Participant-observers in Massachusetts sent the following depositions concerning what they saw at Lexington and Concord to the Second Continental Congress. How do these depositions describe what happened at these two towns on April 19, 1775? Are all the depositions in agreement as to what happened? In what ways do they agree and disagree with the diary account written by the British Army officer? How credible are these sources?
[Affidavit] No. 1.Lexington, April 25, 1775.
We, Solomon Brown, Jonathan Loring, and Elijah Sanderson, all of lawful Age, and of Lexington, in the County of Middlesex, and Collony of the Massachusett Bay, in New England, do testifie and declare, that on the evening of the Eighteenth of April, Instant, being on the Road between Concord and Lexington, and all of us mounted on Horses, we were, about ten of the Clock, suddenly surprized by nine Persons, whom we took to be Regular Officers, who Rode up to us, mounted and armed, each having a Pistol in His Hand, and after Putting Pistols to our Breasts, and seizing the Bridles of our Horses, they swore, that if we stirred another step, we should be all Dead Men, upon which we surrendered our selves. They Detained us until Two o'Clock the next morning, in which time they searched and greatly abused us; having first enquired about the Magazine at Concord, whether any Guards were posted there, and whether the bridges were up, and said four or five Regiments of Regulars would be in Possession of the stores soon; they then brought us back to Lexington, eat the Horses Bridles and Girts, turned them Loose, and then Left us.
Lexington, April 25, 1775.
I, Elijah Saunderson, above named, do further testifie and declare, that I was on Lexington Common, the Morning of the Nineteenth of April, aforesaid, having been dismissed by the Officers abovementioned, and saw a Large Body of Regular Troops advancing toward Lexington Company, many of whom were then dispersing. I heard one of the Regulars, whom I took to be an officer, say, "Damn them, we will have them," and immediately the Regulars shouted aloud, Run and fired upon the Lexington Company, which did not fire a Gun before the Regulars Discharged on them; Eight of the Lexington Company were killed while they were dispersing, and at a Considerable Distance from each other, and Many wounded, and altho' a spectator, I narrowly Escaped with my Life.
[Affidavit] No. 2.Lexington, April 23, 1775.
I, Thomas Rice Willard, of lawful age, do Testify and Declare, that being in the House of Daniel Harrington,2 of said Lexington, on the Nineteenth Instant, in the morning, about half an hour before sunrise, [I] looked out at the window of said house, and saw (as I suppose) about four hundred Regulars in one Body, coming up the road, and marched toward the north part of the Common, back of the meeting-house of said Lexington; and as soon as said Regulars were against the east end of the meeting-house, the Commanding Officer said something, what I know not; but upon that the Regulars ran till they came within about eight or nine rods of about an Hundred of the Militia of Lexington, who were collected on said Common, at which time the Militia of Lexington dispersed; then the Officers made an huzza, and the private Soldiers succeeded them: Directly after this, an officer rode before the Regulars to the other side of the body, and hallooed after the Militia of said Lexington, and said, "Lay Down your Arms, Damn you, why Don't you lay Down your arms?" and that there was not a Gun fired till the Militia of Lexington were Dispersed; and further saith not.
Thomas Rice Willard.
[Affidavit] No. 3.Lexington, April 25, 1775.
Simon Winship, of Lexington, in the County of Middlesex, and province of Massachusetts Bay, New England, being of lawful age, testifieth and saith, that on the Nineteenth of April Instant, about four o'Clock in the Morning, as he was passing the Publick Road in said Lexington, peaceably and unarmed, about two miles and an half distant from the meeting-House in said Lexington, he was met by a Body of the Kings regular Troops, and being stop'd by some Officers of said Troops, was Commanded to Dismount; upon asking why he must dismount, he was obliged by force to Quit his Horse, and ordered to march in the midst of the Body, and being Examined whether he had been Warning the Minute Men, he answered No, but had been out, and was then returning to his fathers. Said Winship further testifies, that he marched with said Troops, untill he came within about half-a-Quarter of a Mile of said meeting-House, where an Officer commanded the Troops to halt, and then to prime and load: this being done, the said Troops marched on till they came within a few Rods of Captain Parkers Company, who were partly collected on the place of parade, when said Winship observed an Officer at the head of said Troops, flourishing his Sword, and with a Loud Voice, giving the word fire, fire, which was instantly followed by a Discharge of Arms from said regular Troops, and said Winship is positive, and in the most solemn manner declares, that there was no Discharge of arms on either side, till the word fire was given, by the said Officer as above.
[Affidavit] No. 4.Lexington, April 25, 1775.
I, John Parker, of lawful Age, and Commander of the Militia in Lexington, do testify and declare, that on the 19th Instant in the Morning, about one of the Clock, being informed that there were a Number of Regular Officers, riding up and down the Road, stopping and insulting People as they passed the Road; and also was informed that a Number of Regular Troops were on their March from Boston in order to take the Province Stores at Concord, ordered our Militia to meet on the Common in said Lexington to consult what to do, and concluded not to be discovered, nor meddle or make with said Regular Troops (if they should approach) unless they should insult or molest us; and, upon their sudden Approach, I immediately ordered our Militia to disperse, and not to fire:--Immediately said Troops made their appearance and rushed furiously, fired upon, and killed eight of our Party without receiving any Provocation therefor from us.
[Affidavit] No. 5.Lexington, April 24, 1775.
I, John Robins, being of lawful Age, do Testifye and say, that on the Nineteenth Instant, the Company under the Command of Captain John Parker, being drawn up (sometime before sun Rise) on the Green or Common, and I being in the front Rank, there suddenly appear'd a Number of the Kings Troops, about a Thousand, as I thought, at the distance of about 60 or 70 yards from us Huzzaing, and on a quick pace towards us, with three Officers in their front on Horse Back, and on full Gallop towards us, the foremost of which cryed, throw down your Arms ye Villains, ye Rebels! upon which said Company Dispersing, the foremost of the three Officers order'd their Men, saying, fire, by God, fire! at which Moment we received a very heavy and close fire from them, at which Instant, being wounded, I fell, and several of our men were shot Dead by me. Captain Parker's men I believe had not then fired a Gun, and further the Deponent saith not.
[Part of Affidavit No. 18] Worcester, April 26, 1775.
Hannah Bradish, of that part of Cambridge, called Menotomy, and daughter of timothy Paine, of Worcester, in the county of Worcester, esq. of lawful age, testifies and says, that about five o'clock on Wednesday last, afternoon, being in her bed-chamber, with her infant child, about eight days old, she was surprised by the firing of the king's troops and our people, on their return from Concord. She being weak and unable to go out of her house, in order to secure herself and family, they all retired into the kitchen, in the back part of the house. She soon found the house surrounded with the king's troops; that upon observation made, at least seventy bullets were shot into the front part of the house; several bullets lodged in the kitchen where she was, and one passed through an easy chair she had just gone from. The door of the front part of the house was broken open; she did not see any soldiers in the house, but supposed, by the noise, they were in the front. After the troops had gone off, she missed the following things, which, she verily believes, were taken out of the house by the king's troops, viz: one rich brocade gown, called a negligée, one lutestring gown, one white quilt, one pair of brocade shoes, three shifts, eight white aprons, three caps, one case of ivory knives and forks, and several other small articles.
[Affidavit] No. 20.Medford, April 25, 1775.
I, Edward Thoroton Gould, of his Majesty's own Regiment of Foot, being of lawful Age, do testify and declare, that on the Evening of the 18th. Instant, under the Orders of General Gage, I embarked with the Light infantry and Grenadiers of the Line, commanded by Colonel Smith, and landed on the Marshes of Cambridge, from whence we proceeded to Lexington; On our arrival at that place, we saw a Body of provincial Troops armed, to the Number of about sixty or seventy Men; on our Approach, they dispersed, and soon after firing began, but which party fired first, I cannot exactly say, as our Troops rush'd on shouting, and huzzaing, previous to the firing, which was continued by our Troops, so long as any of the provincials were to be seen. From thence we marched to Concord. On a Hill near the Entrance of the Town, we saw another Body of provincials assembled; the light Infantry Companies were ordered up the Hill to disperse them; on our approach, they retreated towards Concord; the Grenadiers continued the Road under the Hill towards the Town. Six Companies of light Infantry were ordered down to take possession of the Bridge, which the provincials retreated over; the Company I commanded was one: three Companies of the above Detachment went forwards about Two Miles; in the mean Time, the provincial Troops returned, to the number of about three or four hundred: We drew up on the Concord side [of] the Bridge, the provincials came down upon us, upon which we engaged and gave the first Fire; This was the first Engagement after the one at Lexington; a continued firing from both parties lasted thro' the whole Day; I myself was wounded at the Attack of the Bridge, and am now treated with the greatest Humanity, and taken all possible Care of by the provincials at Medford.
Edward Thoroton Gould,