Westford and the Battles of Lexington and Concord

April 18–19, 1775

Westford, Massachusetts was one of the towns that mobilized its militia forces in response to the Lexington Alarm. On April 19, a handful of men from Westford made their way to Concord in time to participate in the Concord Fight. During the fight along the Battle Road, the three militia companies from Westford engaged the British and followed them back to Boston.

Lexington and Concord, 1775, Westford Militia

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

Westford Militia and the Battles of Lexington and Concord

The following account of the Westford Militia and their role in the Battles of Lexington and Concord is taken from The History of Westford, in the County of Middlesex, Massachusetts, written by Edwin R. Hodgman and published in 1883.

Hodgman’s short history provides a brief look at the events leading up to April 19, 1775, and focuses on the role Colonel John Robinson played in the Concord Fight. This account emphasizes that Robinson led American forces down to the North Bridge, along with Captain Isaac Davis (Acton) and Major John Buttrick (Concord).

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 Westford and the Battles of Lexington and Concord

  1. Westford is slightly northeast of Concord. Today, it is roughly 10 miles from the center of Westford to the center of Concord.
  2. Reverend Willard Hall, the first pastor of Westford, was the only man in the town who remained a Loyalist.
  3. In January 1775, the town decided to buy guns and ammunition in preparation for hostilities with Great Britain.
  4. A Committee of Inspection was organized in February 1775 to enforce the Continental Association.
  5. John Robinson, Reverend Joseph Thaxter, Captain Joshua Parker, and Private Oliver Hildreth were the first men from Westford to respond to the Lexington Alarm.
  6. Accounts from Westford indicate that Colonel John Robinson joined Isaac Davis and John Buttrick in leading American forces to engage the British at the Concord Fight.
  7. Two Westford Militia Companies fought at Concord. A third one joined the fight along the Battle Road.
  8. According to legend, the bullet that wounded Luther Blanchard of Acton during the Concord Fight passed under Colonel Robinson’s arm.
  9. The Westford Militia Companies pursued the British back to Boston and then joined in the Siege of Boston.
  10. The Westford Militia Companies fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill (June 17, 1775).

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

The Concord Fight and Bunker Hill

The period of the Revolution was one of great significance in the history of this town, in common with all other towns of the county and province. Westford troops took part in the first acts of armed resistance to British aggression at Concord and Bunker Hill; and in the long contest which followed, the citizens were enthusiastic in the cause of civil liberty, and worked zealously and perseveringly to secure their grand object. 

Concord Fight, 1775, Doolittle, Plate 2 Detail, Smith and Pitcairn, NYPL
This engraving by Amos Doolittle was made in 1775. It depicts the British marching into Concord while Lt. Col. Francis Smith and Major John Pitcairn survey the Massachusetts Militia gathering on the hills around the town. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Westford Loyalists

With the exception of three men, there was entire unanimity of feeling and action. Two of these soon repented and espoused the cause of their country. The third was Reverend Willard Hall, the first pastor, who remained steadfast in his loyalty to the king until he died, in 1779. 

Westford Patriots

But they deplored the necessity of a resort to arms, as the records plainly show. They counted the cost before they began. They knew that stern endeavor and unflinching resolution were necessary to success; but when once convinced that war was inevitable, they entered the contest with a just conception of the sacrifices which it involved. For they were strong-hearted, believing men, who trusted in God and gave up their property and their lives in battling for their rights.

Hard was the labor, fierce the strife,
That with heroic valor brought Our great Republic into life.
Our nation’s glorious birthright bought
With price untold — freedom to think
To dare and do. No cowards they From toil or danger e’er to shrink; 
They kept their faith and won the day.

Steadily the tide of opposition rose against the measures of the British Parliament, which seemed determined to carry its points at all hazards. Steadily, also, the preparations for defense went on among the colonists.

Westford Decides to Buy Weapons and Ammunition

January 16, 1775, the town voted to raise twenty pounds to purchase arms. Lieutenant Zaccheus Wright, Colonel John Robinson, and Captain Oliver Bates were chosen a committee to procure them, and on February 3rd they delivered eight guns to the Selectmen for the use of the town. Not long before this, the town stock of powder had been replenished and everything was made ready for an emergency which was near at hand.

Committee of Inspection

February 27, the town voted “to chuse a committee of inspection of seven men. Chose Captain Oliver Sates, Deacon Oliver Prescott, Mr. Ephraim Chamberlin, Ensign John Abbot Jr., Mr. Pelatiah Fletcher, Lieutenant. David Goodhue and Mr. Joshua Read for said Committee of Inspection whose business and duty it shall be to see that the American Congress Association and the Provincial Congress resolves and Recommendations relative thereto, be well and faithfully observed and complied with and that this town will not fail of lending all necessary assistance to said Committee in the doing of their duty.”

The following agreement was recorded on the same day:

“We the subscribers having seen the [articles of] Association drawn up by the grand American Continental Congress, respecting the non-importation, non-consumption, and non-exportation of Goods &c. Signed by the Delegates of this and the Delegates of other Colonies of this Continent, and having attentively considered of the same, do heartily approve thereof and of every part of them, and in order to make the same Association &c., our personal act, do by these presents, under the sacred ties of Virtue, Honour, and the Love of our Country, firmly agree and associate fully and compleatly to observe and keep all & every article and clause in sd Association contained, with respect to Importation, Exportation, and Non-consumption, according to the true intent, meaning & Letter of our said Delegates, and will duly inform and give notice of every Evasion and Contravention of sd agreement as far as we are able, and that we will, as far as we can, encourage and promote a general union herein. As witness our hands this 27th day of February 1775.

Voted that the above draught of an Association is approved of and that the same be entered in the Town book of Records for Westford, and that the same be signed* by the several inhabitants of said Town, and that the Committee of Correspondence see the same is done or inform the Town at the next Town meeting of every person who shall delay or Refuse to sign the same, that so the Town may take further order thereon as they may think proper.”

On March 6, the town voted and consented to Conform and abide by the advice of the Committee of Correspondence of the Towns of Boston, Charlestown, and several other towns, that was Read in our meeting.”

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

Controversy Over Lexington and Concord

Authorities vary somewhat in stating the facts relating to this fight, some claiming that in Lexington the first resistance was made on the morning of that memorable day, while others affirm that at Concord Bridge the earliest armed resistance was offered to the soldiers of George the Third.

AHC Note — Years after the Battles of Lexington and Concord, there was a controversy over where Americans first offered resistance to the British troops on the morning of April 19, 1775.

John Robinson of Westford

We are now to consider the service rendered by the men of Westford in that struggle. This has never been fully and accurately stated in any account of it. Prominent among the actors then and there, was John Robinson, of Westford, a Lieutenant-Colonel in a regiment of Minutemen, of which William Prescott, of Pepperell, was Colonel. 

Reverend Doctor Ripley, in his account, says: “A company from Westford had just entered the bounds of Concord when the fight took place. But individuals from that town were present and engaged in the battle, among whom was the brave Colonel Robinson.”

Concord Fight, 1775, Doolittle, Plate 3 Detail, North Bridge, NYPL
This engraving by Amos Doolittle was made in 1775 and depicts John Robinson and others leading the Americans at the North Bridge. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Buttrick Offers the Command to Robinson

Reverend Ripley also says further on in his narrative: 

“The situation of Major John Buttrick, as it was more dangerous and important, has gained him distinguished celebrity and honor. But this ought never to operate as an eclipse upon any other officer on that occasion. There is satisfactory evidence that on the march to meet the enemy, Major Buttrick requested Colonel Robinson to act as his superior, he being an older man and of higher rank in another regiment; but he modestly declined, and consented to march at the right-hand and be considered a volunteer. 

The late Colonel John Buttrick, then a fifer, repeatedly affirmed that he was present and heard the conversation between his father and Colonel Robinson…The Americans commenced their march in double file…In a minute or two, the Americans being in quick motion and within ten or fifteen rods of the bridge, a single gun was fired by a British soldier, which marked its way, passing under Col. Robinson’s arm, and slightly wounding the side of Luther Blanchard, a fifer, in the Acton Company.”

This account was published in 1827, and being prepared by one on the ground and only about fifty years after the fight, when some who saw it were still living, is, without doubt, the best narrative we shall ever have of that conflict. 

Others who have attempted to describe it, have done little more than repeat the words of Reverend Ripley. Some slight variations occur, however. Thus, George Bancroft affirms that Colonel Barrett gave the order to advance, whereupon “Capt. Davis, drawing his sword, cried, march! His company, being on the right, led the way, he himself at their head, and by his side Major John Buttrick, of Concord, with John Robinson, of Westford, Lieutenant Colonel in Prescott’s Regiment.”

Frederic Hudson, in his account [Harper’s Magazine, May, 1875,] says:

“Among those early on the field from the neighboring towns, was Lieutenant Colonel John Robinson, of Westford.

…He was accompanied by the Reverend Joseph Thaxter, Captain Joshua Parker, and Private Oliver Hildreth. Mr. Thaxter had been preaching at Westford as a candidate. On the first tidings of danger he hastened to Concord, armed with a brace of pistols, and was in front to receive the first fire of the enemy; and he and William Emerson, the pastor of Concord, were the first chaplains of the Revolution.

…Major Buttrick took command of the Americans in the forward movement. He was accompanied by Lieutenant Colonel Robinson. In their left hand they held their fusees trailed and marched with Captain Davis and his men.”

From all these statements it is clear that Davis, Buttrick, and Robinson were marching side-by-side in this first show of armed resistance to British oppression — a noble triad of choice spirits who dared to do and die. 

Heroically did they lead on the eager troops who sought, not revenge, but liberty; who, as George W. Curtis pithily said, in his oration at Concord, April 19, 1875, “loaded their muskets, not with a ball only, but with a principle and brought down, not a man, but a system.”

The three companies whose muster rolls are here given, copied from the originals in the State House, were no doubt in the fight on that day. Reverend G. Reynolds, in a recent address, admits that two companies of Minutemen from Westford were present, and the heading of the rolls shows that they marched from home that morning.

Westford Militia Company of Captain Oliver Bates

A List of the Travel and Service of Captain Oliver Bates, of Westford, in the County of Middlesex, and the men under him, belonging to the Regiment of Militia whereof James Prescott, Esq., is Colonel, who, in consequence of the Alarm made on the 19th of April 1775, marched from home for the Defence of this Colony against the Ministerial Troops.

Officers

  • Oliver Bates, Captain
  • David Goodhue, First Lieut.
  • John Abbot, Second Lieut.
  • Thomas Rogers, Sergeant
  • Solomon Spalding, Sergeant
  • Joseph Prescott, Corporal
  • Daniel Goodhue, Corporal
  • John Prescott, Corporal
  • Timothy Cummings, Drummer

Privates

  • Joseph Wright, Jr.
  • John Barrett
  • David Bixby
  • Ephraim Bixby
  • Jacob Bixby
  • Levi Bixby
  • Abel Boynton
  • Nathaniel Cummings
  • David Dutton
  • Ephraim Dutton
  • Benjamin Estabrook
  • Amos Fletcher, Jr.
  • Joseph Fletcher
  • Josiah Fletcher
  • Jonathan Hadley
  • John Hadley, Jr.
  • Ephraim Heald
  • David Holding
  • William Nichols
  • Nathaniel Prentice
  • Jonas Prescott, 3rd
  • Timothy Prescott
  • Abel Read
  • Stephen Read
  • Silas Spalding
  • Ephraim Wright
  • Pelatiah Wright

December 27, 1775. Oliver Bates, the Captain, being dead, David Goodhue, his Lieutenant, made solemn oath that this Roll by him subscribed, is just and true in all its parts. Before me, Moses Gill, Justice of the Peace through the Province.

Westford Militia Company of Captain Jonathan Minot

A list of the Travel and Service of Captain Jonathan Minot, of Westford, in the County of Middlesex, and the men under him belonging to the Regiment of Militia whereof James Prescott, Esq., is Colonel, who, in consequence of the Alarm made on the 19th of April 1775, marched from home for the defense of this Colony against the ministerial troops.

Officers

  • Jonathan Minot, Captain
  • Hosea Hildreth, Corporal
  • Zaccheus Wright, First Lieut.
  • Leonard Procter, Second Lieut.
  • Aaron Parker, Jr., Sergeant
  • Gershom Fletcher, Sergeant
  • William Hildreth, Sergeant
  • Samuel White, Sergeant
  • Nehemiah Green, Corporal
  • Amos Wright, Corporal
  • Jonathan Minot, Jr., Drummer

Privates

  • Francis Smith
  • Caesar Bason
  • Aaron Blood
  • Peter Brown
  • Job Dodge
  • Elijah Hildreth
  • Nathaniel Holmes
  • Francis Kidder
  • Thomas Kidder
  • Rogers King
  • Francis Leighton
  • Abijah Mason
  • Thomas Meads
  • Benjamin Osgood
  • David Parker
  • Ebenezer Parker
  • Amos Parlin
  • Charles Procter
  • John Pushee
  • Joshua Read
  • John Robbins
  • John Robbins, Jr.
  • Peter Robbins
  • Zechariah Robbins
  • James Wright

Westford Militia Company of Captain Timothy Underwood

A List of the Travel and Service of Captain Timothy Underwood, of Westford, in the County of Middlesex, with the men under him belonging to Colonel William Prescott’s Regiment, of Minute-men, who, in consequence of an Alarm made on the 19th of April 1775, marched from home for the defense of this Colony against the Ministerial troops.

Officers

  • Timothy Underwood, Captain
  • Thomas Cummings, First Lieut. 
  • Philip Bobbins, Second Lieut. 
  • Joshua Parker, Sergeant 
  • James Fletcher, Sergeant 
  • Timothy Spalding, Sergeant
  • John Wright, Sergeant 
  • James Proctor, Corporal
  • Willard Fletcher, Corporal 
  • Amaziah Hildreth, Corporal 
  • Thomas Guy, Fifer
  • Isaac Parker, Drummer

Privates

  • Oliver Barrett
  • Jonas Blodgett
  • Silas Chandler
  • William Chandler
  • Ebenezer Corey
  • Samuel Crafts
  • Ephraim Cummings
  • Daniel Dudley
  • Joseph Dutton
  • William Dutton
  • Joshua Fassett
  • Davis Fisk
  • David Fletcher
  • Ebenezer Fletcher
  • Jeremiah Fletcher
  • John Fletcher
  • Josiah Fletcher
  • Levi Fletcher
  • Ebenezer Foster
  • John Hildreth
  • Silas Howard
  • Jonas Kemp
  • Abner Kent
  • Samuel Keyes
  • Josiah Brooks
  • Stephen Meeds
  • John Nutting
  • John Parker
  • Moses Parker
  • James Perry
  • Silas Proctor
  • Benjamin Read
  • Leonard Read
  • Oliver Read
  • Samuel Read
  • Thaddeus Read
  • Abijah Richardson
  • Wily Richardson
  • Jacob Robbins
  • Jeremiah Robbins
  • Philip Spaldon
  • Levi Temple
  • Amos Tidd
  • Joseph Underwood
  • Daniel Whitney
  • Ebenezer Wright

Middlesex ss. — December 16, 1775. The within named Timothy Underwood made solemn oath to the truth of the within Muster Roll. Before me, Moses Gill, Justice of the Peace through the Province.

Testimony of Mrs. Jonathan Prescott

Mrs. Jonathan Prescott, a grand-daughter of Colonel Robinson, who died in this town, April 14, 1876, at the great age of ninety-one years, distinctly remembered the colonel, being twenty years old at the time of his death, in 1805. 

She testified to the compiler of this work that when the alarm came on the night of the 18th of April, he stood not on the order of his going, but mounted his horse and hurried to Concord, leaving orders to his hired man to follow with provisions. 

She said, likewise, that he was invited to take the command, and the tradition in her family has always been that he did assume it and ordered the troops to fire. Her recollection accorded with the inscription on his gravestone which affirms that he commanded the soldiers at the Bridge.

One of our citizens, Mr. J. Boynton Reed, now living (1881), says that his father, Abijah Reed, went with Colonel. Robinson’s man to Concord; but the troops had moved on and they followed them to Lexington. Mr. Reed also says that Captain Oliver Bates received a wound on that day from the effect of which he died July 4, 1775.

The Concord Fight at the North Bridge

This letter was written by Reverend Joseph Thaxter in 1824. Thaxter responded to the Lexington Alarm with John Robinson on the morning of April 19, 1775. This account provides more details about the Westford Militia and its role in the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

Eyewitness to the Concord Fight

I think it a great neglect that so little notice is taken of Concord Bridge, and the men who first faced the British troops. Much is said of Lexington — the British met with no opposition there; I was an eyewitness to the following facts.

Westford, Acton, and Concord Engage the British at the North Bridge

The people of Westford and Acton, some few of Concord, were the first who faced the British at Concord Bridge. The British had placed about ninety men as a guard at the North Bridge;

AHC Note — Only a handful of men from Westford were at the Concord Fight. The three militia companies joined the fight along the Battle Road.

Robinson and Buttrick Lead the Americans

…we had then no certain information that any had been killed at Lexington, we saw the British making destruction in the town of Concord; it was proposed to advance to the bridge; on this Colonel Robinson, of Westford, together with Major Buttrick, took the lead; strict orders were given not to fire, unless the British fired first; when they advanced about halfway on the causeway the British fired one gun, a second, a third, and then the whole body; they killed Colonel Davis, of Acton, and a Mr. Hosmer. 

Our people then fired over one another’s heads, being in a long column, two and two; they killed two and wounded eleven. 

Lieutenant Hawkstone, said to be the greatest beauty of the British army, had his cheeks so badly wounded that it disfigured him much, of which he bitterly complained. 

On this, the British fled, and assembled on the hill, the north side of Concord, and dressed their wounded, and then began their retreat. 

Bedford and Chelmsford Join the Fight

As they descended the hill near the road that comes out from Bedford they were pursued; Colonel Bridge, with a few men from Bedford and Chelmsford, came up, and killed several men. 

British Reinforcements Arrive at Lexington

We pursued them and killed some; when they got to Lexington, they were so close pursued and fatigued, that they must have soon surrendered, had not Lord Percy met them with a large reinforcement and two field-pieces. They fired them, but the balls went high over our heads. But no cannon ever did more execution, such stories of their effects had been spread by the tories through our troops, that from this time more wont back than pursed. 

Lexington and Concord, 1775, Doolittle, Plate 4 Detail, NYPL
This Amos Doolittle engraving depicts the British reinforcements arriving at Lexington. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Pursuit of the British to Boston

We pursued to Charlestown Common, and then retired to Cambridge. When the army collected at Cambridge, Colonel Prescott with his regiment of minute men, and John Robinson, his Lieutenant Colonel, were prompt at being at their post. 

AHC Note — See Siege of Boston and William Prescott.

Prescott Ordered to Build Defensive Works on Breed’s Hill

On this 16th of June, Colonel Prescott and Colonel Bridge were ordered upon Breed’s Hill to heave up a breast work; they laboured all night, and were left to fight the British. 

Reinforcements were ordered, but not one company went in order. Many went to Bunker’s Hill; some went from there as volunteers, part of which belonged to General Starks’ regiment. 

Joseph Warren at Bunker Hill

Among the volunteers was the ever-to-be lamented General Warren. When he was introduced to Colonel Prescott, the Colonel said, “General Warren, I have not the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with you, but from your known character, I shall fight with cheerfulness under you.” 

General Warren replied, “Colonel Prescott, I have not come to take command, but to learn to fight under you.” 

This I had from Colonel Robinson, and believe as much as if I had heard with my ears; a braver and more upright man I never knew. Such men as Prescott and Robinson, ought not to be forgotten by those who write the history of the commencement and prosecution of our glorious revolution.

AHC Note — See Battle of Bunker Hill (June 17, 1776) and Dr. Joseph Warren.

Defense of Israel Putnam

The vile slander, cast upon old General Putnam are totally without foundation. He did all that man could do to reinforce Prescott on Breed’s Hill. A braver men never lived. 

At that time our army was little better than a mob, without discipline and under little command, till General Washington came and Gates, and gave to it some regularity. 

AHC Note — In 1818, a controversy took place between Henry Dearborn and Israel Putnam. Dearborn accused Putnam of failing to do his duty during the Battle of Bunker Hill. Thaxter’s account supports Putnam and refutes Dearborn’s accusations.

Casualties at the Battle of Bunker Hill

Whole regiments were ordered on perilous duty at once, and the loss of men was from a small circle. The Breed’s Hill loss fell upon the county of Middlesex, about one half of the loss was in Prescott’s regiment, viz, forty-nine killed and forty-five wounded. This evil was remedied by Washington and Gates, and in ‘76 victory delivered Boston, &c. 

The Concord Monument and Legacy

A decent monument at Concord Bridge, where the first spark was struck, and quite as glorious as Breed’s Hill, considering the circumstances, would be doing no more honour to Robinson and Buttrick than they richly deserve. 

I have lived in obscurity on this island, and never thought myself of importance enough, and capable of doing justice to a historical account of the transactions of the memorable 19th of April 1775, or of the 17th of June. Many anecdotes, of those days, that would do honour to individuals, it is most probable will be forgotten. 

The Old Men of Menotomy

The following is one. The Rev. Edward Brooks, who lived at Medford, got intelligence of a small party going with relief to meet the British; they had a wagon-load; Mr Brooks mustered a few men, waylaid them near West Cambridge meetinghouse, and shot the horses, and wounded the lieutenant who commanded them, took several prisoners before the British came up, and retired.

Lexington and Concord, Old Men of Menotomy, HMDB
This marker indicates where the Old Men of Menotomy attacked the British. Image Source: Historical Marker Database.

AHC Note — Thaxter is likely referring to an incident that took place in Menotomy around 1:30 p.m. on April 19, while the British were marching back to Boston. Brooks was part of a group of men who met at Cooper Tavern and decided to harass the British supply wagons that were on their way to meet the British column. This group is believed to have been led by David Lamson and they are referred to as the “Old Men of Menotomy.”

I am, sir, with respect, yours.

Joseph Thaxter

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

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