Gateway to the Classics: Ruth of Boston by James Otis
Ruth of Boston by  James Otis

Training Day

I must tell you of our Training Day, in the month of May, after Master Roger Williams had fled into the wilderness to escape the wrath of our people which he had aroused; and I am setting down what happened on that particular day, because of its being the largest and most exciting training ever held in Boston, so every one says.

Susan believes Training Day should come oftener than four times a year, so that we young people may get some idea of what gay life is like in the old countries, where they make festivals of Christmas, and other saints' days. It does truly seem as if we might see our soldiers perform quite often, for it is a most inspiring spectacle, and especially was it on last Training Day, when, so father says, there were upwards of seven hundred men marching back and forth across the Common in a manner which at times was really terrifying, because of their fierce appearance when fully armed.

Imagine, if you can, a row of booths along the Common, in which are for sale ground nuts, packages of nookick, sweet cakes, pumpkin bread roasted brown and spread with syrup made from maple sap, together with dainties of all kinds lately brought over from England.

Between these booths and the water are many tents, which have been set up that the people of quality may entertain their friends therein with toothsome food and sweet waters.

The middle of the Common, and a long space at either end, is kept clear of idle ones that the soldiers may exercise at arms, and these do not appear until the on-lookers are in their places. Then we hear a flourish of trumpets, the rolling of drums, and from the direction of the Neck comes our army, a mighty array of seven hundred or more men, all armed and equipped as the law directs.

When this vast body of warlike men have marched into the vacant space, they are drawn up in line, there is another flourish of trumpets, together with the rolling of drums, and Master Cotton comes out from the tent which has been set up for the use of the Governor and his assistants, to offer a prayer.


On this day, moved by the sight of the great throng, Master Cotton prayed long and fervently, whereat some of the younger soldiers, having not the fear of God in their hearts, pulled long faces one to another, or shifted about uneasily on their feet, as if weary with long standing, and I trembled lest the Governor, seeing such levity, might rebuke them openly, which would be a great disgrace at such a time.

When Master Cotton was done with praying, the soldiers began to march here and there in many ways, until one's eyes were confused with watching them, and then came the volleys, as the men shot straight over the heads of the people; but father says no one need fear such warlike work, for there were no bullets in the guns.

Of course I understood that he must needs know whether this be true or not, else he would not have spoken it; and yet I could not but shudder when so many guns were fired at one time, while the smoke of powder in the air was most painful to the eyes.

After the soldiers had marched back and forth in the most ferocious manner possible until noon, they were allowed a time for rest, and then it was that those who had set up tents, entertained their friends at table with stores upon stores of dainties of every kind.

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