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, July 31, 2010

“Thus All the Stores Were Effectually Concealed”

The journalist J. Benson Lossing came through Massachusetts in 1848 on an assignment for Harper’s Magazine. He was dogged in looking for elderly survivors of the American Revolution and setting down their stories. On the other hand, he had a tendency to print legends without apparently inquiring too deeply into them.

Among the people Lossing interviewed during his visit to Concord was James Barrett (1761-1850), namesake descendant of the colonel in charge of the town’s militia regiment at the start of the war. Lossing reported:

We rode to the residence of Major James Barrett, a surviving grandson of Colonel Barrett, about two miles north of the village, and near the residence of his venerated ancestor. Major Barrett was eighty-seven years of age when I visited him, and his wife, with whom he had lived nearly sixty years, was eighty. . . .

Major Barrett was a lad of fourteen when the British incursion into Concord took place. He was too young to bear a musket, but, with every lad and woman in the vicinity, he labored in concealing the stores and in making cartridges for those who went out to fight.

With oxen and cart, himself, and others about his age, removed the stores deposited at the house of his grandfather into the woods, and concealed them, a cart-load in a place, under pine boughs. In such haste were they obliged to act on the approach of the British from Lexington that, when the cart was loaded, the lads would march on each side of the oxen and goad them into a trot.

Thus all the stores were effectually concealed, except some carriage-wheels. Perceiving the enemy near, these were cut up and burned; so that [Capt. Lawrence] Parsons found nothing of value [at Col. Barrett’s farm] to destroy or carry away.
I suspect the engraving above was inspired by that anecdote. And I think Barrett’s story is credible. It fits with other evidence we have, doesn’t claim too much, and captures the excitement of 18-19 Apr 1775 and the energy of adolescent boys eager to help.

Today at Col. Barrett’s farm I’m talking about the weapons stored there in April 1775, including four cannons hauled away to a hiding-place, perhaps by his grandsons.


Anonymous said...

Well done, Mr. Bell, at the Barrett house in Concord. Your tales of cannon hidings and transport provided some intriguing history. Didn't realize how independent minded the residents outside Boston were.

Anonymous said...

Well done, Mr. Bell, as to comments at the Barrett house in Concord. Now we know how the cannon pieces arrived. I didn't realize how independent the folls were in the coungtryside outside Boston.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bell, I've been wondering about a snippet in David Hackett Fischer's Paul Revere's Ride: On page 230 it says that Joshua Simonds found a wounded British fifer along Battle Road, who had been separated from his company, and had sustained an ugly chest wound. It also says the boy was brought to an American farmhouse and died a few days later. The citation for this is “Simonds, The Affair in the Lexington Meetinghouse.”

Now, I’m having a hard time locating this source. I read your great posting from ‘06 about Simonds. I thought his bravery was cunning and well-documented enough to be duly remembered. I also read the Eli Simonds's account in “Beneath Old Roof Trees.” But nothing is said about Joshua Simonds finding a British fifer. On page 40 of that book a small detail is made of a fifer under Pitcairn during the retreat from Concord, who was wounded by the Provincials, but no connection is made to Simonds in this passage.

In the Official Returns by Gen. Gage of the battles noted in Paul Revere’s Ride the category of fifers and drummers lists one wounded and one killed. There is no mention of a soldier missing from the fifers and drummers of the British force, which does not account for Simonds's fifer (if the story is true).

So, what is your take on this? And do you know where to locate "The Affair in the Lexington Meetinghouse?"

J. L. Bell said...

That detail from Paul Revere’s Ride has caught my eye as well because I’m interested in young people’s experiences in the Revolution. Aside from the mention of the incident in Beneath Old Roof Trees, I haven’t found any other version of the story.

It’s possible this boy was the musician listed as killed in British reports, and the tradition Brown recorded in Roof Trees simply left out the awkward part of the story when he died.

Simonds was in charge of some prisoners, according to William Munroe’s 1825 deposition. But I don’t know of a publication or manuscript from Simonds called “The Affair in the Lexington Meetinghouse.”

J. L. Bell said...

WorldCat lists Joshua Simonds as an author of something in the “American Revolution collection: accounts of battle, 1775-1898 and undated” at the Lexington Historical Society. That may offer more clues.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mr. Bell! I’ll be look further into your suggestions.