I lived near Lexington. My house stood on the road. I joined the minute-men when I heard of the comin’ of the British troops, and left my wife and two children home, under the care of my father, then about sixty. I told ’em to keep as quiet as possible and they would be safe.That text comes from Henry C. Watson’s 1851 book, The Yankee Tea-Party. Watson had Davenport go on to tell the legend of Hezekiah Wyman. Another voice in the book was David Kinnison, Chicago’s fake Tea Party veteran. In sum, the book is full of spurious stories.
Well, as I said, I joined the minute-men, and, when the rascals retreated from Concord, followed and did some execution with my firelock. But one of ’em shot me in the shoulder, and I could n’t point my gun any more. I waited till the enemy had got a considerable distance on the road towards Boston, and then managed to reach my house—but such a house as I found it!
The windows were broken in, the doors torn off their hinges, and the furniture broken and thrown about in heaps. I called for my father and wife, but received no reply. I crawled up stairs, for I was nearly exhausted from loss of blood, and there I found my father and oldest child stretched on the floor dead. The old man had his gun still clenched in his hand, and he had, no doubt, done the enemy some damage with it. But his face was beaten in, and he had two or three bayonet stabs in his breast. The little boy had been shot through the head.
I was a pretty tough-hearted man, but I fainted at the sight; and, when I came to myself, I found my wife and the youngest child bending over me crying. How they did hug and kiss me when they saw me revive! I think I did as much to them, for I never expected to see them alive.
My wife told me that the old man would fire at the British as they were passing the house, and some of them stopped, broke open the doors, and knocked the things about. The old man and the little boy ran up stairs, while my wife and the other child ran from the house towards a neighbor’s. As she ran away, she heard the muskets fired, but could n’t stop, as she thought the rascals were after her. She had returned as soon as she knew they were far on the road.
I did n’t grieve long; but sent her for the doctor at Lexington to dress my wound. Boys, boys, I’ve made many a red-coat pay for the lives of that old man and child. I hated them enough before, but that day’s work made me all gall!
In this case, Watson combined the bloodiest elements of three actual incidents:
- Hannah Adams of Menotomy running from her house, leaving her children.
- Jason Russell of Menotomy, an older man shot and stabbed in a fight over his house. (The Arlington Historical Society’s Jason Russell House shown above.)
- Edward Barber, a boy shot through the head in Charlestown—the only Massachusetts child killed in the fighting.