J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Man Who Shot Daniel Phelps

The Rev. David Avery identified the fellow provincial soldier who accidentally shot Daniel Phelps as “Mr. —— Yale of Col. [John] Patterson's company.”

In 1854 the Stockbridge chronicler Electa F. Jones referred to the man as  “Mr. Y.” She also wrote:
Mr. Y. became almost distracted, and, it is believed, continued in a gloomy state of mind until his own death many years afterward. He was not suspected of design, but was probably less cautious than he should have been.
We can certainly agree with that last bit.

A little digging reveals that that man was Noah Yale of Lenox. After marching to the siege lines in the town minute company, he enlisted in the Massachusetts army on 5 May through the end of the year. Only three days after enlisting, he shot Phelps while practicing the manual of arms, not realizing his musket was loaded.

This web genealogy for the Yale family says Noah Yale had been born in Wallingford, Connecticut, on 17 Mar 1749, making him twenty-six years old at the start of the war. He (or perhaps his namesake father) had purchased fifty acres in Lenox in 1773. According to state records, Yale served in the Massachusetts and then Continental Army through the end of the year.

This 1850 print genealogy says Yale didn’t live “many years,” as Jones wrote, but “died of a fever, December 28, 1776.” Though that family publication doesn’t mention the death of Phelps, it does implicitly link Yale’s death before age thirty to his experiences near “Boston, whither he had been called to serve his country, in her struggle for independence.” He appears to have come back to Lenox a changed person.

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