Robert Tomes.

Battles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) online

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as he walked abroad ; for, although his
countrymen were falling, and he and his
companion were driven from home and
fortune by the cruelty of tyrants, he saw
that that morning w r ould be "glorious"
for all time, as the first gleam of the per
petual light of American liberty.

The provincials, though put to flight,
did not lose heart. Some retreated along
the road, but the most gathered again on
a height to the north of the Lexington
common, formed readily under their lead
er, and eagerly awaited his orders to go
when and where their country required
their services. The British, once again on
the road to Concord, were joined by the
rest of the troops, under their colonel.




Concord, as it appeared in those days,
was a town covering considerable space,
between two hills which completely com
manded it. It had its church, jail, and
courthouse; and its dwellings, though not
very numerous, were scattered over a
large expanse of ground. Through the
town winds sluggishly the Concord river,
which was crossed by two bridges, the
north and the south, as they w T ere called.
The British had determined to possess
themselves of these bridges, so that they
might cut off all approach to the town,
while they should be engaged in destroy
ing the magazines and military stores
there collected and guarded by the pro

The town, however, was on the alert.
The people had been timely warned, and,
when they heard of the skirmish at Lex
ington, were roused to fierce indignation.
The militia were for marching immedi
ately to meet the British on the road,
and they accordingly started ; but, on dis
covering that the numbers of the enemy
amounted to treble their own force, they
fell back and took up their position on a
high ground which rises to the north, not
far from the centre of the town. There
they stood, around the liberty-pole lately
raised, and awaited the approach of those
who came as determined enemies to that
freedom of which it was the emblem.

Concord was but six miles distant from
Lexington ; and it was still early when
the British troops carne marching in, with

drums beating, fla^s flying and
Aoril 19

with the light of the morning

sun reflected glitteringly upon their pol
ished guns and gilded accoutrements.

Many of the militia were for giving
fight at once ; but their commander, Colo
nel Barrett, checked their reckless enthu
siasm, and prudently withdrew his men
when the enemy were seen advancing,
within a quarter of a mile. Barrett con
ducted his force along the road which led
to the north bridge, and, having crossed
the Concord river, drew them up on the
high ground about a mile from the cen
tre of the town.

On the British now coming up, one di
vision posted itself on the hill just left
by the provincials, arid the rest of the
troops continued their march along the
main road until they reached the centre
of the town. The enemy now began
their work. Two hundred men were de
tached to hold the north bridge, and pre
vent the advance of the militia ; another
party took possession of the south bridge.
The rest of the troops were occupied in
carrying out the especial object of their
visit. Some were sent to the house of
Barrett, the militia-colonel, on the out
skirts of the town, to destroy the military
stores concealed there. The remainder
went about their work of destruction in
the town itself. Threescore or less of
barrels of flour were staved in, three can
non were spiked and otherwise maltreat
ed, some sixteen carriage-wheels were
burnt to cinders, three or four barrelsful
of wooden spoons reduced to ashes, the
liberty-pole felled, the courthouse set on
fire, but put out by a woman with a pail
of water, and half a thousand iron balls
rolled into the river. " These," says Gor
don, " were all the stores they could dis
cover and destroy ; on the account of




which a civil war has commenced be
tween the colonies and the parent-state.
The inhabitants of Britain may see rea
son, for many ages, to cnrse the memory
of the man or men who has or have been
at the foundation of this fatal catastrophe,
should they ever be known." While the
British troops were thus occupied for a
couple of hours, the provincials were not
less busy.

The neighboring towns and country,
fully alive to the doings of the English
soldiery, began to send in their " minute-
men," as the militia were called, until the
force of patriots on the hill numbered
nearly five hundred. These, in addition
to the Lexington people, were composed
of men from Carlisle, Chemlsford, West-
ford, Littleton, and Acton. They were
farmers, tradesmen, mechanics, from six
teen years of age to sixty, who came in
with their guns with which they had oft
en followed the Indian, the bear, and the
wolf; and many of them were dressed in
the homespun suits which had been wo
ven at their own winter firesides. Even
the clergy presented themselves, and, al
though debarred by their calling from
active hostilities, did what they could in
giving advice to the men, and quieting
the alarms of the women and children.

The militia-officers joined in council,
when it was proposed to dislodge the en
emy from the north bridge. One ardent
captain declared that he "hadn t a man
that was afraid to go." The British sol
diers could be easily seen, and their do
ings were watched with painful anxiety.
As the fires began to blaze, and it was
observed that the meetinghouse had al-


ready caught, the people began to fear
for their town and their homes. The
militia were eager to rush to their res
cue ; and accordingly, without more ado,
Colonel Barrett ordered his men to the
north bridge, and to strive to pass it, but
not to fire a shot unless they were first at
tacked. In double file, and with trailed
arms, the detachment moved on.

The British on the bridge, observing
the advance of the provincials, retired to
the east side of the river, and began to
remove the planks. The American ma
jor in command of the militia, as he ap
proached, cried out to the enemy to stop
doing what he claimed they had no right
to do, and hurried on his men to prevent
it. When the provincials had reached
within a few feet of the bridge, the Britr
ish troops began to fire, but with no effect,
as but few guns were let off, and with no
fixed aim. A second and fuller volley
succeeded, and with a different result,
killing two of the provincials and wound
ing a third. Their captain now cried out,
" Fire, fellow-soldiers ! for God s sake, fire !"
when his men, true to the word, did fire,
and brought down a number of the ene
my. The British then fled, and the pro
vincials after them, when a thoughtless
lad, coming up with a wounded grena
dier, struck him on the head and dashed
out his brains.

The provincials did not continue their
pursuit far ; but, dividing, one party went
back with their dead and wounded, while
the rest proceeded on the road and took
up their position on a height which over
looked it. Smith, the British colonel,
now gathered together his force, and pre-



|_> AET II.

pared to return to Boston, but lingered
at Concord nearly two hours before he
commenced his march. This delay near
ly proved the total destruction of his
whole force.

All the country round was now in a
state of great excitement, and every man
was eager to rush to the rescue of the
patriot cause. Each village was alive
with preparation. All the inhabitants
turned out, and there was hardly a man
under seventy and above sixteen years
of age who did not shoulder his musket
and present himself for parade on the
church green. Thence, after a blessing
from their pastor, they were marched off
to the scene of action. Although the
most were fresh from their farms and
shops, and knew little of military disci
pline but what they had learned in an oc
casional militia muster, there were among
them some gray-headed veterans who had
fought at Louisburg and Quebec. They
were all, however, more or less familiar
with the use of firearms, and had become
practised shots in pursuit of the game
which abounded in the yet uncleared
foresi>wilds. With a sober determination
to make the cause of their country a ho
ly one, each man dwelt with pertinacious
conscientiousness upon the fact that " the
regulars had fired the first." The blow
having been given, they all prepared to
return it. None now talked of forbear
ance or peace. Every voice was urgent
for war.

It was mid-day before the British colo
nel began his march, and he was soon
convinced of and greatly startled by the
hubbub he had created throughout the

country. So full were the roads and hill
sides of the armed provincials, that it ap
peared to the British as if "men had
dropped from the clouds." Smith threw
out a flank-guard on the side of the main
road, to protect his march ; but in the
woods, on each hill, and behind every
wall, there were gathered the vigilant
provincials, who with a sure aim were
bringing down a British soldier at every
step. The enemy suffered terribly as
they advanced for miles between two
fires, which were incessant from both
sides of the road. The British quickened
their march almost to a run, but this
only served to hasten their death, as they
offered themselves more rapidly to the
successive shots of the American marks
men. Smith, the British colonel, was se
verely wounded ; and another officer, on
a fine blood-horse, while brandishing his
sword and urging on his men, was killed
by a shot from behind a rail-fence. As
his rider fell dead, the horse ran in his
fright toward the fence, leaped it, and
joined the provincials. Just as the troops
were hastening into Lexington, one of
the British soldiers lagged behind, and,
falling in w r ith a militia-man, levelled his
musket and cried out, "You re a dead
man!" "So are you!" was the answer.
Both fired at the same instant, and both
were killed.

The British troops, thus constantly
galled by this incessant and most fatal
fire along the road, began to lose all self-
command, and, as they approached Lex
ington, became so confused and disor
dered by their suffering and despair, that
they would have fled precipitately, had




not their officers placed themselves in
front, and threatened the men with in
stant death if they moved without or

ders. At this moment a welcome relief
presented itself, in a reinforcement from


Lord Perry to the Rescue. Dancing to " Chevy Chase." His Lordship s Arrival at Lexington. General Heath arrives
and takes Command of the Provincials. Doctor Warren on the Alert. The Briflsh retreat to Boston. The Slaugh
ter on the Route. The British arrive at Charlestown. The Panic in the Town. Arrival at Boston. The Killed and
Wounded. The General Excitement. Meeting of the Provincial Council. Their llemons^pnce. General Artemas
Ward appointed Commander-in-Chief. The Whole Country aroused. Israel Putnam. Benedict Arnold. American
Troops called out. Cambridge made Headquarters. A Second Continental Congress. Washington s Reflections
on the Lexington Affair. Canada. Ticonderoga and Crown Point. Action of Connecticut. Ethan Allen and the
Green-Mountain Boys. Expedition to Ticonderoga. Arnold volunteers. Fall of Ticonderoga. Skeensborough.
The Meeting of the Continental Congress. Washington chosen Commander-in-Chief. The Army organized.


GENERAL GAGE, having received
Colonel Smith s request for a rein
forcement, sent to his relief nine hundred
men and two pieces of artillery, under the
command of Lord Percy, u a penurious,*
undignified young man," as Walpole call
ed him. At nine o clock in the morning,
this detachment marched out of
Boston, the bands " playing, by

April 19,

* "When Lord Percy was in Ireland with his regiment,
the fifth infantry, he consented, after much consideration, to
give a dinner to the officers in garrison at Limerick. The
gallant but cautious earl ordered the repast at a tavern, spe
cifying that it should be for fifty persons, at eighteen pence
oer head. The officers heard of the arrangement, and they
ordered the landlord to provide a banquet at a guinea per
nead, promising to pay the difference in the event of their
entertainer declining to do so. When the banquet was
served, there was but one astonished and uncomfortable in
dividual at the board, and that was the earl himself, who
beheld a feast fit for the gods, and heard himself gratefully
complimented upon the excellence of both viands and wines.
The astonished earl experienced an easily-understood diffi
culty in returning thanks when his health was drunk with
an enthusiasm that bewildered him ; and, on retiring, early
sought out the landlord, in order to have the solution of an
enigma that sorely puzzled him. Boniface told the un
adorned and unwelcome truth ; and the inexperienced young
carl acknowledged his mistake, and discharged the bill with
a sigh on himself and a check on his banker." DORAN,
" Table-Traits, and Something on Them "

way of contempt, Yankee Doodle] a song
composed in derision of the New-England-
ers, scornfully called Yankees." A " smart"
boy, observing it as the troops passed
through Roxbury, made himself extreme
ly merry with the circumstance, jumping
and laughing so as to attract the notice

O o

of his lordship, who, it is said, asked him
at what he was laughing so heartily ; and
was answered, " To think how you will
dance, by-and-by, to Chevy Chase /" It is
added that the repartee stuck by his lord
ship the whole day.*

Percy suffered but little annoyance on
his march to the relief of Smith and his
men. At Charlestown he found the bridge
taken up, but, as the planks were discov
ered near by, they were readily replaced ;
and he marched on without difficulty un-

* Gordon s History of the American Revolution. Th
allusion to Chevy Chase will be understood by the reader,
if he calls to mind that a Lord Percy is the hero of that old
ballad. The Lord Percy spoken of in the text is the one
afterward duke of Northumberland, of whom Halleck writes :
" who, when a younger son,

Fought for K mg George at Lexington,
A major of dragoons."



[PART n.

til he reached Lexington, where he found
the retreating force " so much exhausted
with fatigue, that they were obliged to
lie down for rest on the ground, their
tongues hanging out of their mouths,
like those of dogs after a chase." Percy,
bringing his fieldpieces to bear from a
commanding position upon the provin
cials (who were hanging upon his troops,
prepared to gall them with their shots
whenever they took up their march),
there was a brief cessation of hostility.
The friends of the patriot cause had,
in the meantime, been busy in Boston.
General Heath, who had been authorized
by the provincial Congress to take com
mand of the minute-men whenever called
out, now hurried to the scene of action ;
having in his route given orders suita
ble to the emergency, and directed the
Charlestown people to form a barricade
of the planks of their bridge, and there
post themselves to oppose the British as
they returned to Boston. When he ar
rived at Lexington, Heath took com
mand of the provincials, and strove to
form them in military order. Warren,
too, the patriotic physician of Boston,
was active in cheering and advising his
countrymen, as he rode forward to meet
the British. "Keep up a brave heart,"
he said to one. " They have begun it
that either party could do ; and we 11
end it that only one can do." To an
other, who exclaimed, " Well, they are
gone out," he answered, "Yes, and we ll
be up with them before night!" "His
soul," as it was justly said, " beat to arms
as soon as he learned the intention of
the British troops."

Percy did not halt long, as he found
the provincials gathering so fast, and so
bent upon resisting him to their utmost.
He had now over eighteen hundred well-
disciplined men under arms ; but he had
evidently determined upon no act of hos
tility, beyond what might be necessary
to protect his retreat to Boston. So, af
ter proper refreshment of his men, and
placing the harassed force of Colonel
Smith as far as possible under the cover
of his fresher troops, he began his retreat.
The British, however, no sooner began to
move, than the Americans renewed their
harassing attacks. The soldiers, in spite
of the efforts at restraint of Lord Percy,
were excited to such a pitch of uncon
trollable rage, that they began to retal
iate by acts of devastation and cruelty.
They rushed into the houses and mur
dered the sick, the helpless, and even
mothers with their babes at the breast!
They drove the inhabitants away at the
point of the bayonet, and burned their
dwellings. But the provincials, nothing
daunted, kept up their harassing fire, and
did not hesitate to come out in throngs
upon the road and skirmish with the reg
ulars. Fierce slaughter raged on both
sides. The British fell fast, and Lord
Percy himself nearly lost his life from a
musketrball which shot off a button from
his coat. The provincials, too, suffered
greatly, but continued to hang on the
rear of the British troops, and harass
them with their sharp-shooting. Harris
and Warren were constantly cheering on
the men, and bravely taking the lead in
every struggle. Warren barely escaped
with his life, a muskei>shot having struck




his hair, and driven out the pin by which
it was gathered behind his ears.

When the British troops were about
entering Charlestown, and had reached
the base of Prospect hill, the attack of
the provincials became terribly severe ;
but Percy, after playing his fieldpieces
with effect, hurried on his men to a run,
until they reached Charlestown neck, and
were protected by the guns of the men-
of-war. Charlestown had been the whole
day in a state of great excitement. The
schools had been dismissed ; the men had
marched to the relief of their fellow-pa
triots ; the shops had been closed ; and
the old and feeble, the women and chil
dren, huddled together in anxious groups
in the houses, or gathered in knots about
the streets, discussed with alarm the ter
rible events of the day. Now that the
enemy were returning, a general panic
ensued, and the people scattered in all
directions, crying out, " The British are
coming, with fire and slaughter !" Lord
Percy had his troops under sufficient con
trol during his march through Charles-
town to keep them from doing much mis
chief, and the inhabitants were accord
ingly more frightened than hurt. None
were harmed, and all the troops insisted
upon was " something to drink." The
main body of the British occupied Bun
ker s hill, and the rest entered Boston,
perfectly worn down with fatigue. The
officers immediately thronged the tavern
in the square, and called upon "mine
host" for supper and wine ; while the men
were ordered to their quarters, to sleep
off the effects of their hard day s work.
General Gage strengthened the guards

throughout the city, and, posting a party
at the neck, ordered them to allow no
one to leave Boston that night.

The whole loss of the Americans was
computed at forty-nine killed, thirty-nine
wounded, and five missing, with a de
struction of property amounting to about
three thousand pounds. The British had
seventy-three killed, one hundred and
seventy-four wounded, and twenty-seven
missing. Among these were no less than
eighteen officers. In the record of bat
tles, the affairs of Concord and Lexing
ton rank merely as skirmishes. In the
history of America, they are the great
events which began the War of the Rev
olution. Gage and his chief officers, now
aware of the evil consequences of the
rash attack which had been made upon
the provincials, affected great indignation
at the conduct of Pitcairn, in his charge
upon the militia at Lexington. Startled
as they were, they might well be solicit
ous about incurring the responsiblity of
an act which had inflamed the indigna
tion of the whole country, and which, in
the foresight of the wise, was the com
mencement of a revolution which was
destined to tear from the crown of Great
Britain the American jewel, without
which, Lord Chatham declared, it would
not be worth the wearing.

The inhabitants were now everywhere
in arms ; and they collected in such num
bers about Boston, that they seemed ef
fectually to invest the city, and created
great anxiety on the part of General
Gage and his British troops. The pro
vincial Congress met almost im

mediately after these occurren-

April 22,




ces at Lexington and Concord, and drew
up a " narrative of the massacre," which,
with an address, they sent to the British
throne. Yet disposed to be loyal, if the
king could only be just, they declared
that " these marks of ministerial ven
geance" had not yet detached them from
their royal sovereign, whom they were
still ready to defend in " person, family,
crown, and dignity." They were, how
ever, resolutely determined, as they said,
not to submit tamely to tyranny; but,
with God on their side, to die or be free.
The Congress, moreover, prepared for the
worst, by everywhere organizing the mi
litia, and by the appointment of General
Artemas Ward as commander-in-chief.

The feeling in Massachusetts was soon
communicated to all the colonies. Every
colonist felt that the cause of the Boston
people was his own ; and crowds flocked
in, to unite with those who had already
struck a blow on the memorable day of
Lexington and Concord. They came
from every part of New England. Old
Israel Putnam, now threescore years of
age, who had seen service in the French
war, had retired to his Connecticut farm,
and, like another Cincinnatus, was plough
ing his field, when one of his sons ran up
to him with the last news from Boston.
The veteran dropped the handle of the
plough, unharnessed his horses, and, sad
dling one of them, galloped away to join
the Massachusetts patriots. Stark, too, of
New Hampshire, an old campaigner, came
in, offering his services. The people now
looked up to these veterans for counsel,
and readily submitted to the guidance of
the one, who from a private had reached

the militia rank of general ; and of the
other, who was known as colonel in the
same service.

Another and more remarkable man
still, whose life supplies the darkest page
in American annals, was then among the
first to devote himself to the patriotic
cause. This was Benedict Arnold, of New
Haven, a Yankee skipper and small tra
der. He had been chosen the captain of
a volunteer company ; and no sooner did
the Lexington news reach him, than he
called his men together, and asked them
whether they would march off with him.
the next morning, for the neighborhood
of Boston, distant about one hundred and
fifty miles. They agreed to a man, and
mustered at the time appointed, in front
of the tavern where the Connecticut com
mittee of safety were in session. Arnold
applied to these gentlemen for a supply
of powder and ball. They demurred, 011
the ground that he was not duly author
ized. He then proposed to his soldiers
to help themselves, by force, if necessary,
to which they agreed. Arnold next sent
word to the committee, of his resolution.
Colonel Wooster now came out, and tried
to persuade him to wait until he had re
ceived proper orders. The impetuous
Arnold answered, " None but Almighty
God shall prevent my marching!" He
got his ammunition, and marched to Bos

The provincial Congress, still in session,
resolved that thirty thousand men be im
mediately raised, and that all New Eng
land be urged to add their quota of men
to the Massachusetts troops. Cambridge,
near Boston, was made the headquarters ;




and the college there (the venerable Har
vard) was emptied of its students, that
room might be made for the provincial

The appeal of Massachusetts to the oth
er New-England provinces was respond
ed to with spirit. Connecticut voted six
thousand men, two thousand of whom
were for its own defence, and the rest to
send in aid to the neighboring colony,
under the command of the veteran Put
nam (already on the ground), and Spen
cer and AVooster. New Hampshire did
not, as yet, organize an army, but ex
pressed an ardent sympathy with the

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 19 of 126)