Fighting for a Reputation

As you read in the last blog post, I have just released Patriot's Day – a little book that was published in 1895 – that tells the story of Lexington and Concord on April 19th, 1775. 

Ezra Ripleyl_Page_08The next book I'm going to put out was written in 1827 and is titled History of the Fight at Concord, on the 19th of April, 1775 by Ezra Ripley. 

The subtitle tells a deeper story of this book.


Here are a few of the opening paragraphs. 


It may be thought singular, that, at this late period, a particular account of the Fight at Concord, on the memorable 19th of April 1775, should now for the first time make its appearance. Some apology may be thought due to the public for neglecting so long a matter of acknowledged importance, which, we apprehend, will be manifest in the following statement.

During nearly half a century, it was, as we supposed, the universal belief that the first regular and forcible resistance to the invading British soldiers was made at Concord North Bridge; —that there the fire of the British was first returned by the Americans; —that there the first British blood was shed; and of course that there commenced the war that terminated in the Independence of the United States. We had no idea that any persons ever would or could seriously entertain a different opinion. We had supposed that public records, numerous historical sketches, and common consent were sufficient to perpetuate material facts and prominent characters. When therefore, the "History of the Battle of Lexington," appeared in 1825, we were surprised. Nothing could have been more unexpected. That pamphlet has made impressions on the minds of many, unfavorable, in some respects, as we believe, to the truth, and to some worthy and patriotic characters. The same causes which originated these errors, have given rise to opinions and publications in Great Britain and the United States equally erroneous. A large portion of the people do not possess the means of better information ; and those who do, have been unwilling to come forward in a controversy very unpleasant and attended with many difficulties.

******   And a bit further on   ******

We have no objections to the historical account given by Major Phinney of the march of the British troops from Boston to Lexington, their outrageous behavior while there, &c. except so far as relates to the returning of the fire of the British. This we mean to controvert, and to shew by testimony and evidence that cannot be resisted nor rationally disputed, that the inhabitants of Lexington, very recently, have made an unjust claim upon the public faith ;—that they have appropriated to themselves facts and honors to which they had no right, and have thereby attempted to wrest from the inhabitants of Concord and adjacent towns, the legitimate honors which their brave and patriotic fathers achieved and bequeathed to them.

Typical New England rivalry?  Looks like. 

I hope you'll enjoy Patriot's Day.  It is truly a little treasure.  I'll let you know when this one is ready. 

Patriot’s Day by Geo. Varney

It's with great pleasure that I announce that we at Battle Road Books have produced a replica of this wonderful little book:  Patriots' Day by George Varney

Our goal at Battle Road Books is to keep the history of the Revolutionary War alive and vibrant and easily accessible.  We also don’t think you should pay an arm and a leg just to read these old books.

Patriot's Day

On the left is the original book.  It's a little book – I'm finding that many of the old books I'm buying are small – just a bit smaller than 5"x7".  On the right, of course, is the "reincarnation."  It is not a scanned copy – have you seen those? – they're a mess.  Nope.  We lovingly went through every page of this book and made each page as close to the original as possible. 

It is a book that was produced in 1895, written by George Varney, as a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord.  I love this book and am thrilled that you'll be able to love it too. 

Here's the Preface:


The bill abolishing the practice of appointing annually a day of ''fasting and prayer,'' having passed the Massachusetts House of Representatives, received the approving vote of the Senate on March 16, 1894, and was on the same day signed by the governor, Frederic T. Greenhalge. The bill also established the nineteenth day of April as an annual holiday. The latter, therefore, is the legitimate successor of Fast Day, which had come to be observed chiefly by its desecration.

The first proclamation of the new holiday was issued on the eleventh day of April, 1894, and gave it, most appropriately, the name Patriots' Day. Neither the statute nor the proclamation prescribed any definite form of celebration; consequently, there is ample scope and freedom for the preferences of communities and organizations in its observance. The proclamation was as follows: —

''By an act of the Legislature, duly approved, the nineteenth day of April has been made a legal holiday.

''This is a day rich with historical and significant events which are precious in the eyes of patriots. It may well be called Patriots' Day. On this day, in 1775, at Lexington and Concord, was begun the great war of the Revolution; on this day, in 1783, just eight years afterwards, the cessation of war and the triumph of independence were formally proclaimed; and on this day, in 1861, the first blood was shed in the war for the Union.

''Thus the day is grand with the memories of the mighty struggles which in one instance brought liberty, and in the other union, to the country.

''It is fitting, therefore, that the day should be celebrated as the anniversary of the birth of Liberty and Union.

''Let this day be dedicated, then, to solemn religious and patriotic services, which may adequately express our deep sense of the trials and tribulations of the patriots of the earlier and of the latter days, and also especially our gratitude to Almighty God, who crowned the heroic struggles of the founders and preservers of our country with victory and peace.''

It is earnestly and devoutly to be desired that the sentiments of this proclamation shall imbue every breast; that patriotism shall more and more take the form of

religion, holding relation, not to one nation only, but to all the peoples of the earth; that the happy time may come when justice, forbearance, and magnanimity will so prevail among men that violent and destructive differences between individuals, communities, states, and nations will be prevented by wise tribunals chosen and empowered to adjudicate disputes and establish peace and amity in all lands.

For the incidents and data of this presentation of the opening conflict of our Revolutionary War, I am indebted in part to several works, a list of which may be found on the last page of this volume.

The illustrative views, except the view of Lexington Green, the two flags, and the diagrams of Concord and Lexington, are from photographs made since 1875; and most of the objects remain the same to the present date.

The view of the conflict at Lexington is from a copper-plate engraving made previous to December, 1775, and accurately represents the scene as preserved also by history and tradition. A room in the building at the left (Buckman's Tavern) was used by John Hancock as an office while the Provincial Congress held its sessions in Concord. The large building in the middle is the first church, with the belfry on the ground nearby, as it stood at the time. Another illustration in the poems is from a recent photograph of the same belfry as it now appears.

It should be explained that the patriots' guns were not pointed as shown in the picture until the British had opened fire. In the background appear the ranks of the main body of the ''Regulars'' on the march towards Concord, nearly seven miles to the right of Lexington Green, or  ''Common'' as it has been called in recent years.

Boston, April 3, 1895.

Posts taken from this book:

The Scar of Lexington"  

A Minuteman's Story of the Concord Fight

Stories Heard on Father's Lap

Stories Heard on Grandpa's Lap

To Cite or Not to Cite. . .

As you may know, I buy too many books.  Well, define “too many.”  Here’s my excuse:  I have to become immersed in the history and culture of 1775 in order to write the novel.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Recently I bought the book Angel in the Whirlwind: The Triumph of the American Revolution by Benson Bobrick.  It has pretty good reviews. 

Upon opening the book, I did what I always seem to do – I turned to the section on April 19th.  Since I know more about that day than other bits and pieces of Rev War history, my sensors are more tuned to see things that just might be “off.”

Now, don’t get me wrong here – it’s probably a fine book. 

The first thing I found, though, that made me go “hmmm” was when the author stated (page 113) that “he (Gage) dispatched 800 troops under Colonel Francis Smith and Major John Pitcairn to capture Adams and Hancock and seize the rebels’ stores.”  The sentence was not footnoted. 

Citation neededNow certainly, Gage had been told in a letter from the Earl of Dartmouth, dated January 27, 1775, “It is the opinion of the King’s servants, in which His majesty concurs, that the first and essential step to be taken toward reestablishing Government, would be to arrest and imprison the principal actors and abettors of the Provincial Congress whose proceedings appear in every light to be acts of treason and rebellion.”  

And there are speculations that one of the reasons the Lexington training band was on the green that morning was their suspicion of just that.  Some believe (and I don’t think it’s unreasonable) that Captain Parker had his men there to protect Hancock and Adams, who were staying at the Clarke residence just up the road from the green.

But I haven’t seen primary sources that Smith’s orders included arresting Hancock and Adams. Here are Smith’s orders:

Tuesday, April 18, 1775

Orders from General Thomas Gage

to Lieut. Colonel Smith, 10th Regiment 'Foot

Boston, April 18, 1775

Lieut. Colonel Smith, 10th Regiment 'Foot,


Having received intelligence, that a quantity of Ammunition, Provisions, Artillery, Tents and small Arms, have been collected at Concord, for the Avowed Purpose of raising and supporting a Rebellion against His Majesty, you will March with a Corps of Grenadiers and Light Infantry, put under your Command, with the utmost expedition and Secrecy to Concord, where you will seize and destroy all Artillery, Ammunition, Provisions, Tents, Small Arms, and all Military Stores whatever. But you will take care that the Soldiers do not plunder the Inhabitants, or hurt private property.

You have a Draught of Concord, on which is marked the Houses, Barns, &c, which contain the above military Stores. You will order a Trunion to be knocked off each Gun, but if it’s found impracticable on any, they must be spiked, and the Carriages destroyed. The Powder and flower must be shook out of the Barrels into the River, the Tents burnt, Pork or Beef destroyed in the best way you can devise. And the Men may put Balls of lead in their pockets, throwing them by degrees into Ponds, Ditches &c., but no Quantity together, so that they may be recovered afterwards. If you meet any Brass Artillery, you will order their muzzles to be beat in so as to render them useless.

You will observe by the Draught that it will be necessary to secure the two Bridges as soon as possible, you will therefore Order a party of the best Marchers, to go on with expedition for the purpose.

A small party of Horseback is ordered out to stop all advice of your March getting to Concord before you, and a small number of Artillery go out in Chaises to wait for you on the road, with Sledge Hammers, Spikes, &c.

You will open your business and return with the Troops, as soon as possible, which I must leave to your own Judgment and Discretion.

I am, Sir,

Your most obedient humble servant

Thos. Gage.

Now I have never claimed to be a scholar.  I have no letters behind my name indicating degrees in anything.  I am merely a self-taught writer who is fascinated by history. 

But as I study and read, I find myself looking at claims like this one and wanting the citation.  I am determined to get the history as right as I can as I write this blog and as I write the novel(s).

And when I digress from what the primary sources tell us, I say so.  (Someday I’ll tell you my theory of Sam Prescott ending up on that road to Concord that night. It is totally a theory, but an “educated” one.)

I guess the question that’s hanging out there now is how much I cite my writing.  Maybe not enough. And is that even something that blog readers care about? 

I don’t know.  You tell me.

By the way, I did find other things in that chapter that could have been worded more precisely and left the wrong impression.  I may pick up the book again.  But I might not, too.

From Rabble to Respect

Coming into April 19th, 1775, the Redcoats thought of the Americans as mere shop-keepers and farmers.  They totally underestimated the colonial forces.  For example, we’ll look at some of the words of Lord Hugh Percy.  If you’ll recall, he brought the reinforcements that in his words saved Smith’s forces “from inevitable destruction.”

But first, a bit about him.

Portrait_of_Hugh_Percy,_Second_Duke_of_Northumberland_by_Gilbert_Stuart,_c._1788Lord Hugh Percy was aristocracy.  He was heir to a vast fortune, maybe the greatest in the western world at that time.  He was a professional soldier from his teenage years and, when he came to America, was 32 years old.

In 1774, he arrived in Boston as a colonel of his own regiment.  He was generous with his money lived in a fine house, entertaining his officers and friends lavishly.  He was a good leader and, when he arrived in America, had positive feelings about the colonists.  In England, he had voted against the Stamp Act and though the American policies were foolish.  

With regards to fighting the colonies, he said, “Nothing less than the total loss or conquest of the colonies must be the end of it, either, indeed is disagreeable.”

But that all changed.  Over the next months, Percy’s view of the Americans flipped.

Just weeks after coming to America:
“. . . A set of sly, artful, hypocritial rascals, cruel, and cowards.”
“Like all cowards, they are cruel and tyrannical.”
He thought the colonists had “not the least idea of religion or morality,” and that they “talk much and do little.”  “I cannot but despise them completely.”  
On April 19th, though, his opinion changed.

“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 any regular body.  Indeed they knew too well what was proper, to do so.  Whoever looks upon them as an irregulr mob, will find himself very much mistaken.  They have men amongst them who know very well what they are about. . .”
“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.”

(Note:  All quotes taked from Paul Revere's Ride, by David Hackett Fischer.)

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

Watt’s Psalms

Remember this wonderful story from the home page of Revivie 1775?

In 1843, 91-year-old Capt. Levi Preston was asked by a young historian why he had fought in the American Revolution. Was it the Stamp Act, the Tea Act, perhaps the treatises of John Locke? “No, sirree,” the captain countered. He had not seen any stamps, sipped any tea, or read anything other than the Bible, the catechism, and Watts’s Psalms. “What we meant in going for those Redcoats was this: we always had been free, and we meant to be always free. They didn’t mean we should.”

I thought you might enjoy hearing more about Watt's Psalms.

IMAG0786  Isaac Watts was born in England in 1674 and died in 1748.  He was a popular hymn writer, considering hymns a tool for evangelization.  He was a nonconformist and thus, was not allowed to attend Anglican universities Oxford or Cambridge.

He was extremely prolific not just in hymn writing but other writings as well. 

But it's his hymns that the people of New England knew him for most.

Not only did they use Watts Psalms in their meeting house, but also in their homes.When I survey the wondrous cross

Next time you open a hymnal in church – if you go to a church that still uses hymnals, watch for Isaac Watts.

And when you sing "When I survey the wondrous cross," know that through the ages, you'll be touching Revolutionary times. 


To Drum or Not To Drum

As a writer, I strive to engage all the senses in my scenes.  In the book I’m working on at the moment, I have Redcoat drums on Lexington Green.  VERY LOUD DRUMS!

Where did I come up with this idea?

You got it, from April Morning.  This time, the movie.  (Read here about me throwing the book across the room.)

One of the things that really made an impression on me when I watched this movie was how loud the drums were as the Redcoats marched onto the Green.  It was the first time I had thought about it.  That roar was very intimidating and I’m certain that the Redcoats made use of them, in part, because of the intimidation factor.

Redcoat Drums

I’m sure that our “shopkeepers and farmers” there on the Green had a visceral response to the sound of the drums.  Hands sweating.  Heart racing.  Head pounding.

Or at least I was certain.

Until I read this.

The story of Patriots' day, Lexington and Concord, April 19, 1775; by Varney, George Jones

The story of Patriots’ day, Lexington and Concord, April 19, 1775; by Varney, George Jones

It mentions here that the normal drum was suppressed and the men prohibited from conversation.  Okay, the Redcoats, at this point, supposed they were on a secret mission.  As they passed through town after town, hearing alarm bells and signal guns, they began to suspect that the secret was out.

So, no drums?

I’m not so sure.

It wasn’t long after this that the Redcoat forces were flagged down by Major Mitchell.  He’s the one that captured Paul Revere.  Revere told him that there were five hundred militia men waiting in Lexington and Mitchell high-tailed it to report this to Colonel Smith.

When Smith heard this, he ordered his army to affix bayonets and load their muskets. The secret was most definitely out.

It’s just an informed guess at this point – and I won’t stop looking for an answer.  But I think they enlisted the drums for the rest of their march to Lexington.  And on to Concord.

So, when you read my next book, the response of our men to the drums will be in there.  Unless I find out  differently.

History is Fragile

Recently, I have been working on the puzzle of the Acton Minutemen.  As I’m working to put flesh and blood on people who lived over two hundred years ago, I scour the Internet and as many old books as I can get my hands on. 

Specifically, I have been seeking the names of the Acton Minutemen that marched early on the morning of April 19th to join their brothers-in-arms on Punkatassett Hill in Concord. 

How many were related?  As the day wore on and men were killed and injured, how many of these men were dividing their attention between fighting and grief, fighting and worry about brothers and cousins and friends?

That’s what I was thinking about as I searched for the list of names.

But here’s what I found.

There were no lists.  It was dangerous to be on a list. That was something so simple that I hadn’t thought of. 

What I’m finding is that history is fragile. 

That’s even true in our families.  As one generation passes on and their stories disappear, we all lose.  Young people think the older folks are boring and therefore they don’t take the time to sit with them and let them talk about their lives. 

Or siblings fight over the estate of the deceased and in the warfare, destroy their own history.

And without our history, we don’t know who we are.  And, thus, are easy pickins for tyrants.

Of stumbling blocks, excuses and writer’s conferences. . .

…and pinky promises…

Dear Friends,

A little different blog post this time as I look forward to getting back on track.  I just survived a 4-day writer’s conference here in Colorado Springs.  I say "survived" because I was the moderator coordinator for almost 90 workshops and 28 amazing volunteers.  So, for me, it was a "working" conference.  Not to say I didn’t enjoy myself. 

But. . . just before conference began I realized that it’s been over a year since I had a finished product to show to the world.  A WHOLE YEAR????  That is not acceptable for the journeyman writer (hat tip StoryWonk for the term.)

I’m done kicking myself for that.  And besides, there was a sincere and binding pinky promise given to my good friend Trai Cartwright that this would not happen again, that there would be a new book by this time next year.  My goal is actually two.  And because this blog is so much a part of the Revive 1775 process, I am committed to two blog posts a week here as well. 

I think one of the reasons I struggled last year was that I couldn’t find the balance between fiction and fact in historical novels.  I so want to show the world these amazing people without embellishment.  But, frankly, that is impossible.  It’s impossible because these were real people with real lives.  Yet all that remains today to inform us that they even lived is a few sentences for many and a few pages for others.   

And so one of the take-aways from conference is that I am writing historical NOVELS.  I am writing FICTION.  Fiction informed by facts.  Facts that act as the scaffolding of these heroic stories.  It will be my job to make these people come to life.  It is an intimidating prospect.  A prospect that has kept me a bit frozen. 

No more!  I owe it to myself to be more productive.  I owe it to America to be more productive.  And, I owe it to these heroes and heroines that laid it all on the line for liberty.  I must be more productive.

Besides, pinky promises are serious things…

Sons of Liberty – Lexington Green – Part 2

In a nutshell (because this is a blog post, not a book) here’s what really happened.  As the Redcoats marched down the road (review the map again), unless steered differently, they would have simply kept on marching right past the Lexington meetinghouse, kept on going and never engaged the men who stood on the far north part of the Green.  But they were steered.  At this point in the march, they were being led by a young, brash Irish lieutenant named Jesse Adair.  When Lt. Adair saw them men way over on the green (hard to see, it was just dawning), he turned the column and marched them onto the Green.

There to make a show. . .

The men of Lexington – about 70 of them – were there to make a show.  And to make sure that Adams and Hancock were not accosted.  They were led not by some friend of Adams named Kelly but by their elected Captain.  It was Captain John Parker who led them, who gave them their orders before dawn on April 19th.

“Men,” he said, “do not fire unless fired upon.  But if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”  Parker didn’t want a war.  As he looked around at those 70 men, he saw his friends, neighbors, uncles, cousins — you get the picture.  The only thing he wanted more than their safety that morning was to stand for the Liberty they were due as British citizens.  Because British Citizens they were. 

And as Lt. Adair and Maj. Pitcairn rode back and forth before the Lexington troops – with at least 200 of their own on the Green and 600 more on the road – screaming at Parker’s men to lay down their arms and disburse – Parker realized that his men were completely outnumbered.

Go home boys. . .

So, he turned to his men and ordered them to go home.  “Don’t lay down your arms, boys,” he told them, “but go on home.”

That’s exactly what they did (except for two or three).  They turned and began to walk from the Green. 

A shot rang out. 

And the Redcoats opened fire.

Into the backs of the retreating Lexington men.  One volley.  Then another.  Then, the soldiers did what they did best, they lowered their muskets and charged with fixed bayonets.

In less time than it’s taken you to read this far, eight men lay dead.  More wounded.  Five pairs of fathers and sons are separated by death.  Jonathan Harrington (see his house up there above the Green), dispersing as he was told to, shot in the back, crawled up to his front porch and died in his wife’s arms.

It’s just wrong.  End of story. . .

HISTORY Channel’s version just gets it wrong.  Apparently the real heroes don’t matter.  Apparently the truth doesn’t matter.  Apparently, HISTORY doesn’t matter. 

And maybe Brian Williams was there.

Am I ticked at this portrayal?  Very.  And you should be too.