The Lexington Alarm reached Andover, Massachusetts by 5 o'clock that April morning, but the minutemen got a rather late start and arrived too late to participate in the opening engagements of the American Revolution. Oxen may have been "left in the field...the food untasted on the table" as one Andover history written in the late 19th century recalls, but this same volume includes a journal excerpt from Thomas Boynton, a sergeant in Captain Benjamin Ames' Andover company of Minutemen, who recorded the following for April 19, 1775 :
"This morning, being Wednesday, about the sun's rising the town was alarmed with the news that the Regulars was on their march to Concord. Upon which the town mustered and about 10 o'clock marched onward to Concord. In Tewksbury news came that the Regulars had fired on our men in Lexington, and had killed 8. In Bilricke (sic) news came that the enemy were killing and slaying our men in Concord. Bedford we had news that the enemy had killed two of our men and had retreated back; we shifted our course and persued (sic) after them as fast as possible, but all in vain; the enemy had the start of 3 or 4 miles...after we came into Concord road we saw houses burning and others plundered and dead bodies of the enemy lying by the way, others taken prisoners. About eight at night our regiment came to a halt in notime (sic). The next morning we came into Cambridge and there abode."
One of the Andover men in Benjamin Ames' Company was my ancestor Nathaniel Abbot(t), the third and youngest son of Deacon Joseph Abbot(t), a member of the Town Committee of Safety, and Deborah Blanchard, whose maiden name has long been a middle name in our family (including my own and that of my father and grandfather before me). The second (t) in our Abbott surname, incidently, has been added or omitted as each generation favored, and has been used exclusively in our branch of the family since the early 1800s.
Nathaniel Abbot(t) had other relations in his unit. His cousin Isaac was 2nd Lieutenant, and several other Abbot(t)s and Blanchards marched alongside him. Ames Company also included African American soldiers not listed on the rolls during the alarm but who would serve two month's later in the thick of the fighting at Bunker Hill. Among them were Philip Abbot, "the Negro servant of Nathan Abbot", and Salem Poor, who purchased his freedom in 1769 for 27£ and was to figure prominently in the battle, credited with shooting British Lt. Col. James Abercrombie.
Captain Ames' unit was one of two minute companies mustered in Andover and was part of Colonel Frye's Regiment. Ames' Company may have been late to respond to the Lexinton Alarm but they were right in the thick of things at Bunker Hill. On June 16, 1775, Nathaniel Abbot(t) and his comrades assembled on Cambridge Common and received orders to march to Charlestown where they worked through the night and into the next morning entrenching a redoubt on Breed's Hill, under fire from the British shipping and batteries in Boston.
The misnamed "Battle of Bunker Hill" has become part of the American creation myth. Twice the redcoats advanced up the slope and twice they were repulsed with heavy losses. The third time they reached the redoubt and drove the defenders over Charlestown Neck. It was a Pyrrhic victory that cost the British nearly 50% casualties (226 killed and 828 wounded, including 92 officers), causing British General Clinton to remark in his diary that "A few more such victories would have surely put an end to British dominion in America." The patriot forces lost 140 killed, 270 wounded and 30 taken prisoner, or a bit less than 30% casualties. Inside the redoubt, Colonel Frye's regiment lost 15 killed and 39 wounded. Captain Ames Company lost 3 killed and 8 wounded (1 mortally). Among the dead was African American private Philip Abbot.
My ancestor Nathaniel Abbot(t) lost a coat during the retreat but managed to escape with his unit and was later discharged August 20, 1775. He went on to serve as 1st Lieutenant and later Captain in the 11th Massachusetts Regiment(Francis/Tupper's), which fought a rearguard action during the retreat from Ticonderoga at Hubbardton, Vermont and was at Saratoga in 1777 before joining Washington's Army at Valley Forge and taking part in the Battle of Monmouth the following year. There is no record of Nathaniel Abbot(t)'s service in the muster rolls after September, 1778, and he subsequently relocated with his family to Wilton, NH, where he was a shoemaker until his death in 1791. He was the last in our branch of the family to live in Andover until my parents relocated there in 1991, 200 years after his death.