- Historic Sites
Rebels And Redcoats
Participants describe the opening of the American Revolution
February 1957 | Volume 8, Issue 2
Jonas Parker, an older cousin of the Captain’s, stood his ground. In his hat at his feet he had tossed bullets, wadding, and spare flints. When a British ball buckled his knees, he tried vainly to reload his piece, but a redcoat’s bayonet finished him. Jonathan Harrington, with a ball in his body, dragged himself from the common almost to his own doorstep, but he died before his anguished wife, bursting from the house, could reach him. John Brown fell on the edge of a swamp north of the common. Another man slumped dead behind the wall in John Buckman’s garden.
The regulars went entirely out of hand, much to the disgust of Lieutenant Barker: “The men were so wild they could hear no orders.” Major Pitcairn was furious, chagrined, and mortified; one of his subordinates had shouted the order to fire. His own cease-fire went unheeded. He was finally able to form his unruly ranks, just as Colonel Smith came into sight with the main body.
The common was deserted now, except for the redcoats and the rebel dead and wounded. In those few minutes of fire, eight Massachusetts men had been killed and ten wounded. One regular had suffered a slight leg wound, and Major Pitcairn’s horse had been struck lightly twice.
Regrouped, the British fired a volley to celebrate their victory, struck up their music, and marched briskly for Concord. Sylvanus Wood reported:
After the British had begun their march to Concord I returned to the Common and found Robert [Munroe] and Jonas Parker lying dead … near the Bedford Road, and others dead and wounded. I assisted in carrying the dead into the meetinghouse. I then proceeded toward Concord with my gun. …
Concord, April 19, 1775
Many a tanner, farmer, wheelwright, and clerk was proceeding that morning toward Concord with his gun. By the time the fresh April sunlight flooded down on the bloody common at Lexington, the alarm set off by Dr. Warren had spread far and wide.
Colonel Conant and his Charlestown friends, signaled by Paul Revere’s lanterns, had roused their neighborhood and as Revere and Dawes awakened house after house and village after village on the roads to Concord, other riders swung into the saddle and galloped to spread the warning that the regulars were marching into the country. From every direction in Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, and Worcester counties, militiamen and minutemen were on the march to Concord.
Over their shoulders, or cradled in their arms, they carried the muskets that their English law required each of them to own. Every one of them, from sixteen to sixty, was enrolled in the Crown militia, liable to be called out en masse or by a draft in time of danger. Each was expected to possess a firelock, a bayonet, and a quantity of ammunition. By now, many of them belonged also to secret minuteman companies, recently formed to march against Crown forces at a minute’s notice from watchful Whig committees of safety.
Concord stood alerted. Harness-maker Reuben Brown had been sent down toward Lexington before light to learn the truth of Dr. Prescott’s panted warning that the British were out in force. He had arrived in sight of the Lexington Common just as the regulars drew up before the minutemen and the firing started. He reined in long enough to take in what was happening, then he wheeled his horse and dashed for home to tell what he had seen. There the two local minuteman companies and one from Lincoln already were assembled, about 200 men in all.
Corporal Amos Barrett of David Brown’s Concord minuteman company expected to celebrate his twenty-third birthday in a few days; his recollection of the morning of the nineteenth was far more accurate than his orthography:
… the Beel Rong at 3 o Clock for alarum, as I was then a minnit man I was soon in town and found my Capt and the Rest of my Compny at the post, it wont Long Before thair was other minit Compneys. one Compney I believe of minnit men was Raisd in a most every town to Stand at a minits warning, 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 wards Lfexington] about a mild or mild half and we see them acomming. we halted and stayd till they got within about 100 Rods, then we was orded to the about face and marchd before them with our Droms and fifes agoing and allso the Bfritish]. We had grand musick.
About a mile from Concord, a sharp ridge rose abruptly from the plain and flanked the Lexington Road all the way to the Concord town square. At the square, the road turned sharply right and followed another ridge to the wide wet meadows on the bank of the Concord River, where it turned squarely to the left and crossed the North Bridge across the stream. Thence it followed the the graceful curve of the river, skirting a hill, and arrived after about two miles at the farm buildings of Colonel James Barrett, commander of the Concord militia. Not far beyond the bridge a short road struck right off the main road to Barren’s and climbed to the top of the hill north ot the river. Colonel Barren’s buildings were one of the main objectives of the British, who knew that a quantity of the stores was concealed around them.
Lieutenant Barker described the British approach to Concord: