Medford and the Battles of Lexington and Concord

April 18–19, 1775

Medford, Massachusetts was one of the towns that mobilized its militia forces in response to the Lexington Alarm. The Medford Militia and Minutemen responded to the Lexington Alarm. Most of them engaged the British at Merriam’s Corner and pursued them to Boston.

Lexington and Concord, 1775, Medford Militia

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

Medford Militia and the Battles of Lexington and Concord

The following account of the Medford Militia and their role in the Battles of Lexington and Concord is taken from Historical Sketches of Watertown, Massachusetts, written by Solon Franklin Whitney and published in 1893.

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 Medford and the Battles of Lexington and Concord

  1. Medford is slightly southeast of Lexington, Massachusetts. Today, it is about eight miles on foot from the center of Medford to the center of Lexington.
  2. In March 1775, a large quantity of military supplies were sent to Concord from Medford.
  3. The Medford Minuteman Company was led by Captain Isaac Hall.
  4. Paul Revere raised the alarm in Medford, on his way to Lexington.
  5. An unnamed rider from Medford likely spread the Lexington Alarm to nearby Malden.
  6. Henry Putnam, a veteran of the French and Indian War, voluntarily joined the fight and was killed during the Battle of Menotomy.
  7. Reverend Edward Brooks made it to Concord in time to participate in the Fight at the North Bridge. 
  8. Reverend Books took a wounded British soldier, Lieutenant Edward Thornton Gould, as a prisoner and took him back to Medford, where Mrs. Brooks nursed him back to health.
  9. Captain Isaac Hall and the Medford Militia engaged the British at Merriam’s Corner.
  10. William Polly of Medford was wounded during the Battles of Lexington and Concord and died at his home on April 25.
Concord Fight, 1775, Doolittle, Plate 3 Detail, North Bridge, NYPL
This engraving by Amos Doolittle was made in 1775 and depicts the Concord Fight at the North Bridge. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

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

Medford and the American Revolution

At the beginning of the Revolution the resolutions passed in the town meetings of Medford, Massachusetts, were not as spirited as those of many other towns of the State; but when the time came for the citizens to choose between king and colony there were only three or four who did not stand for liberty.

Stamp Act Crisis

In 1765, Honorable Stephen Hall, the representative, received instructions from the town which included the following confession of faith.

“Beholding with anxiety the success given to these extraordinary measures by the several laws lately enacted by Parliament tending to destroy our Trade and drain us of our Money, especially this most grievous of all Acts, commonly called the Stamp Act…We esteem it our bounden duty to entertain profound Respect for and pay ready Obedience to all lawful authority according to our happy constitution, and do therefore express our unshaken loyalty to his present Majesty King George III…We hold in great veneration the August Body of the British Parliament and are ready to yield Obedience to the laws they shall from time to time enact agreeable to our constitution^ but considering them as men and therefore liable to misinformation and error, whenever they require such obedience from us which is incompatible with the enjoyment of our just liberties and properties we cannot but arise and remonstrate against it.”

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

Mr. Hall was instructed to vote that the losses of Governor Hutchinson on account of the Stamp Act Riot, on August 26, 1765, be made up to him “upon his Application to the General Assembly in a Parliamentary way.” The other persons who sustained damages were entirely ignored. 

When the news of the repeal of the Stamp Act was received in Medford, the town celebrated by a great bonfire on Pasture Hill.

ACH Note — See Stamp Act History, Stamp Act Facts, and Stamp Act Congress Overview.

Massachusetts Committees of Correspondence

In reply to the pamphlet sent out by the Committee of Correspondence of Boston in 1772, the committee appointed — Willis Hall, Stephen Hall, Tertius, Deacon Isaac Warren, Joshua Simonds, and Benjamin Hall — wrote that assistance would not be wanting in the use of “proper measures as shall be thought expedient to be adopted for the preservation of our Liberties, Civil and Religious, being of opinion that a steady, uniform and persevering conduct in a constitutional way is the best means under God for obtaining that end and a Redress of all our grievances.”

Rather more warmth is expressed in instructions to Dr. Simon Tufts, in regard to the payment of justices by the crown. He was told to “zealously and vigorously exert” himself to avert so formidable an evil and frustrate the “wicked machinations of our inveterate enemies,” for, if a provision which rendered the justices so dependent on the crown should become a fact, “The Ax is now laid at the Root of our Liberty with a fixed intention to hew it down.”

Boston Tea Party

The people of Medford met in a Town Meeting on December 7, 1773, and heard the letter from the Committee of Correspondence concerning the three tea ships in Boston harbor. A committee was appointed to draw up resolutions and to report at an adjourned meeting, on December 16. While they were adopting the report, the exciting town meeting was being held in the Old South meeting house, Boston, and when Medford’s letter was forwarded, the tea was floating in the bay.

Boston Tea Party, 1773, Lantern Slide, DCMNY
This illustration depicts the Boston Tea Party. Image Source: Digital Culture of Metropolitan New York.

Among the Sons of Liberty who took part in the Tea Party was John Fulton of Medford. He was one of the party who disguised themselves at the house of his brother-in-law, Nathaniel Bradlee, corner of Tremont and Hollis Streets. The men were assisted by Mrs. Nathaniel Bradlee and Mrs. Fulton in assuming their disguise and in removing the stains of the evening’s work. The men were saved from capture by the authorities by the coolness of the women.

Consumption of Tea in Medford

The tea troubles were not settled by making a tea pot of Boston harbor. In the latter part of 1774 it began to be whispered that some of the good people of Medford were using the forbidden beverage. 

A committee was appointed to “enquire if any person or persons Sells or consumes any East India teas in their families and if any such found in this Town that they cause their names to be posted up in some publick place.” 

Then the voters, not wishing to bind their neighbors to what they would not abide by, “Voted that we will not use any East India Teas in our Families till the Acts be Repealed.”

Boston Port Act

In June 1774, the Boston Port Bill became a law, and all business in Boston and its vicinity was at a standstill. It put an end to the lightering business, which was Medford’s chief source of revenue.

AHC Note — “Lightering” is the process of transferring cargo from one ship to another.

Farmers from the east and north brought their products to Medford, which with bricks, leather, and rum manufactured in the town, were transported down the Mystic River by boats or “lighters.”

Watertown Asks Boston for Help

November 14, 1774, suffering but inflexible, the town voted, “This Town does not approve of any bricks being carried to Boston till the committees of the neighboring towns shall consent to it.”

In the spring of 1775, when Boston had received money and provisions, Medford petitioned for a share of the supplies in the following words: —

“Previous to the shutting up of the Port of Boston, a great part of the Inhabitants of Medford subsisted by Brick making, and numbers of other poor Inhabitants there were employed in transporting these Bricks to Boston, where was our Market for them both in supplying the Town, and also Vessels in the Harbour, from whence they were exported to foreign Parts in great Quantities. But since by the Operation of the Port Acts, this our Trade is at an End, and those poor People are put out of Business and themselves and Families are involved in the same Calamity and distress for want of employ as are the poor of Boston and Charlestown…The Inhabitants of Medford in Town Meeting assembled the 14th Instant [Mar. 14, 1775] upon Consideration of the Premises have directed us to acquaint you with our distressed Circumstances and to petition for your kind Assistance. We do therefore in behalf of said Town, pray that you would consider our unhappy Condition, and that you would (if the Circumstances of your Poor admit,) in your known Benevolence and Humanity grant us (who are suffering in the common Cause) some small Portion of that Liberality which Providence has put into your hands.”

It was voted by the Selectmen of Boston to refer this to the annual meeting of the Town of Boston in May, but great events changed the current of affairs before that time, and Medford never received her “small Portion.”

Powder Alarm

When General Gage began fortifications on Boston Neck, the people thought it high time to prepare to defend themselves. The Committees of Safety began to collect ammunition. Powder manufacturing was encouraged by the Provincial Congress.

AHC Note — According to most accounts, General Thomas Gage did not order fortifications built at Boston Neck until after the Powder Alarm (September 1, 1774).

Stephen Hall, 3d, the representative from Medford, was one of a committee to encourage the manufacture of saltpeter. The local Committee of Safety kept a sharp watch over the powder belonging to the town, which was stored in the “Powder House” at Quarry Hill just south of the Medford line. Rumor said that Gage intended to seize the powder stored there. 

On August 27, Thomas Patten was sent to remove the town’s supply to a safer place. Three days later Gage sent the troops out from Boston and carried all the ammunition remaining there, the property of several towns which had not heeded the alarm, to Castle William.

Taxes Paid to the Provincial Congress

From this time forth Medford was thoroughly imbued with the spirit of resistance. On November 14, 1774, it was voted to pay no more province taxes to Harrison Gray but to order the collector to hold the same till further notice. January 9, 1775, it was voted to pay this money to Henry Gardner, Treasurer under the Provincial Congress.

Watertown Committee of Correspondence

The town records make mention of a Committee of Correspondence for the first time, March 13, 1775, but the Selectmen’s Order Book under the date of October 2, 1774, records “Paid Moses Billings [tavern keeper] for entertaining the Committee of Correspondence, 40s.”

The Committee of Correspondence for 1775 consisted of Benjamin Hall, Esquire, Ebenezer Brooks, Jr., Thomas Patten, Stephen Hall, 3d, James Wyman, Deacon Isaac Warren, and Deacon Samuel Kidder.

Massachusetts Provincial Congress

Benjamin Hall was a member of the last General Court held in Boston, May 31, 1774, and was one of the ninety representatives who on October 5, in spite of Gage’s orders, met in Salem, and behind locked doors formed the first Provincial Congress, and adjourned to Concord. 

Mr. Hall was put upon the committee to provide ammunition and stores. In November, seven pieces of cannon were bought and “Mr. Gill and Mr. Benjamin Hall were desired to get them out of Boston to some place in the country in such manner as they may think most prudent.” 

These were very likely stored in Medford, for on April 28, 1775, it was ordered that the “Cannon now in Medford be immediately brought to this town [Cambridge] under direction of Captain Foster.”

Supplies Shipped to Concord

In March 1775, the ledger of Benjamin Hall shows that he sent to Concord a large consignment of pork, fifty axes and helves, wheelbarrows, and material for constructing barracks. There are also charges for carting, carpenter-work, and the item, “Paid James Tufts for going to Charlestown twice for gunsmith’s tools.”

Medford Minutemen

Medford’s company of Minutemen was commanded by Captain Isaac Hall, a brother of the representative. The Lieutenant was Caleb Brooks, a half-brother of Dr. John Brooks who was afterward Governor of Massachusetts. The Ensign was the oldest son of Stephen Hall, Tertius.

There is hardly a name on the roll which had not been known in Medford for years. There were nine in the company named Tufts — a family resident in the town long before 1700. The names Bradshaw, Francis, Blanchard, Oakes, and Pritchard dated back to the time of Governor Cradock.

John Hancock and Samuel Adams

As the April days advanced the people became more and more restless, and rumors were rife. On April 16 the Committee of Safety prevailed upon Hancock and Adams to leave Boston, and almost immediately came certain intelligence that the troops were to march into the country.

Paul Revere Raises the Alarm in Medford

When Paul Revere “crossed the bridge into Medford town,” stopped at the door of Captain Isaac Hall, and passed on, alarming the sleeping farmers on the road to Menotomy, the people of Medford were not slow in responding. Naturally, some Medford man carried the message to Malden and perhaps farther, but his name is lost. Morning found the town almost destitute of men.

AHC Note — See Joseph Warren, Paul Revere, Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride, William Dawes, and Samuel Prescott.

Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, 1775, Painting, Wyeth
This painting by N.C. Wyeth depicts Paul Revere warning people during his Midnight Ride. Image Source: American Antiquarian Society.

Medford Militia March Toward Concord

Fifty-nine men had marched away in the company, and volunteers followed. Henry Putnam, who had earned the title of Lieutenant in the Louisburg Campaign, although exempt on account of his age, could not remain at home when there was fighting to be done, and grasping his musket, went out to give his life for freedom at Menotomy. He was one of eighty-six Putnams who were on the Lexington Alarm Rolls.

Edward Brooks, the Concord Fight, and Edward Thornton Gould

Reverend Edward Brooks went on horseback to Concord and was in the skirmish at the bridge. Lieutenant Edward Thornton Gould, of his Majesty’s own Regiment of Foot, was wounded there. His life was saved by Mr. Brooks, who brought him a prisoner to Medford. In his sworn testimony, Gould said, “I…am now treated with the greatest humanity and taken all possible care of by the provincials at Medford.” He remained in Medford until February 1776, when he was transferred to the barracks at Concord.

Mrs. Brooks, who through the day of the battle had served chocolate to the Minutemen as they passed her house, which stood in sight of the gleaming bayonets of the red coats as they passed through Menotomy, gave her self-forgetful care to her wounded enemy.

Concord Fight, 1775, North Bridge, NYPL
This illustration depicts the fight at the North Bridge. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Medford Militia at Merriam’s Corner

Captain Hall and his company marched to Lexington and there joined Captain John Brooks and his Reading Company. Captain Brooks had left Medford only two years previous to practice medicine in Reading, and many of the men in the Medford company had been drilled by him in boyhood days, he having early developed a taste for military affairs. The combined companies overtook the British at “Merriam’s Corner” and followed them to Charlestown Ferry, continuing their fire until the last of the troops had embarked. 

Lexington and Concord, 1775, Meriam's Corner, NYPL
This postcard from the early 1900s shows Meriam’s Corner, where the Massachusetts militia attacked the British. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

William Polly Mortally Wounded

One of the Medford companies, William Polly, was mortally wounded but was brought to his home, where he died on April 25.

Siege of Boston

All day the town was astir with drum and fife as company after company marched through toward Concord. When night fell, companies that arrived too late to participate in the fight were quartered in Medford and remained there until their five days’ service was over. The Medford company proceeded at once to Cambridge.

AHC Note — See 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 Medford, 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 Medford and the Battles of Lexington and Concord
  • Date April 18–19, 1775
  • Author
  • Keywords Medford, Medford Militia, Medford 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 18, 2024

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