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, November 09, 2019

The Road to Concord Leads on to Townsend

Tomorrow afternoon I’ll speak about The Road to Concord to the Townsend Historical Society.

According to Ithamar B. Sawtelle’s History of the Town of Townsend, Middlesex County, Massachusetts (1878), in that town “The alarm to the minute-men was given on the 19th of April, 1775, by the firing of a cannon on the common about three o’clock in the afternoon.”

In that same paragraph Sawtelle went on to quote what Ephraim Warren (1731-1812) reportedly said to his wife as he rode off to Concord, and to describe what he saw there on 20 April: “a few dead bodies and some wounded British soldiers.” That suggests Sawtelle’s information about the cannon came from the Warren family tradition.

If that story is accurate, and there was indeed a cannon on Townsend common in 1775, it was probably left over from the decades when the town was near the frontier of British settlement and vulnerable to raids by French and Indian forces. I didn’t find mentions of Townsend acquiring cannon in 1774 or 1775 while researching The Road to Concord.

Nonetheless, the fact that even a small Massachusetts town had such a weapon, and men trained to use it, is a big part of the book. In my talk I’ll discuss the conflict over provincial artillery and how it led to the fighting in Concord, and thus to that cannon shot in Townsend.

The Townsend Historical Society will meet on the second floor of the Townsend Town Hall, 272 Main Street. This event is free and open to the public. Parking is behind the building. There will be a twenty-minute business meeting at 2:00 P.M., and I’ll speak when that is over. Afterwards I’ll welcome questions, talk about local history, and sell and sign books.

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