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Reviving the Portsmouth Powder Alarm 1774



The Portsmouth powder alarm


Two new books may help drive the historic raid back into 21st century consciousness. Reporting the Revolutionary War: Before It Was History, It Was News was released last month by Sourcebooks. The 400-page, four-pound hardcover by amateur Chicago historian Todd Andrlik contains reproduced pages from hundreds of newspapers printed during the Revolutionary, plus commentary by over 30 history experts. Among those essays is one by this author on the 1774 raid. With 40,000 copies in print, the Portsmouth story is finally being given its rightful place in the lead-up to war.

Portsmouth_Alarm_cover_SmallMore importantly for New Hampshire readers is a new paperback by local writer Terri A. DeMitchell. Her newest book for young readers The Portsmouth Alarm: December 1774 tells the explosive story from the viewpoint of three young boys. Andrew Beckett, Jack Cochran and Joseph Reed are fictional characters placed smack into the well-researched background. DeMitchell reminds us that these were confusing and frightening times when only about a third of the population was in favor of a break with Mother England. Another third were loyal to the king, while the rest were undecided. Each boy in The Portsmouth Alarm represents a different position just as Paul Revere comes galloping mysteriously into town.

Andrew is hoping that his family connections to the generally well-liked Governor Wentworth will get him into Harvard College. Joseph, the son of a cooper, sides with the Sons of Liberty and despises the wealthy Gov. Wentworth. Jack, whose father is captain at the fort, gets caught in the crossfire.

“You’re going to have to decide which side you’re on,” Joseph tells Andrew in the streets of Portsmouth. “Things are going to get bad…Parliament will close our port just like they did in Boston. You wait and see.”

DeMitchell has done her homework. A former elementary school teacher, college lecturer, and lawyer, she strikes a neat balance between defining the heady times and reporting the action. Why has Paul Revere come 60 miles from Boston in the worst of winter weather? Can the governor control the increasingly riotous citizens? Who really owns the gunpowder and the guns – King George or the people of New Hampshire? Is the raid an act of patriotism or mob rule?  DeMitchell wants young readers to make up their own minds.

Paul_Revere_Rides_Again in 1974 Bicentennial of the Powder Alarm (Portsmouth Atheneum)


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Tuesday, January 16, 2018 
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