Episode 20: John Hancock’s Private Army

When British General Thomas Gage arrived in Boston in 1774, he was met on Long Wharf by the patriot leader John Hancock at the head of an armed militia unit… But not for the reason you think.  Since 1772, Hancock had been the Captain of The Governor’s Independent Company of Cadets, an elite unit that provided ceremonial bodyguards to the Massachusetts governor.  When Gage took over as military governor of the province, sparks flew.  He summarily fired Hancock, and war broke out soon after.  They have been known through the centuries as the Governor’s Cadets, the Independent Company of Cadets, the Boston Independent Company, and the First Corps of Cadets, and they’ve served Massachusetts and the United States in domestic emergencies, and wars from the Revolution to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  Learn more about this unique unit, and their role in the lead up to the Revolutionary War, in this week’s show!

John Hancock’s Private Army

  • In the header image for this post, John Hancock is on the left, and Thomas Gage (reversed) is on the right.  Both portraits are by John Singleton Copley.
  • The Association of the First Corps of Cadets’ own history, including primary documents
  • A good survey of the history of the Cadets given at a 1943 Bostonian Society meeting.
  • The US Army’s unit history of the 211th Military Police Battalion, First Company of Cadets
  • Boston Landmarks Commission hearing on the Cadet Armory.  The photo of the armory below is courtesy of Flickr user Brian Mull.

The Park Plaza Castle in Boston

A poem about the Cadets from the September 1, 1774 issue of the Massachusetts Spy:

This Week in Boston History

United South End Settlements 125th anniversary

George Washington’s Boston medal
Hostibus Primo Fugatis: For the first time, the enemy is put to flight


NPR wrote a good article about the monthlong effort to convince new people to listen to podcasts, which are fun, free, and informative.  I don’t have to tell you that… you’re already here!  That effort from NPR, one of the biggest podcast syndicates, is great, but we have been using #trypod to try to convince people to listen to independent podcasts.  You can see our recommendations below.  If you’re trying to convince people to “try a pod,” why not start with our show?