Fiske Hill

A wide open field with a tree line in the distance. The trees and grass are a mixture of red, orange, and green.
Fiske Hill Meadow

NPS Photo

Fiske Hill marks the eastern boundary of the Battle Road Trail in Minute Man National Historical Park. Today the hill comprises about 75 acres of field and forest on the western edge of Lexington, Massachusetts. On April 19, 1775 fighting between Colonial Militia and British Regulars spilled over the crest of Fiske Hill including through the Fiske farm.

Early History Of Fiske Hill

The history of Fiske Hill stretches well beyond April 19, 1775. Human inhabitation of this region dates back over twelve thousand years and by the early seventeenth century, Algonquian people had been living along the Musketequid River, today known as the Concord River, for about a thousand years. Before contact with European settlers these indigenous peoples hunted large game in the surrounding forests including those that covered modern-day Fiske Hill.

When Puritan families ventured inland around 1635, they claimed the prosperous land along the Musketequid River as their own. In a short time, European settlers cleared large tracts of forest to established Concord Plantation, now Concord, Massachusetts. One settler, David Fiske II arrived at Concord Plantation around 1647 and claimed the elevated terrain now called Fiske Hill.

During the latter half of the 17th Century, David Fiske II and his wife Lydia established a homestead on the eastern slope of Fiske Hill at the western border of Cambridge, now known as Lexington. There the couple raised seven children including David Fiske III. Eventually the younger David built a farm near his father and together the Fiske's farmed the land until the end of their lives. When David Fiske III died in 1729 the farm passed to his son Ebenezer, who owned the land during the Revolutionary Period. In 1775, Ebenezer lived in his home on the eastern base of Fiske Hill with his son Benjamin, his daughter-in-law- Rebekah, and at least one enslaved man named "Pompee."


Battle of the Bay Road

In 1775 the Bay Road passed up and over the tall hill owned by Ebenezer Fiske. At the time of the battle wide meadows with small clusters of trees covered most of the hill. Benjamin Fiske, the son of Ebenezer Fiske lived in his father's home on the Eastern base of the hill with his wife Rebekah Fiske.

On the morning of April 19, 1775, Benjamin was exempt from militia service due to a painful leg injury however the prominent location of his farm placed the family in the direct path of the British expedition to Concord. Years after the fateful day, Rebekah Fiske recorded her eye witness account of what transpired.

“’I heard the guns,’ says she, ‘at about day-break, but being unapprehensive of the danger, did not, like most of our neighbors move off for fear of the enemy; especially as my father was confined to his bed of a severe sickness, so that in fleeing from the house we must leave him behind, which I could not consent to. Our domestics had already absconded, we knew not whither. I, therefore, and my husband, who, on account of a certain indisposition, was incapacitated for military service, remained in the house with our father, while the enemy passed; which they did without offering us any injury. I remember well, their exact order, red coats, glittering arms, and appalling numbers.”

Those Regular soldiers passing the Fiske house had just fired into a group of Lexington, Militia gathered on the village green nearly two miles away. Rebekah continued,

"“Some time after, on their arrival at Concord, a report of musketry was once more heard, and in broken and incessant volleys. It was a sound of death to us. All now was trepidation, fever, and rushing to arms; women and children bewildered and souring across the fields. With much ado, we succeeded in yoking our oxen and getting father on his bed into an ox-cart, and thus moving him off as carefully as we could to a neighbor’s house, I secured some of the most valuable of my effects, putting my large looking-glass between two featherbeds, and fastening all the windows and doors. The house we carried father to, had been already vacated, and here I was left alone with him. The dreadful sound of approaching guns was still ringing in my ears. Bewildered and affraighted, I betook myself into the house-cellar there to await my fate."

An open meadow on a slight hill surrounded by trees. In the meadow a single segment of post and rail wood fence stands along a worn grassy foot path.
The western slope of Fiske Hill where militia engaged British soldiers retreating from the Bluff.

NPS Photo

Shortly after the Fiske family fled, the running fight between colonial militia and British Regulars reached the farmstead. Utilizing scattered tree lots, stone walls, and piles of rail fence, colonial militia staged themselves around the Bay Road. In the distance the long column of weary and battered redcoats struggled toward Lexington; their ammunition nearly exhausted and ranks on the verge of collapse. As they climbed the winding road on Fiske Hill, Reading Minuteman Edmond Foster recalled;

"The enemy were then rising and passing over Fiske's Hill. An officer, mounted on an elegant horse, and with a drawn sword in his hand, was riding backwards and forwards, commanding and urging on the British troops. A number of Americans behind a pile of rails raised their guns and fired with deadly effect. The officer fell, and the horse took fright, leaped the wall, and ran directly towards those who had killed his rider. The enemy discharged their musketry in that direction, but their fire took no effect."- Edmund Foster

To avoid complete disaster the Regulars rushed onward, leaving their dead and wounded strewn across the landscape. Near the Fiske House, some individuals stopped either to enter the home or retrieve water from the well. In one intense moment, Acton militiaman James Hayward came face to face with a British Regular exiting the house. According to a local legend recorded fifty years later, the British soldier cried out, “You are a dead man,” and Hayward replied, “and so are you!” Both fired and fell.

Hiding in a neighbor's basement some distance from the road, Rebekah Fiske recalled,

"Occasionally, I ventured to peep out to discover the approach of the enemy. After remaining some time in this dreadful state of fear and suspense, I at last discovered the enemy coming down a long hill on the highway, partly upon a run and in some confusion, being closely beset by ‘our men’ in flank and rear. The terrific array of war soon came fully into view, and as soon passed off again from before my eyes, like a horrid vision, leaving only a cloud of smoke behind and the groans of the dying, who were strewed in its wake.”


Aftermath: A Grim Fate

For Rebekah Fiske, the horror of the day only grew once the fighting passed her home;

“After the rattle of musketry had grown somewhat weaker from distance, and my heart became more relieved of its apprehensions, I resolved to return home. But what and altered scene began to present itself, as I approached the house—garden walls thrown down—my flowers trampled upon—earth and herbage covered with the marks of hurried footsteps. The house had been broken open, and on the doorstep—awful spectacle—there lay a British soldier dead, on his face, though yet warm, in his blood, which was still trickling from a bullet-hole [through] his vitals. His bosom and his pockets were stuffed with my effects, which he had been pillaging, having broken into the house through a window. On entering my front room, I was horror-struck. Three mangled soldiers lay groaning on the flood weltering in their blood, which had gathered in large puddles about them. ‘Beat out my brains, I beg of you.’ Cried one of them, a young Briton, who was dreadfully pierced with bullets, though almost every part of his body, ‘and relieve me from this agony.” You will die soon enough, said I, with a revengeful pique. A grim Irishman, shot through the jaws, lay beside him, who mingled his groans of desperation with curses on the villain who had so horridly wounded him. The third was a young American, employing his dying breath in prayer. A bullet had passed through his body, taking off in its course the lower part of his powder-horn. The name of this youthful patriot was J. Haywood, of Acton. His father came and carried his body home; It now lies in Acton graveyard. These were the circumstances of his death: being ardent and close in the pursuit, he stopped a moment at our well to slake his thirst. Turning from the well, his eye unexpectedly caught that of the Briton, whom I saw lying dead on the door-step, just coming from the house with his plunder. They were about a rod from each other. The Briton knew it was death for him to turn, and the American scorned to shrink. A moment of awful suspense ensured—when both simultaneously levelled their muskets at each other’s heart, fired, and fell on their faces together.”

A low stone foundation marks three sides of a historic building site in an open grassy field. In the distance a hill is obscured by a thick layer of green leafy trees.
The Fiske House site and stepping stone where Rebekah discovered a British soldier killed during the battle.

NPS Photo

Care For The Wounded

Following the end of fighting on April 19, 1775, Dr. Joseph Fiske, cousin of Ebenezer, visited the wounded soldiers Rebekah discovered. Later, Dr. Fiske submitted a bill to colonial leaders for care provided to “two of the king’s troops.” Although Dr. Fiske attended the wounded, the injuries sustained by the soldier Rebekah recorded as “dreadfully pierced with bullets,” were too great. In her closing statements, Rebekah concluded,

”My husband drew the two Britons off on a sled, and buried them in one of our pastures where they now lie, beneath a pine tree which has grown up out of their grave. The Irishman was the only one of the three that survived.’”

After the battle, the story of Fiske Hill and the bravery of James Hayward became critical aspects of the April 19, 1775 narrative. Although many accounts of the action remain speculative, those stories remain prominent in local remembrance. During the 19th Century local citizens also erected a monument to Hayward near the supposed well, while the grave of two British soldiers faded into obscurity nearby.


British Grave Marker

A black and white image of a large stone painted to mark the British Grave. Trees surround the stone. A black and white image of a large stone painted to mark the British Grave. Trees surround the stone.

Left image
Early 20th Century Grave Marker
Credit: Historical Image in Minute Man National Historical Park Archive Collection

Right image
Current British Grave Marker
Credit: NPS Photo


Development of Fiske Hill

After the battle, the story of Fiske Hill and the bravery of James Hayward became critical aspects of the April 19, 1775 narrative. Although many accounts of the action remain speculative, those stories remain prominent in local remembrance. During the 19th Century local citizens also erected a monument to Hayward near the supposed well, while the grave of two British soldiers faded into obscurity nearby.

During the 19th and 20th centuries the world around Fiske Hill changed dramatically. Ebenezer Fiske died in late 1775 and did not live to see the new American Nation. Unfortunately, Benjamin Fiske similarly did not live long into this new era. When Benjamin died in 1785, Rebekah managed his estate and remarried. In her later years Rebekah rented out the old Fiske house but moved to her second husband’s home in Bedford. In the first decades of the 19th century, Scandal and murder rocked the Rebekah's new family. At that time, Rebekah reclaimed her Fiske name and returned to the little house on Fiske Hill where she lived until her death in 1845.

When Minute Man National Historical Park was established in 1959, the landscape of Fiske Hill offered many opportunities for restoration. The park acted quickly and acquired nearly forty acres of Fiske Hill land. During the early phases of Park planning, NPS leadership looked to develop visitor services on Fiske Hill, given its close proximity too Route 128, and 2A. During this formative period, historic resources were restored, parking lots added, and an information shelter constructed in 1967. Eventually Fiske Hill connected to larger sections of the preserved battle road trail and the park uncovered the 1775 trace of the Bay Road. As Minute Man NHP acquired additional land, visitor services shifted elsewhere. Eventually the information shelter on Fiske Hill was replaced with a newer Visitors Center a mile west along the battle road. Today Fiske Hill remains a beautifully curated natural and historic landscape. Miles of trail web across the hillside, while the remains of the Ebenezer Fiske farm are preserved for generations to come.

Learn More!

Loading results...

    Last updated: March 30, 2022

    Park footer

    Contact Info

    Mailing Address:

    North Bridge / Park Head Quarters
    174 Liberty St.

    Concord, MA 01742


    978 369-6993

    Contact Us