posts, and we read of the dilemma of certain fair Tories who made their way home without escort, to the great delight of their rebel sisters.

We see little of Earl Percy during these days, but we can imagine that because of the lack of tempting viands dinner-giving was going out of fashion in Boston. Sir William Howe managed to maintain a dignified and charming hospitality at the Province House, and within its walls anxious Tories were wont to find new courage, and dance dull care away to the bewitching music of the Fusiliers’ band. But when the raw March air began to throb to the roar of the Continental cannon, a spirit of gloom crept over the town, and made its way at last into the innermost recesses of the governor’s mansion and chilled the heart in the governor’s breast.

On the morning of March 5, 1776, the British officers were gazing in wonder upon Dorchester Heights, as nine months before they had looked across the Charles upon Breed’s Hill. Washington had planted batteries on the high land during the night, and the admiral at once notified Howe that his anchorage was no longer tenable. Then Percy comes into prominence for the last time in Boston. He is ordered to rendezvous at the Castle with a force of three thousand men, and to cross to the mainland in the morning to attack the Continental works. The expedition bivouacked at the Castle that night, but the day of the 6th was ushered in by a driving storm, and the sea ran so high that it was found impossible to get the troops off. All through the stormy day Howe was pondering the lessons of Bunker Hill, and his memory was so haunted by the carnage wrought by the American farmers, that before the storm had subsided, he countermanded Percy’s orders and began to prepare for evacuating the town. After sundown on March 16, the British troops went aboard the transports, and all night long the streets echoed to their departing tramp. On the 17th the fleet dropped down to Nantasket Roads, and there lay for ten days before weighing anchor for Halifax. As Percy paced the deck within sight of the hills of Boston, the windows of his house on Winter Street were looking out upon glad scenes, upon the street thronging with happy country people and townsfolk returning, upon the Common where detachments of the liberating army, ill drilled and in motley garb, were going on duty. Putnam and Heath come down the street, so does Mr. Knox the bookseller in his artillery regimentals, and Charles Lee also, jealous and vain as of yore. But the old house rocks with the cheering of thousands when a greater than these approaches, a far nobler man indeed than any of the distinguished company who have sat down with Earl Percy at his table here in Boston. His Excellency, the Commander-in-Chief, rides a great charger, be wears the blue and buff, and he bows gravely to right and left upon the joyous crowds that line his way.


Let us glance in closing at what the future had in store for those gallant servants of King George whom we have met at Earl Percy’s table. As we look into the scattering family correspondence that has been preserved, it is pleasant to see how fully Roger Sheaffe repaid the benevolence of his noble patron. In 1778 an ensign in the 5th Foot, in 1813 he was a major-general commanding against the United States in Canada. This service was sorely against his will, and he was ever devoted to his mother and to his friends and kindred in Boston. He revisited the town in 1788, and again in 1792, when he was clearly the idol of the family circle. He married Margaret Coffin, a cousin to the admiral of that name; and it was a note from the Duke of Northumberland 7 addressed to “Lady Sheaffe,” that first informed this excellent woman that her husband had been created a baronet of England. The career of Roger Sheaffe was marked at times by hardship and disappointment, but through it all the duke appears and reappears in his rôle of a fairy godfather. We catch frequent glimpses of Sir Roger during the early half of the nineteenth century, and in the days of the third Duke of Northumberland we find him always a welcome guest at Alnwick. He was apparently beloved and favored by the sons of the noble friend whom he first knew at his mother’s house in Boston as Hugh, Earl Percy.

With the departure of the British from Boston, the light went out of the life of Dr. Byles. Rejected by his parish in 1776, he at length stood trial in the courts on the grave charge of honoring the king. He was found guilty and sentenced to banishment, but the penalty was never enforced. The old man lived on in Boston, detested by many, until in 1788 he died at the ripe age of eighty-two years. His Tory principles lived on in his daughters, and in the old house, surrounded by the furniture and mementos of the old days, they entertained in the old-fashioned way, and prayed for the restoration of royal authority. Early in the nineteenth century a portion of their house was removed to make way for public improvements, and the shock brought one of these sisters to her grave. The survivor lived to congratulate William IV upon his accession to the throne, and to subscribe herself his loyal and obedient subject. To the end she thought and babbled of the days of good King George, of the wrongs suffered by her father, of walks on the Mall with Sir William Howe, of courtesies extended by Earl Percy, and of the serenades by his regimental band.

Lord Rawdon sailed away to a brilliant career on southern battlefields. He was to justify the promise of Bunker Hill, and to live in history as one of the few capable officers who fought for Britain against Washington and Greene. In later years as Lord Moira, and later still as Marquis of Hastings, he governed England’s far Indian empire, and won laurels as one of the great administrators of his day.

In 1793, Captain Harris of the 5th Foot has become Lord Harris of Seringapatam, having in conjunction with Colonel Arthur Wellesley overthrown the redoubtable Tippoo Sahib. Which proved that the brains the provincial bullet so narrowly missed at Bunker Hill were well worth preserving.

Ensign Boscawen in 1777 was riding as captain in the Royal Irish Dragoons, and ten years later he showed tact and courage in pacifying the riotous miners at Truro. He never attained great distinction, but he fulfilled the hopes of his doting mother, and became the discreet and amiable Viscount Falmouth.

As for Glanville Evelyn, there was but a short span of life left for him when he sailed from Boston with Clinton. The longed-for promotion never came, and before the close of the year 1776 he died at the head of his company in an obscure skirmish outside New York. General Howe informed the ministry that the king had lost a “gallant officer” in Captain Evelyn, and Peggie Wright received, by virtue of his last will and testament, the few trinkets and odds and ends which were all his long years of faithful service had brought him.

Lieutenant Gould, cured of the hurt received at Lexington, was exchanged and sent home in the summer of 1775. His convalescence was so rapid and so complete, that within a few weeks after his arrival in England he was able to elope with the daughter of a peer. Mrs. Boscawen in horror reminded Mrs. Delaney that this young desperado had been a friend and comrade of her dear boy in the King’s Own. In 1777 Gould comes again into notice as a witness at the trial of the Reverend John Horne in London, and we are told that Earl Percy was an interested spectator in the courtroom. To the chagrin of the king and his ministers, Gould testified as an eye-witness that the royal troops were the aggressors on Lexington Common. In 1792 we are surprised to find him in possession of the office once held by the most implacable enemy of bold Robin Hood. We must assume that, as Sheriff of Nottingham, “little Gould ” turned his back upon the follies of his early life and became not only a sober citizen, but a terror to all evil-doers within his jurisdiction.

On the morning of October 21, 1805, Lord Nelson is bringing his fleet into action against the French. As the mighty mass of the Royal Sovereign drives grandly into the opposing line, Nelson, moved with enthusiasm at the sight, exclaims to an officer at his side, “See how that noble fellow Collingwood takes his ship into action. How I envy him! ” And so the modest lieutenant of the Somerset in 1775 lived to have the honor of being second in command to Nelson on the glorious day of Trafalgar.

In the spring of 1779 we find “ dear Harry Fox,” as Lady Sarah Lennox calls him, back at the Duke of Richmond’s seat in Sussex. He reappears among his kinsfolk as Lieutenant-Colonel Fox of the 38th. His campaigning has not undone him, for “he is a good portly figure,” and while “he breathes short like poor Ste, which vexes one for fear of its being from the same cause of inward fat,” he is active and stirring, and a strong walker. To Lady Sarah, “his looks, his manner, are all delightfull; he has the more true good military air, the most noble ways.” He talks of his service with a modesty and propriety that are charming. He still laughs at the folly of supposing that America can be conquered. “He says the Americans never plunder without leave, he don’t say so of the English.” He longs to pursue all sorts of campaigning save that against the Americans, which he has no heart for. And there is a general’s commission and a fond wife awaiting Colonel Fox in the not distant future, and Lord Holland’s “only good son” is destined to round out an honorable and useful life.

As for Gunning, that handsome soldier, with his distinguished connections, and hallucinations regarding Charlemagne, there is a sad downfall awaiting him. As a general resting from war’s alarms, he is to be undone by a vulgar wife and an illbred daughter who crave an alliance with the great house of Marlborough. It is a strange story, and the wild campaign of those awful women cheered Selwyn’s closing days and enlivened for weeks the letters of Horace Walpole. Poor Gunning, who, cool and collected, had held the 43d in hand under the iron hail of Bunker Hill, succumbed to this blow at his vanity. He cast his family from him, and plunged into dissipation and debt. Then, heedless of his high social connections, unmindful even of Charlemagne, he ran away with the wife of his tailor. He figured disreputably in a divorce suit, wrote for publication an “Apology” for his life, and died at last on the shores of the Bay of Naples. Years after his death a book was published by his erring daughter, and in inscribing it to the Princess Charlotte she described herself as “the daughter of the late Lieutenant-General Gunning and the niece of the late Duchess of Argyll and the Countess of Coventry.” So by the hand of the daughter who had shamed him, his name was linked on a printed page with that of his famous sisters, without whom he would hardly have risen in the fashionable world, and contributed to one of the rarest of its scandals.

As for the noble Percy, he was to serve valiantly in America for some months before returning to London to lay before his sovereign his opinion of Sir William Howe. With his arrival home his days of active soldiering were finished, but his interest in military matters remained always keen. The 5th Regiment of Foot became the Northumberland Fusiliers in compliment to him, and the efficiency of the county militia long bore witness to his fostering care. In 1778 the earl obtained a divorce from the wanton daughter of Lord Bute. He had said to Bishop Percy that matrimony should never tempt him again until he should find another Lady Algernon.8 And he kept his word, for though he married within a few months of his divorce, it was to Lady Algernon’s younger sister, who was to grace her high station both as Countess Percy and as Duchess of Northumberland. The “soldier duke” grew old in a fine aristocratic way, and became gouty and choleric of temper, as befitted an English peer. He was courted by the Whig leaders at Westminster and was somewhat spoiled by these attentions. He gave his counsel with a grand air and was quick to take offense. He quarreled at last with

Charles James Fox, and he is credited with administering a rebuff to no less a person than the Prince of Wales. In his declining years he must often have dwelt upon those fateful hours when he brought the army from Lexington to Charlestown Common, and he may well have given a wistful thought to those far-away days when his table was set with twelve covers in the house at the head of Winter Street.

  1. Warren’s address in the Old South MeetingHouse in 1775, on the anniversary of the Boston Massacre, contained the following words: — “ Even the sending of troops to put these acts in execution, is not without advantages to us. The exactness and beauty of their discipline inspire our youth with ardor in the pursuit of military knowledge. Charles the Invincible taught Peter the Great the art of war ; the battle of Pultowa convinced Charles of the proficiency Peter had made.”
  2. “ His Excellency proceeded to Earl Piercy’s, who occupies a house at the head of Winter Street belonging to Inspector Williams.” Letters of John Andrews, Esq., of Boston. Mass. Historical Society Proceedings, 1866-65.
  3. This song was the work of Edward Botwood, a sergeant of Grenadiers in the 47th Foot (Lascelles), who fell in Wolfe’s attack upon the French entrenchments near Beauport, July 31, 1759. It was a favorite with the British army throughout the Revolution, and was sung to the air “ Lilies of France.” It will be found printed in full as a note in the third volume of Parkman’s Montcalm and Wolfe. (Little, Brown & Co. 1899.)
  4. When the news reached London of the Boston Massacre, and of the removal of the troops from the town as a result of the agitation headed by Samuel Adams, the 14th and 29th were derisively alluded to in Parliament as “ the Sam Adams regiments.”
  5. Referring to the uprising in Scotland in 1745 for the Chevalier Charles Edward. ning broke into a roar of laughter that brought over Dr. Byles to find out what wit there was, not of his making.
  6. General Gage had married the daughter of a colonist and was suspected in the army of being so much under her influence as to share with her important state secrets.
  7. Percy succeeded his father as Duke of Northumberland in June, 1786.
  8. Lord Algernon Percy married in June 1775, Isabella Susannah, second daughter of Peter Burrell of Beckenham, Kent, sister of the first Lord Gwydyr.