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Retreat of the Enemy from Concord. Their Annoyance on the Road by the Militia. Re-enforcement from Boston.
tated, for the moment, to act on the offensive by renewing the combat. This is the explanation given by their cotemporaries. Observing the rapid augmentation of the militia, Colonel Smith thought it prudent to return with his troops to Boston as speedily as possible. A little after twelve o'clock they commenced their retreat toward Lexington, the main column covered by strong flanking guards. They soon perceived that the whole region was in arms, and minute men were collecting from all points. The cautious counsels at Concord, not to attack the enemy without further provocation, were disregarded, and at Merriam's Corner, a company of provincials under Captain Brooks (afterward the distinguished colonel at Saratoga, and Governor of Massachusetts), secreted behind barns and fences, made a destructive assault upon the retreating enemy. A volley was fired in return, but not a militia-man was injured. This example was followed along the whole line of march to Lexington, and the British were terribly galled all the way. From every house, barn, and stone wall guns were fired with sure aim, and many of the regulars were slain. At Hardy's Hill there was a severe skirmish, and at almost every wooded defile numbers of the enemy were picked off by the concealed marksmen. All military order among the provincials was at an end, and each fought according to the dictates of his own judgment. Some of them were killed by the flankers, who came suddenly upon them behind the walls; but the number of the militia slain was comparatively small. Colonel Smith was severely wounded in the leg at Fiske's Hill, near Lexington; and near the battle ground of the morning, at Lexington meetinghouse, several of the British soldiers were shot. Greatly fatigued by the night's march and the day's adventures, and worried on every side by the militia, that seemed, to use the expression of one of their officers, “to drop from the clouds,” the whole body of eight hundred men, the flower of the British army at Boston, must have surrendered to the provincials in an hour had not relief arrived. An express was sent from Lexington to General Gage, early in the morning, acquainting him with the rising of the militia, and praying for a strong re-enforcement. At nine o'clock three regiments of infantry, and two divisions of marines, amounting to about mine hundred men, with two field-pieces, under Lord Percy, left Boston and marched toward Lexington. They passed through Roxbury, the bands playing Yankee Doodle in derision, it being employed as a sort of “Rogue's March” when offending soldiers were drummed out." Vague
1 Gordon relates that a shrewd boy in Roxbury made himself extremely merry when he heard the tune of Yankee Doodle, and by his antics attracted the attention of Lord Percy. He asked the boy why he was so merry. “To think,” said the lad, “how you will dance by-and-by to Chevy Chase.” Percy was often much influenced by presentiments, and the remarks of the boy worried him all day. It may be asked why was Earl Percy troubled, and what connection had the name of Chevy Chase with him. The answer is in the fact that Percy was a son of the Duke of Northumberland, a lineal descendant of Earl Percy, one of the heroes of the battle of Chevy Chase, and who was there slain. There was great rivalry between the houses of Percy and Douglas, the former an English borderer and the latter a Scotch borderer. Percy was determined to have a field fight with his rival, and so vowed publicly that he would “take pleasure in the border woods three days, and slay the Douglas's deer.” Earl Douglas heard the vaunt. “Tell him,” he said, “he will find one day more than enough.” Percy's aim was the armed encounter thus promised. He appeared at Chevy Chase with his greyhounds and fifteen hundred chosen archers. After taking his sport at the Douglas's expense, gazing on a hundred dead fallow deer and harts, tasting wine and venison cooked under the greenwood tree, and saying the Douglas would not keep his word, when “Lot yonder doth Earl Douglas come, His men in armor bright; Full twenty hundred Scottish spears All marching in our sight. All men of pleasant Tiviot-dale, Fast by the River Tweed. “O cease your sport!" Earl Percy said, “And take your bows with speed.’ Soon after this, “The battle closed on every side, No slackness there was found; And many a gallant gentleman Lay gasping on the ground."
Junction of the Troops of Percy and Smith. Their harassed Retreat to Charlestown. Skirmish at West Cambridge.
rumors of the skirmish at Lexington had reached the people there, and this movement confirmed their worst fears. No sooner had the British troops passed by, than the minute men assembled, and, along the whole march, vigilant corps of militia were gathering, and hovered around the little army of Percy, ready to strike a blow whenever it might be effectual.
Percy's brigade met the wearied troops between two and three o'clock, about half a mile from the Lexington meeting-house. He formed a hollow square, planted his cannon for its defense on the high ground near Munroe's Tavern, and received within it the worn-out companies of Colonel Smith. Many of the soldiers fell upon the ground, completely overcome. They “were so much exhausted with fatigue that they were obliged to lie down for rest on the ground, their tongues hanging out of their mouths, like those of dogs after a chase.” Percy dared not halt long, for the woods were swarming with minute men. After partaking of a little refreshment and brief rest, the united forces resumed their march toward Boston, marking their retreat by acts of vengeance, aside from the more dignified use of ball and bayonet. Three houses, two shops, and a barn, were laid in ashes in Lexington, and many buildings were destroyed or defaced, and helpless persons abused on the route. But prompt and terrible retribution instantly followed. As soon as Percy renewed the retreat, the provincials again attacked his forces from concealed points, until they arrived at West Cambridge, where a hot skirmish ensued. General Heath and Dr. Warren were active in the field, and in this foray Warren barely escaped with his life, a musketball having knocked a pin out of an ear-curl of his hair. The British kept the militia at bay, and committed many atrocious acts. Percy tried to restrain his soldiers, but in vain. Houses were plundered, property destroyed, and several innocent persons were murdered. This conduct greatly inflamed the militia, and
“Again the conflict glows with rage severe,
“Indignation and outraged humanity struggled on the one hand, veteran discipline and desperation on the other.” The contest was brief, and the enemy, with their wounded, pressed on toward Boston. The Cambridge bridge had been taken up, and they were obliged to go by the way of Charlestown. They took the road that winds around Prospect Hill, while the main body of the provincials, unawed by the field-pieces, hung close upon their rear. The situation of the British regulars was now critical, for their ammunition was almost exhausted, and a strong force was marching upon them from Roxbury, Dorchester, and Milton. Colonel Pickering, in the mean time, with seven hundred of the Essex militia, threatened to cut off their retreat to Charlestown. Another short but warm engagement occurred at the base of Prospect Hill, but the regulars reached Charlestown in safety. By command of General Heath the pursuit was now suspended. Throughout the day Charlestown had been in the greatest excitement. Dr. Warren rode through in the morning, proclaiming the bloodshed at Lexington. Many of the people had seized their muskets, and hastened to the country to join their brethren. The schools were
The mail-clad leaders combated hand to hand, until the blood dropped from them like rain. “Yield thee,
Douglas almost immediately dropped, struck to the heart with an arrow. “Fight on, my merry men,” he cried with his dying breath. Percy took his hand, and said, “Earl Douglas, I would give all my lands to save thee.” At that moment an arrow pierced Percy's heart, and both leaders expired together.—See Knight's Old England, Scott's Castle Dangerous, and the ballad of Chevy Chase.
Stedman's History of the American War, i., 118.
Stedman was a British officer, and accompanied Earl Percy in this expedition. He highly praises Percy, but says that Colonel Smith's conduct was much censured.
* Everett's Lexington Address.
British Encampment on Bunker Hill. Quiet the next Day. General Effect of these Skirmishes.
dismissed; the shops were closed; and when it was ascertained that the British were retreating and must pass through the town, many of the inhabitants prepared to leave and to carry with them their most valuable effects. When the firing at Cambridge was heard, the people rushed toward Charlestown Neck, to flee to the country. There they met the retreating troops, and were obliged to fly back, panic-stricken, to their houses. A report got abroad that the British were slaughtering women and children in the streets. Terror every where prevailed, and a large number of the defenseless people passed the night in the claypits back of Breed's Hill. The alarm was false; not an individual was harmed in Charlestown. Percy ordered the women and children into their houses, and demanded nothing but refreshments for his troops. The main body occupied Bunker Hill that night, and a strong line was formed upon Charlestown Neck. A re-enforcement was sent over from Boston, guards were stationed in various parts of the town, the wounded were conveyed to the hospitals in the city, and that night all was quiet in the neighborhood. General Pigot assumed command at Charlestown the next morning, and before noon the crest-fallen troops returned to their quarters in Boston. Thus ended the first act in the bloody tragedy of the American Revolution." During the day the British lost sixty-five killed, one hundred and eighty wounded, and twenty-eight made prisoners; in all two hundred and seventy-three. The provincials lost fifty-nine killed, thirty-nine wounded, and five missing; in all one hundred and three." The events of the 19th of April, 1775, were of vast importance, considered in their relation to subsequent scenes and results. On that day the life of the first British soldier, sent hither to oppress a people panting for the privileges of freedom, was sacrificed—on that day the first American, aroused by armed invasion to the necessity of resistance, fell in defense of the dearest rights guaranteed to him by the British Constitution’—on that day “the scabbard” was indeed “thrown away,” and a war of seven years' duration began—and on that day the jubilee trumpet was sounded, proclaiming “Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” The events of that day formed the first disruption of the chrysalis of old political systems, whence speedily came forth a noble and novel creature, with eagle' eye and expansive wings, destined speedily to soar far above the creeping reptiles of despotism that brood amid the crumbling relics of old dynasties. They formed the significant prelude to that full diapason, whose thundering harmony, drawn forth by the magic touch of the spirit of Freedom, filled the nations with wonder, and ushered in the New Era so long predicted and so long hoped for. The military events of the day, compared with the movements of armies in the great contests of war at other times, were exceedingly insignificant in themselves; but the temper shown by the provincials, and the vulnerable character of the British soldiery, as exhibited in the various skirmishes and in the retreat, had a great and abiding effect upon the minds of both parties. The haughty boasts of English officers, that three regiments might march unmolested throughout the continent, and that the Americans were “sorry poltrooms, their courage displayed to its utmost in tarring and feathering individuals,” were silenced, and Gage, in alarm, called upon the ministry to send large re-enforcements. The patriots, on the other hand, learned their strength when united; that British troops were not invincible, and that the true spirit and courage of men resolved on freedom animated and nerved
* Gordon, Stedman, Stiles, Ripley, Shattuck, Clarke, Frothingham, &c.
* The following officers and citizens of note were among the slain: Justice Isaac Gardner, of Brooklipe; Captain Isaac Davis, of Acton; Captain Jonathan Wilson, of Bedford; Lieutenant John Baron, and Sergeant Elisha Mills, of Needham; and Deacon Josiah Haynes, of Sudbury. The estimated value of property destroyed by the invaders is as follows: In Concord, $1375; in Lexington, $8305; in Cambridge, $6010. A list of the killed, wounded, and missing is given on page 532.
* It will be seen hereafter that the first life sacrificed in defense of liberty in America was upon the Alamance, in North Carolina, in 1771. In that event, however, the militia were in open and armed rebellion against the royal authority, and were the actual aggressors.
* John Wilkes, in his speech in Parliament, already alluded to, asked, significantly, “Who can tell whether, in consequence of this very day's violent and mad address [to the king], the seabbard may not be thrown away by them as well as by us?”
* Levit. xxv., 10.
Unity of the American People. Massachusetts Provincial Congress. Accounts of the Battles sent to England.
the militia. Britons were alarmed; Americans were elated. Individual wrongs were adopted by the whole people as their own, and every man slain at Lexington, Concord, and Menotomy or West Cambridge, lived again in the strong arms of a thousand determined patriots. In Massachusetts, in particular, ties of consanguinity, property, marriage, manners, religion, social circumstances, and general equality, made whole communities weep over a single victim, and the hearts of the people of the whole province were made to bleed when the first martyrs in the cause of American Independence were laid in the grave." Linked with that grief was the buoyant sentiment expressed by Percival:
“O it is great for our country to die, where ranks are contending !
“O then, how great for our country to die, in the front rank to perish :
The Provincial Congress of Massachusetts was immediately summoned, and met at Watertown, seven miles west of Doston, on the 22d of April. Dr. Joseph Warren was chosen president, and Messrs. Gerry, Church, and Cushing were appointed a committee to draw up a “narrative of the massacre.” A committee on depositions was also formed, and many affidavits were taken at Lexington and Concord. When all necessary information was collected, a communication, giving a minute account of the whole affair, was drawn up and ordered to be sent to Arthur Lee, the colonial agent in England. An address “To the Inhabitants of Great Britain” was also prepared and sent with the other papers, and was first published in the London Chronicle of May 30th, 1775. The address was firm but respectful. While its signers asserted their continued loyalty to the sovereign, and their readiness to “defend his person, family, crown and dignity,” they boldly exhibited their manhood in declaring that they would no longer submit to the tyrannical rule of a weak and wicked ministry. The Honorable Richard Derby, of Salem, was engaged by the committee to fit out his vessel as a packet, and take the dispatches to London. He arrived there on the 29th of May, ten days before Gage's dispatches reached government. The ministry were confounded, and affected to disbelieve the statements that appeared in the London Chronicle of the 30th ; but, in a few days, they were obliged to acknowledge the truth of the report.”
* In Lexington, Concord, Danvers, and West Cambridge, monuments have been erected in memory of the slain. The two former will be noticed presently, in connection with an engraving of each. The monument at West Cambridge has been completed since my visit there in 1848. Beneath it rest the remains of twelve persons who were killed in the skirmish there. The names of only three are known: Jason Russel, Jason Winship, and Jabez Wyman. The monument is a simple granite obelisk, nineteen feet high The funds for its erection were furnished by the voluntary contributions of the citizens of West Cambridge. * The first accounts of the events at Lexington and Concord were published in the newspapers and in handbills. One of the latter, preserved in the library of the Massachusetts Historical Society, has the figures of forty coffins at the head. * Dartmouth, the Secretary of State for the colonies, issued the following card on the 30th : “A report having been spread, and an account having been printed and published, of a skirmish between some of the people in the province of Massachusetts Bay and a detachment of his majesty's troops, it is proper to inform the public that no advice has, as yet, been received in the American department of any such event.” Arthur Lee was in London, narrowly watching every movement of government, and transmitting secret intelligence to the Committee of Correspondence of Boston, and to his brother, Richard Henry Lee, member of the Continental Congress. He was the agent of the Massachusetts colony at that time, and issued the following card, over his proper signature: “As a doubt of the authenticity of the account from Salem, touching an engagement between the king's troops and the provincials, in the Massachusetts Bay, may arise from a paragraph in the Gazette of this evening, I desire to inform all those who wish to see the original affidavits which confirm that account, that they are deposited at the Mansion House, with the Right Honorable the Lord Mayor, for their inspection ARTHUR LEE.”
Excitement in London. Government Lampooned. List of the Names of the first Martyrs
The dispatches of Gage were published on the 10th of June, and London was almost as much excited as Boston. Gage's report confirmed every important circumstance mentioned by the patriots, and the metropolis was soon enlivened by placards, lampoons, and doggerel verse. The retreat of the British from Lexington was regarded as a defeat and a flight, and at every corner ministers heard revilings concerning “the great British army at Boston
Note.—The following list of the names of the first martyrs in the cause of American liberty, is given in the eighteenth volume of the Massachusetts Historical Collections: LexingtoN.—Killed: Jonas Parker, Robert Monroe, Samuel Hadley, Jonathan Harrington, Jr., Isaac Muzzy, Caleb Harrington, John Brown, Jedediah Moore, John Raymond, Nathaniel Wyman, 10. Wounded: John Robbins, Solomon Pierce, John Tidd, Joseph Comee, Ebenezer Monroe, Jr., Thomas Winship, Nathaniel Farmer, Prince Estabrook, Jedediah Monroe, Francis Brown, 10. Concord.—Wounded: Charles Miles, Nathan Barrett, Abel Prescott, Jr., Jonas Brown, George Meriot, 5. CAMERIDGE.-Killed: William Marcy, Moses Richardson, John Hicks, Jason Russell, Jabez Wyman, Jason Winship, 6. Wounded: Samuel Whittemore, 1. Missing : Samuel Frost, Seth Russell, 2. NEEDHAM.—Killed: John Bacon, Elisha Mills, Amos Mills, Nathaniel Chamberlain, Jonathan Parker, 5. Wounded : Eleazer Kingsbury, Tolman, 2. Sudbury.—Killed: Josiah Haynes, Asahel Reed, 2. Wounded: Joshua Haynes, Jr., 1. Acton.—Killed: Isaac Davis, Abner Hosmer, James Hayward, 3. Wounded: Luther Blanchard, 1. Bedford.—Killed: Jonathan Wilson, 1. Wounded: Job Lane, 1. Woburn.—Killed: Daniel Thompson, Asahel Porter, 2. Wounded: George Reed, Jacob Bacon, —— Johnson, 3. Medford.—Killed: Henry Putnam, William Polly, 2. CHARLEstown.—Killed: James Miller, Edward Barber, 2. WATERTown.—Killed: Joseph Coolidge, 1. FRAMINGHAM.—Wounded: Daniel Hemminway, 1. DEDHAM.—Killed: Elias Haven, 1. Wounded : Israel Everett, 1. Stow.—Wounded: Daniel Conant, 1 Roxbury.—Missing: Elijah Seaver, 1. BrookLINE.-Killed : Isaac Gardner, 1. BILLERica.-Wounded : John Nichols, Timothy Blanchard, 2. CHELMsford.—Wounded: Aaron Chamberlain, Oliver Barron, 2. SALEM.–Killed: Benjamin Pierce, 1. Newton.—Wounded: Noah Wiswell, 1. DANvers.—Killed: Henry Jacobs, Samuel Cook, Ebenezer Goldthwait, George Southwick, Benjamin Deland, Jotham Webb, Perley Putnam, 7. Wounded: Nathan Putnam, Dennis Wallace, 2. Missing. Joseph Bell, 1. Beverly.—Killed: Reuben Kerryme, 1. Wounded: Nathaniel Cleves, Samuel Woodbury, William Dodge, 3. Loss—Killed: Abednego Ramsdell, Daniel Townsend, William Flint, Thomas Hadley, 4. Wounded: Joshua Felt, Timothy Monroe, 2. Missing : Josiah Breed, 1. Total: Killed, 49; Wounded, 39; Missing, 5=93.