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Coming of the American Revolution: Document Viewer
Massachusetts Historical Society
America's oldest historical society, founded 1791.

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Letter from Peter Brown to Sarah Brown, 25 June 1775

Letter from Peter Brown to Sarah Brown, 25 June 1775

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"the Arrows of Death"
Peter Brown, a company clerk "hearty in the cause," who has fought with Col. Prescott in the redoubt at Bunker Hill, gives us the fullest account that survives of the feelings and observations of a participant in the ranks. Private Brown's account includes his actions when the British marched to Concord on 19 April, his enlistment in the army at Cambridge, and the orders of 16 June. He writes to his mother about the dawning realization of the danger the Americans are in as they build the fort and breastworks, with "all Boston fortified against us". He depicts the unfolding of events as the British begin their bombardment from Boston and from the ships in the harbor, and then he describes the attack on the redoubt as the British troops are ferried over to Charlestown.

Questions to Consider

1. Why did Peter Brown decide to enlist and become a clerk in the army?

2. Why does he write (page 2) "I must say and will say that there was treachery [,] oversight or presumption in the conduct of our officers"? What reasons does he give for his assertion?

3. Why did some of the Americans desert? Why were others so "beat out"?

4. To what does Brown attribute his escape from the "arrows of death"?

5. Brown tells his mother to send his letters to Col. Prescott's Chambers in "the South College". Where is that? Why are the American officers quartered there? Where are the students?

6. What aspects of Brown's narrative might have been put in or left out because he was writing to his mother and why?

Further Exploration