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[p. 9]

Told on Winter Hill.

TO the student of history, as well as to all of patriotic thought, the scenes of the Colonial and Revolutionary Wars have a special interest.

It was with somewhat of patriotic and reverential feeling that the writer strolled along the road from Lake George and past Bloody Pond with his grandson, and told the little boy the story of the old struggle for supremacy in that gateway of the north, and how his three times great grandfather had gone over the same route to Fort William Henry, also not omitting the story of Burgoyne's southward march over the same historic ground.

And again, how impressive were the hours spent in the old Marshall house at Schuylerville (the home of a daughter's friend). There the Baroness Reidesel found shelter, descending to the cellar for safety during the cannonade of one of the world's decisive battles.

Then the visit to the Saratoga battle monument, whose lofty shaft fitly commemorates the struggle of an eventful day, will never be forgotten. In enduring bronze on three sides stand the figures of Schuyler, Gates and Morgan, but the empty niche on the fourth speaks eloquently, but sadly, of the one who fought so bravely till wounded. Empty it must ever remain; only the name of Arnold suggests the reason why. Historians accord to Arnold exceptional bravery on that day, and better had it been for him had the enemy's wound been fatal.

Under Arnold's command was an officer whose memory Medford ever delights to honor—John Brooks. Certainly it was with a feeling of satisfaction that we looked across the hills to the scene of the heroic charge, and remembered the part the Medford doctor and the Massachusetts men took therein. Nearly a century ago an episode occurred in Medford that recalled that battle day. It is worthy of record in Medford annals, and we can do no better than to quote it entire, as given by Gen. W. H. Sumner in Massachusetts Historical Collection, Vol. III. [p. 10]

IN the year 1816, General Brooks having been declared governor by the two branches of the Legislature, I was invited out to breakfast with him at Medford on the day fixed for his inauguration. Colonel Hall and one or two others were present. I shall never forget the day, which was one of the pleasantest in June. There was a cavalcade formed in Boston, which proceeded to Medford, under the command of General Sullivan, to escort the popular governor into Boston to the State House, where he was to take the oath of office. The inhabitants of Medford, being desirous of rendering all honor to their beloved townsman, had watered their streets, that there might be no dust, and crowded the windows and tops of the houses to see the cavalcade. They had previously appointed peace officers to serve on the occasion, who stopped all carriages at the ends of the various streets that entered the village, so that the procession should be uninterrupted. It was understood that the escort would arrive at Medford at nine o'clock. We sat down to breakfast at eight. While at our meal General Brooks saw through the window a tall old gentleman, dressed in his Sunday clothes, with a cocked hat and a long cane. He said to Colonel Hall: ‘Pray look out at the door and see if that is not Captain Bancroft who is passing by. I think it is, and that he is come down to witness the ceremonies of this occasion, and is going by my house, being too modest to present himself. Pray go out and ask him in.’

He was right in his conjecture, and Colonel Bancroft (for, after he was discharged from the army, he took command of a regiment of militia, which he held a long time) modestly entered the side door. This was the distinguished officer who commanded a company in the Eighth Regiment, under the command of Colonel Brooks, in the battle of Bemis' Heights, between the armies of Generals Gates and Burgoyne, during the Revolutionary War, on the 7th of October, 1777. After the usual salutations between these two officers, who had so much distinguished themselves on that occasion, General Brooks asked Colonel [p. 11] Bancroft to take a cup of coffee and remain till the procession came up, and added, ‘There is no man whom I am more glad to see on this occasion than yourself.’ To which the other answered (the parties, forgetting their present rank, addressed each other by the titles they held in the Revolutionary army): ‘There is no one, Colonel Brooks, who rejoices in it more than I do. I breakfasted at Reading, and came down on purpose to witness the ceremonies of this occasion. The choice of a governor which the people have made delights my heart. I can truly say that if you make as good a governor as you did colonel of a regiment, you will render yourself distinguished, and the people will be blessed in your administration.’ Tears flowed down their cheeks as they clasped each other's hands. To the remarks of Captain Bancroft, Colonel Brooks replied (they still shaking hands heartily), ‘I thank you, Captain Bancroft, for your kind expressions of confidence. I did not seek the office to which the people have elected me, and I fear I do not possess the qualifications for it; but I can truly say that if, in the office of governor, I have such support as I had as colonel of a regiment in taking Breyman's Fort on Bemis' Heights, I shall hope to do the State some service.’

The cavalcade now entered the streets of Medford amid the acclamations of the citizens. General Brooks mounted his charger, and by his request, I rode by his side as volunteer aid. On the way, as we were ascending Winter Hill, General Brooks remarked:

Perhaps you do not know, sir, the reason why the meeting between Captain Bancroft and myself was so affecting. I will explain.

On the 7th of October, the day of the last battle with General Burgoyne, General Arnold and several officers dined with General Gates. I was among the company, and well remember that one of the dishes was an ox's heart. While at table we heard a firing from the advanced picket. The armies were about two miles from each other. The firing increased. We all rose from the table, and General Arnold, addressing General Gates, said, “ Shall I [p. 12] go out and see what is the matter?” General Gates made no reply, but, on being pressed, said, “I am afraid to trust you, Arnold.” To which Arnold answered, “ Pray let me go; I will be careful, and if our advance does not need support I will promise not to commit you.” Gates then told him he might go and see what the firing meant. Arnold lost no time in advancing with his brigade, and finding that the attack was serious, engaged the left of the enemy's right, where, meeting with great obstacles, he ordered me (I was then commanding the Eighth, or Jackson's Regiment, as it was commonly called) to get a position on the enemy's right flank. This was protected by Breyman's Fort, mounting several brass pieces, and was rather a breastwork, or redoubt, with guns mounted on three sides, than a fort. I advanced under cover of the woods, and as the regiment deployed out of them in front of the fort, the enemy, surprised at our sudden appearance, fired a volley of musketry at us. Seeing what they were about to do, as their heads rose above the parapet, the company on the left flank of the regiment, which was most exposed, immediately covered themselves from the discharge by dropping down behind a partridge log. I thought the volley had shot them all down, and rode to them in great haste to ascertain what was the matter. I was greatly agitated, and met Captain Bancroft, who commanded the left wing. He, also, had quit his place to see what disaster had occurred. At this moment the company all rose up and we were relieved from our apprehension. I was still, however, greatly agitated, and speaking sharply to Captain Bancroft I said, “What business have you here, sir?” The captain said, “I came to see what had happened to the company on the left.” I said, “You are out of place, sir.” With the submissive spirit of a good soldier he replied, “ I am ready to obey your orders, Colonel.” With great perturbation I responded, “My orders are that you advance and enter those lines, sir.” The captain, smarting under the reproof, quickly gave the word, “ Come on, my boys, and enter that fort.” Then, [p. 13] leading the way himself, he made a rapid movement forward, and his company ascended the parapet. Surprised at the suddenness of the assault, the enemy retired from the fort and the whole regiment entered it.

General Arnold, whose energy gave spirit to the whole action, having been wounded in the foot, Brigadier-General Learned assumed the command of the brigade.

As the day was far spent the men threw themselves down to rest, when General Learned called the officers together, and in hearing of the men, said, “I have called you together, gentlemen, to see whether you agree with me in opinion that it is best to return to our position. I am clearly of opinion that we cannot hold this place till morning; we may all fall a sacrifice in the attempt.” The officers of my regiment were the only ones who dissented from this opinion. I said I thought it was time enough to retreat when the enemy appeared. “If he does not attempt to retake the fort it will be an everlasting disgrace for us to abandon it; and if he does and we cannot defend it, there will be no dishonor in retreating. At any rate, my men are fatigued, and want rest and refreshment before they can move anywhere.” The soldiers cheered us as we returned from the council.

Shortly afterwards General Learned (who was a weak man), called another council to advise with the officers again, and as I was going to the meeting my men said, “For God's sake, Colonel, don't retreat; we have taken the work, and we are able to keep it,” and cheered again. At the second council but one other officer sided with me. Before the council broke up an officer (who turned out to be an aid-de-camp of General Gates) rode up in great speed, and cried out, “Who commands here?” The answer was, “Brigadier-General Learned.” As he appeared the officer said, “My orders from General Gates are that you should retain possession of this fort at all hazards,” and rode back with as much speed as he came up. “There now, Colonel Brooks,” said General Learned, “ I dare say you like that, and as your regiment had a principal hand [p. 14] in taking the work, I will commit to them the defence of it.”

It is sufficient to say that this great trophy of the victory over General Burgoyne's army remained in the hands of the regiment all night, and the American troops were never afterwards dispossessed of it, for, after the battle General Burgoyne fell back, and about a fortnight afterwards surrendered his whole army to General Gates.

It is somewhat remarkable that, at the dinner at General Gates's that day the chief point of discussion among the officers was, whether we should commence the attack, or receive General Burgoyne behind our breastwork at the lines should he attempt to advance. Arnold contended for the former, saying “ that the assailant had the advantage, for he can always take his own time and choose the point of attack, and if repulsed, he has only to retreat behind his own lines and form again.” General Gates said on the contrary, “If undisciplined militia were repulsed in the open field, and the enemy pressed upon them in their retreat, it would be difficult to form them again, even behind their own breastworks, for if they were under a panic they would keep on retreating, even after they had passed their own lines.”

The opinion expressed by General Arnold in this discussion was probably the cause why Gates was afraid to trust him to go out when the firing was first heard, lest he should bring on an engagement in the open field, and contrary to his own opinion of its expediency.

In reading Governor Brooks' story, as thus related by his auditor, we may well raise the query, ‘What would have been the effect had his regiment fallen back, as his superior officer wished?’ and admire his good judgment in remaining and holding the ground thus won. What wonder that in the hour of his honorable advancement (nearly forty years later), that the memory of that crucial time should have so visibly affected those two worthy men! [p. 15]

A bit of Medford archaeology.

IN the summer of 1911 the upper reach of the Mystic River was dredged to a uniform depth, including the portion under Wear Bridge. By means of the gates in the Cradock dam the river was for a time drained to its lowest point, revealing the bottom, never before seen by mortal eyes. As the work progressed some interesting features were noticed, but none more so than the exhuming of a heavy framework of oak timber on the Medford side, about midway between Harvard and Fairfield avenues. It was in a good state of preservation, and though incomplete, enough remained intact to indicate the existence, long ago, of an extensive and substantial structure. Comparatively few people saw it, as the location was not much frequented, and it was, ere long, removed. By the accident of a Sunday morning stroll it was observed by the writer, who returned in the afternoon and secured the visible evidence shown in our illustration,1 meanwhile wondering what the structure could have been. As nothing of the kind has been found elsewhere in Medford, a description of this may not be amiss as a matter of record.

The timber in the foreground was twelve inches square and about fourteen feet long. The two extending from it were nearly thirty feet long and tapered from twelve to ten inches. Extending from one to the other of these, and parallel with the first, was a ten-inch timber, and all were mortised and tenoned together. Midway, and parallel with the first, extending toward the river at the right and the land on the left, were two other ten-inch timbers about four feet apart. The framework was thus in the form of a Greek cross, one arm of which was over twice the width of the other. Mortises in the inner sides of [p. 16] the timbers showed that the arms of the cross had been timbered for a flooring, while others on the top sides indicated that upright timbers had been set up and sheathed, thus making one trough or sluiceway about ten feet wide, and two smaller ones, at right angles with it, about four feet. From the first mentioned timber there extended into the ground sloping, seven joists four by five inches in size. These were spiked into the notches cut in the large timber. No vestige of flooring or sheathing remained, nor joists to which either were fastened. They were probably of softer and lighter material, like pine or spruce, and therefore more easily removed. The upper mortises at the intersection of the cross were larger than those intervening, while those nearest the large timber in the foreground were nearly double the size of those larger ones. The timber at the farther end was cut two inches longer than the nearer width, thus allowing for the taper of the longest timbers.

Naturally the query arose, ‘What was this structure of the past?’ for its builders must have been artisans of long ago. The History of Medford (Brooks, p. 393) says:

‘There was a mill a short distance below Wear bridge, but who built it and how long it stood we have not been able to discover. The place is still occupied.’ [1855.]

We can but wish that Mr. Brooks had been more explicit in the latter sentence. To the writer's certain knowledge there was no visible structure at this location in 1870, nor yet visible remains that would indicate anything below the surface of the tide-flowed bank. Inquiry among old residents fails to throw any light on the matter. Did Mr. Brooks mean that some remains of a tide-mill still existed at his time of writing, or were known to him in his earlier or boyhood days? In the same section he mentioned a sale of a ‘grist mill on the Menotomy side’ in 1660. This mill was not in Medford, but in Charlestown (now Arlington), and just above the bend of the Mystic and mouth of the Menotomy river. (See Vol. XIII, p. 7, Register.) [p. 17]

The ancient map of the Charlestown ‘Linefeilde’ is interesting to note just here, in that it shows two islands in the river directly adjoining the location of this old frame. It, however, shows none just below Wear bridge but one existed there, as shown on the ‘Fuller Plan,’ 1855, and was removed a few years ago by the Park Commission. Thus it is evident that the configuration of the river has been subject to some change. Just below this old framework was a broad inlet or bay, which would form a tailrace of the mill's outflow. It is now sixty years since Mr. Brooks wrote his history of Medford and he was then sixty years of age. He doubtless saw some remains of the building (of which this was a part) a hundred years ago, but it was so ruinous as to baffle his efforts to identify the builders or operators. And so arises the query: ‘How old was this? When was it constructed?’

Two facts are evident: First, it was on land purchased of Edward Collins by Thomas Brooks and his soninlaw, Capt. Timothy Wheeler. Second, it must have been built at a time subsequent to that of the Broughton mill ‘on the Menotomy side,’ which was 1656. The highway from Cambridge to Woburn passed over the Broughton mill-dam to present Grove street, and had become disused for some years and was discontinued in 1708, the travel being diverted and crossing made further up stream at Wear bridge. The plan of the ‘Linefeilde,’ showing the two islands referred to, was doubtless prior to the building of the mill by Broughton, as no reference to it is found thereon, though it was on the Menotomy side. Again Broughton's mills ‘he built in the river of Misticke,’ and had a dam extending across the river, which flowed the water backward over the Symmes' meadows in present Winchester. This dam may have become so insecure as to cause its disuse as a roadway and caused its final abandonment. With its disuse came the opportunity for the erection of another mill farther up-stream, with the islands as a favorable site on which [p. 18] to construct a wing dam. This old mill may safely be set down as having been constructed two centuries ago, and must have served an important purpose in the routine of affairs in that old Medford that lay four miles along the Mystic.

M. W. M.

1 The writer also made a sketch and measurements, which has been mislaid, and after developing his negative, made another visit, hoping to secure a better, but found it impossible as the water was higher and the timbers, waterlogged and heavy, were partially submerged. Absence from the city for a few weeks followed, and on his return he found it had been entirely removed, the river bank graded and flowed to the normal height.

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