Burial Site of the Third British Soldier

“These men were brave enough, and true To the hired soldier’s bull-dog creed; What brought them here they never knew They fought as suits the English breed.”
“Lines” by James Russell Lowell

 

As a result of the 19 April 1775 North Bridge fight, it is generally documented and accepted that three British Regulars died and were buried in Concord. Colonials accomplished the latter task for two soldiers where they fell near the Bridge. The site is marked with a tablet engraved “Grave of British Soldiers”. But what of the third Regular – his demise and burial in prelude of the Ministerial force’s withdrawal?

Lemuel Shattuck in his 1835 “History of Concord” noted “…. [there is a] third soldier buried and a house built over the spot” and “one of the wounded died and was buried where Mr. Keyes’ house stands”. The author had great fortune in having available to him Concord citizens who witnessed the 1775 events in Town and he was “seldom willing to state a fact positively unless verified”.

Throughout the years, historians and authors have made passing mention of the third soldier’s fate, all agreeing he was buried in the middle of town after being carried there either by his comrades or the Colonialists. These include Arthur B. Tourtellot (“William Diamond’s Drum” 1959), Harold Murdock (“The Nineteenth of April 1775” 1925), and Rev. Ezra Ripley (“History of the Fight at Concord” 1827). So, too, did well known Concord historians Allen French (“Day of Concord and Lexington” 1925) and Ruth Wheeler (“Concord: Climate for Freedom”1967).

Perhaps through diaries, personal papers and oral accounts, Shattuck, a Concord resident from 1823-34, could identify the third soldier’s burial site and that in 1835 a house owned by well known John Keyes was situated on the same spot. What then must follow from the established body of knowledge is the finding of some supportive material substantiating a conclusion as to the soldier’s final resting place.

Near and northeast of the new Court House erected in 1784 was built a home later leased by John Keyes in 1815. He would buy the structure and with his family, live his life there while working in the nearby Court House. His son Judge John S. Keyes was born in the family home and resided in same until it was destroyed in the 1849 Court House fire. By 1850, a new Court House (used later as an Insurance Building; now an office building at 30 Monument Square) would be built closer to Monument Street and on the former Keyes property.

On 4 July 1876, Judge John S. Keyes presented an oration which included “… the hill extended beyond where we meet tonight (the 1850 Town House) to the road leading to the north bridge. In the ragged curb where that road wound around the side of the hill was buried one of the British soldiers who died of wounds received in the fight at the bridge…”.

In 1885, as part of the Town’s 250th Celebration of Incorporation, Keyes compiled a list of locations to be honored by recreated minutemen and Regulars. The list included “Burial place of… a British soldier wounded at the North Bridge”. The location was stated to be on the northeast side of the Court House on Monument Street where once stood the Keyes family home.

There, most probably disturbed by centuries of construction, lies the remains of one of three private soldiers (Thomas Smith, Patrick Gray, James Hall) of the 4th Regiment Light Infantry Company, who died as a consequence of the Bridge fight. Who is buried where (Town or Bridge) will probably never be known.

Now the third British soldier will rest in peace and honor with his comrades “… who came three thousand miles and died to keep the past upon the throne” (J.R. Lowell). Soon, the burial site will be appropriately marked, honored, and visited. Trained to discipline, charactered to determination, this soldier exhibited heroic endurance, fortitude and courage under dire circumstances. Death freed him from allegiances and politics – right or wrong – and once again reflected the cost which civilization pays as it stumbles ahead even in a new Century in search of a better world.

Sources:

  • “History of Concord” by Lemuel Shattuck, 1835
  • “Day of Concord and Lexington” by Allen French, 1925
  • “The Battle Road” by Charles H. Bradford, MD, 1975
  • John S. Keyes Papers, Special Collections, Concord Free Public Library
  • Edward Jarvis 1883 Map and Buildings Guide, S. C., CFPL

 

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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