The Green Mountain Boys Flag

green-mountain-boys_1The Green Mountain Boys, under the command of Ethan Allen marched under this flag.  This militia group was from the New Hampshire Grants that later became Vermont.  This militia formed to protect their land grants which were granted by New Hampshire.  The British government officially gave them to New York. So, when New York attempted to take control of their lands, the Green Mountain Boys militia was born.  On several occasions, Ethan Allen and his boys repelled attempts to take their land.

Though they are known for capturing Fort Ticonderoga along with Colonel Benedict Arnold (before he fell in with that Redcoat scalawag Andre), one of their most impressive contributions was the capture of canon and ammunition that Colonel Henry Knox used to reinforce General Washington’s control of the city of Boston. 

This flag is unique both because of its coloring and  the scattered arrangement of the 13 stars on the canton.

241 Years Ago Today

Two-hundred forty-one years ago today, the world changed.  If you’ve been around the Revive 1775 blog for a while, you know the incredible story of April 19th, 1775.

Or at least you know the overarching story.  But the life of the story is in the details.  Wouldn’t you agree?  When I’m invited by a group to tell the story, the first thing I do is find out how much time I have.  I can do a good overview in twenty minutes.  But give me an hour and a half and you’ll come away inspired by what those people went through that day.

So, on the anniversary, what can I say that will do them justice?  For some reason the anniversary finds me rather subdued, struggling to find words to share.

I can’t tell you the story of that day in one blog post.  So, let me simply tell one man’s story.

7156569_sNathaniel Mulliken.  Clockmaker.  Lexington, MA.

Nate was named after his father , who was the Lexington clockmaker before his death in 1767.  The senior Nathaniel left a wife, four sons and three daughters behind.  Nate took over the clock shop next to their home.  It was two doors from Monroe Tavern on the main road from Boston to Concord.

At age 23, Nate was now the man of the family.  He was responsible for caring for his mother and younger siblings.  I’m certain he took that role of provider seriously. SS21Mulliken,N1-1388770365

In the pre-dawn of April 19th – it was a Wednesday morning, Nate joined the Lexington training band on the town green, after having been warned that the Regulars were out.  The Redcoats – eight hundred of his Majesty’s best, were marching to Concord to confiscate the munitions stored there.  It wasn’t the first time they’d tried this, but it was definitely the most ambitious to date.  The secondary mission of the King’s soldiers was to arrest Sam Adams and John Hancock, who were staying in the Reverend Clarke’s home in Lexington.

Nate joined seventy other men on the Green that morning.  And by the time the Redcoats left Lexington to continue their march to Concord, eight men lay dead on the Lexington Green, more wounded.  The tiny town of seven hundred souls heard the victory volley and three cheers before Colonel Smith marched his forces out of town.

The people in Lexington knew that the regulars would be back through later.  They scrambled to bury their dead in a mass grave.  Captain Parker, Nate’s commander gathered his forces and they, too, marched out of town toward Concord.

At a prime spot for an ambush, Nate and his brothers in arms waited.  At about two o’clock that afternoon, they would have a measure of revenge.  Captain Parker’s men would open fire on Smith and his troops and continue firing until they could no longer safely hold that position.  Then they would take to the woods, joining thousands of other militia fighters as they circled ahead of the Redcoat army, ambushing them over and over again until the Redcoats finally made it back to Boston.

Nate would return home to Lexington to find his home and shop burned to the ground.

The search of the body of a dead Redcoat would turn up items stolen from the shop before it was torched.

Nate would leave for Boston, to join the Revolution, probably the next morning.  And less than two years later, Nate would die of camp fever at the age of twenty-five.

When they pledged their lives and their fortunes, these men—young and old—knew what they were saying.  They were willing to pay that price – even if they never saw the liberty for which they sacrificed.

 

No Fairy Tales Needed

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.

Buckman's Tavern"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.

The Story of Patriot’s Day, Lexington and Concord, April 19, 1775 By George Jones Varney – copyright 1895  (Available on Google Books)

A libel on their character. . .

    No Taxation without Representation I may have blogged about this before. One sometimes loses track. But I continue to read through the History of the Town of Lexington by Charles Hudson, published in 1868. It is so beautifully written and gives such an inspiring view looking back on these people and these times.
     If we were to do a “man on the street” interview with folks, and asked them why the Colonists fought for Independence, if they had any idea at all, the likely answer would be a rote “no taxation without representation.”
     I can’t refute that statement any better than Hudson does, so I’ll just leave you with this passage:

It is a libel upon the character of our fathers, to say that they involved the country in all the horrors of war, rather than pay a petty tax upon stamped paper and tea. They had motives higher, purer, and holier, than that of avoiding the payment of an insignificant tax. They planted themselves upon the great principles of human rights — of fealty to their country, and fidelity to their God. They felt that they had personal rights which they were bound to defend — a duty they owed to posterity, which they were under a sacred obligation to discharge — a devotion to the Most High, which it were treason to disregard. Such were the motives and the convictions of our patriot sires. They fought not to conquer, but to defend; not to humble a foe, but to build up a commonwealth on the great principles of equal rights. To these duties they were prompted by the dictates of patriotism, and the teachings of the Word of Life.

Classic New England “Democracy” in Concord

Punkatasset HillIt’s early morning in Concord, April 19th, 1775. Young Dr. Samuel Prescott rode through, alerting the town to the oncoming Redcoats. By morning three groups of men gathered in the center of town.

The Minutemen – these were the young bucks. They had to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.

The Militia – these were the “middle aged” group – late-20’s into their 40’s.

The Alarm Listers – these were the “old guys” – the over 50’s group – veterans of the French and Indian war – much too old to fight.

In classic New England style, they discussed the situation. Everyone had a chance to voice his opinion.

The Minutemen were gung-ho. They wanted to rush out and meet the oncoming Redcoats – to take the fight right to the enemy.

The Militia didn’t like that idea. They wanted to stay put and protect their town.

The Alarm Listers – remember, these are the guys who’ve got the most combat experience – they wanted to wait until the numbers were more even.

“Town is no place to fight a war, boys.”

Their suggestion was to go to their training field – on Punkatasset Hill – wait for reinforcements there. From that Hill, they can see down into town and see the roads. It was a good, strategic spot.

So, after much discussion, in classic New England style, they did all three things.

The Minutemen marched out with their own fifer and drummer. They didn’t have to go far. When they realized what eight-hundred Redcoats looked like, they decided to turn around. They didn’t turn and run though. They neatly turned around, and marched back into town.

The towns people said it was a rather comical sight. Their Minutemen leading the Redcoats into town.

When they got to town, they discovered that the Militia was no longer in town. They had seen the wisdom of the “old men” and waited on the training field. So, the Minutemen just kept marching until they joined their own forces and the gathering forces from the surrounding area.

And, by the time the men on Punkatasset Hill were engaged in the battle, the old Indian fighters had what they wanted. . . A fair fight.

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.

The British Red Ensign Flag

The British Red Ensign Flag (top) was the flag that flew over the American Colonies after 1707.

It was a combination of the English Red Ensign Flag (middle) and the Scottish Red Ensign (bottom). In 1707, Scotland’s Parliament, despite the protest of the Scots, united with England to become Great Britain. Of that union, Scots poet Robert Burns said "We’re bought and sold for English gold, Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation!" (Not that we’re here to discuss Scottish History.) At that point, Queen Anne decreed that this Union Flag be the official flag of Great Britain.

The flag itself goes back even into the 1600’s but was not much used as neither the English nor the Scots particularly liked having their own flags adulterated with the other.

If you’ll look at the flag of other countries that were formerly part of Great Britain, Australia, for example, you will see that many of these countries simply took this British Red Ensign Flag and added their own identifier.

For the American Insurgents, the Union Flag was a hated flag. It was a constant reminder that, while the Colonies were part of Great Britain, the King was not allowing them the rights they’d always had as British citizens.

One of the flags the Insurgents flew the colors of the Sons of Liberty Flag. Another one, the Taunton Flag, we’ll get to in due time.

On a side note, the state of Hawaii is the only state in the USA that still has the Union flag as part of its flag, a tribute to it’s history with Great Britain.Flag of Hawaii

Robert Munroe – Part 1

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.

Lexington GreenAmong old Lexington families, the Munroes stand second to none. In civil life or in time of war, they were always found at or near the front. Perhaps the three most distinguished in the Revolutionary period were Robert, Edmund, and William. I am here to speak for Robert, not because he was superior in any way to the others, but because he was my ancestor. Robert Munroe was born in Lexington, May 4, 1712.

The old stock of Munroes first settled, as I am told, in that part of Lexington which takes its name, "Scotland," from their nationality. They can be traced as far back as the time of Bruce in Scotland. We read of them at Bannockburn, Berwick, Edinburgh, in the Protestant war in Germany, in Sweden, and even in India, fighting sturdily and steadily on every occasion. Up to 165 1 the Munroes could boast of three generals, eight colonels, five lieutenant-colonels, eleven majors, more than thirty captains, and a large number of subalterns. We find the Munroes again in command of large forces in the Irish Rebellion, at Fontenoy, at Falkirk and elsewhere; everywhere, indeed, but in the rear, when there was fighting at the front.

It is an old saying that "blood will tell." When a military spirit becomes infused through generations, it only needs a spark of war to ignite the latent energy in a man and develop a first-class soldier. It follows with almost as much certainty as if he were a chemical compound, the occasion for the display of warlike attributes being the missing link in the component parts. We read with no feeling of surprise, therefore, the name of Robert Munroe as ensign of the Lexington quota in the French and Indian War. In the expedition against Louisburg, in 1758, he was color-bearer in that memorable attack, reflecting honor upon Massachusetts and upon Lexington. In 1762, he was one of a company from this town sent to watch the Indians, and prevent the reopening of hostilities before peace had been declared.

In regard to his private life and characteristics, I can give no information. Those who knew him at all, passed away more than a generation before my time; and those who knew him intimately, more than two generations.

He seems to have been a typical New Englander of that period, firm, upright, of staunch integrity, but of considerable bigotry, superstition, and prejudice; a grand old Puritan, who abhorred idleness, dishonesty, and all things superficial, who constantly attended church, trained in the militia, kept a sharp eye on public affairs, tilled his farm, and cheered his sorrow with good New England rum, after the custom of that time.

He had four children: Anna, wife of Daniel Harrington; Ruth, wife of William Tidd; and Ebenezer and John. Daniel Harrington, my ancestor, was clerk of Captain Parker’s Company at the time of the battle; and William Tidd was lieutenant. Both were afterwards prominent in town affairs, and lived to a ripe old age. From some of the elder members of my family I have heard many anecdotes of "Grandfather Harrington" and his blacksmith shop, and of "Uncle Bill Tidd," as they were familiarly called. Ebenezer and John Munroe, like most of the young men of the town, were in the events of the 19th of April, Ebenezer also seeing service in the Jersey campaign of 1776.

The tragic life of John Raymond

British at Munroe TavernJohn Raymond’s murder at the hands of drunken British soldiers on April 19th, 1775 capped a life etched with misfortune.

His parents owned a tavern on property across the street from Munroe Tavern that was beseiged with financial problems.  Apparently it thrived at one time.  But by the time John’s father died in 1760, possibly as a soldier in the French and Indian war, it was far from successful.  Monroe Tavern was not Munroe Tavern at the time, since Will Munroe didn’t take it over until 1770.  Will bought the property from John Buckman Sr, who was Raymond’s main competitor, selling spirits that Raymond apparently couldn’t afford to buy.

When John’s mother died, she left John and his family with enormous debt.  He was sent to debtor’s prison and the town fathers that his wife and children be allowed to remain on the property until it was sold.  The neighbor across the road, Lydia Mulliken, saved them by buying the tavern and property in 1774.  Apparently this cleared up the debt that John owed and he was freed from prison.  He and his family lived there until at least April 19th, 1775.

On April 19th, Will Munroe went to fight on the Green, being Captain John Parker’s second in command.  He left John Raymond, who history tells us was crippled, in charge at the Tavern.  When Lord Percy and his Redcoat reinforcements took over the Tavern, John served them as best he could.   Alcohol didn’t mix well with angry Redcoats and things began getting violent.

As Will’s wife and little children watched from the woods behind the tavern, John Raymond attempted to make an escape.

The Redcoats shot him in the back.  John Raymonds sad life ended in the yard of Munroe Tavern.

 

Whilst I was reading “April Morning”

I’ve always been hesitant to read history.  Not because I don’t love history.  I do.  And historical fiction is such a pleasant way to learn history.  But with some history – that which is awash in politics – how can you be sure that what you’re reading is accurate.  I think the best way is to get down to original sources.  But unless the author you are reading used original sources in his research, then you never know what you’re going to get.

April MorningIn an effort to immerse myself in the 18th Century, I’ve been reading what I can get my hands on.  On of those books is April Morning by Howard Fast (1961)

Last night, I came upon this:

This is a conversation between the main character’s father, Moses, and the Reverend Clarke.

“They were here tonight.”   (The Reverend speaking)
“Who?”
“Sam Adams and John Hancock.”
“Oh, no,” Father said. “Now what in heaven’s name were they doing here?”
The Reverend shrugged, the gesture saying better than words that these were two men with their own ways.
“Where were they?”
“At my house.”
“And now?”
“I didn’t want them here,” the Reverend said bitterly. “Would you want them here, Moses?”
“We got our troubles here.”
“So it seemed to me. I can’t understand any more how this started and the way it is building up. Who chose tonight? Ourselves? The devil? The British? No, I didn’t want them here, and I told them to go to Burlington–”
“They left?”
“About an hour ago, Moses. They have their problems and we have ours.”

I promptly closed the book and I’m not sure I’ll keep reading.  There is so much wrong with this section. I’ll just point out a few.

  • It suggests a disdain by the Reverend Clarke for Adams and Hancock, for their cause.  This could not be further from the truth.  It is said of Clarke that, if we had no writings from the Founding Fathers, but had his sermons, we would know the causes of the Revolution
  • It suggests that Adams and Hancock being at Clarke’s house was unusual.  It wasn’t.  It was a safe place out of the city.  They were there often.  Hancock had practically grown up in that house.
  • It suggests that Clarke was clueless about what was happening around him.  Again, he’d prepared Lexington so well for this night that there was no better place for the events that followed.
  • And probably the biggest problem with this “story” is that it left out Paul Revere entirely.  He arrived at the Clarke house at midnight, urging Hancock and Adams to get to safety ahead of the Redcoat Army.  And, after Revere was captured and then released, he returned to the house, found the two leaders still there.  At that point, they were convinced to leave.

So, if Fast got this wrong, how much other stuff is wrong that I won’t recognize?  How much will the unsuspecting reader take in and assume is fact?  How do we find books we can trust?

Well, I hope mine will be trustworthy.  There will be fiction wrapped around fact in my books.  There has to be.  But I will do my best to present the fiction as reliable.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.