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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Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Hunt for Reuben Brown’s Chaise

Reuben Brown rode from Concord to Lexington early on the morning of 19 Apr 1775, scouting the road at the request of his neighbors.

He arrived just in time to see the first shots on Lexington common, then turned around and rode back with news that the regulars were coming—and they were shooting.

Later that day, the British were preparing to withdraw from Concord, having suffered casualties and aware that militiamen were massing against them. Some officers looked for vehicles to carry wounded men—well, fellow officers—back to Boston. According to Lemuel Shattuck in 1835, “A chaise was taken from Reuben Brown, and another from John Beaton, which were furnished with bedding, pillaged as were many other articles from the neighbouring houses.”

Those officers didn’t make it. In a footnote Shattuck added that Joseph Hayward of Concord, a veteran of the previous war, “took these two chaises in Cambridge, and brought them to Concord, having killed a man in each.” That casualty count might be an exaggeration.

Another report appeared in the 24 Apr 1824 Concord Monitor: “Mr. Brown’s chaise was found a few days after in Lexington, with bullet holes through it, much stained with blood.”

We have more contemporaneous evidence about Brown’s chaise from an advertisement that appeared in the 17 Aug 1775 New-England Chronicle:
Lieut. Joseph Hayward of Concord gives Notice, that on the 19th April last, in the Fight, he took from the Regulars in Menotomy, a Horse and Chaise; the Chaise was owned by Mr. Reuben Brown of Concord; what remains in his Hands is a mouse-colour’d Horse, near 13 Hands high, old, poor and dull; a good Bed Quilt, Tammy on both Sides; a good camblet Ridinghood, brown colour; one Pillow; and a Piece of Bed-Tick. The Owner may have them by telling the Marks and paying the Charge of this Advertisement.
Yesterday I posited that Lt. Edward Thoroton Gould and Lt. Edward Hull were together in one of those chaises. Soon people in Boston knew that they had been captured.

However, the British commanders didn’t know the fate of an officer in the other chaise until days later. That officer had apparently been taken back to Concord and turned over to…Reuben Brown.

TOMORROW: The lieutenant at Mr. Brown’s house.

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