Teacher's Guide - John Brooks
Originally from Medford, MA had opened a medical practice in Reading and was chosen a Capt. of one of two Minute Companies
Served in Col. Bridge's Regiment of Militia
Went on to fight in the Continental Army until 1779
Later became Adjutant- General of Massachusetts during the War of 1812
Elected Governor in 1816
Brooks was the one who equipped and outfitted Edmund Foster on the morning of the 19th
Brooks had taken some initiative to learn the military manuals of the 18th century to better train his men by visiting and seeking the guidance of Col. Timothy Pickering in Salem, MA in 1774
Brooks asked for permission from his own commander, Col. Bridge to advance upon Concord ahead of the main body of men from Reading and was granted permission to do so
In the early part of the nineteenth century recounted that his men fired first
John Brooks was an accomplished physician who would also become an accomplished soldier during the Revolutionary War. His story, though told through a secondary source in the nineteenth century does match up well with much of the corroborating evidence presented throughout this lesson. Brooks recounts moving on ahead of his regiment and taking up shelter around the barn and in the barn yard of one of the Meriam barns. Which one is of course unknown, but students can undoubtedly use a visit to the site to help them make a best guess as to where Brooks had his men take up position.
Brooks situation as being in command in combat for the first time was undoubtedly one which those of us who have never experienced combat cannot appreciate. However the concept of not believing what you are seeing is one that many of us can probably relate to and is the situation in which Brooks finds himself as he arrives at Meriam's Corner. He clearly doesn't allow himself to believe that the soldiers in red that he is seeing are part of the Regular column, choosing to believe they are part of a Provincial artillery company. Once he discovers his mistake he also realizes that in the position he is in, he cannot be flanked. That makes sense as one can tell by visiting Meriam's Corner. If one stands directly behind the Nathan Meriam house at the position where it is believed the barn was and takes in the whole landscape it is clear that if the regulars want to cross the brook they need to cross the bridge thus giving up their flanking positions and needing to rejoin the column. If one had positions near that spot it would have been near impossible to miss the bottlenecked column with volley fire from covered positions, and it also would have made firing on the part of the Regulars quite difficult. As we know from many sources no Reading men were hit that day. Were they in the position as described by Brooks that would seem to make sense.
Of course the biggest problem with this account is that it directly contradicts the account of Edmund Foster which clearly blames the regulars for initiating the fight. We will never know who is correct, but a site visit to Meriam's Corner will surely help students identify the way geography plays a role in history.
Saw action that day at the North Bridge, and along the Battle Road
Barrett wrote his account many years later, but many details match up with the accounts of several other participants.
Encountered the column twice that day at Meriam's Corner, in the morning on the march into Concord and in the afternoon on the march to Boston
Does not specifically mention who fired first, but alludes to the advantage of the Provincials' position and that since they held a stronger position were able to do much damage to the column of Regulars
Amos Barrett's account of April 19 is one of a man who, though aged, remembers vividly the details of what he believes to have transpired and provides us with the insight of what would be considered a commoner in new England at the time. His entire account speaks of him as a member of a company and as such was not someone who was in a position to make decisions. Rather he followed his company and this company was clearly eager to defend their homes in Concord. Barrett speaks about many of the same details as his contemporaries such as the location being a mile and a half outside of Concord Center and the hill overlooking the edge of town.
In addition Barrett speaks about being "after" the Regulars. The interpretation of this is difficult though it would seem to be that he is insinuating that the Regulars are being chased out of Concord and that when they arrived at Meriam's Corner the Provincials had already begun assaulting the Regulars from all angles. He does not mention any Provnicial casualties but does refer to the British dead and the bloody mess they leave behind on the road. Does he leave some doubts as to who fired first? Of course, but it can be surmised that he does not believe the Regulars were able to defend themselves successfully.
Teacher's Guide: Thaddeus Blood
Private in Capt. Nathan Barrett's Militia Company of Concord
Saw action at the North Bridge and along the Battle Road on April 19
Encountered the Regulars twice at Meriam's Corner that day
Speaks of the Chelmsford and Billerica men beginning the attack
Was in a position about 1/4 mile away from the corner when the fighting began
Infers that it was the 3-4 hundred men from Billerica and Chelmsford descending upon the column which started the firing - and it could also be further implied that it was those men whom he thought were from Chelmsford and Billerica who started the fighting.
Thaddeus Blood had been at the North Bridge and was one of the men who decided that it would be best to again meet the column as they left Concord. He was very fervent in his desire to see that Col. Thomson (of Chelmsford) receive credit for beginning the attack on the British at Meriam's Corner. Therefore it would be safe to infer that he believed those men who began the firing were in the mind of Blood doing the right thing and firing first into the column of Regulars. This group of men however could still be the Reading men as they were in fact part of the regiment that Lt. Col. Thomson commanded - he serving under the same Col. Bridge that the Reading companies were serving. In addition if Blood's figures of "3-4 hundred men" is to be trusted, this would represent the approximate number of men in that regiment. In addition we know that the Chelmsford and Billerica companies were spread into the meadows to the east of the Reading men, meaning that if Blood were situated down near Deacon Minot's house he would have been closest to the Billerica and Chelmsford men and would have seen Lt. Col. Thomson leading his men there.
Teacher's Guide: Joseph Meriam
Youngest son of Josiah Meriam, who's house was the closest of the three Meriam houses to Lexington Road on what is today Meriam's Corner
Was seven years old on April 19 and was in hiding with the women and children of his extended family on that day.
This account, though clearly based upon the recollections of someone who was a witness to the events of April 19, has many holes and does not agree with any other sources of that day. No other source, British or Provincial, seems to indicate that soldiers entered any of the homes on the Meriams' property. In fact most accounts discuss the fact that both times the column passed by the Meriam properties near the hill on the outskirts of Concord there was either potential for armed conflict or there was exchange of fire between opposing forces. If all of the other accounts are to be believed then it should be clear to the reader that British Regulars would not have had the time nor the disposition to enter any of the Meriam Houses as they were actively engaged in either flanking maneuvers or discharging their weapons at what had become a rapidly growing force of hostile enemies.
The British did certainly do their fair share of damage in Concord, nearly destroying the home of harness-maker Reuben Brown. The evidence of this is clear as Mr. Brown filed a claim with the Provincial Congress for recompense for damage to his property. As of this time there is no evidence of the Meriams ever making a claim for any damage to their property, which had their homes been entered by the regulars they surely would have done. It is certainly possible that young Joseph was caught up in the midst of others claiming that there was significant damage done and confused that with his own, or he could have been caught up in patriotic fervor to show the righteousness of the American cause many years after independence had been secured.
This document is a good example of why students should not rely solely on one or two primary sources, as the people who created those primary sources are human much like us. They make mistakes and often forget details from earlier in life. Joseph Meriam's family were certainly participants on April 19th, probably serving as members of Capt. Minot's Company of Militia. Perhaps someday we will discover missing accounts of Meriam's but for now we must rely more heavily on the words of those who were older and more actively participating in the fighting along the Battle Road.