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Margaret Gage is a subject of fascination amongst history buffs, particularly for this incident: Was she, or was she not a double agent?– acting as both the Royal Governor’s wife and Dr. Warren’s spy?
Allegedly General Gage told no one about his plans to take the powder from Concord except his beautiful, beloved bride, the American-born, Margaret Kemble Gage. And yet, somehow Dr. Warren found out and was able orchestrate the midnight rides of Paul Revere and William Dawes as they rode through the countryside alarming the local militias of the British Army’s forthcoming march. If Mrs. Gage, the only one to know about the plot, did not leak the information, who did? More scurrilously, as the legend goes, after Lexington and Concord, General Gage sent his wife and children off to England, and she was estranged from her husband forevermore.
It’s the type of story we writers love- romance, betrayal, intrigue!- and many have jumped on it. As with the story of the Murray Women, I’ve tried to blend beloved historical legend with more researched doubts in The Dreamer. As always, be entertained here… but also be inspired to go do your own homework. Split the fact from the fiction and have fun with your own investigations!
(Being an historian is a bit like being Indiana Jones. Without the nazis shooting at you, of course…)
This all makes for a wildly entertaining story, but let’s look at the circumstances a bit. Boston was hardly a great place to raise a family at this point in history, much less so if you’re the despised despot known as the Royal Governor– and now the even more loathed variety– a military Governor. Boston had been cut off from commerce for over a year as punishment for the Destruction of the Tea. (You know, the “Boston Tea Party”?) It was a merchant sea town, and no imports and no exports crippled the already downed economy. Tensions were high, which we’ve been talking about. Food and money were low, and now, after this incident, war had finally started.
After the battles of Lexington and Concord, the Americans besieged Boston. With the British Army bottled up in the city, disease broke out and living conditions grew even more unbearable. Fast forward two months and you have Bunker Hill, where the British army suffered 1,000 casualties in a single afternoon.
Possibly, just possibly, Mrs. Gage’s “exile” to London was instead an act of mercy on behalf of her husband. I don’t have children myself, but I imagine if I did, I wouldn’t want them living in such a hostile, war-torn environment.
If you don’t already read J.L. Bell’s blog Boston 1775, you need to. He is skeptical of beloved legend of Mrs. Gage as Double Agent, and you should read his two great articles about Margaret Gage and whether or not she was estranged from General Gage after this incident.
Interestingly enough, Dr. Warren did have a network of spies he relied on for intelligence. While researching his biography, Dr. Sam Forman discovered several veiled references to such people hidden in Warren’s medical logs.
But was Mrs. Gage among them? What do you think?
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