Gentleman in Boston writing to a Mr. Rivitigton of New York
Under date of December 20th, 1774, a gentleman in Boston writing
to a Mr. Rivitigton of New York, says:
On Monday the 12th inst. our worthy citizen, Mr. Paul Revere, was sent express from only two or three of the Committee of Correspondence at Boston, as I am creditably informed (of whom no number under seven are empowered to act) to a like committee at Portsmouth, N.H., informing them as 't is said "That orders had been sent to the Governors of their Provinces to deliver up their several Fortifications or Castles to General Gage, and that a number of Troops had the preceding day embarked on board transports with a design to proceed and take possession of said Castles." That in consequence thereof the House of Assembly of Rhode Island had caused the Fort to be dismantled and the Guns, Ammunitions, etc., to be removed to Providence. Upon receiving this intelligence the Committee at Portsmouth was called together to advise what was to be done in so alarming a crisis ; but not having a full meeting, nor able to determine upon any measures proper to be taken, they concluded to deter the matter till the next day, when a fuller meeting of said committee was expected, but two or three warm zealous members, having the good of their country at heart more than the others, and thinking any further deliberation on so important an affair unnecessary, gave out their order early the next morning for the drums to be beat to raise Volunteers to go and take the King's Fort. With difficulty a number of men were persuaded to convene, who proceeded to the Fort, which is situated at New Castle, an island about two miles from the Town, and being there joined by a number of the inhabitants of said New Castle, amounted to near four hundred men ; They invested the Fort and being refused admittance by the Commander of it, who had only five men with him, and who discharged several guns at them, scaled the walls and soon overpowered and pinioned the Commander. They then struck the King's colors, with three cheers broke open the Powder House, and carried off one hundred and three barrels of powder, leaving only one behind. Previous to this, expresses had been sent out to alarm the country. Accordingly, a large body of men marched the next day from Durham headed by two Generals, Major Sullivan, one of the worthy Delegates, who represented that Province in the Continental Congress, and the Parson of the Parish, who being long accustomed to apply himself more to the care of the bodies than the souls of his parishioners, had forgotten that the weapons of his warfare ought to be spiritual, and not carnal, and therefore marched down to supply himself with the latter, from the King's Fort, and assisted in robbing him of his warlike stores. After being drawn up on parade, they chose a Committee, consisting of those persons who had been most active in the riot of the preceding day, with Major Sullivan and some others, to wait on the Governor, and know of him whether any of the King's Troops or Ships were expected. The Governor after expressing to them his great concern for the consequences of taking the Powder from the Fort, which they pretended to disapprove and be ignorant of, assured them that he knew of neither Troops or Ships coming into the Province, and ordered the Major, as a Magistrate, to go and disperse the people. When the Committee returned to the body, and reported what the Governor had told them, they voted it was satisfactory, and that they would return home. But by the eloquent harangue of their Demosthenes they were first prevailed upon to vote that they took part with and approved of the measures of those who had taken the Powder. Matters appeared then to subside, and it was thought every man had peaceably returned to his own home. Instead of this, Major Sullivan, with about seventy of his clients, concealed themselves till the evening, and then went to the Fort, and brought off in Gondolas all the small arms, with fifteen 4-Pounders and one 9-pounder, and a quantity of twelve and four and twenty pound shot, which they conveyed to Durham, etc. The day following being Friday, another body of men from Exeter headed by Colonel Folsom, the other Delegate to the Continental Congress, marched into Portsmouth, and paraded about the Town, and having passed several votes expressive of their approbation of the measures that had been pursued by the bodies of the two preceding days in robbing the fort of Guns, Powder, etc., retired home in the evening, without further mischief. Thus by this false alarm was a great part of that Province, which though staunch in the cause of liberty, before in a state of peace and good order, kept for three days in the greatest confusion, and the good people of it persuaded by a few flaming demagogues, to commit a most outrageous overt act of treason and rebellion. No history, I believe, will furnish us with an instance of a King's Fort being taken and his Colors struck by his own subjects in time of peace, and without any cause or provocation.
From: American Archives, Vol. I, p. 1054.