Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Let It Begin Here - The Timeline of Events in Lexington Leading up to April 19, 1775

Prelude to War

  1. On September 26, 1774, Lexington voted to form committees whose responsibilities were “to bring two pieces of cannon from Watertown and mount them, to provide a pair of drums for the use of the military company in town . . . [and] to have the militia and alarm list meet for a view of their arms.”  

  1. On November 3, 1774, the town assembled to plan “military discipline and to put themselves in a position of defense against their Enemies.”

  1. On December 12, 1774, elements of the Lexington militia assembled to inspect arms and equipment.  However, due to snow, the inspection was rescheduled to December 28, 1774. “The training bande & alarm liste men [will] appear at the Meeting house…for viewing arms & ammunition.”

  1. On December 28, 1774, Lexington residents resolved “to provide bayonets at the town’s cost for one third of the training soldiers.”  
  1. According to the Reverend Jonas Clarke, the Lexington militia were “training” and “showing arms” as early as September 15, 1774.  Other dates Clarke records the militia drilling are October 5, 1774 and March 13, 1775.  Town records also confirm the company was drilling on December 12, 1774 and December 28, 1774.  

  1. Likewise, Lieutenant William Tidd asserted the company met often and drilled regularly.   “I, William Tidd, of Lexington, in the county of Middlesex, do testify and declare, that I was a Lieutenant in the company of Lexington militia, commanded by Capt. John Parker, in the year 1775; that, previous to the 19th of April of that year, it was expected the British would soon commence hostilities upon the then Provincials; that said company frequently met for exercise, the better to be prepared for defense; that, on the evening previous to the 19th a number of the militia met at my house for the above purpose.”

The Events Leading up to The Battle of Lexington

  1. At approximately six o’clock on April 18, 1775, Solomon Brown observed nine British officers riding slowly along the country road before him.  The evening was not very cold yet Brown noted that each of the officers was wearing a heavy wool blue overcoat under which he could see the shape of their pistols.  Taken aback, Brown passed the officers and galloped onto Lexington.  He rode directly to Munroe’s Tavern where he informed Sergeant Munroe of what he had observed.

  1. Between approximately six o’clock and eight o’clock, Sergeant Munroe dispatched a detail to guard the provincial leaders John Hancock and Samuel Adams.  Both of these men had taken up temporary residence in the home of Reverend Jonas Clarke, located a short distance up the Bedford Road from Buckman Tavern.  According to Munroe, “these men were placed  . . . around the house of Mr. Clarke for the night and I remained with them.”  

  1. During the evening of April 18, 1775, elements of the Lexington militia were drilling at William Tidd’s house.

  1. At approximately eight o’clock, the town received two messages from Elbridge Gerry, a member of the Provincial Committee of Safety and Supplies.  According to Jonas Clarke “We received two messages, the first verbal, the other, by express, in writing from the Committee of Safety, who were then sitting in the westerly part of Cambridge, directed to the Honorable John Hancock, Esq., who, with the Honorable Samuel Adams, Esq., was then providentially with us, informing that eight or nine officers of the king's troops were seen just before night passing the road towards Lexington in a musing, contemplative posture; and it was suspected they were out upon some evil design.  Both these gentlemen had been frequently, and even publicly, threatened by the enemies of this people, both in England and America, with the vengeance of the British administration.  And as Mr. Hancock, in particular, had been more than once personally insulted by some officers of the troops in Boston, it was not without some just grounds supposed that under coverage of the darkness, sudden arrest, if no assassination might be attempted by these instruments of tyranny."

  1. An hour later, a party of British officers was observed riding through Lexington.  At the same time, approximately thirty members of the training band had assembled outside Buckman’s Tavern.  Among those present were Solomon Brown, Jonathan Loring and Elijah Sanderson.  An older member of the alarm list, hoping to locate the nine officers and ascertain their objective, approached the three.  The young men agreed to set out on their horses.  Sanderson and Loring were charged with the task of observing the officer’s movements, while Brown would ride ahead to Concord to alert the town.  

  1. Between nine thirty and ten o’clock, Brown, Loring and Sanderson were captured in Lincoln by the British officers observed earlier in the evening.  “We were, about ten of the clock, suddenly surprized by nine persons, whom we took to be Regular Officers, who rode up to us, mounted and armed, each having a pistol in his hand, and after putting pistols to our breast, and seizing the Bridles of our horses, they swore, that if we stirred another step, we should be all dead men, upon which we surrendered ourselves.”

  1. At eleven o’clock in the evening, alarm rider Paul Revere rode into Lexington.  He galloped past Munroe’s Tavern, across the bridge at Vine Brook and on to Buckman’s Tavern.  After a brief conversation with the men there, he rode the few hundred yards up the Bedford Road to the Clarke parsonage.  As he dismounted, Revere encountered Sergeant Munroe and his armed guard.  Munroe, not recognizing the rider, called for Revere to identify himself and ordered him not to make so much noise as people inside the house were trying to sleep.  The agitated Revere shouted “Noise!  You’ll have enough noise before long!  The regulars are coming out!”  Storming past the sergeant, he began banging on the front door of the parsonage.  Hancock immediately lifted the sash of his bedroom window to see what was happening.  Recognizing Revere, he exclaimed, “Come in Revere!  We’re not afraid of you!”

  1. Between midnight and one o’clock on the morning of April 19, 1775, alarm rider William Dawes arrived in Lexington.  Following his arrival, militia officers, as well as Hancock and Clarke concluded that a military expedition from Boston was advancing towards Concord.  “[Between] the hours of twelve and one on the morning of the 19th of April, we received intelligence, by express, from the intelligence service, the Honorable Joseph Warren, Esq. at Boston, that a large body of the king's troops, supposed to be a brigade of about twelve or fifteen hundred, were embarked in boats from Boston and gone over to land on Lake Marispoint, so-called, in Cambridge.”  

  1. At one o’clock in the morning, Revere, Dawes, Adams, Hancock and Clarke left the Clarke parsonage and walked down Bedford Road to Buckman’s Tavern to speak with the officers of the militia.  According to Clarke, the conversation centered on the purpose of the British mission.

  1. At the conclusion of this meeting, Lexington’s militia is alarmed.  As Clarke recalled, “upon this timely intelligence, the militia of this town were alarmed, and ordered to meet on the usual place of parade.”  As they gathered, Captain Parker addressed his men so as to “consult what might be done for our own and the people's safety; and also, to be ready for whatever service Providence might call us out to upon this alarming occasion, in case--just in case--overt acts of violence or open hostilities should be committed by this mercenary band of armed and blood-thirsty oppressors.”  After some discussion, it was decided to confirm the accuracy of Revere’s message by sending scouts eastward to locate and observe the movements of the British regulars.  “Two persons were sent, express, to Cambridge, if possible to gain intelligence of the motions of the troops and what route they took.  The militia met, according to order, and waited the return of the messengers that they might order their measures as occasion should require.”  

  1. Between one and two o’clock, Captain John Parker requests Nathan Munroe and Benjamin Tidd to ride to Bedford and Concord to alarm the militia companies in those respective towns.

  1. At about one thirty in the morning, Lexington’s alarm bell began to toll.  A panic sets in and most residents recognize that a military force is marching towards Lexington.  Anna Munroe, wife of Sergeant William Munroe, starts to bake bread for her husband.  Later she confessed “I mixed my bread last night with tears coming, for I feared I should have no husband when the next mixing came.”

  1. By two o’clock in the morning, Lexington women had begun to gather their valuables and evacuate their families to the safety of nearby woods and fields or to homes away from the route of the British advance.  Captain John Parker’s wife, Lydia, “took all the valuables and hid them in a hollow trunk of a tree standing some distance from the house.” Widow Lydia Mulliken and her daughters, who lived along the Boston road, heard the alarm and hurriedly buried the family’s silver and other valuables in a wall near the clock shop, then fled to distant safety.  Mary Sanderson gathered her children and “taking such articles as they could hurriedly collect and carry in their arms, by the light of a lantern [made their way] to a refuge, the home of her father in New Scotland.” The Loring daughters scurried to hide the communion silver in a brush heap back of the house before fleeing.  Abigail Harrington, took the younger children “down a lane back of the house across a meadow to the old place on Smock farm.”  Anna Munroe fled Munroe Tavern with her three children and hid on a hill behind the establishment.

  1. At approximately two o’clock Sanderson and his compatriots are released by their British captives.  “They detained us until Two O’clock the next morning, in which time they searched and greatly abused us; having first enquired about the magazine at Concord, whether any guards were posted there, and whether the bridges were up.”

  1. One of the Lexington scouts returned between three and four o’clock in the morning and reported that there was “no appearance of the troops on the roads to Cambridge and Charlestown and that the movements of the army were but a feint to alarm the people.”  Believing Revere was mistaken, Parker dismissed his men “but with orders to be within call of the drum, waiting the return of the other messenger who was expected in about an hour, or sooner, if any discovery should be made of the motions of the troops.”  

  1. Before five o’clock in the morning, John Hancock and Sam Adams leave Lexington for Woburn.  Revere and Lowell begin to remove Hancock’s papers from the Buckman Tavern.

  1. At approximately five o’clock in the morning, Thaddeus Bowman, the second scout sent out earlier in the morning returns.  He alerts to Captain Parker that the Regulars were less than a half hour away.  In turn, John Parker orders the Lexington Company to assemble.  “We Nathaniel Mulliken, Philip Russell, [and 32 other men], All of lawful age, and inhabitants of Lexington, in the County of Middlesex…do testify and declare, that on the nineteenth in the morning, being informed that…a body of regulars were marching from Boston towards Concord…we were alarmed and having met at the place of our company’s parade, were dismissed by our Captain, John Parker, for the present, with orders to be ready to attend at the beat of the drum. We further testify and declare that about five o’clock in the morning, hearing our drum beat, we proceeded towards the parade.”

  1. Following the company assembly, Parker again discusses what action the company should take.  According to the Reverend Clarke, there is debate over whether the company should dismiss and reform at another location away from the advancing column.  “Upon this intelligence, as also upon information of the conduct of the officers as above-mentioned, the militia of ths town were alarmed, and ordered to meet on the usual place of parade; not with any design of commencing hostilities upon the king’s troops but to consult what might be done for our own and the people’s safety; And also to be ready for whatever service providence might call us out to, upon this alarming occasion in case overt acts of violence or open hostilities be committed by this mercenary hand of armed and blood thirsty oppressors.”  Clarke also notes John Parker “thought best to call the company together, not with any design of opposing so superior a force, much less of commencing hostilities, but only with a view to determine what to do, when and where to meet, and to dismiss and disperse.”  This second statement further supports the proposition that the Lexington militia was properly armed and equipped for a military campaign, had discussed dispersing before the British column arrived in Lexington, gathering at a second rallying point and then marching towards Concord.

  1. Approximately a half hour before sunrise, between five and five thirty, the British Column arrived at the Lexington Common.  Thomas Rice Willard watched the events unfold from a window in Daniel Harrington’s house, located at the back of the Lexington common.  Four days later, he testified “On the Nineteenth instant, in the morning, about a half hour before sunrise, I looked out at the window of said house, and saw (as I suppose) about four hundred regulars in one Body.”  John Robbins noted the training band “being drawn up (sometime before sun Rise) on the Green or Common . . .there suddenly appear’d a Number of the Kings Troops.”  William Draper, a resident of Colrain, Massachusetts who happened to be in Lexington on April 19th declared “about a half hour before sunrise, the King’s Regular Troops appeared at the meeting house of Lexington.”  Finally, Thomas Fessenden asserted that as he stood in a pasture, he watched the regulars enter the common and rush the training band “at about half an hour before sunrise.”

  1. Between five and five thirty in the morning the Battle of Lexington occurs.

1 comment:

  1. One of the ironies of this event is how the mounted officers Gage sent out to ensure that alarm riders wouldn't get through ended up alarming towns simply by riding through them.