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

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.

 

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.

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)

Why write history?

Many of you know that I am not originally a “writer of history.” I am a published romance writer. As a kid I didn’t much like reading. I think I made it through high school without finishing more than two or three books. And then I read my first romance novel. And I was hooked.

I will admit that, in the beginning, I mostly read historical romances. They seemed to make history come alive. Real people. Real stories. When I started writing, though, I wrote contemporary romance. I guess I love the idea that love does win out in the end.

But now I’m writing history. So the question is why?

Sam Adams said, "It does not take a majority to prevail… but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men."

I believe that we must keep the stories of the founding of America alive, keep setting brushfires in the hearts and minds of our people. Or we’ll lose it all. All that these people gave everything for. Their stories are real and, though love doesn’t always win out in the end, their sacrifices did make a difference. And still do.

So why do other people write history? A few days ago, I was reading through some posts on a Revolutionary War board. An author was touting his book about the lead-up to the Revolution and mentioned that Amazon was offering it at a discount. I hopped over to Amazon to discover that the discounted price was $27. How many readers do you think he’ll get at that price?

Now, granted, he may not have set the price. He may be with a publisher of scholarly books who set their prices according to some view that their books are worth a lot more than others. Really? Why is that, I ask. Is that because the author did hours and hours and months and months of research? And the writer of historical fiction didn’t? Well, that’s just silly. Even the premier work on April 19th, 1775, Paul Revere’s Ride by David Hackett Fischer, sells for under $20. And he sure-as-shootin’ did his research. Almost half the book is footnotes.

So why the high price of history? You got me? But I do know the unintended consequence. Fewer readers. Fewer brushfires.

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.

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.

Slavery and Neglect

http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/13/67/84/136784d102341a62af4020974c6c561a.jpgIn a previous post, I mentioned that the Reverend Jonas Clarke from Lexington probably did more to prepare his people for the eventualities of April 19th, 1775 than any other. Not that he was alone. He absolutely wasn’t. The message of liberty and throwing off the chains of slavery was a message preached from the majority of pulpits in 1775. I’ve also read that, if we didn’t have the writings of the founding fathers, but we had the writings of Clarke, we’d know everything we need to know about the reasons for the Revolution.

I’m reading The History of the Town of Lexington, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, from its first settlement to 1868, by Charles Hudson. It’s an amazing read. I won’t highlight a book that old but I have sticky-tagged almost every page.

Hudson gives us the text of many of the town’s resolutions, all penned by Rev. Clarke. In 1772, a measure was afoot to disconnect the Judges in the Colonies from the people by granting their salaries directly from Parliament. In a resolution of January, 1772, the patriarchs of Lexington were responded. This is from that text:

“That thus, whether successful or not, succeeding generations might know that we understood our rights and liberties, and were neither afraid nor ashamed to assert and maintain them; and that we ourselves may have at least this consolation in our chains, that it was not through our neglect that this people were enslaved.”

And, a week or so ago, in the segment on Robert Munroe, we read this: “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.” (Oct. 12, 1857)

Neglect. The Lexington Patriots were relying on their posterity to make sure slavery did not come upon them by neglect.