The road to revolution


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The road to revolution

  1. 1. The Road to Revolution April 19, 1775
  2. 2. • April 19, 1775 • The Lexington Road by the Meriams' Corner: Setting the Stage for a tragic day in American History On April 19, 1775 General Thomas Gage sent an expedition of 700 soldiers to Concord, MA to confiscate stolen and illegal weapons and military supplies being stored in Concord in preparation for conflict with British military forces. The Provincial Congress in 1774 had ordered towns in Massachusetts to begin storing supplies to prepare for what might happen if a conflict broke out with the British military. Concord was considered a key holding place for Provincial supplies particularly the farm of Colonel James Barrett, commander of the militia from the Concord area, as he was thought to be storing much of the arms and supplies for his regiment at his farm.
  3. 3. • The column of 700 soldiers was made up of the Grenadiers and Light Infantry of the regiments in Boston at the time. Grenadiers and light infantry were considered elite troops of the British army of the 18th century, so this expedition was designed to be a surprise strike by the elite soldiers of the time to seize supplies before open violent conflict could begin. This was not to be the case.
  4. 4. • After enduring numerous interruptions at the beginning of the march (late at night on Tuesday April 18) the column began their march under the command of Lt. Col. Francis Smith of the 10th Regiment of Foot. His second in command was Major John Pitcairn of the British Marines. At Lexington Common the regulars were met with the sight of the Lexington Militia assembled in 2 ranks in a military manner. A few companies of the Light Infantry were tasked with disarming the militia, who as the regulars approached began to disperse. As the regulars closed in a single shot rang out and the regulars opened fire on the militia. The officers and NCO's could not maintain control of the men who chased the militia from the Common. It was only the sound of the drum which drew the men back into their ranks.
  5. 5. Lt. Col. Smith ordered the column to continue the march to Concord, which was done immediately. As they came into town the regulars crossed the brook using the small bridge near the Meriam Houses. Overlooking the house the hill now known as Revolutionary Ridge. Seeing a number of the Provincials gathered there (Capt. David Brown's Concord Minute Company) the light infantry were dispatched to move them from that hill. The provincials retired and marched back to town in plain view of the regulars. This hill is crucial to the story of the Meriam houses as we will see later. This encounter made it clear to both sides that the provincials would be able to pick the time and place of any violent encounters were they to happen that day.
  6. 6. Upon arriving in Concord center the column split up. One contingent of four light infantry companies and some artillerymen under the command of Capt. Laurence Parsons of the 10th Light Infantry marched to Barrett's Farm to search for the supplies being stored there. Another contingent under the command of Capt. Mundy Pole of the 10th Foot took control of the South Bridge and secured that. A third contingent of light infantry took control of the North Bridge under the command of Capt. Walter Sloane Laurie of the 43rd Light Infantry.
  7. 7. Several local minute and militia companies gathered nearby the North Bridge at Major Buttrick's farm. The field in which they gathered (now known as the "Muster Field") gave the minute and militia companies a good vantage point of both the Bridge and troops located there as well as looking beyond the bridge into Concord Center.
  8. 8. The regulars under Capt. Laurie's command attempted to thwart the provincials by pulling planks out of the bridge, but meeting with little success as the provincials were upon them faster than expected, needed to retreat to the far side of the Bridge. Once there, the regulars attempted to form up in street firing, but being unable to do so a fire commenced from both sides. It is unclear who fired first as the accounts vary, with several provincial witnesses claiming that there were fired upon before firing at the regulars, obeying orders given them by Col. Barrett which instructed them to only fire if fired upon.
  9. 9. Most accounts by the regulars claimed that the provincials fired into the regulars first, thereby justifying a return volley. We will probably never know who fired first, but regardless both sides experienced casualties with two provincials being skilled instantly, Capt Isaac Davis and Pvt. Abner Hosmer of the Acton Minute Company, and two regulars killed instantly and a third mortally wounded. In addition four of eight British officers at the Bridge were wounded as were a number of other British soldiers
  10. 10. Reverend William Emerson • Being outnumbered near four to one, the British regulars turned and "ran with a great precipitance" according to Ens. Jeremy Lister of the 10th Regiment. The provincials followed across the bridge and as they the wounded British regular left at the bridge reached out and according to Rev. William Emerson of Concord (an outspoken Whig minister) was assaulted by one of the young men serving in Capt. David Brown's Concord minute company, Ammi White. According to Rev. Emerson: "not under the feelings of humanity, barbarously broke his (soldier's) skull" using his hatchet. This incident would be one that would stick in the minds of the regulars for the remainder of the day and was indeed used as justification by British officials to explain why the British soldiers would behave in a similar manner later in the day, particularly in the town of Menotomy (modern day Arlington). Once Capt. Parsons returned to the center of town the column assembled and began to march. The Light Infantry were dispatched again on the ridge to ensure that the provincials were unable to hold that high ground. As the regulars marched out of town a quiet gripped them as they made their way towards Meriam's Corner at the base of the ridge. •
  11. 11. • Meriam's Corner is the site where the Battle Road begins. It is where April 19 went from a day of a couple of small violent skirmishes to becoming a running 16 mile long battle which became the opening salvo in a war which would last eight years. Meriam's corner is the site where the people of Massachusetts openly committed treason and turned a fight for rights and self government into a fight to defend their homes and families from those who meant to do them harm. It is here at Meriam's Corner that people remember the bravery of the minutemen and militia who took up arms against their government in order to protect their property and loved ones. Much of what we know about Meriam's Corner is still up for debate. There are multiple accounts which claim different actions at different places.
  12. 12. Reading # 1 The Account of Lieutenant John Barker Light Company, His Majesty's 4th (King's Own) Regiment of Foot • From his diary, later published (first in 1876) as The British in Boston, being the daily diary of Lt. John Barker of the King's Own Regiment from November 15, 1774 to May 31, 1776. "We waited a considerable time there, and at length proceeded on our way to Concord, which we then learnt was our destination, in order to destroy a magazine of stores collected there. We met with no interruption till within a mile or two of the town, where the country people had occupied a hill which commanded the road. The Light Infantry were ordered away to the right and ascended the height in one line, upon which the Yankies quitted it without firing, which they did likewise for one or two more successively..." An officer of the 4th (King's Own) Regiment of Foot(1776-1780)
  13. 13. Reading # 2 Captain William Soutar Commander of the Light Infantry Company of the British Marines in Boston • Correspondence from 1775 "The country by this time had took Ye alarm, and were immediately in Arms, and had taken their different stations behind Walls &c....On our leaving Concord we were immediately surrounded on every Quarter, and expected to be cut off every moment..." Unknown Officer, Marine Corps
  14. 14. Reading # 3 Ensign Jeremy Lister Volunteer, Light Infantry Company, His Majesty's 10th Regiment of Foot • From his diary written in 1782, reprinted as The Concord Fight, The Narrative of Jeremy Lister • "On Capt. Parsons joining us [we] begun our march toward Boston again from Concord. The Light Infantry marched over a hill above the town, the Grenadiers through the town, immediately as we descended the hill into the Road the Rebels begun a brisk for but at so great a distance it was without effect, but as they kept marching nearer when the Grenadiers found them within shot they returned their fire. Just about that time I received a shot through my right elbow joint which effectually disabled that arm. It then became a general firing upon us from all quarters, from behind hedges and walls…”
  15. 15. Reading # 4 Lt. William Sutherland Volunteer from His Majesty's 38th Regiment of Foot • Letter written by Sutherland to British commander in chief Thomas Gage, dated April 26, 1775. On the march out to Concord at about 8:30 in the morning: "On our approaching Concord we saw upon the heights what appeared to me to amount to 12 or 1500 people, on which we halted…to make a disposition to go up the hill… which we did…still as we marched on they retreated…but the main body of them kept still together till they retreated over the Bridge beyond Concord..." On the return march to Boston at about 12:30 in the afternoon: "On our being joined by all partys & the Wounded Officers put into two one horse Chairs we marched from Concord, just at the end of the Town next to this a few Concealed Villains fired on us, of which we killed 1, but they wounded 1 of ours, here I saw upon a height to my right hand a vast number of Armed men drawn out in Battalia order, I dare say near 1000 who on our coming nearer dispersed into the Woods & came as close to the road on our flanking partys as they possibly could, upon our as-cending the height to the road gave us a very heavy fire,..."
  16. 16. Reading # 5 Letter from a Private Soldier in the Light Infantry • • • This account comes from an enlisted man in one of the Light Infantry companies of Col. Smith's expedition Dated: Boston, August 20, 1775 Soldier's account of the march out to Concord: "...On a hill near Concord there was assembled a number of people, about 700, at exercise; they were ready prepared for us, being all loaded with powder and ball. We then halted, and looked at them, as cocks might do on a pit before the fight. But it was not our business to wait long looking at them; so we fixed our bayonets, and immediately charged them up the hill, in order to disperse them but we were greatly mistaken for they were not to be dispersed so easily, the whole of them giving us a smart fire, but we returned the compliment, and pursued them with charged bayonets till we entered the town of Concord, where we cut down what they call their Liberty Pole." Soldier's account of the retreat to Boston: "...After this we began a retreat back towards Boston but we were but a poor handful of men, being only about 756, and they were so numerous, that we were not able to withstand them. They manned the hills on every side, and lined the stone walls by the roads in such a manner, that it was almost impossible for us to make a retreat..." Pencil sketch of British Light Infantryman - Study by Phillipe Jacques de Loutherbourg, 1778 for The Mock Attack at Warley Common
  17. 17. Reading # 6 Reverend Edmund Foster Marched with the Reading Minute Company under the command of John Brooks • From a letter dated 1825 to his friend Col. Daniel Shattuck “A little before we came to Merriam’s Hill, we discovered the enemy’s flank guard, of about 80 or 100 men, who, on their retreat from Concord, kept that height of the land, the main body on the road. The British troops and the Americans, at that time, were equally distant from Meriam’s Corner. About 20 rods (330 feet) short of that place, the Americans made a halt. The British marched down the hill with very slow, but steady step, without music or a word being spoken that could be heard. Silence reigned on both sides. As soon as the British had gained the main road, and passed a small bridge near that corner, they faced about suddenly, and fired a volley of musketry upon us. They overshot; and no one, to my knowledge, was injured by the fire. The fire was immediately returned by the Americans, and two British soldiers fell dead at a little distance from each other, in the road near the brook... “The battle now began, and was carried on with little or no military discipline and order, on the part of the Americans, during the remainder of the day. Each one sought his own place and opportunity to attack and annoy the enemy from behind trees, rocks, fences, and buildings, as seemed most convenient...”
  18. 18. Reading # 7 Gov. John Brooks Commander of one of the Reading Minute Companies on April 19, 1775 This account was shared with the author William Sumner who recounts in his 1851 book, "A History of East Boston" having walked the grounds near Meriam's Corner with John Brooks, presumably in the early part of the nineteenth century. Brooks, though a major at this time, would go on to later become Governor of Massachusetts during the War of 1812. "The mere names of Lexington and Concord remind the writer of his duty to the memory of his much respected friend, the late Gov. Brooks, which has so long a time been omitted. The account which follows was received from him when riding with him to attend a review near Concord. On the way, in passing over the bridge, he pointed out the very barn under cover of which he made the attack. The site of these brought to his mind the circumstances which he then related; or otherwise, from his well-known modesty, it is probable the public would never have been informed of the particulars of this attack of the gallant captain, with a single company, upon the whole British Army, which would hardly have been justifiable had not the enemy been on a hasty retreat.
  19. 19. Reading # 7 Continued • When speaking of the valor of our undisciplined militia in the first day’s conflict at Lexington and Concord, which spread so much alarm through the country, he observed that the Reading company of minute-men, which he was chosen to command when he first commenced the practice of medicine in that town, were a little better drilled, although he did not claim for the greater courage, than those who were earlier engaged in the conflict. When he took command of that company he judged the from the signs of the times that it was first duty to those who had placed confidence in him, to acquire what knowledge he could of military matters. Accordingly he made a visit to Salem to consult Col. Pickering, who was then considered the best tactician with whom he could readily confer. He found the instructions he thus received of great use when, soon afterward, he fired upon the British army on their retreat from Concord.
  20. 20. Reading # 7 Continued • As soon as the news of the fight at Lexington reached Reading, he called out his company and marched directly towards Concord, where were the stores which they supposed Gen. Gage had in view to destroy. On his march, at the intersection of the road from Chelmsford with the one that led from Bedford to Concord, upon which he was travelling, he came in contact with Col. Bridge, to whose regiment his company belonged. He was on his way to Concord with the rest of the regiment, or as much of it as he had been able to collect. Capt. Brooks saluted, and reported himself for orders. Col. Bridge said, “I am glad you have come up, Captain. We will stop here and give our men some refreshment, and then push on to Concord.” The answer was, “My men have just refreshed themselves, and as I think there is no time to be lost, with your leave I will go ahead; and as neither of us is aware of what is taking place, if I get into any difficulty I shall know that you will soon follow me, and shall have the main body of your regiment to fall back upon.”
  21. 21. Reading # 7 Continued • The colonel replied, “You may go; but as you are unaqcuainted with the posture of affairs, be careful and not go too far ahead.” Having this authority from his colonel, Capt. Brooks hastened on toward Concord, and when he came near the main road from Concord to Lexington, he saw the flank guard of the British army on this side of a hill which intervened and kept the main body from his sight. He imagined that the soldiers he saw belonged to the Charlestown Artillery Company (having the same colored uniform) on their retreat from the scene of conflict. He halted until he discovered his mistake by seeing the flank guard fall in with the main body to cross a bridge over a large brook on the road. Finding that his position could not be outflanked, he ordered his men to advance, and taking a position at Merriam’s Corner, covered by a barn and the walls around it, told them to fire directly at the bridge, which was twenty or thirty rods off. As the British Army was in great haste to make good its retreat, it fired but one volley in return. When the enemy had passed, examination was made to see what had been the effect of the fire, and several persons – the writer thinks he said nine – were hors de combat on or near the bridge."
  22. 22. Reading # 8 Amos Barrett Capt. David Brown's Minute Company One of two Concord Minute Companies Part of a letter written in 1825, recounting his experiences on April 19, 1775 On the British march to Concord: "Before sunrise thair was I beleave 150 of us and more of all that was thair. --We thought we wood go and meet the British. We marched down to ward L about a mild or mild half and we see them a comming, we halted and stayd till they got within about 100 rods then we was orded to about face and marchd before them with our drums and fifes agoing and also the B. We had grand musick. We marched into town..." On the British retreat from Concord: “After a while we found them a marching back toward Boston, we was soon after them. When they got about a mil half to a road that comes from Bedford to Bildraa (Billerica?) they was way laid and a grait many killd when I got their a grait many lay dead and the road was bloddy..” Amos’ powder horn
  23. 23. Reading # 9 Thaddeus Blood Capt. Nathan Barrett's Militia Company One of two militia companies from Concord on April 19, 1775 Thaddeus Blood recounted what he remembered from April 19, 1775 in a letter written in 1825. On the British march to Concord: "...About 4 o'clock the several companys (companies) of Concord were joined by two companies from Lincoln. The malitia (militia) commanded by Capt. Perce...we were then formed, the minute on the right & Capt. Barrett's on the left . & marched in order to the end of Meriam's Hill then so called. & saw the British troops a coming down Brook's Hill. The sun was arising & Shined on their arms & they made a noble appearrance (appearance) in their red coats & glising (glistening) arms - - we retreated in order, over the top of the hill to the liberty pole erected on the heighth (heights) opposite the meeting house & made a halt..."
  24. 24. Reading # 9 • On the British retreat from Concord: "...After the fire every one appearred (appeared) to be his own commander it was thot (thought) best to go to the east part of the Town & take them as they cam back each took his own station, for myself I took my stand south of where Den. Minot then lived, & saw the British come from Concord their left on the hill when near the foot of the hill, Col. Thomeson of Billerica came up with 3 or 4 hundred men and there was a heavy fire but the distance so great, that little injury was done on either side, at least I saw but one killed. number wounded I know not. - - I know it has been said that Genl (General) Bridge commanded the Regiment from Chelmsford & Billerica he might be some officer in the Reg. But it can be easily proved that Col.Tomson went with the Regt to cambridge & stodd (stood) till the troops was organized. & bring old Bridge was made Col..."
  25. 25. Reading # 10 Joseph Meriam Son of Nathan Meriam who was a private in Capt. Minot's Militia Company One of two in Concord on April 19, 1775 This account is from Concord by John McKinstry Merriam published in 1894. His grandfather was Joseph Meriam, who lived at Meriam's corner on the 19th of April 1775 and was seven years old on that day. "On the morning of the nineteenth of April, when the alarm was given in Concord that British soldiers were coming, Josiah Meriam, with his older sons, Josiah, Jr., and Timothy, went to the village, and later were among the forces at the North Bridge, and probably crossed the meadows and appeared again at the encounter near their house. Joseph, the youngest son, my grandfather, then seven years old, remained at home, as he always said, "to take care of the women," and soon went with them to a place of refuge in the woods behind the hill. The British soldiers entered the house, helped themselves to whatever breakfast they could find, taking the unbaked pies from the oven, took the kettle of soft soap from the crane over the open fire, spilled it upon the floor, and scattered the ashes from the fireplace. It was fortunate that they helped themselves liberally in the morning, for later in the day they repassed the same house when hot johnny cake and new baked bread and fragrant pies could not tempt them to linger.
  26. 26. Reading # 10 • " My grandfather lived to be eighty-nine years old. He must have been among the very last who could, from actual recollection tell the story of the 19th of April. Toward the end of his life he was asked if he thought the British soldiers understood the art of war. His reply was that "he did not know whether they did or not when they came into Concord, but he was pretty sure they did before they went out of it."