Brown Beauty – hero of Lexington and Concord

Brown Beauty – hero of Lexington and Concord – It could be said.

We know that Paul Revere, on that famous night, was rowed across Back Bay to meet up with rebel forces in Charleston.  There, waiting for him, were Whigs that provided him with a horse. 

The horse belonged to Samuel Larking, a fisherman and chair maker from Charleston.  It was requested by John Larkin, a very wealthy merchant and deacon from Charleston.  Often history tells us that it was “Deacon Larkin’s horse.”  Apparently it was his father’s.

Paul Revere StatueThere are many versions of the story with a number of names for this equine hero.  Among them, Sparky.  That doesn’t sound very heroic.  The Larkin family history says the horse was named Brown Beauty.  Still, not all that heroic a name.  Seems like it should have been William Wallace or something.  But I digress.

Though we don’t know for sure what breed of horse Brown Beauty was, she was likely a Naragansett.

Horse Show Central’s article says this, “Brown Beauty was probably of a breed of horse that was very popular at that time on the East Coast. Instead of the jarring two-beat trot, the Narragansett offered a smooth four-beat saddle gait, favored for its speed and comfort. In addition the breed had an amiable, courageous temperament vital in times of crisis. The Narragansetts were a direct derivative from Old English Ambler (palfreys) which had been taken across the Atlantic by the pioneers and later became extinct in Britain; and of course are the forerunners of today s American Saddlebred.” 

The Narragansett is now extinct. 

What happened to Brown Beauty?

Well, the horse was confiscated by the Redcoats that captured Paul Revere – um, no, he didn’t make it to Concord.

Legend has it that the sergeant that stole the horse from Revere rode her to death that night.  At any rate, the horse was never returned.

But Brown Beauty wasn’t the only Larkin family loss in 1775. 

According to the Larkin Genealogy page, “During the Battle of Bunker Hill, some British troops marched through the Boston suburb of Charlestown, Massachusetts, where the Larkin families lived. John's brother, Ebenezer Larkin (1740-1794), fired a musket from a window of his home at the British troops, who in reprisal, burned the Larkin homes to the ground. John Larkin and his family fled, unscathed, to Cambridge where they lived in a house once occupied by General Washington and later by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.”

Sons of Liberty – Midnight Ride

As promised, I tell you now my thoughts on HISTORY Channel’s Sons of Liberty.  As I said in the earlier post, this 3-episode series made me cry.  The question “Why?” just kept ringing in my head.  Why had the producers made the choices they made?  The likely answer is ratings, I suppose. 

Though, it would seem that a venue titled HISTORY Channel might give more thought to the actual history than, say, HBO.  And this brings up the elephant in the room:  if we know that the portrayal of April 19, 1775 was so “fabricated” for the viewing public, that it cannot be trusted as History, then is anything we see on this so-called “HISTORY” Channel any more reliable? 

But I digress.

For this post, I’ll mutter a bit about the Sons of Liberty portrayal of the night of April 18th and the early parts of April 19th – up through the “Battle” of Lexington Green. 

 

Dr. Joseph Warren – philanderer?

 
First of all, let me mention that I don’t believe for a minute that Margaret Gage was sleeping with Dr. Joseph Warren.  Now, I suppose it’s possible but I imagine this was just a let’s-throw-some-sex-in-here decision by the writers/producers.  (Much like we see in the series Turn.) Though, of course, there was bound to be illicit sex in Colonial America, let’s face it; these people, for the most part were pretty religious.  Sam Adams and John Hancock, for that matter were very religious men – just read their writings. 

Dr. Warren was the head of the Sons of Liberty in Boston.  He was dedicated to a cause.  Besides that, he’d lost his wife in 1772 (leaving behind four children) and sources say that he was desperately sad – to the point of being self-destructive.  Does that mean that he didn’t have a dalliance with the Royal Governor’s wife?  No.  But I do doubt it.

Revere and Dawes – on the road again . . .

Then there’s Paul Revere and William Dawes.  I give SoL credit that they included Dawes in the ride to alert the countryside.  But there were a few problems that I picked out on this issue.  (Let me say, though, that these are really very minor issues and I might be silly to even bring them up.)  It is doubtful that Dawes and Revere had conversations in the days before the ride.  The whole Sons of Liberty/spying thing was pretty secretive.  They likely hadn’t met until they were both at the Clarke House in Lexington.

Revere didn’t ride out of Boston.  He was rowed across Back Bay, in the shadow of the HMS Somerset, to Charleston, where he was met by Patriots who loaned him a horse.  It was Deacon Larkin’s father’s horse – said to be the fastest horse in the region.  And the good Deacon wouldn’t get his dad’s horse back.

Revere gets his fight on . . .

In the series, there’s a fight scene between Revere and a Redcoat patrol that tries to stop him from alerting the countryside. Revere did run into a patrol on the road to Lexington but he was able to evade them with Brown Beauty’s speed.  But I did like this scene – which could have been inserted later and been more accurate.  When Revere is asked who he is, he answers "I’m a colonial scout for an armed resistance against the tyranny of General Gage and the British Crown."    The Redcoat says "Really" – totally unconvinced.  But it was a great line and made me smile.  And, frankly, I really liked their version of Revere.  He was a real fighter.  I like that in a Revolutionary War Hero.  More about the "Paul Revere Show" in another post.

Revere arrived in Lexington at around midnight – not in the full light of day as in the series.  In the show, he busts into a small house where Adams and Hancock are staying and warns them that they need to flee to safety.  Sam Adams wants to stay and fight – this part is true.  But the bit with Revere causing a diversion so Adams and Hancock could get away was purely made up. 

Hancock and Adams at the preachers house – and a fiancee?

Hancock and Adams were staying at the home of the Reverend Jonas Clarke – Lexington’s firebrand preacher. Jonas Clarke succeeded the Reverend John Hancock (our John Hancock’s grandfather) as preacher in Lexington. Our John Hancock spent a lot of time there as a child and young man so he was a very familiar face in Lexington.  Also staying at the Clarke home was Dolly Quincy, Hancock’s fiancee.  It was only after Revere’s capture, his release and his walk back to Lexington that he was able to convince Adams and Hancock to load up the carriage and get to safety.  Of course, John took Dolly along as well. 

Point of fact – Revere didn’t make it. . .

And finally, here’s the most important HISTORY that the HISTORY channel screwed up.  Paul Revere never made it to Concord.  He and Dawes left the Clarke home about 1am, headed to warn Concord.  Along the road they met Samuel Prescott, the young doctor from Concord and also a High Son of Liberty. The three of them rode together, but were captured by a Redcoat patrol in Lincoln.  Dawes and Prescott got away.  Dawes was unhorsed in the escape and walked back to Lexington.  Prescott got clean away and was the one that warned Concord.

Revere was let go about two hours later – and there’s a great story there which I’ll have to tell another time.  The Redcoats kept Brown Beauty and legend has it that they rode her to death.   But this brings up the point that I often make:  April 18th and 19th, 1775 were so filled with TRUE drama that a self-respecting HISTORY Channel would not have to make stories up. 

Well, I certainly didn’t mean this post to be this long.  And I thought I could get through the HISTORY Channels portrayal of events on Lexington Green.  Alas, no.  That will have to wait till next time. 

History Channel: Sons of Liberty – My Take

For several weeks, I’ve been posting reviews for the History Channel’s Sons of Liberty series on my Facebook page.  It quickly became obvious that the history was going to be sacrificed on the altar of entertainment.  In his article, Tom Verenna dissected the series in a powerful way.  But, Buck Sexton made a great point that, if the show isn’t entertaining, then it doesn’t matter if the history is right, no one will watch it. 

Okay.  Makes sense.  And a few friends were watching it and enjoying it despite it’s historical blasphemy.  So, we watched it this weekend.  It’s three episodes, each about two hours long.

And?  What was my review?  A full discussion of the April 19th, 1775 segments will follow in a series of posts.  But for now, let’s just say this:  I cried through most of the second episode and half of the third.

Tears of Joy?  Because I was seeing the settings and people I have come to love and respect and. . . Love on the screen before me, period settings and clothes on display?  Because I was so very entertained?

Well, no.  Though I did enjoy the period clothes and settings.  Anything that makes 1775 come alive before us is good, I suppose.  And, as long as I could watch it with my movie watching hat on, I was entertained.  But that became harder and harder to do after the first episode.

Tears of what then?

I think grief. Sadness. My husband posted today on his Facebook page that “the sheer distortion of the people and events that she has come to love ripped right through her.”  He’s right. 

The drama of April 19th, 1775 was the stuff legends are made of.  Most Americans have never even heard of the heroes and heroines of that day. And if they have, Paul Revere comes to mind, what they know is mixed with myth and fabrications.  A three part series could be made of that day, sticking moment by moment to the truth of that day and it would be just as entertaining as this series, if not more so.  It was the day America became America.  It was the true birthday of our nation. 

And while I don’t really want to take apart this series bit by bit – some will see it as being just so very negative – I want my readers to know the truth.  I think the truth is even better than the Sam and Paul’s Excellent Adventure that the History Channel brought us.  And, where I can, I’ll give kudos.  There are a few kudos to be had. 

So, go watch the series with the History Channel app before mid month, while it’s free.  And watch for my coming posts. 

Martha Moulton – Concord

Martha Moulton.  Well, I’m glad to know her name.  She must have been something.  All I’ve ever heard was that it was an old woman who harangued the Redcoats that day. 

Well, she was 71 and a widow.

A portion of the Army that entered Concord on the morning of April 19, 1775 was assigned to search the town for implements of war.  There wasn’t much to be found.  But the Redcoats searched the houses and brought any "implements" into the center of town and threw it on the pile.  Even wooden plates – you know, the plates that were used on the supper table – were dangerous.  You know, they could be used to, what, feed a member of the militia?

Anyway, when there was a big enough pile, the Redcoats set the pile ablaze.  It wasn’t long before the flames spread to the Concord meeting house. 

And this is where Mrs. Martha Moulton comes on stage.  She approaches the Redcoats and asks them if their mission was to burn their town down.  They replied that that was not their mission.  She insisted that the soldiers help the towns people put the flames out and save the meeting house.  They did so.

But not before the Militia and Minutemen up on Punkatasset Hill saw the smoke.  The rest, as they say, is history.

 

 

And now for something a little different. . .

 

I’m a day late, here.  Had some issues getting this thing put together and online.  I hope it was worth the wait.

Last week, I was privileged to tell the overview of April 19th, 1775 to the local Kiwanis Club.  Now, mind you, I can tell this story in about an hour and a half.  We had 30 minutes and had a few other stories to tell.  The gauntlet thrown down, I picked up the challenge and here is a "short" version of this inspiring story.  Enjoy. 

 

Colonel James Barrett – Concord

 

James Barrett, Colonel of the Concord Militia. He left his home early on the morning of April 19th, 1775 to join his troops first in town, then on Punkatasset Hill.

The Concord forces had been warned earlier in the week by Paul Revere that something was up – the Sons of Liberty in Boston didn’t know quite what. But they urged the Concord folks to make sure their arms and ammunition were hidden.

And, they pretty much were.

Now, Concord was not Lexington. In Lexington, they say, there were no Tories (folks loyal to the Crown) but that wasn’t true in Concord. And the Tories had been taking note of who the “Insurgents” were and passing that information on to General Gage in Boston. So, when the troops arrived that morning, they had specific places to search. And Barrett’s farm was one of those places.

Once in Concord, Colonel Smith, heading up the Redcoat column, split his men up. Some searched the town. Some went across the North Bridge to Barrett’s. And a third group was in charge of holding the North Bridge so the troops who went to Barrett’s wouldn’t be cut off.

When they got to Barrett’s, they searched but found nothing. Mrs. Barrett was there but the Colonel was with his troops. I can only imagine how scared Mrs. Barrett was. The Redcoats, while not being overly vicious, must have been completely intimidating. They forced Mrs. Barrett to make them breakfast.

Then, they offered to pay her. She told them to keep their blood money.

They began their march back to town. On their way, they saw boys up on the hills plowing. The boys waved. The Redcoats waved back.

What they didn’t know was that the boys were planting muskets in the furrows as they dug them.

And Colonel Barrett on Punkatasset Hill? Well, the Concord boys saw smoke coming from town and decided to march to town to stop the Redcoats from burning the town (that’s a whole other story for another time.) They began marching toward the North Bridge and the Redcoats opened fire on them. The Militias returned fire, killing almost half of the officers at the bridge and wounding many more. And the Pride of the British Army turned tail and ran for town.

Barrett held the bridge and, when the other detachment that had been at their house came back, the militia let them pass unmolested.

Remember the orders of the day were: Do not fire unless fired upon. To do so was a hanging offense.

But the Concord Militia and the other Militias that had joined them by now followed the Redcoat column out of Concord as they headed back to Boston. They’d have their chance soon enough.

Context and Culloden

One of the many complaints I have about the way history is taught in schools is how disconnected it is. I was visiting yesterday with a former history teacher that said she remembered one test she had to give that had a number of famous generals that the kids had to identify by first, middle and last name. If the student missed any part of that the answer was wrong.

What is that about? Does that kind of “history” light a fire in students that will lead them to finding out who they are? I’m not thinking so.

History is STORY. It’s real people set in real circumstances who have their own context.

Here’s an example: General Thomas Gage.

In his book, Paul Revere’s Ride, David Hackett Fischer puts General Gage into context.

In 1775, Gage was a man trying hard to avoid war. Gage had been a soldier for over thirty years. And he was a good commander, a good soldier. But he had learned to detest war.

In 1745, he’d been present at Fontonoy, one of the bloodiest battles in the 18th Century, where 30,000 men fell on Flander’s Field.


One year later, he watched the defeat of the Highland Clans on Drumossie Moor. The slaughter at Culloden broke the Highlanders, leaving that field knee-deep in blood and tartan.

Gage then was sent to America, where he commanded the vanguard of General Braddock’s expedition against the French. That mission turned to disaster as the British troops were ambushed by the French and Indians. General Braddock was killed. Gage, though wounded, kept the way open for George Washington and his men to escape. Ironic.

By April 19th, 1775, Gage was a man who wanted peace. But he was stuck between those pesky Insurrectionists and King George. The King had ordered Gage to put this rebellion down. After the Powder Alarm of September ‘74, Gage realized that his troops were sorely outnumbered and asking the Parliament for 20,000 more men. Parliament said no.

Gage’s only option, at that point, was to use the troops he had to disarm the American Patriots.

I guess the point is: Context. Without context, how can history mean anything? What was Thomas Gage’s middle name, anyway?

Captain John Parker – Lexington

Captain John Parker. Age 46 on the morning of April, 19th, 1775. He’d been a soldier in the French and Indian War. He was the father of seven. Puritan. Farmer. Head of the Lexington Militia.** Dying of tuberculosis.

The leaders of the militia were not appointed, they were elected. Parker wasn’t the smartest or the richest man in town. But he was well respected.

On that fateful morning, after getting word that the Regulars were out, Parker gathered his forces on the Lexington Common. The men he commanded that morning were friends, family, neighbors. Some of the younger men, John had known since they were born. It was not lightly that he ordered these men, “Don’t fire unless fired upon. But if they mean to have a war, let it start here.”

They stood on the Green that morning, not to start trouble, not to start a war. Over the last few months, General Gage had sent troops out into the countryside several times to confiscate arms and powder. The Colonials had made a show of standing, not to fight, but to let the Redcoats know they were there. On a recent occasion, Colonials had stood fast and the Redcoats had been turned away empty handed. No shots were fired.

Parker may have expected a similar effect. Though he knew that the Regulars were headed to Concord, he was not about to let them come into Lexington without resistance. There is also speculation that the Lexington boys were there to stand between the Redcoats and Sam Adams and John Hancock, who were staying just up the road from the Green.

When faced with a force over ten times the size of his band of brothers, Parker ordered his men to disburse. When they turned to leave, a shot rang out. In the following volleys from the Redcoats, seven of his friends were killed, seventeen more wounded. His cousin, Jonas, lay dead as well. The last thing Parker heard as he got his boys to safety was a victory cheer from the Redcoats.

Huzzah, huzzah, huzzah!

Parker would not forget. The same Redcoats that left his men dead and injured on the Green would have to come back through Lexington later in the day.

Parker would have his revenge.

** Lexington didn’t have a militia, it had a training band.

General Percy’s Really Bad Day

“Farmers and merchants with pitchforks.”

That’s what the Redcoats thought we were. And the terms were said with jeers and taunts. One of the most vocal in the British derision of the American Patriots was from Lieutenant-General Hugh Percy, 2nd Duke of Northumberland.

General Percy wakes on the morning of April 19th, after a good night sleep, drops his feet to the floor, where his Lordship’s slippers wait for him. He puts on his Lordship’s dressing gown and sits down to sip tea. And that’s the high point in his day. It’s about to get much worse.

His assistant enters with this mail and, there he finds orders that he should have gotten hours ago. He was called to lead the reinforcements to back up the eight hundred troops that headed out last night on a not-so-secret mission to confiscate weapons and ammunition from the Patriots in Concord.http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/26/2ndDukeOfNorthumberland2_cropped.jpg/200px-2ndDukeOfNorthumberland2_cropped.jpg

That mission had gone horribly wrong early on. And reinforcements had been called for.

But General Percy hadn’t gotten the message.

So now, he’s rushing to put the back-up expedition together without the help of his second in command, Major Pitcairn who is already out in the American countryside, playing second-in-command for the earlier mission.

General Percy will take the relief column out and will get to Lexington in time to see the earlier force returning from being trounced by “farmers and merchants.” At the point the Percy first sees the troops he’s meant to reinforce, what he sees will shock him.

Colonel Smith and Major Pitcairn are out of the battle, both having been wounded. The younger officers and sergeants of His Majesty’s Forces – the finest professional army in the world at the time – are threatening to shoot their own soldiers to regain order. It’s chaos!

Percy actually did save the for those Redcoats. If he hadn’t shown up at that time, there might have been nothing left of the original eight hundred. Even so, getting his troops and Smith’s troops back to Boston was no easy task. It was a grueling retreat.

His report of that day stated: During the whole affair, the rebels attacked us in a very scattered, irregular manner, but with perseverance and resolution, nor did they ever dare to form into a regular body. Indeed they knew too well what was proper, to do so. Whoever looks upon them as an irregular mob, will find himself very much mistaken. They have men amongst them who know very well what they are about, having been employed as rangers against the Indians and Canadians, and this country being very much covered with wood, and hilly, is very advantageous for their method of fighting.

So, disdain turned to grudging respect for his Lordship that day. Those farmers and merchants with pitchforks turned out to be decent soldiers after all.

Robert Munroe – Part 2

From: Proceedings of Lexington Historical Society and papers relating to the history of the town

ROBERT MUNROE.

Read by G. W. Sampson, Oct. 12, 1857.

April 19, 1775, was the last day on earth of Robert Munroe. When aroused from his bed by the message of Paul Revere, it would have been pardonable in a man of sixty-four, who had twice seen service, to have acted on the principle of "old men for counsel and young men for war." He might well have decided that his family was fully represented on the field by his two sons and sons-in-law. But it requires a more vivid imagination than I possess, to think of Robert Munroe as hesitating for one instant.

In the band of minute-men, Munroe and his family played an important part. Lieutenant Tidd was next in rank to Captain Parker; Daniel Harrington was clerk of the Company; Munroe himself was ensign, and next in rank to lieutenant; while his two sons were privates.

Thus the father and his sons and sons-in-law all stood in line on the Common. At the first volley, the old hero was struck down. Much as I dislike a man who holds himself aloof from his fellow-men on account of the superiority of his forefathers, I believe that a proper feeling of pride in one’s ancestry is fitting and right. When I think of that brave old man, and scores like him, I say Lexington people have as good blood in their ancestry as any people of the Commonwealth.

"What the fathers won the sons defended." I was reminded of this sentiment last Memorial Day, when the grave of one of our soldiers was being decorated. Over the spot where he rested stood the color-bearer and Commander of the Post, all three — the living and the dead — direct descendants of Robert Munroe.

Two other descendants of his enlisted from a neighboring city during the Rebellion, and there were probably others who followed their example. Some have predicted that this country will degenerate through a lack of interest in her welfare; but I believe that we shall always have men in time of need of the spirit of Robert Munroe, who will spring to the front, and bravely defend what the fathers won.