On Lexington Common

Week 22: #52 Ancestors – Conflict

By Eilene Lyon

The Putterer’s 6th great-grandfather, Amos Poor Jr., is an established Patriot in both the DAR and SAR (Daughters and Sons of the American Revolution). He also has the distinction of having been at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775.1

Amos and his younger brother, Eliphalet, belonged to the Newbury militia, under command of Jacob Gerrish, who later held the rank of captain in the Continental Army.2 The Newbury men (roughly 40 miles from Lexington), responded to the Alarm. Amos left behind his wife, Sarah, and their two young children, aiming to support the militias to the south, as British troops marched out of Boston.

That early morning in April officially “kicked off” the American Revolution. The events need not have occurred (though something was bound to trigger a conflict at some point), and no one knows how the shooting in Lexington began. The British troops were on a relatively routine, peaceful mission to confiscate militia munitions and provisions in Concord. The companies had been mustered at 9 p.m. on the 18th to begin their march westward in the night.

A mostly accurate hand-colored map depicting the 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord and the Siege of Boston dated July 29, 1775. Newbury is not shown. It lies north of Salem about as far as Salem is from Boston. Click to enlarge. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Lexington minutemen gathered in the wee hours and their captain, John Parker, made the decision to disperse when the soldiers arrived. It would have been folly, suicidal even, to take on a force ten times larger. Both he and Maj. John Pitcairn, the British second-in-command, ordered their men to hold fire.

About 70 militia had gathered on the Lexington Common in two ragged lines. Perhaps another hundred townspeople looked on as spectators. The minutemen were slow to disperse, and though ordered by Maj. Pitcairn to leave their weapons behind, they did not. The soldiers had orders to surround and disarm the colonists.

To Pitcairn, these Lexington men were all subjects of King George III. They were fellow countrymen, even if they were in a state of rebellion. It was not his wish to start a war. The first shot may have been an alarm fired in the air by one of the minutemen, or a warning to drop arms fired by a soldier. It may have been only powder, not a bullet. Soon live rounds entered the picture and eight colonists and one soldier lay dead or dying on the green.

This early 20th -century depiction of the Lexington incident, like the Feature Image, may be somewhat unrealistic. The British and militia men were probably closer together and perhaps even intermingled when the shooting began. The colonists were probably not so uniformly dressed, either. (Wikimedia Commons)

Pitcairn later had harsh words regarding the chaotic behavior of his men. Perhaps lack of sleep, food, and the long night march had left the soldiers ill-prepared to deal with the situation in the proper manner. The militia, even less of a disciplined body than the British regulars, offered a conundrum when they sauntered off carrying their muskets, ignoring the soldiers’ demands. Of such confusion, radical transformation of the world is born.

What role did Amos Poor play in these events? It’s hard to discern. It appears that only locals and men from nearby communities were on Lexington Common when the British arrived. After the soldiers resumed their march to Concord, men from distant communities began arriving, which probably included the Newbury militia. They hastened on to Concord where the British compounded their error by burning some of the militia supplies. The colonists mistakenly believed the grenadiers were setting fire to the town.3

The British Army in Concord, April 19, 1775. “Plate II. A view of the town of Concord.” In: “The Doolittle engravings of the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775.” New York Public Library Collection Guide: Picturing America, 1497-1899: Prints, Maps, and Drawings bearing on the New World Discoveries and on the Development of the Territory that is now the United States. Humanities and Social Sciences Library / Print Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs. (Wikimedia Commons)

Amos served for six days from April 19–25. He served terms of two or three months at a time from 1775 through 1778 around the Boston area.4 In addition to his brother Eliphalet, older brother, Benjamin, also served. It’s possible their father, Amos Sr., participated in some way, possibly as a member of the Alarm, being too old for service as a minuteman. It is not known if any of the Poor men suffered injuries. Undoubtedly, they did endure trauma from scenes of carnage, as is typical in any war.

After the war, Amos Jr. relocated his family to Brownfield, Maine, more than a hundred miles from the battlefields of Massachusetts.5

Feature image: “The battle of Lexington, April 19th. 1775. Plate I.” In: “The Doolittle engravings of the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775.” Collection Guide: Picturing America, 1497-1899: Prints, Maps, and Drawings bearing on the New World Discoveries and on the Development of the Territory that is now the United States. Humanities and Social Sciences Library / Print Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, New York Public Library. (Wikimedia Commons)

Amos Poor Jr. on Ancestry.com

  1. Massachusetts, U.S., Soldiers and Sailors in the Revolutionary War> Massachusetts> Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War, Vol 12> Soldiers and Sailors> unknown img 554 Ancestry.com https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/7726/ 
  2. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-07-02-0075 See note 2; https://catalogue.swanngalleries.com/Lots/auction-lot/(AMERICAN-REVOLUTION–1775)-Group-of-6-receipts-issued-to-Mi?saleno=2455&lotNo=20&refNo=736345 See “Additional details.” 
  3. Tourtellot, Arthur Bernon. Lexington & Concord: The Beginning of the War of the American Revolution. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1963. https://archive.org/details/lexingtonconcord00arth/page/154/mode/1up?q=%22gen+green%22
  4. See Note 1. 
  5. Ancestry.com. Maine, U.S., Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1800-1890 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 1999. 

39 thoughts on “On Lexington Common

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      1. It’s one of several repeating names in this family line. Distinguishing between so many men with the same name (sometimes several in the same generation) has made this family a challenge, for sure!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I wonder how many problems that naming habit caused people at the time? I know a lot of nicknames developed. But I bet there were some legal consequences on occasion.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Although I have been in Lexington many times and walked on the town green, I never knew the whole story of how the battle started. Fascinating! Have you ever been there?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not to Lexington. I have been to Boston and other places on the coast. I went to many historic sites in the east when I was a kid, but have only been to a few as an adult. It would make for a great road trip to see places I missed and revisit the others.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think I may have gone to SPAM again but in the event of WP shenanigans, I really thought it odd that the 100 townspeople were standing around as spectators as shooting was going on. I also like your use of vintage photos in this post and others.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know if you follow Dave at “Life in a Word” but he posts every Thursday at noon. No post this week which was odd because he has been putting together this Lego Grand Piano and was to show us the finished piano this week. No post. So I went back and found him, clicked on his site – he posted and I was not following. When I tried to follow by e-mail I got a message I wasn’t using a valid e-mail. So I don’t know what is up with WP these days.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It may be that a couple words I had added to my “do not allow” list was causing the problem. We’ll see. I’ve also had trouble following some blogs and getting unfollowed somehow.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I like learning history from a personal perspective. Like everyone else I’m taken with the name Eliphalet. So nice of someone to have distinct name to research, unlike Thomas and James in my family lineage.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. In Cyprus many men name their first son after their father, so family branches end up with a bunch of cousins with the same first and last name. My husband is one of them; lucky for him he is the only one in Canada.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Those cousins all live in Cyprus. In Canada his dad is the only male amongst the siblings, the other relatives here are my husband’s aunts, so their sons have different last names (and maybe their first names are their paternal grandfathers’? 🤔).

        Liked by 1 person

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