Pvt. Nathaniel Butterworth by descendants Robert Jon Hess SAR #190867 and Robert K. Hess SAR #190866

Nathaniel Butterworth was born on December 4, 1735 in Rehoboth, which is in Bristol County, Massachusetts. (Rehoboth is approximately 25 miles SSE of Bellingham in Norfolk County, Massachusetts. Bellingham is approximately 10 miles north of the Rhode Island state line and about 34 miles SSW of Lexington, and Lexington is about 13 miles NW of Boston.) On August 1, 1761 at age 25, Nathaniel Butterworth married Elizabeth Hayward, age 25, in Bellingham, Massachusetts.

Nathaniel Butterworth was a member of the militia, and he was a Minute Man. In the early morning hours when he was called out on the Lexington alarm on April 19, 1775, Nathaniel had 5 children at home, three girls and two boys: Esther, age 13; Sarah, age 11; Otis, age 7; Ezuba, age 5 and Niles, age 2, all born in Bellingham. As tensions had continued to grow with the British government, the Colonials reestablished the same alarm system used by the militia during the Indian wars. On April 19, as the Lexington alarm spread throughout New England, Nathaniel’s brother Noah lived in Cumberland, in Providence County, Rhode Island. Both Noah Butterworth and Noah’s son (also named Noah) were members of the militia and also marched toward Lexington that morning. Nathaniel was a private in Captain Jesse Holbrook’s company, which marched out of Bellingham on the morning of April 19. The company was gone until the British army had been pushed all the way from Concord back into Boston.

Before noon on April 19, about 500 militiamen had mustered at the North Bridge in Concord when they engaged three companies of Lt. Col. Smith’s expedition, taking casualties on both sides. The British troops retreated back into Concord and the British then marched from there back toward Lexington. More militiamen continued to arrive from neighboring towns and villages, and gunfire erupted again between the two sides, continuing throughout the day. Upon returning to Lexington, Lt. Col. Smith’s expedition was rescued by reinforcements under Brigadier General Hugh Percy. Their combined force, numbering about 1,700 men, then marched back toward Boston under heavy fire in a tactical withdrawal.

The British troops derided the militiamen for refusing to stand and fight. However, the Colonials did not have the ability to attach long bayonets to the ends of their muskets as the British troops did and would simply have been run through after the first volley, as the militiamen were earlier in the day on Lexington Green. All the militiamen had for close combat were knives and tomahawks that they had used in the Indian wars. Instead, militiamen chose to fight as the Indians did, taking cover behind rocks and trees as they exchanged fire with the British Regulars.

Eventually the British troops reached the safety of Charlestown. By then, the accumulated militias numbered over 2,000 men who then blockaded the narrow land accesses to Charlestown and Boston, starting the Siege of Boston. In the “Concord Hymn”, Ralph Waldo Emerson described the first shot fired by the Patriots at the North Bridge as the “shot heard round the world.”

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