The journalist J. Benson Lossing came through Massachusetts in 1848 on an assignment for Harper’s Magazine. He was dogged in looking for elderly survivors of the American Revolution and setting down their stories. On the other hand, he had a tendency to print legends without apparently inquiring too deeply into them.
Among the people Lossing interviewed during his visit to Concord was James Barrett (1761-1850), namesake descendant of the colonel in charge of the town’s militia regiment at the start of the war. Lossing reported:
We rode to the residence of Major James Barrett, a surviving grandson of Colonel Barrett, about two miles north of the village, and near the residence of his venerated ancestor. Major Barrett was eighty-seven years of age when I visited him, and his wife, with whom he had lived nearly sixty years, was eighty. . . .I suspect the engraving above was inspired by that anecdote. And I think Barrett’s story is credible. It fits with other evidence we have, doesn’t claim too much, and captures the excitement of 18-19 Apr 1775 and the energy of adolescent boys eager to help.
Major Barrett was a lad of fourteen when the British incursion into Concord took place. He was too young to bear a musket, but, with every lad and woman in the vicinity, he labored in concealing the stores and in making cartridges for those who went out to fight.
With oxen and cart, himself, and others about his age, removed the stores deposited at the house of his grandfather into the woods, and concealed them, a cart-load in a place, under pine boughs. In such haste were they obliged to act on the approach of the British from Lexington that, when the cart was loaded, the lads would march on each side of the oxen and goad them into a trot.
Thus all the stores were effectually concealed, except some carriage-wheels. Perceiving the enemy near, these were cut up and burned; so that [Capt. Lawrence] Parsons found nothing of value [at Col. Barrett’s farm] to destroy or carry away.
Today at Col. Barrett’s farm I’m talking about the weapons stored there in April 1775, including four cannons hauled away to a hiding-place, perhaps by his grandsons.