Sunday, April 9, 2017

April 19, 1775: As Seen Through the Eyes & From the Quills of Those Who Were There

~ Today's posting is a sort of 'Reader's Digest' collection of descriptions, quotes, and commentary concerning the people involved in the Battle of Lexington & Concord.
It is not, by any means, meant to be a comprehensive account. 
Of course it isn't - this is only a blog post. 
But my objective is to give the reader an idea of what the men and women of that time went through on such a fateful day - a date which truly should live on in infamy, but, unfortunately, doesn't in most parts of these United States.
In fact, if you mention April 19th, 1775 to most outside of Massachusetts, you'll find they haven't a clue as to what occurred.
Well, maybe we should start spreading the word. Maybe, just maybe, in our own small way, we can get the news out, and the celebrations of the beginning of the founding of the United States can be...well...celebrated.
Today's post might be a good start ~ 
~ ~ ~

"The Revolution and the beliefs and ideals that came out of it are what hold us together and make us a united people. There is no American ethnicity, so the Revolutionary beliefs in liberty and equality and constitutionalism are the adhesives that make us a nation." 
Gordon S. Wood - Revolutionary War historian and author

Straight-last buckle shoes
I am so proud.
You see, my official job title is "paraprofessional," or "parapro" for short. I mainly work in classrooms in a high school as a sort of teacher's aid, helping the students who are physically or otherwise health impaired.
One of the classes I am assigned to is American History. Yeah...go figure, right? What's even cooler is the teacher has no problem deferring to me and allowing me to add my thoughts, opinions, and knowledge during class time. And when we teach of the Revolutionary War period, oh, you can bet I am right there! And we really drill this so important part of our nation's history into our sophomore students.
Of course we do!
Which means they get a pretty extensive instruction, as far as high school goes, that covers the period from the Stamp Act through the writing of the Constitution, with extra concentration on what most consider to be the first real battle of the Revolutionary War: Lexington & Concord.
A few of the founding documents that are placed on the wall of our American History classroom
With the anniversary date of April 19, 1775 coming up, what I thought I'd do for this week's post is look at that turbulent day through the eyes and words of those who were there, whether soldier or civilian (including women), as well as descriptive narratives from writers who have a gift of engulfing the reader into the world of the past. And I tried to find remarks that will give a more "you are there" view of the occurrences, using the primary sources available. I often will help teach the students in this same manner, for, to me, there are no better descriptions than from those who witnessed history first hand... 

So, let's begin our journey to one of the most important dates in American history with a few words from Todd Andrlik, the author of a fantastic book, Reporting the Revolutionary War:    
New-Hampshire Gazette 
Friday, April 21, 1775
"News of the first full battle of the Revolutionary War spread gradually. For Massachusetts militia officers in towns along the roads from Boston to Concord, it came on April 18, 1775, as neighbors reported seeing British army officers on horseback, cloaks over their uniforms and pistols. That night, provincial riders, alarm bells, and signal guns transmitted the warning that eight hundred infantrymen had crossed the Charles River and were marching west. Militia companies began to muster.
On the morning of April 19, the news grew grim: royal troops had fired on a militia company on Lexington Common, killing eight. At midday, people learned that those British regulars were searching Concord, destroying the Provincial Congress's supplies and cannons. Another exchange of fire at Concord's North Bridge left dead on both sides.
As soon as the royal troops left Concord, the Middlesex County militia began a concerted counter-attack. The regulars met their reinforcements in Lexington, and the combined force struggled east to Charlestown through growing hostile fire. By the end of the day, about 3,800 militiamen had seen action against about 1,500 regulars. More than 270 British were left dead, wounded, or missing; for the Americans, only ninety-four.
American newspapers formed a consensus that one goal of the British army's march had been to arrest Massachusetts political leaders, particularly John Hancock and Samuel Adams. (British) General Gage described his aim as destroying rebel supplies in Concord; his orders and private files, made available in the 20th century, confirm this."

As far as Revere warning Adams and Hancock of possible arrest, that pretty much was the general consensus of the patriots at that time, for, as Paul Revere himself wrote:
Paul Revere & William Dawes
speak with Messrs. Adams
and Hancock
"I, PAUL REVERE, of Boston, in the colony of the Massachusetts Bay in New England; of lawful age, do testify and say; that I was sent for by Dr. Joseph Warren, of said Boston, on the evening of the 18th of April, about 10 o'clock; when he desired me, ''to go to Lexington, and inform Mr. Samuel Adams, and the Hon. John Hancock Esq. that there was a number of soldiers, composed of light troops, and grenadiers, marching to the bottom of the common, where there was a number of boats to receive them; it was supposed that they were going to Lexington, by the way of Cambridge River, to take them, or go to Concord, to destroy the colony stores."

Now, I would hope that you know the story of Paul Revere's ride. No, not the Longfellow version, but what really happened. You know…how he never made it to Concord - - how he was, instead, captured by the British Regular Army roughly in between Lexington and Concord, and then eventually let go after the sound of musket fire and warning bells coming from the direction of Lexington.
If not, please click HERE.
So let's also take this opportunity to see what happened to Mr. Revere after he made it back to town, as he tells us in his own words (this being a combination of two accounts, one written in 1783, and the other, more well known, written in 1798):
Mr. Lowell (a clerk to John Hancock) asked me to go to the tavern with him, to get a trunk of papers belonging to Mr. Hancock. We went up chamber, and while we were getting the trunk, we saw the British very near, upon a full march. Before we left the house, I saw the ministerial troops from the chamber window. We made haste - we hurried toward Mr. Clark's house, and had to pass through our militia, who were on a green behind the Meeting House, to the number as I supposed, about 50 or 60, I went through them; as I passed I heard the commanding officer speak to his men to this purpose; ''Let the troops pass by, and don't molest them, without they begin first.'' I had to go across road; but had not got half gunshot off when the ministerial troops appeared in sight, behind the Meeting House. They made a short halt, when one gun was fired, which appeared to be a pistol. I heard the report, turned my head, and saw the smoke in front of the troops. Then I could distinguish two guns. They immediately gave a great shout, ran a few paces, and then a continual roar of musketry, I could first distinguish irregular firing, which I supposed was the advance guard, and then platoons; at this time I could not see our militia, for they were covered from me by a house at the bottom of the street...(then) we made off with the trunk."
Without fully realizing it at the time, Mr. Revere witnessed the very beginnings of the first real battle for America's fight for Independence.
The battle begins - - Lexington Common
The following is by David Hackett Fischer. In this narrative we find ourselves in the midst of that first great skirmish:
'We shall never know who fired first at Lexington, or why. But everyone on the Common saw what happened next. The British infantry heard the shots, and began to fire without orders. Their officers could not control them.
The British firing made at first a slow irregular popping sound. Then suddenly there was a terrible ripping noise like the tearing of a sheet as (they) fired their first volley. Lexington militiaman Elijah Sanderson saw the Regulars shoot at him, but he was amazed that nobody seemed to fall, and thought that the Redcoats were firing blanks. Then one British soldier turned and fired toward a man behind a wall. "I saw the wall smoke with the bullets hitting it. I knew they were firing balls."
After the volley from the Regulars, the spectators fled for their lives. Timothy Smith testified that, "I immediately ran, and a volley was discharged at me, which put me in imminent danger."
Heavy lead musket balls flew in all directions, making a low whizzing noise which sounded to some like a swarm of bees. The Common was shrouded in dense clouds of dirty white smoke. One militiaman remembered, "All was smoke when the Foot fired." Another recalled that, "the smoke prevented our seeing anything but the heads of some of their horses." '
And, from the book Paul Revere & the World He Lived In by Esther Forbes, we get a more up-close and personal view of this battle:
'Aunt Lydia had been hanging out of an upper window to watch. A bullet whizzed by her head and hit the barn. "What's that?"  They told her a bullet and she'd best take care of herself. And Jonathan Harrington, shot through the chest, was able to crawl the few yards to his own door and die there.  Jonas Parker, brought to his knees by the British fire, had been finished off by a bayonet.
Two of the wounded were carried to Reverend Clarks'. Miss Dolly remembered that the one who had been grazed insisted that he was killed, and the one who had been really wounded "behaved better." '

As soon as the patriots dispersed, the detachment of Regulars pushed on toward Concord, six miles distant. Confident of success and high in spirit, they were unaware that Concord had been aroused, and a formidable body of militia had collected to "receive the invaders."
This goes right along with the story that Mary Hartwell of Lincoln, who was a witness to the events, liked to tell her grandchildren.
Dawes, Revere, and Prescott
On the night of April 18th, an advance guard of British soldiers captured Paul Revere just down the road from the tavern. Dr. Samuel Prescott of Concord, who was riding with Revere and William Dawes, escaped by leaping his horse over a stone wall and fleeing through pasture and swamp. He emerged at the Hartwell Tavern. Prescott awakened old Ephraim (68 years old at the time) and told him about the British regulars on the march. Ephraim sent his black slave Violet down the road to awaken Capt. William Smith, Capt. of the Lincoln Minute Men.
Violet made it to Mary and Sam Hartwell's house, and Mary took over and relayed the message to Smith's house.  
Bells were rung, thus the Lincoln Minutemen were warned in time, and arrived at the North Bridge before the British soldiers got there.
(from the Minuteman National Park Service website as well as the Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution by Benson J. Lossing.)

Josiah Walpole Hall
Now let's take a rare opportunity to actually look into the eyes of two men who were indeed a part of that first day's battle (taken from the book, The Last Muster - Images of the Revolutionary War Generation by Maureen Taylor).
Twenty two year old minuteman Josiah Walpole Hall, upon hearing the warning muskets and bells, traveled the road from Walpole to Concord, Massachusetts, in the early hours of April 19, 1775, to deliver the message that General Gage's regulars were crossing the Charles River to march to Lexington to arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock for treason and then to Concord to seize the cannon and military stores there. 
During the war that followed, Hall served in Colonel Joseph Read's Regiment. He died at South Walpole, Massachusetts, at the age of 101


As for this next fellow, I am not sure, but I do suspect that there was a relation between this Jonathan Harrington and the Jonathan Harrington mentioned earlier, who had died at the door of his home:
Here is a daguerreotype of 
Jonathan Harrington from the early 1850s.
 You are looking into the eyes of history - 
the eyes that actually saw the 
Battle of Lexington and Concord!
(from the collection of the Lexington, Massachusetts
Historical Society)
"Imagine the excitement of Jonathan Harrington on the morning of April 19, 1775. At seventeen he was the youngest member of Capt. John Parker's company of minutemen. It was his job to play the fife when the soldiers crossed the North bridge at the Battle of Lexington & Concord. Harrington was there with his father, brother, and three cousins. It would be his only military service in the War."
And from the above-mentioned book, The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution (published in 1850, by the way), we hear more about Mr. Harrington. You see, author Benson Lossing realized that people of his generation knew about the battles fought in their own regions, but very little about the battles outside of their area, and he considered it important to capture that information prior to its being lost. Lossing sketched landmarks as they existed at the time of his travels to make sure that they were recorded for the "admiration and reverence of remote posterity." The result of his travels is this three-volume set, which includes in-depth interviews with veterans,including Jonathan Harrington. 
Lossing, I have read, was awed to be in the company of a man who was present at the first battle of the Revolution, and in his own words wrote of his excitement:
Here is the sketch of Jonathan 
Harrington drawn by historian 
and author, Benson J. Lossing, 
in October 1848.
The signature is Mr. Harrington's.
"I hastened to East Lexington to visit Jonathan Harrington, an old man of ninety, who played the fife when the minute men were marshaled on the Green upon that memorable April morning. He was splitting fire-wood in his yard with a vigorous hand when I rode up; and as he sat in his rocking-chair, while I sketched his placid features, he appeared no older than a man of seventy. His brother, aged eighty-eight, came in before my sketch was finished, and I could not but gaze with wonder upon these strong old men, children of one mother, who were almost grown to manhood when the first battle of our Revolution occurred! Frugality and temperance, co-operating with industry, a cheerful temper, and a good constitution, have lengthened their days, and made their protracted years hopeful and happy. The aged fifer apologized for the rough appearance of his signature, which he kindly wrote for me, and charged the tremulous motion of his hand to his labor with the ax. How tenaciously we cling even to the appearance of vigor, when the whole frame is tottering to its fall! Mr. Harrington opened the ball of the Revolution with the shrill war-notes of the fife, and then retired from the arena. He was not a soldier in the war, nor has his life, passed in the quietude of rural pursuits, been distinguished except by the glorious acts which constitute the sum of the achievements of a GOOD CITIZEN.
I wonder if Lossing asked Harrington to play a tune on the fife? I certainly would have asked if that had been me!

Moving on...
At Concord’s North Bridge, the British Regulars turned and looked up the hill in amazement at the men coming toward them. Leading the way down from Punkatasset Hill to confront the British troops at the bridge were the minutemen of Acton, Massachusetts, who were one of the few companies to be fully equipped with bayonets and cartridge boxes that allowed a greater rate of fire than powder horns. Behind the Acton company were minutemen from other towns, followed by the militia.
The Regulars never imagined that these “country people” would dare to march against the King’s troops in formation, and were astounded by their order and discipline. One British soldier wrote, “They began to march by division down upon us from the left in a very military manner.” 
Slowly the British Regulars began to understand that this was no rural rabble
confronting them.

The New England regiments moved in a long column, supposedly, as tradition tells us, led by young fifer Luther Blanchard of Acton, who, with drummer Francis Barker, played a bold taunt of defiance called “The White Cockade,” an old tune thought to be “intensely galling to the Hanoverians.” “The White Cockade” was a traditional Scottish tune that celebrated the attempt by “Bonnie Prince Charlie” to reclaim the throne of Britain for the House of Stuart.   During the 1745 Jacobite uprising, the Bonnie Prince plucked a white rose and placed it on his bonnet as a symbol of rebellion.
It has been questioned whether or not “The White Cockade” was played on April 19th, 1775. A deposition from Charles Handley, a 13 year old boy who was at the Widow Brown’s tavern a mile from North Bridge, clearly states that he heard it as the Acton Company passed the tavern: “They marched quite fast to the music of a fife and drum,” he said many years later, “I remember the tune, but am not sure of its name…I think it was called ‘The White Cockade.’”  Handley then whistled the notes, which were verified by the listener to be the tune in question. This seems to be the only eyewitness account of a specific tune being played at a specific time. 
Hmmm...I wonder where Jonathan Harrington fits in with all of this...

The Regulars were met with hostile fire, and were unexpectedly driven back.
From British officer Lieut. Col. Smith, who took part in the skirmish at Lexington and Concord, describing the return back to Boston in a letter to the Massachusetts Governor Gage
Boston, April 22, 1775
"While at Concord we saw vast numbers assembling in many parts; at one of the bridges they marched down, with a very considerable body, on the light infantry posted there. On their coming pretty near, one of our men fired on them, which they returned; on which an action ensued, and some few were killed and wounded. In this affair, it appears that after the bridge was quitted, they scalped and otherwise ill-treated one or two of the men who were either killed or severely wounded, being seen by a party that marched by soon after.
At Concord we found very few inhabitants in the town; those we met with both Major Pitcairn and myself took all possible pains to convince that we meant them no injury, and that if they opened their doors when required to search for military stores, not the slightest mischief would be done. We had opportunities of convincing them of our good intentions, but they were sulky; and one of them even struck Major Pitcairn. 
"Our men had had very few good 
opportunities of getting good shots 
at the Rebels, as they hardly ever fired 
but under cover of a stone wall, 
from behind a tree, or out of a house"
On our leaving Concord to return to Boston, they began to fire on us from behind the walls, ditches, trees, etc., which, as we marched, increased to a very great degree, and continued without the intermission of five minutes altogether, for, I believe, upwards of eighteen miles; so that I can't think but it must have been a preconcerted scheme in them, to attack the King's troops the first favorable opportunity that offered, otherwise, I think they could not, in so short a time as from our marching out, have raised such a numerous body, and for so great a space of ground. Notwithstanding the enemy's numbers, they did not make one gallant effort during so long an action, though our men were so very much fatigued, but kept under cover.
I have the honor, etc.
F. Smith, Lt-Col. 10th Foot."


Here is a portion from the Diary of Lt. Frederick Mackenzie of the Royal Welch Fusiliers (one of the oldest infantry regiments in the British Army), telling of his own similar experience:
19 April
During the whole of the march from Lexington the Rebels kept an incessant irregular fire from all points at the column, which was the more galling as our flanking parties, which at first were placed at sufficient distances to cover the march of it, were at last, from the different obstructions they occasionally met with, obliged to keep almost close to it. Our men had had very few good opportunities of getting good shots at the Rebels, as they hardly ever fired but under cover of a stone wall, from behind a tree, or out of a house; and the moment they had fired they lay down out of sight until they had loaded again or the column had passed. In the road indeed in our rear, they were most numerous and came on pretty close, frequently calling out, "King Hancock forever!"
Few or no women or children were to be seen throughout the day. As the country had undoubted intelligence that some troops were to march out, and the Rebels were probably determined to attack them, it is generally supposed they had previously removed their families from the neighbourhood...
"They did not fight us like a regular army, only like savages behind trees and stone walls, and out of the woods and houses, where in the latter we killed numbers of them."

Next we have a portion of a letter to Boston Governor Gage from Brigadier General Percy Hugh of the 5th Regiment of Foot:
Boston, 20 April, 1775
As all the houses were shut up and there was not the appearance of a single inhabitant, I could get no intelligence concerning them till I had passed Menotomy, where I was informed that the Rebels had attacked His Majesty's troops, who were retiring, overpowered by numbers, greatly exhausted and fatigued, and having expended almost all their ammunition. And about 2 o'clock I met them retiring through the town of Lexington.
As soon as they saw us begin to retire, they pressed very much upon our rear-guard, which for that reason I relieved every now and then. In this manner we retired for 15 miles under an incessant fire all around us, till we arrived at Charlestown between 7 and 8 in the evening, very much fatiqued with a march above 30 miles, and having expended almost all our ammunition.
It was a very precarious retreat to Boston for the Regulars
Photo courtesy of the Boston Discovery Guide

There is a story generally known around the Lexington/Concord area of a middle aged man named Hezekiah Wyman. In fact, on that fateful day - April 19, 1775 - it's said that Hezekiah turned 55 years of age. As the story goes, upon hearing of (or possibly witnessing) the occurrence on the village green where the townsmen of Lexington were over run by the Regulars, he saddled up his old white mare and, against the wishes of his wife, galloped on a course toward Concord. It did not take long before he met with a column of British infantry then fired at a Regular who advanced toward him, bringing the soldier down. Being highly visible - he was described as a "tall, gaunt" man with long gray hair - he became known as "Death on a Pale Horse" by those who saw him and grew to fear the sight of this crack shot, for he would jump off his horse, steady his aim with his musket, take a deliberate shot and hit his mark, then jump back on his mare to find a new position.
Hezekiah Wyman died in 1779.
The man actually lived...but some say his story is a myth...hmmm...

Off to fight...Concord
Here is a very interesting "home front" story (taken from the book Beneath Old Roof Trees by A.E. Brown) concerning Mary Hartwell of Lincoln as told by her grandson, who heard it "repeatedly from her lips." Says her grandson, "It was my good fortune to have a grandmother live in the full possession of her faculties until she attained almost a century of life. The happiest days of my youth were those spent at her fireside, listening to her experiences on the day long to be remembered:
She said: "Your grandfather, who was sergeant, left the house, joining the neighbors as soon as the alarm reached us. I did up the chores at the barn, and cared for the children as well as I could in my anxiety. When thus occupied, a colored woman who lived near us came in to spread the news of the approach of the British, but was afraid to go farther; so I said, "If you will take care of my baby, I will go and give the warning." I started for a neighbor's house, glancing down the road, and saw such a sight as I can never forget. The army of the king was coming up in fine order, their red coats were brilliant, and their bayonets glistening in the sunlight made a fine appearance; but I knew what all that meant, and I feared that I should never see your grandfather again, although I then knew nothing of their bloody work at Lexington.     
I started for a neighbor's house, glancing down the 
road, and saw such a sight as I can never forget. 
The army of the king was coming up in fine order, 
their red coats were brilliant, and their bayonets 
glistening in the sunlight made a fine appearance
Picture courtesy of the Boston Discovery Guide
"'I saw an occasional horseman dashing by, going up and down, but heard nothing more until I saw them coming back in the afternoon, all in confusion, wild with rage, and loud with threats. I knew there had been trouble, and that it had not resulted favorably for that retreating army. I heard the musket-shots just below, by the old Brooks Tavern, and trembled, believing that our folks were killed. Some of the rough, angry soldiers rushed up to this house and fired in; but fortunately for me and the children, the shots went into the garret, and we were safe. How glad I was when they all got by the house, and your grandfather and our neighbors reached home alive!'"
      The scenes that followed the alarm, when it reached other homes in the town, were in some respects like those at the home of Samuel Hartwell. Says Mr. Farrar, a grandson of Captain Samuel of the company of militia, and the owner and occupant of one of the Farrar dwellings on the old homestead, "My grandfather was on his way to mill in the early dawn when he heard of the trouble. Throwing his saddle-bags containing the grist over a wall, he made haste to rally his men, and went on to Concord."
      The people, here as elsewhere, had become so alarmed by premonitions of evil that this morning's intelligence was enough to cause them to believe that nether life nor property was safe within the range of the invading army. Says Mr. Farrar, "The Concord families living nearest to our home fled this way for safety, and with my grandmother and others of the family left this house, and took refuge in 'Oaky Bottom,' a retired piece of forest land about one-half mile in.the rear of the house, still known by that name in our community. Grandmother in her haste had sufficient self-possession to think of the cattle tied in the barn. These she let loose, desiring to save them from the flames that she expected would be kindled by Gage's army. She took her babe, Samuel (the third), in her arms, the large family Bible, a loaf of bread, and a looking-glass, with what little silver she had, and bade farewell to the old dwelling, never expecting to gather her family about her again beneath that ancestral roof. Every little while they would venture out far enough to look over the hill to see if the soldiers had set the house on fire."
To appreciate the situation of these people and others, one must place him-or-herself in thought back to that April morning, having in mind the many real threats and the more unwarranted alarms that had emanated from the army at Boston.


marker photo courtesy of Find-a-Grave
On Lexington Green, eleven year old Elizabeth Clarke, the daughter of Reverend Jonas Clarke, watched as the dead were gathered up and laid in plain pine boxes "made of four large boards nailed up. After Pa had prayed, they were put into two large horse carts and took into the graveyard (where he) and some of the neighbors had made a large trench as near the woods as possible, and there we followed the bodies of the first slain, father and mother, I and the baby. There I stood, and there I saw them let down into the ground. It was a little rainy, but we waited to see them covered up with the clods. And then for fear the British should find them, my father thought some of the men had best cut some pine or oak boughs and spread them on their place of burial so that it looked like a heap of brush."


Although Mary Hartwell had good reason for entertaining vindictive feelings towards the invading army, her actions proved that her better nature soon prevailed. She said, "I could not sleep that night, for I knew there were British soldiers lying dead by the roadside; and when, on the following morning, we were somewhat calmed and rested, we gave attention to the burial of those whom their comrades had failed to take away. The men hitched the oxen to the cart, and went down below the house, and gathered up, the dead. As they returned with the team and the dead soldiers, my thoughts went out for the wives, parents, and children away across the Atlantic, who would never again see their loved ones; and I left the house, and taking my little children by the hand, I followed the rude hearse to the grave hastily made in the burial-ground. I remember how cruel it seemed to put them into one large trench without any coffins. There was one in a brilliant uniform, whom I supposed to have been an officer. His hair was tied up in a cue."  
Burying the British Dead
For more than a century this common grave remained unmarked, until the people of the town, considering the events of that day with a forgiving spirit, erected a memorial stone over the resting-place of the unknown dead.


At Menotomy, the dead militiamen were heaped on an ox-sled and sent home to their town, while the children looked on. Joanna Mansfield recollected the sight of the American dead piled high, their legs stiff, and each wearing "heavy stockings of gray homespun."


From the New-Hampshire Gazette Friday, April 21, 1775:
BLOODY NEWS
Bloody News!
(taken from Andrlik's book)
PORTSMOUTH, April 20, 1775
Early this morning, we were alarmed, with an Express from Newbury-Port, with the following Letter, to the Chairman of the Committee of Correspondence in this Town.
SIR, Newbury-Port, April 19, 1775.
THIS Town has been in a continental Alarm since Mid-day, with Reports of the TROOPS having marched out of Boston to make some Attack in the Country---The Reports in general concur, in part, in having been at Lexington---And it is very generally said they have been at Concord. --- We sent off an Express this Afternoon, who went as far as Simons' at Danvers, before he could get Information that he thought might be depended upon--- he there met two or three Gentlemen who affirmed, the Regular Troops and our Men had been engaged chief of the Morning, and that it is supposed we had Twenty-five Thousand Men engaged against Four Thousand Regulars; that the Regulars had begun a Retreat--- Our Men here are setting off immediately---- And as the sword is now drawn, and first drawn on the Side of the Troops, we scruple not, you will give the readiest and fullest Assistance in your Power --- And send this Information further on---- In Behalf of the Committee for the Town,
Your humble Servant,
JAMES HUDSON, Chairman
News as it happened...


I'm not sure who wrote the following letter to a British officer in Boston - the writer, a woman, is only known as C.S. of Philadelphia.
Here is an excerpt:
Letter writing
Sir--we received a letter from you--wherein you let Mr. S know that you had written after the battle of Lexington, particular to me--knowing my martial spirit--that I would delight to read the exploits of heroes. Surely, my friend, you must mean the New England heroes, as they alone performed exploits worthy fame--while the regulars, vastly superior in numbers, were obliged to retreat with a rapidity unequalled...though we consider you as a public enemy, we regard you as a private friend...
I tremble at the thoughts of war; but of all wars, a civil one: our all is at stake; and we are called upon by every tie that is dear and sacred to exert the spirit that Heaven has given us in this righteous struggle for liberty.
I will tell you what I have done...I have retrenched every superfluous expense in my table and family; tea I have not drank since last Christmas, nor bought a new cap or gown since your defeat at Lexington, and what I never did before, have learnt to knit, and am now making stockings of American wool for my servants, and this way do I throw in my mite to the public good. I know this, that as free I can die but once, but as a slave I shall not be worthy of life.
I have the pleasure to assure you that these are the sentiments of all my sister Americans. They have sacrificed both assemblies, parties of pleasure, tea drinking and finery to that great spirit of patriotism that actuates all ranks and degrees of people throughout this extensive continent. If these are the sentiments of females, what must glow in the breasts of our husbands, brothers and sons? They are as with one heart determined to die or be free.
All ranks of men amongst us are in arms. Nothing is heard now in our streets but the trumpet and drums; and the universal cry is "Americans, to arms!"
We are making powder fast and do not want for ammunition.
Your sincere friend,
C.S.

~             ~             ~

Folks, to me it's reading these first-hand accounts that make the past come to life like nothing else can. The primary sources - the words of the people from the past who were there - show us that those who we read about were more than just a history lesson; they are more than sketches in a school book. They were living, breathing humans, the same as we are today. Whereas we have the comfort of knowing the outcome, they didn't.
But, to me, looking at their times through their eyes, their thoughts, and their actions bring them back to life here 250 years afterward.
And this is what I try to do during reenactments: I do my best to emulate those who we just read about - and so many others - so that the visitors may feel they are actually speaking to one from the 1770s.

Until next time, see you in time - - 

Postscript - - - - 
Many times, when I write postings like this I listen to period-appropriate music to help set the mood. And on the shelf directly above my computer monitor are replicated artifacts and photos that also help to give me my so-called "muse."
Top left: a painting of the 1750s Daggett House and Windmill that now sits in Greenfield Village.
Bottom left: a replica of the 1775 powder horn originally belonging to William Waller.
On top of the powder horn: a replica betty lamp - very popular lighting apparatus of the 18th century.
Middle: a replica of one of the two signal lanterns hung in the Old North Church steeple on the night of April 18, 1775.
Middle right: a Miller beer mug from 1991 depicting Paul Revere's ride.
Bottom right: a small pottery depiction of Paul Revere's house.

Here is the listing the of songs I put onto a various artist 18th century "mix tape" that I listen to often (remember cassettes? Yes, I still love 'em!):
In the Good Old Colony Days
White Cockade
Come Haste to the Wedding
A Toast
Buttered Peas
There Was a Jolly Miller
Fish & Tea
General Washington
Girl I Left Behind Me
Of All the Simple Things
Going to Boston
Death of General Wolfe
Here He Comes! The Hero Comes!
Dog & Gun
President's March
Farewell to Old Ireland
The Drum
Massachusetts Hop
Fancy Minuet
Lovely Nancy
Poor Polly
Lady Washington
Rock of Ages
Good Morrow To Your Night Cap
Johnny Cock the Beaver
Funeral Dirge #1 and #2
Hangman Slacken Your Rope
Stony Point
Billy Broke Locks
A Minuet By the Reverend Mr. Bacon
Soldier Will You Marry Me
Orpheus
The Swallow
Lord Howe's Jig
Barbara Allen
Argeers
Yankee Doodle
Soldier's Joy
Derby Ram
Home Sweet Home
Buttermilk Sky
Amazing Grace
Over the Hills and Far Away
Johnny Toddy Was a Soldier

The artists performing the above listed tunes are Linda Russell, Kevin Roth, David & Ginger Hildebrand, Hesperus, J. Eberhart, Dean Shostak, Colonial Traditions, 1st Michigan Fife & Drum, Oscar Brand, John Townley, and a CD entitled Music of the American Revolution.
Here are a few links to purchase some of my favorite period music:
George Washington: Music For First President by David & Ginger Hildebrand
Over the Hills and Far Away by David & Ginger Hildebrand
Reflections by 1st Michigan Fife & Drum
Colonial America by Hesperus
Colonial Traditions - various Artists
In the Good Old Colony Days by Linda Russell


And for a very good movie (considering its age) on the occurrences of Lexington & Concord, check out April Morning:
"This is simply a gem of a movie based on Howard Fast's excellent 1962 novel of the first day of hostilities between colonists and Britain.
There may have been bigger blockbusters made about the American Revolution (The Patriot,  etc.) but this under- rated 1988 film is a true classic, capturing the quintessential decency of American colonial village life in Lexington and the developing tensions and conflict on that fateful day of 19th April 1775.
April Morning is also effective because it does not glamorize war or demonize the redcoats. In fact, a Patriot and a Redcoat are both seen, at various stages, to be scared witless by the whiff of grapeshot and of battle. Yet overall, in what is truly a momentous day for the villagers of Lexington and Concord, we see how the events mature a young colonist, and this is brilliantly illustrated at the end of the film when he leads his family in prayer for their food and life. This very subtle approach makes it evident that the boy, like colonial America, is gone forever and has been replaced by a decent man who would, with humility, be worthy of his emerging new leadership role-in young America."


Discover BOSTON by visiting THIS site
Click > Minuteman National Park Service < for the Minuteman website
Click >Find-a-Grave< website for the Lexington dead marker photo
To learn more about Paul Revere's ride, click HERE
To read more about the Revolutionary War through original artifacts, click HERE
To learn more about how our colonial ancestors lived, click HERE
To learn more about how our colonial ancestors traveled, click HERE
To learn more about how our colonial ancestors cooked and what they ate, click HERE
Researching the 18th century - Click HERE
Men's clothing, hair, and language of the 18th century, click HERE

The narratives and quotes that make up today's post came from the following books:
Paul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fischer
Reporting the Revolutionary War by Todd Andrlik
Paul Revere & the World He Lived In by Esther Forbes
The Last Muster - Images of the Revolutionary War Generation by Maureen Taylor
The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution by Benson J. Lossing
Beneath Old Roof Trees by A.E. Brown
Principles and Acts of the Revolution in America by Hezekiah Nile

Did you hear the news from Boston?
I read in the Virginia Gazette there was a battle between the King's Regulars and some Rebels...














~~~~~~~~~~

No comments: