Journal of Colonel Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts. - History

Journal of Colonel Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts.

September 11h.—This morning a cannonade took place, the enemy having advanced to the heights opposite to those occupied by us, on the other side of the ford. A hot skirmish took place between our light troops, under Maxwell, and a party of Hessians, in which the latter were chiefly killed and wounded, not thirty running away, it being judged by Maxwell that three hundred of them were killed and wounded. The enemy made no attempt to cross at this place The cannonade was mutual; theirs did us no harm, save killing one man.

The enemy remaining paraded on the distant heights, and continuing the cannonade, induced me to think they did not intend to cross at Chad's Ford, but only to amuse us while their main army crossed at some other place. The event proved the conjecture right. The enemy's main body crossed the; Brandywine six or eight miles above, on our right. The General had intelligence of this by some messengers; but it was contradicted by others; and, the information remaining a long time surprisingly uncertain, it was late before a disposition was made to receive the enemy on that quarter. The consequence was that the divisions first engaged, being too far distant to be supported by others, were repulsed; and this laid the foundation for a final defeat. Nevertheless, Weedon's brigade, which got up a little before night, fought bravely and checked the pursuit of the enemy, and gave more time for the others to retreat. This engagement on the right began about half after three P.M., or four, and lasted till night.

When the battle raged most on the right, and the Continental troops were all, save Wayne's division, drawn off to the right, the enemy opposite Chad's Ford began a most furious cannonade, which was as warmly returned from the park of artillery. But at length the enemy pushed over, and, after an obstinate engagement with our artillery and Wayne's division, the latter retreated.

The whole army this night retired to Chester. It was fortunate for us that the night came on, for under its cover the fatigued stragglers and some wounded made their escape.

Haudenosaunee Hunting Rights

Chief Irving Powless Jr and Dr. Robert Venables (retired professor of Native American Studies at Cornell) have formed a relationship over the past 30+ years. They would like to share information about the belt returned to the Onondaga’s last week.

Click to read more of Chief Powless Jr & Dr. Venables’ essays.


On the afternoon of October 28, 1794, the United States commissioner, Colonel Timothy Pickering, made a speech carefully detailing the terms of the Treaty of Canandaigua to the Haudenosaunee gathered in council at Canandaigua. The Quaker William Savery was present at this meeting. Savery recorded in his journal what Colonel Pickering told the Haudenosaunee about their rights to hunt in all their territories. Pickering began by noting that the Haudenosaunee could even hunt on a tract of land ceded to the British in 1764. This tract was used for travel and transportation between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie and specifically provided a land route for military supplies around Niagara Falls. Pickering then went on to include all lands ceded by the Haudenosaunee since the Peace of Paris in 1783. Thus Pickering included the lands involved in the negotiations in 1784 at Fort Stanwix and all the lands involved in the negotiations with the State of New York.

The commissioner observed, that the four mile path on the side of the inlet, between lake Erie and lake Ontario, was ceded to our predecessors, the British, in the days of sir William Johnson yet, that the Indians shall have the right of hunting on these lands, as well as on all those ceded at the treaty of fort Stanwix and on all other lands ceded by them since the peace.

Reference: William Savery, A Journal of the Life, Travels and Religious Labours of William Savery compiled in 1837 from his original memoranda by Jonathan Evans. Philadelphia: The Friends Library, Volume One, p. 359. This quote can also be found in another edition of Savery’s journal: William Savery, A Journal of the Life, Travels, and Religious Labors of William Savery, edited by Jonathan Evans (Philadelphia: published for the Friends’ Bookstore, 1873), 124. This quote, with modernized spelling, can also be found in the Appendix of G. Peter Jemison and Anna M. Schein, eds., Treaty of Canandaigua 1794 (Santa Fe, New Mexico: Clear Light Publishers, 2000), p. 278.


Every Memorial Day, we honor our chapter namesake, Colonel Timothy Pickering, with a memorial service at his grave at the Broad St. Cemetery in Salem, Massachusetts. This year we were appropriately distanced and masked!

Our chapter participated in the national salute to hospitalized veterans at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital by visiting admitted patients.

The Colonel Timothy Pickering Chapter, NSDAR, enjoyed a wonderful meeting in honor of our Vietnam veterans. Brigadier General John N. Dailey, retired U.S. Army, gave a fascinating speech about his 31 years of service in the U.S. Army. Our speaker served two tours of Vietnam and flew over 3,000 combat hours. He is truly an amazing man who has contributed so much to our country and it was an honor to have him as a speaker.

U.S. Army Brigadier General John N. Dailey and several other veterans were honored for their valiant services to our country during the meeting. The Colonel Timothy Pickering Chapter, NSDAR, also collected a large number of donations for the local VA Medical Center and thanks everyone who made a donation and we continue to support and honor veterans throughout the year.

Record Details


Hugh C. Leighton Co. (Manufacturer)

Material Type

Other People

Pickering, Timothy, 1745-1829


Architectural photography
Broad Street (Salem, Mass.)
Revolutionary War

Description Level

Location Note

Postcards: Mass Salem: Pickering House

Reparative Language in Collections Records

Historic New England is committed to implementing reparative language description for existing collections and creating respectful and inclusive language description for new collections. If you encounter language in Historic England's Collections Access Portal that is harmful or offensive, or you find materials that would benefit from a content warning, please contact [email protected] .

Corticelli Sewing Silk Thread, 1876

In a prior post about American Sericulture, Dr. James Mease of Philadelphia wrote to Colonel Timothy Pickering about his sericultural pursuits in 1826. Small American sericulture experiments such as Dr. Mease’s endeavor gave way to industrial enterprise by the 1840s. In Northampton and its surrounding towns, businessmen Samuel Whitmarsh and Samuel Lapham Hill spun the necessary structure for the Nonotuck Silk Company and its Corticelli production line of sewing silk.

Though Samuel Whitmarsh gave Nonotuck Silk Company its name, the company did not survive the mulberry speculation bubble and subsequent implosion in the late 1830s. The Northampton Association of Education and Industry purchased the remains of Whitmarsh’s operations but struggled to produce raw silk until the ultimate dissolution of the association in 1846.

Samuel L. Hill converted the silk production operations of Northampton Association of Education and Industry into manufacturing mills. The company began importing the silk from China and Japan thereafter. Hill began to manufacture a new silk sewing thread known as “machine twist” that was durable enough to be used in mechanical sewing machines. Hill sent sewing machine inventor Isaac M. Singer some of his entrepreneurial “machine twist” silk spools in 1852. Singer was so impressed that he requested all of the company’s silk spools stock. The silk thread market blossomed under the influence of these two businessmen.

Samuel Hill remained president of the Nonotuck Silk Company until his retirement in 1876. At the 1876 Centennial International Exposition in Philadelphia, the Nonotuck Silk Company presented this gorgeous 1876 broadside that depicts twelve steps in silk production process from silkworms to raw silk.

Pickering House, Salem, Mass

The Pickering House, at 18 Broad Street in Salem, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Although it is hard to tell from its current appearance, the Pickering House is one of the oldest existing buildings in Massachusetts, and possibly the oldest in Salem. According to tradition, it was built around 1651 by John Pickering, Sr., who died in 1657. However, recent dendrochronological dating suggests that the house was actually built around 1664, presumably by Pickering’s son, who was also named John. Originally, the house consisted of just the eastern portion on the right side of the house, with one room on each of the two stories, but it was expanded and altered many times over the years. The first probably came around the 1680s, when John Pickering, Jr. added the western part of the house on the left side.

Pickering was a farmer, as were most of the other residents of Salem during this period, but he also held several town offices, including serving as a selectman, constable, and militia officer. He held the rank of lieutenant during King Philip’s War, and fought with distinction at the Battle of Bloody Brook in Deerfield in 1675. He lived in this house until his death in 1694, at the age of 57, and he left the property to his oldest son, John. The house itself would continue to be altered and expanded over the years, but it would remain in the Pickering family for more than three centuries.

Probably the most notable of John Pickering’s ancestors was his great-grandson, Timothy Pickering, who was born here in this house in 1745. He was the son of Deacon Timothy Pickering, who had inherited the property after the death of his father, the third John Pickering, in 1722. The younger Timothy was a 1763 graduate of Harvard, and subsequently became a lawyer and a militia officer. He was involved in the February 26, 1775 confrontation in Salem, later known as Leslie’s Retreat, which marked the first armed resistance to British rule in the colonies, and he later participated in the Siege of Boston from 1775 to 1776.

By this point, Pickering held the rank of colonel, and in 1777 he was appointed adjutant general of the Continental Army. From 1780 to 1784, he served as quartermaster general of the army, and after the war he moved to Pennsylvania, where he served as a delegate to the state convention that ratified the United States Constitution in 1787. Under President George Washington, Pickering negotiated several treaties with Native American tribes during the early 1790s, and in 1791 Washington appointed him to his cabinet as Postmaster General. He held this position until 1795, when he was appointed Secretary of War, and later in that same year he became Secretary of State.

Pickering remained Secretary of State throughout the rest of Washington’s second term, and for most of John Adams’s presidency. However, he and Adams disagreed on foreign policy, particularly on how to address growing tensions with France. Pickering favored war with France and an alliance with Britain, while Adams preferred negotiation with France, and Pickering became increasingly vocal in his opposition to the president’s policies. Adams finally demanded his resignation, but Pickering refused, so Adams dismissed him in May 1800.

After nearly a decade in the cabinet, Pickering was elected as a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts in 1802. By this point, Thomas Jefferson had been elected president, and Pickering became an outspoken critic of both Jefferson and the south as a whole. He lost his re-election bid in 1810, but two years later was elected to the House of Representatives, serving two terms from 1813 to 1817. His first term coincided with the War of 1812, which he and many other New Englanders were strongly opposed to. Believing that the war would hurt the region’s trade-based economy, Pickering was among those who advocated for northern secession from the union, although no serious movement ever came of this. After his second term, Pickering retired to Salem, where he died in 1829 at the age of 83.

In the meantime, this house continued to undergo changes by successive generations of the Pickering family. At some point around the 1720s, a lean-to had been added to the rear, and in 1751 Deacon Timothy Pickering raised this to two stories. However, the single most dramatic change to the house’s exterior appearance came in 1841, during the ownership of Colonel Timothy Pickering’s son, John Pickering VI. He transformed it into a Gothic Revival-style house, adding most of the decorative elements that now appear on the front facade, including the cornice, brackets, roof finials, and round windows in the gables. He also added the barn on the right side of the photo, as well as the fence in front of the house.

Over the next 150 years, the house remained in the Pickering family. Most of these descendants were also named John, and they made their own alterations to the house. Much of the interior was remodeled in the mid-1880s, and the central chimney was also rebuilt during this period. Then, in 1904, the enclosed front porch was added to the front of the house, as shown in the first photo only a few years later. Since then, the front facade has not seen any significant changes, although the interior underwent restoration in 1948.

By the late 20th century, the house was believed to have been the oldest house in the country that was continuously occupied by the same family. However, in later years the house was also open to the public as a museum, and the last members of the Pickering family finally moved out in 1998. Today, the house is still a museum, run by the Pickering Foundation, and it is also rented as a venue for a variety of events. Along with the other houses in the neighborhood, it is now part of the Chestnut Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Journal of Colonel Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts. - History

“Square knapsacks are most convenient …”

This post began with the vague idea of discussing the 17th Regiment’s recreated knapsack. To my mind it is the only one that comes close to representing the design of the originals likely carried by mid-war (and possibly late-war) British soldiers. But that set me to ruminating on how the double-pouch knapsack (such as the Benjamin Warner pack at Fort Ticonderoga and the one pictured below in the 71 st Regiment’s 1778 order book) came to be. The following narrative, based on both primary and, admittedly, circumstantial evidence, attempts to trace that transformation, and (spoiler alert) leads the author to think it very likely the double-pouch pack was a wartime innovation.

Drawing of knapsack from British 71st Regiment 1778 order book. This is likely evidence that double-bag knapsacks, undoubtedly of linen, were being used by British troops at least by 1778. Note that food was to be carried in one bag, and a minimum of necessaries (“1 pair of shoes,” “1 set Brushes,” “1 shirt, “1 Pr. stockings”) in the other. Continental Army twoshoulder-strap double-bag packs were probably copied from British knapsacks. The Warner knapsack (probably issued in 1779) had two storage pouches orders for American army knapsacks in 1782 stipulated, “Let them be made double, & one side painted.” Standing Orders of the 71st Regiment, 1778, Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell, National Register of Archives for Scotland (NRAS 28 papers), Isle of Canna, Scotland, U.K.
(Knapsack drawing courtesy of Alexander John Good.) 51

Recreated Knapsacks, 17th Regiment

There are occasions (actually, many occasions) when my understanding runs on a very slow burn. In this vein, researching and writing about knapsacks used before, during and after the American War (1775-1783), eventually led me to the conclusion that British knapsack design took a right turn early in that conflict. Is my conclusion conclusive? No, it isn’t, as there are missing pieces in the records, but the possibility (or probability) is intriguing.

In his 1768 treatise System for the Compleat Interior Management and Oeconomy of a Battalion of Infantry Bennett Cuthbertson wrote,

Square knapsacks are most convenient, for packing up the Soldier’s necessaries, and should be made with a division, to hold the shoes, black-ball and brushes, separate from the linen: a certain size must be determined on for the whole, and it will have a pleasing effect upon a March, if care has been taken, to get them of all white goat-skins, with leather-slings well whitened, to hang over each shoulder which method makes the carriage of the Knapsack much easier, than across the breast, and by no means so heating. 9

Cuthbertson reveals here several notable clues. First, of course, is his statement touting the superiority of “square” knapsacks with two shoulder slings. The 1751 Morier figures and the circa 1765 painting “An Officer Giving Alms to a Sick Soldier” by Edward Penny (1714-1791) show soldiers wearing single-shoulder-strap skin packs, so Cuthbertson’s square knapsack was a relatively recent innovation. Mr. C. also states square packs “should be made with a division, to hold the shoes, black-ball and brushes, separate from the linen” and “a certain size must be determined on for the whole …” ”[M]ade with a division.” That, to me, indicates Cuthbertson is speaking of a single pouch knapsack, like the David Uhl and Elisha Grose packs, while his remark about determining size can only mean no standard design had yet been settled on. And his reference to “all white goat-skins” refers to a knapsack likely made entirely of leather, again like the Grose knapsack. Both pre-war and in the war’s early years leather seems to have been the preferred material for many, perhaps most, knapsacks.

(For references to leather packs see sections titled “Leather and Hair Packs, and Ezra Tilden’s Narrative” and “The Rufus Lincoln and Elisha

Based on the writing of Massachusetts militia colonel Timothy Pickering (below), sometime prior to 1774, packs like the one Cuthbertson described seem to have been adopted by at least some British regiments:

A knapsack may be contrived that a man may load and fire, in case of necessity, without throwing down his pack. Let the knapsack lay lengthways upon the back: from each side at the top let a strap come over the shoulders, go under the arms, and be fastened about half way down the knapsack. Secure these shoulder straps in their places by two other straps which are to go across and buckle before the middle of the breast. The mouth of the knapsack is at the top, and is covered by a flap made like the flap of saddlebags.- The outside of the knapsack should be fuller than the other which lies next to your back and of course must be sewed in gathers at the bottom. Many of the knapsacks used in the army are, I believe, in this fashion, though made of some kind of skins. 20

Pickering, too, refers to packs made of leather, infers that they had only a single pouch, and adds that the closing flap resembles those on saddle bags of the time. Period examples have closing flaps similar to those on the Uhl (linen) and Grose (bearskin) knapsacks.

Reproduction of David Uhl linen knapsack. 18 th century saddlebags. Timothy Pickering wrote in his 1774 treatise, “The mouth of the knapsack is at the top, and is covered by a flap made like the flap of saddlebags …”
(Courtesy of Don Troiani, ) Elisha Gross (Grose) bearskin knapsack. (Private collection.)
The current owner notes “the knapsack … [has an] all-leather sack, with H strap construction, the outer rear flap being of bearskin, about 20% of the hair remaining … The straps engaged with the simple open frame, non-roller style buckles often recovered from campsites.”

So, just when were double-pouch knapsacks (like Benjamin Warner’s 1780 pack) first introduced to British troops in America? A drawing from a 1778 71 st Regiment order book found and shared by Alexander John Good may provide the answer. That image shows a very simple double-pouch knapsack, with food placed in one pouch and “1 pair of shoes,” 1 set Brushes,” “1 shirt,” and “1 pr stockings” in the other. (It is interesting that this apportionment mirrors that of the “new Invented Napsack and haversack” used by some Whig units in 1776, 1778, and possibly 1777, but more on that later).

See the timeline of British Knapsacks at the bottom of this article.

Private soldier, 25th Regiment of Foot, Minorca, ca. 1771, wearing a blanket roll under his knapsack. His knapsacks looks to be covered with hair, probably goatskin The blanket itself is a maud, a Scottish shepherd’s plaid. (Artist unknown, National Army Museum, London, UK.) Gregory J.W. Urwin, Redcoat Images, No. 26

gurwin/ Also pictured in W. A. Thorburn, Uniforms of the Scottish Infantry, 1740-1800 (Edinburgh: H.M. Stationery Office, 1973), 8. A Musketeer of the Hessian Regiment Von Bose
(Painting by Don Troiani, )

British regiments already in America at the beginning of the war had knapsacks, but we have no idea of their design. At this time, given what we know of pre-war packs from period images and the comments of Cuthbertson and Pickering, I can only surmise that early-war (1775-1777) British knapsacks were leather (goatskin?), possibly linen, “square” models, with a single pouch (possibly with a divider to separate a spare pair of shoes from the other necessaries), and two shoulder straps. They also could not easily accommodate a blanket, an item deemed necessary for service in North America. British, French, and German troops campaigning in Europe did not carry blankets on the march, those coverings being carried in the same wagons as the regimental tentage. The packs (tournisters) German troops carried while serving in the American War still could not carry a blanket, and we are still unsure how, or even if, German troops carried blankets on the march.

Supply documents for the British Brigade of Guards, 1776 to 1778, including numbers of knapsacks issued and the use of blanket slings on campaign, and generate some interesting questions.

[Numbers of knapsacks needed and requested]

List of Waggons, Tents, Camp necessaries &ca for the Detachment from the Three Regiments of Foot Guards, consisting with their Officers of 1097 men destined to Serve in North America.

(Loudoun p.213) (see also WO4/96 p.45 7 Feb. 1776 Barrington to Loudoun)

[Knapsack pattern]

Memo Brig. Gen. Edward Mathew to John Campbell, 4th Earl of Loudoun 16 Feb. 1776 “Memorandum concerning the [Guards] Detachment Fryday Feb 16 1776” “Light Infantry Company. Colo. Mathews applies for the proper Clothing.

proposes: To cut the 2nd Clothing of this Year into Jackets. —

Caps, Colo. M to produce a pattern —

Arms, The Ordnance will deliver them with the others. a fresh Application.

Accoutrements, upon the plan of the light Infantry. Colo. M–

Bill Hook and Bayonet in the same case. Colo M.– ”

“Gaiters and Leggins Knapsack — Genl. Tayler has a pattern. Nightcaps — Colo. M to shew one Canteens — to see a Wooden one.”

[Altering knapsacks]

Memo Mathew to Loudoun 28 Feb. 1776

“Estimate of the Extra expence of the Necessary Equipment of the Detachment from the Brigd. of Foot Guards Intended for Foreign Service”

Alteration of the Mens Knapsacks .6 [pence]

To Receive from the Goverment in Lieu of Knapsacks 2.6

Allowance from Govermt. to each Man for a Knapsack 2.6

[Fitting knapsacks]

Regimental Order, London 7 March 1776

The 1st Regt. will draught the 15 men “by Lot out of such Men as are in every respect fit for Service.”

2nd and 3rd Battalion to draught Sat the 9th 1st Battalion on Sun the 10th

A return to be sent in of the name, age and service of the men.

17th Regiment of Infantry at the Battle of Yorktown — Endview Plantation 2016

Commanding Officers of companies “will Inspect minutely into the Men’s Necessaries who are Draughted, that they may be Compleated according to the List to be seen at the Orderly Room, The Knapsacks to be fitted to each Man, according to a late Regulation, and to be seen that they are perfectly whole and strongly sewed.”

“The Extraordinary necessaries furnish’d are not to be deliver’d to the Men till they are in their first Cantonments.”

[List of soldiers’ necessaries, including knapsacks]

Brigade Orders, London 13 March 1776

“The Necessarys of the Detachment are to be Compleated to the following Articles — Three Shirts
Three Pair worsted Stockings
Two pair of Socks 7/ 1/4 pr. Pair
Two pair of Shoes
Three pair of Heels and Soles 1/2 d pr. pair
Two Black Stocks
Two Pair of Half Gaiters 1s/ pr. pair
One Cheque Shirt 3/9 d
A Knapsack (2/6 d Allowed by Government)
Picker, Worm & Turnscrew
A Night Cap”

A little over a month later, on 26 April 1776, the three Guards Battalions set sail for North America.

With all the trouble taken to procure knapsacks for the Guards Brigade, those packs seem to have either been left aboard the transports when the Guards went ashore at Long Island, New York or sent back on board after landing. Several 1776 documents mention knapsacks or the lack thereof during the New York campaign.

“[Guards] Brigade Orders August 19th [1776.]

When the Brigade disembarks two Gils of Rum to be delivered for each mans Canteen which must be filled with Water, Each Man to disembark with a Blanket & Haversack in which he is to carry one Shirt one pair of Socks and Three Days Provisions a careful Man to be left on board each Ship to take care of the Knapsacks. The Articles of War to be read to the Men by an Officer of each Ship.”

(Thomas Glyn, “The Journal of Ensign Thomas Glyn, 1st Regiment of Foot Guards on the

American Service with the Brigade of Guards 1776-1777,” 7. Transcription courtesy of Linnea M. Bass.)

General (Army) Orders 20 August 1776

“When the Troops land they are to carry nothing with them but their Arms, Ammunition, Blankets, & three Days provisions. The Commandg. Officers of Compys. will take particular care that the Canteens are properly fill’d with Rum & Water & it is most earnestly reecommended to the Men to be as saving as possible of their Grog.” (1) (2)

Brigade Orders 23 August 1776 [the day after their landing on Long Island]

“the Brigade will Assemble with their Arms Accoutrements Blankets & Knapsacks to Morrow Morning at 5 oClock upon the same ground. . .” (2) (1)

Brigade Orders 24 August 1776

“the Commanding offrs of Battns may send their Knapsacks on board of Ships again if they find any ill Conveniency of them.” (2) (1)

It seems that many Crown soldiers used only slung blankets during the 1776 campaign, perhaps due to the “ill Conveniency” of their knapsacks, whatever that may mean. Here are two more 1776 references to carrying only blankets and blankets on slings:

Orders, 4th Battalion Grenadiers (42nd and 71st Regiments), off Staten Island, 2 August 1776: “When the Men disembark they are to take nothing with them, but 3Shirts 2 prs of hose & their Leggings which are to be put up neatly in their packs, leaving their knapsacks & all their other necessaries on board ship which are carefully to be laid up by the Commanding Officers of Companys in the safest manner they can contrive.”

Capt. William Leslie, 17th Regiment of Foot, 2 September 1776, “”Bedford Long Island Sept.

The Day after their Retreat we had orders to march to the ground we are now encamped upon, near the Village of Bedford: It is now a fortnight we have lain upon the ground wrapt in our Blankets, and thank God who supports us when we stand most in need, I have never enjoyed better health in my Life. My whole stock consists of two shirts 2 pr of shoes, 2 Handkerchiefs half of which I use, the other half I carry in my Blanket, like a Pedlar’s Pack.” 61

Preparing for the 1777 campaign the British Guards were slated for another knapsack issue:

Secretary at War William Barrington, 2nd Viscount Barrington to Loudoun 7 Sept 1776

His Majesty Orders that for the 1777 Campaign the Detachment is to receive the following Camp

Note: Correspondence on pages 150, 157, 171 indicates that only 150 knapsacks per regiment in America were supplied for the 1777 campaign. [That would make 450 total for three battalions.]

And in March 1777 the following order was issued:

[Guards] Brigade Orders 11 March 1777

“The Waistbelts to Carry the Bayonet & to be wore across the Shoulder. The Captains are desired to provide Webbing for Carrying the Mens Blankets according to a pattern to be Seen at the Cantonment of Lt. Colo. Sr. J. Wrottesleys Company. The Serjeants to Observe how they are Sewed.”

(1) From an original manuscript entitled “Howe Orderly Book 1776-1778” which is actually a

Brigade of Guards Orderly Book from 1st Battalion beginning 12 March 1776, the day the

Brigade for American Service was formed. Manuscript Dept., William L. Clements Library, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor. (Microfilm available for loan.)

So, were British knapsacks in use up to and including the year 1777 both single-pouch and incapable of accommodating a blanket? Were blanket slings used to carry blankets with knapsacks as well as without? Or were the knapsacks used by Crown forces at the time merely considered cumbersome, and blanket slings thought to be more proper for campaigning soldiers. Added to those questions, we are not at all certain how British soldiers carried their blankets even after double-pouch knapsacks came into use.

British Knapsack Timeline, 1758-1794

1758-1765 (and earlier), Single-pouch purse-like leather knapsack carried by British troops, as pictured in paintings by David Morier (1705-1770) and Edward Penny, R.A. (1714-1791). These knapsacks could not accommodate a blanket.

1768, Cuthbertson recommends “square” knapsacks with two shoulder straps.

1771, Painting of a private soldier of the 25th Regiment of Foot shows him wearing a hair pack with two shoulder straps. His knapsack seems to be a single-pouch model made of hide covered with hair, and, given the maud slung over his shoulder, could not accommodate a blanket.

1774, Timothy Pickering describes a single-pouch, double-shoulder-strap leather knapsack being used in the British Army.

1776, An American contractor touts his double-pouch, single-shoulder-strap linen “new Invented

Napsack and haversack” to Maryland officials. One pouch was meant for food, the other for soldiers’ necessaries. Some Maryland units are known to have been issued the knapsack, and there is some indication it was used by Pennsylvania troops as well.

1776-1777, British regiments are issued knapsacks, but many Crown units use blanket slings instead of packs in these two campaigns. (Possibly because the knapsacks then being used could not accommodate a blanket, which were deemed necessary for American service.)

1778, The first known image of a double-pouch British knapsack appears in a 71 st Regiment order book. One pouch is shown as holding food, the other, soldiers’ necessaries.

1778, On 28 July “1096 Knap & Haversacks” (from the context likely the same as the “new Invented Napsack and haversack”) are sent from Reading, Pennsylvania to supply Continental troops.

1780, Benjamin Warner was likely issued his double-pouch double-shoulder-strap linen knapsack while serving with a Continental artillery regiment. `

1782, First known documentary references to double-pouch knapsacks.

1782, L’Enfant painting of West Point showing soldiers with rolled blankets attached to the top of their knapsacks.

1794, The earliest known surviving British double-pouch, double-shoulder-strap linen knapsack, made for the 97th Inverness Regiment, raised in 1794 and disbanded the same year.

  1. H. Butterfield, ed., Letters of Benjamin Rush, vol. I (Princeton, N.J., 1951), 154-155.
  2. 84th Regiment order book, Malcolm Fraser Papers, MG 23, K1,Vol 21, Library and Archives Canada.
  3. “Orderly Book: British Regiment Footguards, New York and New Jersey,” a 1st Battalion

Order Book covering August 1776 to January 1777, Early American Orderly Books, 1748-1817, Collections of the New-York Historical Society (Microfilm Edition – Woodbridge, N.J.: Research Publications, Inc.: 1977), reel 3, document 37.

  1. Sheldon S. Cohen, “Captain William Leslie’s ‘Paths of Glory,’” New Jersey History, 108 (1990), 63.
  2. “Howe Orderly Book 1776-1778” (actually a Brigade of Guards Orderly Book from 1st

Battalion beginning 12 March 1776, the day the Brigade for American Service was formed), Manuscript Department, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

  1. British Orderly Book [40th Regiment of Foot] April 20, 1777 to August 28, 1777, George Washington Papers, Presidential Papers Microfilm (Washington: Library of Congress, 1961), series 6 (Military Papers, 1755-1798), vol. 1, reel 117. See also, John U. Rees, ed., “`Necessarys

… to be Properley Packd: & Slung in their Blanketts’: Selected Transcriptions 40th Regiment of

  1. “Captured British Orderly Book [49th Regiment], 25 June 1777 to 10 September 1777, . George Washington Papers (microfilm), series 6, vol. 1, reel 117.
  2. “Orderly Book: First Battalion of Guards, British Army, New York” (covers all but a few days of 1779), Early American Orderly Books, N-YHS (microfilm), reel 6, document 77.
  3. R. Newsome, ed., “A British Orderly Book, 1780-1781”, North Carolina Historical Review, vol. IX (January-October 1932), no. 2, 178-179 no. 3, 286, 287.
  4. Order book, 43rd Regiment of Foot (British), 23 May 1781 to 25 August 1781, British Museum, London, Mss. 42,449 (transcription by Gilbert V. Riddle).

John has been involved in American War for Independence living history for 33 years, and began writing on various aspects of the armies in that conflict in 1986. In addition to publishing articles in journals such as Military Collector & Historian and Brigade Dispatch, he was a regular columnist for the quarterly newsletter Food History News for 15 years writing on soldiers’ food, wrote four entries for the Oxford Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, and thirteen entries for the revised Thomson Gale edition of Boatner’s Encyclopedia of the American Revolution.


FEBRUARY 26, 1775

Tensions ran high in Boston in early 1770 between the British soldiers, the colonists and the loyalists. To help defray the cost of participating in the French and Indian War, Britain began taxing its American colonies. The Colonial rebels protested since they believed Britain had no right to tax them. Tensions continued to mount when additional British soldiers arrived in Boston to maintain order. It had the opposite effect. Skirmishes between British soldiers and colonists were common. On March 5, 1770, a street brawl broke out between colonists and a lone British soldier. It quickly escalated into a riot as additional British soldiers came to their comrades aid. They fired into the mob. Five colonists were killed in what the rebels called the “Boston Massacre.” The British called it “an unhappy disturbance.”

By 1774, Britain had repealed most taxes except the tax on tea. The rebels responded by dumping 342 chests of tea imported by the British East India Company into Boston Harbor. This became known as the Boston Tea Party. Britain reacted by closing the port and stripped Massachusetts of self-government. This was the first act of defiance to British rule and showed Great Britain that Americans would not stand for tyranny.

Preparing for War

In 1775, the British Army began patrolling beyond Boston. Militia companies continued to drill, and the colonists continued to stockpile gunpowder and supplies. While rebels in Boston kept a close watch on British movements, subjects loyal to Britain spied on the rebels.

The rebels were actively engaged in collecting military stores and making secret preparations for the approaching war, which appeared inevitable. Several old French cannons purchased after the French and Indian War were sent to a blacksmith in Salem to be mounted on carriages.

The blacksmith’s workshop was on the north side of the North River in Salem, over which was a drawbridge. The cannons were secreted in and hidden about the area. By the end of February 1775, a number of these carriages were completed, and the guns were mounted. Five thousand flannel cartridges were also prepared.

Leslie’s Retreat

Salem Tories, British loyalists to King George III, revealed the exact location of the hidden cannons to General Gage, commander-in-chief of His Majesty’s forces and military governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Gage was already concerned that Salem had hosted the Massachusetts Provincial Congress led by John Hancock, and he made immediate plans to capture the cannons.

Sunday, February 26, 1775 was a cold New England morning. A contingent of 240 troops under the command of Colonel Alexander Leslie boarded a transport and sailed to Marblehead. Their orders were to march to Salem and take possession of the rebel cannons in the name of His Majesty. They chose Sunday, because they thought it would catch the Puritans in their Meetinghouse at Sunday services.

After arriving in Marblehead, the column began their march to Salem as quickly as possible. Their plan to rely on a Sabbath surprise was thwarted by citizens of Marblehead. Captain John Pedrick quickly rode to Salem to spread the alarm. The cry of, “The foe, the foe, they come!” was heard throughout the town.

Bells were rung and drums were beat to spread the alarm. Riders mounted their horses and rode as fast as they could to secure the cannons. Some of the guns were conveyed to Buffum’s Hill and hidden in thick woods. Others were moved to Danvers and buried in a gravel pit.

With the fife and drum corps playing Yankee Doodle, the British regulars marched briskly in the biting cold toward Salem. They planned to cross the bridge over the North River to find the cannons and destroy them. They were met by the citizens of Salem at the North Bridge. Many were armed with hatchets, pickaxes and ropes. Most were angry and all appeared resolved that the Redcoats would not cross the bridge.

As soon as the British soldiers came into sight, the northern side of the drawbridge was raised to stop their progress. The people had collected on the north side of the river and calmly awaited their approach. Defiantly facing the British, the militia and minutemen from Salem and Danvers stood armed with everything from muskets to pitchforks and clubs. The militia was under the command of Captain Timothy Pickering.

When faced with the resolution of the Salem residents, Leslie was urged by his lieutenants to fire on the crowd. At that moment, Salem’s militia Captain John Felt, was unable to hold his peace any longer. He shouted at Leslie in a voice that was unmistakably heard by civilian and soldier alike, “If you do fire, you will all be dead men!” Had the command to fire been enforced, probably not a man in the whole regiment would have escaped death. The first bloody battle of the Revolution would have been fought at the North Bridge in Salem on the 26th of February instead of at Lexington on the 19th of April.

After discussion with his officers, Colonel Leslie was thoroughly convinced of the determination of the citizens to resist a forcible passage over the bridge. Still unwilling to abandon the mission, he advanced and said to the bystanders, “I am determined to pass over this bridge before I return to Boston, if I remain here until next autumn.

Captain Felt, to whom this remark was addressed, replied, “Nobody would care for that”, to which Colonel Leslie replied, “By God, I will not be defeated.” Felt coolly answered, “You must acknowledge that you have been already baffled.” Then a firm but gentle voice, told Colonel Leslie not to fire “upon these innocent people.” Leslie turned around and inquired “who are you, sir?” The man replied, “I am Thomas Barnard a minister of the Gospel and my mission is peace.”

The Colonel complained that his soldiers were insulted and expressed his determination to cross the bridge. He was upon the King’s highway and would not be prevented from passing freely over it. An old man replied, “It is not the King’s highway. It is a road built by the owners of the lots on the other side and no king, country or town has any control over it.

The tide was now low, and three boats lay in the mud on the west side of the bridge. Worried that Leslie might appropriate them for his troops, several people began to scuttle them with axes and rocks. A scuffle ensued between the British and Americans and brought about what may have been the first bloodshed in a war that was yet to begin. The account by Charles Moses Endicott written in 1856 tells of the incident:

“One Joseph Whicher, the foreman in Colonel Sprague’s distillery, was at work scuttling the Colonel’s gondola and the soldiers ordered him to desist and threatened to stab him with their bayonets if he did not, whereupon he opened his breast and dared them to strike. They pricked his breast so as to draw blood. He was very proud of this wound and afterward in life was fond of exhibiting it.”

Almost an hour and a half had been consumed in the fruitless attempt to pass the bridge. The day was ending, and the temperature was quickly falling. The soldiers were trembling in the frigid cold. A conference was held with Colonel Leslie, Captain Pickering, Captain Felt, Reverend Barnard, and Colonel Mason. The conversation went:

“So, you came all this way just to cross a bridge?”
“Well yes, and to get the guns.”
“We’ve hidden them where you can’t find them”
“Well how can I tell the Governor that I found no guns if he learns that I never even got across the bloody bridge?”
“You want to tell the Governor that you crossed the bridge but discovered no guns?”
“Considering the circumstances, me thinks that will suffice.”

This conference resulted in Colonel Leslie pledging his word that if the inhabitants would allow him to march no more than fifty rods beyond the bridge, he would then return peacefully without molesting any person or property. His orders were to pass the bridge and he could not disobey them. Discussion was made with the people, by Mason and others, that they should accept these terms.

There was little danger in allowing the troops to pass, for the guns had been secured and placed beyond their reach. With the preliminaries settled and the distance which the regiment was to march beyond the bridge accurately measured, the drawbridge was lowered, and the troops quietly passed over.

The feelings of the inhabitants were highly excited by the appearance of British troops in their streets on the Sabbath. While the soldiers were in the act of turning for their return march, in one of the houses nearby a nurse named Sarah Tarrant peered out of an upstairs window and shouted at the Redcoats, “Go home and tell your master he has sent you on a fool’s errand and has broken the peace of our Sabbath. What do you think we were born in the woods, to be frightened by owls?” (This was a common expression of the time that was meant to indicate that the speaker was accustomed to danger and could not be easily frightened.) When one angered British trooper raised his weapon and took aim at her, she exclaimed, “Fire if you have the courage, but I doubt it!

There were eight militia companies in Marblehead at that time, comprising nearly the whole male population between the ages of sixteen and sixty. They had all promptly assembled and were ordered to station themselves behind the houses and fences along the road. They were prepared to attack the British on their return from Salem if hostile measures had been used. If no act of violence upon the persons or property of the people was committed, they were ordered not to show themselves, but to allow the British detachment to return unmolested to their transport. On their way back to Marblehead the Redcoats band played “The World Turned Upside Down.” The song was heard years later when Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown.

No shots were fired that day in Salem. Colonel Leslie retreated to his transport and sailed back to Boston empty-handed. His conduct did not meet with the approval of his superiors. For the failure of this expedition, he was tried and found guilty by court martial and was dismissed from service. Leslie was later restored to his former rank and eventually was promoted to Brigadier General. He served in several major battles of the Revolutionary War and died in 1792 in Glasgow.

The failure of this expedition should have convinced the ruling powers in England of the unconquerable spirit of the colonists and their resolution to defend their rights and privileges. However, the rest is well-known history. News of this event took time to cross the Atlantic. Just two days before the Battle at Lexington and Concord, The Gentleman’s Magazine of London published the following announcement:

By a ship just arrived from America, it is reported that the Americans have hoisted their standard of liberty at Salem. There is no doubt that the next news will be an account of a bloody engagement between the two armies.” - Proceedings of the Essex Institute – Volume 1, 1848-1856, pgs. 89-122

Peter Charles Hoffer, Prelude to Revolution: The Salem Gunpowder Raid of 1775, (Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore) 201

Salem, Massachusetts

SALEM, MASSACHUSETTS. 26 February 1775. On orders from Major General Thomas Gage, the British commander in chief in North America, Colonel Alexander Leslie sailed with his Sixty-fourth Regiment of Foot from Castle William (in Boston Harbor) at midnight on 25 February 1775 to destroy an ordnance depot reported to be at Salem. The raiders dropped anchor about twelve hours later in Marblehead Bay, and at about 2 p.m. they started the five-mile march to Salem. Major John Pedrick, an American whom Leslie knew and believed to be loyal, managed to pass through the 240-man column of redcoats on horseback and race ahead to alert the citizens of Salem, who were attending church. Colonel Timothy Pickering, the local militia commander, sent forty minutemen to Captain Robert Foster's forge near the North River Bridge to remove nineteen brass cannon that were there to be fitted with carriages. When the regulars arrived, the cannon had been removed, the draw of the bridge leading to the forge had been opened, and a large crowd had joined the militia on the opposite bank.

Some redcoats barely failed to capture the last available boat in the area, but Joseph Wicher smashed in its bottom and then, in a grandstand gesture, bared his breast—literally—to the enemy. A British soldier obliged him with a bayonet thrust that inflicted a slight but bloody wound. When the British threatened to fire, the Loyalist minister Thomas Barnard and Captain John Felt countered with a face-saving offer to let them cross unmolested if they would then withdraw peacefully. Leslie accepted, marched his troops some 30 rods (165 yards) to the agreed limiting point, faced about, and headed back to Marblehead. Despite its comic-opera nature, this affair came close to setting off the "shot heard round the world" a company of Danvers militia arrived just as the British were leaving, and other armed citizens were gathering. Salem can claim the distinction of seeing the first shedding of American blood it also generated a Barbara Fritchie-type heroine in Sarah Tarrant, who after taunting the redcoats from an open window and being threatened by one of them, is alleged to have said, "Fire if you have the courage, but I doubt it" (Commager and Morris, eds., p. 65). Leslie is said to have retreated to the tune of The World Turned Upside Down.

Our Pickering Family in America

1800-1806 Philadelphia [first record of OUR FAMILY's emigration to America]

John Pickering [1774-1848] born in Frodsham Parish to John Pickering, Merchant and Mary Harrison sailed to Philadelphia to set up a corn brokerage. He was married to Hannah Farrall and had 8 children in England. So far I have not been able to verify his death, nor found his family, in Philadelphia.

(About 1806) In his brother's journal, Peter writes: "I, with the consent of Messrs Gladstones, as also my Parents seperated from Messrs Gladstones, and then with the consent of my Parents and advice of my Brother William I immediately took a passage in the Ship Majestrate, bound from Liverpool to New York with the intention of forming a Mercantile Establishment with my Brother John in Philadelphia [above] who had left Frodsham and sailed to Philadelphia the year before [abt. 1805], with the intention that his Wife should follow him later with their Family of Children after he had established himself as Commission Corn and General Merchant in Philadelphia . But to return to my narrative My Brother John believing he did not possess Capital sufficient, to establish himself with me as general Merchants, he declined my offer of Partnership and returned to Philadelphia and I never saw him again".

June 1869 New York / 1884 Junction City, KS
Henry Alfred Pickeirng [1847-1940] sailed with his wife to New York and entered the W.H. Newman's office as a corresponding clerk. He rented a house in Orange Junction, NJ (North East Orange). In 1872 he returned to England with his family and worked for the Chambers Holder Co., as a Cotton Broker. In 1884 he sailed back to the US and settled in Junction City, KS where he raised 9 children and died at age 93.

1881 Junction City, KS
Alexander John Pickering left Liverpool along with his brother, William. They sailed on the, now imfamous, Lisutania to New York. He then moved to Kansas, presumably to be near his brother Henry Alfred. He settled there at about the, age of 24 (1881, after his father’s death) where he met and married Evaline DeMar in 1886. Evaline's family was originally from the Newtown, Pennsylvania area. We are not sure what his occupation was during this period. He lived for a while off his inheritance then moved to Philadelphia about 1892.

Watch the video: Conor Oberst - Gossamer Thin Official Audio (January 2022).