When the colonists first came to America, they faced many dangers, and for their defense they formed local militias, modeled on the system used in England in the 1600’s. By law, all males between the ages of 16 and 45 were required to join the militia and to have a musket. In times of danger, a quarter of each militia unit was specially trained and equipped to be ready to march “on a moment’s notice.” This was the origin of the Minute Men, and in 1775, the town of Lincoln had both a militia company and a minute man company.
In the early hours of April 19, 1775, as British soldiers were assembling for their march to Concord, Paul Revere, William Dawes, and Samuel Prescott were already spreading the alarm to the countryside. But at about one o’clock in the morning, they were intercepted by a British patrol hiding along the road in North Lincoln. Revere was captured, but Dawes and Prescott escaped. Prescott spurred his horse toward the nearby house of Samuel and Mary Flint Hartwell. Samuel Hartwell was a Sergeant in the Lincoln Minute Men, and he gathered his musket and prepared to join his Company. Mary Hartwell then went out into the night and ran toward their neighbor’s house — but also toward the British patrol. What Mary Hartwell did was important, because her neighbor was William Smith, Captain of the Lincoln Minute Men.
Capt. Smith dressed, saddled his horse, and rode to Lincoln Center, where he rang the bell in the meetinghouse to arouse the entire town. The Lincoln Minute Men mustered promptly and marched to Concord. They were the first company to arrive at the town center to assist the Concord militia. At 10 o’clock that morning, the militias had gathered themselves on a hill overlooking the North Bridge, and they saw smoke rising from the center of Concord. They feared the Redcoats were burning the town. Captain Smith was among the first to urge action, proclaiming that his Lincoln Minute Men were ready to drive the Redcoats from the Bridge and rescue Concord. As we know, a brief but historic battle then occurred, “by the rude bridge that arched the flood” — and in that battle was fired “the shot heard round the world.”
Later, as the British retreated from Concord, fighting broke out again as the Redcoats drew close to the Lincoln town line, at Meriam’s Corner and Hardy’s Hill. And at a sharp bend in the road near Elm Brook in North Lincoln, a battle more fierce than any other took place. That corner became known as Bloody Angle because of the heavy losses by both sides. Attacked again and again as they marched through Lincoln, the British troops nearly exhausted their ammunition and were driven to desperation. When the Redcoats finally reached Lexington, they were joined by fresh British reinforcements from Boston. But the Minute Men kept up their attack, through Arlington and into Cambridge, through the afternoon and into evening. For the Redcoats, only the setting sun sheltered them from disaster and ended their long ordeal.
As the Redcoats withdrew into Boston, an army of New England militia — soon numbering 12,000 men — assembled and encamped. The Lincoln Minute Men were part of this great army, laying siege to Boston, and helping to drive the British from the city. Even after the Continental Army was formed under the command of George Washington, the Minute Company of Lincoln continued to serve, ready to defend the colony and to reinforce the Continental Army when New England was endangered. The Minute Men ceased to exist when peace came in 1783. But they were not forgotten