Chapter 2





The drive from Boston to Lexington is one rarely taken by tourists, but is a most interesting excursion nevertheless, particularly if one has for cicerone one familiar with the towns and their history. Getting over the Charles and beyond the suburbs, one is surprised to find himself in a region so wild and sparsely populated. The land is sterile, the hill pastures covered with sweet fern and whortleberry bushes, and the farmhouses few and far between. We followed pretty definitely the route of the British on the fateful morning of the 19th of April, and in an hour and a half drove into Arlington, the only considerable town on the way. In 1775 it was a little hamlet bearing its aboriginal name, but famous for its tavern the Black Horse, which was the meeting place of both the town committees of safety and supplies. "The floor of this tavern was stained with the first blood shed in the Revolution," observed my friend as we drove past. After Paul Revere dashed into Lexington at midnight with his note of alarm, scouts were sent down the Boston road as far as Arlington to give notice of the


A Day in Lexington 9

enemy’s approach. One of these videttes was nearly surprised in the tavern by the British advance, another, Samuel Whittemore by name, was shot, bayoneted, and left for dead in the street opposite, and after his assailants left, was borne bleeding into the tavern where his wounds were dressed. He eventually recovered.

Three hours after leaving Boston we drove into Lexington. The village has escaped the fate of many ~Massachusetts towns and is as quietly rural now as a hundred years ago. A long main street, shaded by elms, and a pretty green of perhaps an acre, surrounded by straggling village houses, are its prominent features. At the south end of the green is a tall flagstaff, bearing aloft a motto which informs the tourist that on that spot American Freedom was born. Further north, on the mound where many of Captain Parker’s men "abided the event" that April morning, stands a monument, erected by the citizens of Lexington at the expense of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in memory of their fellow-citizens, Ensign Robert Monroe, and Messrs. John Parker, Samuel Hadley, Jonathan Harrington, Jr., Isaac Muzzey, Caleb Harrington, and John Brown, of Lexington, and Asahel Porter, of Woburn, "who fell on this field, the first victims to the sword of British Tyranny and Oppression, on the morning of the ever memorable Nineteenth of April, 1775


10 In Olde Massachusetts

"The die was cast. The blood of these martyrs, in the cause of God and their country, was the cement of the Union of these States, then colonies, and gave the spring to the spirit, firmness, and resolution of their citizens. They rose as one man to avenge their brethren’s Blood, and at the point of the sword to assert and defend their native rights. They nobly dared to be free. The contest was long, bloody, and affecting. Righteous Heaven approved the solemn appeal. Victory crowned their arms; the Peace, Liberty and Independence of the United States was their glorious reward."

Some of the local incidents of the fight, as narrated by my friend, are given in the books and need not be repeated here; to others, however, he imparted so novel and realistic a tone that I shall venture to repeat them. Leading me to a spot on the Common a little north of the site of the old meeting-house, he remarked: "Right here fell Jonathan Harrington. His wife stood in her door yonder watching him, and saw him fall, partly rise and fall again, with the blood streaming from his breast; at last he crept across the road and died at her feet. The ammunition was stored in the meetinghouse, and four men were there filling their cartridge boxes when the firing began. One of them, Joshua Simonds, cocked his musket, and ensconced himself beside an open cask of powder, declaring that he would blow the building to pieces before that powder should


A Day in Lexington 11

charge His Majesty’s muskets." "Another instance of resolution is found in Jonas Parker, who had often sworn that he would never run from the British. As they appeared he loaded his musket, placed his hat with his ammunition in it on the ground before him, and remained there loading and firing until killed with the bayonet." "In the old glebe house yonder, on Hancock Street, then occupied by the Rev. Sylvester Clark, John Hancock and Samuel Adams watched the progress of the fight; they would no doubt have taken part in it had they not been restrained by a guard of a sergeant and eight men. As the British left the town, marching toward Concord, they withdrew to a hill partly covered by forest southeast of the house. Waiting here, Adams, from the bare summit of a rock, observing the commotion in the town below, remarked with a prophet’s insight, ‘What a glorious morning for America is this!"

There is quite a history and some romance connected with the presence of the two patriots in Lexington that morning. On the arrival, a short time before, of King George’s orders to hang them in Boston, if caught, they became proscribed men, and sought a refuge with the Rev. Mr. Clark, of Lexington, a relation of Hancock. Mrs. Thomas Hancock, widow of the great merchant, and aunt of the Governor, with her protegée, Miss Dolly Quincy, then affianced to the Governor, were also present. Miss Dolly was the belle of


12 In Olde Massachusetts

Boston, very beautiful and wilful withal, and on this occasion the cause of some trouble to her somewhat elderly lover, for against his urgent entreaties she persisted in viewing the fight from her chamber window. Learning that their capture was one of the objects of the expedition, the two patriots, as the British passed on, retired to the house of the Rev. Mr. Jones, in Woburn, the ladies accompanying them. Next day the wilful Miss Dolly proposed returning to her father, Judge Edmund Quincy, in Boston, but Mr. Hancock said decidedly that she should not return while there was a British bayonet in Boston. "Recollect,~ Mr. Hancock," she replied, "that I am not under your control yet: I shall go in to my father to-morrow." She was overruled, however, and the whole party, a few days later, passed down through Connecticut to the seat of Thaddeus Burr in Fairfield, where, in the following August, Miss Dolly and the Governor were married. Tradition says they rode on this occasion in a light carriage drawn by four horses, with coachmen and footmen in attendance.

Meanwhile, in Lexington the Committee of Safety had dispatched a swift courier to Watertown, with news of the morning’s affray, and the committee there at once commissioned a messenger, Trail Bissel, to alarm the colonies. I have seen the credentials which this messenger carried, stating that the bearer, Trail Bissel, was charged to alarm the country quite to Con-


A Day in Lexington 13

necticut, and desiring all patriots to furnish him fresh horses as needed. From indorsements on it by the committees of the various towns it appears that it left Watertown at 10 A.M. on April 19th (Wednesday), reached Brookline at 11 A.M., and Norwich at 4 P.M. on Thursday; New London at 7 P.M., Lyme on Friday morning at 1, Saybrook at 4 A.M., Killingworth at 7 A.M., Guilford at 10 A.M., Branford at noon, New Haven in the afternoon, Fairfield at 8 A.M. on Saturday, New York on Sunday at 4 P.M., New Brunswick the next day at 2 A.M., Princeton at 6, and Philadelphia in the afternoon.