- 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
During this time the people were gathering together in great numbers, and, taking advantage of our scattered disposition, seemed as if they were going to cut off the communication with the bridge, upon which the two [farther] companies joined and went to the bridge to support that company. The three companies drew up in the road the far side the bridge, and the rebels on the hill above, covered by a wall. In that situation they remained a long time, very near an hour, the three companies expecting to be attacked by the rebels. …
Captn. Lawrie, who commanded these three companies, sent to Col. Smith begging he would send more troops to his assistance and informing him of his situation. The Col. ordered 2 or 3 companies, but put himself at their head, by which means stopt ’em from being time enough, for being a very fat heavy man he would not have reached the bridge in half an hour, though it was not half a mile to it.
In Concord, Martha Moulton was still having her troubles:
When all on a sudden they had set fire to the great gun carriages just by the house, and while they were in flames, your petitioner saw smoke arise out of the Town House higher than the ridge of the house. Then your petitioner did put her life, as it were, in her hand, and ventured to beg of the officers to send some of their men to put out the fire; but they took no notice, only sneered. Your petitioner, seeing the Town House on fire, and must in a few munutes be past recovery, did yet venture to expostulate with the officers just by her, as she stood with a pail of water in her hand, begging of them to send, etc. When they only said, “O, mother, we won’t do you any harm!” “Don’t be concerned, mother!” and such like talk.
The house still burning, and knowing that all the row of four or five houses, as well as the school house, was in certain danger, your petitioner (not knowing but she might provoke them by her insufficient pleading) yet ventured to put as much strength to her arguments as an unfortunate widow could think of; and so your petitioner can safely say that, under Divine Providence, she was an instrument of saving the Court House, and how many more is not certain, from being consumed, with a great deal of valuable furniture, and at the great risk of her life. At last, by one pail of water after another, they sent and did extinguish the fire.
Seeing the smoke rising from the village angered the Americans at the bridge. Those who lived m Concord decided that it was time they made a move to defend their homes. At this point a militia company from Acton, commanded by Captain Isaac Davis, joined the murmuring troops. Among the newcomers was Thomas Thorp:
We found a great collection of armed men, from Concord and other towns; there were several hundreds, cannot say how many. The officers seemed to be talking by themselves, and the British were then at the bridge. Our officers joined the others; and in a few minutes, not exceeding five, 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 the word “March!”
With fifers and drummers playing an especially lively tune called “The White Cockade, ” the aggregation headed down the hill toward the bridge. There was a general determination “to march into the middle of the town for its defence, or die in the attempt. ” Major John Buttnck, of Concord, was in charge. The leading unit was the thirty-eight-man Acton company under Isaac Davis. Lieutenant Barker, of the King’s Own, describes the British reaction:
The rebels marched into the road and were coming down upon us, when Captain Lawrie made his men retire to this side the bridge (which bye the bye he ought to have done at first), and then he would have had time to make a good disposition, but at this time he had not, for the rebels were got so near him that his people were obliged to form the best way they could. As soon as they were got over the bridge the three companies got one behind the other so that only the front one could fire.
A Jew of the redcoats had been ordered to linger on the bridge and try to make it impassable by removing some of the planks. This caused Major Buttnck to protest loudly, and he and the other leading Americans quickened their step. The British effort, begun too late anyway, was abandoned. According to Lieutenant Barker:
The fire soon began from a dropping shot on our side. …
Minuteman Thaddeus Blood confirms this:
I saw where the ball threw up the water about the middle of the river, and then a second and third shot [did the same]. …
These were intended as warning shots. But the Americans didn’t stop. Now the British fired for effect; and Major Buttnck, hearing a young Acton jlfer cry out that he had been hit, shouted, “Fire. … For God’s sake, fire!” In a general exchange that lasted but a Jew minutes, two Americans and two redcoats were killed. The Americans had only two or three wounded, while the British had about ten. One of the Americans slam was the gallant Captain Davis. His widow was later to write: