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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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

“The Road to Concord” Runs through Lancaster, 6 Feb.

Soon after the “Powder Alarm” of 2 September 1774, Massachusetts towns began to look into their military resources. Among those towns was Lancaster, in the center of the province.

It might seem surprising that a farm town of only 328 families and 1,999 people (in 1765) would need military resources. Lancaster didn’t even have a police force. But the colonial militia system spread out the responsibility for defending society with arms. And Gen. Thomas Gage’s seizure of gunpowder in Charlestown (though within his legal powers as royal governor) made New England Whigs want to strengthen their militia to fend off further moves.

On 5 September, the Lancaster town meeting voted to “raise fifty pounds, for to buy ammunition with, to be a town stock.” Later that month the town decided to “buy one field piece for the use of the town.” On 28 September, at the same meeting in which the townspeople agreed to send a delegate to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, they raised their cannon order to “two field pieces instead of one.” And when Yankees agreed to spend money, they were serious.

By December, those guns must have arrived because Lancaster authorized a further expenditure: “to buy 5 hundred wt. of ball suitable for the field pieces.” Along with some Worcester County neighbors, the town was preparing to go to war. Lancaster was thus part of the movement I explore in The Road to Concord: How Four Stolen Cannon Ignited the Revolutionary War.

I’ll tell stories from that book and answer questions about how I came to write it on Monday, 6 February, at the Thayer Memorial Library at 717 Main Street in Lancaster. That event is scheduled to start at 6:30 P.M. It’s sponsored by the Seven Bridge Writers’ Collaborative speakers series, free to anyone who wants to attend.

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