Many on both sides remembered a middle-aged militiaman named Hezekiah Wyman, from the outlying hamlet of Woburn that is now the town of Winchester. This day was his birthday. On the morning of April 19, 1775, Hezekiah Wyman turned fifty-five. His wife told him he was too old to fight, but he saddled his “strong white mare” and galloped away. He collided with the British column on the Road east of Lexington, fired at an advancing Regular and brought him down.I remember being struck by how cinematic this episode was. Imagine the scene through the eyes of British soldiers: a white horse with its tall rider galloping across the hillsides parallel to the road. The soldiers anxiously watch the man bend his course slightly until he comes within the range they know will be fatal to one of them.
Hezekiah Wyman became highly visible on the battlefield—a “tall, gaunt man” with long gray locks, mounted on a white horse. The British infantry saw him many times from Lexington to Charlestown, and grew to dread the sight of him.
Wyman was a crack shot. Again and again he rode within range of the British vanguard, jumped off his horse, and laid the long barrel of his musket across the saddle. As the Regulars approached he took careful aim, and squeezed off a shot with slow deliberation. Then he remounted and rode ahead to a new position—a grim, gray-headed messenger of mortality, mounted on death’s pale horse.
At that time, I wasn’t tracing footnotes, and there weren’t so many great digital resources to consult as there are now. Fischer offered one citation for this paragraph, to Henry Smith Chapman’s 1936 History of Winchester.
Chapman, in turn, cited as his main source a newspaper article reprinting an item about Wyman from an issue of the Boston Pearl published sometime before 1840. Woburn/Winchester records confirm that Hezekiah Wyman existed, but say nothing about his activities on 19 Apr 1775. For that, we need to find and evaluate the earliest accounts.
TOMORROW: Diving deep for the Boston Pearl.