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 18, 2009

Lt. Edward Thoroton Gould: wounded and captured

Among the accounts of the action at Lexington and Concord on 19 Apr 1775 collected by the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, one of the most interesting came from Edward Thoroton Gould—lieutenant in His Majesty’s 4th Regiment of Foot.

Gould had been born at Huntington, England, and baptized on 29 Oct 1747. He bought an ensign’s commission in the 4th Regiment in February 1767, and a lieutenant’s in November 1771. In 1775 he was an officer in the 4th’s light-infantry company, and thus part of the detachment ordered to march to Concord. Gould was one of the British officers involved in the exchange of fire at the North Bridge (shown here, in a photograph by Richard Hollister, courtesy of the National Park Service).

The lieutenant gave the following deposition on 25 Apr 1775:

I, Edward Thoroton Gould, of his majesty’s own regiment of foot, being of lawful age, do testify and declare, that, on the evening of the 18th instant, under the orders of General [Thomas] Gage, I embarked with the light infantry and grenadiers of the line, commanded by Colonel [Francis] Smith, and landed on the marshes of Cambridge, from whence we proceeded to Lexington.

On our arrival at that place, we saw a body of provincial troops, armed, to the number of about sixty or seventy men. On our approach, they dispersed, and soon after firing began, but which party fired first I can not exactly say, as our troops rushed on shouting and huzzaing previous to the firing, which was continued by our troops so long as any of the provincials were to be seen.

From thence we marched to Concord. On a hill, near the entrance of the town, we saw another body of provincials assembled: the light-infantry companies were ordered up the hill to disperse them; on our approach, they retreated toward Concord.

The grenadiers continued the road under the hill toward the town. Six companies of light infantry were ordered down to take possession of the bridge which the provincials retreated over; the company I commanded was one. Three companies of the above detachment went forward about two miles [to Barrett’s farm].

In the meantime, the provincial troops returned, to the number of about three or four hundred. We drew up on the Concord side of the bridge; the provincials came down upon us, upon which we engaged and gave the first fire. This was the first engagement after the one at Lexington. A continued firing from both parties lasted through the whole day.
Gould didn’t echo other British officers in insisting that provincials had fired the first shots on Lexington common, or even before. But being a prisoner of war probably had something to do with that. As his deposition concludes: “I myself was wounded at the attack of the bridge [in Concord], and am now treated with the greatest humanity, and taken all possible care of by the provincials at Medford.”

Another lieutenant in the 4th Regiment, Lt. W. Glanville Evelyn, wrote home to his father: “Poor little Gould received a wound a little above his heel, and going home before the division, was intercepted, and is detained among them; but we hear that they do not use him ill, and that he is attended by a surgeon.”

After being wounded in the shooting at Concord’s North Bridge, Gould had apparently commandeered a chaise and rode back to Boston on his own (or at least with only one soldier as a driver). East of Lexington, he met Col. Percy and his reinforcement column. Percy wrote the next day that the lieutenant “informed me that the Grens & L I had been attacked by the rebels about daybreak, & were retiring, having expended most of their ammunition.” Percy continued west, and Gould continued east—but was captured in “the place called Monottama”—Menotomy, or Arlington.

Gould was probably a demanding but rewarding prisoner. Historian Richard P. Frothingham later wrote (without citing a source): “He had a fortune of £1900 a year, and is said to have offered £2000 for his ransom.” In the end the lieutenant’s price was Josiah Breed of Lynn (1731-1790); the two captives were exchanged on 22 May, according to another lieutenant in the 4th, John Barker.

At the end of that month, the Public Advertiser of London printed Lt. Gould’s deposition, along with the other material sent over by the Provincial Congress. It surely didn’t help his army career.

TOMORROW: Edward Thoroton Gould testifies about Lexington and Concord again—but this time in London.

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