Tales of the Itinerant Sailor

Cruising 2008

The Landlubber's Tale


Steven Jones  

"One if by Land, Two if by Sea"

Several months ago I shared with family and friends my travels across the United States by automobile last year over Thanksgiving through New Year’s.  I didn’t include photos as I had yet to download them from the camera.  Now that I have the photos, have enjoyed the memories they brought back, I want to change the story.

The first story was woven around going to new places while visiting nice people I don’t see very often.   Aside from the warm, fuzzy feeling one gets while visiting family and friends, I really enjoyed seeing sights/sites--some for the very first time. 

Light House

New England Coastal Scene.

As I embellish this story, I am relying on memory and the internet.  Not the best combination, I know.  Disclaimers aside, let’s start with Boston.

Oppressive Taxation

As a student of history, Boston has always held a special interest for me.  Of all the dissatisfaction within the colonies with the rules and regulations imposed by the British after the end of the French and Indian War in 1763, why was Boston the hotbed of this discontent?

There has been much conjecture, explanations and theories of why this is so, researched by well-educated historians much more erudite than I.  I could easily advance my own.  But when all is said and done, we would have just another theory.

Old South Meeting Hall

Old South Meeting Hall and Boston Skyline

Boston is where the first blood was spilt due to growing colonial resistance against British rule.  Parliament had imposed a series of taxes on the colonies to help pay for the costly French and Indian War.  The colonists balked.  Aside from the monetary issues, the colonists protested a tax imposed by a Parliament in which they had no representation.  “No taxation without representation!”  What a concept.

The Boston Massacre

As the resistance increased against these taxes, and to protect Loyalist interest, the British military command sent troops to Boston in 1768, some of whom were quartered in the homes of local citizens, with or without their permission.  Now we have another issued that agitated the locals.  This agitation culminated on March 5, 1770 when a crowd began throwing snowballs at a British sentry in front of the Custom House on State Street in Boston.  Back up support was called in; shots were fired; and five Bostonians died.  Thus, the Boston Massacre.  Protests were heard throughout the colonies and, some say, around the world.

Public opinion was further incensed after the scene of this event was engraved by a silversmith by the name of Paul Revere, which seemed to depict a British firing squad firing point blank into a group of civilians.  This production, and later as  a courier for now what is being called the Revolutionary Cause, brought Paul Revere into close contact with the real firebrands of this movement, John Hancock and Samuel Adams (that’s right, the beer guy).

The Committees of Correspondence

Communication played a decisive role.  Colonial legislatures had appointed Committees of Correspondence during the 1760’s and charged them with staying in touch with their counterparts throughout the colonies.  Obviously we are talking about a hand written medium, not quite up to the speed of cell phones, text messages and e-mail!  The first revolutionary use of these committees occurred in Boston, as you might have guessed, on November 2, 1772 at a town meeting where it was voted to establish a sub-committee “to state the Rights of the Colonists and of this Province in particular” to the other towns and colonies.  Revolutionary talk, eh?

The Boston Tea Party

This Boston committee is accredited with organizing resistance to the Tea Act of 1773, the only remaining import tax imposed by Parliament to help pay for the French and Indian War.  The British had developed a scheme by which the struggling East India Company was granted a monopoly to import tea to America, at a lower cost to the colonies as the import duty was also reduced.  Ships loaded with tea for the colonies arrived subsequently in Philadelphia, New York, Charleston and Boston.  The lower price was not an enticement; the colonists held firm.  No tea was off loaded (except in one instance where the tea was placed in a warehouse where it remained until the end of the Revolutionary War).  But only in Boston was there a radical reaction.  After a mass meeting in the Old South Meeting House, it was decided that about 200 of the men would dress up like Indians, board the three ships, and throw the tea overboard.  Which they did, with no loss of life on either side, in part due to a well-organized colonial plan and the capitulation of the merchants, who did not want their ships to be vandalized.  This really pissed off the British, who closed the Boston Harbor to all merchant ships.

The British are Coming!

Paul Revere

Statue of folk hero Paul Revere.

The people of Massachusetts had begun to organize militias, for security purposes they say, and to establish store houses for weapons:  Ammo dumps.  In April 1775 the British military command decided to raid the militia’s arsenal in nearby Concord and to arrest the radical instigators Samuel Adams and John Hancock in Lexington.

Anticipating this, Paul Revere had put together a plan, with the cooperation of the sexton of the Old North Church (Christ Church).   From the church’s steeple a signal would be sent by lantern to the colonists across the river in Charlestown as to the movements of British regulars:  One lantern if the army was moving by land; two lanterns would signal that the army was crossing the Charles River first.  From here, Paul Revere, William Dawes and, later, Samuel Prescott would ride off into the night to warn the villagers of this troop movement.  Along the way there were detained and only William Dawes made it all the way to Concord.

But it is primarily Paul Revere’s name that is associated with this event.  Why is this so?  Because his home in Boston is still standing?  Because it was his plan?  Or is it because of the multi-verse poem penned by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1860, on the eve of America’s second great battle, the Civil War?  Probably the latter, but at any rate the skirmishes between colonists and British regulars along the way and in Lexington and Concord become the first battles of the American Revolution.  And for a fee you can visit Paul Revere’s house in Boston.  Or you can click on the internet and read the entire poem for free.  

Listen my children, and you shall hear 
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five; 
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
Old North Church

Looking for the two lanterns hanging “aloft in the belfry arch of Christ’s Church”—The Old North Church.

The Battle of Bunker Hill

Bunker Hill

“Don’t fire until you can see the whites of their eyes.” At the Battle of Breed’s Hill, an American commander is quoted in order to preserve what little gunpowder the colonists had.

And this begins the siege of Boston by British troops.  Colonial resistance forces were organizing from Massachusetts to the Carolinas.  In Boston British troops under the command of Major-General William Howe wanted command of the high ground of the city, especially Breed’s Hill (not Bunker Hill).  Learning of this, colonialists under the command of General Israel Putman stealthily fortified both hills.  When the British mounted their attack, they were met by strong resistance.  Eventually, the British were victorious but at great expense, suffering more casualties than any of the remaining battles in the years to come before their final surrender in Yorktown, Virginia in 1781.  This misnamed battle, in effect, becomes the first battle of the American Revolution.


All of this in order to postulate a question: Are there injustices in our communities today that would prompt this same commitment to resist authority, to organize and to take action?  A call to action?  That would cause us to take up arms (metaphorically speaking, of course) against those causing the unjust treatment, whether they be in positions of authority of not?  To join a Tea Party?  Think about it as you down your first cup of coffee or sip your cocktail at pool side.

Well, enough about history.  Let’s get on with the trip.  Obviously, still by land.

Changes at Rio Dulce New York

Cruising 2008: The Landlubber's Tale
Copyright © 2009 Steven Jones. All Rights Reserved.

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