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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Monday, September 19, 2011

“Like tearing from us our ‘household gods’”

Jari Backman’s comment on this post led me to look up the death notice of William Munroe, an important figure in the events in Lexington on 18-19 Apr 1775. This is how his obituary appeared in the 15 Nov 1827 Pittsfield Sun, undoubtedly reprinted from a newspaper closer to Lexington and also reprinted elsewhere.
Death of another Revolutionary Hero

Died, at Lexington, on Monday the 29th ult [i.e., of last month], Col. WILLIAM MUNROE, aged 86 — Col. M. was orderly sergeant in the battle of Lexington, April 19, 1775, the commencement of the revolutionary war.—

On the night of the 18th previous, when several British officers were seen proceeding on horseback towards the town, with the supposed intention of arresting John Hancock and Samuel Adams, Col. M. commanded the sergeant’s guard, stationed for their protection at the house where those proscribed patriots were resident in Lexington. On the receipt of intelligence that 800 British troops were secretly marching the same route, Messrs. Hancock and Adams were persuaded to retire to Woburn, and Col. M. with his party joined the Lexington company, who were immediately after attacked, before sunrise of the 19th, by the whole British force, and about 20 of the Lexington militia killed or wounded.—

The company were ordered by their commander to disperse; and the British troops proceeded to Concord, where they destroyed the provincial stores. Their triumph, however, was of short continuance; the British guard of 100 men, stationed about a mile beyond Concord village, at the North Bridge, were attacked by the militia of Concord and the neighboring towns, and forced to retire upon their main body, leaving two killed, and the same number wounded. About two hours afterward, when the British commenced their return march to Boston, they were again assaulted by the militia until they arrived at Lexington, where they were waylaid and harassed by the Lexington company, and would probably soon have been forced to surrender, had they not been reinforced by Lord Percy’s brigade of 1500 men.—

They were, however, beaten back to Boston. Col. M. participated with his company in the events of the day, leaving the care of his public house [shown above] in the superintendance of a neighbor, whom the British killed on their retreat.

Till within a year or two past, like Cincinnatus, Col. M. labored on his farm.—On the occasion of the visit of Lafayette to Lexington, three years since, arm in arm these aged veterans reconnoitered the field of battle, previous to the delivery of the address to Lafayette from the Lexington committee; and he assisted at the laying the foundation stone of the Bunker Hill Monument on the 17th June 1825.

Col. M. has been ever esteemed by his fellow townsmen as well as by strangers, for his urbanity of manners and hospitality. As a member of the Legislature and in municipal stations, he was respected for information, judgement and rectitude; and as a military officer, from a subaltern to a colonel, to which grade he rose, he was distinguished as an able tactician.

It is productive of a melancholy and heartfelt sensation, to follow to the grave “the house appointed for all the living,” one after another, those vast vestiges of “the times that tried men’s souls.” It seems like tearing from us our “household gods;” like removing the “ancient landmarks” of our nation’s birth; the objects of all that is venerable and sacred, till scarcely one is left to tell the tale of revolutionary prowess. But the consolation is, that they are gathered “like a shock of corn fully ripe,” blessed with the grateful recollections of their enfranchised countrymen, full of honors and good works, to a better and happier state of existence.

His funeral was attended by a large concourse of relations and friends.
This notice was imperfectly copied on Munroe’s Wikipedia page. That page also said it appeared in an 1820 issue of the American Mercury newspaper, where some of the errors might have first appeared, but that date is seven years too early. (If I remember how, I’ll correct the Wikipedia page soon.)


Jari Backman said...

What a great continuance, J.L.

And here we have some more as the year 1827 proved to be the right key word:

On page 158 of Charles Hudson's book by the long name Munroe family (William Munroe), taken from History of the town of Lexington, Mass (abridged copy) printed in 1868 lists birth and death dates of William Munro and his family members. They agree almost fully with J.P. Monroes book on p. 59. The second child Anna was 18 and not 19. Very likely all info comes from Hudson's book as it is mentioned also in Monroe's notes.

Icing on the cake is the litograph of William Monroe on the following page, 159, in the Hudson book.

I'll be also making corrections elsewhere in the Wikipedia page.

J. L. Bell said...

Yes, it’s always useful to look for where an author collected his or her information because what appears to be a confirmation of a previous book might in fact be just a repetition of that book’s information with no further research.

Thanks for the image of Munroe as a distinguished older man!