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New Web Presentation of Documents & Engravings about the Boston Massacre

What do you remember learning about the Boston Massacre?  Did you learn the event took place outside the Old State House (at that time called the Town House) in Boston?  Was it presented to you as a key event leading up to the American Revolution?  Do you remember learning that five people (including Crispus Attucks) lost their lives?  If you think of a visual image, do you think of the engraving by Paul Revere depicting townspeople being fired upon by an orderly row of British soldiers?  Are you curious to explore how various primary sources describe the chaotic confrontation that took place on 5 March 1770?

It is interesting to read the words of people who were either at the scene or were able to comment on the overall atmosphere of the town after the event. Thanks to funding from the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati, the MHS has created a new web presentation, Perspectives on the Boston Massacre, featuring letters, pamphlets, diary entries, legal notes, and engravings relating to the Boston Massacre. 

Some examples of the manuscripts that are available for browsing and reading include diary entries written by merchant John Rowe who observed, "the Inhabitants are greatly enraged and not without Reason" and a letter dated 6 March 1770 by Loyalist Andrew Oliver, Jr. who wrote, "Terrible as well as strange things have happen'd in this Town."  The website also includes printed materials;  some convey the Patriot perspective of the event (A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston and On the Trial of the Inhuman Murderers) and some the Loyalist view (A Fair Account of the Late Unhappy Disturbance at Boston).

One section of the new web presentation focuses on visual representations of the Boston Massacre.  Seven prints of the event, as well as one painting showing the same location in Boston in 1801, are available for close examination.  Website visitors can use a comparison tool to view any two of the featured images side by side. 

 

The website also features some selected documents relating to the two legal cases (the trial of Captain Thomas Preston and trial of the eight soldiers).  John Adams served as one of the defense attorneys and the website includes page images of some of John Adams's handwritten legal notes as well as links to the digital edition of  The Legal Papers of John Adams, Volume 3, edited by L. Kinvin Wroth and Hiller B. Zobel, part of the Adams Papers Editorial Project.

The Boston Massacre was recognized as a pivotal event and supporters of the Revolutionary cause organized anniversary commemorations.  The website includes published versions of orations given between 1771 and 1775 by noted figures including James Warren and John Hancock as well as a manuscript copy of an oration given by someone on the opposite side of the political spectrum who ridiculed many Patriot leaders.  

Please visit www.masshist.org/features/massacre.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Tuesday, 9 December, 2014, 1:00 AM

Thanksgiving in London

On October 3, 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation, calling for November 26 of that year to be celebrated as a day of thanksgiving by the whole nation now independent and united under a new Constitution. Exactly 74 years later, President Abraham Lincoln, seeing the nation embroiled in a bitter, devastating, and deadly Civil War, recognized that there was still much to be grateful for as “the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

Charles Francis Adams was one of those Americans sojourning in foreign lands as the United States minister to Great Britain. Invited by a group of Americans living in London to attend a Thanksgiving Day celebration and give a toast to President Lincoln, the dinner opened with a reading of Lincoln’s proclamation. No devotee of the president, Adams noted that the proclamation was “very good, and...therefore never emanated from Mr Lincoln’s pen.” In his diary, Adams summarized his toast and feelings on the honoree: 

“The press here had sneered at the notion of a thanksgiving in the midst of a desolating civil war. I thought it a good opportunity, whilst avoiding the topic of victories over our fellow countrymen which necessarily take a shade of sadness, to explain more exclusively the causes of rejoicing we had in the restoration of a healthy national solidity in the government since the announcement of the President’s term. I went over each particular in turn. The result is to give much credit to Mr Lincoln as an organizing mind, perhaps more than individually he may deserve. But with us the President as the responsible head takes the whole credit of successful efforts. It certainly looks now as if he would close his term with the honor of having raised up and confirmed the government, which at his accession had been shaken all to pieces. And this a raw, inexperienced hand has done in the face of difficulties that might well appall the most practised statesman! What a curious thing is History! The real men in this struggle have been Messr [William] Seward and [Salmon] Chase. Yet the will of the President has not been without its effect even though not always judiciously exerted.”

 

Shown here is the program for that Thanksgiving Day celebration. Since 1863, Americans around the world have stopped in late November each year for a day of joy and thanksgiving with friends and family, as we will tomorrow. Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!

      

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Thursday, 27 November, 2014, 1:00 AM

“For We Are Brother and Sister”: Luis and Isabel Emilio

One of the highlights of the Luis F. Emilio papers at the MHS is his correspondence with his younger sister Isabel. The siblings were obviously very close, but their relationship suffered a serious blow in 1862 as the result of a misunderstanding involving one of Luis' best friends, Oliver Wendell Holmes Upham.

First, our cast of characters: Luis and Isabel were the two oldest children of Manuel and Isabel (Fenollosa) Emilio of Salem, Mass. Luis had enlisted in the Union Army and, in the fall of 1862, at just 17 years old, was serving as an officer in the 23rd Regiment at New Bern, N.C. Luis's friend Oliver Wendell Holmes Upham, a.k.a. Wendell, had enlisted with him but was discharged due to illness and sent back to Salem. Naturally, while there, he visited his friend's family, which included Isabel, then 15.

Opinion seems to have been divided on Wendell. Luis described him as “a good boy, rather odd, but in every respect a gentleman[...] He is my most faithful friend.” A mutual friend complained of Wendell's laziness. At any rate, Wendell was warmly welcomed and liked by the Emilio family, particularly Isabel and her four younger siblings, who ranged in age from 11 to 4. As Luis' mother wrote, Wendell “was delighted to meet the children[...] He played with them as if one of their age.” She called him a “good affectionate boy.” Wendell also enjoyed his visits immensely and wrote to Luis with effusive praise for his family.

However, just 2-3 weeks after his first visit, Luis' mother started to express some reservations to Luis.

Wendell comes in often. He is very fond of fun and quite fond of kissing which I do not like as I have to be present when he [is] in the room or else he would be I fear too wild. Isa seems to like to have him come. I hardly know what to think of him. Can you explain[?]

 Isabel also wrote to Luis about this time, joking about one of Wendell's visits. That letter is missing, but Luis' reply is filled with consternation.

I must confess I am ashamed to hear of such actions as you write. He has made a perfect fool of himself[...] I must pray you not to humor him in the least thing, and if he attempts to act so again to leave the room, and let him know his company is not wanted; sometimes he acts in the most foolish manner, so that I have been ashamed of being with him.

After some digging, I discovered that Wendell's primary offense had been to kiss Isabel. As an old friend, he was in the habit of kissing all the members of the family, including the younger children and Mr. and Mrs. Emilio, but Luis felt it was inappropriate for him to kiss the 15-year-old Isabel. It was not the first time he had advised his younger sister in this big-brotherly vein. It was also, apparently, not the first time he'd been embarrassed by Wendell's behavior. He wrote angrily to his friend, and while his letter is not included in the collection, we can infer its contents from Wendell's hurt reply.

On 2 Nov. 1862, Wendell scrawled an emotional 8-page letter in which he argued that the kiss had been intended innocently and that neither Isabel nor her parents, who witnessed it, had objected. He resented that Luis assumed the worst and dredged up past offenses, and was heart-broken by the reprimand. After all, their families had always been close.

I am sorry to think that you can’t allow the same friendship to exist between Isabel and myself, without jealousy, that I have always seen with pleasure existed between yourself and my sister Sarah. I never rebuked you for kissing her nor never will, nor do I claim a right to interfere. That is her business.

He paid another call on the Emilios to address the issue and to apologize, if necessary. The family assured him he had caused no offense.

Wendell's distress greatly affected young Isabel, who is by far my favorite player in this drama. Her compassion and confidence are impressive. While she respected her older brother's advice and appreciated his protectiveness, she passionately and articulately defended Wendell against the unjust accusations. In her 8-page letter about the “unpleasant affair,” written the same day as Wendell’s, she told Luis he had misunderstood the entire situation and that his friend’s behavior had been merely “playful.” Luis' interference was unnecessary, and worse still, he had “implicated” her in the whole mess.

It is very humiliating to your friend to be told he acted like a fool, and I am also placed in a very unpleasant position, as it must appear to him, as if I had told you, if not in those words, in words equivalent to them that, he had acted so, which was far from my intention to say.[...] Wendell had a funny fit on, as we all have at times, and acted just as he felt, nothing more.[...]

I don’t like the idea of my letters to a brother, making hard feelings between friends, and neither do I wish to be called upon to state what I say in my letters to my brother. I feel provoked to think that Wendell should have the impression that I am in the habit of informing or complaining to you of his conduct here, for he will not feel at home and at ease when he comes to visit us but will be entirely unlike himself.[...]

I have not written a very elegant letter. It is rather disconnected and ungrammatical, I have no doubt, but I don’t care one snap for that. I have tried to tell you what I think, and how badly I feel about the whole thing.[...]

You know, Wendell, is very peculiar, but he thought as he was in the house of an old friend who would not mind his way, and he thought rightly. I think on the whole he is a very good boy, and we all make mistakes and sometimes very gross ones, and therefore should not judge others too harshly when they commit them.

Isabel argued, as Wendell had, that if she or her parents had objected to his familiarity, they would have put a stop to it. After expressing her regret at being “the one who has done all the mischief,” she finished with this wonderfully snarky parting shot:

When you write to Dave Sawyer please remember me to him and tell him I should so much love to see him once again. You might give him my love, if it would not be improper for me to send love to such an old friend as Dave.

Now it was Luis' turn to be hurt. He insisted he'd only been thinking of Isabel's welfare and maintained he “had a perfect right” to admonish Wendell, but admitted he'd been “rather hasty” in his letter and was sorry for the trouble it caused. All the fuss was soon smoothed over. Luis wrote a conciliatory letter to Wendell, whom he called an “esteemed” friend. Everyone apologized, and the relationships between all parties were as close as ever. Isabel wrote to Luis on 17 Nov. 1862:

I had no wish to pain you and would not for all the world, on any account, for we are brother and sister, Luis, and both of us are quick-tempered and hasty when provoked or excited, are we not?[...] Our lives are short and uncertain; we cannot tell how long we may remain in this world of sin and sorrow. So while we may, let us forgive, and be forgiven by others, any injuries we may have done or received.

 Unfortunately, Isabel Maria Emilio did not live long. She died of typhoid fever at the age of 32. Wendell Upham lived until 1905, and Luis Emilio until 1918.

 

 

Image: Daguerreotype of Luis and Isabel Emilio, ca. 1852-1853, Photo. 1.574

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 19 November, 2014, 1:00 AM

“Most Amusing”: A Brookline Couple on Holiday in California, 1915

In late October of 1915, as the days in New England grew shorter and the temperatures colder, twenty-seven-year-old Mildred Cox Howes of Brookline, Massachusetts, boarded a train with her husband, Osborne “Howsie” Howes, and headed west. Between 22 October and 14 November 1915 the couple traveled to California, where they attended the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego and the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. As was her habit, Mildred carried with her a line-a-day diary in which she recorded their movements, travel times, meals, friends met along the way, and sights seen.

Despite the fact that Mildred had recorded in early October spending time rolling bandages at a local hospital, presumably to be sent overseas, her own life was largely untouched by the reality of war in Europe. While England and the continent were digging in for the war to end all wars, the United States was in an expansionist, celebratory mood. Having recently flexed its imperialist muscles in the Spanish-American and Philippine-American wars (1898-1903), in 1914 the United States finally saw the completion of the Panama Canal (1903-1914) which dramatically increased the speed of an ocean voyage from the Atlantic to Pacific coasts of North America, saving ships nearly eight thousand miles of travel around Cape Horn. The Panama-California and Panama-Pacific International expositions were a message to the world regarding the United State’s new place on the world stage, as well as an opportunity for San Francisco, particularly, to celebrate its reconstruction following the devastating 1906 earthquake.

Mildred’s diary is spare, but does provide readers with a sense of the nature of upper-middle-class travel during the early twentieth century, before widespread adoption of the automobile. The Howes left Brookline on Tuesday, 22 October by the 12:34 train for Chicago. Mildred reported a “very pretty” ride through the Berkshires. Arriving in Chicago the following morning, they spent the day in Chicago visiting friends, dining out, and attending a garden show that Mildred described as “not much good.” Departing on an evening train, the Howes passed through Kansas and New Mexico, reaching the Grand Canyon a week after leaving home.

The Grand Canyon was not yet a national park (it would be dedicated in 1919), but nonetheless a popular tourist attraction. “About 10- we started & walked down to the plateau 5 miles & very steep,” Mildred wrote, “A guide & mule met us there ...I rode up. Howsie walked. Fine. Wonderful views.”

The Howes reached San Diego the following day, after a morning spent traveling by train across the desert to Los Angeles, and then changing trains for the trip south to San Diego. They spent three days in San Diego, sunbathing at Coronado Beach, visiting the Panama-California Exposition, and driving down to Tijuana for a day (“Most amusing & just like a book”).

Departing from Coronado Beach by motorcar, the couple drove through Murietta Springs, Riverside, Pasadena, Los Angeles, arriving in Santa Barbara on Monday, November 1st. The automobile appears to have been as much for pleasure as transport, as Mildred repeatedly describes having “motored around” the cities they pass through, including a detour up to the top of Mt. Rubidoux, today a city park. Mildred also lists the names of the hotels at which the couple stay, often luxurious locations such as the Mission Inn (Riverside) and the Potter Hotel (Santa Barbara). When they arrive by train in San Francisco, they take up residence at the newly-constructed Palace Hotel, about three miles from the exposition -- located between the Presidio and Fort Mason in what is today the Marina District.

“First [day] at the exposition - cleared off into a lovely day,” Mildred reported on November 4th. “Saw the manufactural palace & fibral arts… Dined at the hotel & went out again. Took a chair & looked at the illumination & listened to the bands.” Mildred and Howsie remained in San Francisco for a week, taking in the exposition and exploring the area. On exposition days, they arrived mid-morning and stayed until dinner, sometimes returning in the evening. On Saturday, Mildred reported going to the cinema to see “On Trial” (“very good & exciting”); on Sunday they took a Packard car and drove to Palo Alto for lunch with friends. On Tuesday they went to see Houdini perform at the Orpheum.

Twenty days after leaving Boston, Mildred and Howsie packed and, after a final morning at the fair, left at 4 o’clock on an eastbound train, traveling through Nevada to Ogden, Utah, and on across Wyoming and Nebraska at a brisk pace; they reached Chicago after three days’ steady travel, stopping the day to visit the art museum and stretch their legs. Boarding the train in Chicago they discovered friends Jessie and Frank Hallowell, and John Balcheder, also headed for Boston. By Sunday, November 14th, they were home once more.

Briefly factual in tone, Mildred’s diaries reveal only glimpses of her subjective experiences as a traveler, but nonetheless strongly evoke the rhythms of early-twentieth century travel for modern readers. If you are interested in this, and other diaries, kept by Mildred Cox Howes, you are welcome to visit or contact our library to access the collection.

 

 

**Photographs from Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. Photograph Collection: Grand Canyon of the Colorado (#183.2043); Lotta’s fountain in front of the New Palace Hotel (#183.2022); Crowds at the Golden Gate Park (#183.2027).

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 12 November, 2014, 8:00 AM

The Siege of Louisbourg, 1758: The Daring Capture of the Prudent and Bienfaisant

During the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the fortified French city of Louisbourg loomed over the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, denying the British access to the Saint Lawrence River - the route to capturing the key cities of Quebec and Montreal.  The fortress, considered the “Gibraltar of the North,” had famously been captured by a combination of New England militia and the British navy in 1745, only for the Treaty of Aix-La-Chapelle to return it to the French in 1748.  Now, a decade later, the invading British forces looked to capture the fortress for a second time. 

In early June 1758, ground forces under the command of Jeffery Amherst landed outside the city and began a siege operation which, in accordance with the standard of 18th century siege warfare, meant digging a network of trenches surrounding the city.    

While Amherst’s command toiled in the trenches, the British navy remained concerned about French ships defending the harbor.  Though only five French ships of the line remained by late July, they proved enough of a menace to receive considerable attention by way of British artillery fire.  As a result, on July 21st, a cannonball penetrated one of the ships, detonating its powder magazine.  The ensuing blaze was so hot that it set fire to the sails of two neighboring ships, burning all three down to the waterline. 

Three days later, on July 24th, Admiral Edward Boscawen, commander of all British vessels in North America, informed Amherst of his bold plan to capture the remaining two ships - the Prudent (74 guns) and the Bienfaisant (64 guns) .  Late in the night of July 25th-26th, two squadrons under the command of Captains John Laforey and George Balfour, totaling approximately 600 sailors and marines, rowed into the harbor.  Concealed by the dark and fog, and with Amherst ordering his artillery to “fire into the works as much as possible, to keep the enemy’s attention to the land,” the two squadrons slipped past the French battery guarding the entrance to the harbor and approached the two French vessels undetected. 

As Laforey’s command approached the Prudent and Captain Balfour the Bienfaisant, each was hailed by sentries aboard the ships.  Receiving no response, the guards opened fire, breaking the silence.  The squadrons then moved quickly to maneuver alongside their respective targets, capturing both ships with minimal resistance, but at a cost of sixteen casualties (7 killed, 9 wounded).      

Hearing the events that transpired, the French defenders were alerted to the threat and opened fire upon the two ships.  Under fire, and finding the Prudent run aground, the British sailors set her ablaze.  The Bienfaisant, meanwhile, was towed to the Northeast corner of the harbor, safe from French artillery fire.  The image above, printed in 1771, depicts the Prudent caught in a blaze, while nearby the Bienfaisant is towed to safety. 

The following day, with Amherst’s ground forces making ready to breach the city walls and Boscawen’s fleet entering the harbor, the French governor sent a messenger to Amherst initiating the surrender of the city.

Discussing the siege, historian Julian Gwyn notes in his book, Frigates and Foremasts, that “some naval and military historians have asserted that once the British assault landing force had succeeded, the capture of the fortress with its garrison was a foregone certainty.  Yet none of the British or French accounts expressed this view.”  He goes on to comment that “the loss of these two warships had a profound effect on the French defenders…morale plummeted within the town, and the fatigue occasioned by the siege, which until then had been borne without complain, suddenly became unendurable for many.” 

In the aftermath of these events, Captain Balfour was awarded with command of the Bienfaisant, and command of the frigate Echo to Captain Laforey.  Their lieutenants were also awarded with new commands of their own.

In the short-term, the event depicted was significant for breaking French morale and contributing to the success of the siege.  In the long-term it opened the heart of New France, most notably the cities of Quebec and Montreal, to British invasion via the Saint Lawrence River.  Having previously read about the events that transpired, I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled upon this print in our collection.  I love the color of the raging fire engulfing the Prudent set against the dark, foggy night with Louisbourg in the background.  Most of all I was caught in the suspense while reading about this risky operation.

This print was originally a painting by Richard Paton (1717-1791).  Born in London in 1717, Paton was found as a poor boy living on the streets by an admiral of the British navy and went to sea.  Receiving no professional training as an artist, Paton is known for depicting the famous sea-battles that occurred during his lifetime.  His paintings were exhibited it the Royal Academy of Art in London from 1776-1780. 

The engraving was made by Pierre Charles Canot (ca. 1710-1777).  Born in France, he moved to England in 1740 where he spent his professional career as an engraver.  Most famous for his engravings of Paton’s works, in 1770 he was elected Associate-Engraver of the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

 

 

comments: 1 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 5 November, 2014, 12:00 AM

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