J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

What’s So Important about Barrett’s Farm?

On Monday, the U.S. House passed the Minute Man National Historical Park Boundary Revision Act, authorizing the Department of the Interior to purchase more land for that national park in Concord. I wrote about this bill back in February.

The land that park managers and local supporters have in mind is the farm that belonged in 1775 to James Barrett, colonel in the Middlesex County militia. The Massachusetts Provincial Congress had commissioned him to collect weapons and other military supplies, which he hid on his farm and on his willing neighbors’ property.

What weapons? Barrett left no records, but Gen. Thomas Gage developed a detailed picture of what was out there. Some spy in the Concord area was communicating with him, and on 8 Mar 1775 the general wrote down the following list.

Four brass Cannon, & Two Cohorns or Mortars (so call’d by the Peasantry) Conceal’d at Mr: B——, (Lately chose or appointed Minute Colo.) Suppos’d to be deposited in his Cellar.—The Calibre of these pieces of Ordnance is not exactly ascertained, but reported to be only Diminutive.

Two pieces of Iron Ordnance (Suppos’d to be 4 or 6 pounders) are mounted, (On carriages said to be very indifferent) in the Courthouse & watch’d at Night, hitherto by a Slender Guard of Minute men.—

Eight more pieces of Iron Ordnance were this day (Le 8 de Mois de Mars) convey’d to Concord from L——— [Lexington? Lincoln? Lancaster?] (where they had been deposited a few days preceeding their Last removal;—Two of the Eight appeard to be Smaller than the rest & about three or four pounders—These last mentioned were met at a small distance from C——— in three Carts there were no appurtenances, but it was said that carriages were made or making at Salem & soon to follow.—

It is conjectured & reported that a Large quantity of [artillery] Cartridges are now preparing at Ch——n [Charlestown]; of Different Sizes, & numbered in order to distribute & distinguish properly.—A Large quantity of Duck [cloth] is also said to be bought up which is said to be & now fabricating these also into Tents.—

It is said with certainty 7 Tons of powder (equal to 13000 net or 280 barells,) is collected at C——d—The greatest part Lodg’d at one Whitings one of together with some small arms near the entrance into the Co[ncord] Vilage on the Road from hence—on the right hand, a White plasterd house, with a Small Yard in front & a Raild fence—a store adjoining the house contains the Powder.—
The list went on to describe where Barrett had arranged to hide small arms, flour, pork, and peas. This portion concluded: “Two Capital Roads Lead to C[oncord]—— one from the Ferry through Cambridge & Lexington—The other through WaterTown & part of Weston—22 miles distant the former only 19. Gage used this intelligence when drawing up orders for the march to Concord on 18-19 April. His soldiers took the shorter route. The main goal of that march—the furthest that British soldiers traveled—was James Barrett’s farm.

That’s why this site would be a most appropriate addition to the national park.

(Photo by Dominic Chavez/Boston Globe Staff.)

2 comments:

Lori Thornton said...

Let's hope the Senate gets on board soon!

J. L. Bell said...

Since the bill doesn’t lay out any money (the land would have to be purchased for the park from private donations), it’s probably not controversial. Rather, it has to catch the attention of the Senate at a busy time.