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earlier burfling | later burfling

Patriots Day 2015

The Battle of Lexington and Concord occurred two hundred forty years ago today. In previous years, I've briefly discussed the battle from the viewpoint of today. This year, though, I thought I'd provide the view of some of the eyewitnesses.

Shortly after the battle, the Massachusetts Congress appointed a committee to collect testimony regarding the conduct of the British regulars. A copy of their report was sent to the Continental Congress, and reprinted in the Journals of the Continental Congress for May 11, 1775.
Many of the depositions came from members of the militia companies:
We, Nathan Barrett, Captain; Jonathan Farrar, Joseph Butler, and Francis Wheeler, Lieutenants; John Barrett, Ensign; John Brown, Silas Walker, Ephraim Melvin, Nathan Buttrick, Stephen Hosmer, Junr. Samuel Barrett, Thomas Jones, Joseph Chandler, Peter Wheeler, Nathan Peirce, and Edward Richardson, all of Concord, in the County of Middlesex, in the province of the Massachusetts Bay, of Lawfull Age, Testify and Declare, that on Wednesday, the Nineteenth Instant, about an Hour after sun rise, we Assembled on a Hill near the meeting House, in Concord aforesaid, in consequence of an information, that a number of regular Troops had killed six of our Countrymen, at Lexington, and were on their march to said Concord; and about an Hour afterwards, we saw them approaching, to the number, as we Imagine, of about Twelve Hundred; on which we retreated to a Hill about Eighty rods back, and the aforesaid Troops then took possession of a Hill where we were first posted. Presently after this, we saw them moving towards the North Bridge, about one mile from the said meeting House; we then immediately went before them, and passed the bridge just before a party of them, to the number of about Two Hundred, arrived. They there left about one half of these two Hundred at the bridge, and proceeded with the rest towards Colonel Barret's, about two miles from the said bridge. We then seing several fires in the Town, thought our houses were in Danger, and immediately march'd back towards said bridge, and the troops who were station'd there, observing our approach, march'd back over the bridge, and then took up some of the planks. We then hastened our Steps towards the bridge, and when we had got near the bridge, they fir'd on our men, first three guns, one after the other, and then a Considerable number more; upon which, and not before, (having orders from our Commanding Officer not to fire till we were fired upon) we fir'd upon the regulars, and they retreated. At Concord, and on their retreat thro' Lexington, they plunder'd many houses, burnt three at Lexington, together with a shop and barn, and committed damage, more or less, to almost every House from Concord to Charlestown.
Others came from affected civilians:
Hannah Bradish, of that part of Cambridge, called Menotomy, and daughter of timothy Paine, of Worcester, in the county of Worcester, esq. of lawful age, testifies and says, that about five o'clock on Wednesday last, afternoon, being in her bed-chamber, with her infant child, about eight days old, she was surprised by the firing of the king's troops and our people, on their return from Concord. She being weak and unable to go out of her house, in order to secure herself and family, they all retired into the kitchen, in the back part of the house. She soon found the house surrounded with the king's troops; that upon observation made, at least seventy bullets were shot into the front part of the house; several bullets lodged in the kitchen where she was, and one passed through an easy chair she had just gone from. The door of the front part of the house was broken open; she did not see any soldiers in the house, but supposed, by the noise, they were in the front. After the troops had gone off, she missed the following things, which, she verily believes, were taken out of the house by the king's troops, viz: one rich brocade gown, called a negligée, one lutestring gown, one white quilt, one pair of brocade shoes, three shifts, eight white aprons, three caps, one case of ivory knives and forks, and several other small articles.
Even some of the British troops themselves testified:
I, Edward Thoroton Gould, of his Majesty's own Regiment of Foot, being of lawful Age, do testify and declare, that on the Evening of the 18th. Instant, under the Orders of General Gage, I embarked with the Light infantry and Grenadiers of the Line, commanded by Colonel Smith, and landed on the Marshes of Cambridge, from whence we proceeded to Lexington; On our arrival at that place, we saw a Body of provincial Troops armed, to the Number of about sixty or seventy Men; on our Approach, they dispersed, and soon after firing began, but which party fired first, I cannot exactly say, as our Troops rush'd on shouting, and huzzaing, previous to the firing, which was continued by our Troops, so long as any of the provincials were to be seen. From thence we marched to Concord. On a Hill near the Entrance of the Town, we saw another Body of provincials assembled; the light Infantry Companies were ordered up the Hill to disperse them; on our approach, they retreated towards Concord; the Grenadiers continued the Road under the Hill towards the Town. Six Companies of light Infantry were ordered down to take possession of the Bridge, which the provincials retreated over; the Company I commanded was one: three Companies of the above Detachment went forwards about Two Miles; in the mean Time, the provincial Troops returned, to the number of about three or four hundred: We drew up on the Concord side [of] the Bridge, the provincials came down upon us, upon which we engaged and gave the first Fire; This was the first Engagement after the one at Lexington; a continued firing from both parties lasted thro' the whole Day; I myself was wounded at the Attack of the Bridge, and am now treated with the greatest Humanity, and taken all possible Care of by the provincials at Medford.

And that was the news, two hundred and forty years ago.

Originally posted at http://edschweppe.dreamwidth.org/189718.html - comment wherever you please.