Connecticut in the Lexington Alarm


The Revolutionary record of Connecticut opens with her response to the historic Lexington alarm of April 19, 1775, and closes eight years and a half later with the disbandment, after the Peace, of her last regiment in the field, in November, 1783.

The attitude assumed by the colonists at the beginning of the struggle was that of vigilance and self-defense. Alarmed by the determination of the home government, openly declared within recent years, to establish its authority more firmly in America, they entered vigorous protests against the new policy as tending to endanger certain privileges of their own, assured to them by charter or long enjoyment. While differing somewhat from each other, either in creed, temperament, descent or manners, the people in the several colonies, or the great majority of them, stood politically, in 1775, on the common platform of non-interference in their local affairs. They advocated home-rule combined with loyalty to the general interests of the British Empire. which, in effect, represents the relations existing between England and her larger dependencies at the present day. In this sense the cause of any one of the American Colonies was the cause of all. An attempt upton the privileges of one was a threat against all. An alarm sounded in one locality was bound to spread by common sympathy to every other.

In Connecticut, especially in her eastern section, this colonial spirit took deep root, and when Massachusetts, in 1774, was made the subject of restrictive measures by the home ministry, general indignation was aroused. As the possibility of a collision became apparent town meetings were held, contributions of money and provisions were voted for the distressed inhabitants of Boston, whose port had been closed by act of Parliament, non-intercourse with British merchants advised, a general congress representing all the colonies proposed, and Committees of Correspondence appointed to circulate all news of importance. A convention of delegates from the two counties of New London and Windham, held at Norwich, September 8, 1774, went further and recommended their towns to keep up their stock of ammunition and attend to the exercise of the train-bands. In the Assembly of the Colony, which in May, 1774, adopted resolutions protesting against the recent acts of Parliament touching America, the drift of events was so far recognized, that, in October, it required the selectmen of the towns to provide a double quantity of "powder, balls and flint" and in January, 1775, ordered the entire militia to muster and drill once a week during the three months following. The situation was characterized as "an alarming crisis"

The crisis culminated on April 19, 1775. A detachment of British troops marching out from Boston to seize military stores alleged to have been collected at Concord for hostile purposes, was met upon the road by the Provincials and a bloody encounter took place. The since famous skirmishes of Lexington and Concord were fought, which precipitated the Revolutionary War. An "alarm" was immediately spread in every direction, so that on the 27th of April it had reached the principal points as far as Baltimore, and by the 11th of May was posted at Charlestown, S. C. Throughout New England the news was rapidly carried by horse "expresses" from to town. It was dispatched to Connecticut by the Massachusetts Committee of safety at Watertown during the progress of the fighting, or "near ten o'clock" of Wednesday morning, April 19th: "The bearer, Israel Bessel, is charged to alarm the country quite to Connecticut, and all persons are desired to furnish him with fresh horses as they may be needed." During Thursday, the 20th, the news was circulating through the eastern part of the Colony. The people of Windham County received it generally by noon. It reached Governor Trumbull at Lebanon not long after. It was doubtless a Hartford before night: at New Haven on the following evening, Friday, the 21st, and forwarded from there through Fairfield and Stamford to New York.

Prepared to a certain extent for such an alarm, a large number of able-bodied men in Connecticut hurried off to Massachusetts. The wording used in the records of the day, "marched for the relief of Boston" expresses alike the extent of their sympathies and the nature of the service intended. The response to the alarm was not the official action of the Colony, nor, on the other hand, an impromptu movement of individuals without previous organization. An "uprising" armed men might have partaken of a mob character and the militia regiments as such could only be called out by the governor or legislature. It was rather a movement of the townsmen marching under their militia organizations. The gathering thus became orderly as well as spontaneous and represented the town spirit shown previously in protests and resolutions. It appears from the records that in some cases the companies or train-bands collected and marched off under their officers without further orders: in other cases, the colonels taking the lead, called out a certain number of their men and directed them to march forthwith to the point of danger; in a few cases volunteer companies were organized for the special service; in addition, many individuals, not belonging to the militia, joined in the march, either providing for themselves or going with the companies. Colonel Williams of the 11th Regiment. sends out word on the 20th. "that it will be expedient for every man to go who is fit and willing." A letter dated Wethersfield, April 23d, describes the scene there as follows: "We are all in motion here and equipt from the Town yesterday, one hundred young men, who cheerfully offered their service, twenty-days' provision and sixty-four rounds per man. They are all well armed and in high spirits. My brother has gone with them and others of the first property. Our neighboring towns are all arming and moving. Men of the first character shoulder their arms and march off for the field of action. We shall by night have several thousands from this Colony on their march.... We fix on our Standards and Drums the Colony arms, with the motto 'qui transtulit sustinet. round it in letters of gold, which we construe thus: 'God, who transplanted us hither, will support us.'" Writing from Wallingford, April 24th, Mr. James Lockwood says: "Col. Wadsworth was over at this place most of yesterday and has ordered twenty men out of each Company of his Regiment, some of which had already set off and others go this morning.... The Country beyond here are all gone." Nor were the Colony officials inactive. Upon receiving "the tragical narrative" from Massachusetts, Gov. Trumbull issued writs for a special meeting of the Assembly on the 26th, and the general Committee of Correspondence sent prompt assurance of assistance to President Hancock of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. Writing from Lebanon on the 21st, the Committee say: "Every preparation is making to support your Province.... The ardour of our people is such that they can't be kept back. the Colonels are to forward part of the best men and the most ready, as fast as possible, the remainer to be ready at a moment's warning. These are the present movements with us"

The number of men who are reported in the records to have marched in the Lexington alarm was about four thousand. The duty was necessarily temporary and brief. Some of the companies returned home before reaching Boston, as their presence was not needed. Upton the organization of regiments for service during the year, many of the same men enlisted and continued for different terms during the war. At the May Session of the Legislature their service was recognized and the men paid for the time as given on the following lists, the originals of which are on file in the State Library, rev. War, Vol. II.

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