A view of the country round Boston taken from Beacon hill

Description

This series of six sheets in the King's Topographical Collection was drawn by 25-year-old Richard Williams, a lieutenant in the Royal Welch Fusiliers. They depict the land around Boston as seen from the city under siege after the Battle of Bunker Hill. Five of them were drawn to be pasted together to form a panoramic perspective from the top of Beacon Hill.

The fifth (north-east) view shows Mystic River (1) and the beaches from which the British troops attacked the rebels, as well as Charlestown (2), near Bunker Hill, where the British landed on the 17th of June. On the opposite bank of the river, Williams marked the location of the ‘redoubt of the rebels’ in Winnisimmet (3), with Noddle’s Island (4) beyond and Hog Island (now Orient Heights in East Boston) in the background (5). The British man-of-war Somerset (11) is depicted in front of Boston harbour at right (6). The British soldier standing by the cannon in the foreground looks towards Boston North End (8), with Millpond and the Milldam at left and the harbour at right. The three spires seen above the rooftops might belong to Christ Church, the Old North meeting house and Brattle Street meeting house. Beyond these buildings, William depicts some cannons on Copp’s Hill firing towards Charlestown (9).

Of the four remaining views, the first (south) depicts a soldier looking towards Dorchester and Castle William. The second view (west) features Declaration of Independence signer John Hancock’s house, while the third (north-west) depicts British encampments in the foreground with George Washington’s headquarters across the Charles River. Finally, the fourth scene (north) features North Boston with the ruins of Charlestown, which burned during the Battle of Bunker Hill.

The sixth view (east) is unfinished and it might have been taken from South Boston (maybe from Fort Hill), rather than from Beacon Hill. It shows the city and the harbour at left, with Apple Island, Governors Island, Green Island (all three are now Logan International Airport), and Deer Island in the background. Williams also depicts the remains of the lighthouse, noting that it had been burnt on the 20th of July in the key below. A separate, unrelated sketch at right shows a view of the Rebels’ works on Prospect Hill (now Somerville).

Williams, who had landed in Boston in June 1775, was ‘an educated young officer with a lively interest in history who had toured Europe and painted well with watercolours in quieter moments’. The day after his arrival, he went to Beacon Hill to view the works of the rebellious colonists surrounding the peninsula. The information he recorded from this viewpoint was used in his maps and sketches: Williams was also the surveyor responsible for the Plan of Boston and its environs published by Andrew Dury in London in 1776 (Maps K.Top.120.35.), probably drawn from the same spot. After evacuating Boston and sailing for Nova Scotia, Williams became ill and returned to England, where he died on April 30, 1776.

Full title:
A view of the country round Boston taken from Beacon hill : shewing the Lines, Ridouts & Different Encampments of the Rebels also those of his Majesty's Troops under the command of his Excellency Lieut. General Gage, Governor of Massachuset's Bay &c &c.
Created:
1775
Format:
Watercolour / Pen and Ink / View
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Shelfmark:
Maps K.Top.120.38.b-g.

Full catalogue details

Related articles

Travellers abroad

Article by:
Ann Payne
Theme:
Military and maritime

Ann Payne explores British Library drawings by professional and amateur artists working abroad, on military campaigns, diplomatic missions and voyages of discovery.