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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Saturday, April 24, 2021

Concord “fit for ENCAMPMENTS”

When Capt. William Brown and Ens. Henry DeBerniere first ventured out into the Massachusetts countryside in civilian clothes, from 23 February to 2 March 1775, their focus was Worcester.

Gen. Thomas Gage’s spy on the provincial congress’s committee of safety and supplies, Dr. Benjamin Church, had told him that the Patriots were collecting most of their cannon in Worcester.

Brown and DeBerniere confirmed that. They also confirmed that the people of Middlesex and Worcester Counties were on high alert, with multiple people suspecting correctly that they were army spies.

During that first trip the officers also visited Weston, Framingham, and Marlborough. It wasn’t until their next scouting mission starting on 20 March that they visited Concord. That was after some local person started sending Gen. Gage secret messages about James Barrett gathering cannon for the congress in that town, as I relate in The Road to Concord.

Because Concord is such a prominent feature on the hand-drawn map from the Library of Congress collection that I’ve been discussing, DeBerniere must have drawn it after the second foray.

The map is also notable for what its text says about Concord, as shown above:
This Town is well Inhabited and on an entire plain

a Shire Town and great thorough-fare, the roads wide and fit for
ENCAMPMENTS
That label indicates that some officers in the British army in Boston were thinking about occupying Concord for at least one night.

In the end, of course, Gage decided on a one-day expedition, in and out, using a road not on this map.

TOMORROW: Ens. DeBerniere’s second visit to Concord.

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