Sudbury and the Battles of Lexington and Concord

April 18–19, 1775

Sudbury, Massachusetts was one of the towns that mobilized its militia forces in response to the Lexington Alarm. At least six Militia Companies from Sudbury marched to Concord where they engaged the British at Merriam’s Corner and then followed them back to Boston.

Lexington and Concord, 1775, Sudbury Militia

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

Sudbury Militia and the Battles of Lexington and Concord

The following account of the Sudbury Militia and their role in the Battles of Lexington and Concord is taken from The History of Sudbury, Massachusetts, written by Alfred Serano Hudson and published in 1968.

This account provides a comprehensive overview of the major events that took place in Massachusetts from the passage of the Sugar Act (1774) to the Battles of Lexington and Concord. It also provides a fairly detailed study of the Sudbury Militia Companies and where they were located during the Concord Fight at the North Bridge. Finally, it includes an eyewitness account from a veteran of the battle.

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 Sudbury and the Battles of Lexington and Concord

  1. Sudbury is slightly southwest of Concord. Today, it is roughly an 8-mile walk from the center of Sudbury to the center of Concord.
  2. On November 14, 1774, Sudbury ordered its Militia Companies to choose officers and organized two Minuteman Companies.
  3. The Sudbury Militia Companies were led by Captain Aaron Haynes, Captain Joseph Smith, and Captain Moses Stone.
  4. The Sudbury Minuteman Companies were led by Captain John Nixon and Captain Nathaniel Cudworth.
  5. On March 20, two British spies passed through Sudbury on their way to Concord.
  6. On March 29, 1775, the Massachusetts Committee of Safety ordered roughly one-third of the military supplies stored in Concord moved to Sudbury.
  7. The Lexington Alarm reached Sudbury sometime between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m.
  8. The Sudbury Companies mustered and marched to Concord, where they were near the North Bridge when the Concord Fight took place and the Shot Heard ‘Round the World was fired.
  9. The Sudbury Companies first engaged the British at Merriam’s Corner, about a mile east, outside of Concord, on the road to Lexington.
  10. Two Sudbury men, 81-year-old Deacon Josiah Haynes and Asahel Reed, were killed during the Battles of Lexington and Concord.
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.

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

Sudbury in the American Revolution

The period from 1775 to 1800 may truly be termed the period of the American Revolution. It witnessed the commencement and close of armed opposition to the British Crown, and the establishment, in America, of a new nationality. 

In the work of overthrowing the old and establishing a new government, the several provincial towns had a common concern; each supplied its quota and each stood ready to respond to the country’s call. 

Sudbury, on account of its situation and size, bore a prominent part. It was the most populous town in Middlesex County; its territory was extensive, and for a time in close proximity to the seat of war: for these reasons, much was expected of it, and its Patriotism was equal to the demand. 

Causes of the American Revolution and Revolutionary War

Before a consideration in detail of the part taken by the town in this stormy period, we will notice in brief the causes of the war. 

The thirteen original States were, for the most part, settled by English immigrants. They loved the mother country, its institutions, and laws, and had no desire to throw off allegiance so long as England respected their rights. The two countries had stood together on the fields of successive wars, they had things in common to be shared and kept — one language set forth their traditions, one literature contained their history and laws. It was natural and desirable that they should have but one flag and sustain one general government. 

No Taxation Without Representation

But causes worked to alienate and bring about a final rupture. The colonies were oppressed with excessive taxation, denied the rights of their ancient charters, and refused representation in council, and the right of petition at court. Misguided and rash officials were placed in their midst, and they were subject, in various other obnoxious ways, to checks on their peace and prosperity.

Before hostilities broke out, protests were repeatedly presented to the Crown against its despotic proceedings; but the colonies had little hope of English concession, hence, great activity prevailed in council, and the people prepared to meet the worst. 

Resolutions were passed, and such plans laid for aggressive and defensive measures as the exigencies of the province required. In these measures, Sudbury had her share. The town was usually present, by delegates, in response to all calls, and her vote was stanch for the continental cause. 

AHC Note — See Sugar Act History and Sugar Act Facts.

In 1770, the people manifested their hearty appreciation of the agreement of merchants in Boston “to stop the importation of British goods, and engaged for themselves and all within their influence, to countenance and encourage the same.”

AHC Note — This is a reference to the Boston Non-Importation Agreement (1769), which was implemented to protest the Townshend Acts and the British occupation of Boston.  

British Troops Enter Boston, 1768, Illustration
This illustration depicts British troops entering Boston. Image Source: Cassell’s Illustrated History of England, 1865.

Stamp Act

At an early day, they chose a committee to prepare and present instructions to Peter Noyes, Representative to the General Court, in regard to the Stamp Act, which set forth their opinions very strongly concerning that petty piece of tyranny. Record after record appears on the Town Book, of resolutions and acts that show how positive the people were in their patriotism, and how pronounced they were in declaring it. These are of such a character that to give a few of them will suffice.

AHC Note — See Stamp Act History, Stamp Act Facts, and Stamp Act Congress.

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

Tea Act Resolutions

In 1773, the town being met, the committee appointed by the town to take into consideration the affair relating to the Tea sent here by the British East India Company, reported as follows:

“Taking into Consideration the late Conduct of administration, together with an act of Parliament enabling the East India Company to export their Teas unto America Free of all, Duties and Customs, Regulations and penalties in America as are provided by the Revenue Act; we are justly alarmed at this Detestable Craft and Policy of the Ministry to deprive us of our American Liberties Transmitted to us by our Worthy Ancestors, at no less expense than that of their Blood and Treasure. That price our Renowned Forefathers freely paid, that they might transmit those Glorious Liberties as a free, full, and fair inheritance to Posterity, which liberties through the Indulgent Smiles of Heaven, we have possessed in peace and Quietness, till within a few years Past (Excepting in the reign of the Detestable Stewarts) but now Behold! the pleasing scene is changed, the British ministry, assisted by the Inveterate Enemies to American Liberty on this as well as on the other side of the Atlantick, Combining together to Rob us of our dear Bought freedom; have Brought us to this sad Dilemma, either to resolve like men in defense of our just Rights and Liberties, or sink under the weight of their Arbitrary and unconstitutional measures into a State of abject Slavery. 

Therefore as Freeborn Americans Intitled to all the immunities, Liberties and Privileges of Freeborn Englishmen, we look upon ourselves under the Strongest Obligations to use our utmost Exertions in defense of our just Rights in every constitutional method within our Power, Even though the Cost of the Defense should equal that of the purchase. Therefore resolved:

1st — That as we are entitled to all the Privileges of British Subjects, we have an undoubted and exclusive Right to Grant our own monies for the support of Government and that no Power on Earth has a right to Tax or make Laws binding us, without our consent.

2dly — That the British Parliament laying a Duty on Tea Payable in America, for the express purpose of Raising a Revenue, is in our opinion an unjust Taxation, and that the specious method of permitting the East India Company to export their Teas into the Colonies, has a direct tendency to rivet the Chain of Slavery upon us.

3dly — That we will lend all the aid and assistance in our Power in every Rational Method, to hinder the Importations of Teas, so long as it is subject to a duty; and that this Town are well pleased with, and highly approve of that Resolution in particular entered into by the Town of Boston, viz that they will not suffer any Tea to be imported into that Town while subject to an unrighteous Duty; and it is the desire and expectation of this Town that said resolution be not relaxed in any Degree; which if it should it would much lesson that confidence (which we hope we may justly say) we have reason to place in that respectable metropolis

4thly — That the Persons appointed by the East India Company to receive and vend their Teas (by their obstinate refusal to resign their odious Commission) have shown a ready disposition to become the Tools of our Enemies, to oppress and enslave their Native Country, and have manifested such stupidity and wickedness to prefer private Interest to the good of their Country, and therefore can expect no favor or respect from us; but we leave them to accumulate a load of Infamy, proportionate to their vileness.

5th — That whoever shall sell, buy, or otherwise use Tea, while subject to and poisened with a Duty, shall be deemed by us Enemies to their Country’s welfare; and shall be treated by us as such. The Town by their Vote Ordered the foregoing resolves to be recorded in the Town Book, and a Copy of the same to be forwarded to the Committee of Correspondence at Boston, with our sincere thanks to that Respectable Town, for their Manly Opposition to every minsterial measure to enslave America.

Thomas Plympton, Ezekiel Howe, John Maynard, Sampson Belcher, Phinehas Glezen, Josiah Langdon 

} Committee”

AHC Note — See Tea Act, Boston Tea Party History, and Boston Tea Party Facts.

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

Instructions for Peter Noyes

With like spirit the town expressed itself in the following instructions to Peter Noyes, its Representative to the Court:

“Sir, you being chosen by the inhabitants of this town to represent them in the Great and General Court or Assembly of their Province, we think proper at this critical Day, when our invaluable rights and privileges are so openly invaded to give you the following instructions.

That you invariably adhere to and steadfastly maintain (so far as you are able) all our Charter Rights and Priveleges and that you do [not] consent to give them or any of them up, on any pretense whatever. That you make use of all your influence, that some effective method be devised and pursued for the restoration of our violated rights and redress of all our grievances. That you use your endeavors that the Governor be prevailed upon to make a grant for the payment of our agent chosen by the Representative body of the Province to present our complaint to the ears of our King.

John Maynard, Sampson Belcher, John Balcom, William Rice Jr, Phineas Gleason, Aaron Marriam } Committee”

Continental Association

November 14, 1774, the town voted “their approbation of the several measures of the Provincial Congress so far as has been communicated to them.” It also voted, at the same meeting, “to choose a committee to observe the conduct of all persons touching the association agreement entered into by the Continental Congress, whose business it shall be to see the articles contained therein are strictly adhered to by the inhabitants of this town.”

AHC Note — See Intolerable Acts (1774), First Continental Congress, Articles of Association, and Continental Association.

Massachusetts Provincial Congress

In 1774, the town chose Thomas Plympton, Captain Richard Heard, and James Mossman to represent it at the proposed Provincial Congress. The records just quoted are a few from many that show the fidelity of Sudbury to the great cause of freedom in those tumultuous times. It was decided as to the true principle of action, and equally prompt and consistent in carrying it out. 

Organizing Militia and Military Training

November 14, 1774, “it was voted, that the town recommend to the several companies of militia to meet far the choice of officers for their respective companies, as recommended by the Provincial Congress. Also voted, that a company of militia on the East side, meet on Thursday next at twelve o’clock at the East meeting house in Sudbury, to choose their officers; and that the companies on the West side to meet at the West meeting house at the same time and for the same purpose.”

Minuteman Companies

Besides looking after the militia, the town took measures to form companies of Minutemen. These, as the name implies, were to hold themselves in readiness to act at a minute’s warning. The officers received no commissions, but held their positions by vote of the men. Two such companies were formed, one on each side of the river. 

Horse and Alarm Companies

There was also a troop of horse composed of men from both precincts. Besides these companies of able-bodied men, there was an alarm company composed of men exempt from military service.

The names of the companies were:

  • North Militia Company, West Side — Captain Aaron Haynes, 60 men.
  • East Militia Company, East Side — Captain Joseph Smith, 75 men.
  • South Militia Company (Lanham District) both Sides — Captain Moses Stone, 92 men.
  • Troop of Horse, Both Sides — Captain Isaac Loker, 21 men.
  • Minute Company, West Side — Captain John Nixon, 58 men
  • Minute Company, East Side — Captain Nathaniel Cudworth, 40 men

These make, besides the alarm list of Jabez Puffer, six companies — three hundred and forty-eight men — in process of preparation for the coming struggle.

ACH Note — Puffer and the men of the Alarm List did not train on a regular basis, like the other companies. However, they were expected to report if the alarm sounded.

Military Supplies in Concord

It was becoming more and more evident that a collision with the King’s forces was close at hand. A considerable quantity of Continental supplies had been deposited at Concord; there also was a center of strong patriotic influence; at that place, therefore, the blow was liable to fall first. 

Supplies Moved to Sudbury, Stow, and Worcester

March 29, a report came that the British were about to proceed to that place. The Committee of Safety for the Province met at Cambridge, and ordered the removal therefrom of stores. The order was carried out and the stores sent in several directions. To Sudbury were sent fifty barrels of beef, one hundred of flour, twenty casks of rice, fifteen hogsheads of molasses, ten hogsheads of rum, and five hundred candles, fifteen thousand canteens, fifteen thousand iron pots ; the spades, pickaxes, bill-hooks, axes, hatchets, crows, wheel-barrows, and several other articles were to be divided, one-third to remain in Concord, one-third to be sent to Sudbury, one-third to Stow, and one thousand iron pots were to be sent to Worcester. The rumor at this time proved false, yet a little later the event came about. 

Gage’s Spies

General Thomas Gage, who was stationed in Boston as Commander-in-chief of the British troops, took measures to send a detachment to Concord for the destruction of Continental stores. 

For the accomplishment of this purpose he sent out spies to examine the land. Two of these secret messengers, Captain Brown and Ensign D’Bernicre, went to Worcester in February, and to Concord, March 20. They went by way of Weston and Sudbury, stopping in the former town at the Jones Tavern, which still stands on the main street of Weston, and passed through East Sudbury by way of the South Bridge.

British Expedition to Concord

Having received the report of these spies, the British prepared to advance. General Gage detached eight hundred of light infantry, grenadiers and marines from the ten regiments under his command, and, on pretence of instructing them in a new military exercise, took them from regular duty on April 15. 

His plan was for the troops to cross Charles River by night, and at daybreak be far on their way toward Concord and thus take the place by surprise. But there were those who were watching his wary course, and a sly, swift courier was to precede him on his way. 

Paul Revere and the Midnight Riders

A previous arrangement had been made by which a lantern was to be displayed in the belfry of the old North Church when the British began their march. Paul Revere, at the signal, was to start with the news and proclaim it from place to place. About that messenger, his mission, his midnight ride, it is unnecessary for us to relate. The oft-told tale is very familiar, how Paul Revere went forth and “spread the alarm through every Middlesex village and farm.”

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.

Lexington Alarm

The news thus started by Paul Revere reached Sudbury between three and four o’clock in the morning. As the town is eight miles southwestward of Concord, intelligence of the approaching column was received later than at towns on the Boston and Concord highway. But, notwithstanding the distance, the sun was not yet arisen when the summons arrived in town, and then followed a scene of activity unparalleled in the annals of Sudbury. 

Sudbury Militia March to Concord

The course taken by the various companies to reach Concord was, probably, not the same, as they started from different parts of the town. Two companies from the West Side — the minute company and the North Militia — would go by the road through North Sudbury, while the East Side men would, most likely, go by way of Lincoln. 

Nixon’s Company Marches to the North Bridge

Captain Nixon’s company started from the West Side meeting house. The companies of Nixon and Haynes designed to cross the Concord River by way of the old South Bridge, or “Wood’s Bridge,” on the site of the county bridge near the Fitchburg Railroad. From doing this, however, they were deterred by an order which reached them when about half a mile away, and by which they marched on to the North Bridge. 

The Scene at Concord

The appearance of this host of town’s people, on an errand like that before them, must have been imposing and sad. The gathering and the start were enough of themselves to stir the idlest spectator, and move the most indifferent soul. 

The morning was peaceful and lovely. Nature was advanced for the season. The fields were green with the grass and grain which even waved in the April breeze, and the buds were bursting, prophetic of early spring. But, in strange contrast, the souls of the people were stirred as if swept by a tempest.

The appearance of that hurrying pageant as it swept through the town was at once solemn, strange, and sublime. Their haste was too great to admit of a measured or dignified pace. They were impatient to arrive at the front. Daniel Putnam may be excused if no drum taps are heard save the “long roll ” at the very start. Caleb Brown may put by his “Phiffe” until he hears from Luther Blanchard, at the old north bridge, the strains of “The White Cockade.” The music of the morning was made by the quickened heart throbbing in those patriotic breasts, as in double-quick they strode over the old north road to be on hand at the approach of the foe. 

Along the route, mothers and children appeared, to catch a glimpse of the loved ones, who fast flying were soon lost to view A kiss lovingly cast into the morning air, the passing benediction of word or look, and the crowd rushed by. The loved ones were left to sad conjecture as to what the dread issue might be. 

We have heard a great-granddaughter of Captain Nixon say that she has been told by her grandmother that a messenger came at night to the house and said, “Up, up! the red-coats are up as far as Concord!” that Mr. Nixon at once started off on horseback, and that sometime during the day Mrs. Nixon went out of the house, which was on Nobscot Hillside, and putting her ear to the ground could hear the sound of distant guns.

Redirected to the North Bridge

The North Militia and Minute Company, as we have stated, designed to reach Concord village by way of the old South Bridge, but when about half a mile from it were ordered to proceed to the north bridge by Colonel James Barrett, the commander of the minute regiment, whose son Stephen had been sent to convey the message to the approaching companies. By obeying this order, the Sudbury companies would join a force already assembled on the north side of the village, and also avoid speedy contact with the British guard that already held the South Bridge.

British Arrive in Concord

When the British arrived at Concord by way of the Lexington Road, which leads from the easterly into the town, Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith, the commander, made a threefold division of his force of eight hundred men. 

Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith, British Officer, Portrait
Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith. Image Source: National Army Museum.

The light infantry was sent in two detachments to guard the bridges and destroy the stores on the village outskirts, while the grenadiers and marines he detained with himself and Major John Pitcairn at the center of Concord. 

In the execution of this plan, Captain Lawrence Parsons took possession of the North Bridge, Captain Mundy Pole did the same at the South Bridge, and each sent detachments from their force to destroy Continental stores.

Sudbury Militia Wait Beyond the North Bridge

The Americans, meanwhile, were powerless to prevent this occurrence. As yet, but comparatively few Continental troops had arrived. It was only about seven or eight o’clock in the morning, and but a few hours since the general alarm. They knew not positively about the work at Lexington Common, nor that the British had come with a deadly intent. They wanted to know just what was right, and waited for strength to enforce the right; while thus waiting, they withdrew over the river beyond the North Bridge. To this vicinity were the Sudbury men sent.

Deacon Josiah Haynes

But there was, at least on the part of one of the company, a reluctance to turn from their more direct course. They were in the country’s highway, and this one person, perhaps, felt like Captain Davis of Acton, who before leaving that town said, “I have a right to go to Concord on the King’s Highway, and I intend to go if I have to meet all the British troops in Boston.” 

The person referred to as reluctant to turn from his course was Deacon Josiah Haynes, who was eighty years old. It is stated that he was “urgent to attack the British at the South Bridge, dislodge them, and march into the village by that route.” 

Had his opinion prevailed, the battle might have been then and there, and the old South Bridge rather than the old North Bridge have been the place of note forever. But the South Bridge was avoided. In accordance with Colonel Barrett’s command, Captains Nixon and Haynes with Lieutenant Colonel Ezekiel How started, as we have stated, for the old North Bridge.

Sudbury Militia Marches by the Barrett Farm

When at the South Bridge they were on the westerly side of Concord village, while the North Bridge was a little to the north of east. Their way, therefore, was by something of a circuitous course; and, to reach the point to which they were ordered, they were to pass the house of Colonel Barrett, a mile and a half north-west of the village, where Captain Parsons with three British companies were destroying Continental stores. 

When the Sudbury soldiers came within sight of Colonel Barrett’s house they came to a halt. Before them were the British engaged in their mischievous work. Gun carriages had been collected and piled together to be burned, the torch already had been applied, and the residence of their Colonel had been ransacked. They halted, and Colonel How exclaimed, “If any blood has been shed not one of the rascals shall escape!” and, disguising himself, he rode on to ascertain the truth. 

It was, probably, not far from nine o’clock when this event took place This indicates the celerity with which the Sudbury troops had moved. From the morning alarm, by which the Minutemen met at the West Side Meeting House, until the foregoing transaction but about five hours had passed, and, meanwhile, the mustering, the march, the arrival. 

Militia Gather on Punkatasset Hill

While the Regulars were engaged in their destructive work at Colonel Barrett’s, the Provincials were concentrating their forces in preparation for what was to come. Their place of gathering was at Punkatasset Hill, about a mile north of the Concord Meeting House.

While here, they increased their forces by the repeated arrival of troops. Says Drake, “Meanwhile,” that is while the British were engaged at Colonel Barrett’s, “the Provincials on Punkatasset were being constantly reinforced by the militia of Westford, Littleton, Acton, Sudbury, and other neighboring towns, until the whole body numbered about four hundred and fifty men, who betrayed feverish impatience at playing the part of idle lookers-on while the town was being ransacked; but, when flames were seen issuing in different directions, they could no longer be restrained. 

American Forces Advance

A hurried consultation took place, at the end of which it was determined to march into the town at all hazards, and if resisted to “treat their assailants as enemies.” Colonel Barrett told the troops to advance. From Punkatasset they moved to Major Buttrick’s, but a short distance above the North Bridge, and from Major Buttrick’s they marched to the bridge where the Americans and British met face to face. 

Concord Fight and the Shot Heard ‘Round the World

The circumstances at the bridge are too familiar to need any narration by us. The British attempted to remove the planks, a remonstrance was made and the work ceased. 

The Provincials advanced with rapid steps; when a few rods away a single shot was fired by the foe, which was at once followed by a volley. The first shot wounded two of the Americans, and the volley killed two — Davis and Hosmer of Acton

The order then came for the Provincials to fire. It was obeyed, and three British soldiers were slain, besides several officers and four soldiers wounded. Then came the retreat and pursuit. 

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

Analysis of the Sudbury Companies During the Fight at the North Bridge

Whether or not the companies of Nixon and Haynes had joined the Provincials at Punkatasset Hill when the command to move forward came, we leave the reader to judge for himself. Drake implies that they had; some circumstances may also favor this theory, for, after leaving Colonel Barrett’s, they would likely hasten to join the main force, which was not far distant. But other things would lead us to conclude that they had not caught up with the column when it reached the bridge.

Shattuck says, “Two companies from Sudbury under How, Nixon, and Haynes came to Concord, and having received orders from a person stationed at the entrance of the town, for the purpose of a guide, to proceed to the North instead of the South Bridge, arrived near Colonel Barrett’s just before the British soldiers retreated.” 

The same author, after speaking of what we have just narrated of Lieutenant Colonel How, states, “Before proceeding far, the firing began at the Bridge, and the Sudbury companies pursued the retreating British.” 

From these statements and facts, we may infer this — that these companies passed the British at Colonel Barrett’s and pushed on to meet the force at the bridge, that before they joined it the foe made his attack, and that they joined in the hot pursuit. 

This theory accords with the statement that we have quoted before, as made by a survivor of the fight, which is that “Sudbury Companies were but a short distance from the North Bridge when the first Opposition was made to the Haughty Enemy.” 

Thus, to an extent, have we traced the course of two Sudbury companies during a part of that eventful day. 

As to the others, it is supposed they attacked the British at different points along the line of the retreat. The men who came from East Sudbury would, as we have hitherto said, be likely to march through Lincoln to Concord. If so, they would be likely to strike the British retreat; there it is that we hear of them. 

Two encounters, at least, are mentioned in which East Sudbury soldiers were engaged. To rightly understand how and where these engagements took place, let us notice the movements of the British after the events that transpired at the old North Bridge. 

British Retreat from the North Bridge

Having fired on the Americans as they approached the bridge from the opposite bank, by which fire two Acton Minutemen fell, and having received the Provincial fire in return, by which three of the English were slain, Lieutenant Gould of the regulars withdrew his shattered guard to the village. Three signal guns having been fired by the British just before their troops fired at the bridge, all the distant detachments came in.

Captain Parsons hurried his companies from Colonel Barrett’s to the old North Bridge; and, seeing the havoc that had been made with Gould’s guard and their dead comrades upon the bank, “they were seized with a panic and ran with great speed to join the main force.” 

Captain Pole withdrew his companies from the old South Bridge, and then Lieutenant Colonel Smith began to retreat towards Boston. But it was not only a retreat but a rout. The battle at the bridge was but the beginning of aggressive work. 

Sudbury Militia Pursue the British

The British were followed and hard pushed from point to point. At the crossroads, they met fresh arrivals of Provincial troops. The stone walls and stumps were coverts from which they directed their fire. In addition to an almost continuous engagement, occasional encounters occurred which were exceptionally sharp and severe. In two of these severe encounters, the soldiers from East Sudbury were engaged — one at Merriam’s Corner, the other at Hardy’s Hill.

Merriam’s Corner

The action at Merriam’s Corner occurred at about half past twelve. Three circumstances concurred to bring about and make severe this conflict. 

First, there was a junction of roads, the one from Bedford meeting that leading to Lexington along which the English marched. By this road had come reinforcements from Reading, Chelmsford, Bedford, and Billerica. To this point, also, had come some Provincials across the great fields in the direction of the old North Bridge. 

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

Another circumstance that made the fight sharp was that here the British massed their forces because of the lay of the land. In their march from Concord, which was about a mile thus far, the British threw out a part of their infantry to serve as a guard to their flanks and to protect the main body as it marched on the road. 

These flankers moved along the dry upland on the right of the road, as it curves gently from Concord village, until they reached Merriam’s Corner where they joined the troops in the road, in order to avoid the moist land by the wayside, and pass the dry causeway to the highway beyond.

As this flank guard thus joined the main force it gave the Provincials, who as we have indicated were there gathered in force, an opportunity which they were not slow to make use of. They poured upon the regulars a destructive fire.

“Now and here began,” says Drake, “that long and terrible conflict unexampled in the Revolution for its duration and ferocity, which for fifteen miles tracked the march of the regular troops with their blood.”

A company from East Sudbury was in time for this second conflict. This, doubtless, was the one commanded by Joseph Smith. 

Reverend Mr. Foster, a historian of 1775, says of this conflict: “Before we came to Merriam’s Hill we discovered the enemy’s flank guard of about eighty or a hundred men, who on the retreat from Concord kept the height of the land, the main body being in the road. The British troops and the Americans at that time were equally distant from Merriam’s Corner. About twenty rods short of that place the Americans made a halt. The British marched down the hill with a very slow but steady step without a word being spoken that could be heard. Silence reigned on both sides. As soon as the British gained the main road and passed a small bridge near the common, they faced about suddenly, and fired a volley of musketry upon us. They overshot and no one to my knowledge was injured by the fire. The fire was immediately returned by the Americans, and two British soldiers fell dead at a little distance from each other in the road near the brook. Several of the officers were wounded, including Ensign Lester.

Hardy’s Hill

The other engagement in which the Sudbury soldiers are especially noticed was at Hardy’s Hill, a short distance beyond. One narrator has spoken of it as a spirited affair, where one of the Sudbury companies, Captain Cudworth, came up and vigorously attacked the enemy.

Josiah Haynes of Sudbury

It is interesting that we can thus trace our soldiers and know so much of their whereabouts and what they did on that memorable day. 

An incident of the fight was related to the writer by the late Mr. Josiah Haynes when eighty-five years old. He said that his grandfather, Josiah Haynes, one of the militiamen of Sudbury at the Concord Fight, captured a gun from a British sergeant. The Briton was with a squad of soldiers a little removed from the main body, probably a part of the flank guard before mentioned. 

AHC Note — It is unclear if this is the same Reverend Josiah Haynes of Sudbury, who also participated in the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and was killed at Lexington while the British returned to Boston. Reverend Haynes was 81 years old at the time.

Mr. Haynes lay concealed behind a stone wall with some comrades who soon left him alone. As the squad approached, he thought they were coming directly upon him, but, as the main body followed a curve in the road, the squad turned also. 

With this movement, Mr. Haynes placed his gun on the wall, and on firing the sergeant fell. Mr. Haynes sprang and seized the sergeant’s gun and tried to tear off his belt and cartridge box, but these last he did not secure. The squad, but a few rods away, turned and fired. The balls whistled about him, but he escaped unhurt. 

It would be interesting to know more of the incidents and adventures of our soldiers on that April day, but time has made havoc with tradition and the records are scant. Years ago the last survivor of the Revolution died, and years before, they were scattered, many of them into other towns and other States. But the fragments of tradition that have floated down from that far-off period are all the more valuable because they are few.

Sudbury Casualties

During the day Sudbury sustained the loss of two men, Deacon Josiah Haynes and Asahel Reed. Joshua Haynes was wounded. 

Deacon Haynes was eighty years old. He was killed by a musket bullet at Lexington. He belonged to the old Haynes family of Sudbury, where his descendants still live. He was one of the original signers of the West Precinct Church Covenant, and was made deacon on May 24, 1733. He was buried in the Old Burying Ground, Sudbury Centre. The grave is marked by a simple slate stone. 

Mr. Asahel Reed was of Captain Nixon’s Minutemen. His name is found on that company’s call roll to which we have before referred; it is left out after the battle, probably because after his death the name was stricken from the list. He belonged to the old Reed family of Sudbury, whose progenitor, Joseph Reed, settled at Lanham about 1656. Probably he was also buried in the old ground at Sudbury Centre. Mrs. Joseph Reed, a member of the same family and grandmother of the writer, said many years ago that the body of Mr. Reed was brought to Sudbury. So, although no stone has been found which marks the grave, he doubtless rests somewhere in the old burying-ground at the center, which was the only one at that time in the West Precinct.

AHC Note — Asahel Reed was killed near the Hartwell Tavern in Lincoln, during the British march to Boston.

Joshua Haynes, who was wounded, may have been one of Captain Nixon’s Minutemen or one of the militia of Captain Haynes. The same name is on each company’s muster roll, but the one in the latter was Sergeant while the one wounded is mentioned without any title. 

Lieutenant Elisha Wheeler, whose horse was shot under him, and Thomas Plympton, Esquire, who had a bullet put through the fold of his coat, were both volunteers on horseback.

Siege of Boston

After the fight, the soldiers showed no undue haste to return, but some of them lingered from three days to a month to repel attack or serve their country in whatever way it might require; and, when at length they returned to their homes, it was only, in the case of some of them, to bid the loved ones good-by and then go away again to engage the foe.

AHC Note — See Siege of Boston.

Account from a Sudbury Solder of the Revolution and the War

Enough has been said to show the town’s place in that preparatory period that led to the clash of arms; but we will quote a paper written by a Revolutionary soldier of Sudbury, which shows the spirit of the age and gives a synopsis of events and the way in which they were viewed by one living in town at the time of their occurrence; and although, in presenting this paper, we may anticipate some of the events we are about to narrate, yet we think it proper to do this, rather than make a break in a paper so valuable both to local and general history.

Stamp Act and Declaratory Act

The Causes that led the Colonies to Take up armes Against the Mother Country is proper to be Shown To Prove the Necessity the Colonies were under to resist the oppressive Measures which the Colonies were laid under; namely the stamp act; on the Stamp act Being Repaled, an act called the Declaritory act, more oppressive and Hostile to American Rights than any thing that had Preceded it. 

ACH Note — See Declaratory Act.

Boston Tea Party

A Cargo of Tea was consigned To the Friends of the Royal Governor Hutchinson with a duty [of] three pence on a pound, but the inhabitants of Massachusetts [being] Determined not to pay that Duty, a Party of men in Disguise Entered on bord the Ships and Destroyed Three Hundred and Forty Two Chests of Tea.

Intolerable Acts

After these proceedings were received in England The Excitement was very strong against Massachusetts and Particularly against Boston, which was considered The seat of Rebellion. A Bill was then Brought forward that was called the Boston Port Bill; the Port of Boston was Precluded the Privelege of Landing and Discharging or Loading and Sniping goods. 

Patriots and Loyalists

The words Whigs and Tories was introduced about this Time. To the Honor of Sudbury there was Not any of the latter Class to be found within the limits [of] Sudbury.

AHC Note — On American History Central, we refer to Whigs as “Patriots” and Tories as “Loyalists.”

Non-Importation Agreement

The People were Carfull to Promote men that were Strongly opposed to British Tireny. The Town of Boston Passed a vote to stop all importation from Great Britain and the West Indies.

Requesting the other Colonies to fall in with the same Resolve, Many of the inhabitants of… signed a Resolve not to buy any imported goods. Most Noted Men in Boston that took the lead…were James Otis, John Hancock, and Samuel Adams

Massachusetts Provincial Congress

…in September 1774 Ninty of the Representatives of Massachusetts Met at Salem and formed What was Called the Provincial Congress and adjourned to Concord. Here they chose John Hancock President, and drew up a Plan for the immediate Defense of the Province 

Sudbury Militia, Minutemen, and Training

  • By appointing officers, also Pased a Resolve to get in Readiness to Compose an Army at the shortest Notis and called Minute men. 
  • The minute company in Sudbury was commanded by Capt John Nixon afterwards General, the North Melitia Company was commanded [by] Capt. Aaron Haynes 
  • The South By Capt. Moses Stone, the orders were for Every man to be supplied with a Gun and Bagnet Cartrege Box and 36 Rounds, our Guns to [be] Kept in Good Repair. 
  • The men that were freed by Ege from doing Militory Duty formed themselves into a Company Called the Alarm Company Commanded by Capt. Jabez Puffer. 

Trainings were as often as once a week the three fall months, in the winter Not so often. The young Men In the Winter months made a Practis of calling on their officers Evenings and going through the Manual Exercise In Barn Flours. I have exercised many a Night With my Mittens on. 

Patriotic Spirit of Americans

Such was the Patriotic sperit that Reigned in the Brest of Every True American Never to stain the Glory of our worthy Ancestors but like them Resolve never to part with our birthright. To be wise in our deliberations and determined in our Exertions for the preservation of our libertys, being Irritated by Repeated Injuries and Striped of our inborn rights and dearest privileges; The Present Generation may view those Transactions with surprise; every Rational mind must feel satisfied of the overruling hand of Providence. 

To bring about the great event here we must Cast our Eyes on the Father of Mercies with a full belief that He would Make his arm beare For us as he did for our Ancestors that we should be Enabled to Defend and Maintain our Rights Boath of a Civil and Religious Nature. 

The Lexington Alarm in Sudbury

With these impressions Strongly impressed in their Hearts on the morning of [the] Ever Memorable 19th of April 1775 Husbands left their wifes and Fathers their daughters Sones their Mothers Brothers their Sisters to Meet a Haughty Foe.

On this eventful morning an Express From Concord to Thomas Plympton Esqr who was then a Member of the Provintial Congress [stated] that the British were on their way to Concord: 

In 35 Minites between 4 and 5 oclock in the Morning, the Sexton was immadelly Called on, the bell Ringing and the Discharge of Musket which was to give the alarm. By sunrise the greatest part of the inhabitants were Notified. 

The morning was Remarkable fine and the Inhabitants of Sudbury Never can make such an important appearance Probably again. Every Countenance appeared to Discover the importance of the event. 

Concord Fight and the Shot Heard ‘Round the World

Sudbury Companies were but a short distance From the North Bridg, when the first opposition was made to the Haughty Enemy. The Dye was Cast and the Torch Lit by which means we Have Becom an independent Nation, and may the present generation and those unborn, preserve unimparred the Libertys, sivel and Religious so long as Time Endures —

John Weighton, the Old Scot

On the 19 of April, I was Runing across a Lot where there was a bend in [the] Road in order to get a Fair Shot, at the Enemy, in company with a Scotchman who was. in Braddock’s Defeat 19 year Before, after we had Discharged our Guns I observed to the Scot who appeared very Composed I wished I felt as Calm as he appeared to be — [He said] its a Tread to be Larnt,

Before I served through one Campain I Found the Scots Remark to be a just one — The old soldiers Name is John Weighton He informed me he had been in seven Battles and this Eight.

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 Sudbury, 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 Sudbury and the Battles of Lexington and Concord
  • Date April 18–19, 1775
  • Author
  • Keywords Sudbury, Sudbury Militia, Sudbury 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 22, 2024