“Do you know what happened here? It was a bloodbath. There were more dead in this section of Arlington than in Lexington and Concord combined!”
That’s what I learned from John Graham. Soon after I had started drawing the Jason Russell house, he came over to me next to the stone wall. He’s been the caretaker of the house for over seven years, and he’s an organizer and participant in Arlington’s annual reenactment of the bloody battle of April 19, 1775.
Paul Revere probably warned the occupants of this house of the oncoming British on his famous ride. But it wasn’t until the British returned from Lexington and Concord that this house became a battleground.
The owner, Jason Russell, was 58 years old and quite lame, barely able to walk. When warned that the British were marching back from Concord and that fighting had commenced, he could not be persuaded to escape harm by fleeing with the rest of his family. “An Englishman’s home is his castle!” he insisted, and he hunkered down with his gun behind a pile of shingles in his yard. (At that time, colonists still considered themselves “Englishmen.”)
Militia from nearby towns joined Russell, taking up positions in his orchard and behind his stone wall. Little did they know that some British troops were flanking them. They were suddenly attacked from behind as well as from the front, and were soon overwhelmed. A group ran into the house to escape gunfire but Russell couldn’t get there. He was killed in his doorway by both bullets and bayonet. The British stormed the house and fought room by room. When Mrs. Russell returned home later that day, she found her husband dead along with 11 other patriots.
John Graham wrote a little paperback book entitled “The Midnight Ride; A Pictorial History” and was kind enough to give me a copy. It features photos and a little information about all the historic sights that still exist along Paul Revere’s route.
John loves to recreate the momentous fight that took place at the Jason Russell house. He’s done it for years. But lately there’s been a problem. The town of Arlington has been insisting the reenactment take place on Patriots Day, following the town’s parade. It used to be on the day before the holiday, a Sunday. That’s caused problems. You see, Lexington and Concord are more popular venues for their Patriots Day reenactments. And there are only so many reenactors to go around.
“We can’t get British troops! They’re all overbooked!” John said, and then he went over and raised the flag.