"Born Yet We Are Debarred Englishmen's Liberty": A Massachusetts Soldier Confronts British Society, 1759
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“Born Yet We Are Debarred Englishmen’s Liberty”: A Massachusetts Soldier Confronts British Society, 1759

During the 18th century, American colonists found themselves increasingly involved in wars, often imperial ones, spiraling out of European battlefields onto the North American continent. The Seven Years War between France and Great Britain began along the western frontier and spread in 1754. New Englanders eagerly volunteered for expeditions leading to the invasion of French Canada. British and colonial forces succeeded together in capturing the great French fortress of Louisbourg in Nova Scotia in 1758. But as Massachusetts soldier Gibson Clough discovered, the British regular army looked down on the colonial militia. British concepts of discipline and social hierarchy varied significantly from colonial ones, and the war experience began to encourage colonists’ conception of themselves as Americans.

I was born in Salem in New England in ye year 1738, in June the 22 and I lived with my father untill that I was almost one and twenty years of age and I was brought up very carefully and tenderly by my parents and they to me gave common learning as is usual for parents to do by children under their Care and as there had been war between the Crown of England and France by which reason men was very hard for to be raised in New England, I then willingly inlisted in the service of my King and Country in the then intended expedition against Canada, in Capt. Andrew Giddings Company in a provincial Regiment Commanded by Coll Jonathan Bagley Esqr in the year 1759.

The fleet sailed from Nantasket Road May 15 and instead of going to Canada, the regiment went to Louisbourg in which garrison we landed the first of June and their stayed till the first of November when by ye order of General Whitmore Commander there in Chief a detachment of our Regiment of 450 men was sent home to Boston and the remainder stayed till relieved by another Regiment.

And so we stayed all winter, which was hard as we were only inlisted for six months by a proclamation issued forth by his Excellency Thomas Pownall ye Governor ; and as was said we were to be dismissed by the first of November or as much sooner as his majesty’s service would admit....

Here begins the New Year 1700 or the second part of my journal, which I hope will be more entertaining than the first was to the reader.

January the 1st. Capt. Hannears died here in the night before in which the year ended 1759, and now the year begins; but God only knows who will see the end, for death spares not any.

2nd. We turned out for to learn the funeral exercise or the reversing of the fire lock, occasioned by the death of Capt. Hannears of Boston, who was the first officer of our Regiment that died here in this garrison of Louisburg.

4. Capt. Hannears was interred here with great solemency, having 48 men in turns to attend his funeral, with firing three vollies over his grave.

5th. Allmost all of our Sargeants and Corporals were broke.

11th. One Hager of our Regiment was whipped thirty stripes for disobedience of orders.

19. An escort went from here bound to Spanish River, consisting of 43 men, commanded by Lieutenant Henderson and Ensign Berry, one Sargeant and two Corporals. They went for to carry blankets to Capt. Davis' men, who was on command there, and cutting wood there for the garrison; and the escort went there and returned in nine days.

January 28th. A drummer belonging to Warburton’s Regiment was shot for breaking into a house and stealing a box of Soap, and for other offences he had committed, and also a private Soldier was condemned to die with him; but after having come to the place of execution, he was reprieved by the intercession of one Capt. Johnson for him. The drummer’s name was Conrey, and the other was Johnson, ye latter reprieved, also three more are to receive other punishment as whipping, the one is to have one thousand lashes, and the other two five hundred each. The aforesaid had their last trial at a general Court Martial on the 19th instant.

31. As great a Snow Storm as I ever knew in my life, and thus ends the month with a cold storm and winter like weather, but I think for to take it in general it is as good weather as what we have in New England for the season of the year, and it is a warm winter.

February 6. A Corporal who belonged to Warburton’s Regiment, who had stolen six shirts from his Captain, fearing it would be found out, went to a place called black rock, and there cut one of his arms to that degree, that what with the loss of blood and of cold he died there. But before he died, he pulled off his hat and coat and went down to the edge of the water, as it was thought with an intent of drowning himself and be carried off by it, but he died before the water name to him, so he was found and buried.

8. Mrs. Treawoue was buried here, a woman that belonged to our Regiment and to Capt. Blake’s Company.

9. A schooner arrived here from Boston, but could not get in because of the ice in the harbor.

11. We have news by the aforesaid schooner that ye province had granted to each man that stayed this winter a bounty of four pounds for our winter service. There is a flying news here that there has been a fire in Boston, which burnt from the Town house to ye long Wharf.

14. One Alline belonging to our Company was buried.

18. Three regular drummers fell through the ice but were not drowned.

20. Lieut. Martin went to Spanish river to see Capt. Davis.

March 3d. A Lieutenant belonging to Warburton’s regiment was interred here.

9. An escort of one Subaltern, two Sargeants, one Corporal, and 32 privates going in command of Lieut. Henderson to the grand parsuge, the march 150 miles and they are to bring in french prisoners if they find any; and a schooner arrived here from Marblehead, but last from Halifax, Benj’n Darling Captain.

19. One of the Artillery was whipped 200 stripes.

22. Two schooners arrived here, one from Ipswich and the other from Boston. The first says there is great talk of a Spanish war.

25. Lieut. Henderson gave the company a treat and enlisted three men for the ensuing campaign against Canada. Solomon Smith and Robert Picket enlisted.

27. Samuel Bean enlisted for ye campaign.

31. Rain and snow and warm, and thus the month ends as of old said “March, hack ham, comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.”

April 1. I enlisted again for ye ensuing campaign against Canada.

3. I wrote a letter to my father. I also heard a death watch in the iron grate, but ye meaning I cannot tell, only I think some of my friends are dead at home.

15. A schooner arrived from Boston in four days and brings no news, only that there had been a fire in Boston which burned down 260 houses, which news we heard before.

22. The day was kept by all ye Englishmen in the garrison of ye three regular regiments, and 150 of them marched round the ramparts, with drums beating and colors flying, as it was St. George’s day.

26. Several vessels arrived from Boston and I received three letters from my father and one from John Ward the third. I was not well....

December 1. The transport being ready, orders are given for our Regiment to embark tomorrow at 7 of ye clock in ye morning.

4. Ye transports went down to ye N.E. Harbour, and the men make a noise at their mounting guard; also my Capt. threatens to confine me because that I would not work for him for nought.

6. We are on board ship waiting for a fair wind,

7. Snow, rain, cold & flying clouds.—exceeding windy,—and our ship had almost got on shore, for she drifted.

9 to 13. Cold, cloudy, with contrary winds, day after day.

14. Fair wind at North, and three schooners and one sloop sail from here bound to Boston and Halifax.

15. One of ye three ships that sailed from here on ye 5th returned in here again, with the loss of one man and one Caboose

17. Fair, and the ship Squireat in company with the Nancy, sail from Louisbourg bound for Boston.

18. Fair wind at N’th, but ye wind shifting to N. E., a bad storm ensues this night.

19. And lasted all day, and the ship lays too all night.

20. We make sail at 3 o’clock, and spake with a ship from London bound to Boston; they inform us of ye death of our Lord George the Second.

21. Rain, wind at S. E. by E., and we part with the Nancy.

27. We make the land.

28. We run into Casco Bay, and come to an anchor in ye mouth of ye Bay, and in the night ye wind rising with a great swell, we are in danger of going on shore, but by ye blessing of God we ride it out safely.

29. We slip our cable and run up to Casco town. The Coll. and Major go on shore, and now we must wait for a fair wind.

30. Fair wind. John Oteman with me leave the ship and go on board schooner bound to Marblehead, also some more leave the ship and that in order to go home by land, as Amos Hilton, Jonathan Buxton, Robert Picket, Daniel Butman, and many more; also Capt. Glover came on board in ye night, and came home.

81. About 4 o’clock in ye morning we come to sail and stand away for Marble-head, and thus I am in a likely way to return home again. We make Cape Ann about five in the afternoon, and about 9 at night we get up abreast of Eastern point, and from that we stand for Marblehead, and get in there about 12 at night. Thus I arrive in New England safe and well.

1st January, 1761. I arrive at Salem my native place, to my great joy and content, and thus I conclude my Journal, with my best wishes and good will to all brother soldiers.

Gibson Clough

Source: B.F. Brown, “Extracts from Gibson Clough’s Journal,” Historical Collections of the Essex Institute 3 (June 1861), 99–106, and (October 1861), 195–201.