British Grave Near Bloody Angle

A stone grave marker for British soldiers sits before a long stone fence in front of a tree lot.
British grave near the Bloody Angle

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Quick Facts
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At this sharp curve in the Bay Road there is a stone grave marker for British soldiers killed on April 19, 1775. In the years following the famed battle, local historians dubbed this segment of road, "The Bloody Angle." Today, this grave marker at the northern curve memorializes those British soldiers buried along the roadside after the fight.
Grave Site

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At this sharp curve in the Bay Road shaded by tall trees and stone fences, there is a grave marker for British soldiers killed on April 19, 1775. In the years following the famed battle, local historians dubbed this segment of road, "The Bloody Angle." Today, this grave marker at the northern curve memorializes those British soldiers buried along the roadside after the fight. Like many accounts of the fighting on April 19, 1775, written narratives of the battle's aftermath do not appear until many years later. In the case of those British soldiers killed during the retreat through Lincoln, the history is often confusing and controversial.

The British Retreat

As the British column retreated through two sharp bends in the road today known as the Bloody Angle they were met with enemy fire on both sides of the road. Catching the regulars in a devestating crossfire, one Militiaman recalled, "...[the] enemy left many dead and wounded and a few tired..." Another militiaman estimated at least eight regulars were killed at the Bloody Angle with scores of others wounded.


Unfortunately, for the weary British column, the fire did not end after passing the second road curve. With more militia joining, the battle swept through woodlots and farmfields leading toward the Hartwell homesteads. When the fighting continued eastward, at least three militiamen and an unknown number of British regulars lay dead near the Hartwell property.


Today, it is estimated as many as three British regulars are buried near the Bloody Angle, while at least five more were buried some miles away in Lincoln's town burying ground. How and why those men were interred in those locations remains a mystery.

Burial of the Dead

According to local traditions, people who lived along the Bay Road collected the dead for burial. In 1880, Samuel Adams Drake published a History of Middlesex County that cited local William F. Wheeler, as the source claiming two British soldiers were buried near the curve in the road today known as the bloody angle. Although, Wheeler's claim is seemingly straightforward another History of Middlesex County published by D. Hamilton Hurd in 1890 cites Wheeler's estimate as three British soldiers, "buried by the side of the road." Unfortunately the contradictory statements by Wheeler remain the only evidence for the interment of British soldiers near the Bloody Angle site today.


As for the soldiers taken to Lincoln's burying ground, more information about their fate exists. In 1850, Famed author Henry David Thoreau also cited William Wheeler, saying that Wheeler's grandfather carted British soldiers to the Lincoln burying ground the day after the fighting concluded. Thoreau even mentioned that Wheeler recalled hearing, "Old Mr. Child…say that when one soldier was shot he leaped right up his full length out of ranks and fell dead…"


According to another prominent account published in 1896 by Abram Brown, in "Beneath Old Roof Trees," Mary Hartwell, wife of Sergeant Samuel Hartwell, witnessed the burial of the British soldiers killed around her home following the battle. According to family lore, Mary told her grandson;

"I could not sleep that night, for I knew there were British soldiers laying dead by the roadside; and when, on the following morning, we were somewhat calmed and rested, we gave attention to the burial of those whom their comrades had failed to take away. The men hitched the oxen to the cart and went down below the house, and gathered up the dead. As they returned with the team and the dead soldiers my thoughts went out for the wives, parents, and children away across the Atlantic, who would never again see their loved ones; and I left the house and taking my little children by the hand I followed the rude hearse to the grave hastily made in the burial ground. I remember how cruel it seemed to put them into one large trench without any coffins. There was one in a brilliant uniform, whom I supposed to have been an officer. His hair was tied up in a cue."

During the early 20th century, over 150 years after the burial, variations of this story stated that Mary's father-in-law, Ephraim Hartwell and another neighbor (possibly Edmund Wheeler), picked up the British soldiers and transported them to the Lincoln burial ground.

Although it is difficult to say with absolute certainty that Mr. Wheeler or the Hartwell Family helped bury the slain soldiers in Lincoln's burial ground, the grave exists there today. In 1850, Henry David Thoreau also recorded an incredible controversy when local phrenologist, Walton Felch, supposedly disinterred the graves and removed the skulls of two British soldiers for a traveling exhibit. One attendee at a lecture in Worcester, MA later recalled, interested students "had sat at the feet of the old pensioners still living as they 'shouldered their crutches and showed how fields were won,' and a sight of these ghastly mementoes of their prowess made an impression that was never effaced." Although evidence of the traveling British skulls is scarce, there is some indication that when Felch died at least one skull was secretly reburied at the North Bridge gravesite in 1891.


Today, a small grave marker along the battle road stands in memory of the soldiers buried near the Bloody Angle and a larger tombstone erected by the town of Lincoln in 1884 marks the five soldiers in Lincoln's Burying ground.


Learn More

To learn more about the area between Elm Brook Hill and Hartwell Tavern follow the links below


  • Brown, Abram E. Beneath Old Roof Trees (Boston, MA: Lee and Shepard, 1896).
  • Drake, Samuel Adams. History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, Containing Carefully Prepared Historians of Every City and Town in the Country by Well Known Writers; and A General History of the County From the Earliest to the Present Time, (Boston, MA: Estes And Lauriat, Publishers, 1880).
  • Hurd, D. Hamilton. History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, with Biographical Sketches of Many of its Pioneers and Prominent Men, (Philadelphia, PA: J.W. Lewis & Co, 1890).
  • Proceedings of The Worcester Society of Antiquity, Volume 21, (Worcester, MA: Worcester Society of Antiquity, 1907).
  • Thoreau, Henry David. May 31, 1850, Journal, 3:73

Minute Man National Historical Park

Last updated: January 18, 2023