Biography of Samuel Prescott
Samuel Prescott was a physician who lived in Concord, Massachusetts. He is most well-known for the events that took place on the night of April 18–19, 1775, when he crossed paths with Paul Revere and William Dawes during the “Midnight Ride.” Prescott was born in Concord on August 19, 1751. Both his father and grandfather were doctors, and he followed in their footsteps.
Samuel Prescott joined Paul Revere and William Dawes to help raise the alarm throughout the countryside after General Thomas Gage (seen here) sent a column of British troops marching to Concord on April 18–19. 1775. Image Source: Wikipedia.
Samuel Prescott and the Midnight Ride of April 19, 1775
On the night of April 18, Prescott was in Lexington, Massachusetts, about six miles east of Concord. According to legend, he was visiting a young woman named Lydia Mulliken. It appears there is no basis historical basis for this, and it is nothing more than hearsay. Regardless, Prescott was, in fact, on the road between Lexington and Concord in the early hours of April 19.
Around 10:00 on the 18th, General Thomas Gage, the Commander-in-Chief of British forces in North America, sent around 800 British Redcoats on a march from Boston to Concord with orders to destroy weapons and ammunition that had been hidden there by Massachusetts militia. In order to make their way to Concord, the British would have to march from Boston through several small towns, including Menetomy and Lexington.
The Patriot spy network in Boston learned about the march, and Joseph Warren believed the British could be marching to Lexington to capture Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who spent the night at the home of Reverend Jonas Clarke. Warren sent for Paul Revere and William Dawes and ordered them to ride to Lexington to warn Adams and Hancock, and then ride to Concord to alert the town. Revere and Dawes took left Boston by different routes so that if one of them was captured by British patrols, the other one would have a chance to make it to Lexington.
While Revere made his way to Lexington, he alerted the militia in Medford and “alarmed almost every house” between there and Lexington. He arrived in Lexington around midnight, woke Adams and Hancock, and informed them the British were on the march. Dawes arrived about half an hour later and, after a short rest, the two of them set out for Concord to help secure the military supplies that were hidden in the town.
Around 1:00 in the morning of the 19th, according to Revere’s memory of that night, he and Dawes “were overtaken by a young Dr. Prescot.” Revere referred to Prescott as a “high Son of Liberty.” It is unclear from Revere’s account if Prescott was an actual member of the Sons of Liberty, or if he was simply sympathetic to their cause.
Revere told Prescott there were British patrols along the road and they were likely to come across one on the way to Concord. Revere also said they should warn everyone along the way. Prescott volunteered to go with them because the people living in the area knew him. According to Revere, Prescott felt that his presence would “give the more credit to what we said.”
The three “Midnight Riders” were roughly three miles west of Lexington, about halfway to Concord, when they were surprised by a British patrol. Revere was captured and detained for a while by the British, but Dawes and Prescott spurred their horses and ran off. Both were able to escape, but Dawes fell off of his horse and was unable to continue to raise the alarm.
Prescott jumped a stone wall and made his way to Concord. Along the way, he raised the alarm. He arrived in Concord around 1:30 in the morning and notified the sentry that was on duty. The sentry rang the bell at Concord First Parish Church, which alerted the town.
Then Prescott notified his brother, Abel, who rode to Sudbury to alert the militia there. After warning his brother, legend has it that Prescott continued the mission and rode to Acton and Stow to alert the militia in those towns.
From there, almost nothing is known about the life of Dr. Samuel Prescott. There is some evidence he may have served as a doctor in the Continental Army, however, it is inconclusive.
This illustration shows Prescott’s route, in purple, from the point he overtook Revere and Dawes, to Concord. Image Source: Wikipedia.
Why is Samuel Prescott Famous?
Samuel Prescott is important to United States history because he alerted the town of Concord in the early morning hours of April 19, 1775, that the British were on the march. Prescott’s effort, along with those of Paul Revere and William Dawes, raised the alarm throughout the countryside, which led thousands of militia to gather during the day of the 19th to oppose the British at the Battle of Lexington and the Battle of Concord. When the British made the march back to Boston, the militia followed them, fired on them, and inflicted heavy losses. Once the exhausted British column returned to Boston, the militia stayed, trapped the British in Boston, and started the Siege of Boston.