As I discussed yesterday, in the first half-century after John Raymond’s death outside the Munroe Tavern on 19 Apr 1775, people in Lexington agreed that British soldiers had killed him, but didn’t make a big deal of his death compared to others the same day.
That changed around the time of the Centennial. The Rev. Artemas B. Muzzey (1802-1892) of Cambridge, grandson of a man in Capt. John Parker’s militia company in 1775, published a reminiscence of Revolutionary veterans in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register in 1877 which stated:
William Munroe…kept the public house known as “Munroe Tavern.” Here the British stopped on their retreat, and murdered John Raymond, an inoffensive man, as he was leaving the house.Thus Raymond’s death during a battle became a murder.
Three years later, in a History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, Lexington historian Charles Hudson wrote:
The officers with Percy resorted to Munroe’s tavern just below. The occupants of the house left the place in affright, leaving only John Raymond, an aged man, who was at the time one of the family. The intruders ordered him to supply them with all the good things the house afforded, which he readily did. But after they had imbibed too freely, they became noisy and so alarmed Raymond that he sought to escape from the house; but was brutally fired upon and killed in his attempt to flee from danger.Hudson also used Raymond’s death to complain about the British soldiers’ “system of personal insult, treachery, and murder” in his history of Lexington, published in 1913.
In The Battle of April 19, 1775 (1912), Frank W. Coburn went into further detail in describing the activity of Col. Percy (shown above) and his troops:
This energetic destroyer of American homes had selected Munroe Tavern as his temporary headquarters, and ordered his wounded conveyed there also. While their wounds were being dressed his men demanded such refreshments as the place could provide, and unlike [Lt. Col. Francis] Smith’s subordinates in Concord, were not considerate enough to pay for them. So landlord William Munroe’s loss was £203, 11s. 9d., of which £90 was in the “retail shop,” presumably of a liquid nature.For this paragraph Coburn cited “A carefully written newspaper clipping evidently from a Boston periodical, dated April 19, 1858, preserved in a scrap book once belonging to the Thomas Waterman collection of American History.” I couldn’t locate such an article in the Archive of Americana newspaper database, but I wouldn’t be surprised if one turns up. I would be surprised if an 1858 article offers more reliable information than was available to William Munroe in 1825.
As he was orderly sergeant in Captain Parker’s Company, he was naturally absent on duty, and left a lame man, John Raymond, in charge, who waited upon the unbidden guests because he was compelled to. His last service was to mix a glass of punch for one of the red-coats, after which he essayed to escape through the garden. He was not alert enough, for two soldiers fired, and one of their bullets readily overtook him as he hobbled away. Thus one more was added to the list of American dead, one of the easiest victims, of course, for he was simply an unarmed cripple. This probably happened at the rear of the Tavern.
In fact, as authors added to the drama of John Raymond’s death, they inserted contradictions into the story. Hudson referred to Raymond as “aged,” but also reported his birth date, which showed that he was forty-three years old.
Coburn called Raymond a “cripple,” but other authors listed him among the members of Capt. Parker’s militia company, which suggests that Raymond’s lameness was temporary or didn’t interfere with his military activity, like Nathanael Greene’s. (Alternatively, those authors might have assumed that Raymond’s name on the list of dead meant he died as a militiaman.)
Harold Murdock noted those contradictions in his Nineteenth of April, 1775, published in 1925. He theorized that the British troops might have viewed Raymond as their prisoner, and shot him as he was trying to escape. He also argued that Percy himself spent little time at the tavern. In any event, Murdock felt sure that the Lexington minister Jonas Clarke would have made more of Raymond’s death if his neighbors in 1775 had seen it as an atrocity.
To the credit of the historians who wrote the words now engraved on the memorial to John Raymond at the Munroe Tavern, that text sticks to the facts stated by Munroe and his family. There are a lot of details about Raymond’s killing that we’ll probably never know, so it’s wise to avoid the incendiary language of some authors writing well after the event.
TOMORROW: John Raymond’s children.