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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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

“They let him pass without firing a single shot”

Yesterday we left the Middlesex County militia in uncontested control of the North Bridge over the Concord River. There were three dead or dying British privates on the ground, and three companies of British light infantrymen hightailing it back to the comrades in the center of Concord.

In making that advance, the militiamen had also cut off four companies of British soldiers searching for weapons at militia colonel James Barrett’s farm from the rest of their expedition. The provincials had watched those regulars cross the bridge and go over the hills toward their commander’s homestead.

So what did the militia commanders do? Barrett pulled his older companies back to the west side of the bridge and up the hill to the field where they usually trained. The minute companies took a secure position behind a stone wall closer to the town center, and waited for the British response.

At the first word of trouble, Lt. Col. Francis Smith marched two companies of British grenadiers toward the bridge, meeting his fleeing light infrantrymen along the way. He saw where the provincials were stationed. And after ten minutes he turned the grenadiers around and headed back to his main force.

Which still left the four companies up at Barrett’s farm. When those regulars had finished their search, Capt. Lawrence Parsons led them back toward the river, not knowing what had happened at the bridge.

And then they crossed the river and proceeded into town. They were stopped only by the sight of a comrade whose skull had been tomahawked. Obviously, there had been a fight at the bridge, and Parsons no doubt wondered where his rearguard companies had gone to. But he encountered no resistance from the Middlesex men on both sides of the river.

As Ens. Jeremy Lister wrote:

tho. there was a large Body of Rebels drawn up upon the hill we had left when we retired to Concord Bridge yet they let him pass without firing a single shot, tho they might undoubtedly have cut his 2 [sic] Compys. off to a Man.
TOMORROW: Why did the Concord militia hold back?


Peter Fisk said...

J.L., do you happen to have a link to a good close-up map of the Concord action? This map is somewhat useful, but a map with more detail of the Concord action would be even better. If I find one, I'll post the link.

J. L. Bell said...

I pull out my copy of Fischer’s Paul Revere’s Ride for its maps. The preview of that book on Google Books sometimes shows a map, but not the one focused on the North Bridge.

John L. Smith said...

I really like and appreciate this daily series! I look forward to coming to the Lexington event April 18-19! Thank you, J.L.!