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Elijah Sanderson (Patriot)

By early 1775, it was clear that a confrontation would take place between the people of Massachusetts and British forces. Elijah Sanderson was a Patriot that lived in Concord. He was a Minuteman and was determined to gather intelligence for the Americans. On April 18, 1775 he was captured by British officers who had also intercepted Paul Revere during his Midnight Ride. The following article from the April 28, 1825 Eastern Argus describes how he was captured and also the battle at Concord. He told his story for the 50th anniversary of the battle:

"I, ELIJAH SANDERSON, of Salem, in the country of Essex, cabinet-maker, aged seventy-three years, on oath depose as follows:

In this spring of 1775, I resided in Lexington, and had resided there then more than a year. In the spring of that year, the officers of the British regular troops in Boston were frequently making excursions, in small parties into the country, and often, in the early part of the day, In pleasant weather, passed through Lexington, and usually were seen returning before evening. I lived then on the main road, about three quarters of a mile east of the meeting house.

On the evening of the 18th of April, 1775, we saw a party of officers pass up from Boston, all dressed in blue wrappers. The unusually late hour of their passing excited the attention of the citizens. I took my gun and cartridge box and thinking something must be going on more than common, walked up to John Buckman's tavern near the meeting house. After some conversation among the citizens assembled there, an old gentleman advised, that some one should follow those officers and endeavor to ascertain their object. I then observed, that if any one would let me have a horse, I would go in pursuit. Thaddeus Harrington told me I might take his, which was there. I took his, and Solomon Brown proposed to accompany me on his own horse. Jonathan Loring also went with us. We started, probably about nine o'clock; and we agreed, if we could find the officers, we would return and give information, as the fears were, that the object was, to come back in the night, and seize Hancock and Adams, and carry them into Boston. It had been rumoured, that the British officers had threatened, that Hancock and Adams should not stay at Lexington. They had been boarding some time at Parson Clarke's.

We set out in pursuit. Just before we got to Brook's in Lincoln, while riding along, we were stopped by nine British officers, who were paraded across the road. They were all mounted. One rode up and seized my bridle, and another my arm, and one put his pistol to my breast, and told me, if l resisted, I was a dead main. I asked what he wanted. He replied he wanted to detain me a little while. He ordered me to get off my horse. Several of them dismounted and threw down the wall, and led us into the field. They examined and questioned us where we were going &c. Two of them staid in the road, and the other seven with us relieving each other from time to time. They detained us in that vicinity till a quarter past two o'clock at night. An officer, who took out his watch, informed me what the time was. It was a bright moon light after the rising of the moon, and a pleasant evening. During our detention, they put many questions to us, which I evaded. They kept us separately, and treated us very civilly. They particularly inquired where Hancock and Adams were; also about the population. One said. 'You've been numbering the inhabitants, have not ye?” I told him how many it was reported there were. One of them spoke up and said. 'There were not so many, men, women and children.' They asked as many questions as a Yankee could.

While we were under detention they look two other prisoners, one Allen, a one-handed peddler, and Col. Paul Revere; also they attempted to stop a man on horseback, who, we immediately after understood, was Dr. Prescott’s son. He was well mounted, and, after turning from the road into the field toward us, he put spurs to his horse and escaped. Several of the officers pursued him, but could not overtake him.

After they had taken Revere, they brought him within half a rod of me, and I heard him speak up with energy to them, 'Gentleman; you've missed of your aim!' Revere replied, 'I came out of Boston an hour after your troops had come out of Boston, and landed as Lechmere's Point, and if I had not known people had been sent out to give information to the country, and time enough to get fifty miles, I would have ventured one about from you, before I would have, suffered you to have stopped me.' Upon this they went little aside and conversed together. They then ordered me to untie my horse, (which was tied to a little birch) and mount. They kept us in the middle of the road, and rode on each side of us. We went toward Lexington.

They took all of us, (Revere, Loring, and Brown and myself). My horse not being swift, and they riding at considerable speed, one of the officers pressed my horse forward, by striking him with his hanger. When we had arrived within fifty or one hundred rod of the meeting house, Loring (as he afterwards informed me) told them, 'The bell's a ringing, the town's alarmed, and you're all dead men.' They then stopped—conferred together. One then dismounted, and ordered me to dismount, and said to me, 'I must do you an injury.' I asked, what he was going to do with me now? He made no reply, but with his hanger cut my bridle and girth, and then mounted, and they rode in a good smart trot on toward Boston. We then turned off to pass through the swamp, through the mud and water, intending to arrive at the meeting house before they could pass, to give information to our people. Just before they got to the meeting house, they had bolted, which led us to hope, we should get there first; but they soon started off again at full speed, and we saw no more of them.

I went to the tavern. The citizens were coming and going; Some went down to find whether the British were coming; some came back; and said there was no truth in it. I went to sleep in my chair by the fire. In short time after, the drum bent, and I ran out to the common, where the militia were parading. The captain ordered them to fall in. I then fell in. I was all in the utmost haste. The British troops were then coming on in full sight. I had no musket: having sent it home, the night previous, by my brother, before I started for Concord-and, reflecting I was of no use, I stepped out again from the company, about two rods, and was gazing at the British, coming on in full career. Several mounted British officers were forward—I think, five—The commander rode up, with his pistol in his hand, on a canter, the others following, to about eight or ten rods from the company perhaps nearer, and ordered them to disperse. The words he used were harsh. I cannot remember them exactly. He then said 'Fire and he fired his own pistol, and the other officers soon fired, and with that the main body came up and fired, but did not take sight. They loaded again as soon as possible. All was smoke when the foot fired. I heard no particular orders after what the commander first said. I looked and seeing nobody fall [th]ought to be sure they couldn't be firing balls and I did not move off. After our militia had dispersed, I saw them firing at one man, (Solomon Brown,) who was stationed behind a wall, I saw the wall smoke with the bullets hitting it. I they knew they were firing balls.

After the affair was over, he told me he fired into a solid column of them, and then retreated. He was in the cow-yard. The wall saved him. He legged it just about the time I went away. In a minute or two after, the British music struck up, and their troops paraded and marched right off for Concord.

I went home after my gun—found it was gone. My brother had it. I returned to the meeting house, and saw to the dead. I saw blood where the column of the British had stood when Solomon Brown fired at them. This was several rods from where any of our militia stood, and I then supposed, as well as the rest of us, that that was the blood of the British.

I assisted in carrying some of the dead into the meeting house.

Some days before the battle, I was conversing with Jonas Parker, who was killed, and heard him express his determination never to run from before the British troops.

In the afternoon I saw the reinforcement come up under Lord Percy. I then had no musket; and retired to Easterbrook’s Hill, whence I saw the reinforcement meet the troops retreating from Concord. When they met, they halted some time. After this, they set fire to Deacon Boring's barn—then to his house—then to widow Mullikan's house—then to the shop of Nathanial Mullikan, a watch and clock maker—and to the house and shop of Joshua Bond. All these were near the place where the reinforcements took refreshments. They hove fire into several other buildings. It was extinguished after their retreat.

During the day the women and children, had been so scattered and dispersed, that most of them were out of the way when the reinforcements arrived.

I now own the musket, which I then owned and which my brother had that day, and told me be fired at the British with it."

Elijah Sanderson.

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