- Historic Sites
Voices Of Lexington And Concord
What was it like to actually be there in April, 1775? This is how the participants, American and British, remembered it
April 1971 | Volume 22, Issue 3
”… the British were then at the bridge. … Captain Davis returned to his company and drew his sword, and said to the company, ‘I haven’t a man that is afraid to go,’ and gave t he word ‘March!’”
I left Dr. Warren, called upon a friend and desired him to make the signals. I then went home, took my boots and surtout, went to the north part of the town, where I kept a boat; two friends rowed me across Charles River, a little to the eastward where the Somerset man of war lay. It was then young flood, the ship was winding, and the moon was rising. They landed me on the Charlestown side. When I got into town, I met Colonel Conant and several others; they said they had seen our signals. I told them what was acting. …
I set off upon a very good horse; it was then about eleven o’clock and very pleasant. After I had passed Charlestown Neck … I saw two men on horseback under a tree. When I got near them, I discovered they were British officers. One tried to get ahead of me, and the other to take me. I turned my horse very quick and galloped toward Charlestown Neck, and then pushed for the Medford road. The one who chased me, endeavoring to cut me off, got into a clay pond. … I got clear of him, and went through Medford, over the bridge, and up to Menotomy [now Arlington]. In Medford, I awakened the captain of the minute men; and after that I alarmed almost every house, till I got to Lexington.
The people of Lexington already suspected that something momentous was stirring. Among the first to take the alarm had been Orderly Sergeant William Munroe, of the militia company commanded by Captain John Parker:
… Early in the evening of the 18th of … April, I was informed by Solomon Brown, who had just returned from Boston, that he had seen nine British officers on the road, travelling leisurely, sometimes before and sometimes behind him; that he had discovered, by the occasional blowing aside of their topcoats, that they were armed. On learning this, I supposed they had some design upon Hancock and Adams, who were then at the house of the Rev. Mr. Clarke, and immediately assembled a guard of eight men, with their arms, to guard the house.
About midnight, Col. Paul Revere rode up and requested admittance. I told him the family had just retired, and had requested that they might not be disturbed by any noise about the house.
“Noise!” said he. “You’ll have noise enough before long. The regulars are coming out.”
We then permitted him to pass. Soon after, [another messenger] came. These gentlemen came different routes … and both brought letters from Dr. Warren in Boston to Hancock and Adams, stating that a large body of British troops had left Boston, and were on their march to Lexington.
According to Lieutenant John Barker, of the King’s Own, the British expedition had trouble getting started:
… Between 10 and 11 o’clock all the Grenadiers and Light Infantry of the army … (under the command of Lt. Col. Smith of the ioth and Major Pitcairn of the Marines), embarked and were landed upon the opposite shore on Cambridge Marsh. Few but the commanding officers knew what expedition we were going upon. After getting over the marsh, where we were wet up to the knees, we were halted in a dirty road and stood there [for a long time] waiting for provisions to be brought from the boats and to be divided, and which most of the men threw away, having carried some with ’em.
Ensign Jeremy Lister, of the 10th Regiment of Foot, adds:
We … was on our march by one, which was at first through some swamps and slips of the sea till we got into the road leading to Lexington, soon after which the country people begun to fire their alarm guns [and] light their beacons, to raise the country. …
Soon after midnight, Paul Revere and William Dawes had ridden from Lexington toward Concord, spreading the alarm as they went. They were shortly overtaken by a young doctor named Samuel Prescott, a Concord man who had been in Lexington visiting his sweetheart. He decided to aid them in their mission. Ahead of the riders were the British officers who were patrolling in advance of the main body. The officers had in custody three Lexington men: Elijah Sanderson, Solomon Brown, and Jonathan Lonng. The trio had been captured while trying to keep the patrol under surveillance. Sanderson says:
It was a bright moon-light. … During our detention, they put many questions to us, which I evaded. They kept us separately, and treated us very civilly. They particularly inquired where Hancock and Adams were; also about the population. … While we were under detention, they took … Col. Paul Revere. …
We had got nearly half way; Mr. Dawes and the doctor stopped to alarm the people of a house; I was about one hundred rods ahead, when I saw two men, in nearly the same situation as those officers were near Charlestown. I called for the doctor and Mr. Dawes to come up; in an instant I was surrounded by four;—they had placed themselves in a straight road that inclined each way; they had taken down a pair of bars on the north side of the road, and two of them were under a tree in the pasture.