Monday, December 21, 2009

Captain Charles Miles home, Concord

One of my ongoing issues with the re-telling of the events of April 18-19, 1775, is the difference between the depiction of the people at the two principal sites: the Lexington Green and the North Bridge in Concord. A longer post on all of this is forthcoming but, suffice to say, the stories of the people at the North Bridge ring true to me. Real people. Real courage. Real fear.

Concord Captain Charles Miles is part of that story at the Bridge on April 19, 1775.

When the minutemen and militia leaders were asked to march across the Concord bridge on that morning, Acton's minuteman captain, Isaac Davis, replied "I haven't a man who's afraid to fight". With that, Davis led the roughly 400 assembled minutemen and militia from Acton, Concord, Lincoln, Westford and elsewhere towards the Bridge - and the wary British regulars who were securing the strategic site.

Even with an ackowledgement that pride was not in short supply among many of the colonial era individuals - no matter what their station in life happened to be, the Davis statement sounds a little boastful. Perhaps even reckless. Yet various accounts of Davis tend to show a serious, prudent, thoughtful man - just the sort one would want as a leader. So why would he make this statement?

While the minutemen and militia were assembled on the hillside, smoke - described in one account as "huge volumes of smoke" - was seen arising from Concord Center. The fear was that the British regulars were now beginning to torch the town. Major John Buttrick, on orders from Colonel James Barrett, turned to Concord Captain Charles Miles to lead the foray into the center. It was, after all, his community to defend; the honor should be his.

Except that he declined.

Why would he decline? Probably common sense and a sense of self-preservation. Even though the British regulars were outnumbered by about a 4 to 1 margin, the front line of any attack is going to be where casualties occur. And New Englanders were reticent about marching into the muzzles of guns. When discussing the military effectiveness of the local militia, American General Nathanael Greene wrote:
"Place them behind a parapet, a breast-work, stone wall, or anything that will afford them shelter... they will give good account of their enemy; but I am well convinced, as I had seen it, that they will not march boldly up to a work nor stand exposed in a plain."
Miles's day did not end at the North Bridge and he fought elsewhere on that day. He was wounded but was erroneously listed as "killed" on the famous broadside detailing the British atrocities of that day:


A very good account of Miles' life by the esteemed local historian, Dr. Michael Ryan, can be found here.

The home is located at 462 Williams Road in Concord. It is a very nicely maintained private residence and is not open to the public. There is no parking nearby and the vehicles travel quickly on these narrow roads so only a quick peek is possible.

A street nearby is named Captain Miles Lane for the man who stood looking down at the British guns.

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