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Ask a Vet - 1775
Author: TriSec    Date: 04/18/2017 10:42:47

Good Morning.

Two hundred and forty-two years ago on this evening, two gentlemen climbed the stairs at the Old North Church in the North End of Boston, and hung two lanterns high in the steeple. While they have faded into relative obscurity, history has recorded their names as Sexton Robert Newman and Vestryman Captain John Pulling, Jr.

Hanging lanterns at night is not really a big deal - except we all know that a certain horseman by the name of Revere was watching to see the pre-arranged signal. As the lanterns flared in the night, Mr. Revere rowed across Boston Harbor, past the warship HMS Somerset, and landed at Charlestown to mount a fast horse.

I, PAUL REVERE, of Boston, in the colony of the Massachusetts Bay in New England; of lawful age, do testify and say; that I was sent for by Dr. Joseph Warren, of said Boston, on the evening of the 18th of April, about 10 o'clock; when he desired me, ''to go to Lexington, and inform Mr. Samuel Adams, and the Hon. John Hancock Esq. that there was a number of soldiers, composed of light troops, and grenadiers, marching to the bottom of the common, where there was a number of boats to receive them; it was supposed that they were going to Lexington, by the way of Cambridge River, to take them, or go to Concord, to destroy the colony stores.''

I proceeded immediately, and was put across Charles River and landed near Charlestown Battery; went in town, and there got a horse. While in Charlestown, I was informed by Richard Devens Esq. that he met that evening, after sunset, nine officers of the ministerial army, mounted on good horses, and armed, going towards Concord.

I set off, it was then about 11 o'clock, the moon shone bright. I had got almost over Charlestown Common, towards Cambridge, when I saw two officers on horse-back, standing under the shade of a tree, in a narrow part of the road. I was near enough to see their holsters and cockades. One of them started his horse towards me, the other up the road, as I supposed, to head me, should I escape the first. I turned my horse short about, and rode upon a full gallop for Mistick Road. He followed me about 300 yards, and finding he could not catch me, returned. I proceeded to Lexington, through Mistick, and alarmed Mr. Adams and Col. Hancock.

After I had been there about half an hour Mr. Daws arrived, who came from Boston, over the Neck.

We set off for Concord, and were overtaken by a young gentleman named Prescot, who belonged to Concord, and was going home. When we had got about half way from Lexington to Concord, the other two stopped at a house to awake the men, I kept along. When I had got about 200 yards ahead of them, I saw two officers as before. I called to my company to come up, saying here was two of them, (for I had told them what Mr. Devens told me, and of my being stopped). In an instant I saw four of them, who rode up to me with their pistols in their bands, said ''G---d d---n you, stop. If you go an inch further, you are a dead man.'' Immediately Mr. Prescot came up. We attempted to get through them, but they kept before us, and swore if we did not turn in to that pasture, they would blow our brains out, (they had placed themselves opposite to a pair of bars, and had taken the bars down). They forced us in. When we had got in, Mr. Prescot said ''Put on!'' He took to the left, I to the right towards a wood at the bottom of the pasture, intending, when I gained that, to jump my horse and run afoot. Just as I reached it, out started six officers, seized my bridle, put their pistols to my breast, ordered me to dismount, which I did. One of them, who appeared to have the command there, and much of a gentleman, asked me where I came from; I told him. He asked what time I left . I told him, he seemed surprised, said ''Sir, may I crave your name?'' I answered ''My name is Revere. ''What'' said he, ''Paul Revere''? I answered ''Yes.''

Fortunately, by the time Mr. Revere was captured by enemy forces, the damage was done - from Charlestown through Menotomy (now Arlington), and the then agrarian communities of Lexington, Lincoln, and Concord - the alarm had been raised, and those Minutemen were gathering their kit and heading out to defend their homes.


But that's not all - it wasn't just Revere and his companions riding through the towns screaming "The British are Coming!". Due to his work with the real Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty, not only did Paul Revere know where to ride, he also knew who to tell, and once raised, his contacts dispatched further riders through the countryside.

Although Paul's ride only lasted a couple of hours, and he was captured himself, the alarm spread far and wide through the suburbs and farming communities surrounding Boston.

By the time the regular army troops reached Lexington Green at dawn, only the local forces were arranged in defence - and we all know what happened there. By 10:00 am, the army forces had reached the Old North Bridge at their goal - Barrett Farm, where some stolen brass cannons were stored, and they meant to re-capture.

Despite his capture, Mr. Revere's work was done by then, and the army faced several hundred minutemen across the bridge. Somehow, a fire started in Concord behind them, which aroused the Minutemen to anger. While we all know "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes" from Bunker Hill some two months after these events, the statement that probably touched off the war was, "Will you let them burn the town down?"

A man overlooking the town covered in a smoke cloud asked Colonel Barret, "Will you let them burn the town down?"

On that note Colonel Barret orders his troops to advance toward the 100 redcoats guarding Concords north bridge. When the Americans had about 200 feet between them and the British the redcoats fired at them. Two Americans were killed and several were wounded but they did not run.

"Fire, fellow soldiers, for God's sake, fire!" An American officer called.

The American soldiers began to chant, "Fire! Fire! Fire!"

The army troops never thought that local farmers and citizens would open fire on soldiers of what was then the world's only superpower. Astoundingly - they broke and ran. Moments later, Major Pitcairn was able to restore order, and the troops gave up their mission and started the 16-mile march back to Boston.

It nearly ended in disaster, as those empty roads they traversed before dawn were now surrounded by armed militiamen, ably aroused by Mr. Revere and his contacts. They were nearly wiped out - the bitterest fighting of the day actually took place at Menotomy around the Jason Russell House - less than a mile from the safety of heavily-occupied Cambridge.

Returning from encounters at Lexington Green and Concord Bridge, the British troops reached the Foot of the Rocks in Menotomy around 4 p.m. on April 19. Thirteen towns had sent militia, now stationed along both sides of the road the Redcoats would take back to Boston. Lord Percy put out strong flanking parties to his main forces so the militia was now sandwiched in between.

Percy gave orders to clear every dwelling to eliminate snipers. Houses along the way were ransacked, plundered, and set afire by the retreating British. The running battle continued to Jason Russell’s house.

With his wife and children safely out of harm’s way, Jason Russell joined men from Beverly, Danvers, Lynn, Salem, Dedham and Needham at his house, when Redcoats came from behind the house, sending the men into the house.

Jason Russell, hampered by his game leg, ran to take cover too, but was shot down and bayoneted on his own doorstep. Those men who took refuge in the cellar escaped after shooting soldiers who tried to follow them down the stairs.

But eleven men were killed in the house and yard during the skirmish, and bullet holes still show in the cellar way, parlor, and best room. Two Redcoats were also killed here, making it the bloodiest fighting on the first day of the American Revolution, April 19,1775.

From the inscription on his headstone in the nearby Old Burying Ground: “Jason Russell was barbarously murdered in his own house by Gage’s bloody Troops on the 19th of April 1775. Age 59. His body is quietly resting in this grave with eleven of our friends who in like manner with many others were cruelly slain on that fateful day. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.”


So yesterday was our holiday around these parts. While you know it for the Boston Marathon, and the only morning start in the Major Leagues over at Fenway, we also have an annual re-enactment at the actual sites of the battle, something that's taken place every year since the Bicentennial back in 1976.

May your Patriotic Efforts be rewarded as well as these men - famous and obscure - who defended their homes with the lives and their sacred honor.

25 comments (Latest Comment: 04/18/2017 20:32:03 by Raine)
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