The Lincoln Minute Men were the First to Arrive …

On the question of whether the Lincoln companies of Minute Men and militia were the first units from the neighboring towns to arrive on April 19, 1775, to assist in Concord’s defense, taken together, the following sources seem to confirm that they were. Although there are differences in accounts among the sources, nevertheless, several sources say Lincoln was first, several are silent on the point, and none dispute it. If the honor were in contention, surely some other town would have stepped forward by now to argue its case, and none seems to have done so.

John C. Maclean, A Rich Harvest, p. 270:

“Continuing on, Lincoln’s Militia Company and the Minute Man Company under Captain Smith were both in Concord village early in the morning. The Lincoln Companies were the first to reach Concord from another town …”
 

Lemuel Shattuck, A History of the Town of Concord (1835), Chapter VII:

“A part of the [Concord] company under Captain Brown paraded about break of day; and being uncertain whether the enemy was coming, they were dismissed, to be called together by the beat of drum. Soon afterward the minute-men and militia [of Concord] who had assembled, paraded on the common; and after furnishing themselves with ammunition at the court house, marched down below the village in view of the Lexington Road. About the same time a part of the minute company from Lincoln, who had been alarmed by Dr. Prescott, came into town and paraded in a like manner. The number of armed men, who had assembled, was about one hundred. The morning had advanced to about seven o’clock.”
 

Allen French, The Day of Lexington and Concord (1925), pp. 156-157:

“There were then at the [Concord] square less than two hundred men. Amos Barrett says “150 of us and more”; Shattuck says there were about a hundred, even including the men from Lincoln. These arrived in a body, under their two captains, Abijah Pierce and William Smith, bringing the rumor that men had been killed at Lexington. The Lincoln men, then, with the two Concord minute companies (some members being probably absent saving the stores) marched down the Lexington Road. “We thought, ”wrote Amos Barrett quaintly, “we wood go and meet the Britsch. ” So this array of militia and minutemen stepped out to see what truth there was in Reuben Brown’s report.(1)

[Text of French’s footnote: “For this reconnaissance, see William Emerson’s diary, Ripley, Shattuck, Amos Barrett’s ‘Letter’, Thaddeus Blood’s statement, and on the British side, Barker’s diary. The depositions of both Concord and Lincoln men make no mention of it, but they were intent chiefly on the shooting. As to the men present, Emerson says the Acton men were there, but is of course in error. Thaddeus Blood says, ‘About four o’clock the several companies of Concord were joined by two companies from Lincoln, the militia company commanded by Captain Pierce, afterwards Colonel, and the minute company commanded by Captain William Smith. We were then formed … and marched.’ Boston Advertiser, April 20, 1886.”]
 

Vincent Kehoe’s collection of documents, We Were There! The American Rebels, p. 203-205, contains Thaddeus Blood’s account and identifies it as “written at a later period and found among his papers, ” citing the Boston Advertiser, April 20, 1886, as source. In 1775, Blood was 20 years old and a member of the Concord militia. The relevant passage in his account reads:

“– about 4 o’clock the several companys of Concord were joined by two companies from Lincoln. The malitia commanded by Capt. Perce (afterwards Col.) & the minute comy by Capt. Wm Smith, the venl & honl Saml Hoar of Lincoln was one of his Leuit.–we were then formed, the minute on the right, & Capt. Barrett’s on the left. & marched in order to the end of Meriam’s hill then so called. & saw the British troops a coming down Brook’s hill.”
 

Amos Barrett, letter of April 19, 1825, in Vincent Kehoe’s collection of documents, We Were There! The American Rebels, p. 231-232, citing Journal and Letters of Rev. Henry True(1900):

“We at Concord heard that they was acoming. The bell rong at 3 o’clock for alaroum as I was then a minnit man I was soon in town and found my Capt and the rest of my Company at the post. It wont long before thair was other minnit Compneys. One compney I beleave of minnit men was raisd in a most every town to stand at a minnits warning. Before sunrise thair was I beleave 150 of us and more of all that was thair. — We thought we wood go and meet the Britsch. We marched Down to wards L[exington] about a mild or a mild half and we see them acomming, we halted and stayd till they got within about 100 Rods then we was orded to the about face and marchd before them with our Droms and fifes agoing and also the B[ritish]. We had grand musick.”
 

David Hackett Fischer, Paul Revere’s Ride (1994), pp. 203-206, quotes the passage from Amos Barrett about the retreat accompanied by “grand musick,” but Fischer has the Lincoln companies arriving after this episode, not participating in it. Nevertheless, in Fischer’s account, Lincoln is the first of the neighboring companies whose presence is noted:

“The British drums were coming closer, but still the [Concord] townsmen continued their debate [about what action to take]. The men of Lincoln arrived, and joined in. One gestured toward the oncoming Regulars and said, ‘Let us go and meet them.’ Eleazer Brooks of Lincoln answered, ‘No, it will not do for us to begin the war.'”
 

Frank Warren Coburn, The Battle of April 19, 1775 (1912), pp. 72-81, mentions the presence of the Lincoln Minute Men at the North Bridge battle, but makes no comment about the order in which militia and minute companies from the various towns arrived in Concord.

William Emerson, pastor of the Church in Concord and at the time living in the Old Manse by the North Bridge, quoted in Amelia Forbes Emerson, Diaries and Letters of William Emerson 1743-1776 (1972), p. 71:

“This morning between 1 & 2 o’clock we were alarmed by the ringing of the bell, and upon examination found that the troops, to the number of 800, had stole their march from Boston in boats and barges from the bottom of the Common over to a point in Cambridge, near to Inman’s farm, & were at Lexington Meeting House, half an hour before sunrise, where they had fired upon a body of our men & (as we afterward heard) had killed several. This intelligence was brought us at first by Samuel Prescott who narrowly escaped the guard that were sent before on horses, purposely to prevent all posts and messengers from giving us timely information. He by help of a very fleet horse crossing several walls and fences arrived at Concord at the time above mentioned. When several posts were immediately despatched, that returning confirmed the account of the Regulars arrived at Lexington, & that they were on their way to Concord. Upon this a number of our Minute Men belonging to the Town & Acton and Lincoln, with several others that were in readiness, marched out to meet them.”
 

Email Message from D.Michael Ryan, Historian, to Donald L. Hafner
Subject: First to Arrive
Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000 08:22:54 -0500 (Eastern Standard Time)

It is my belief that Lincoln arrived between 4-5 am in Concord and in fact participated in the “march out ”to meet the Regulars. See below. Fischer’s account is old hat. Timewise, my humble opinion is that @12:30 am, the three riders leave Lexington; are stopped @12:45 am by British patrol; Billy receives the alarm and rings the bell by 1:30 am; Prescott arrives in Concord for the alarm about 1:30 am; the Brits are on Lexington Common about 5 am; Lincoln companies march by 2 am and arrive between 4-5 am in Concord (dawn); Brits approach Concord @7 am, which is when the “march out occurs”; the Smith column enters Concord center by 7:30/8 am; the Bridge fight is @9:30/10 am; all British units return to Town by 11:30 am, and the retreat begins about Noon. Based on the timing, I do not know where the stories come from that the Lincoln men arrived in Concord with reports of fighting and possible deaths on Lexington Green (unless from stragglers who lived close to the Common, heard firing, then rushed to Concord, arriving late). Only Reuben Brown, the rider sent toward Lexington from Concord, got close enough to the Common to see the firing smoke, but he left before knowing if anyone was killed/wounded, or even if “ball ”was shot.

  1. Robert Gross, Minute Men and Their World, p. 118: “About 4 am a company of Lincoln Minutemen joined their Concord neighbors in arms to wait in the cold.”
  2. Allen French, The Day of Concord and Lexington, p. 149: “The Lincoln men… arrived in Concord with the rumor in their mouths that the British had reached Lexington and killed six men.”
  3. Rev. Ezra Ripley, History of the Fight at Concord, 1827, p. 14: “The minute company of Lincoln commanded by Capt. William Smith and Lt. Samuel Hoar… and the militia company commanded by Capt. Samuel Farrar… assembled on the common with those of Concord. ” “Three companies of Concord and Lincoln marched down the road towards Lexington, till they saw the British…”
  4. Frederick Hudson, “The Concord Fight,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine,May 1875, p. 787: “They [Concord men] marched beyond the village and in sight of the Boston road. There they were joined by a few men of the minute company from Lincoln.”
  5. Samuel A. Drake, History of Middlesex County, 1879, p. 388: “A little after sunrise, two hundred men came together. Three-quarters of them were from Concord, a few from Acton, and the rest from Lincoln.”

Sources:

  • • John C. Maclean, A Rich Harvest, p. 270.
  • • Lemuel Shattuck, A History of the Town of Concord (1835), Chapter VII.
  • • Allen French, The Day of Lexington and Concord (1925), pp. 156-157.
  • • Vincent Kehoe’s collection of documents, We Were There! The American Rebels, p. 203-205.
  • • Amos Barrett, letter of April 19, 1825, in Vincent Kehoe’s collection of documents, We Were There! The American Rebels, p. 231-232, citing Journal and Letters of Rev. Henry True (1900).
  • • David Hackett Fischer, Paul Revere’s Ride (1994), pp. 203-206.
  • • Frank Warren Coburn, The Battle of April 19, 1775 (1912), pp. 72-81.
  • • William Emerson, pastor of the Church in Concord and at the time living in the Old Manse by the North Bridge, quoted in Amelia Forbes Emerson, Diaries and Letters of William Emerson 1743-1776 (1972), p. 71.

Author Bio

Donald L. Hafner is Drum Major of the Lincoln Minute Men. When he is not serving as a fifer in the ranks of the Minute Men, he is a Professor of Political Science at Boston College. His scholarly work has been principally in the fields of arms control and U.S. foreign policy.

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