Soldiers in the Garden

An "unwilling participant" in the American Revolution writes from her fortified Cambridge, Massachusetts, home.

HUMANITIES, January/February 2008, Volume 29, Number 1

From The Elizabeth Murray Project: A Resource Site for Early American History. Murray was a Scottish-born, thrice-married Bostonian who, according to this NEH-funded Web site, became “unwillingly caught up in the struggles of the American Revolution.”

Elizabeth [Murray] Inman to Ralph Inman, 22 April 1775

[When the Battle of Lexington and Concord broke out in April 1775, Elizabeth [Murray] Inman was close to the action, at the estate of her third husband, Ralph Inman, in Cambridge. At the time, Ralph was in Boston. The location of their home gave Elizabeth a close-up view of the troop movements and the reactions of the town's inhabitants. Large numbers of women and children fled. After the battle, the British troops retreated into Boston. Armed rebellious colonists surrounded the occupied town, and those within, including Ralph Inman, could not leave Boston. In this letter, Elizabeth describes the scene in Cambridge and her actions for her absent spouse.]

I have the pleasure to tel my dear friends that I am well as are all under this roof you know how fond I am of grandure, I have acted many parts in life but never imagend I shou’d arrive at the muckle honor of being a Generall that is now the case, I have a guard at the botom of the garden, a number of men to patrol to the marsh & rownd the farm with a body gaurd that now covers our kitchen parlor twelve oClock they are in a sweet slep while Miss Denforth & I are in the midle parlor with a board naild across the door to protect them from harm, the kitchen doors are also naild they have the closet for thier guns the end door is now very usefull, our servants we put to bed half past eight, the women & Children have all left Cambridge so we are thought wonders, you know I have never seen troubles at the destence many others have, as a reward the Gods have granted me a Mentor & a Gaurden Angel [of—crossed out] three years of age they are now in bed together pray let thier friends know he is better & she very well mentor bids me tell you that we have nothing to fear but from the troops landing near us these matters you’ll know more of then we do therefore we shall wait till we hear from you again which we hope will be time enough to make a safe retreat thier is not one servant will stay if I go poor Creatures they depdnd on me for protection & I do not churse to disapoint them as far as it is in my power I will protect them, this day we had a visit [from—crossed out] of an offecer from our head Quarters with writen orders to our gaurds to attend in a very particular manner to our derections He said we were the happiest folks he had seen to convence you of that. I’ll tell you how we are employ’d, [Jay] is in the garden the others are planting potatoes we intend to make fence & plant corn next week, to shew you the goodness of the people they say we may have what provisions we want. Mentor we have rais’d above us his walks are in the uper Chambers, Boid was here to day Mrs Barnes is well got home safe Wednesday.