North Carolina’s Response to the 1775 Battle of Lexington and Concord

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian Travis Copeland

Rumors roared throughout the Colonies in the Spring of 1775. From Watertown, Massachusetts with an earnest pen, a letter was taken down at 10am on Wednesday Morning, April 19, 1775. Reports had been sent to New London, Rhode Island, and we’re beginning to extend south to the Carolinas. There were reports that, “action had happened between the King’s Troops and the inhabitants of Boston.” The shot fired in Lexington, Massachusetts on April 19 was “heard around the world,” and North Carolina would be no exception. The above, brief sentence recount of the battle was enclosed with the expanded statement,

To All Friends of American Liberty let it be known,

That this morning before break of day a [British] Brigade consisting of about one thousand or twelve hundred men landed at Phipp’s farm in Cambridge, and marched to Lexington, [Massachusetts] where they found a Company of our Colony Militia in arms upon whom they fired without any provocation and killed six men and wounded four others. By an Express from Boston we find that other Brigades are upon their march from Boston supposed to be about one thousand…I have spoken with several who have seen the dead and wounded.[1]

In the age of foot-speed news, a letter penned on April 19 could take weeks to reach the inhabitants of North Carolina. From the Massachusetts committee of safety, the letter was dispatched with earnest haste to Worcester and then beyond the Massachusetts borders. Connecticut, New York, and British Canada were given a recount of the events by April 25, although news by mouth spread as rapid as fire.[2] In the last week of April, no news had yet reached deep South. New Jersey and Maryland were informed by pen just before April became May, but the southern colonist was still much in the dark. Finally, on Friday, April 28th at 8pm colonists from Alexandria, Virginia sent the statement and letter to Fredericksburg and from there to Surry County, Chowan, and Onslow, North Carolina. A flurry of exchange between Virginia and North Carolina created a clamor. War! 

Each county repeated to the next, “disperse the material passages through all your parts.”[3] On May 3, Edenton and Chowan passed-on the news of the clash with his Majesty’s troops.[4] The delegates at Craven County received the news on May 6th. It was ordered that they, “in haste have sent to request you will pursue the enclosed papers and you will do by opening the packet herewith sent the moment it comes your house.”[5] No more important news than the coming of the Revolution, although unknown in the fullest sense, could create such an exasperated command. Yet, the Bath delegates were not done with their orders. They further demanded that Craven county, “get three or four of your Committee to write a line and send the whole enclosed to the next Southward Committee with the utmost dispatch.”[6]

The clamor of excitement came from a colony that was thought to be deeply sympathetic to the British. Regards for the crown were certainly present in the Southern colonies, but the circular letter’s earnest nature displays the patriotic fervor that ran through the colonists. Finally, the letter was directed to Abner Nash, who represented the provision rebel government in North Carolina. As the news reached the upper echelons of society, directions were given to extend the news to anyone using a horse or bearer.[7] Cornelius Harnett, prominent Patriot politician in Wilmington, directed those who would receive the letter to, “for God’s sake send the man on without the least delay and write…to forward it by night and day.”[8] Others shared Harnett’s tone, writing, “Pray don’t neglect a moment in forwarding” and “I cannot avoid writing to you to beg you to forward the Paper containing such important news and pray order the express you send to ride night and day.”[9] Finally, directions were given to move the letter to South Carolina, “to be forwarded to Charlestown.”[10]

Several weeks after the initial fury of letter exchange, another letter was written from Lieutenant Governor Bull of South Carolina to the Earl of Dartmouth. The provisional governor allied with the Crown reflected on the disposition of the Carolinas. Despite the growing desire to show British force against the rebellious colonists, Lt. Gov. Bull stated plainly that, “The account of the Skirmish or Engagement between the King’s Troops and the Provincials of Massachusetts near Lexington on the 19th of last month, seems to produce effects here [the Carolinas] very different from intimidation.”[11] The southern colonist of North and South Carolina would not be thrown back or made afraid by the acts of British commanders and their regulars in the North.

The Continental Congress would not be intimated. It’s North Carolina representatives William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, and Richard Casewell issued a circular letter which shared the tone of Lt. Gov. Bull’s correspondence. They stated plain, with the April 19, 1775 battles of Lexington and Concord in mind, 

Heaven seems to have assumed the protection of the injured insulted Colonists and signally to have appeared in their Favour: when in the last Battle at Lexington six hundred raw, undisciplined Provincials defeated eighteen Hundred regular Troops and pursued them into their Camp…It becomes the duty of us in whom you have deposited the most sacred trusts to warn you of your danger and of the most effectual means to ward it off. It is the Right of every English Subject to be prepared with Weapons for his defense. We conjure you by the Ties of Religion Virtue and Love of your Country to follow the Example of your sister Colonies and to form yourselves into a Militia. The Election of the officers and the Arrangement of the men must depend upon yourselves. Study the Art of Military with the utmost attention, view it as the Science upon which your future security depends.[12]

The colony of North Carolina and its leadership was moved by the initial recount of battle and the circular letter’s news of Massachusetts. The waters of Revolution were rising and the Patriot leaders were beginning to call for more than just a uniform exchange of words. They desired for the state to take its formidable place in as rebels in the South. Further, the flurry of response to the Lexington engagement shows the prominent place of North Carolina in the revolution from the earliest days. Leaders in the South did not wait until the war moved South in 1779, 1780, and 1781 to throw their pens, support, and persons behind the cause of Gen. Washington, the Continental Congress, and the New England colonies. North Carolina was revolutionary from the start.


[1] “Letters Concerning the News of the Battle of Lexington in Massachusetts, April 20 – May 9, 1775,” Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, vol. 9, p. 1234.

[2] “Letters Concerning the News of the Battle of Lexington in Massachusetts, April 20 – May 9, 1775,” Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, Documenting the American South, vol. 9, p. 1230-31.

[3] “Letters Concerning the News of the Battle of Lexington in Massachusetts, April 20 – May 9, 1775,” Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, vol. 9, p. 1236.

[4] “Letters Concerning the News of the Battle of Lexington in Massachusetts, April 20 – May 9, 1775,” Colonial and State Records of North Carolina,. 9, p. 1237.

[5] “Letters Concerning the News of the Battle of Lexington in Massachusetts, April 20 – May 9, 1775,” Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, vol. 9, p. 1237.

[6] “Letters Concerning the News of the Battle of Lexington in Massachusetts, April 20 – May 9, 1775,” Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, vol. 9, p. 1237.

[7] “Letters Concerning the News of the Battle of Lexington in Massachusetts, April 20 – May 9, 1775,” Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, vol. 9, p. 1238.

[8] “Letters Concerning the News of the Battle of Lexington in Massachusetts, April 20 – May 9, 1775,” Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, vol. 9, p. 1238.

[9] “Letters Concerning the News of the Battle of Lexington in Massachusetts, April 20 – May 9, 1775,” Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, vol. 9, p. 1238.

[10] “Letters Concerning the News of the Battle of Lexington in Massachusetts, April 20 – May 9, 1775,” Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, vol. 9, p. 1239.

[11] “Letter from William Bull to William Legge, Earl of Darmouth, May 15, 1775,” Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, Documenting the American South, vol. 9, p. 1258-1260.

[12] “Letter from William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, and Richard Casewell to the Inhabitants of North Carolina, June 19, 1775,” Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, Documenting the American South, vol. 10, p. 20-23.

Travis Copeland is a North Carolina native with a love for early American history. He holds a B.A in History and Humanities and is studying for a postgraduate history degree. His research interests include North Carolina history and the early southern United States from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War with a particular interest in military conflict, political-social integration, and local history. When not researching and writing, he enjoys teaching, the outdoors, gardening, and good food and beer. Travis lives and teaches in North Carolina.

A Title


When writing a book, one of the most important initial aspects is picking a title. The author needs one that is expressive, attracts attention, but has some overall tie-in that provides a fitting capture of the essence of the book.

One of the advantages of writing history is the use of quotes. Let the participants, combatants, or witnesses of the event provide the context for a title. When one resonates, go with it!

With the recent publication, the co-author, Robert Orrison and myself bounced various potential titles off each other. Then we had a list of our favorites included in the initial information sheet sent to Ted Savas, of Savas Beatie, LLC, the publisher. Yet, one continued to stand out, as it was written in a diary by a British junior officer slightly more than a month before the Battles of Lexington and Concord.


The entire inscription is below:

“It is certain both sides were ripe for it, and a single blow would have occasioned the commencement of hostilities.” —Lieutenant Frederick Mackenzie, Royal Welch Fusiliers, March 6, 1775.

Mackenzie’s uncanny foresight predicted the exact outcome of the fighting that erupted on April 19, 1775. With casualties suffered by both sides, the war of words and near-misses became a war of shot and shell.

Hostilities had commenced and we had a title. A Single Blow: The Battles of Lexington and Concord and the The Beginning of the American Revolution. 




Dr. Prescott, Love & War

Love brought Dr. Samuel Prescott, a practicing physician, to the town of Lexington on the night of April 18, 1775. The young doctor was courting Ms. Lydia Mulliken, when the alarm of the British soldiers marching from Boston went out to the local militia. Lydia’s brother was one of those called to gather.

Love. That emotion also drew Dr. Prescott back toward his hometown of Concord—this time to alert friends, neighbors, and family members of the urgent news of the evening. En route, Dr. Prescott along with Paul Revere and William Dawes, alerted the countryside of the moving British troops. After being vetted and vouchsafed as a true friend of liberty, Dr. Prescott rode posthaste to his hometown, where his word carried greater weight.

A artist’s interpretation of Paul Revere’s (or maybe William Dawes or Dr. Samuel Prescott)’s ride to warn the Massachusetts countryside. (courtesy of VFW)

Continue reading “Dr. Prescott, Love & War”

Revolutionary Projects in Concord, Massachusetts

Robert Morris explaining the recent archaeological investigations at Parker’s Revenge along Battle Road.

Recently, ERW members Phil Greenwalt and Rob Orrison spent the 241st anniversary of the opening of the American Revolution in the outskirts of Boston in Concord, Massachusetts.  It was a whirlwind trip of research, photos and most importantly meeting the stakeholders in historic preservation and public history in the region.  We already knew how active Concord was in promoting and preserving its history, but each time you visit you are blown away by their efforts and their appreciation for their past.


While in Concord, our more than gracious host was Jayne Gordon. Jayne has been involved in almost every public history project or initiative in the Concord area.  A native of the area, everyone in Lexington and Concord knows Jayne.  Jayne took the time to introduce us to many people and organizations in the area.  I wanted to focus on two organizations that are doing great work in the region to promote local history with a national impact.

The Robbins House

Formerly the Drinking Gourd Project, The Robbins House is introducing people to the story of African Americans in the region. The all-volunteer board and staff are breaking new ground.  Facing misconceptions of slavery in 18th century Concord head on, Robbins House President Maria Madison has led the charge to change the narrative.

The Robbins House is an early 19th century house that was inhabited by the first generation

The Robbins House

of descendants of formerly enslaved African America Revolutionary War veteran Caesar Robbins. Using the story of Caesar Robbins as a base, Maria and her fellow volunteers interpret the role of African Americans in 18th and 19th century Concord. Most forget that 18th century Massachusetts was a colony that supported and practiced slavery.  The Robbins House also interpret stories of how literary icons, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and David Henry Thoreau, dealt with slavery and prejudice.  Again, most visitors (including me!) have their preconceived notions challenged. The Robbins House also provides exhibits on other aspects of African American history of Concord, as well as lectures, programs and self-guided tours of Concord.


The Robbins House’s location next to the famous North Bridge provides an interesting juxtaposition on freedom and liberty. Just a few hundred yards away the dream of American freedom and independence began and the Robbins House is filling the void of how that liberty equated to a large portion of the American population. On your next visit to Concord, it is a worth your time and support.  I really enjoyed my time meeting with Maria and look forward to future conversations and visits.  Visit their website at for more information

Friends of Minuteman National Park

Many of our readers are aware of the recent “Parker’s Revenge” project and preservation project with the Civil War Trust’s “Campaign 1776.” Also, I bet all of our readers are aware of Minuteman National Historical Park, but how many know about the great efforts of the Friends of Minuteman National Historical Park?  I must admit, until my recent visit I include myself if that “unknowing” category.  Jayne introduced us to Robert Morris, President of the “Friends,” and Bob spent a morning going over the organization and their recent efforts to promote new historic research, archaeology and restoration of the area known as “Parker’s Revenge” along the Battle Road.

This ridge is now considered where Capt. Parker and his Lexington militia attacked the British on their retreat back to Boston

“Parker’s Revenge” occurred on the afternoon of April 19, 1775 along the road between Concord and Lexington. Captain Parker, who earlier that day confronted the British on the Lexington Green, regrouped his militia and prepared for an attack on the British column as it made its way back to Boston. As they marched through Lincoln and approached Fiske Hill, Parker’s men opened up a deadly fire from behind rocks. Up until last year, historians have always interpreted the event to take place along the Battle Road next to the modern Minuteman National Historical Park Visitor Center.  But now, thanks to fundraising and manpower efforts of the “Friends”, the history of “Parker’s Revenge” is being rewritten. With new archaeology, the area of “Parker’s Revenge” will be reinterpreted a few hundred yards west of the current location. Bob and his team of volunteers also plan to work with the National Park Service to assist in restore the historic landscape in the area.


The “Friends” also fundraise to support interpretation projects, grounds projects, and support the large volunteer corps at the park. One of the most important tasks for the organization is advocating on behalf of the national park. My morning spent with Bob and Jayne walking the newly discovered “Parker’s Revenge” battlefield was a highlight of my trip. Being one of the first people to walk the “new” battlefield and hear how the project developed was a special treat.

I highly recommend you follow along the many projects the “Friends” have on going to support Minuteman National Historic Park. They are always looking for new members, no matter where you may live. Visit their website at

Again, I cannot thank Jayne Gordon enough for showing me around Concord and sharing her passion for history. I appreciated my short time with Maria Madison of the Robbins House and Robert Morris of the Friends of Minuteman National Park.  Both are breaking new ground and supporting preservation and interpretation of the events surrounding spring 1775. These are the people on the front lines and that meshes well with one of the established goals of Emerging Revolutionary War is to share and promote these public history organizations.  They are instrumental in telling the story of the American Revolution.

robbins-house-logo-superblack-colorlogo-sm          campaign-1776-logo-220

Through the Lense of History: May 3, 1775


spy_-_page_1_0Often the study of history can ground us and make us feel less “unique.” This allows us to hopefully put our own experiences into perspective and be able to hopefully learn from lessons of the past.  Many today complain about how print and social media can distort facts to support a particular agenda.  This is not a modern phenomenon.  Many in the Sons of Liberty (such as Paul Revere) used print media to their advantage to promote resistance to and then independence from Great Britain.

Many pro-Patriot newspapers printed nothing less than propaganda pieces after the battles of April 19, 1775. Here is part of what was printed by the Massachusetts Spy on May 3, 1775.

Americans!  forever bear in mind the BATTLE of LEXINGTON!  where British Troops, unmolested and unprovoked wantonly, and in a most inhuman manner fired upon and killed a number of our countrymen, then robbed them of their provisions, ransacked, plundered and burnt their houses!  nor could the tears of defenseless women, some of whom were in the pains of childbirth, the cries of helpless, babes, nor the prayers of old age, confined to beds of sickness, appease their thirst for blood! – or divert them from the DESIGN of MURDER and ROBBERY!”

Obviously a historic study of the events on April 19, 1775 disputes much of what is claimed by the Massachusetts Spy.  But when you have a point to make, an agenda to promote and a local population to rally to a cause…why should truth get in the way?!  We have come a long way since 1775, but in many ways not much has changed.

The prints by Amos Doolittle of the events on April 19, 1775 did a lot to promote the Patriots cause in their “media war” war against the British.

240th Anniversary of the “Shot Heard Around the World”

Battle of Lexington, Engraved 1874
Battle of Lexington, Engraved 1874

As we remember the events around Bennett Place this weekend, keep in mind our friends near Boston are commemorating another important anniversary.  Today marks the 240th anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord.  To read more about the events taking place at Minuteman National Park, the Lexington Historical Society and the Concord Historical Society our friend J.L. Bell’s “Boston 1775” blog is an excellent resource. You may visit his blog by following the link:

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read our Rev War Wednesday posts.  We hope shedding light on the events during the American Revolution gives more perspective to the events leading up to the American Civil War.

“A Negro Man”: Prince Estabrook of Lexington


As the British under Lt. Col. Francis Smith marched out of Lexington on the morning of April 19th, they left behind them 18 American casualties. One of these men who suffered wounds that morning was Prince Estabrook. Estabrook was unlike the others who lined up that morning on the Lexington Green, Estabrook was an enslaved African American.

Prince Estabrook Service Record for June 1775
Prince Estabrook Service Record for June 1775

Born in the 1740’s and owned by Benjamin Estabrook there is little information on Prince’s life and family. Benjamin Estabrook operated a grist mill near Lexington and maintained a decent sized farm. Benjamin served in various positions in Lexington including coroner, justice of the peace and Selectman. He inherited Prince from his father and both men were near the same age. Prince enlisted in the Lexington militia in 1773 and his owner had to grant him the ability to do so. Continue reading ““A Negro Man”: Prince Estabrook of Lexington”

Another Anniversary to Commemorate Next Week


As we observe the beginning of the end of the American Civil War this week at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, another anniversary is just around the corner.

240 years and 10 days ago and approximately 630 miles the first shots of the American War of Independence was fired on Lexington Green on April 19, 1775.

Two events, two weeks in April. One commemorating the end of what some combatants at the time referred to as the Second American Revolution, whereas the other anniversary began the First American Revolution (if one sticks with that same theme).

So, as you finish your time tracing the last steps of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House head north and traverse the Battle Road between Boston, Lexington, and Concord.

Our friends at the national park, Minuteman National Historical Park have multiple events going on leading up to, through, and after the 19th of April.

Check out their events here;


The Shot Heard Round the World


Today, we are pleased to welcome back guest author Kate Gruber.

Ralph Waldo Emerson. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Ralph Waldo Emerson. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

When American colonists reached for their newspapers on the morning of April 20, 1775—the day after the first shots fired at Lexington and Concord—they did not see the words “The Shot Heard Round The World!” emblazoned across the front page. Today, we use this phrase to describe the legendary first gunshot fired on Lexington Green, the gunshot that began the 8-year war for American independence from Britain. The words “the shot heard round the world” are as omnipresent in our collective memories as “one if by land, two if by sea,” and even “I have not yet begun to fight!” But did you know that this phrase did not exist during the American Revolution? In fact, the words “the shot heard round the world” were not penned until sixty years after the event, and were written not by an eyewitness to the action at Lexington and Concord, but by famed American poet (and Civil War contemporary) Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Continue reading “The Shot Heard Round the World”