World War If has changed the face of Harvard College, but probably not as much as did the Revolutionary War. During the American siege of Boston, Harvard had become the headquarters of Washington's Army, and although there was no actual fighting in the Yard, a number of shells fell dangerously near Wadsworth House, where for a while the Commander-in-Chief directed the operations. The students were moved hastily out of harm's way to Concord, and the College buildings were used to house soldiers and supplies. Harvard Hall was not only an ammunition dump, but a kitchen as well, and Holden Chapel lost its ecclesiastical dignity for a while for the good cause of billeting some three hundred troops. Even the lead roof of Hollis Hall had to go; it was melted down to provide revolutionary bullets.
It was not surprising, then, that Harvard, with its own little corps of militia men, acquired the sobriquet of "military" when the strife was at last ever. For a while the "mercury" militia still drilled on the Common or on the Delta, where Memorial Hall now stands, and Cambridge was for a while thought of as a very warlike community. The loyalists on Tory Row, now Brattle Street, had left hurriedly for Canada, and the Yankee merchants who moved into the fine old houses established a standard of luxury that showed a new, rich era had indeed arrived. One party of Colonel Henry Vassall featured live bull-frogs in each plate of the guests' frog soup. This sort of thing threw Vassall into bankruptcy, but it was in good postwar style.
While Cambridge's luxury remained, her military reputation died a very natural death. One cause of the reputation was the big arsenal that had been established beyond the Common--in fact, somewhere near the site of the Radeliffe dormitories At first the Arsenal was taken very seriously, but when it became evident that the British weren't coming back to Greater Boston, the undergraduates discovered that the old cannonballs might come in useful. They rolled them to their rooms in Stoughton and Hollis, heated them in the fire, and then put them to heat the next room, where there was no fire. The idea was successful and became very popular, though it sapped the forgotten Arsenal's reserves.
But the 1820's brought Harvard's great student riots, and the men realized that their store of ammunition on the third and fourth floors could not be wasted. One year, after a few cannonballs had been dropped from the windows on to tutors' heads, the whole Sophomore class was suspended and some guilty rioters were sent to Concord to be tried. Nothing came of the proceedings, but the momentous of the War had at any rate proved that they were not yet obsolete. The Arsenal was soon destroyed and Harvard became its peaceful, present self.