Place

British Grave on Fiske Hill

A small stone with a metal plaque marks the grave of British Soldiers on Fiske Hill.
Stone marking the approximate location of British Soldiers buried on Fiske Hill.

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On April 19, 1775 fighting between Colonial Militia and British Regulars spilled over the crest of Fiske Hill. As the column of weary Redcoats navigated the winding hillside road, Colonial Militia set a deadly trap. Edmund Foster, a Reading Minute Man recalled, "A number of Americans behind a pile of rails raised their guns and fired with deadly effect." The heavy crackle of musketry echoed through the trees, meadows, and pastures before sweeping past the recently abandoned home of Ebenezer Fiske. Combatants from both sides darted across the property utilizing tree lots, boulders, and stonewalls for cover. Rebecca Fiske, Ebenezer's daughter-in-law, recalled the fighting soon passed eastward toward Lexington and she resolved to return home;

 
"what an 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 though 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 floor and 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, through almost every part of his body, "and relieve me from this agony." ~Rebecca Fiske

For Rebecca Fiske the horrific scene presented in her family's front room ushered in a clear view of the harsh reality 18th century warfare embodied. She continued, 

"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 ensued-- when both simultaneously leveled their muskets at each other's heart, fired, and fell on their faces together." ~Rebecca Fiske

Relief for the wounded at the Fiske house came from Dr. Joseph Fiske, a local surgeon,and cousin of Ebeneezer,. Although a patriot participant in the day's events, Dr Fiske traversed the battle road afterward to care for the wounded. On April 20, 1775 Dr. Fiske stopped at his cousin's home to "dress three o the King's troops." Although Dr. Fiske bandaged and assessed the wounds of those men, not all survived. Colonial Militiaman James Hayward perished from his wounds, as did the British Soldier pierced by multiple shot. According to Rebecca,

"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." ~Rebecca Fiske

Over 100 years later, local residents reported the existence of a large "upright" tree stump in a meadow atop Fiske Hill that marked the grave of British Soldiers. Unfortunately, that stump and the exact resting place of those men are now lost to time.

In the early 20th Century local historian Frank Coburn also claimed two additional British soldiers perished in the home of Thaddeus Reed and were interred a short distance away; near present day Wood Street.

Boston National Historical Park, Minute Man National Historical Park

Last updated: January 25, 2022