Lexington and Concord — Deposition of Thomas Fessenden

April 23, 1775

In the aftermath of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress ordered depositions to be taken from eyewitnesses. The Congress was trying to prove the British fired first at Lexington. Deposition #12 was given by Thomas Fessenden, who testified the British fired first at the Battle of Lexington.

Lexington and Concord, Depositions

The Battle of Lexington by William Barnes Wollen (1910). Image Source: Wikimedia.

Deposition No. 12

Please note that section headings and spacing have been added to make the text easier to scan and comprehend.

Testimony of Thomas Fessenden About the Battle of Lexington

I Thomas Fessenden of Lawful age testify & Declare that being in a Pasture near the meeting house at said Lexington on Wednesday last at about half an hour before sun rise I saw a number of Regular troops pass speedily by said meeting house on their way towards a Company of Militia of said Lexington who were assembled to the number of about one hundred in a company at the Distance of eighteen or twenty rods from said meeting house, and after they had passed by said meeting house, I saw three officers on horse back advance to the front of said Regulars, when one of them being within six rods of the said Militia cryed out, Disperse you Rebels immediately, on which he Brandished his sword over his head three times, meanwhile the second officer who was about two rods behind him fired a Pistol pointed at said Militia, and the Regulars kept huzzaing till he had finished brandishing his sword, and when he had thus finished brandishing his sword he pointed it Down towards said Militia, and immediately on which the said Regulars fired a Volley at the Militia, and then I ran off as fast as I could, while they continued firing till I got out of their reach. 

I further testify that as soon as [unreadable] the officer Cryed, Disperse you rebels, the said Company of Militia Dispersed every way as fast as they could, and while they were Dispersing the Regulars kept firing at them incessantly, and further saith not.

Thos Fessenden

Witnesses to the Testimony

Middlesex, April 23d, 1775

The within named Thomas Fessenden appeared and after Due caution to testify the whole truth and nothing but the truth made solemn oath to in truth of^the within Deposition by him subscribed.

Before us —

Wm. Read
Josiah Johnson
Wm. Stickney

{ Justices of the Peace

Certification of the Testimony

Province of Massachusetts Bay, Charlestown

I Nathaniel Gorham Notary and Tabillian Public by Lawful authority Duly admitted and sworn hereby certifie all whom it may or Doth concern that William Reed and Josiah Johnson and William Stickney Esqs are three of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace of the County of Middlesex and that full faith and Credit is to be given to their transactions as such In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this twenty sixth of April Anno Domini one thousand seven hundred and seventy five

Nathaniel Gorham, Noty Pubk 

the foregoing instruments are true copies as in Witness whereof I hereunto set my name & seal

Interesting Facts About the Deposition of Thomas Fessenden

  • Joseph Warren of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress wanted the depositions gathered as quickly as possible, so he could send them to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, and Benjamin Franklin in London.
  • Franklin was the Agent for Massachusetts and acted as its representative. Warren wanted Franklin to have eyewitness accounts that could be used to help gain sympathy for the Patriot Cause.
  • Thomas Fessenden was in a pasture near the Lexington Meetinghouse on the morning of April 19.
  • Fessenden said it was about 30 minutes before sunrise when the British troops marched past him.
  • He saw three officers on horseback move to the front of the column.
  • One of the officers told the Lexington Militia to disperse and raised his sword.
  • The Lexington Militia started to disperse.
  • Another officer fired his pistol at the militia.
  • The officer with the sword pointed it at the militia and the British troops fired.
  • When shots were fired, Fessenden ran from the scene.
  • The notary public, Nathaniel Gorham, went on to serve as the 8th President of the Continental Congress (June 6, 1786–February 2, 1787).

Citation Information

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  • Article Title Lexington and Concord — Deposition of Thomas Fessenden
  • Date April 23, 1775
  • Author
  • Keywords Battles of Lexington and Concord, Deposition No. 12, Thomas Fessenden, Battle of Lexington eyewitness
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 20, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 12, 2024