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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Monday, April 20, 2015

“Shot a Canon Ball throug the metin hous”

On 19 Apr 1775, two companies of militiamen marched from Andover. Anticipating that the British column was headed to Concord, where the Massachusetts Provincial Congress had collected supplies, they marched toward that town, but kept adjusting their course as they received more news.

Here’s the account of Sgt. Thomas Boynton from Capt. Benjamin Ames’s company:

This morning, being Wednesday, about the sun’s rising the town was alarmed with the news that the Regulars was on their march to Concord. Upon which the town mustered and about 10 o’clock marched onward for Concord. In Tewksbury news came that the Regulars had fired on our men in Lexington, and had killed 8. In Bilricke news came that the enemy were killing and slaying our men in Concord. Bedford we had the news that the enemy had killed 2 of our men and had retreated back; we shifted our course and persued after them as fast as possible, but all in vain; the enemy had the start 3 or 4 miles. It is said that their number was about 1500 men. They were persued as far as Charlestown that night; the next day they passed Charles River. The loss they sustained as we hear were 500; our men about 40. To return, after we came into Concord road we saw houses burning and others plundered and dead bodies of the enemy lying by the way, others taken prisoners. About eight at night our regiment came to a halt in notime. The next morning we came into Cambridge and there abode.
The Andover men never made contact with the enemy that day, but they did become part of the army besieging Boston.

Another man on that march was James Stevens, a carpenter born in 1749 who was in Capt. Thomas Poor’s company. His diary was published in the Essex Institute Historical Collections in 1912, offering a vivid picture of the aftermath of battle:
April ye 19 1775 this morning a bout seven aclok we had alarum that the Reegerlers was gon to Conkord we getherd to the meting hous & then started for Concord we went throu Tukesbary & in to Bilrica we stopt to Polords [Solomon Pollard’s tavern, burned in 1977] & eat some bisket & Ches on the comon. we started & wen into Bedford & we herd that the regerlers was gon back to Boston

we went through Bedford, we went in to Lecentown. we went to the metinghous & there we come to the distraction of the Reegerlers thay cild eight of our men & shot a Canon Ball throug the metin hous. we went a long through Lecintown & we saw severel regerlers ded on the rod & som of our men & three or fore housen was Burnt & som hoses & hogs was cild thay plaindered in every hous thay could git in to thay stove in windows & broke in tops of desks we met the men a coming back very fast we went through Notemy & got into Cambridg we stopt about eight acloke for thay say that the regerlers was got to Chalstown on to Bunkers hil & intrenstion we stopt about two miles back from the college

Thursday ye 20 this morning we had alarum about day we imbodied as son as posable & marcht into the comon we herd that the regrelers was gon to Boston we staid on the Comon a spel & then retreted back to the hils & exspected them out on us we herd severl small canons & one or two swevels from a tender we staid while ten or a leven aClok & then come down & got some refreshment & men come in very fast
Stevens’s idiosyncratic spelling probably gives a good sense of what he sounded like. It’s also clear that even then people had trouble spelling “Billerica.”

1 comment:

J. L. Bell said...

Here’s one more account of the long march of Captain Poor's company, from the journal of Lt. Benjamin Farnum:

“April 19, 1775. This day, the Mittel men of Colonel Frye’s regiment were Alarmed with the Nuse of the Troops marching from Boston to Concord, at which Nuse they marched very quick from Andover, and marched within about 5 miles of Concord, then meeting with the Nuse of their retreat for Boston again with which Nuse we turned our corse in order to catch them. We retreated that Day to Notme [Menotomy] but we could not come up with them. The nit coming on, we stopped; the next day we marched to Cambridge.”