1775: Leslie unable to capture cannons
a regiment of British soldiers, under the command of Colonel Leslie, commander of the British 64th Regiment of Foot, were ordered to capture the eight cannons stored on Salem’s North Fields. 250 men disembarked at Holman’s Cove in Marblehead at around 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Marbleheaders, led by Major John Pedrick (who knew Leslie personally), rang the alarm in Salem and together with those citizens ultimately confronted the British on the North Bridge in Salem. Colonel Leslie demanded that the bridge, which was up on the far side, be lowered. But the locals refused, knowing that Pedrick’s forces were on the way. Colonel Leslie ordered his men to fire. But Captain John Felt of the Salem militia informed the Colonel that the British troops had no right to fire and if they did, they would all be killed. Incidentally, Frank Benson and Joseph Whicher during all of this sank two barges nearby so the British couldn’t use them to cross. When British soldiers poked their bayonets at them, the two men flippantly bared their chests in the frigidly cold New England air. Whicher actually received a superficial wound, drawing the first blood of the American Revolution. The situation drew out over the afternoon, all the while word was that thousands of patriots were on the way. And agreement was ultimately reached where the draw was lowered and the British allowed to march about 165 yards into the North Salem before turning around and returning to Marblehead, on the way constant disparaged by residents with catcalls and insults. The British returned to Marblehead, led by their fifers playing “The World’s Turned Upside Down,” (the same tune played at Lord Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown in 1781. Unable to seize the cannons in Danvers that were the object of their invasion, Colonel’s Leslie’s reputation was protected by his friends in high places as reflected in Lord Dartmouth’s report to Governor Gage
have been adapted with thanks from Bill Purdin’s Marblehead History Timeline published by Marblehead Magazine.