Saturday, December 11, 2021

"And Followed in the Retreat to Cambridge" - What Happened to Captain John Parker's Company After the Regulars Withdrew from the Town?

A common question the Nerds are often asked is what happened to the Lexington Training Band after the events of Parker’s Revenge on April 19, 1775?

After ambushing the retreating British column, Captain John Parker and his men quickly retired up a nearby access path to the top of a hill and then moved down the east side. Once at the bottom, the company moved to a new position down the road to attack the column again.  According to Lexington militiaman Nathan Munroe “We fired on them and continued to do so until they met their reinforcement in Lexington.”  

But what happened to Parker and his men after the retiring British column left Lexington? 

Don Troiani's "Lexington Common"

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the presumption has been that militiamen from Lexington pursued the retreating regulars into East Lexington but simply halted at the Menotomy line. This claim is supported by the fact that John Parker and his men did not submit a mileage claim to the Massachusetts government following the Battles of Lexington and Concord. By comparison, most other towns that mobilized that day, including Andover, Newbury, Framingham, and Acton submitted claims seeking compensation for the travel expenses incurred by their militia and minute companies as they pursued the British back to Boston. 

It has been theorized by many historians, including the Nerds, that as a result of the destruction and death the regulars had left behind in Lexington, Captain Parker’s men ceased pursuing the British column at the Lexington-Menotomy line. Once His Majesty’s forces disappeared from view, the embattled Lexington men returned home so as to address the immediate needs of their community.

However, the Nerds have stumbled across a pair of early 19th-century pension claims that challenge the presumption that Captain John Parker’s Company stopped pursuing the British column at the Lexington-Menotomy Line. Instead, Lexington veterans John Hosmer and Jonathan Loring specifically assert that Parker’s men continued to pursue the column as far as Cambridge, Massachusetts, and remained outside of Boston for between two and eight days.

Veteran John Hosmer submitted his pension application in April of 1832. In support of his request for financial support, Hosmer  asserted “While residing at Lexington, Massachusetts, on the morning of April 19, 1775, he was one of the Lexington Company of Militia, drawn up on the common, when the British advanced and fired on them … and followed in the retreat to Cambridge, and served at this time, eight days.”

Pension Application of Lexington Veteran John Hosmer

Similarly, Lexington militiaman Jonathan Loring also stated that he served in the Battle of Lexington. According to his pension claim of 1832, Loring “was at Lexington on the morning of the 19th of April, A.D. 1775, embodied with his company and received the fire of the British near the meeting house and continued during that day in [illegible] pursuing the Enemy when they returned from Concord … he continued in the field three days in Cambridge.”

Primary sources from April 19th have consistently suggested that the militia and minute companies of April 19th operated under the direction of their company officers and NCOs and did not break down into an unorganized mob of individuals who acted without direction. Thus, the statements of Loring and Hosmer do create a fair and powerful inference that Captain Parker’s Company continued to pursue the British column as it crossed into Menotomy. 

So why didn’t Lexington submit a mileage claim in the aftermath of April 19th? The most plausible explanation is a combination of the town still reeling from the devastating effects of April 19th, as well as Parker’s failing health. 

It wouldn't be the only occasion where Lexington did not stay on top of submitting claims to Massachusetts officials. Two months later, as the Battle of Bunker Hill raged, American commander General Artimus Ward called for reinforcements in the event the British army punched through the American siege lines. In response, Captain Parker’s Company mobilized the afternoon of June 17th and marched directly to Cambridge. They remained outside of Boston for two days. Unfortunately, only after some delay, did Parker complete but not submit a mileage compensation claim for the men who mobilized in response to Bunker Hill. In fact, the request was never submitted to Massachusetts officials until mid-1776, months after Parker had died of tuberculosis. 

The Nerds will continue our research into this new development and will keep you posted as to what we find!!

No comments:

Post a Comment