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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Friday, April 22, 2011

Exploring Concord on the 19th of April and Beyond

Concord and the Dawn of Revolution: The Untold Truths is a collection of articles by D. Michael Ryan about the details of the outbreak of war in 1775. Published in 2007, it reflects some of the latest research about the traditions of Concord, sorting out which stories seem well rooted in evidence and which are probably no more than legends.

Several of Ryan’s articles appeared in earlier form in the online Concord Magazine, which has collected those links and more in “Concord Fight: A Virtual Booklet.” So you can sample the quality of his work.

For example, there’s the mystery of a man named James Nichols, born in Britain and living in Lincoln in 1775. Reportedly he broke ranks with his militia unit during the stand-off at the North Bridge, walked down to chat with some redcoats, and decided to go home rather than fight.

At least that’s what a survivor of the battle named Amos Baker said decades later. Yet there’s no mention of Nichols in Lincoln town records. On the other hand, that would be a weird story for Baker to make up—what cultural or psychological need might it fulfill? Ryan lays out the mystery and leaves it open for further investigation.

The articles in Concord and the Dawn of Revolution are on bigger topics like James Barrett, Daniel Bliss, and the curious Bedford flag. They’re well researched, and often spotlight corners of the conflict that other books leave out or speed past.

Of course, there’s still more to be found out. For example, it’s unlikely that James Hall was one of the British soldiers buried in Concord, as suggested in this article (not collected in the book). But that’s someone else’s story.

1 comment:

Heather Rojo said...

This is a great book. I picked up a copy last summer at the Concord National Park vistor center gift shop and I was fascinated with the stories. It's very well done.