Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Patriots, Pillow Talk, and the Shot Heard Round the World

Dear Readers,

It was May 13th, 1774. Friday the 13th to be exact. A British warship entered Boston harbor with an important man aboard, General Thomas Gage. His mission was simple; replace the ousted Royal Governor and assume control of the rebellious colony of Massachusetts. The beleaguered Thomas Hutchinson (no relation) relinquished the post with some sense of relief, I'm sure as he was frequently the target of colonial ire. A mob once went so far as to loot his home during protests over the Stamp Act. In truth, his removal was due to a petition sent to the British Government by the Colonial Assembly. As Hutchinson set sail for England, he did so convinced that he had taken appropriate measures while occupying the highest post in Massachusetts.

General Gage was well known to the colonists. In a way, he was almost one of them. Nine months earlier when Gage and his pregnant wife set foot in England, it marked the first time he had been home in seventeen years. All of those years he spent in the colonies. He knew the colonists and he knew how they thought. Gage was seen as a decent fellow who was not entirely unfriendly towards the colonial issues. No one doubted Gage's bravery. He served as a young officer at the bloody Battle of Fontenoy. Later, he was present at the brutal battle of Culloden which broke the power of the highland clans in Scotland for good. In 1755, Gage arrived in the colonies for the first time and saw service with Braddock's expedition which ended with the Battle of Monongahela, a battle which saw a young colonial militia officer named George Washington distinguish himself. Based on his experience in trying to move heavily equipped British infantry through the wilderness that made up much of North America, he came up with an idea for using light infantry instead. The British Army adopted his idea and began to use light infantry regiments when the situation demanded it.

Gage soon wore out his welcome in Boston by trying to implement various portions of what the colonists called the Intolerable Acts. Still, Gage tried not to needlessly antagonize his American hosts. Some of his subordinates grew critical of him for not moving to arrest all of the members of the Sons of Liberty. One of them wrote that by allowing them to exist, Gage only caused the colonists to grow "more insolent." In January of 1775, Gage received orders from London to take decisive action. Word had reached both Gage and London that the Americans were hoarding weapons, powder, and ball near Concord. It is at this point that the story gets interesting.

By all accounts, Gage's wife Margaret was a beautiful woman. 14 years his junior, she was of Greek, Spanish, English and Native American heritage which must have lent her an exotic appearance. Margaret was also an American, born in the colonies. They met while Gage was stationed near Brunswick, New Jersey during the French and Indian War. When she joined her husband in Boston, rumors began to circulate about her close friendship with a well known patriot, Dr. Joseph Warren. How friendly were they? No one knows for sure but as you can imagine, rumors spread through the prudishly Puritan Boston.

As Gage made his plans for the operation that would take a column of British troops to Lexington and then on to Concord, he did so with a measure of secrecy. In fact, on the night the soldiers left Boston, they weren't even told that an operation was planned until two hours before they were to move out in an  attempt to keep things quiet. So how then did the colonists know to be on the lookout for British troops leaving the city? And who was the "highly placed informant" that warned Dr. Warren on the eve of the mission? Perhaps, Dear Readers, it was Margaret Gage!

Is there any solid evidence to support this? Alas, no there isn't. However, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence. She would have been privy to her husbands activities. Certainly Gage at some point (either at the table or perhaps the bed) mentioned that he was planning an operation and what their objective was. Plus, she was an American and was maintaining a friendship with a prominent patriot leader. Someone tipped them off and the expedition to Lexington and Concord ended with the British failing to arrest Hancock and Adams and also failing to uncover all of the weapons they sought to confiscate. Of course, they also got into a bit of a scrap on Lexington Green where some unidentified person fired the shot that started the Revolution.

There is one more damning piece of evidence. In June of 1775, just a few weeks removed from teh April 19th raid, Gage sent his wife back to England. Was this because he had suspicions as to her activities? Or was it simply to remove her from the city lest it fall into patriot hands? We'll never know. But how cool would it be if the General's wife was having an affair and that helped us get independence.

And what of Dr. Warren? He fell on June 17, 1775 at the Battle of Bunker Hill. History did not record when or even if Margaret learned of his death. Her reaction might have shed even more light on the nature of their "friendship".

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Half A$$ Historian who had some Irish ancestors who fought at Lexington and Concord.......on the British side!

             Thomas Gage                                                   Margaret Kemble Gage

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