During the battle at Lexington, a British convoy becomes separated from its escort.
They were of the exempts, or alarm list as it was called, all old men, for every young man was that day nearer the post of danger. There were Jason Belknap and Joe Belknap, James Budge, Israel Mead and Ammi Cutter, David Lamson, and others, in all about twelve.
The Old Men of Menotomy.
LORD Percy’s reinforcement had been delayed for a little time at Brighton bridge, the planks of which had been taken up by the direction of the Committee of Safety. But, unfortunately, they were simply piled up on the Cambridge side, and it was the work of but a few moments to replace them sufficiently to allow the troops to pass. When, however, a convoy of provisions and supplies in charge of a sergeant’s guard, following in the rear of the main body, came to the bridge, they could not cross so easily; and, in the delay incident to making it passable by the heavy wagons, and misled by false direction as to the road, they became so far separated from the troops that they could receive no protection from them.
Meantime an express was sent post-haste from Old Cambridge to Menotomy, bearing the information that these supplies were on the way. Several of our men met at once in Cooper’s tavern, which stood on the present site of Whittemore’s hotel, to form some plan for capturing them. They were of the exempts, or alarm list as it was called, all old men, for every young man was that day nearer the post of danger. There were Jason Belknap and Joe Belknap, James Budge, Israel Mead and Ammi Cutter, David Lamson, and others, in all about twelve. Some of them had been soldiers in the French war, and age had not impaired their courage. They chose for their leader David Lamson, a mulatto,* who had served in the war, a man of undoubted bravery and determination.
* [mulatto—In this case, half Indian.]
They took their position (just here to the right) behind a bank wall of earth and stones, between the present dwellings of Col. Thomas Russell and George C. Russell. The convoy soon made its appearance. As it came between them and the meeting-house of the First Parish, Lamson ordered his men to rise and aim directly at the horses, and called out to them to surrender. No reply was made, but the drivers whipped up their teams. Lamson’s men then fired, killing several of the horses, and, according to some accounts, killing two of the men and wounding others. One of the bullets passed through the front door of the church.
The frightened drivers leaped from their places, and, with the guards, ran directly to the shore of Spy Pond, into which they threw their guns. One of them, however, it is said, bent his up over a stonewall, as they had been ordered, at all events, not to allow their arms to be serviceable to the “rebels.” They then followed the westerly shore of the pond, till, near Spring Valley, they met an old woman, named Mother Batherick, digging dandelions, to whom they surrendered themselves, asking her protection. She led them to the house of Capt. Ephraim Frost, where there was a party of our men, saying to her prisoners, as she gave them up, “If you ever live to get back, you tell King George that an old woman took six of his grenadiers prisoners.”
They were kindly treated till exchanged. The squib went the rounds of the English opposition papers, “If one old Yankee woman can take six grenadiers, how many soldiers will it require to conquer America?”
—Samuel Abbot Smith, West Cambridge on the Nineteenth of April, 1775.
The Salem Gazette, in a hand-hill published on the Fight, has the following: “At Menotomy, a few of the men [the Gazette says, ‘belonging to the detachment from Lynn End’] attacked a party of twelve of the enemy, carrying stores and provisions to the troops, killed two of them, wounded several, took six prisoners, shot five horses, and took possession of all their arms, stores, provisions, &c, without any loss on our side; among those who were killed was a lieutenant, who went with the provisions for his recreation, and to view the country; the officer of the guard, who generally attends on such occasions, being only a sergeant.”—B. Cutter, History of the Town of Arlington, Massachusetts (1880).