are rising – and fearing a plot – the Governor hastily contacts John Cochran, captain of the Castle.
Maintain expert vigilance,
Captain. The threat upon the Fort may, I fear, be at a peak. Admit no number of men inside the walls. In this time of turbulent rumor, it would be prudent to fortify the guard with extra hands. If there is to be an attempt on Cochran’s fort, it will be met with foresight and resistance. Safe from the brutal New England winter outside, Wentworth waits for morning to come, and with it, any new developments the dissenting townsfolk may conjure.
Come noon the following day, John Langdon is shoulder to shoulder with some of the colony’s fiercest friends of Liberty, including his ally Thomas Pickering. Led by drums and fife, they march through the streets of Portsmouth brazenly announcing their plan to march on the Castle and liberate its powder. Langdon fills with pride for his countrymen. Shocked townsfolk gather to witness this blatant act of Treason; while some shy away lest they be identified with the madmen, Langdon feels others seize the chance to act on their anger. The well-informed Wentworth sends his personal secretary and the Chief Justice of the Province, Councilor Theodore Atkinson Sr., to confront the rabble-rousers. Atkinson departs for the town center with as much haste as his 67 years will allow. Expecting some difficulty
from the Governor, Langdon is not surprised to see the old Chief Justice bearing down on them. Atkinson demands from them an explanation of the gathering and when no one answers, Atkinson coldly assures them –in no uncertain terms – that to attack the Castle would be to commit the highest Treason, a crime answerable for as long as they live. His warning rings through the crisp New England air, giving weight to unspoken fears. Failing to snuff out Langdon’s fire, the threat spurs him to step forward. The huddled crowd as witness, blood boiling, Langdon begins to ridicule the royal representative: Are your eyes so old and mind so frail you can no longer tell when brave hearts have broken the yoke of Britain’s prattling rule? Your gluttonous, fat-kidneyed lifestyle reeks of a feckless pig. And at the expense of our freedom! Bar not our passage, craven codpiece, or your days of droning, artless lecture will be cut short. With that, Langdon knows the time to move has come. He turns his back on the stunned man and signals for those who would, to join him. Glad to be in motion, Langdon considers his next move and leads the crowd to the boats bound for Fort William and Mary, two miles down the Piscataqua River. Listening to the murmurs of those onboard and feeling the bitter wind on his face, Langdon considers his small group. Determined citizens from the nearby Rye, New Castle, and Kittery approach and join the growing flotilla; they have heard the news.
Intent on raiding his majesty’s fort, the number of men swells to several hundred. Growing numb to the bow’s cold spray, Langdon sets his eyes downriver and awaits sight of the Castle.
Langdon has put into motion one piece of the plan; there is more in motion. As Langdon and Pickering marched through the streets of Portsmouth, their footsteps were matched by Stephen Batson and Henry Langmead en route to Fort William and Mary. Before the arrival of Langdon’s flotilla, New Castle’s friends of Liberty will attempt to take the Castle by trickery. The plot commences as Batson and Langmead are invited to sit by the fire with Cochran, the unsuspecting captain of the castle. More players in this game of treachery arrive at the Fort and are invited inside out of the cold. Cochran, taken aback by the sudden attention of the townspeople, recalls the letter of caution from Governor Wentworth. Regarding his guests warily now, the cogs in Cochran’s suspicious
The man of the hour, John Langdon.
June 2014 Rediscover New Hampshire 35