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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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Amos Baker at the Bridge

On 22 Apr 1850, three days after the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, justice of the peace Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar took down the memories of a nonagenarian veteran named Amos Baker.

Baker was thought to be “the sole survivor of the men who were present at the North Bridge at Concord,…and the only man living who bore arms on that day.”

Hoar wrote out an affidavit that said:
I, Amos Baker, of Lincoln, in the County of Middlesex, and Commonwealth of Massachusetts, on oath depose and say that I was ninety-four years old on the eighth day of April, 1850; I was at Concord Fight on the nineteenth of April, 1775; I was then nineteen years and eleven days old.

My brother Nathaniel, who was then paying his addresses to the girl whom he afterwards married, was at the house where she was staying, near the line between Lexington and Lincoln, and received the alarm there from Dr. Samuel Prescott, and came over and gave it to me. My father and my four brothers, Jacob, Nathaniel, James, and Samuel, and my brother in law, Daniel Hosmer, were in arms at the North Bridge. After the fight at the bridge, I saw nothing more of them, and did not know whether they were alive or dead, until I found two of my brothers engaged in the pursuit near Lexington meeting house. Nathaniel followed the enemy to Charlestown.

When I went to Concord in the morning, I joined the Lincoln company at the brook by Flint’s pond, near the house then of Zachary Smith, and now of Jonas Smith. I loaded my gun with two balls,—ounce balls, and powder accordingly. I saw the British troops coming up the road that leads on to the Common at Concord. The sun shone very bright on their bayonets and guns.

Abijah Pierce of Lincoln, the Colonel of the minute men, went up armed with nothing but a cane.

When we were going to march down to the bridge, it was mentioned between Major [John] Buttrick, and Capt. Isaac Davis, that the minute men had better be put in front, because they were the only men that had bayonets, and it was not certain whether the British would fire, or whether they would charge bayonets without firing. I do not remember which of them said it, but they both agreed to it; and Captain Davis’s company of minute men [from Acton] was then brought up on the right. Then they saw the smoke of the town house, and, I think, Major Buttrick said “Will you stand here and let them burn the town down?”
Local historian Josiah Adams noted that other witnesses were more certain in ascribing these words to adjutant Joseph Hosmer.

That smoke having roused the officers, Baker said, “the order was given to march, and we all marched down without any further order or arrangement.”

TOMORROW: “Firing jackknives”?

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