Saturday, October 1, 2011

Colonel Benjamin Church

  I am currently working on a series of posts on Dr Benjamin Church, Jr.'s great-grandfather ( not grandfather as has been believed), Colonel Benjamin Church, and King Philip's War, one of the most devastating wars ever fought in North America, but now largely forgotten. It was the single greatest calamity to have occurred in seventeenth century New England. Church, not Robert Rogers of Rogers' Rangers, should be considered the father of the American military tradition of the Rangers. Below is a Paul Revere engraving of a likeness of Colonel Church that appeared in a a 1772 reprint of Colonel Church's history of King Philip's War, compiled by his son Thomas, and originally printed in 1716.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Ropewalks of Boston

   In early March 1770, the city of Boston seethed with frustration, anger, and resentment at the manner in which the British Government had treated it through seventeen months of military occupation and a decade of economic hardships. The Bostonians view of themselves as British citizens equal to the citizens of the motherland was being shattered as they came to realize that the British authorities saw them as subordinates rather than as equal members of the empire. The colony's acting governor and his allies fretted that power had shifted to the Whigs and, as they saw it, their mobs. Isolated, these commissioners feared, with good reason, for their personal safety and property, but were still eager to zealously prosecute infractions of the onerous trade laws imposed on the colonists, no matter how trivial. In the midst of this cauldron, were approximately 2,000 British troops quartered in the midst of the townspeople. But often overlooked is that the British troops were accompanied by wives, children and the "hangers-on" that accompanied any mid eighteenth century European army. Add to this the officers and crews of the British naval ships that were constantly in and out of Boston harbor and you have an overwhelming British presence in a city of 15,500. Historians have calculated that, at this time, one-third of the male population of Boston were soldiers.
   The British military presence was not a discreet one. Redcoats, on and off-duty, were everywhere; in the streets, in the taverns and coffee house, in the shops, at various checkpoints, and on the Common, day and night. This in a Boston very much different from the Boston of today. A person, walking briskly, could see all of 1770's Boston in about an hour.

   The events that would lead to and trigger the event  that occurred on Monday, March 5th, 1770 and known today as "The Boston Massacre" started on Friday, March 2nd, 1770 at a ropewalk in Boston's South End. John Gray owned a ropewalk which consisted of a ropewalk, a warehouse, a residence and several buildings, located a few hundred yards from a British barracks. Gray employed a regular crew of journeymen and apprentices but often hired temporary workers as well. That morning a British soldier ambled by the ropeworks and a journeymen shouted to him asking him if he wanted to work. The poorly paid British soldiers were always trying to supplement their incomes with off duty work and the Boston ropeworks provided  a splendid opportunity. This particular British soldier from the 29th Regiment, however, was being setup. When the soldier eagerly answered yes, the journeyman responded gleefully - "Then go and clean my shithouse!" The soldier, humiliated and furious, answered that he would "seek satisfaction" and that he was not afraid of any rope worker. While the soldier tried to restore his dignity, a day worker at the ropeworks stealthily approached the soldier and pulled his feet out from under him. As the soldier fell, his coat flew open, revealing an unsheathed cutlass. Another ropeworker spotted the cutlass, grabbed it, and took it inside. Without his weapon and badly outnumbered, the soldier retreated.
   Twenty minutes later, the soldier returned with eight or nine of his fellow soldiers armed with clubs. The group entered Gray's warehouse and challenged the three or four men there to explain the treatment received by their fellow soldier. Recognizing that these soldiers would not be mollified with soothing words, the besieged warehouse men called for help. Approximately 15 workers responded to this plea and the assembled force drove off the soldiers. Undaunted, the soldiers of the 29th rallied 30 or 40 more soldiers and, armed with clubs and cutlasses, they set off for revenge. An elderly justice of the peace saw what was about to happen and attempted to intervene. The soldiers paid him absolutely no attention  but when the soldiers knocked down a ropeworker and began to beat him with their clubs, the justice of the peace started to intervene, only narrowly escaping a blow himself. Although outnumbered they may have been, the ropeworkers manged to fend off the soldiers who then retreated to their barracks. Both sides, however, swore to continue the battle over the weekend.
   Over the weekend there was at least one other minor skirmish and numerous rumors of an impending fight between soldiers and ropeworkers; one that threatened to escalate into wide spread violence. As three apprentices were spinning at McNeil's ropewalk, located right next to Gray's establishment, late Saturday afternoon, three grenadiers carrying bludgeons accosted them. "You damned dogs," they cried,"don't you deserve to be killed? Are you fit to die?" The apprentices caught unawares and unarmed, remained silent. A passerby, overhearing what was said, approached one of the grenadiers and taunted him by saying, "Damn it, I know what a soldier is." That prompted the grenadier to swing his club at the passerby and then at one of the apprentices. A nearby journeyman went to a tan house and brought out two bats. With the help of another bystander, he chased the soldiers from the site.
This  cutout from the above map clearly shows the location of "MacNeal's" rope yard.  Gray's was next to it.

   We will end the story here but will note that the town was tense that entire weekend with rumors of impending clashes and small teams of workers and soldiers roaming the streets armed with clubs and other weapons. The town would explode on Monday and lead to the withdrawal of British troops from the streets of Boston.
  But, what is a ropewalk and how important were they to Boston and its industry?

ropewalkers and the 700-900 foot shed where they worked was called a ropewalk. The twisting of the fiber was accomplished by a man who walked backward down the "walk"spinning from the hemp which was strung around his waist. The twist was imparted to the rope by a wheel turned by a boy. These men worked long hours, sheltered from the rain and snow, but not the heat and cold, their clothes impregnated with the smell of tar. By one account, there were fourteen ropewalks in Boston spinning for at least sixty years.
An image from Stark's "Antique Views of Boston" shows a ropewalk running through Beacon Hill.
   The first ropewalk appeared in Boston in 1642, just 12 years after the town was founded, and its first proprietor was a man by the name of John Harrison. Harrison was invited into Boston by the town selectmen after the town started to build bigger ships and it recognized the advantage of making its own rope. In fact, Harrison was enticed to move to Boston from Salisbury by being given a monopoly for 21 years. Harrison managed to extend that monopoly well beyond the 21 years and it lasted until his death. After his death, the number of ropewalks in Boston grew exponentially. It's difficult to state precisely how many ropewalks were actively in business in Boston in the 1770s, fire being a real hazard to them as we shall see shortly, but this 1722 map of Boston shows ropewalks located in both the north and south ends of Boston. The location of the Gray ropewalks shows several ropewalks in this location in 1722 and, as best as I can determine, there probably were seven of them at this location at the time of the revolution.
Bonner's 1722 map of Boston. Ropewalk locations are in red.
   Before we go further, it should be noted that these ropewalks were supported by a number of New England farms as far west as the Connecticut River valley grew the hemp (non-THC strain) that was used to make the ropes. A large quantity of hemp was also imported.
   Ropewalks were built on the edge of Boston until the last days of the eighteenth century. The barren slopes located there were perfect locations not only as sites for the unusually long and narrow sheds, but also because rope making was a highly combustible (In 1794 seven ropewalks burned down in Boston) and smelly operation that no one wanted for a neighbor. After the coils of rope were spun they were dipped in heated tar as a preservative against seawater rot. These tar kettles created quite a stench and could make the air virtually unbreathable on a hot day. Even worse were the fires that started when sparks from the kettle fire lit the dry supplies of hemp. And fires were an enormous threat in colonial Boston.
   Rope walking continued well after the revolution and the Charlestown Naval Yard has preserved an example of a 19th century ropewalk on its grounds.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Kenneth Roberts

   For those of you not familiar with the historical fiction of Kenneth Roberts, I would recommend it highly. Roberts was an American author from Maine who specialized in the colonial and Revolutionary War periods. He tells his stories from the point of view of  the Loyalists and gives the reader a different perspective. Two of his novels, Arundel and Rabble in Arms have Benedict Arnold as a primary character and are quite sympathetic to him. His novel, Oliver Wiswell , presents the American Revolution from the viewpoint of a Loyalist officer. His most famous novel is Northwest Passage and is about Robert Rogers and his Rangers, later made into the movie starring Spencer Tracy.

   You do not to have to agree with Roberts but it's worthwhile to hear his take on things. And, the novels are good reads.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Guns of Ticonderoga

  The capture of the guns at Fort Ticonderoga was of little military value to the Patriots unless they could be transported, in the dead of winter, from upstate New York to Boston where the rebels were besieging the British regulars - a distance of some 280 miles using available rivers and roads. George Washington dispatched the 25 year old Henry Knox, a Boston bookseller, to retrieve the cannon and other supplies and transport them back to Boston. Knox owned "The London Book Store", located opposite Williams Court in Boston, and was married to the daughter of Thomas Flucker, Royal Secretary of the Province, and as ardent a Loyalist as there was in Boston. To think of Knox's establishment merely as a "bookstore" does not give it its full due. In addition to the finest books, Knox also sold stationery and a whole variety of items to include flutes, breadbaskets, telescopes, protractors, and paper hangings, among other things. It was, in fact, an establishment described as "...a great store of display and attraction for young and old, and a fashionable morning lounge....Knox's store was a great resort for the British officers and Tory ladies who were the ton of the period."  Knox had been an eye witness to the Boston Massacre and later testified at the trials of the soldiers involved. In 1773, while hunting, Knox lost the third and fourth fingers of his left hand when a fowling piece exploded. He went through life wrapping a silk handkerchief around his hand to disguise the injury. He was fascinated with military matters and strategy, spent a great deal of time acquiring and reading books on the subject, and was a member of an artillery company at the outbreak of war.

Henry Knox
   Washington issued orders on Thursday, November 16, 1775 to Knox to proceed to Fort Ticonderoga via New York City and Albany and procure as much cannon and supplies as he could and transport them to Boston. Knox set out, accompanied by his nineteen year old brother, and arrived on December 4th, 1775. At Fort Ticonderoga, Knox found guns ranging from 12 inch howitzers to 11 foot cannon weighing 5,000 pounds apiece.The total weight of the load that he was to drag to Boston was approximately 120,000 pounds. Knox's immediate problem was to load the cannon and supplies aboard ships so that they could be transported down the lake to Fort George for loading onto sleds. The cannon were loaded onto low draught lake vessels called gundalows. After loading the cannon aboard, Knox went on ahead to Fort George and, on 11 December, 1775, contracted for  a local militia captain to round up 42 sleds that could carry 5,400 pounds apiece, 160 oxen to pull them, and 500 fathoms of sturdy three inch rope to ferry the 43 cannon and 16 mortars as far as Springfield, Massachusetts where he planned to get fresh animals for the rest of the journey.
a gundalow
      But Knox had one insurmountable problem - the weather, which was too good. Given the state of the rutted roads he had to traverse, Knox needed a good base of snow and/or ice on which to drag the sleds. It was impossible to drag the sleds over snow free roads. Knox, too optimistically, wrote Washington that he would cover twenty miles a day and that he should arrive in Cambridge by New Year's Day. But snow refused to fall. On Christmas day, Knox awoke to find a very welcome Christmas present - a two foot blanket of pristine snow. But the Christmas bounty was not to last as a warm front rapidly moved into the area, temperatures rose, and rivers began to thaw. Finally, on January 8th, 1776 a cold front moved in, lingered and Knox could get on his way.

   After clearing the rivers in New York, Knox had to haul his artillery chain through the Berkshires and a dense pine forest called Greenwoods. Many of his crew became discouraged and Knox spent a great deal of his time cajoling them to continue the journey. After trekking through the mountains and the forest, the trip became easier since they moved on an old Indian trail. As the caravan approached Springfield, Knox rode ahead to Cambridge where he reported to Washington on January 24th that the artillery would arrive in the next few days. Knox was then informed that his appointment as a Colonel had been approved by Congress and he would head the army's artillery corps of approximately 650 men.

   Knox's mission had taken twenty-four days longer than he had predicted and his entire mission stretched to fifty-six days. Knox immediately went into putting the artillery to use but decided that the Ticonderoga cannon and mortars were insufficient for his task. He wrote to General Charles Lee, on his way to New York, with a requisition for more guns. But all the artillery in the world was useless without powder and ammunition, of which the Patriots were always short. Knox was pleased to learn that shortly after he had departed on his mission that the Americans had captured a British sloop laden with military supplies to include 3,000 shells for twelve pound guns and 4,000 shells for the six pounders. But Knox was still desperately short of powder for his guns.  On February 18th, Washington informed Knox that Connecticut was going to send them 3,000 pounds of powder.

Map of the Siege of Boston with positions prior to the seizure of Dorchester Heights
(Click on the map to enlarge it.)

   The key to driving the British from Boston was the seizure of Dorchester Heights. Knox had positiioned his cannon on three heights -  Roxbury from the South, Cobble Hill from the West, and Lechmere Point on the North. On  March 2, 1776, Knox commenced his bombardment of his home town. On March 4th, as the cannonade boomed uninterurpted, General John Thomas seized Dorchester Heights with 2000 men. Under Knox's direction, and with the help of 400 oxen, the heaviest guns seized from Ticonderoga were hauled up the hill and positioned to strike the city and the British fleet in the harbor. A British Admiral spotted the guns and notified General Howe who immediately made plans to attack the position but an unfavorable wind would not allow him to mount an amphibious assault and gave Washington time to send in additional troops to secure this position and Knox time to augment and dig in his artillery. Howe soon realized his position in Boston was hopeless and on St Patrick's Day, 1776 the British commenced to evacuate Boston.
   The lifting of the siege not only gave a much needed boost to the flagging spirits of New Englanders, it helped to bolster a national mood that believed that Independence was inevitable.

  The irony of history: While travelling to Fort Ticonderoga, Knox encountered a snowstorm and took refuge at Fort George on December 4, 1775. He was given lodging in a one room cabin which, for lack of space, he shared with a captured British officer who, along with others, was being escorted to Lancaster, Pennsylvania where a prisoner exchange would occur. Knox was dressed in civilian clothes and revealed nothing of his mission. As they sat before the fire, the two men engaged in conversation and found an attraction for each other since both loved literature and shared many passions. The officer's intelligence and personality left a lasting impression on Knox. The officer was Lt John Andre, a member of the British Army stationed in Canada.

Westminster Abbey


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Benedict Arnold- Some Thoughts

   While Benedict Arnold's treatment by the Church Committee may seem harsh to a contemporary American, it is not anything out of the ordinary for mid-eighteenth century military finance. The colonists adopted the complicated British system of procurement, ripe with favoritism and corruption and expected a commander to shoulder a number of exigent expenses for which he would be later reimbursed. What is interesting about Arnold's appearance before the committee is his failure to provide receipts. While Arnold would not have been able to provide receipts for the odd situation, he certainly should have had them for the bulk of his expenses. It was the job of the committee to view Arnold's claims with suspicion.
  Benedict Arnold, throughout his career, demonstrated an utter lack of political acumen. He was not an intellectual and had no feel for human interplay, the ambitions of men, and the cut throat nature of politics. Alexander Hamilton, who knew Arnold from Hamilton's days as Washington's aide, remarked of him that "the fighter did not combine...any intellectual qualities with his physical prowess. Instead of engaging in interesting argument, he shouted and pounded the table." A description of Arnold from his days in Philadelphia perhaps describes him best:
He was by nature impetuous, aggressive, alert and eager for battle under any circumstances but he had never been a good politician. He was tactless, impatient, extremely outspoken and had made numerous enemies unnecessarily.
 One of the things that Arnold's biographers gloss over during Arnold's actions during April and May of 1775, is the utterly callous way in which he abandoned his Connecticut Company in favor of a commission from a colony in which he had no friends and no political base. Colonelcies were highly sought after in every colony and there were more candidates for colonelcies than there were colonelcies. Arnold had nurtured this company but abandoned them without a moment's hesitation to take a colonelcy in a colony in which he was not known. This was a rash act of a man with no political acumen.

  In closing, it should be noted that in September 1775, Arnold turned over his financial records to Silas Deane and asked whether he might get satisfaction from the Continental Congress. Deane, who was a friend of Arnold's and sympathized with Arnold over his treatment by Massachusetts, pursued the claim. In late January 1776, the Continental Congress awarded Arnold and additional L245,14, 1. This was probably in reaction to Arnold's recent surge in stature as a wounded hero in the Patriots attempt to conquer Canada.

Major John Andre's self-sketch drawn the night before he was hung.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Benedict Arnold/Dr Benjamin Church Jr. Confrontation - Part Five

   Benedict Arnold departed Crown Point on July 4th, 1775 and after arriving in Albany, New York was informed that his wife Peggy (Margaret) had died two weeks before of a fever. Three days after her death, her father, Samuel Mansfield, High Sheriff of New Haven, Connecticut, and a man to whom Arnold was very close, also passed away. The two main pillars of Arnold's personal life were now gone, and it seems so had his military reputation. After visiting briefly with General Philip Schuyler, Arnold proceeded to New Haven where he placed the care of his three young sons in the care of his sister Hannah, to whom he was very close. Hannah also took control of her brother's many business affairs since he was determined to travel to Massachusetts to confront his problems with the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and, ever the military man, to meet the new Commander of the Continental Army, George Washington. Hannah was a very resourceful and pious woman who soon had the two older boys enrolled in school and took complete control of her brother's many business affairs proving herself to be a shrewd businesswoman.
Benedict Arnold's birthplace in Norwich, CT - No longer standing
   Normally a very physically robust man, Arnold's health now took a turn for the worse and he suffered a severe attack of the gout, which periodically struck his legs, and he was bedridden for a week. (I am always struck by how so many ailments in this period were diagnosed as an "attack of the gout." Given the state of diagnostic medicine at the time, I wonder how many of these gout diagnoses were, in fact, something modern medicine would be able to identify more specifically.) Arnold's malaria also flared up again; but he soon recovered and, toward the end of July, he embraced his sons and his sister, mounted his horse, and began his second journey in just three months to Massachusetts. This time he was determined to confront a Provincial Congress whom he felt had abused him.
   With his accounts in hand, Arnold presented himself to the General Court of Massachusetts. Historians and biographers of Arnold refer to it as the "Third Provincial Congress." In fact, the Third Provincial Congress of Massachusetts had dissolved itself on June 20th, 1775 upon the advice of the Continental Congress. The Third Provincial Congress had dispatched Dr. Benjamin Church, Jr to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia with a confidential communication requesting advice from the Congress to clarify the situation of a permanent government as a result of the activities in the colony since April 1775. Acting on that request, the Continental Congress resolved that Massachusetts was correct in recognizing that the positions of Governor and Lieutenant Governor, as well as the Council were vacant. It recommended that the Massachusetts towns elect a new Assembly that would choose a Council from among its members. On July 19, 1775, this newly elected General Court "resumed" government under the old 1691 Massachusetts Charter.
   The Council, the successor to the assistants under the old charter, consisted of twenty-eight men selected from the House of Representatives. They acted as the upper body of the legislature and advisor to the governor. No money could be issued from the treasury without a warrant from the Governor and Council. The lower body of the legislature, known as the House of Deputies under the old charter, was now called the House of Representatives. Freeholders, those men holding a certain amount of property, elected the House of Representatives annually. The General Court appointed officers, passed laws and orders, organized all courts, established fines and punishments, and levied taxes, all with the consent of the governor. The House alone controlled the salaries of the governor and judicial officers.This House has been sitting in continuous session since then.

   On August 1, 1775, the House of Representatives named a committee of five, headed by Dr Benjamin Church, Jr, to review Arnold's records and recommend a final settlement of his accounts. Dr Church was not only the member of the Committee of Safety who had signed Arnold's Commission, he had four days earlier been appointed to a newly established position. The Continental Congress had created a Medical Department of the Army with a Director General and Chief Physician who would be head of both the Hospital Department of the first Army Hospital and of the first headquarters of regimental surgeons in the army before Boston. Dr Church's appointment to this position made him the chief medical officer of the Continental Army besieging Boston, under the command of George Washington as of July 3, 1775. Thus Church is considered the first "Surgeon General" of the United States
   Only a week earlier, Dr Church had authored the infamous cipher letter addressed to his brother-in-law that he attempted, through his mistress, to smuggle into Boston.
   The Church Committee was ready and waiting for Arnold and the rancor started almost immediately during a very testy, day-long hearing. The committeemen had heard all sorts of reports about Arnold from his enemies Col Easton and Brown, and from the Spooner committee, none of them favorable and they were ready to take Arnold on. Dr Church was known as a trenchant wit, quick with a retort, quip, or cutting remark or statement. Indeed, he may have been the most effective propagandist that the Patriots had in their long struggle against the Crown. Church was also the most famous poet in the colonies and had given a most remarkable oration on the anniversary of the Boston Massacre. A distinguished graduate of Harvard, Church was up against a man with a very rudimentary formal education with only a couple of years at the Reverend Cogswell's school.
The Edmund Fowle House, Watertown Massachusetts

   The Committee started off by asking Arnold why he was weeks late in reporting to the Congress since the Spooner Committee had directed him to to ride to Watertown immediately to settle his accounts. He had not received authorization to travel by way of New Haven, regardless of his personal circumstances.
   Arnold, true to his martial character, decided that the best defense was a good offense and went on the attack. He stated he resented the insinuations of the committeemen. Why did they doubt his truthfulness when he said he had to spend his own money after the meager L100 they had furnished him with which he was to pay for an entire regiment? He presented the committee with copies of a set of ledger sheets itemizing all of his expenses, listing pay for entire companies, for carpenters and a shipwright, for lumber, for milling grain, and for much more. But why, the committee wanted to know had Arnold not obtained proper receipts for each expenditure? He needed to provide them with evidence. When he asked how he could do that, they facetiously advised him to ride to Ticonderoga and secure receipts from Massachusetts' own Colonel James Easton. Arnold scoffed at the suggestion. Arnold insisted that as the man on the scene for Massachusetts, he had to make countless decisions on behalf of the Province and pay prevailing prices and wages. He had spent what he considered appropriate to maintain his men. Now was not the time for civilians to second-guess a field commander operating under very difficult conditions. The Committee, in turn, took special umbrage at the number of personal charges Arnold had levied against the public account. Even before the hearing, the House had refused to pay bills of credit drawn by Arnold on Massachusetts until it had examined his accounts.
   All day long, the committee and Arnold went back and forth and the quill pens scratching "disallowed' became more and more numerous. The first target was Arnold's horse which, he maintained, he had purchased on the authorization of the Provincial Congress before he had departed for Ticonderoga. He valued it at L16; the committee at L3. The committee also struck out L38, 4s, 9d for the wages of a wheelwright Arnold had hired to build gun carriages to transport cannon. Arnold was supposed to pay troops and use them as carpenters, not hire carpenters, no matter how skilled they were. Arnold's policy of paying well for workers and skilled mariners did not go down well in Massachusetts where it was viewed as driving up the cost of war.
   The accusations against Arnold ranged from the petty - paying L3, 15s, for an officer's out of pocket expenses without obtaining a proper receipt - to some much more serious. They objected that he had acted as his own commissary and then charged a broker's fee; they refused to pay for livestock Arnold had bought from Colonel Easton without a receipt from him. They demanded to know what had happened to the L160 reportedly found aboard the captured British sloop. The committee assumed that Arnold had pocketed the money as a prize of war and they therefore disallowed L163 from his expenses for soldiers' pay. Since Arnold had not attached the company's pay table, Dr Church would not accept Arnold's word of honor that he had ever paid the company of men before he disbanded them and the men went home. Finally, Dr Church and his committee disallowed L100 Arnold said he paid the crew of the sloop Enterprise. When the hearing was over, the committee reserved judgement until another day.
   A number of weeks later, the committee released its findings ( Dr Church was in detention at this point in the Vassall House in Cambridge) and repaid Arnold L757 - 65% of the money he said he had spent in the name of the Massachusetts Congress.

   I will conclude this story tomorrow with some final thoughts about Arnold and this whole enterprise. A contemporary American may feel that Arnold was shabbily treated based on what has been so far reported, but I think that is an emotional reaction. It's a little more complicated. One of the things that has always struck me about Arnold is that he was, in many ways - an innocent, naive, and, at times, just plain obtuse.

Note: I have included illustrations of both the Meeting House and Fowles' House in Watertown. The Meeting House has long been demolished but the Fowle House has been restored but moved from its original location. The confrontation between the Church Committee and Arnold took place in one of these buildings. Although the House met in the First Parish Church, the Upper Council met in the Fowle House and committees of the lower House did hold meetings in the Fowle House.

 To Be Continued

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Benedict Arnold/Dr Benjamin Church Jr Confrontation - Part Four

   In June 1775, Benedict Arnold found himself in an untenable position. Massachusetts was trying to wash its hands of the Lake Champlain campaign, the Continental Congress was unsure of what it wanted to do, the Connecticut Committee appointed to oversee the campaign notified the Connecticut House of Assembly that it had postponed sending further assistance to Captain Arnold, New York was divided, and Ethan Allen hovered over the whole affair with his personal ambitions paramount. And, unbenownst to Arnold, his patron, Dr Joseph Warren, who until then had not apparently outlined Arnold's secret mission to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, became the President of the Congress and turned over the affairs of the Committee of Safety to its new Chairman, Dr. Benjamin Church, Jr.
Benedict Arnold sketch from Lossing
   Dr Church had become Chairman of the Committee in the early part of May and had personally signed Arnold's commission to take Fort Ticonderoga on May 10th. At this point it gets confusing again. Sometime in the middle of May, Dr Warren replaced Dr Church as Chairman of the Committee of Safety in what has been described as "a bloodless and even noiseless coup." I have not been able to determine the precise reason for this action or what the politics involved were. Although Drs Warren and Church were allied to each other as staunch Whigs, there was a rivalry between them and one gets the impression that they were more colleagues than friends. In any event, Church was selected by the Provincial Congress to take secret correspondence to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia asking it to assume control and support of the Massachusetts militia now besieging Boston. Church departed for Philadelphia on May 20th, 1775 and did not return to Cambridge until the afternoon of June 16th, arriving in the middle of the battle of Bunker Hill. On May 20th, Warren became President of the Provincial Congress, and on June 14th a major general in the Massachusetts militia only to die two days later at Bunker Hill. (See my post on" Dr Joseph Warren at Bunker Hill - Heroic or Foolish.")
   In the meantime, Arnold was awaiting authority from the Continental Congress to proceed with a plan he had drawn up to attack Canada. On June 15th, 1775, Arnold sent an aide to Philadelphia to outline his plans. But, on that very day George Washington was appointed as Commander in Chief of the new American Army by that Congress and it would be months before Washington could turn his attention to Arnold and his plans to invade Canada. Washington's first priority was to hasten to Cambridge and take command of the army besieging Boston.
Enterprise - Arnold's flagship
 In the absence of Drs Warren and Church, the Massachusetts Committee of Safety proceeded to undermine Arnold in a series of actions. The first was the dispatch of Colonel Henshaw to Connecticut. If Connecticut was ready to take control over the captured forts, Henshaw was to proceed to Ticonderoga and turn over command to a Connecticut officer. If Connecticut had not sent officers and men to take control of Ticonderoga, Henshaw was to tell Arnold to stay on. But on his arrival in Connecticut, Henshaw learned that it had opened up a third possibility by sending a delegation to Albany to ask New York to take control of the forts. New York was less than thrilled with the prospect of assuming responsibility for the Massachusetts-Connecticut attack on crown forts on its own territory and only wanted to make sure that the captured cannon and supplies remained in New York and were not sent on to Boston. Henshaw sent an aide to Arnold at Crown Point with a letter instructing him to guard against any surprise from the enemy and that he would receive further instructions. Arnold was left in a state of a bewildering confusion of interests and orders but could take relief in the fact that Massachusetts had not relieved him of command -yet.
  The Committee of Safety was receiving reports from a number of sources to include an account of the taking of Ticonderoga by Ethan Allen which only further increased their apprehension over the whole Ticonderoga affair. On June 12th, acting on a recommendation from the Committee of Safety, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress decided to send a an investigative committee to Ticonderoga with authority to review how Arnold had executed his commission and to give him such orders as they deemed necessary. The committee consisted of Walter Spooner, Jedediah Foster, and James Sullivan. In addition, Arnold was to turn over his command to an officer appointed by Connecticut and the three members of the special investigative committee were authorized to decide if Arnold should remain in the employ of Massachusetts and could discharge him and order him to return to Massachusetts and render an account of his actions.
James Sullivan - Member Spooner Committee, later Governor of Massachusetts

     The three Massachusetts investigators arrived at Crown Point on June 22nd and to the beleaguered Arnold they appeared to be just another delegation come in to reflect in his glory or perhaps to bring in some sorely needed cash. Nothing prepared him for the confrontation that took place abroad his flagship, Enterprise. The committee ordered Arnold to step down immediately as commander and was informed that, if he wished to remain in charge of his contingent of Massachusetts militia, it would have to be as second in command to a newly arrived Connecticut officer. Arnold flatly refused; he would resign first. There was no further negotiation. Later that day, the committee chairman, Walter Spooner, sent Arnold a note in which it was stated that "It is the expectation of the provincial congress that the chief officer of the Connecticut forces at these stations will command..." Arnold not only was to turn command of his troops over to a Connecticut officer but he was ordered  to "lay an account of your disbursements before the Provincial Congress."
   That night Arnold retired to his cabin and drafted a long letter to the Committee. He expressed his outrage in the manner in which he had been treated, stating, among other grievances, that the whole manner in which the committee had acted was "a most disgraceful reflection on him and the body of troops he commands " and was "a sufficient inducement to resign." Arnold ended the letter by offering his resignation because of the failure of Massachusetts to discharge its obligations honorably to him as well as to his men. The Congress had failed him and his men by only furnishing L100 to keep his army in the field for two months. He had advanced the army L1000 out of his own fortune and had borrowed money on his own word to pay his men when it became necessary. This had put him in a terrible financial bind.
Jedediah Foster home outside of Worcester

   Benedict Arnold then took the only action he thought he could. On June 24th, 1775, six weeks after taking Fort Ticonderoga, he disbanded his regiment and resigned his Massachusetts commission. Arnold now only wanted to go home to Connecticut, straighten out his financial affairs, and then proceed to Massachusetts to clear his name.
   He was soon to discover, however, that three days prior to his confrontation with the Spooner committee, on June 19th 1775, his wife of eight years, Peggy Mansfield, had died, leaving him a widower with three young sons.

  To be continued