Scottish Participation at the Battles of Lexington and Concord

April 19, 2020 will mark the 245th Anniversary of the start of the American Revolutionary War.  

The battles of Lexington and Concord which triggered the War of Independence and was a brewing response to the Boston Massacre, taxation without representation, and other hardships such as the Sugar Act, Stamp Act and Townshend Acts imposed by Great Britain. These events generated fierce resentment in the eyes of the colonists. 

The “story” behind the story.  

More than a century before the American Revolution, the English Civil War raged from 1642 -1651. The final battles began in 1650 Charles (Stewart) II sent his Royalist army led by David Leslie to invade England comprised mostly of Scottish highlanders determined to regain the throne. In a disastrous campaign Leslie and his army were defeated by Oliver Cromwell’s Covenanter army at the Battles of Dunbar, Scotland and Worcester, England.  Ultimately, the losses forced Charles II to escape to the continent and English Civil War had ended. 

As a result of this failed campaign 15,000 Scots were taken prisoner where many died in captivity.  Cromwell deported 470 Scottish prisoners as indentured servants to Boston (arriving in Charlestown and Lynn MA). Upon arrival, the majority of these were sent to work as laborers at the Saugus and Braintree Ironworks and a smaller contingent was sent to work at the sawmills in Oyster River New Hampshire, Kittery and Berwick Maine.

In January 1657, 28 Scots who had fulfilled their time as indentured servants came together to form the Scots Charitable Society.  Their purpose, to raise funds to help release fellow former Scottish prisoners of war from servitude and to provide charitable support for Scottish families. 

In the years that followed, the descendants of the Scottish prisoners grew, prospered and merged into colonial society. The Scots played a prominent role in defending the colonies against marauding Indians and fought the Indians in King Philip’s War.  During the French & Indian War (1754-1763) which pitted the colonies of British America against those of New France, Scots allied with the British in defense of the colonies. Then, fought against the British in the Revolutionary War.

On April 18, 1775, one day before the outbreak of the battle on the Lexington Common, a meeting was held at Munroe Tavern, a locally gathering place for colonials, owned by William Munroe, an Orderly Sergeant serving under Capt. John Parker, and a great grandson of the original William Monroe who was a transported prisoner of war after his capture at the Battle of Worcester.

In the predawn hours of April 19, 1775, Capt. Parker assembled his militia in response to the news General Gage had dispatched 800 British Regulars to march toward Lexington on their way to Concord to seize a large stockpile of gunpowder and ammunition. As the morning mist gave way to the light of dawn, 77 minutemen bravely stood facing well-trained British soldiers on the Lexington common.  Among these minutemen were 32 patriots of Scottish descent. Along with William Munroe, others may have also been the grandsons and great grandsons of the Scottish prisoners of war taken a century earlier at the Battles of Dunbar and Worcester.