In between the insanity of daily life, I am still attempting to type and research my “Gamsby Manuscript.” This new chapter 4-titled by the author (Belle Thorn)-is called “The Battle.”
To the best of my knowledge, it is a recount of the Battle of Bunker Hill- around the city of Charleston in Boston. For those of you who haven’t read any of this manuscript, I am typing up a rare manuscript that is based around gran’s ancestor- Dorothea Gamsby. The manuscript is written by her granddaughter pen-named Belle Thorn. In her preface she explains that the manuscript is an attempt to share the stories that she has heard all of her life from her gran.
What I have typed so far of the manuscript can be found on a page on this blog. It is fascinating when you think that it tells the story of a woman who was born in 1762; during the growing pains of two countries. There is some information out there on the Web dedicated to her. I believe there is a mutual copy of her account already published-possibly- but this copy is mine, and the historian in me craves to learn more about her and to research what/who she talks about. All in good time!
I will leave with you-if you are at all interested- her account of this battle. I have attempted to correct spelling in this entry.
Months passed like the dreams of childhood, while the colonies were ripening to rebellion bloodshed and civil war. They sent a host of troops from home. Boston was full of them, and they seemed to be there only to eat and drink and enjoy themselves, but one day there was more than usual commotion, uncle said there had been an outbreak in the country; and then came a night when there was bastle, anxiety, and watching. Aunt and her maid, walked from room to room sometimes weeping. I crept after them trying to understand the cause of their uneasiness, full of curiosity, and unable to sleep when everybody seemed wide awake, and the streets full of people. It was scarcely daylight when the booming of the cannon on board the ships in the harbour shook every house in the city. My uncle had been much abroad lately and had only sought the pillow within the hour but he came immediately to my aunts room saying he would go and learn the cause of the firing and come again to inform us. He had not left the house when a servant in livery called to say that the nobles had collected in force on Breeds hill, were getting up fortifications, and that Governor Gage requested his presence. “There must be a brush?”he said for General Howe had ordered out the troops to dislodge them.” We were by this time thoroughly frightened, but uncle bade “Keep quiet” said “there was no danger” and left us. You may depend, we sought the highest wisdom we had, as soon as the light of advancing day gave us reason to hope for a sight of the expected contest. There they were, the audacious rebels! Hard at work, making what seemed to me a monstrous fence.
“What is it they are going to do aunt, and what are they making that big fence for?”
“They mean to shoot our King’s soldiers I suppose” she said “ and probably the firing is intended to drive them away”
“But Aunt the cannon balls will kill some of them, see see! The soldiers, and the banners, O aunt they will be killed, why can’t they stay out of the way?”
The glittering host, the crashing music, all the pomp and brilliance of war, moved on up toward that band of rebels, but they still laboured at their entrenchment, they seemed to take no heed- the bullets from the ships, the advancing column of British warriors, were alike unnoticed, “I should think they would begin to get out of (the) way “ said my aunt.
Every available window and roof was filled with anxious spectators, watching the advancing regulars, every heart I dare say throbbed as mine did, and we held our breath or rather it seemed to stop and oppress the labouring chest of its own accord so intensely we awaited the expected attack, but the troops drew nearer and the rebels toiled on.
At length one who stood conspicuously above the rest waved his bright weapon, the explosion came attended by the crash of music(?), the shrieks of the wounded the groans of the dying. My aunt fainted. Poor Abby looked on like one distracted. I screamed with all my might. The roar of artillery continued, but the smoke hid the havoc of war from our view. The housekeeper attended to my aunt, and begged for somebody to go for Dr. Warren, but everybody was too much engaged with watching the smoking battlefield. O how wild and terrific was that long day. Old as I am, the memory of that fearful contest will sometimes come over my spirit as if it had been but yesterday.
Men say it was no much of a fight, but to me it seems terrible. Charleston was in flames; women and children flying from their burning homes sought refuge in the city. Dismay and terror assailing and distraction impressed their picture on my memory, never to be effaced.
By and by, drays, carts and every description of vehicle that could be obtained were seen nearing the scene of conflict, and the roar of artillery ceased. Uncle came home and said the rebels had retreated. Dr, Warren was the first to fall that day. Then came the loads of wounded men attended by long lines of soldiers, the gay banners torn and soiled, a sight to be remembered of lifetime.
I have read many times, and much of the glory of war, but this one battle taught me that however it be painted by poet or novelist, there is nothing but woe and sorrow and shame to be found in the reality.
Want, utter destitution to many followed, and when the 12 of August came around and the British troops with the loyal citizens of Boston attempted to celebrate the birthday of their young Prince, scant and course was the cheer, their stories afforded.
They were temperance people then, from sheer necessity. The winter passed I cannot tell how, but when spring came everybody went on board the shipping in the harbour, at least so it seemed to me, for the officers and soldiers went, and everybody that I knew or cared for, except my father’s family seemed huddled together in the vessel so small that no room was left for comfort.