Thursday, May 20, 2010

Allen and Arnold 4

30 Days to Glory: April 27-30
Previous: April 23 - April 26
Next: May 1 - May 3

Thursday, April 27:

A Connecticut officer, Gurdon Saltonstall, writes Silas Deane, a delegate to the Continental Congress, about the situation at Boston. He notes that the Americans are encamped near Cambridge, Charlestown, and Roxbury, and he imagines the strategy by which the Americans might be able to take Boston: “from Charlestown batteries [i.e., American artillery placed on Bunker’s Hill], I imagine they can annoy the ships” which would permit the Americans to make “a descent on Boston.” He imagines that enough “flat-bottomed large flatts may be soon constructed, to transport ten thousand men at one embarkation, and be brought out of the adjacent towns on carriages, at an appointed hour.” Then, “batteries at Dorchester [i.e., Dorchester Heights, near Roxbury] may annoy the [British] ships so that troops may land at Boston on [the] south side, at [the] same time.” Of course, the Massachusetts provincials have few cannon, but it may be possible to obtain “battering cannon from Providence [Rhode Island], New Hampshire, and Salem [Massachusetts], soon, and in a month from even Crown Point.” This last point implies that he and Deane have already discussed raiding the British lake forts for cannon. However, Saltonstall doesn’t wish to commit too much information to paper, and notes, “Edward Mott will give you a delicate account of the maneuvers.”

Meanwhile, a meeting is underway in Hartford to organize an expedition against the British forts. The ringleaders are Silas Deane, Samuel Parsons, and Samuel Wyllys. Other persons brought into the planning are Christopher Leffingwell, Thomas Mumford, Samuel Bishop, Noah Phelps, and Bernard Romans. At the end of the meeting, Phelps and Romans are dispatched to organize the attack. The two men will travel first to Salisbury, in the northwestern corner of the province, and then head north to the New Hampshire Grants. Once there, they will enlist the Green Mountain Boys to carry out the actual attack. This plan makes use of a military force that already exists. It also allows Connecticut to distance itself from whatever political fallout will follow. The Americans have so far taken up arms only in self-defense. The expedition against the British forts entails an invasion of a neighboring colony (New York) and an attack on unoffending British troops.

Friday, April 28:

From Hartford, Governor Jonathan Trumbull writes Lieutenant-General Thomas Gage on behalf of Connecticut. He begins by complaining of the build-up of British military power in Boston and alleged British atrocities during the battle of Lexington and Concord: “It is feared… that we are devoted to destruction, and that you have it in command and intention to ravage and desolate the country. If this is not the case, permit us to ask, why have these outrages been committed? Why is the town of Boston now shut up? And to what end are all the hostile preparations that are daily making, and why do we continually hear of fresh destinations of troops for this country? The people of this colony, you may rely upon it, abhor the idea of taking arms against the troops of their sovereign, and dread nothing so much as the horrors of civil war; but, at the same time, we beg leave to assure your Excellency, that as they apprehended themselves justified by the principle of self-defense, so they are most firmly resolved to defend their rights and privileges to the last extremity.”

He then asks, “Is there no way to prevent this unhappy dispute from coming to extremities? Is there no alternative but absolute submission, or the desolations of war? By that humanity which constitutes so amiable a part of your character, and for the honour of our Sovereign, and the glory of the British Empire, we entreat you to prevent it if possible. Surely, it is to be hoped that the temperate wisdom of the Empire might even yet find expedients to restore peace, that so all parts of the Empire may enjoy their particular rights, honours, and immunities. Certainly this is an event most devoutly to be wished; and will it not be consistent with your duty to suspend the operations of war on your part, and enable us on ours to quiet the minds of the people, at least till the result of some further deliberations may be known?”

Meanwhile, Edward Mott rides into Hartford, bearing Saltonstall’s letter. He first encounters Christopher Leffingwell who asks him how he thought the people of Boston could be relieved. According to Mott, “I told him I knew not, except we went and took possession of Ticonderoga and Crown Point, which I thought might be done by surprise, with a small number of men.” Encouraged by this response, Leffingwell brings Mott into the conspiracy, and has him meet Silas Deane and Samuel Parsons. According to Mott, “They told me they wished I had been there one day sooner; that they had been on such a plan, and that they had sent off Messrs. Noah Phelps and Bernard Romans.” Mott, who is to be a captain in Parson’s 6th Connecticut Regiment, is evidently trusted. When he offers to assist, they give him a letter to take to Phelps and Romans so that we may help “in conducting the affair and laying out the money.”

Saturday, April 29:

A reinforcement arrives at Fort Ticonderoga in the form of Lieutenant Jocelyn Feltham and 10 men of the 26th Foot. According to Feltham, the fort’s commander, Captain William Delaplace, asked for assistance “in the course of the winter… as he had reason to suspect some attack from some circumstances that happened in his neighborhood.” Feltham's detachment is the second to reach the fort. Another was led to the fort some days earlier by William Dunbar, who is Town-Major for Quebec. Dunbar then set off to confer with Lieutenant-General Thomas Gage in Boston. He is now, however, a captive of the Americans, having run into their forces near Cambridge. The British in Canada and upstate New York are unaware that war has begun.

In Connecticut, a final meeting of conspirators takes place before Edward Mott sets off for the New Hampshire Grants. Among those present are persons from three different groups that have taken an interest in Ticonderoga: Samuel Parsons (who spoke about Ticonderoga with Benedict Arnold), Silas Deane (who appears to have independently developed the idea with Gurdon Saltonstall), and Samuel Adams and John Hancock (who appear to have gotten the idea from John Brown). [see Note 1]

Outside of Boston, Benedict Arnold’s company arrives at the American camp. Although he has marched without orders, his arrival is welcomed and the Massachusetts Committee of Safety orders that the commissary-general “provide suitable quarters” for his company.

The Massachusetts Committee of Safety also tallies up the meager number of cannon on hand. The colony can field a mere six 3-pounders that are in good condition and have ammunition. Seventeen other useless guns “will be taken out of the way.”

Sunday, April 30:

Arnold attends a meeting of the Massachusetts Committee of Safety -- most likely resplendent in the scarlet coat and buff facings worn by the Governor’s Foot Guard. Arnold asks to speak and reports “that there are at Ticonderoga eighty pieces of heavy cannon, twenty pieces brass cannon, from four to eighteen-pounders, and ten or twelve mortars; at Skenesborough, on the South Bay, three or four pieces of brass cannon; the fort [Ticonderoga], in a ruinous condition, is supposed to have about forty or forty-five men, a number of small arms, and considerable stores. A sloop of seventy or eighty tons [is] on the lake.” [cf. New York: May, 1775].

The news causes a stir, and the chairman, Joseph Warren, asks Arnold to submit a report in writing. Warren then writes the New York Committee of Safety: “It has been proposed to us to take possession of the fortress at Ticonderoga. We have a just sense of the importance of that fortification, and the usefulness of those fine cannon, mortars, and field-pieces which are there; but we would not, even upon this emergency, infringe upon the rights of our sister colony, New-York.”

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Note 1: Other persons alleged to have been at this meeting include Robert Treat Paine of Massachusetts, and Governor Jonathan Trumbull of Connecticut.

Whether John Brown developed the idea to attack Ticonderoga on his own is an open question. Some writers have argued that the idea was suggested to him when he passed through the New Hampshire Grants in March.

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