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Episode Info

Episode Info:

This week’s show is about the namesake of the famous Louisbourg Square on Beacon Hill, an astonishing 1745 military victory won by a Massachusetts volunteer army made up of farmers, seamen, and merchants. After war broke out with France the year before, Governor William Shirley proposed a daring plan to attack the French fortress of Louisbourg. Located on Cape Breton Island, off the coast of Nova Scotia, Louisbourg was considered impregnable. Through a combination of luck, good leadership, and gallant conduct, the New England army conquered the Gibraltar of North America. However, the victory was short lived, setting the stage for two wars that American history remembers more clearly.

Please support us on Patreon and check out the full show notes at:

Taking Louisbourg Boston Book Club

Our pick for the Boston Book Club this week harkens back to one of our past episodes. Back in episode 28, we talked about the 1919 Boston Police Strike, and if you want to get much more detail about the strike than our show got into, you can start with A City in Terror: Calvin Coolidge and the 1919 Boston Police Strike, by Francis Russell. Originally published in 1975, the story starts with, of all things, the author’s personal memories of his father being pressed into service as a temporary special policeman when the regular police department went out on strike. His duties were basically directing traffic on Blue Hill Ave, as the outlying neighborhoods of Mattapan and Dorchester where he grew up didn’t see the chaos and lawlessness that happened downtown.

After sharing the hazy memories of a nine year old, Russell settles down into a serious treatment of the strike. He gives a brief history of the Boston Police Department, describes the complaints that led the officers to form a union, and gives an overview of the political landscape of Massachusetts and Boston at the time that had thrust Calvin Coolidge to prominence. Then come the riots, and the aftermath.

The publisher’s description gives a hint at the author’s focus:

On September 9, 1919, an American nightmare came true. The entire Boston police force deserted their posts, leaving the city virtually defenseless. Women were raped on street corners, stores were looted, and pedestrians were beaten and robbed while crowds not only looked on but cheered.

The police strike and the mayhem that followed made an inconspicuous governor, Calvin Coolidge, known throughout America, turning him into a national hero and, eventually, a president. It also created a monster: for two days, more than 700,000 residents of Boston’s urban core were without police protection, and the mob ruled the streets.

Whether or not you believe, as Russell did, that the Boston Police Strike proves that public employees should have no right to organize, the book gives a deeper look at an often overlooked chapter in American history. With the centennial of the strike coming up in September, this is the perfect time to brush up on what happened. You can find a link to purchase the book in our show notes.

Historic Event

Past podcast guest Christian DiSpigna will be appearing at the Boston Athenaeum on May 28. Christian is the author of Founding Martyr: The Life and Death of Dr Joseph Warren, the American Revolution’s Lost Hero, and he joined us back in episode 103. Here’s how the Athenaeum describes it:

Christian Di Spigna’s definitive new biography of Warren is a loving work of historical excavation, the product of two decades of research and scores of newly unearthed primary-source documents that have given us this forgotten Founding Father anew. Following Warren from his farming childhood and years at Harvard through his professional success and political radicalization to his role in sparking the rebellion, Di Spigna’s thoughtful, judicious retelling not only restores Warren to his rightful place in the pantheon of Revolutionary greats, it deepens our understanding of the nation’s dramatic beginnings.

The talk begins at 12pm on Tuesday, May 28. Advanced registration is required. You’ll have to pay your way into the Athenaeum, but there’s no additional fee for the talk.

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