Person

Captain Isaac Davis

Line of Revolutionary War militia soldiers, including a drummer, stand at attention.
Captain Isaac Davis led his company into battle at Concord's North Bridge

Wayne Chen

Quick Facts

Isaac Davis was the captain of the Acton minute man company. He was the first colonial officer to die in the American Revolution, April 19, 1775. He was born February 23, 1745 to Ezekiel Davis and Mary Gibson. On October 24, 1764 he married Hannah Brown and the couple raised four children. He made his living as farmer and a blacksmith.  

In November of 1774 the town of Acton, following the recommendation of the Provincial Congress, raised a minute man company. The company of about 40 men met twice each week for drill. By January of 1775 the town agreed to pay the men 8 shillings for each day of drill, three hours per day through May. Events, however, would intervene well before then.  

Sometime between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. on April 19, 1775 the alarm was brought to Acton by William Prescott. Quickly members of Davis’ company began assembling at his house and prepared to march. One veteran of the company, Solomon Smith, remembered that Captain Davis was “heavy hearted” that morning, and that his children were sick. One member of the company used “some light language” and was reproved by Captain Davis. 

They were soon ready to march. Isaac’s wife Hannah remembered “As he led the company from the house he turned himself around and seemed to have something to communicate. He only said ‘take good care of the children’ and was soon out of sight.” She never saw him alive again.  

Other members of the company joined them as they marched to Concord. Once upon the field in Concord on a hill overlooking the North Bridge which was held by British soldiers, Davis’ company fell in with the other companies already assembled from Concord, Lincoln and Bedford.  

According to their order in the line from a muster a few weeks prior, they formed up to the left of the Concord companies. However, for reasons which remain unknown and are still a source of heated debate among historians, Davis’ company was soon brought up on the right. Colonel Barrett, in overall command, then ordered the make-shift battalion to march upon the bridge but not to fire unless first fired upon. The column then wheeled off into column “by the right” and began the advance to North Bridge with Davis’ company in front.  

To march within range of the enemy’s guns and let them take the first shot requires enormous courage. Davis, accompanied by Major John Buttrick and Lt. Colonel Robinson marched in front with his men close behind. The Regulars fell back to the opposite shore and formed for action. Soon shots rang out from the British side and Luther Blanchard, the fifer for Davis’ company, cried out that he had been hit. Major Buttrick then shouted “Fire! For God’s sake fire!” The minute men returned the fire and British responded in kind. Captain Davis was shot through the chest and died instantly along with Abner Hosmer, a young private in the company.  

Acton had three men killed that day, including James Hayward who died at Fiske Hill in Lexington. According to Hannah Davis, their bodies “were brought to the house where the funeral of the three was attended together.” 

In 1851 the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Town of Acton raised a monument in the center of town and the bodies of Davis, Hosmer and Hayward were reinterred there.  

 

Sources:

Deposition of Solomon Smith, July 10, 1835 

Deposition of Thomas Thorpe, July 10, 1835 

Deposition of Hannah Davis Leighton, August 14, 1835 

Boston National Historical Park, Minute Man National Historical Park

Last updated: September 11, 2021