Billerica and the Battles of Lexington and Concord

April 18–19, 1775

Billerica, Massachusetts was one of the towns that mobilized its militia forces in response to the Lexington Alarm. On April 19, the Billerica Militia and Minutemen marched to Concord, where they engaged with British forces on the road between Concord and Lexington, as they returned to Boston.

Lexington and Concord, 1775, Billerica Militia

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

Billerica Militia and the Battles of Lexington and Concord

The following account of the Billerica Militia and its role in the Battles of Lexington and Concord is taken from History of Billerica, Massachusetts, with a Genealogical Register, written by Henry Allen Hazen and published in 1883.

Hazen’s history provides an overview of the events that led up to April 19, from Billerica’s point of view, including the Stamp Act Crisis, the Non-Importation Agreements, and the organization of Minutemen Companies. It also includes two sets of resolves approved by the townspeople, which state their grievances over the Townshend Acts and the Intolerable Acts.

Please note that we have made minor text corrections and edits to the text, but have not changed the meaning. These changes have been made to help readers, particularly students, understand the text. We have also added spacing and section headings to help readers scan and comprehend the text. We have also added notes to help provide additional context.

Facts About Billerica and the Battles of Lexington and Concord

  1. Billerica is northeast of Concord. Today, it is roughly 9 miles from the center of Billerica to the center of Concord.
  2. Leading up to the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the town of Billerica firmly aligned itself with the Patriot leaders in Boston.
  3. Billerica passed resolutions that stated its grievances against the Townshend Acts and the Intolerable Acts.
  4. In December 1774, Billerica asked its militia companies to start military training.
  5. A Minuteman Company was organized in March 1775. The Billerica Minutemen were under the command of Captain Ebenezer Bridge.
  6. Billerica resident Thomas Ditson was tarred and feathered by British soldiers in Boston on March 8, 1774. Ditson was a member of the militia and fought on April 19.
  7. On April 14, the town voted to give bayonets and cartridge boxes to the Minutemen.
  8. The Lexington Alarm likely reached Billerica around 2:00 a.m. on April 19.
  9. The Billerica Militia and Minutemen gathered and marched toward Concord. They engaged the British column at Merriam’s Corner, east of Concord.
  10. According to Hazen, the Billerica Militia companies were under the command of Colonel William Tompson.
Battle of Concord, Meriams Corner, Postcard
This postcard from the early 1900s shows Meriam’s Corner, where the Billerica Militia and Minutemen attacked the British. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Billerica and Events Leading to the Lexington Alarm and the Battles of Lexington and Concord

In the contest through which the British Colonies acquired independence and became a nation Billerica bore her part. Her minute-men were at Lexington, and the first soldier who fell at Bunker Hill was Asa Pollard, one of her sons. 

Early Protest Over the Use of Tax Revenue

As early as 1731, September 14, the underlying principle of the national contest found expression in a vote, “that it is our opinion that our Representative hold fast all our charter privileges; and, in particular, that he give his voice in no suply of the Treasury’, that deprives the house of their priviledg in passing accounts before payments.”

Stamp Act

In 1766, “the late troubles” in connection with the Stamp Act came before the town, on the question of recompense to the sufferers, and “it passed in the affirmative,” with a reference to the discretion of their representative.

AHC Note — See Stamp Act (1765) and Stamp Act Congress for more details on the Stamp Act Crisis.

Stamp Act in Boston, Illustration
This illustration depicts colonists in Boston reading the Stamp Act. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Townshend Acts

December 21, 1768, a town meeting “took into Consideration the present Distresst and Impoverished State of this Province, That some effectual measures might be agreed upon to promote Industry, Oeconomy, & Manufactures, thereby to prevent the unnecessary Importation of European commodities, which threaten the Country with poverty & Ruin.” 

AHC Note — The Townshend Acts were a series of laws passed by the British Parliament in 1767 and 1768. Their general purpose was to establish a revenue flow from the colonies to Great Britain and to tighten Britain’s control over colonial governments. Colonial resistance to the Acts led to Parliament sending troops to Boston in 1768. Less than two years later, British troops fired into an angry mob and killed colonists in the event known as the Boston Massacre.

Non-Importation Agreement

Resolutions were unanimously passed, favoring home manufactures and disapproving the use of imported articles, of which a long list is named, beginning with loaf-sugar. 

A committee reported a form of subscription, pledging those who signed, to promote these objects. 

“The late regulations respecting Funerals” are specially emphasized, and the signers agree that they “will not use any Gloves but what are manufactured here, nor procure any new Garments upon such an occasion but what shall be absolutely necessary.” to all which the patriots of Billerica it is quite certain generally agreed. This non-importation action became very general, and produced no little effect on the popular mind.

AHC Note — In August 1768, Patriot leaders in Boston agreed to a Non-Importation Agreement, and asked merchants and residents of the other towns in Massachusetts to join the boycott against British goods and products.

Massachusetts Convention of Towns

In September 1768, resolutions from the Town of Boston were responded to; and, “taking into Consideration the Critical State of our public affairs, more especially the present Precarious situation of our Invaluable Rights and priviledges, Civil and Religious,” the town voted to choose “one person a committee for said Town, to meet at Boston at Funel hall, the 22nd inst., to act for them in a Convention, with such as may be sent to join them from the several towns in this province, in order that such measures may be consulted and advised as his majesty’s service and the peace and safety of his majesty’s subjects in the province may require.” 

William Stickney, Esq., was chosen delegate to this convention. In this way the towns furnished the basis for effective discussion and action on the vital problems which stirred the colonies; and it is not strange that the English Ministry were alarmed and incensed at the activity of these miniature republics. They were in fact the palladium of our rising liberties.

Boston Massacre

The non-importation agreement naturally did not secure universal assent, and became inoperative, to the great joy of the Tories; and the Boston IMassacre, by British soldiers, 1770, March 5, intensified the popular feeling.

Royal instructions were resisted, as not having the force of law; and the action of Governor Hutchinson and the judges, in receiving their salary from the Crown and not from the Colonies, increased the sense of danger in the minds of the clear-headed patriots.

AHC Note — See Boston Massacre and Boston Massacre Facts for more details on what many consider to be the “First Bloodshed of the American Revolution.”

The Bloody Massacre, Engraving, Revere
This engraving by Paul Revere depicts the “Bloody Massacre” where British troops fired into the mob on the night of March 5. Image Source: Library of Congress.

Boston Pamphlet

In Boston, under the grand leadership of Samuel Adams, a committee was appointed, who reported to a town meeting, 1772, November 20, a paper which stated the rights of the Colonists, enumerated their violation, and called upon the towns for expressions of their judgment. It was the most radical exposition which had yet been made of rights and grievances, and the response was hearty.

AHC Note — The Boston Pamphlet included ‘Rights of the Colonists,’ written by Samual Adams.

Billerica Responds to the Townshend Acts

In Billerica, a town meeting was held, 1773, February 1, and there is little doubt that its action took shape under the hand of her able and patriotic minister, Henry Cumings. It stands thus —

“The inhabitants, having deliberately Considered the Critical and alarming Situation the Colonies upon this Continent are Reduced to, by reason of the unconstitutional proceedings of the British Ministry and parliament of late years; & also the expediency of their, as well as the Inhabitants of every other town, Adopting some method to Communicate their Sentiments in Regard to the Disputes Subsisting between Great Britain and the Colonies, more especially on account of the late change in the American Department, that his Lordship the present Secretary of State for the said Department may be Convinced that a General Uneasiness prevails throughout the Country in Consequence of the late measures of the British Administration, notwithstanding any Reports to the Contrary, & may thereby be Influenced ‘to use use best Interest and endeavours to procure a Removal of the causes thereof, and a Restoration of that peace & Harmony which so long Subsisted Between the Mother Country & her Colonies, & are undoubtedly Necessary to the political Happiness and welfare of each: Unanimously Voted and Resolved:

  1. That the late Acts of Parliament for raising a Revenue in the Colonies; the establishing a Board of Commissioners with exorbitant powers; the granting of such extensive powers to the Court of Admiralty; the fixing a salary on the Governor of the province, and on the Justices of the Superior Courts. Independant of the Grants of the General.Assembly; the extending to America the late Acts of Parliament. Entitled an Act for better preserving his Majesty’s Dock yards, &c; the Stationing fleets and armies to enforce a Compliance with Ministerial & parliamentary measures, together with many other things that might be mentioned, are Repugnant to the principles of the British Constitution. Subversive of their Charter Rights and privileges, & therefore Intolerable Grievances.
  2. That those Reports which Represent the Inhabitants in General, in the Country, as acquiescing in and ready to Comply with the late measures of Administration, are, as far as they Respect them, false and groundless.
  3. That they will heartily Concur with and faithfully assist their brethren in the common cause, throughout the Continent, in all prudent, legal, and Constitutional measures that shall be Adopted, to obtain a Redress of their present Grievances & a Restoration of their Just Rights and privileges; and will also at all times Unite with them in Zealously and Streanously Asserting their Rights and Vigorously’ maintaining their freedom.
  4. That they would take this Occasion publicly to Declare their ‘Cordial Affection & unfeigned loyalty to his present majesty George the 3rd, and to express their Sincear wish that the Union Between Create Britain and her Colonies may never be broken, but be preserved upon Such an Equitable foundation as Shall Conduce to the prosperity & Advantage of both. Wherefore,
  5. That they Commit in trust to our Representative in the General Court, to use Such measures as his prudence & wisdom Shall Dictate, to obtain in a Constitutional way a Redress of all Grievances.
  6. That the foregoing votes be Recorded in the town Book, and that the town Clerk transmit a Copy of the same to the Committee of Correspondence of the town of Boston.”

Other towns took action of like tenor, and the effect was very great. The people were still loyal, but their rights were sacred and could not be sacrificed. If the two claims were not harmonized, there was no doubt which must yield; and from that spirit came independence and union.

Gaspee Affair and the Tea Act

Instead of conciliation, England pursued a policy of exasperation, by sending a commission to Rhode Island for the trial of persons concerned in the destruction of the schooner “Gaspee,” and more offensively by the Tea Act, which involved the issue of taxation without representation.

AHC Note — The Gaspee Affair revolved around the Sons of Liberty burning a British ship. When British officials suggested sending alleged participants to England for trial, colonial leaders protested. They argued such a move violated the rights of a British subject to a trial by a jury of their peers. The Virginia Assembly responded by asking the other colonies to establish permanent Committees of Correspondence.

The Tea Act was a scheme devised by Parliament to help the British East India Company avoid financial ruin. It gave the company a monopoly on importing and distributing tea in the colonies. The company was allowed to handpick the merchants who sold the tea and sell it at a low cost. In most places the tea was sent to the shipments were refused. In Boston, the Sons of Liberty organized a public protest and dumped the tea into Boston Harbor.

Gaspee Affair, Sons of Liberty Attack the British
This illustration depicts the Sons of Liberty attacking the HMS Gaspee. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Boston Tea Party and the Intolerable Acts

The patriots met the issue, 1773, December 16, by throwing the first cargo of tea into Boston Harbor, receiving the exulting approval of the people in all the Colonies. Then followed the Boston Port Bill, which extended the feeling of union; for the colonists espoused the cause of Boston, rather than see her suffer alone for an act which all approved.

AHC Note — See the Boston Tea Party and the Intolerable Acts for more information. 

Billerica Responds to the Intolerable Acts

The Boston Committee again appealed to other towns, and Billerica responded, 1774, June 6. Captain Enoch Kidder was moderator, and a committee consisting of Mr. Ebenezer Bridge, Capt. Josiah Bowers, and Capt. Ralph Hill, reported as follows: —

“The Inhabitants. having taken into Consideration the oppressive Measures, adopted and prosecuted of hite, by the British Ministry and Parliament against the Colonies; and more especially having Considered the very alarming and vindictive act passed for the Blocking up of the harbour of Boston and putting a stop to the trade, unanimously came into the following Resolves:

  1. That a Right in the British Parliament to Tax his Majesty’s American Subjects and to make laws Binding upon them in all Cases, without their Consent by Representatives, effectually deprives them of those Rights and Privileges which as men and as British Subjects they have a Just Claim to; and has no better foundation in Reason & Equity than the unlimited Prerogative, contended for by those arbitrary and misguided Princes. Charles the First and James the Second, for which the one lost his life and the other his Kingdom.
  2. That the Colonies are as Justifiable in opposing this unrighteous Claim of the British Parliament & all Acts Resulting from it, with all the attempts to Carry the same into execution, as the people of England were in opposing Charles & James, & Setting William, Prince of Orange, of ever Glorious Memory, upon the Throne in the Room of the latter, Since the measures of those Arbitrary Princes were not more Inconsistent with the Liberties of the People of England than the late measures of the British Parliament, in consequence of the above-mentioned claim, are with the Liberties of the People in America.
  3. That our Vigorous Contests for our Liberties, in Opposition to the said Claim of Parliament and the Oppressions with which we have been loaded in Consequence thereof, Cannot Consistently be Denominated Faction and Rebellion by any who are friendly to the Principles of the Revolution upon which his Present Majesty’s Right to the Crown Depends; and therefore there is Reason to Suspect that those who call our manly Struggles for Liberty Opprobrious names are disaffected to the Hanoverian Succession, & aiming to Restore the Race of the Stuarts.
  4. That the act for Blocking up Boston Harbour is Hostile, Arbitrary & Cruel, and a Solemn Alarm. Sounded to all America, to Unite as one man and Stand more firm than ever in Defence of its Liberties, as it Discovers implacable Resentment in the British Ministry and a fixed Intention to treat these Colonies as Rebels, without even the formality of a trial, and to condemn & punish them unheard if they Do not yield a tame Submission to their Sovereign Mandates, which is a mode of proceeding against Real offenders Scarcely to be paralleled by any instance in the most arbitrary of tyrannical Reigns.
  5. That we consider the Blow Struck at Boston as aimed at the Province in General, and as a Prelude to something further. Equally Vindictive, yet in Store for this and the other Colonies, and as we have a fixed Reliance upon the Virtue of our Brethren in Boston to persevere in the noble Cause of Liberty, which they have hitherto maintained with Such laudable fortitude and Resolution, and, looking upon our Selves as Bound to animate and encourage them, we hereby promise & Declare our Readiness to Support and Strengthen them in the present conflict to the utmost of our power, and to join with them in any measures that shall be Judged expedient for our Common Safety and Defence, and for Defeating every vengeful machination of those that would punish us for Shewing our Selves men, and Dragoon us into Slavery because we Disdain patiently to take the Yoak upon our Necks at their Bidding.
  6. That, if the Respectable Body of Merchants throughout the Colonies might come into an agreement to import no British Goods and carry on no foreign trade whereby the merchants in England should Receive any Greate Benefit or Emolument. We humbly Conceive that a plan would be laid for the Speedy Removal of our Difficulties; and that we should have nothing to Do but to Sit Still and See the Salvation of our Country. We therefore Ardently Reconnnend this measure to them, promising that nothing shall be wanting upon our part for the Encouragement of the Same.

Lastly. That, as it would be an Indellible Disgrace and a Violation of the Sacred Obligation we are under, to God, To our Country, to our Selves, and to Posterity, for us tamely and Pusillanimously to give up these invaluable Liberties, which our worthy Ancestors purchased for us at Such Vast Expense of Blood & Treasure, We are Determined to use our utmost efforts to maintain them, and not part with them at a Cheaper Rate than they were at first Obtained.”

These resolutions were recorded, and transmitted to the “Committee of Correspondence in Boston.”

Billerica Committee of Correspondence

It was also voted to choose a Committee of Correspondence, which consisted of Mr. Ebenezer Bridge, Mr. Joshua Abbott, Captain Josiah Bowers, Mr. Ralph Hlill, Doctor Timotliy Danforth, Mr, William Tompson, and Mr. Solomon Pollard.

AHC Note — See Committees of Correspondence for more information on how the permanent colonial committees were established.

1774 Non-Importation Agreement

On June 27, after considering two covenants, sent from Boston, 

“The Town, after Serious Deliberation upon the Difficulties & Distresses in which the Province, as well as the Colonies in General, are involved, at the present Day; also upon what Method will have the greatest tendency to Cause a Suspension of all Commercial Intercourse with the Island of Great Britain, (that being adjudged a Measure the most Salutary and Prudent that can be adopted, and most likely to effect the end proposed,) Voted, That the Inhabitants of this Town come into an Agreement, faithfully and Religiously to be observed, that they will not buy,, purchase, or Consume, or suffer any person by’, for, or under them, to purchase or Consume, in any way or manner whatsoever, any Goods, wares, or merchandise that shall arrive in America from Great Britain aforesaid, from and after the 31 Day of August next ensuing, for and until such time as they shall have Received the Result of the Continental Congress, upon whose wisdom, Prudence, and Integrity they Rely, & to whose Determination they shall Readily Conform. 

Voted, That if any person or persons shall Discover such a want of regard for the Interest and Good of the Country, as to import any kind of merchandise from Great Brittain aforesaid, after the aforesaid 31 Day of August until the publication of the aforesaid result, they shall not purchase of them any article of British goods, whatever, when, or howsoever imported. 

Voted, That a Covenant comprising the Spirit and intention of the foregoing Vote be forthwith Subscribed to by the Inhabitance of the Town,” and a committee was appointed for the purpose.

Massachusetts Provincial Congress

September 12th, it was “Voted, that the Town Justifie the Committee of Correspondence for their Going to Concord, to join with the committees of the other towns of this County, to Consult upon measures proper to be taken at the present important day,” and ‘”that the town fully accept of the Resolves passed at said meeting in Concord.”

At the same time, the town voted to choose two persons, “as a Committee to attend at the Provincial Congress, to be held at Concord on the second Tuesday in October.” William Stickney, Esq., and Mr. Ebenezer Bridge were chosen.

Already the First Continental Congress was in session at Philadelphia, and the active union of the Colonies was taking practical form. Two weeks later, Mr. Stickney was also elected Representative to the General Court, “to be held at Salem,” October 5; and he was instructed “to pay no Regard to the King’s new mandamus Council, as a Council, nor proceed to act with them:” and, “if the Governor Should Dissolve, prorogue, or adjourn the Court, that our Representative joine the House in forming themselves into a provincial Congress,” and in the latter case, Mr. Bridge was also to attend it.

AHC Note — The Massachusetts Provincial Congress met for the first time on October 11, 1774, in Concord, Massachusetts.

William Legge, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, sent a letter to General Thomas Gage on October 17, 1774, encouraging him to disarm the New England Colonies. Two days later, King George III issued an order prohibiting the American Colonies from importing firearms and ammunition. 

On October 20, Congress established the Committee of Safety, and the members started discussions about organizing the colony’s military defenses

Unaware of the King’s action, the Massachusetts Committee of Safety drafted a budget for buying ammunition, artillery, and other military supplies on October 25. 

The next day, the committee recommended each town should organize and supply their militia forces. Further, they recommended the formation of “companies of fifty privates at the least, who shall…hold themselves in readiness no the shortest notice…” These companies were known as “Minutemen.”

Billerica Militia

The progress of sentiment and action was rapid, as appears 6 December 1774, when the town adopted a committee’s report as follows:

“When we Reflect on the alarming & Critical Situation of our Publick affairs, it is with pleasure we behold the Remarkable Unanimity that prevails Through the whole Continent; we are Greatly pleased to find that the very Methods by which a Corrupt Ministry Sought to Divide the Colonies have Served Happily to unite them, and by every New Act of Oppression more and more to Strengthen the Union, So that the people Seem in Every (Quarter, almost to a man, to be Engaged in the Common Cause. And we Earnestly Recommend it to this people, that since they  have Endeavoured to Collect the United wisdom of the whole Continent, by their Selected Delegates, also the General Sense of the province, now assembled in Congress, that they would pay a proper Regard to their Resolves and Recommendations; it is with most painful Sensations we see the supineness and inattention to our Common Interest that seems to prevail in the minds of many people in this town; we are sorry that there is so much uneasiness in the minds of some People in Regard to settling the militia.

We heartily wish that this people were more fully Convinced that good policy Consists much in learning the use of arms and the art of war; and the times may soon Demand their Service and the utmost Exertion of them. 

And Since it is submitted to us, as a committee, to Draw some plan for the Town to adopt in order to settle the militia, we Give it as our humble opinion that it would be best for the [men to be] called Together: both the Alarm List and the Training Band; and in the first place to Resolve that they will abide the Vote of a Majority, and then proceed to the Choice of officers for each Company, and when the Company are so settled, that each Company meet to Gather as often as they can conveniently in order to learn the art military, and that the companies all attend & strictly obey the lawful commands & orders of said officers. 

With Regard to the Company under the Command of Mr. Ebenezer Bridge, we can’t but Justify upon the principles they set out, which, we take for Granted, was to Learn the Military Art, and we Rejoice to see that they, as well as the other Companies, have made such noble Improvements, and we hope that Company will act so much upon Honor as not to make any Divisions in the other Companies, and if they go on to Enlist men, that they be Restricted to a Certain number.”

Monday, the twelfth, was assigned for the election of officers, and Mr. Bridge’s company was limited to forty-eight privates. It was none too soon for the militia to be arming and training; as they were quickly needed. Volunteer movements, it appeared, had already been made before the action of the town.

Provincial Taxes

Another vital step was taken when the constables were instructed, December 19, to pay the Province taxes to Henry Gardner, Esq., of Stowe, who had been appointed by the Provincial Congress Receiver-General. The State was to have the means in friendly hands to carry on its legitimate work.

Committee of Inspection

A Committee of Inspection was also chosen, consisting of Ebenezer Bridge, Joshua Abbot, Solomon Pollard, Joshua Davis, William Tompson, Timothy Danforth, Reuben Kendall, John Parker, and Oliver Abbot, “to see that the Resolves of the Continental, and Provincial, Congress, be adhered to, so far as they Respect us.”

In January 1775, William Stickney was chosen delegate to a Provincial Congress which met in Cambridge; and another important committee was thus provided for: “The Difficulty and Dangers of the present Day into which we are fallen, when the Course of Law & Justice is Interrupted, and the Danger of people being Disorderly & Tumultuous to the Disturbing the Common wealth and the peace of the Good people of the Town, taking the Advantage of the times” voted, to choose a Committee of twelve persons, as Conservators.

Chose William Stickney, Esq., Mr. Ebenezer Bridge, Mr. Joshua Abbot, Captain Daniel Stickney’, Captain Josiah Bowers, Mr. Joshua Davis, Lt. Asa Spaulding, Mr. Benj. Lewis, Mr. Henry Jefts, Mr. Zebadiah Rogers, Captain Ralph Hill, & Mr. Paul Cooke, whose business it shall be, as much as in them lies, by all prudent methods, to prevent & Discountenance all Disorders, Mobs, & Tumultuous Assemblys in the said Town, and to heal all Differences by persuading all Contending persons to be at peace, or to leave their Differences to men to settle for them;

And to Encourage people as much as possible to lead Quiet Peacable lives in all Godliness & honesty. And where persons prove obstinate and irreclaimable, to bring such matters before the town for their Consideration & Determination,

Voted, that seven of said Committee be a Corum.

These good men intended to prove and did prove that they could guard the public peace in times of transition and danger. It is also evident that Dr. Cumings did not always write or criticize their public utterances. He would have secured better grammatical coherence, but what the fathers meant to say is usually clear.

AHC Note — See the Articles of Association and the Continental Association for more information about the Committee of Inspection.

Billerica Minutemen

At the town meeting in March, it was voted to raise a company of fifty minute-men, who should meet weekly for training, and be paid one shilling for every half-day’s training, except when this day was the same as the general training day. 

The officers, appointed by a committee of the town, were Captain Ebenezer Bridge, Lieuts. Jonathan Stickney and James Lewis; and the minute-men were to pass muster before Colonel Tompson, Captain Pollard, and Captain Farmer. 

Another committee was ‘to perfect the Alarm List; the Rule to go by is, all above the age of fifty-five.”

Thomas Ditson Tarred and Feathered in Boston

A few days later occurred an incident in Boston which has made the name of a young man from Billerica famous in the history of these days, and produced much effect upon the minds of the patriots. 

Thomas Ditson Jr., being in Boston, was seized by the British troops, March 8, on the pretense that he was urging a soldier to desert; without any examination kept a prisoner until the next day, when he was stripped, tarred, and feathered, and dragged through the principal streets on a truck, attended by soldiers of the Forty Seventh Regiment, led by Colonel Nesbit, to the music of Yankee Doodle, the original words of which, it is said, were then first used. 

The outrage produced great indignation, and the selectmen of Boston sent a letter reporting the case to the selectmen of Billerica, who presented a remonstrance to General Gage, and submitted the case to a town meeting, on March 20. 

The town thanked them “for the wise and prudent measures” they had taken, expressed its dissatisfaction with the reply of General Gage, and instructed them to carry the case to the Provincial Congress.

AHC Note — James Thacher was a doctor in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War and kept a detailed journal. Thacher recorded what he believed to be the history of Yankee Doodle. According to him, the term originated with Jonathan Hastings of Cambridge, who  used “Yankee” as a synonym for “excellent.” College students used the word to make fun of Hastings, who was a simple farmer, and it evolved to mean a person who was “simple and awkward.”

Billerica Prepares for Hostilities

Debates and events were becoming very serious, and the drilling of train-bands and minute-men foreshadowed too well the work before them.

The stern resolve of the patriots expressed itself in a vote, the same day, “to look up the old Bayonets” and, April 14, four days before the Lexington and Concord alarm, they voted to “furnish the minute-men with Bayonets and Cartridge Boxes.” 

It was also voted, that “as every method ought to be pursued which may tend to promote the arts & manufactures of the Country, especially that of wool. The Inhabitants of this town Shall not Kill any lambs for the market till after the first Day of August next; and also that no one ought to sell any to any Butcher or Petty Chapman, at any time whatever.”

“Voted, That the Inhabitants of this Town will, on the Death of a friend or Relative, Conform to the 8th article of the American Association, & go into no further mourning than such as is therein Recommended, and will entirely Discontinue the Giving of any Gloves whatever at Funerals.”

To prevent the troops in Boston from being supplied with materials for hostile operations, the town voted not to permit any team “to Load in, or, after loaded, to pass through, the Town, with Timber, Boards, Spars, Pickets, Tent-poles, Canvas, Brick, Iron, Waggons, Carts, Carriages, Intrenching Tools, Oats,” etc., without satisfactory certificate from the Committee of Correspondence, as to load, destination, and abode.

The Lexington Alarm

Meanwhile, General Gage was preparing for an expedition to seize the military stores which had been gathered at Concord, with little suspicion what preparation the Provincials had made, and how promptly they would deal with such a movement.

It was about eleven’ o’clock on the night of April 18th, that Paul Revere and William Dawes set out on their ride to give the alarm and summon the minute-men to resist the advance of the British troops. 

The story of that day has been well told, and can not be here repeated. 

It was certainly to Billerica one of the most exciting and important days in her history. The midnight riders spreading the alarm were likely to come by the Woburn, Lexington, and Bedford roads, and probably reached Billerica by two o’clock. 

The Ditsons on the Woburn Road would be among the first to receive the summons, and very ready to respond to it after their recent experience.

Billerica Militia Assembles and Marches to Concord

Colonel Tompson and Lieutenant Stickney, living in the southeast part of the village, would be promptly notified; and Ebenezer Bridge, who was captain of the minute-men, and lived at the Farmer place and nearly opposite Colonel Stickney’s. 

There was hurrying to and fro, we may be sure, and in the early dawn, when the first encounter took place at Lexington, few families, if any, had not heard the call to arms.

Muskets and accoutrements were hastily made ready and donned; the alarm-list no doubt turned out as well as the train-band and the minute-men; and gathering at the Common for muster and orders, then hurried off towards Concord.

Merriam’s Corner

Meanwhile, the British had pushed on to Concord, and after the fight there found reason for hurrying back towards Boston. 

They had not gone far when, at Merriam’s Corner, the Billerica troops came and joined in the assault and pursuit of the retreating foe. 

Mr. Frothingham states that they came under the command of Colonel William Tompson, a fact which suggests that the force was not limited to the company of minute-men under Captain Bridge, and it is not likely that the veterans would be slow to turn out at such a call. 

Some Billerica men were naturally in the Bedford company and arrived earlier, and when Captain Jonathan Wilson was killed, the command devolved upon his Billerica lieutenant, Edward Stearns. 

Nathaniel Wyman of the same company was killed, who was probably from Billerica, although his name is also credited to Lexington.

AHC Note — There is some disagreement regarding which town Nathaniel Wyman was from. Some accounts list him as being from Lexington, while others say Billerica. Despite the controversy, Wyman is listed as one of the men who fought under Captain John Parker in the Battle of Lexington. Although Hazen’s account indicates he was killed near Merriam’s Corner, other sources say he was killed during Parker’s Revenge, closer to Lexington.

Also, “Mr. Frothingham” refers to Richard Frothingham, who wrote ‘History of the Siege of Boston and the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

No other man from this town was killed, but John Nickles and Timothy Blanchard were wounded.

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 Billerica, 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 Billerica and the Battles of Lexington and Concord
  • Date April 18–19, 1775
  • Author
  • Keywords Billerica, Billerica Militia, Billerica Minutemen, Lexington Alarm, Concord Fight, Battles of Lexington and Concord
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 12, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 16, 2024

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