Posts Tagged ‘American Revolution’
Well it has done nothing but snow here in Boston these past three weeks. In fact we are up to about 70″, a new record for snow in one month. Of course such things makes me start thinking about the importance of various storms during the past. One of the most important was the storm that took place in March of 1776 and was significant as part of the Battle of Dorchester Heights. That battle was famous for convincing the British to evacuate Boston after General Howe looked up at the Heights on the morning of 3/6/1776 to see the Americans dug into the hill in a howling blizzard. From the description of the storm it becomes clear that it was what we would call a ‘nor’easter,’ so that was how I wrote it in Beside Turning Water, which will be out later this month.
Excerpt of Beside Turning Water, Battle of Dorchester Heights.
Like so many battles in history, the Americans were helped, by the atrocious weather. The storm probably came across North America from the west, hitting the cold moisture of the Mid-Atlantic coast, it pushed north toward cold Atlantic waters, gaining strength and moisture as it moved. By the time it hit New England, the north-easterly swirl of the winds caused it to be caught in the bays and harbors, blocking itself from moving quickly eastward or north and away. For hours, it battered the town and harbor reducing visibility to inches, and turning roads and fields to ice and mud.
In Boston, it started in late morning as rain. By afternoon, the rain had turned to an icy mix, slowly turning to snow, sleet and rain in competing sheets. It battered the workers on the eastern slope with raging, incessant ocean gales, broken by stronger gusts, and icy rain. At the coast it brought high seas mixed with the abominably high tides of the March full moon, assuring that the British Marines headquartered just below Dorchester Heights, would be unable to make landfall without risking a watery, rocky death. The roar of the wind was such, that for the first time in days the cannonading from Phips Farm on the Cambridge side was muffled.
Look for Beside Turning Water at Amazon, Barnes & Nobel or at the buy the book link on this page.
Christmas during wartime had become a habit he had never grown used to. No matter where one was, there were always parties and dancing with officer’s wives and the daughters of magistrates and potentates. He would love to spend the season decorating with green boughs and attending church at midnight as he did growing up. But army life did not allow for personal extravagances such as those.
Simm made sure he was away from the farm most evenings, busy with meetings or social affairs. When he was at home it was almost never at regular hours, so he had not seen Rebecca for more than a moment in days. The few minutes he grabbed at the farm were precious. He loved the pleasant, homemade decorations and greens. He pretended Rebecca was doing the decorating for him, and that she was missing him as he was her. He also prayed that her anger would dissipate if he were gone.
Where Rebecca’s home seemed to get warmer, with the pine boughs and holly on tabletops and mantles. Amalia had transformed hers completely. Even from the top floors it was hard to miss the beautiful greens being brought in to decorate the house for Christmas. Simm supposed that even with farms completely surrounding the City, there was still enough woodland to satisfy Amalia’s demands for ivy and mistletoe, and in a few days’ time, Amalia’s main rooms were transformed from sheer elegance into Christmas magnificence.
Christmas morning foretold a chilly rainy day. Rebecca left the household asleep as she finished the morning chores, changed her gown, and walked in the constant drizzle down the familiar path to her family church. As always she was torn between her father’s tradition of a joyous day with gifts and too much feasting, and her mother’s. A solemn approach to the day. Bostonians had banned special worship on Christmas during her mother’s childhood, Cotton Mather wrote that every day belonged to Christ, not the one day called his birthday. Still, even her mother had enjoyed the happiness and the decorations in the houses of her husband’s family.
Memories of her parents, and her childhood swirled in her head as she trod through the muddy road toward the Presbyterian Church. Happy and wet people rushed in from carriages and on foot, shaking water onto the floor, and shaking hands and hugging. Rebecca felt peaceful as she entered the empty family pew. That solitude was broken seconds later as she was surrounded by nieces and nephews, brothers, and sisters- in-law.
Simm’s eyes followed Rebecca as she walked forward in the plain white church. He had risen early to find some solace and solitude in the day. This year, more than others, he wanted more from Christmas than a series of fancy parties given out of meaningless duty, thousands of miles from home. The empty church was already illuminated and welcoming as he found a seat in the far back, away from the central aisle. The clear windows glowed with flickering candlelight against the wet, gray morning sky.
The white clapboard church with its high box pews brought back memories of Christmas in Boston. Although he recalled that the Puritans had banned the holiday, it had become a day of fasting and feast by the time of the occupation. The soldiers quartered in the town had gathered what greens they could find to decorate their barracks, and the day was spent with song and food. As Simm sat in the little church, watching the rain against the windows. He thought of another occupation of a very different sort of American town.
He recalled the High Anglican Mass they had celebrated at King’s Chapel with the other officers and wealthy loyalists, who had migrated into the protected town. The beautiful stone church near the top of Queen Street, had stayed alive. This was in sharp contrast with the Old South Church, the Third Meetinghouse, that the first group of soldiers sent into Boston in 1774 had turned into a riding stable to punish the town for destroying the tea. He looked around this Meeting House, holy with Christmas and joyous families, and mourned the destruction of the other.
He watched Rebecca enter the empty a box near the front of the church and sit. In seconds he heard giggling and saw little feet flying down the aisle. Two small girls, the first no more than two years, and the other around four, ran down the center aisle, effectively dodging between the legs of the more sedate church goers singing “Bay-Ca, Bey- Ca.” A song he could only assume meant Rebecca. The small girls were trailed by a number of adults and various older children, all of whom crowded into the box where Rebecca sat. He was glad to see his lonely beauty surrounded by her family.
The service was lovely, and perhaps not long enough for a man so far from home; he sat in the pew lost in thought as the congregation moved out into the rain behind him.
“John?” He heard Rebecca’s voice through the happy voices of the crowd.
“Miss Willent,” he answered “A lovely service wasn’t it?”
“Yes, Major, it was. Well, uh excuse me.” Rebecca turned to her family who were watching her conversation with the strange man.
“Well Becky, aren’t you going to introduce us?” That from someone who must be her older brother.
“Oh, don’t bother,” A woman not much older than Rebecca spoke up. “I’m Jane, the kids are Abby and Mary, the baby is Hackett, but he doesn’t answer to anything yet.” She pointed to a very small bundle currently being held by the larger Hackett. The rest of the herd just left, but if you’re a friend of Becky’s why don’t you follow us to our farm for some dinner? It’s just family, we’ll be eating around two o’clock.”
“ Jane, Hackett, family,” Rebecca jumped in to try to stem the tide before more family was introduced, may I present Major John FitzSimmon, one of the men who has been quartered at the farm. It’s lovely to see you, Major, yes do come for dinner, Jane’s mother stayed home to cook. That is unless you have other dinner plans?” Rebecca almost added, ‘other than the cold ham, bread and Christmas biscuits I left on the side board’?
To have shown reluctance, Rebecca felt, would have revealed too much to her family, and would have been outright rude to Simm. She had been that too often.
He noticed her squirm at Jane’s invitation. He smiled encouragement that only she would notice, and made silently promised that he would not stay past dinner. “No Mistress Willent, no particular plans, but I did promise the men I’d be back in the late afternoon.” He answered both Jane and Rebecca.
Simm liked Jane Willent. She was a woman who did not let life’s larger issues get in the way of raising her family. She continued the informal introductions, while trying to grab the hands of her daughters and push them into their cloaks. She kept up the commentary as they moved toward the exit, partially to marshal her large group out of the church and out into the rain, and Simm was sure, to keep him from feeling left out.
They found the carriage and crowded into it. Simm was pushed in with the crowd, and ended up sitting between Jane and her daughters. Abby clambered over one adult after another trying out laps. Finally she turned and settled onto Simm, finding the thick wool of his cloak and the velvet of his fine suit just right. Soon the child was sleep on his shoulder. Jane made to reach for her sleeping daughter, but Simm waved her off. He adored his nieces and nephews and missed them terribly. It felt very nice having such a trusting fellow human resting in the crook of his shoulder. The child smelled of fresh soap and that special sweet scent that children have.
Nat followed the family to Hackett’s farm on Comet. He laughed, enjoying the fact that the haughty FitzSimmon was stuck in the crowded coach with the babies. Simm and Nat had recognized each other immediately as the family gathered in the vestibule. They had both been involved in military negotiations. The project was a private enterprise between the Continental Congress and Parliament, secret even from their own battalions. It was impossible to explain to the family that they had met before, many times.
The first meeting had been two years before during 1775, before Charlestown and Saratoga, before it became clear that war would need to be fought through to its ultimate finish. Nat found Simm efficient and organized. The Englishman always seemed to know what was expected of each meeting; as though he could see the outcome before the negotiations began. To the less experienced and worldly Nat Willent, all that efficiency was a form of British aristocratic arrogance. He did not understand that experience and careful observation made Simm able to the see the outcome, as each meeting unfolded.
Nat rode the bay into the barn, as his brother, walking the team which was now harnessed to an empty coach, followed. “That FitzSimmon put up a fuss about being crowded in with a bunch of babies?”
“Nope, seemed to settle right in. Carried Abby into the house just now. Like as not, good with kids. Likes ‘em, far as I can tell. You have some sort of problem with him being here? Nat, it’s Christmas.” Hackett half reprimanded and pleaded with his younger brother to stay and behave like one of the family. “We are lucky that you are so close you can get leave to come for dinner. Nat, don’t make me ask ‘the stranger’ to leave the table – at Christmas.” With that said, and the horses cared for, Hackett turned and went out the barn door into the rain, pulling the collar of his great coat over his head.
Nat contemplated leaving, but decided a warm kitchen and good food outweighed any personal animus he felt for John FitzSimmon.
Simm hadn’t been at a family Christmas celebration since he left for the army when he was sixteen. He had visited his family many times, but had been away at the holidays. Now he sat at the roaring fire waiting for a roast goose to be served. He could smell dinner cooking three rooms away. He sat nearly motionless, enjoying the family chaos, but feeling very alone in an alien world.
Soon the children were seated in the kitchen, and mulled wines and ciders were served to the adults. People moved to the table to eat. The five course dinner was an extravagant one for farmers in wartime, of that he was sure, and he tried to eat sparingly so the family would enjoy more days of the wonderful, well cooked meal.
Not feeling comfortable enough to enter into natural conversation, Simm watched the family interact. They were happy to be together, even Jasper Willent was not the angry patriarch he’d been when he visited Rebecca. Nat, home on leave from his unit at Valley Forge, glared at Simm, and ate as much of the good food as he could fit. Simm could not help noting the twist of fate that had him living in Nat’s house, eating well each day, while Nat’s army, the opposing army, was nearly starving not thirty miles away.
Hackett and Jane were devoted to home, family and each other. It was nice to be around such pleasant people, but he wanted to move to the children’s table in the kitchen. He puzzled that, and realized that the last Christmas dinner he had attended had been spent at the children’s table. Again he decided, he needed to leave as soon as it would be polite to do so.
Rebecca, the youngest adult in the family and the only unmarried woman, was busy serving and helping the children in the kitchen as often as she sat down. It was she who allowed Jane and her mother, to enjoy their dinners without hopping up to get the succeeding courses. He wanted to help her, but that would have seen as bizarre, he let the feeling pass. He thought about his brother’s advice and started to consider how he could connect with her so as to prevent himself from falling into some form of insanity.
After dinner, drinks and desserts were served in the parlor so the table could be cleared. Simm sat for a minute, excused himself to go to the privy, then made his thanks and good-byes to his generous host and hostess. The steady rain of the afternoon had turned, with dusk, to sleet. It made the road slick with bouncing ice balls, dancing as they hit the quickly freezing ground. Simm chose the less slippery path, and made his way over the brown fields instead of the rutted road, back to the stone farmhouse. Off the main road, his collar and hood over his head against the weather, he watched others riding and walking to and from their Christmas’ dinners. It all seemed so normal, calm and healthy.
These thoughts were dragging him away from the tight focus he tried so hard to maintain. Maudlin thinking had no place anywhere near a battlefield. Maybe seeing Nat Willent had brought it home, he felt done with the whole project. The months with hard-line Clinton in New York wouldn’t make it better, but it might prove distracting.
Politically he was coming to agree with his brothers’, Robert and Stephen’s, support of the American cause, and was finding it harder to accept the majority position of Parliament. This was perhaps what comes of living too close to real Philadelphians, or maybe because he also had read Mr. Paine’s Common Sense. On top those thoughts, Simm could not get the image of Rebecca laughing with her nieces and nephews, out of his mind. The sight of her holding tiny Hackett in her arms as she politely said good-bye and Merry Christmas at the door, nearly had him breathless with desire. He could not want to destroy any of that, but too often war tore families apart.
The distance to the farm was short and Simm was in the empty, cold kitchen too soon. The other men were out, the fires long cold. Simm set the kitchen fire and coaxed it back to life, then he put a kettle over the flames, to boil water for tea. He sat, alone on a hard wooden chair, eating wondrous shortbread and thinking of soft skin and silky hair. So sweet, so beautiful. His Rebecca was Nat Willent’s baby sister. Had Nat not been told that Simm was one of the men living in her house? He couldn’t like that. If it had been legal, he was sure the young lieutenant would have challenged him to a duel just for being at his family’s Christmas dinner. Honestly, if either Anne or Janet had a strange man, known only as a military adversary, home for Christmas dinner, he might challenge him as well.
He finished his tea and another shortbread upstairs in his room. Then he replenished the wood and kindling in his and Rebecca’s rooms. In time a few of the other soldiers came back and sat in the parlor telling sad stories and drinking brandy. Simm was tempted to go down and join the self pity of soldiers far from their homes on Christmas evening. Instead, his thoughts fell to the future. Something hopeful he could only dream of. Lying on his back staring at the ceiling, he built a dream of a beautiful, caring, wife with blond hair, and smokey blue eyes, his Becky. And children, their children, happy bright haired children. All of them living away from here. Far away from war and the things that would drag them back into war.
Simm had gotten a glimpse of his future in the front pews of the church. He could do something to achieve it, or let it lie fallow and die. He went down to say happy Christmas to the men, but excused himself after a few minutes, and went back upstairs to write letters to his mother and father.
“Simm!” Ellerby called from the front room, “when will ‘Becca get home tonight?” His voice was slightly slurred and it was clear the men had not finished drinking.
“Not till late, Ellerby, I told her I’d do the milking and fires,” John lied, but considered that doing Rebecca’s chores would be a Christmas gift.
“Ish too bad, I have a preshent for her.”
“Lets all do Christmas gifts tomorrow at dinner, Ellerby, when we’re not in our cups.”
“Dash a good idea.”
“Happy Christmas Ellerby.”
“Happ’ Chrishmas, FitzShimmon. Ellerby went back to the others. Simm went to the barn to see if he remembered what the milkmaid said when she taught him how to milk a cow.
Later, while the women were drying the last of the dishes, Jane gave Rebecca a look that said it was time to talk. “Becky, what’s wrong, you are so tightly wound I fear you will break? I’ve never seen you rush around so at a dinner. You know we all share the chores. There was no reason for such.”
“Jane, dear, I know you’re right, I am sorry. Nat and FitzSimmon were making me nervous, or rather, Nat was. He sat there so stiff.”
“He’s still here, Becky, why don’t you ask him why. Maybe it was sharing bread with his enemy. You know we are used to it here, having the soldiers all over the place, it might be harder for him?”
Rebecca thought over Jane’s words. She suspected it was deeper than that, but it would be interesting to hear what Nat had to say. She headed to the parlor, but stopped at the door to listen to the men talking. She learned that Nat had been involved with political missions. Ones that he was glad had failed. That barely answered her questions, unless he and Simm had known each other through those negotiations. As unlikely as another coincidence would be – it would explain why they seemed to know one another. She spent some time reading with the little girls. When at last they were ready for sleep she said her good-byes.
“Beck- you need someone to walk with you. It’s very dark and late.” Her brother Nat asked as she grabbed her cloak from the peg in the hall.
“Nat, you’re as likely to land face down in the ice as not. I know you need to get a good night’s sleep when you have a chance. Besides, you don’t want to see the men at the farm. I’ll find my way home, and I’ll be fine, see the moon is out.” And indeed the storm had cleared to an icy clean night, with a nimbus moon.
Rebecca walked through the barn on her way into the house to see what chores she could put off till morning. She found the cows milked, sheep penned and chickens fed. Pleased and surprised, she walked into the kitchen to find the kitchen fire banked and the floors swept. She peeked into the parlor and sitting room and found most of the men contentedly drowsy or asleep beside a dying fire. Quietly, she put a thick log on the coals, knowing that when house got too cold, the men would find their beds. Carrying her shoes, she tiptoed through the dining room back through the kitchen. She climbed the stairs to the first landing. Simm’s door was ajar and a lanthorn was lit. She could just make out that he was sitting at his desk working. Rebecca continued up to the attic. She lit a candle and covered it with the glass, carefully placing the light on the floor. She went to the large chest that took up most of the wall under the window. It was where she stored her things, since her removal to the attic.
She lifted the lid and rummaged inside the wooden chest until she found a package wrapped in flax homespun in a pile of cedar shavings. She pulled off the wrapping and examined the contents. Inside was a bolt of fabric, about the size of a small blanket. She had woven it a year ago during the fall and into the winter. Everything had felt different then, for although the war was on and her world was upside down, there had still been time to dye and spin. A year ago, there had been space to assemble her loom and sit and weave the tartan she would never look at again, certainly never give away.
Rebecca refolded the soft wool, pushed her feet into a pair of warm shearling leather slippers and went down one flight. “Knock, knock,” Rebecca called hesitantly into the open door. “Major, may I disturb you a minute?”
“Yes, Miss Willent,” Simm jumped at the unexpected and welcome interruption. “Yes. Of course, can I help you?” He looked up, Rebecca was holding a blue and green piece of wool fabric.
“No, I don’t need help. I’m sorry. I won’t interrupt your work.” She made as if to turn.
Simm felt desperate to stop her from leaving, short of screaming. He simply barked an order. He tried to do it quietly.“Stop, please. You’re not bothering me. Let me start over. Miss Willent, to what do I owe this unexpected visit?”
“I’m afraid this,” she held out the limp wool. “It isn’t what I would have chosen – this year, I didn’t make it recently. I didn’t have time or I would have made something more… more formal, a fine linen cravat or something.” Suddenly feeling like she did want to run away and abandon this effort, she made herself finish a bit defiantly.
“You had mentioned that your mother was a Douglass.”
“Yes, her mother’s father was a Scottish Douglass, the clan is dissolved now.”
“You see,” Rebecca took a deep breath and steeled herself to tell her story. “I started this that fall, you remember?” She let that memory hang in the air. “I didn’t have a reason. I never thought to give it to you, I suppose I made it for myself, to remember you while I wove it. Now, I think you should have it.” Embarrassed, Rebecca turned away.
“Becky?” John spoke softly. She turned back to the room and handed John the soft wool weaving. He took it in his right hand, while with his left he reached behind him to grab something on a shelf. He handed her a four inch by four inch by four inch wooden box that rattled as he moved it. “Similarly, I had no reason to write my mother about a girl that I had met. A girl who explained the entire geopolitical industrial history of colonial America by explaining the lack of hairpins, but I did. Mother sent this last year. Jason brought it. I remember writing her about my trip through America. I tried to keep my stories bland, informational. I think I might not have been bland. Mother and my niece, another Elizabeth, went hunting for pins throughout London and Paris. She told Jason to give me this box, that you would want it. I assume, Mother was right?”
Rebecca reached for the box as Simm reached for the cloth. She sat on the floor in front of his warm fire and slid open the lid of the little wooden box. Inside, there were long thick straight pins for closing heavy coats and capes, long thin ones for hats, there were curved decorative pins with dulled ends for hair, even a large set to be used for utilitarian things such as sewing and diapers.
Simm fingered the soft wool. He’d penned these very sheep. He imagined Rebecca shearing, carding, spinning and dying the yarns before she wove the lovely tartan. He ached for her as he imagined those happy, bright haired children sleeping in their cradles, covered with this warm soft cloth.
He thanked her. She nodded and went back to her attic room.
Recently I read an interview with an author of Medieval romances. She spoke of the era as lawless, and that the lack of social rules made some readers shy away from that genre, but she liked writing in a period that allowed a man and a woman to be discovered in a room together without scandal or forced marriage. That was just one of many reasons she liked this relatively chaotic world where the only law was the King’s word and he and his armies were largely absent. I agree that such times open up areas of romance and relationships to an author, that the rigid rules of the Regency cannot allow.
A few years ago I began writing about another chaotic, lawless era. Not lawless because the law was absent, though often it was, but because the known world was changing so quickly that rules seemed suspended. This is a short essay on how I began writing my Edge of Empire / World Turned Upside Down Series or the American Georgians, if you will. (George III and George Washington.) The novels take place during the American Revolution 1773-1780 plus or minus a plot point.
It all began when Jo Beverley’s Rothgar, mentioned ‘trouble in the colonies’ in conversation with his younger brother. Being an American historian with a deep love for, not only British history, but British historical romances, my antennae went up and I matched the “trouble” to the stamp crisis in Boston. Then Chastity discovered Cyn’s tomahawk-scar from an attack during in the Seven Years War in Canada or perhaps Massachusetts or New York. That is a war we in America call the French and Indian War. For us, this war began with Indian attack in 1675 and didn’t end until the treaty of Paris in 1765. Even then, there were attacks from Canada into western New York for another year. In those years, Americans were British, and army and militia fought together against the French and the Canadian Indians.
No non-fictional family explains the emotional conflict the American Revolution presented to the British aristocracy better than the Howes. Cousins of King George III, (their mother was an avowed illegitimate daughter of George I), three Howe brothers served in America during the French and Indian War. The oldest, General George Howe, led forces in New York, and died at Ticonderoga in 1758. He is buried near Albany, New York. George was greatly adored on both sides of the Atlantic and after his death the Province of Massachusetts paid for a commemorative plaque in his honor to be placed in Westminster Abbey.
In 1774, as the next crisis in the colonies heated up, George III asked General William and Admiral Richard Howe to go back to America to lead the Army and the Naval forces there. They agreed to go only if they would be allowed to seek reconciliation with the colonies. The King agreed, but he and his secretaries gave them no support.
With the inspiration of Ms. Beverley’s Malloren novels, and the fighting of the pro and anti Americanists in Parliament as background, I constructed a fictional aristocratic family, and the fictional Duchy of Chardon. The FitzSimmons are a large loving family with too many sons, two of whom I quite rudely remove from Britain, and place in America at the time of this conflict. One is a merchant seaman who lands in Boston the week of the “Tea Party” the other is a lieutenant on General Howe’s staff. There is a younger brother who will come to visit as soon as he finishes school.
Their mother, Elizabeth FitzSimmon, Duchess of Chardon, is an energetic redhead who has been involved in the raising of her children from their birth, and running all aspects of her household. She argues politics with anyone who will listen, and writes to the newspapers as Queen Bess. She visited family in America, some time in the past, and loved the land and its people. She is a cousin of General John Burgoyne. The same John Burgoyne who landed in Boston with William Howe in the spring of 1775. Elizabeth and her ilk are not shy in telling him he is a buffoon when he does not believe the Americans on the frontier will fight hard and well. She is proved correct.
The two oldest brothers, Robert and Stephan sit in Parliament. Robert takes his father’s seat in Lords, because the Duke won’t travel anymore, and Stephan was elected as an MP for the district. Both men are sympathetic to the American cause, as were many others to greater and lesser degrees. Historian, David Hackett Fischer refers to this as the King in Parliament Whigs, (the British), vs. the no King in Parliament Whigs, (the Americans), the two sides agreed on almost everything except that one thing, and it was insurmountable!
In my stories, three family members: Stephan; Thomas, the third brother; and the husband of their older sister, Elizabeth, own a shipping company named after the family. Jason, the fourth son, has been in the employ of this company as first mate on the Chardon. Cardinal Points begins as Jason makes landfall at Boston, Massachusetts, in December 1773, simultaneous to the treasonous events of the night. He decides to leave his brothers’ employ and strike out on his own.
John’s story In Fate and Fair Winds, begins during his travels. He had been tasked by General William Howe to come to an understanding of the Americans. This was part of the efforts of the Howes, William and Admiral Richard, at reconciliation with the Americans. John lands in Philadelphia at the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He is fiercely loyal to the King and the notion of nationhood, but he grows to believe that Parliament has betrayed the English ideal of representative government with their intransigence toward the Americans.
So, mine are the stories of the extra sons as a new world unfolds before them. Each man meets an American girl. Each eventually finds love in a topsy-turvy world.
What I have tried to do in these books, beside giving the reader a fun story with adventure and romance, is to complicate the narrative of the American Revolution. To tell stories, not through military victories and losses, but through the eyes men and women finding love in the midst of rhetoric and revolution.
When General Charles Cornwallis surrendered to General George Washington in October 1781, he had his band play a tune called “World Turned Upside Down.” For an Enlightenment Englishman of that time, losing the colonies was not simply the loss of valuable real-estate, but an alteration of the way things should be in an ordered world. Quite literally, the known world had ended.
As I say on my book covers: In a world turned upside down, the only right – may be love.
Most Humble, &c.
December 16 two-hundred and forty years ago, that’s 1773, a gang of seamen and mechanics, Boston harbor’s working men, after listening to debates and lectures for nearly four weeks, dumped million’s of dollars worth of East India Company tea into Boston Harbor. This event was originally called ‘the destruction of the tea,’ and over the years it has come to be known as The Boston Tea Party. (Not to be confused with a former rock ‘n roll venue of the same name.)
The arguments the men, women, and children heard, involved much talk of ‘taxation without representation’, and a governor who was out of touch with the needs of the Province. He, of course, was an employee of the King, and knew it. The issue being discussed was over three ships in the harbor. By statute, they had to be moved that night, and it was Governor Hutchinson’s decision either to land the tea, that was unload it, or allow the ships to sail out of the harbor and back to London.
Most of Boston wanted the tea sent back. By itself that was contentious. Boston was the largest and busiest port west of Plymouth, England, and busy, profitable ports are not in the habit of sending ships back where they came from without an exchange of goods. But that was exactly what the citizens of Boston were clamoring for. And it wasn’t even over the tea.
Not over the tea? No, non-importation agreements had been in place for years by then. These were agreements that town meetings had voted on and signed throughout New England, promising that British made goods would not be sold, purchased or consumed. Tea had been politically and socially too hot to drink or handle for a decade, and no one protesting the tea-ships had sipped a cup for years.
What then? Thomas Hutchinson, the man who was to decide if the ships were to stay or go, had already decreed that only a few shops in Boston would sell the East India Company tea sitting in the harbor. And not surprisingly the owners of those few shops were friends and relations of Gov. Thomas Hutchinson. So when the Governor sent word that the ships should be brought in, unloaded, and the tea brought to the approved-merchants’ warehouses; no one was surprised. It was after Hutchinson’s order was given, that Samuel Adams stood at the pulpit at Boston’s Old South meetinghouse and gave the sign that sent the disguised workmen down Milk Street to the harbor to dunk the tea.
Adams said: “This meeting can do nothing more to save the country!” the men responded “huzzah” and “Boston harbor a tea pot tonight”. And off they went.
People from Rhode Island and North Carolina have pointed out on Facebook and other places, that it happened at their ports too. They are correct. But it wasn’t what Bostonians did that night that started the American Revolution, it was what Parliament did in response to the tea’s destruction that started the war. It was Parliament’s efforts to punish Boston with a series of laws now referred to as the Insufferable Acts, which caused worry in the Massachusetts countryside, and in the other twelve colonies. Their worry, and their efforts to save the townsfolk of Boston, changed gangs of young rebels, into a unified nation of Patriots. Patriots, who with a common cause, organized against the government of King George III and started something amazing.
Well both books are published now, so it seems time to say something about them. I got a wonderful comment from one of my early readers, who called Cardinal Points, “delicious history.” That’s nice because it was precisely what I was going for.
Cardinal Points is a fictional, historical romance that takes place in Boston during and just after the ‘Boston Tea Party.” We recall this event as the great anti-tax revolt that started the American Revolution, and in myth it was just that. But, what I wondered, did the Intolerable Acts mean to those who bore the brunt of Parliament’s Anger against Boston? Those left behind while John Hancock, Sam Adams, and Paul Revere left the town to escape British occupation and live elsewhere? I thought about that often while giving tours for Boston National Historic Park on the Freedom Trail, which I did for two summers. And I created Oona and Jason, and the novel Cardinal Points to let their story explain what it might have been like to live in Boston at that time. For instance, did you know that no printing presses were destroyed by the occupying army? I didn’t want to come out and tell you, so I let Oona experience the surprise of that, or that no one wanted to serve as a judge? Parliament had ruled that all judges were now to be appointed by the King or his representative and suddenly no one volunteered to sit. Turned out the King was easier to ignore than the neighbors with the hot pot of tar and the bucket of feathers. I won’t give away their romance or the many plot twists, but it does get pretty involved and occasionally steamy.
Finally after numerous Intolerable situations, Oona and Jason are reunited and leave Boston together for points north.
And now Fate and Fair Winds has been published. I don’t have copies yet, so the link is to Amazon, that will change eventually. Fate and Fair Winds begins about seven months after the end of Cardinal Points and involves Jason’s younger brother John and young Rebecca Willent, in their story of intrigues and romance. Rebecca is a young girl wondering what the Declaration of Independence means in her life. They meet only weeks after the signing of that document in July of 1776. While John was traveling through the colonies to gain some understanding of the Americans.
When Howe’s Army moved into Philadelphia, for their winter quarters from October 1777 to June 1778, they meet again. This time John wears his red uniform to announce his dedication and willingness to fight for his King. Rebecca makes no such announcement, but has been collecting information for George Washington and the Americans. It turns out that they are opposed by a third and more evilly potent force whom they must fight together.
It was interesting to compare the occupation of the two colonial cities. (Boston wasn’t called city until years later, see earlier post on town government.) Parliament was mad at Boston, but not at Philadelphia and the experiences of the residents and the occupiers in the two places were very different.
A third book in the Edge of Empire series is being written. Alewife takes place outside of Boston and begins at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, or rather the end of the battle. It was a battle where both sides claimed victory – the Americans retreated when they ran out of powder and shot, but the British lost 1,054 (226 dead and 828 wounded), many of them officers. A British wit in London quipped, “We certainly are victorious, but if we have eight more such victories there will be nobody left to bring the news of them.”
Alex is among the American line, and then sent off to find supplies for the growing army in Cambridge. At a shipyard south of Boston, he meets a young widow trying to find barrels for the beer she brews at the Hammer and Wheel, a tavern at the Lower Falls of the Charles River in Newton. Do to a errant barrel, careening out of control and toward her, they meet as Alex pulls her to safety and falls backwards as his injured leg gives out.
She is, he admits, a man’s dream. Soft in all the right places when she fell into his arms, a pretty face, and she smells of hops, brewer’s yeast and ale. But nothing is ever that easy, is it?