Beverly and the Battles of Lexington and Concord

April 18–19, 1775

Beverly, Massachusetts was one of the towns that mobilized its militia forces in response to the Lexington Alarm. On April 19, four militia companies from Beverly marched to block the British route to Boston and fought in the Battle of Menotomy.

Lexington and Concord, 1775, Beverly Militia

The Minuteman statue at Concord. Image Source: National Park Service.

Beverly Militia and the Battles of Lexington and Concord

The following account of the Beverly Militia and its role in the Battles of Lexington and Concord is taken from Beverly, Massachusetts and the American Revolution: One Town’s Experience, written by Jean and Thomas Askew. The book was written in 1975 for the Beverly American Revolution Bicentennial Committee.

Please note that we have made minor text corrections and edits to the text, but have not changed the meaning. Spacing, section headings, and notes have been added to help readers scan and understand the text.

Facts About Beverly and the Battles of Lexington and Concord

  1. Beverly is north of Boston, Massachusetts, roughly 24 miles northwest of Lexington, and 30 miles from Concord.
  2. The Lexington Alarm arrived in Beverly between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. on April 19.
  3. Captain Samuel Eppes of South Danvers rode to Salem to warn Colonel Timothy Pickering.
  4. The first Beverly men to respond were from the Second Foot Company of Militia, under the command of Captain Ebenezer Francis. These men lived near Danvers.
  5. Francis and his men joined with the Danvers Minutemen, led by Captain Israel Hutchinson.
  6. Three more militia companies from Beverly responded, led by Captain Larkin Thorndike,  Captain Peter Shaw, and Captain Caleb Dodge. These companies marched to Cambridge and Menotomy, hoping to block the British and keep them from returning to Boston.
  7. Colonel Timothy Pickering of Salem was slow to respond and ultimately arrived too late to engage the British. Had he arrived an hour earlier, he might have been able to force their surrender.
  8. The Beverly Militia companies fought in the Battle of Menotomy.
  9. Nathaniel Cleaves lost his horse and had some fingers shot off his hand in the fight at the Jason Russell House in Menotomy.
  10. Reuben Kennison was killed and William Dodge III was wounded at the Jason Russell House.

Beverly, the Lexington Alarm, and the Battles of Lexington and Concord

The Morning of April 19, 1775

As morning light broke through early on April 19, 1775, the Beverly populace awoke to the prospect of a pleasant, sunny Wednesday. Shortly after they began the after-breakfast chores or business duties, startling news arrived by express, tidings that would permanently alter the future of the colonies.

Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, 1775, Painting, Kendrick
This 1900 painting by Charles Kendrick depicts Paul Revere warning people during his Midnight Ride. Image Source: American Antiquarian Society.

The Lexington Alarm

Sometime between eight and nine that morning the alarm came to Danvers, which was nearer to Cambridge than either Beverly or Salem. The word quickly spread that a skirmish had been fought between the militia and British regulars at Lexington. 

The shooting avoided at North Bridge in Salem the previous February had now broken forth at Lexington. 

AHC Note — This refers to the incident known as Leslie’s Retreat.

While Essex County families were peacefully sleeping, the Middlesex men had been roused from bed to challenge a British incursion into the countryside. Details were sketchy. Apparently, no one here learned the accurate information that General Thomas Gage had dispatched eight hundred regulars to seize John Hancock and Samuel Adams in Lexington and confiscate military stores collected by the patriots at Concord.

Doolittle Engraving, April 19, Battle of Lexington, Plate 1
This engraving by Amos Doolittle was made in 1775 and depicts the British Redcoats firing on the Massachusetts militia on Lexington Common. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

The Alarm Spreads

Preparations to march were hurriedly begun. While Captain Samuel Eppes of South Danvers (now Peabody) sped to Salem to warn Colonel Timothy Pickering and receive orders from the regimental commander, Captain Caleb Dodge carried the message through North Beverly to Wenham. Captain Joseph Rea raced the alarm to Beverly Farms, shouting the news as he rode.

Beverly Minutemen and Militia Respond

The first Beverly men to respond to the summons to arms were the minutemen from Captain Ebenezer Francis’ Second Foot Company of Militia. This company was comprised largely of men from the Second Parish, which was the part of Beverly closest to Danvers. 

It was the meeting-house bell in Danvers that first clanged out the alarm heard in Ryal Side and North Beverly. Either by prearrangement or because of ardent desire to hasten to battle, these volunteers did not wait for their comrades to assemble in Beverly. Rather, they scurried across fields and brooks to join with Captain Israel Hutchinson’s Danvers Minutemen for the march to intercept the British. Ebenezer Francis served as a lieutenant in Hutchinson’s combined Minuteman unit that day.

American Militia Marching, Illustration
This illustration depicts Massachusetts Minutemen responding to the Lexington Alarm. Image Source: Library of Congress.

Reuben Kennison

Among those of the Second Company who answered the call was twenty-four year old Rueben Kennison of Ryal Side. Born in New Hampshire, Kennison had migrated to Beverly and married Apphia Batchelder, the daughter of the late Joshua Batchelder, in May 1774. 

At the time of the Lexington Alarm, Apphia and Reuben were living and working on the Joshua Batchelder farm, the main house of which is now 12 Cressy Street, Beverly. 

Hearing the distant bell, Kennison quickly gathered his flintlock and equipment and started up the road. Apphia ran a short distance with him, but soon rested on a rise along the way, waving farewell as he passed from sight. She would never again see her husband alive.

Captain Israel Hutchinson’s Company

It appears that Kennison hastened to New Mills (now Danversport) where he gathered with other Minutemen near the home of Captain Israel Hutchinson. Additional Beverly men arrived, at least twenty-four minutemen, including William Dodge, III, and Nathaniel Cleaves, who came on horseback.

By ten o’clock Hutchinson’s combined unit of fifty-three had moved on to South Danvers where the minutemen and militia units from Danvers and Peabody assembled. 

AHC Note — Hutchinsons’ company included men from his town, Danvers, and Beverly, which was close by. Although this account mentions the town of Peabody, there is no official record of any militia units or participants from the town.

Orders to March

Meanwhile, Captain Samuel Eppes returned from Colonel Timothy Pickering in Salem with verbal orders for the group to march at once without waiting for the Salem companies of the Essex First Regiment. 

The Reverend Nathan Holt offered a farewell benediction and the men departed for war. Virtually the entire local population turned out to cheer and watch their fathers, brothers, sons, and husbands leave. The scene was surely dramatic, as there were more than three hundred men in the column by this time.

Four Beverly Militia Companies

The records are not clear whether the other Beverly companies that mustered on April 19 journeyed with this contingent from South Danvers. 

It is more likely, but not strongly substantiated, that Captain Larkin Thorndike and Captain Peter Shaw assembled their respective companies from the First Parish on the Beverly Common and left from there sometime after ten o’clock. 

Apparently, Captain Shaw was leading the forty-one out of ninety men in Captain Nicholas Thorndike’s Third Foot Company who answered the alarm call. The absence of Captain Nicholas Thorndike has never been explained. Captain Larkin Thorndike’s First Foot company left with roughly half of its total roster of one hundred men present. 

Another Beverly company of minutemen, comprised of thirty-three Second Parish men and led by Captain Caleb Dodge, also hurried to battle that morning. Among them were eight Dodges, four Woodberrys, two Trasks, two Shaws, and two Batchelders. 

It is conceivable that this was a second minuteman unit from Captain Ebenezer Francis’ Second Foot Company, other minutemen of which had earlier been separated out under Francis’ personal leadership. Thus, four different groups marched from Beverly on April 19.

AHC Note — Captain Larkin Thorndike,  Captain Peter Shaw, Captain Caleb Dodge led the three militia companies that marched from Beverly.

March to Cambridge and Menotomy

Since there was no chance of intercepting the British at Lexington or Concord because of the marching time needed, all the companies from Danvers and Beverly hurried for the road west of Cambridge, hoping to cut off the British return to Boston. 

Rapidly covering the sixteen miles in four hours, the Danvers vanguard reached Cambridge around two in the afternoon and continued on to Menotomy (now Arlington). Some, such as Nathaniel Cleaves, traveled on horseback; others practically ran the distance. The pace proved too much for sixteen-year-old Amos Putnam of Danvers, who collapsed and died en route. 

The Beverly companies had to travel nearly twenty miles to reach Menotomy. Since the retreating Redcoats did not reach there until at least four o’clock, there was time for the Beverly men to intercept the British in that vicinity. 

We know that Caleb Dodge’s men did reach Menotomy, and the recorded mileage traveled by Shaw’s and Thorndike’s companies suggests that they too could have made the area before the British.

Timothy Pickering and the Salem Militia

The last units of the Essex First Regiment to march on that fateful morning were the Salem companies under regimental commander Colonel Timothy Pickering. Upon receiving Captain Eppes’ news of the Lexington fight, Pickering consulted the Selectmen and other leading citizens at Webb’s Tavern. 

Timothy Pickering, Secretary of State, Portrait
Timothy Pickering became the third Secretary of State of the United States, under President George Washington and President John Adams. Image Source: U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Reception Rooms.

These gentlemen did not know of the British intent to search Concord, and thus assumed that no Salem contingent could have time to cut off the Redcoats before they returned to Boston from Lexington. 

Nevertheless, to show evidence of patriotic solidarity with the Middlesex towns, about three hundred Salem men were mustered and marched late in the morning. 

Their route took them through South Danvers where Mrs. Edward Southwick, a Quakeress, gave them a large basket of provisions. Traveling seven miles further to Lynnfield, Pickering halted his column for twenty minutes of victuals at Newell’s Tavern. 

Upon reaching Medford, Pickering learned of the harried British retreat through Cambridge toward Charlestown. He immediately struck out to catch the regulars before they could cross the Charlestown neck. 

At twilight, the Salem companies climbed Winter Hill (now in Somerville) just in time to see the badly mauled British approaching Charlestown. While his men loaded their flintlocks, Pickering received advice from General William Heath, the highest-ranking militia commander, that the British had artillery, making it too risky for Pickering to throw his untested companies in exposed formation against the flank of the experienced British grenadiers. 

Thus, the Salem men were forced to stand and watch as the British attained the safety of Bunker Hill. Despite no evidence of dereliction to duty, for thirty years Pickering would be criticized for his military decisions on April 19, 1775. As late as 1807 he was constrained to write letters defending his actions on that day.

AHC Note — George Washington, the future Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, criticized the slowness of Pickering’s march, saying:

“If the retreat had not been as precipitate as it was — and God knows it could not well have been more so — the [British] troops must have surrendered or been totally cut off. For they had not arrived in Charlestown half an hour before a powerful body of men from Marblehead and Salem was at their heels, and if they had happened to be one hour sooner [they would have] inevitably intercepted their retreat.”

General Hugh Percy and British Reinforcements

For the British Army in Massachusetts, the expedition to Concord nearly spelled total disaster. The only maneuver saving the original force of eight hundred men from destruction or capture was their timely rescue by a relief column of another nine hundred troops dispatched by General Gage to reinforce. 

Leaving Boston at 9 a.m., the reinforcements, led by General Hugh Percy, joined the faltering and beleaguered original force as it straggled under fire back into Lexington around 2:30 in the afternoon. After a half-hour rest the enlarged retinue proceeded to fight its way back toward the security of Boston. 

Battle of Menotomy

Between Lexington and Cambridge lay Menotomy, later called West Cambridge and now Arlington. It was here, late in the afternoon, that some of the stiffest and bloodiest fighting occurred. Several factors contributed to the intensity of the fray at Menotomy, which inflicted more than half of all the patriot and redcoat casualties for the day.

The wooded, rocky outcrop known as the “foot of the rocks” near the outskirts of the settlement presented an opportune defile for firing down on the line of regulars. The cluster of buildings in Menotomy Center provided numerous vantage points from which to shoot. Above all, the concentration of militiamen in these defensive positions was very heavy. By late afternoon three dozen companies from outlying towns had swarmed to this section of the highway to check the British march. Among these were the Beverly and Danvers men.

Fight at the Jason Russell House

The Beverly men under Captain Hutchinson and Ebenezer Francis took up positions near and around the Jason Russell House, a prominent farmhouse then located in central Menotomy. Though fatigued from their march, they worked with Jason Russell himself to fortify the stone fences enclosing his yard. The gate was blocked and shingles were stacked to provide an ambuscade from which to fire on the British column. Other minutemen from Lynn and Needham enlarged the group.

Battle of Menotomy, Jason Russell House, HMDB
This marker indicates the location of the Jason Russell House in present-day Arlington, Massachusetts. It reads, “Built by Martha, widow of William Russell, about 1680. Occupied until 1890 by her descendants, of whom Jason Russell lost his life in the conflict of April 19, 1775.” Image Source: Historical Marker Database.

As the British soldiers came into view, the patriots at the walls around the Russell house opened fire. To Captain Gideon Foster of Danvers, the British force seemed more formidable and larger than he had expected. Foster began shooting, loading two musket balls for each discharge. Nathaniel Cleaves of Beverly stood firing next to Foster. Unexpectedly, Cleaves clutched his hand. His finger had been shot away along with his ramrod. In the excitement of the battle the unfortunate Cleaves also lost his horse.

Suddenly, British shots rang from an unanticipated direction. The flankers, which had been protecting the edges of the main British column, fell upon the rear of the Essex County men, who were then squeezed between two enemy lines. Savage conflict at close range broke out in the Russell yard. 

Rueben Kennison fell, pierced by British musket balls and a bayonet thrust as well. The colonials scattered, some to experience extraordinary escapes, others to be shot or bayoneted in and around the Russell house. Farmer Russell himself was killed on his doorstep. Somewhere in the melee, or farther along the road, William Dodge, III, of Beverly was also wounded.

The action at the Russell house in Menotomy has been described as the most vicious fight of the entire day, with severe casualties suffered by both sides. The twelve patriots who had died were laid out in the Russells’ front room, the floor of which was awash with blood.

Beverly Militia at Menotomy

Where the other three Beverly companies, led by Captain Larkin Thorndike, Lieutenant Peter Shaw, and Captain Caleb Dodge, joined in the day’s battle is not clear. We do know that Caleb Dodge’s men reached Menotomy and fought there; two years later the captain signed a statement that Samuel Woodberry had suffered wounds while fighting under Dodge’s command on April 19, 1775, at Menotomy. 

It is likely that Shaw’s and Thorndike’s companies also fired on the British, but like many of the Minutemen from other towns, they shot from protected locations and never engaged in close action with the redcoats.

British March to Cambridge

The bloody Menotomy episode was over quickly. The redcoats struggled on to Cambridge as fresh companies of minutemen from other towns sought to block the retreat to Boston. All along the way new ambuscades had to be cleared of stubborn colonials. 

At last, with dusk approaching, the English were in sight of Charlestown Neck and the safety of Bunker Hill. There was now only one fresh patriot force to challenge the British. The three hundred Salem men under Colonel Pickering had arrived within striking distance but were not ordered to attack.

With the dazed, bleeding British secure on Bunker Hill and the Americans poised across Charlestown Neck, the tragic events of April 19 drew to a close. All that remained was to bury the dead and care for the wounded and dying. Close to one hundred patriots had perished and about three times as many redcoats lay dead or wounded along the road from Concord.

Beverly Casualties

On the day after the battle, Reuben Kennison was borne back to Ryal Side and buried in the old Leach burial plot near the Batchelder farm. The seriously wounded Samuel Woodberry returned for treatment to Israel Woodberry’s residence, the home in which he recuperated for “some months.” Eventually, Woodberry received ten pounds with which to pay his medical expenses and a one-half salary pension to compensate for the permanent loss of use of his right arm.

Reimbursements for Losses

The State of Massachusetts paid other losses sustained by those who answered the call on April 19. 

  • William Dodge, III, received payment for a bayonet lost during the battle. 
  • Samuel Woodberry and Nathaniel Cleaves were compensated for guns they lost. 
  • Apphia Kennison was forwarded money for the cost of her dead husband’s missing gun. 
  • Nathaniel Cleaves and Benjamin Shaw petitioned to recover the value of horses and bridles “carrried away by the enemy” or “other ways lost” in the engagement.

The town of Beverly met its obligations as well. Moses Brown, who marched as a sergeant in Larkin Thorndike’s company, was paid for eighty-five and one-half pounds of cheese he had supplied “for the people that went on the alarm at the Concord fight.” Whether the cheese was given when the men initially marched, or upon returning on April 20, is not indicated.

Finally, the State paid two days’ military service to most of the men who mustered on April 19. For some reason, Larkin Thorndike’s company received two and one-half days’ pay, perhaps because it was assigned some special duty before returning to Beverly.

Siege of Boston

In the immediate aftermath of April 19, there was little time for reflection. All attention was turned to recruiting men for the new Massachusetts Provincial Army and the prosecution of the Siege at Boston

Two veterans of the Menotomy battle, Ebenezer Francis and John Low, enlisted companies to serve in a new regiment being organized by Colonel John Mansfield of Lynn. 

For businessman and one-time schoolteacher Francis, age 31, already an experienced militia officer, this seemed an appropriate step in launching what became a distinguished military career. He had become convinced that resort to arms against Britain would be necessary and had been studying military science in preparation to lead in the struggle. His three brothers also became Revolutionary officers.

For cabinetmaker John Low, who had served as a sergeant with Larkin Thorndike’s Minutemen, the moment seemed opportune to move up to a captaincy in the hastily formed eight-month army. By late May 1775, both captains had marched their companies to the Cambridge camp. For the next ten months, Beverly families would be directly involved in the siege of Boston.

Documenting April 18–19, 1775

The events that took place on April 18 and 19, 1775 include some of the most historic — and legendary — moments in American History. Many of the details about the events are found in the letters and depositions written at the time and have been used by many historians as the basis for articles and books about the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

However, what is often lost are interesting details that can be found in the histories of the towns that responded to the Midnight Riders and the Lexington Alarm. Militia forces from approximately 27 towns, including Beverly, fought the British from Lexington to Concord, and then from Concord back to Boston. Many of those men stayed there and participated in the Siege of Boston.

Although these local histories are sometimes embellished and border on folklore, they still provide valuable insight into the pride towns felt over standing up against the British forces who fired on the King’s subjects at Lexington and Concord.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title Beverly and the Battles of Lexington and Concord
  • Date April 18–19, 1775
  • Author
  • Keywords Beverly, Beverly Militia, Beverly Minutemen, Lexington Alarm, Concord Fight, Battles of Lexington and Concord
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date May 30, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 24, 2024

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