Monday, January 23, 2017

"We Stopt to Polords & Eat Some Bisket & Ches on the Comon" - How the Andover Minute Men Missed an Opportunity to Attack the British

In the early morning of April 19, 1775, news of a British operation towards Concord reached the Merrimack Valley.  As militia and minute companies assembled, the Valley town that had the best chance of catching and engaging the British column was Andover.  

Andover was the westernmost town in Essex County and was less than twenty miles away from both Concord and Lexington.  On April 19th, it had two minute companies and four militia companies. 

According to Lieutenant Benjamin Farnum the Andover minute companies quickly mobilized. "April 19, 1775. This day, the Mittel men . . . were Alarmed with the Nuse of the Troops marching from Boston to Concord, at which Nuse they marched very quick from Andover, and marched within about 5 miles of Concord, then meeting with the Nuse of their retreat for Boston again with which Nuse we turned our corse in order to catch them." 

Likewise, Andover minute man Thomas Boynton described how his unit shifted course multiple times in an attempt to catch up with the regulars. "Andover, April 19, 1775. This morning, being Wednesday, about the sun's rising the town was alarmed with the news that the Regulars was on their march to Concord. Upon which the town mustered and . . . marched onward for Concord. In Tewksbury news came that the Regulars had fired on our men in Lexington, and had killed 8. In Bilricke news came that the enemy were killing and slaying our men in Concord. Bedford we had the news that the enemy had killed 2 of our men and had retreated back; we shifted our course and persued after them as fast as possible, but all in vain ; the enemy had the start 3 or 4 miles."

Given the statements of Bonton and Farnum, one might ask why was Andover unsuccessful in intercepting Lieutenant Colonel Smith's column that day.  Did the Andover minute companies take a wrong turn or become lost as they marched further into Middlesex County?  

No - they were simply hungry.  

According to James Stevens, the men only marched through two towns and then stopped for lunch.  Afyer halting, they ate biscuits and cheese on a common across from Solomon Pollard's Tavern in Billerica. 

"April ye 19 1775 this morning about seven aclok we had alarum that the Reegerlers was gon to Conkord we getherd to the meting hous & then started for Concord we went throu Tukesbary & in to Bilrica we stopt to Polords & eat some bisket & Ches on the comon."

The men must have spent considerable time eating in Billerica as they missed any chance of intercepting the enemy.  When the Andover men finally resumed their march, they quickly learned that the British troops had already joined Lord Percy's relief column, left Lexington and were en route back to Boston.  According to Stevens:  

"We started & wen into Bedford & we herd that the regerlers was gon back to Boston we went through Bedford, we went in to Lecentown. We went to the metinghous & there we come to the distraction of the Reegerlers thay cild eight of our men & shot a Canon Ball throug the metin hous. we went a long through Lecintown & we saw severel regerlers ded on the rod & som of our men & three or fore houses was Burnt & som hoses & hogs was cild thay plaindered in every hous thay could git in to thay stove in windows & broke in tops of desks we met the men a coming back very fast we went through Notemy & got into Cambridg we stopt about eight acloke for thay say that the regerlers was got to Chalstown on to Bunkers hil & intrenstion we stopt about two miles back from the college."

It is unknown what the result would have been if the Andover Minute Companies had successfully caught up to the British column.  Nevertheless, the decision to stop for lunch resulted in at least two minute companies missing an opportunity to attack the regulars as they fought their way back to Boston.    

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