Archives for April 2017

Visiting with a Wounded Redcoat

In my last post, I shared the story of Mrs. Butterfield – who returned home to Menotomy, after fleeing the Redcoat march to Concord, to find that a wounded patriot and a wounded redcoat were both in a single bed in one of the rooms of her home. 

“While receiving the best of care at the Butterfield home, he (the Redcoat) was visited by Rev. Dr. McClure, a prominent clergyman, who kept a journal, a fragment of which has come to light, and is of great interest, not only to the people of Menotomy, but to all interested in the events of that time.

FRAGMENT OF DIARY.

soldier-1939367_640. . . that it was flattened on one side by the ribs as if it had been beaten with a hammer. He was a plain, honest man, to appearance, who had voluntarily turned out with his musket at the alarm of danger, as did also some thousands besides, on that memorable day. [Doubtless Mr. Hemenway of Framingham.] In the same room lay mortally wounded a British officer, Lieutenant Hull, of a youthful, fair, and delicate countenance. He was of a respectable family of fortune in Scotland. Sitting on one feather-bed, he leaned on another, and was attempting to suck the juice of an orange which some neighbor had brought. The physician of the place had been to dress his wounds, and a woman was appointed to attend him.
      "I observed that he had no shirt on, and was wrapt in a coating great-coat, with a fur cap on his head. I inquired of the woman why he was thus destitute of clothing. He answered, 'When I fell, our people [the British] stripped me of my coat, vest, and shirt, and your people of my shoes and buckles.' How inhuman! his own men! I asked him if he was dangerously wounded. He replied, 'Yes, mortally;" that he had received three balls in his body. His countenance expressed great bodily anguish. I conversed with him a short time on the prospect of death, and a preparation for the solemn scene; to which he appeared to pay serious attention. He lived about a week; and the people conveyed his body in a coffin to Charlestown ferry, where I happened to be present, and a barge from the Somerset took it to Boston.
      "Not far from this house lay four fine British horses; the people were taking off their shoes. One informed me that a wagon loaded with provisions was sent from Boston for the refreshment of the retreating army, under an escort of six grenadiers. They had got as far as this place, when a number of men (ten or twelve) collected, and ordered them to surrender. They marched on, and our men fired, killed the driver and the horses; when the rest fled a little way and surrendered.
      "Another wagon sent on the same business was also taken that day. It was strange that General Gage should send them through a country in which he had just kindled the flames of war, in so defenceless a condition. Saw three regulars in beds in a house in Cambridge; one of them mortally wounded. Conversed with them on their melancholy situation. One of them refused to answer, and cast upon me a revengeful look. Perhaps he was a Papist, and his priest had pardoned his sins. The houses on the road of the march of the British were all perforated with balls, and the windows broken. Horses, cattle, and swine lay dead around. Such were the dreadful trophies of war for about twenty miles.”

 

Taken from Beneath Old Roof Trees, 1896, by Abram English Brown

Mrs. Butterfield of Menotomy

5D Mrs ButterfieldAs you may know, the worst of the fighting on April 19th, was in the towns of Menotomy (current day Arlington, MA) and Camden.  Here is where we find Mrs. Butterfield. 

 "In the confused companies of the British when on their retreat, was seen a horse and chaise in which was being carried one of their officers, who proved to be Lieutenant Edward Hull of the British Forty-third Regiment. He was wounded at North Bridge, and was being conveyed back to Boston. The horse was not so swift as the men; and, falling in the rear, the officer received a second wound. It was near the Samuel Butterfield dwelling, and he was carried into the house vacated by the affrighted family.

Upon the return of the lady of the house, she found her rooms occupied. There was a wounded Provincial, besides Lieutenant Hull. They were both in one room, each having been placed upon a bed by their respective comrades. How much interchange of sympathy there was we do not know, but Mrs. Butterfield could not withhold her sympathetic attention from both. She ministered to friend and foe alike; saw the former recover, and return to his family at Framingham. But notwithstanding the care of the good woman, together with that of nurses, and supplies sent out from Boston with a flag of truce, the young officer died in about two weeks; and, according to the Salem Gazette of May 5, 1775, 'His remains were next day conveyed to Charlestown, attended by a company of Provincials and several officers of distinction, and there delivered to the order of General Gage.'"

      He was the first British officer who lost his life in the war, and was probably buried on Copps Hill.
      While receiving the best of care at the Butterfield home, he was visited by Rev. Dr. McClure, a prominent clergyman, who kept a journal, a fragment of which has come to light, and is of great interest, not only to the people of Menotomy, but to all interested in the events of that time.

In the next post here on Revive1775, we’ll peek into Rev. McClure’s diary. 

Taken from Beneath Old Roof Trees, 1896, by Abram English Brown

The Aftermath of April 19th, 1775

In his book Paul Revere’s Ride, David Hackett Fischer starts his chapter on the aftermath of April 19th this way:  “It was nearly dark when Lord Percy’s men entered Charlestown.  Behind them the sun was setting on the ruins of an empire. 

Nice turn of phrase.

225px-Boston_1775The reactions of the King’s men were varied.  Some were full of blame for their commanders.  Others, who before this day started held the Americans in contempt, returned to Boston with grudging respect.  The men who’d engaged these redcoats in battle were no longer thought of as mere farmers and merchants.  They were soldiers.

Lieut. Barker said of Col. Francis Smith, “had we not idled away three hours on Cambridge marsh waiting for the provisions that were not wanted, we should have had no interruption at Lexington.” And “Being a very fat, heavy man, he would not have reached the bridge itself in half an hour though it was not half a mile.”

Lieut. McKenzie said, “The fact is Gen. Gage had no conception the rebels would have opposed the king’s troops in the manner they did

Others, who before this day started held the Americans in contempt, returned to Boston with grudging respect.  The men who’d engaged these redcoats in battle were no longer thought of as mere farmers and merchants.  They were soldiers.

Col. Smith said, “I can’t think but that it must have been a pre-concerted scheme in them to attack the king’s troops at the first favorable opportunity.”

Lord Percy who pretty much saved the King’s soldiers from utter destruction, said this: “You may depend on it that as the rebels have now had time to prepare, they are determined to go through with it, nor will the insurrection here turn out so despicable as it is perhaps imagined at home. For my part, I never believed, I confess, that they would have attacked the King’s troops, or have had the perseverance I found in them yesterday.

By June, Gage had come to agree with Percy.  “The rebels are not the despicable rabble too many have supposed them to be, and I find it owing to a military spirit encouraged amongst them for a few years past, joined with an uncommon degree of zeal and enthusiasm that they are otherwise… In all their wars against the French they never showed so much conduct, attention and perseverance as they do now.”

Adm. Samuel Graves commander of the Royal Navy in Boston said, “The rebels following the Indian manner of fighting, concealing themselves behind hedges, trees and skulking in the woods and houses whereby they galled the soldiers exceedingly.” Graves made immediate arrangements to get himself out of Boston and ordered his men to not allow any women or children to leave the city – apparently using them as hostages against attack by the rebels.  Afterward, he stated, regarding this move, “to keep the women and children in the town,” helped to “prevent an attack upon Boston.”

Days after the 19th, Graves wanted to destroy the towns of Roxbury and Charleston.  His flag secretary stated, “ It was indeed the admirals opinion that we ought to act hostile from this time forward by burning and laying waste to the entire country.”

Seige of Boston

To say the least, the Redcoats were in shock as they looked up to the heights of Boston – a town they owned just days before – to see it completely surrounded by merchants and farmers determined to be free. 

The Scar of Lexington

The poem below, written many years ago by Miss H. F. Gould of Newbury-port, refers to her father, Captain Benjamin Gould, and his little grandson, now Dr. Benjamin A. Gould, the astronomer.

The British at Lexington

 

THE SCAR OF LEXINGTON1

[By Hannah F. Gould.]

 

With cherub smile, the prattling boy

   Who on the veteran's breast reclines,

Has thrown aside his favorite toy,

   And round his tender finger twines

Those scattered locks, that with the flight

Of fourscore years are snowy white;

And as a scar arrests his view,

He cries, ''Grandpa, what wounded you?''

 

''My child, 'tis five-and-fifty years

   This very day, this very hour.

Since from a scene of blood and tears

   Where valor fell by hostile power,

I saw retire the setting sun

Behind the hills of Lexington;

While pale and lifeless on the plain

My brothers lay, for freedom slain.

 

And ere that fight — the first that spoke

   In thunder to our land — was o'er,

Amid the clouds of fire and smoke,

   I felt my garments wet with gore.

'Tis since that dread and wild affray,

That trying, dark, eventful day.

From this calm April eve so far,

I wear upon my cheek the scar.

 

When thou to manhood shalt be grown.

   And I am gone in dust to sleep,

May freedom's rights be still thine own.

   And thou and thine in quiet reap

The unblighted product of the toil

In which my blood bedewed the soil;

And while those fruits thou shalt enjoy.

Bethink thee of this scar, my boy.

 

But should thy country's voice be heard

   To bid her children fly to arms,

Gird on thy grandsire's trusty sword.

   And, undismayed by war's alarms,

Remember, on the battle-field,

I made the hand of God my shield!

And be thou spared, like me, to tell

What bore thee up, while others fell.''

 

Patriot's Day Cover without edits* From The Story of Patriots Day by George Varney – Published by Lee and Shepard Publishers 1895.  This book is in the last phases of reproduction by Battle Road Books and will be available soon. 

A Minute-man’s Story of the Concord Fight

This story is from the original manuscript of Thaddeus Blood of Concord, describing the ever memorable Concord fight with the British regulars on April 19, 1775, in which he was an active participant. He began as a minute-man, and worked up through the ranks until, in 1779, he became a ''Lieut, in Capt. Moses Barnes Company in Lieut.-Col. Perce' Regt., stationed part of the time in R. I. and part in Swansey,'' as stated in his own quaint phraseology. His account, says the Boston Journal (which has investigated the authenticity of this document), is of great value, as he was for many years thereafter a schoolmaster, and so learned to be extremely careful. Therefore, in points where his relation differs from the commonly accepted account of the day, it should not be cast aside as useless. The manuscript was obtained from the estate of Mr. Blood's children by Colonel William Barrett, of Concord.

The spelling is original to the source where I found it.  It was all one long paragraph, so I broke it up for easier reading.  Enjoy.

The Keyes house for WEB

Opposite battle ground – showing bullet marks

''The causes which led to hostilities between Great Britan & America are well known to all those acquainted with history. In Oct., 1774, Gen. Gage, having previously ordered the General Court to meet at Salem, & had dissolved or prorogued the court, the greater part of the members met at Salem notwithstanding, and formed themselves into a Provincial Congress and choce Doct. Warren President, and adjourned to Concord, & chose Mr. Hancock, President — they secretely agreed to make preparations to oppose the acts of Parliament, until we should have redress of the grievances we complained of (at that time and near a year after there was nothing said about Independance) — the Congress recommended the forming of companies of minute men, and the collecting of stores & camp equipage; a quantity of stores and cannon, etc., were collected & deposited in Concord, under the superintendence of Col. James Barrett, who had been a member of the General Court for many years, & then a respectable member of the Provincial Congress, and as great a patriot as was then, or perhaps ever, in Concord. He was requested by the Congress to encourage the forming of the companies, to guard the stores and to superintend the movements of the malisha, if called to action, and I heard him several times charge the companies not to fire first as we were marching to the Bridge. By his influence an armory for the manufacture of firearms and manufacture of saltpetre was set up in Concord, and it is my candid opinion that his name should be honorably handed down to posterity.

In Feb., 1775, the British attempted to take the cannon at Salem, but were disappointed. From that time there was a guard kept at Concord over the cannon & stores till five or six weeks after Concord fight — here it should be observed that we were all then British subjects, that the officers were nominally appointed over the companies of the Minute-men, that there was no commission nor any authority to commission until after Concord fight — except the malitia officers that were previously appointed by the King — that all the servises performed were voluntary, both of officers & men. On the 19th of April, 1775, about 2 o'clock in the morning, I was called out of Bed by John Barritt, a Sergt of the malitia compy to which I belonged (I was 20 years of age the 28th of May next following).

I joined the company under Capt. Nathan Barrett (afterward Col.) at the old Court House, about 3 o'clock, and was ordered to go into the Court House to draw amunition. After the company had all drawn their amunition we were paraded near the meeting house, & I should suppose that there was 60 or 70 men in Capt. Barrett's company, for the company commonly consisted of 100 or over, & I think that about 30 join'd the minute companies or were sent to guard the cannon that was carried into the woods, &c., & that the whole of the malitia and minute-men of the town of Concord under arms that day was not less than 200, notwithstanding a Rev brother thinks there were but few of Concord about.

About 4 o'clock the several companys of Concord were joined by two companies from Lincoln, the malitia commanded by Capt. Perce (afterward Col.), & the minute com'y by Capt. Wm. Smith—the ven'l and hon'l Saml Hoar of Lincoln was one of his Lieuts—& were then formed, the minute on the right, & Capt. Barrett's on the left & marched in order to the end of Meriam's Hill, then so called, and saw the British troops a coming down Brook's Hill; the sun was arising and shined on their arms & they made a noble appearance in their red coats and glising arms — we retreated in order over the top of the hill to the liberty pole erected on the heighth opposite the meeting house & made a halt; the main Body of the British marched up in the road & a detachment followed us over the hill & halted in half gun shot of us, at the pole; we then marched over the Burying ground to the road, and then over the Bridge to Hunt's Hill, or Punkataisett, so called at that time, & were followed by two companies of the British over the Bridge, one company went up to destroy some stores at Col. James Barrett's before mentioned, and they tarried near the Bridge, some of them went to Capt. David Brown's, some Mr. Ephraim Buttrick's, where Col. Jonas Buttrick now lives.

About 9 o'clock we saw a smoke rise at the Court House; it was proposed to march into town, and were joined by Westford and Acton companies, & were drawn up west of where Col. Jonas Buttrick now lives. Col. James Barrett,  afore mentioned, rode along the line, & having consulted with the officers, &, as was observed, shouted not to fire first, they began their march. Robinson & Buttrick led — I say Robinson & Buttrick, for I do not know what offices they held, but this certain, they had no commissions till after that time, after Robinson was appointed Lieut. Col. & Buttrick Major. Upon our begin'g to march the company of British formed first on the cosway in platoons, they then retreated over the Bridge & in retreating took up 3 planks and formed part in the road & part on each side, our men the same time marching in very good order, along the road in double file.

At that time an officer rode up and a gun was fired. I saw where the Ball threw up the water about the middle of the river, then a second and a third shot, and the cry of fire, fire, was made from front to rear. The fire was almost simultaneous with the cry, and I think it was not more than two minutes, if so much, till the British run & the fire ceased — part of our men went over the Bridge & myself among the rest, & part returned to the ground they had left — after the fire every one appeared to be his own commander; it was tho't best to go the east part of the Town & take them as they came back. Each took his own station, for myself I took my stand south of where Dr. Minot then lived, and saw the British come from Concord, their right flank in the meadows, their left on the hill. When near the foot of the hill, Col. Thomeson of Billerica came up with 3 or 4 hundred men and there was a heavy fire, but the distance so great that little injury was done on either side, at least I saw but one killed, a number of wounded. I know it has been said that Gen. Bridge commanded the regiment from Chelmsford & Bilerica. He might be some officer in the regiment, but it can be proved that Col. Tomson went with the regi't to Cambridge and stood till the troops were organized, and, being old, Bridge was made Colonel.

 

Patriot's Day Cover without edits * From The Story of Patriots Day by George Varney – Published by Lee and Shepard Publishers 1895.  This book is in the last phases of reproduction by Battle Road Books and will be available soon. 

Stories Heard on Father’s Lap

This is from a group of stories told by men and women, living in April 1894.  They heard them from the lips of the heroes of April 19, 1775.*  These narrations were published in the Boston Globe of April 15, 1894, having been obtained by a correspondent of that journal from the persons whose names are mentioned with their recitals.

The only living son of a man who stood in the Concord fight is Luke Smith of Acton. He was the youngest of thirteen children, and thus tells the father's story : —

“Sitting upon my father's knee in the full enjoyment of the blessings of liberty, I received from him this account of the eventful day of history: —

“ 'The 19th of April, the day of the great battle, was a bright, crisp morning. The sun had been up a full hour and a half. We were drawn up in line when I heard the word of command for which we were anxiously waiting. “ March !” How those words still ring in my ears ! Luke Blanchard was our fifer, and Francis Barker was the drummer. To the tune of the “White Cockade” we left the town for — we knew not what end. We were too much in haste for many parting words. A few did run back to say a word to wife or parent.

concord bridge for WEB“'We took the road for a while, and then left it and struck through the woods, a shorter cut to Concord. We passed Barrett's mill before coming to old North Bridge. How indignant we were when we first caught sight of Captain Parsons's detachment of British troops, with axes, breaking up the gun-carriages, and bringing out hay and wood, and setting fire to them in the yard.

“'We had a good mind to fire upon the redcoated soldiers of King George there and then, but we trusted our captain and waited for his orders. When [at the hill and bridge] I heard him say to Colonel Barrett, “I have not a man who is afraid to go,” my heart beat faster than the drum of our company; but how my feelings changed when I saw Isaac Davis fall, and Abner Hosmer by his side ! I then thought of the widow at home, whom a few hours before I had seen Isaac so tenderly leave, after giving her advice as to the care of the children in case of his death.

“'But we soon rallied and fought the harder until the British troops started on the retreat. I got a glimpse of Colonel Smith and Major Pitcairn as they stood with spyglasses in hand overlooking the scene from the old graveyard on the hill.

“'Although we had the great satisfaction of driving off the redcoats, we went sorrowfully back to our homes; for two whom we had loved had perished, and we had the dead bodies as our charge.'”

 

Patriot's Day Cover without edits* From The Story of Patriots Day by George Varney – Published by Lee and Shepard Publishers 1895.  This book is in the last phases of reproduction by Battle Road Books and will be available soon. 

 

Stories Heard on Grampa’s Lap

This is from a group of stories told by men and women, living in April 1894.  They heard them from the lips of the heroes of April 19, 1775.*    These narrations were published in the Boston Globe of April 15, 1894, having been obtained by a correspondent of that journal from the persons whose names are mentioned with their recitals.

Belfry on Lexington Green for WEB

Mrs. Pamela Fisk of Arlington is ninety-four years of age, and her stories seem like a new chapter in the history of April 19, 1775.

Mrs. Fisk is a granddaughter of Francis Brown and of Edmund Munroe, both of Lexington, where she was born and spent her early life. Her paternal grandmother was Mary Buckman, who lived at the old Buckman Tavern. So, on all sides, she inherits the blood of true patriots, and has heard the story from their own lips.

“Grandfather Brown,” she says, “told me this story:

'I was out here near the meeting-house at the early hour of two o'clock, and answered the roll-call of our company, and in response to the order of Captain Parker, loaded my gun with powder and ball. I heard the discussion as to the safety of Hancock and Adams, then sleeping over at the home of Parson Clark. I went back home and waited until half-past four o'clock, when I heard the alarm guns and the drum beat to arms, and I was again on the Green.

“’The order not to fire unless fired upon deterred me and all of us from having a shot as the British soldiers came up. I participated in the early action, and, having cared for our dead and wounded neighbors, I was in the afternoon attack; when I was wounded by a ball which entered my cheek, passed under my ear, and lodged in the back of my neck, where it remained nearly a year.’” Mrs. Fisk said: “I used to put my finger on these scars, as he told me just how the ball went. We needed no fairy tales in our youth; the real experiences of our own people were more fascinating than all the novels ever written.”

* From ThPatriot's Day Cover without editse Story of Patriots Day by George Varney – Published by Lee and Shepard Publishers 1895.  This book is in the last phases of reproduction by Battle Road Books and will be available soon.