Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Traitor -- Living Dangerously

Dr. Joseph Warren and Paul Revere knew before the Battles of Lexington and Concord that British Military Governor/Commanding General Thomas Gage had been receiving damaging information about their activities from somebody very familiar with their operations. Their acknowledgment of this first appears in “Crossing the River” when Revere told Dr. Warren that General Gage was preparing to send a military force to Concord to destroy stockpiled munitions.

[Warren:] “'You will have to warn Adams and Hancock. At once.'

Revere recrossed his legs, stared.

'And the Concord militia. Although your ride to warn them a week ago has given them immediate cause to remove their stores.'

'I'd thought to leave tomorrow, early.'

'But not through the gate!' Warren shook his head. 'They know you rode to Portsmouth! Their spy has told them. I am certain!'"

Because Gage’s army had to pass through Lexington to reach Concord, Sam Adams and John Hancock, for several weeks house guests of the town’s Reverend Jonas Clarke, risked arrest. Revere left Boston shortly after 11 p.m., April 18, to carry out Warren’s instructions. Rowed across Boston’s Back Bay to Charlestown, Revere met briefly with that town’s military leader, Colonel James Conant, and Richard Devens, a member of the illegal Provincial Congress. Earlier, traveling from Menotomy to Charlestown, Devens had been stopped by a group of British officers seeking, they claimed, the whereabouts of a nearby tavern. Asked specifically about “Clark’s tavern,” Devens had recognized what they circuitously wanted to obtain, where Reverend Clarke lived. In my book, reacting to what Devens tells him, Revere sees the handiwork of General Gage’s spy.

“'You should know, Revere, that I was detained by British officers along the Menotomy road!'

Revere squinted.

'I encountered them at dusk. Five or six officers. Several servants -- sergeants, I presume -- accompanying them. They demanded I direct them to ‘Clark's tavern’!'

It took Revere a moment to comprehend Devens’s statement.

He wondered how much more the General knew. Gage’s spy continued to do them damage."

General Gage’s informant was Dr. Benjamin Church, an important member of the Provincial Congress’s Committee of Safety. I identify him as such once, 80 pages into “Crossing the River,” during a scene in which Gage agonizes over whether he should act on his plan to dispatch 700 soldiers during the cover of night to Concord.

“The contents of this most recent letter, dated April 13, authored by his spy, Doctor Benjamin Church -- an important member of the Congress's Committee of Safety -- was especially important!

Take action within the next several days! his informant had advised. When it serves your purpose! Sam Adams and his cronies want confrontation. Defeat their designs when their Congress least expects it!"

Church appears in person in a scene in my last chapter. Admitted to Joseph Warren’s Cambridge residence, Revere finds his good friend and Church discussing the previous day’s fighting. Revere dislikes Church. Church insults him. Believing that Church is a valuable asset to the patriotic cause, Revere chooses to say nothing. Concerned about the safety of his wife and family, Revere decides to steal into Boston that night to see them.

Revere’s biographer Esther Forbes tells us that during his brief visit, Revere asked his wife to collect money owed to him by customers. The next evening he was back in Cambridge talking with Warren and Church. Suddenly, Church volunteered to go overtly into Boston.

Amazed, Warren declared, according to Revere’s account: “They will hang you if they catch you.” Church persisted. Warren eventually told him: “If you are determined, let us make some business for you.” Warren wanted Church to bring back medicine for “their and our wounded officers.”

Revere asked Church to bring back the money that Rachel had thus far collected. Two days later, a Sunday, Revere saw Church again at Warren’s Cambridge residence. “After he had told the committee how things were, I took him aside and inquired particularly how they treated him. He said, that as soon as he got to their lines, on Boston Neck, they made him a prisoner, and carried him to General Gage, where he was examined, and then he was sent to Gould's barracks, and was not suffered to go home but once.” He declared that he had not been allowed to visit Revere's wife.