Archives for February 2014

PC Crap: Adding Insult to Injury – Part One

Welcome to Munroe Tavern, the sign says, ‘Museum of the British Redcoats and Munroe Family Home.” Hold on one cotton-pickin’ minute there hoss!

Are we talking about THE Munroe Tavern, here?

A little backstory, please.

On April 19th, 1775, Munroe Tavern was owned and operated by Will Munroe. Sgt Will served as second in command on Lexington Green that morning. Will was the great-grandson of another William Munroe, who was brought to the New World in chains as a Scottish prisoner of war. Once he worked off his slave sentence, he moved to what became Lexington and did quite well for himself and his progeny. Even so, knowing the Scots as I do, there was sure to be leftover animus against the “English.”

And, in 1775, there was additional reason for this Scots family to dislike – dare I say – hate all things Redcoat. As the Redcoat Army swept back through Lexington, they were burning and looting as they went. When they finally met up with Percy and their reinforcements, they commandeered the tavern as a temporary field hospital.

Will Munroe had left his crippled handyman, John Raymond, in charge of the Tavern as he went off to fight. When the tavern was taken over, Will’s wife and three young children  – ages seven, four and two – fled to the woods. John was forced to serve the Redcoats under penalty of harm. When things began getting out of hand, with shots fired in the tavern and things broken by out-of-sorts Redcoats, John tried to make his escape. He was shot in the back as Anna and the children watched from the woods.

Before leaving the tavern, the Redcoats set fire to the place. Luckily, someone was there quick enough to put the fire out and save the tavern from the same fate as the neighbors’ properties.

In the next post, I’ll tell you the rest of the unbelievable story.  Will Munroe might be spinning in his grave.

Part Two


Scene One – Go! having been stuck in the research rabbit-hole for a very long time, I have written scene one of the book.  My writer’s group kicked me in the fanny last night and I knew it was time.

Do I have all the research I need?  Well, I don’t have all I need to finish, but I have all I need to start.  And so it started, over dinner, on Tuesday, April 18th, 1775.

No talk of rebellion at the table though.  Mother wouldn’t have it.  So it was a fairly quiet meal, the family lost in their own thoughts.   They knew they were on the precipice.  But, they couldn’t know what would come in a few short hours.

In a few hours, word would arrive that there were Redcoat patrols out.  In a few more, Revere and Dawes would ride in and the alarm bell would be sounded.

Few would sleep that night.  For some, that bell would ring for the last time.

And so it begins.

Harry Gould – Concord

9C Harry GouldMistakes happen.  This card is wrong.

On the morning of April 19th, Harry Gould was just eighteen. However,  he was not from Lexington, but from Concord.  And he didn’t muster on Lexington Green but in Concord.

History reports that Harry was “panic struck at the first sound of the British drums.”  We also know that, as the Redcoat Army approached Concord, the early morning sun glinted ominously on the British Bayonets.

As a side note, the movie “April Morning” does an amazing job of portraying the sound of the drums.  I had never given the noise much thought, thinking that the whole music-to-make-war-by thing was rather silly.  Then I watched that movie.  The sound of the drums was overwhelmingly loud.  Scary loud.  I can imagine this young man being terrified by the sound.

Let’s also remember that blood had already been shed that morning.  The Concord Militia and those gathered there knew that things had gone south in Lexington.  They were likely still hoping to not have further bloodshed, but they also were aware that this might be impossible now.

So, as they watched the eight hundred Redcoat soldiers approach, the sights and sounds incredibly frightful, thirty-two year old Reverend William Emerson (Grandfather of Ralph Waldo Emerson) moved quietly among the American soldiers, encouraging them.  Like his counterpart in Lexington, Reverend Jonas Clarke, he had been preparing his congregation for this day.  They had taught them about Liberty and Tyranny and the just cause of standing in the face of evil.

“Stand your ground, Harry, your cause is just and God will bless you,” Emerson told him.

They stood their ground.  Their cause was just.  And God did bless them.

Creating Historical Characters does a fiction writer create characters?  Well, we make them up.  I have a certain way of creating characters by playing “what if” with plot elements and character traits.  For example, what would it take to make a man lie when he’s honest to the core?  Or betray his friend when loyalty is his hallmark?

But here I am, working on characters for this novel that are people who really lived.  Now, granted, some of our historical figures are pretty fully drawn from chronicled sources, from the documents and letters they wrote and from the actions they took.  We know a bit about Paul Revere.  We know even more about Samuel Adams and John Hancock.  They’re already “living characters” that can be simply dropped into the actions of April 19th.  We have much of what they said and wrote about that day.

For example, we know that, when Paul Revere arrived at the Clarke House to warn Adams and Hancock, he was stopped in the front yard by Will Munroe who told him that the family had retired and to not make so much noise.  Revere replied “Noise? You’ll have noise enough before long.”

But how do we “create” characters like Ruth Harrington?  The only thing we know about her is that her husband died in her arms on her front steps.  Or what about Nathaniel Mulliken or Samuel Prescott?  We know enough to know these people were heroes.  But we don’t know what foods they liked, what silly habits they had.  We don’t know their fears, their passions.  And so, we have to make some universal assumptions.

My commitment in this project is to do my best to portray these people accurately, to do them honor.  They deserve that.


Doctoring in 1775

Doctoring in 1775 was at the beginning of a crossroads that would take it from the apprentice model to the med school model.  The first medical school in America was started in Philadelphia in 1768.  Two years later another opened in New York. These schools only took a handful of students each year.  The programs were ten years in length and, when finished, the ne doctor would have a lot of book knowledge and theory but would never have seen an actual patient.

The vast majority of doctors in 1775 and especially outside of Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Charleston, learned their doctoring skills in a seven year apprenticeship program.  They would have learned about some herbs, about leeches, about “bleeding” your patient, and very little about cleanliness.

Moms were the doctors in the family.  They rarely called a doctor.  And babies were born with midwives, not doctors.  As a matter of fact, midwives could have taught doctors a great deal about cleanliness though no one at the time had heard about germs and infection.

During the Revolutionary war, generally every unit had it’s own surgeon.  Surgery was itself in it’s infancy but knowledge and practice grew immensely with all the experience surgeons got during the war.  Before the war, the common surgical practice did not include any cutting into the patient as it nearly always ended badly.  They mostly dressed wounds and hoped for the best.  Amputations were rare.  That all changed during the war.

The unit surgeon was also responsible for treating the illnesses that plagued the troops:  dysentery, fever, and smallpox.  The major cause for disease in the camps, of course, was the unsanitary conditions.  And as the war went on, doctors learned a great deal about how to combat these.

The two doctors names that we’ll hear most often in connection with April 19th are Dr. Joseph Warren, who was responsible for sending out Revere and Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott who was the messenger that actually made it to Concord to warn of the impending Redcoat attack.  More on each of these amazing men is to come in future blog posts.  Just a quick note on Dr. Prescott.  He was twenty-four years old on April 19th.  He had not only completed his apprenticeship under his father in Concord, but already had an established practice.

By the way, in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed by four doctors.

  • Josiah Bartlett of New Hampshire
  • Lyman Hall of Georgia
  • Benjamin Rush of Pennsylvania
  • Matthew Thornton of New Hampshire


Captain David Brown – Concord

4S Capt David Brown

Captain David Brown was the leader of the Concord Minutemen.  He had trained and drilled his company (about forty men) within sight of the North Bridge.  His home was very nearby.

Captain Brown and his wife Abigail Munroe (no doubt related to Will Munroe of Munroe Tavern, Lexington) had nine children on April 19th, the youngest was two.  They would have another child in ’76.

When they were gathered on Punkatasset Hill, overlooking the North Bridge, Brown’s men had taken up their position on the left of the front line.  This arrangement would have put Isaac Davis and his Minute Men in the rear as the line went down the hill.

Colonel Barrett asked Captain Brown if he would lead the attack.  Brown said he would rather not.  So Barrett asked the same question of Captain Isaac Davis.  His response rings in history:  “I have not a man who is afraid to go.”

Now, to be fair, Davis’s company was better equipped than Brown’s.  Each of Davis’s men had a bayonet affixed to his musket.  They were exceptionally well trained.  And we won’t ever know why Brown hesitated.  But  knowing how the charge turned out for Captain Davis, is it any wonder that Brown was never able to cross that bridge again without thinking of that day?  (See In a Nutshell)

Captain Brown went on from that day to lead an exemplary career in the Continental Army.  As a member of the Committee of Correspondence for Concord, he was a delegate to the state conventions in ’79.  He ran for state senate in ’89 but lost the election.  He is buried in the Old Hill Burying Ground Cemetery next to two of his sons.  His home, that witnessed the days events was torn down in 1865.  




Colonial Valentines…’s Valentine’s Day and so I thought I’d tell you a bit more about the falling-in-love traditions of the Puritans of 1775 Lexington and Concord.  (Here’s the link to the earlier article on Puritan Weddings.)

In some cultures, even in the 18th Century, arranged marriages were the norm.  Parents selected the spouse for their child and the bride and groom had little input in the matter.  Sometimes it was about position.  Sometimes it was about land.  Sometimes it was about who would pay the most to wed the bride.  Very romantic.

But the Puritans believed in marrying for love.  They had elaborate courting rituals that resemble some that the Amish still practice today.  (Note:  the Puritans are not the Amish and the Amish are not Puritans)

Once the “kids” had reached the courting point in the relationship, it was up to the parents to supervise while still making sure that the kids had enough privacy to get to know each other and to have an opportunity to find out if love was in the mix.   The practice of bundling was quite common.   This was the practice of the two people spending the night in bed together with a board between them.  Ideally, this practice would allow them to build one type of intimacy but would preclude physical intimacy.

The Puritans did not believe in sex outside of marriage.  But one detail I found interesting is that the “engagement” or “coming out” ceremony was the line in the sand.  It was not unusual at all for the bride to be pregnant when the actual marriage contract was signed.   But pregnancy outside of the engagement was looked upon badly.

The normal age for marriage surprised me as well.  Most of the “kids” got married in the early to mid-twenties.  The groom would want to have established some way of supporting his soon coming family.  The vast majority of young people did marry.  It was unusual for someone to remain single.

So, marrying for love.  I like that.

Early American Sniper

Most of the Colonial Militia Men and Minute Men carried muskets.  But there were rifle companies in the Revolutionary War that carried what became known as the Kentucky Rifle.  Here’s a quick little video that I found interesting.

Moonlight and Messengers

When Paul Revere and two cohorts rowed across the Charles River from Boston to Charleston to begin his infamous “midnight ride,”  there were a few very tense moments.  It was just after ten o’clock on the night of April 18th, 1775 and Revere was dispatched by Dr. Warren to ride to Lexington to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that the Redcoats were headed that way.  Then he would go on to Concord, further spreading the word.

But before he could mount up on Deacon Larkin’s horse for this ride, he had to make it across to Charleston.  The moon was full that night and Revere later described the scene.  He said the little rowboat would have been clearly visible in the moonlight.

Between the Boston and Charleston was moored the H.M.S. Somerset.  It was a huge hulk of war ship, with sixty-four guns and a crew of four hundred.  As they quietly but quickly rowed past, moon bright in the night sky, they knew that if anyone looked out from the ship, they would be seen and their mission would fail.  Their lives might well be forfeit as well.

Here’s how Henry Wadsworth Longfellow described the Somerset in the less-than-accurate “Paul Revere’s Ride’’

“a phantom ship, with each mast and spar

Across the moon like a prison bar

And a huge black hulk, that was magnified

By its own reflection in the tide.”

As the little boat drew near, though, the ship turned slightly and, as if Providence were protecting them, the shadow from the huge hulking mass actually hid them from sight as they crossed.

As if Providence were protecting them….

Amos Wright – Concord

3C Amos WrightAmos Wright, though not the owner of the tavern, was the proprietor of the Concord tavern.  From 2 a.m. on, when the alert was sounded by Samuel Prescott, the tavern was buys.  First, it was the gathering place for the Militia and Minutemen from Concord.  Later, Redcoat Colonel Smith and his men reconvened after exchanging shots with the Militia at the North Bridge.

At this point, Smith’s forces are in disarray and disbelief.  When the Militia got serious about the fight, after Captain Isaac Davis was killed, they were careful to aim for officers.

It is said that, when the short flurry of fighting ended at the bridge, almost half of the Redcoat officers were dead.  Unlike the American soldiers, who have always been able to act independently of orders if need be, the Redcoat soldiers were rather lost without someone telling them what to do next.

Enter Amos Wright and Wright Tavern. 

Smith and Pitcairn are in foul moods and their men are confused, hungry and shocked at the way the day has gone.  So Smith takes them to the tavern to feed them and tend their injuries as best he can.  Legends tell the story of drink being brought to an angry Pitcairn without a spoon to stir. He used his bloodied finger to stir and exclaimed in no uncertain terms his desire to spill Colonial blood.  The rest of the day bears out this apparent desire on Pitcairn’s part.

It must have been with trembling hands that Amos and his family served these Redcoats.  They were not just enemy soldiers.  They were soldiers who were now out for blood.  While those at Wright Tavern would not fare too badly, the same cannot be said of those at Munroe Tavern later in Lexington.