Woburn and the Battles of Lexington and Concord

April 18–19, 1775

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

Lexington and Concord, 1775, Woburn Militia

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

Woburn Militia and the Battles of Lexington and Concord

The following account of the Woburn Militia and their role in the Battles of Lexington and Concord is taken from The History of Woburn, Middlesex County, Mass., written by Samuel Sewell and published in 1868.

Sewell’s history provides an overview of the events that led up to April 19, from Woburn’s point of view, including the Stamp Act Crisis, the establishment of a Committee of Inspection, and the organization of Minutemen companies.

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 Woburn and the Battles of Lexington and Concord

  1. Woburn is slightly northeast of Lexington. Today, it is roughly 5 miles from the center of Woburn to the center of Lexington.
  2. In December 1773, Woburn started to prepare for hostilities with British forces by gathering military supplies.
  3. The town organized its Minuteman Company on April 17, 1775, the day before the Lexington Alarm.
  4. The Lexington Alarm reached Captain Joshua Walker of the Woburn Precinct early on April 19.
  5. Three militia companies from Woburn mustered and marched to Concord, where they participated in the Concord Fight.
  6. The Woburn Militia Companies were commanded by Captain Joshua Walker, Captain Samuel Belknap, and Captain Jonathan Fox.
  7. Woburn resident Asahel Porter was in Lexington and witnessed the battle, but was not a participant. According to legend, he was taken as a prisoner by the British and shot when he tried to run away.
  8. Woburn resident Daniel Thompson marched to Lexington with the Woburn Militia but arrived after the battle. They marched to Concord and then engaged the British at the “Bloody Angle” and Thompson was killed at the Hartwell Farm.
  9. Woburn resident Sylvanus Wood went to Lexington and was one of the men with Captain John Parker on Lexington Green during the Battle of Lexington.
  10. Sylvanus Wood is believed to have followed the British after the battle. Along the way, he found one of the soldiers separated from the column. He snuck up on him and took him as a prisoner — the first prisoner taken in the American Revolutionary War.
The Bloody Angle at Elm Brook Hill, 1775, Lexington and Concord, NPS
The Woburn Militia and Minutemen joined the Battles of Lexington and Concord here, at the “Bloody Angle” at Elm Brook Hill. Image Source: National Park Service.

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

1763 Treaty of Paris

The declaration of peace between England and France, in 1763, found the inhabitants of Woburn a loyal people. They were strongly attached to the mother country and its government: and during the war, just brought to a close, they had given signal proof of this their attachment, in freely hazarding their lives, and submitting to many costly sacrifices, to extend and establish the dominion of Britain. 

AHC Note — The 1763 Treaty of Paris ended the Seven Years’ War and the French and Indian War. According to the treaty, France ceded nearly all of its territory in North America to Great Britain.

The American Revolution

But the unconstitutional enactments and oppressive proceedings of the Parliament of England, which quickly followed the restoration of peace, awakened in all her American colonies, especially in Massachusetts, a feeling of distrust and apprehension, which gradually alienated the minds of the people from the mother country, and issued in open dissatisfaction, complaint, and opposition. This feeling occasionally manifested itself in Woburn.

Stamp Act

For instance, it prompted the people there, at a meeting, October 20, 1766 (in disregard to the King’s recommendation or injunction), to direct their representative in General Court, Josiah Johnson, Esq., not to consent to making up the damages, which Lieut. Governor Hutchinson and other crown officers in Boston had sustained the year before, by the violence of a mob, excited by their resentment at parliament’s passing the Stamp Act.

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

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

Townshend Acts

Again, it showed itself in their sending delegates (at the invitation of the Selectmen of Boston) to a convention assembled at Boston, September 22, 1768, from numerous towns and districts in the province, to confer with one another upon the existing state of public affairs, and to consider what was to be done.

Woburn was represented in that Convention by Mr. Oliver Richardson and Deacon Samuel Wyman. The date of their appointment is not recorded. But at a meeting, March 6, 1769, the town voted them twenty shillings each “for their time and expences at the late Convention in Boston.”

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

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

Tea Act

But the most noticeable tokens of their uneasiness and dissatisfaction at the public condition were exhibited at a town meeting, called January 14, 1773, to consult what measures to take at that “alarming crisis,” that would be ” most conducive to the public weal.

At this meeting, a recent communication from the town of Boston, “relative to the publick affairs of Government” was first read, and then a committee of nine was chosen, consisting of Lieut. William Tay, Lieut. Joshua Walker, Mr. Joseph Wright, Lieut. Samuel Thompson, Deacon Samuel Wyman, Capt. Thomas Peirce, Mr. Robert Douglas, Dr. Samuel Blogget, Deacon Timothy Winn, to take into consideration the important matters suggested by the above communication, and to report to the town at an adjourned meeting.

On the day of adjournment, February 1, 1773, this committee presented to the town a report, consisting of twelve resolutions, in which they acknowledge King George to be their rightful sovereign, profess their attachment to his person, and their confidence in his readiness to do justice to his subjects in these colonies, could their complaints be laid before him. They likewise declare their satisfaction with the British constitution; and disclaim all disposition to cast off their allegiance, or to murmur against the rulers set over them, with a view to obstruct their influence, or weaken their authority, so long as their rulers governed their measures by the principles of the constitution from which their authority was derived.

At the same time, they assert their right to petition government for the rectifying of wrongs which they endured, in violation of the constitution of the British government; and specify particular grievances which they conceived they were subjected to, by reason of certain proceedings and acts of parliament, contrary to tl e privileges, to which, as British subjects, they deemed themselves entitled. Among the grievances complained of, were the following, viz:

Woburn’s Grievances with Britain

  1. The assumption, by parliament, of power to bind them by laws, and to impose on them taxes, without their consent either in person, or by their representatives.
  2. The delivery, by the Governor, of Castle William, which they regarded as the property of the province, under its jurisdiction, and the “key of its defence,” into the hands of troops, over whom, nevertheless, the Governor himself had declared, that he had no authority or control.
  3. The exorbitant power of the officers of the Customs.
  4. The extending of the power of the Vice Admiralty Court, so as virtually to deprive the people of this province of their right, in many instances, to a trial by a jury.
  5. The appointment of the Judges of the Superior Court of the province, the grant of their salaries, and the term of their continuance in office, by the King, thus rendering the Judges entirely dependent upon the Crown for their creation and support, and independent of the people, whose property, liberty and lives, do often turn upon their opinions and decisions.

This report was unanimously accepted by the town; instructions, in accordance with it, were given to Mr. Oliver Richardson their representative in General Court ; the clerk was ordered to return an attested copy of the proceedings of the meeting to the corresponding committee of the town of Boston.

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

Woburn’s Distrust of British Officials Grows

During the interval which elapsed between the proceedings just recorded, and April 19, 1775, the inhabitants of Woburn gave various tokens of their continued distrust of the government over them, and of their dissatisfaction with it. They repeatedly manifested apprehensions of the approaching contest, and concern to be prepared for it in season. 

Military Preparations

At a general meeting, December 23, 1773, they voted to build a house to put their stock of ammunition in; and chose a committee of three, to see that the work was done; and subsequently, they appointed the Selectmen a committee to procure an additional stock of ammunition, viz: two barrels of powder, and bullets and flints in proportion, for the use and benefit of the town.

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

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

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

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

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

Woburn Committee of Correspondence

…a committee of five was chosen on behalf of Woburn; viz, Deacon Samuel Wyman, Mr. Robert Douglas, Dr. Samuel Blogget, Mr. Loammi Baldwin, and Deacon Timothy Winn, to correspond with Boston, and any other towns they thought proper.

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

Massachusetts Provincial Congress

At a meeting, January 4, 1775, the town chose Deacon Samuel Wyman, a delegate to the Provincial Congress, which was to assemble at Cambridge, (or some other convenient place,) February 1st. 

Provincial Taxes

They likewise directed their constable, to pay the moneys which they then had in their hands, or might thereafter be raised by the town to defray “the publick charges of Government,” to Henry Gardner, Esq., of Stow, till further order be given by the town to the contrary. And agreeably to this direction, Woburn’s proportion of the province tax, £75 18s. 5d., apportioned by the General Court, May 25, 1774, and assessed January 11, 1775, was paid by the constables to the said Henry Gardner, Esq., instead of Harrison Gray, Esq., the treasurer of the province, appointed the year preceding by the General Court.

Woburn Committee of Inspection

At the same meeting, a committee of twenty-one was chosen by the town, as a Committee of Inspection, “to see that the Association of the Continental Congress be strictly adhered to.”

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

Woburn Minutemen

And, finally, at a meeting, April 17, 1775, it was voted “to raise a number of Minutemen so called, not exceeding fifty, and they to meet half a day every week in each month the six succeeding months, viz: May, June, July, August, September and October, for Instructing themselves in the military science of handling the firelock; and if called into service, the town voted to each man a Dollar as a premium for their services, exclusive of what they shall be allowed by the government.”

The Lexington Alarm

At length, that momentous day, April 19, 1775, arrived, when commenced the conflict, which issued in the acknowledgment of these United States, as an independent nation.

Before daybreak, on the morning of that day, the citizens of Woburn had been notified of the march of the British troops towards Lexington with hostile intent, by means of special messengers, beat of drum, etc., etc.

Mrs. Betsey, widow of Amos Taylor, of Burlington — whose 100th birthday was commemorated at her request by religious exercises and an appropriate address at her house, October 31, 1864 — once told me, that while it was yet dark, on the morning of the 19th of April, a messenger was despatched from Captain Joshua Walker, commander of the then military company of the precinct, to her father, Mr. Jonathan Proctor, the drummer of that company, to beat an alarm as soon as possible; for that the “red-coats” were on the march towards Lexington, etc., etc.

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

Woburn Responds

At the receipt of this intelligence, while some stayed behind, to protect their terrified families, or to convey them to places of greater safety, others, in large numbers, hastened to Lexington, not in military array, but promiscuously, armed or unarmed, by the road, or across the fields, as happened to be most convenient, to the defence and aid of their countrymen in that hour of peril.

It is matter of authentic tradition, that as Woburn men crossed the fields on their way to Lexington, on the 19th of April, the winter rye waved like grass before the wind; indicating that to be an unusually forward season.

AHC Note — Three militia companies from Woburn responded to the Lexington Alarm and participated in the Concord Fight. The companies were led by Captain Samuel Belknap, Captain Jonathan Fox, and Captain Joshua Walker.

According to a more contemporary history of the day, Daniel Thompson helped raise the alarm in the area. He rode to Newbridge — present-day North Woburn — to warn the residents, and went to the home of Colonel Loammi Baldwin and then to the homes of his brothers, Samuel and Abijah.

From there, they went to Marshall Fowle’s Tavern in Woburn, where they joined the rest of the militia. They could hear the shots fired in Lexington, so they quickly marched in that direction. 

However, they arrived about an hour after the British left.

The Woburn men helped tend to the wounded and then marched west in pursuit of the British. However, they did not march along the Bay Road, they passed through the countryside so they could avoid coming into direct contact with the British.

It was around noon when American forces started to gather at the top of Brooks Hill, where they waited for the British column to march into sight. The first to arrive were the men from Woburn, who stopped to rest.

Roughly an hour later, Major Baldwin was notified the British were headed in his direction, marching back to Boston. Baldwin organized his men and pulled them back, east of Brooks Hill, toward Lexington.

Around 1:30 in the afternoon, the British marched into sight.

Three militia companies, consisting of about 200 men, waited as the British approached Lincoln Bridge to cross over Tanner Brook.

As the British marched down the east slope of Brook’s Hill, the Woburn Militia opened fire and then followed the column, firing on the British from behind walls and trees. 

Major Loammi Baldwin said:

“We came to Tanner Brook, at Lincoln Bridge, and concluded to scatter and make use of the trees and walls for to defend us and attack them. We pursued on flanking them…I had several good shots. The enemy left many dead and wounded and a few tired…”

Today, this location is known as the “Bloody Angle at Elm Brook Hill.” At least 8 British soldiers were killed.

Woburn’s Casualties

Of those who thus went from Woburn, two did not live to return, viz: 

Mr. Asahel Porter, son of Mr. William Porter, who was shot down by the British in the early part of the day; and 

Mr. Daniel Thompson, brother of Samuel Thompson, Esq., who was killed by the enemy in their retreat from Concord.

They were both young men of promise; and the following notice of their funerals is extracted from a recent reprint of a sheet published at that period, giving accounts of the Lexington fight, taken from E. Russell’s Salem Gazette, or Newbury and Marblehead Advertiser of April 21st, April 25th, and May 5th.

“Same day [Friday, April 21st] the remains of Mess. Azel Porter and Daniel Thompson, of Woburn, who also fell victims to tyranny, were decently interred at that place, attended to the grave by a multitude of persons, who assembled on the occasion from that and the neighboring towns: Before they were interred, a very suitable sermon and prayer was delivered by the Rev. Mr. Sherman.”

The Battles of Lexington and Concord

Reverend Mr. Marrett, ordained pastor of the church in Woburn precinct, December 1774, gives the following account of the transactions of this memorable day, in his interleaved Almanacs, ” 

“1775, April 19. Fair, windy & cold. A Distressing Day. About 800 Regulars marched from Boston to Concord. As they went up, they killed 8 men at Lexington meeting house: they huzza’d and then fired, as our men had turned their backs (who in number were about one hundred); and then they proceeded to Concord. 

The adjacent country was alarmed the latter part of the night preceding. The action at Lexington was just before sunrise. 

Our men pursued them to and from Concord on their retreat back; and several killed on both sides, but much the least on our side, as we pickt them off on their retreat. 

The regulars were reinforced at Lexington to aid their retreat by 800 with two field pieces. They burnt 3 houses in Lexington, and one barn, and did other mischief to buildings. 

They were pursued to Charlestown, where they entrenched on a hill just over the Neck. Thus commences an important period.”

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

Incidents in Woburn on April 19

Two incidents of that eventful day, in which persons belonging to Woburn were concerned, and both of which have been transmitted by authentic and reliable tradition, it may not be uninteresting to rehearse.

Sylvanus Wood and the First Prisoner of the American Revolutionary War

Mr. Sylvanus Wood, then living at Kendall’s Mill in Woburn, was awaked while in bed before daybreak that morning, by a messenger who called to him, announcing that a party of British soldiers was on the march towards Lexington, and urging him to go and join Captain Parker’s company then assembled on Lexington Common. 

He went, and was mustered in Captain Parker’s company, and was in its ranks when the men were fired upon by the British, after they had turned their backs to retreat, in obedience to the orders of their captain.

When the British continued their march that morning towards Concord, Wood followed with his gun in their rear, accompanied by another person who was without a gun. 

Upon or near Parkhurst’s Hill, in Lexington, about a mile from the meeting-house, observing a British soldier turn aside from the ranks upon some necessary occasion, he hastened up to him while he was alone, and pointing his gun to his breast, ordered him immediately to deliver up himself and his weapon to him, or he should instantly be a dead man.

The soldier, taken thus by surprise, and when unable to defend himself, or receive help from others, obeyed; and Wood taking his musket to himself, and giving his own gun into the charge of his unarmed associate, bade him take that man to such a person (or place) in Lexington; and then proceeded himself in the track of the British, towards Concord. 

What became of the British private, who, taken in an evil hour had surrendered himself and weapon to Wood, could never afterwards be satisfactorily ascertained. 

It has been conjectured that the soldier, having a supply of British gold in his pockets, offered a piece of it to the person who had him in charge, and with it successfully bribed him to give him his liberty. 

Upon the ground of this seemingly unavailing capture, however, Wood always claimed the honor of having taken the first prisoner in the American War. And urging this claim at Washington, about the year 1824, he obtained, with the aid of Honorable Edward Everett, then Representative in Congress for the District of Middlesex, a handsome pension for life.

Mr. Wood was son of John and Esther Wood, of Woburn Precinct, and a younger brother of…Captain John Wood…. He was born January 27, 1749, O.S.; admitted a member of the Precinct Church, July 5, 1772; was a lieutenant in the Continental Army, in his brother’s company, and in the regiment commanded by Cololen Loammi Baldwin; and died on his valuable farm at Woburn, west side, August 12, 1840, at the advanced age of ninety-one years. 

AHC Note — In the original text, Sewell spells Wood’s first name as “Silvanus.” We have changed it to the modern spelling, “Sylvanus.”

Hancock and Adams Escape to Woburn

Upon the evening of April 18th, John Hancock and Samuel Adams, having left the Provincial Congress, which had adjourned from Concord on the 15th, came to the house of Reverend Jonas Clark, of Lexington, to lodge.

But as soon as it was ascertained, very early the next morning, that a party of British soldiers was approaching Lexington, Captain Parker, Reverend Mr. Clark, or some other friend of the above-named illustrious, but proscribed guests of the minister, put them in charge (it is said) of Sergeant, afterwards Colonel Edmund Munroe, to conduct them to a place of safety; and he, in fulfillment of this charge, directed them (together with Miss Dorothy Quincy, the future wife of Mr. Hancock) to Madam Jones’, in Woburn Precinct, widow of Reverend Thomas Jones, the former minister, whose family was on intimate terms with Reverend Mr. Clark’s, and whose house was but about four miles from Lexington Centre.

AHC NotePaul Revere was one of the “other friends” who accompanied Samuel Adams and John Hancock for at least a portion of the journey to Woburn.

And here the good lady of the house, who was a zealous Whig, in honor of her distinguished guests, and to gratify them as highly as possible, exerted herself to the utmost to provide for them an elegant dinner. Among other delicacies prepared for the occasion was a fine salmon, which had been presented to Hancock and Adams, as a rare dainty at that early season; but which, having been left behind in their hasty flight from Lexington, the coachman had been sent back, after their arrival at Mrs. Jones’, to bring with him on his return.

AHC Note — A “Whig” supported the Patriot Cause.

The hour for dinner being at length come, Mrs. Jones, with her honored guests, and Reverend Mr. Marrett, the recently settled minister of the parish, then boarding at her house, sat down with keen appetites to the repast she had provided for them. 

But scarcely had they seated themselves at the table, when a man fresh from the bloody scenes at Lexington, rushed into the room where they were, and with uplifted hands and affrighted looks exclaimed, “My wife, I fear, is by this time in eternity; and as to you, (addressing himself to Hancock and Adams) you had better look out for yourselves, for the enemy will soon be at your heels.”

Startled by this unexpected, earnest warning, all the company instantly rose from the table, and prepared for concealment or flight. 

Their first care was, to put the coach out of sight, in which Mrs. Jones’ guests had been conveyed from Lexington, and which was then standing by the road side in front of the house. This was hurried into Path Woods, in the northwest part of the precinct, near the road to Billerica.

Mr. Marrett next conducted Mrs. Jones’ illustrious visitors to the house of Mr. Amos Wyman, situated in an obscure corner of Bedford, Billerica, and Woburn Precinct, where were collected the women and children of several of the neighboring families, who had fled thither for safety; fearing that if they remained at home, “the regulars” might come, and murder them, or carry them off.

And now, as soon as Hancock and Adams had had time to become calm after their flight, they besought Mrs. Wyman to give them a little food; saying they had had neither breakfast nor dinner that day. Their good-natured hostess, in ready compliance with their request, took down from a shelf a wooden tray, containing some cold boiled salt pork, and also (it is believed) some cold boiled potatoes unpeeled, and brown bread; and upon this plain, coarse fare, they made a hearty meal.

Upon their return to Mrs. Jones’ the next day, they learned that the enemy had not come there in pursuit of them. Either they had never intended it, or else, being closely pursued from Concord by their exasperated and hourly increasing Yankee foes, they thought it best to take a prudent care for their own safety, rather than to digress in their march, into the neighboring towns, in pursuit of Hancock and Adams.

AHC Note — When the British started the march to Concord, many people believed they intended to arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams. This is why Dr. Joseph Warren sent Paul Revere and William Dawes on the famous “Midnight Ride” to Lexington.

Not many years since, it was a current report in Lexington, that Hancock, in gratitude to Mrs. Wyman for her kindness to him and Adams at her house, in their flight for fear of the British, made a present to her of a cow.

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

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