Daniel Chester French and Minute Man's Model
All in the Family
By: Susan Hall - Jun 25, 2020
Daniel Chester French was commissioned to create the Minute Man statue on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Concord Bridge. The statue honored Isaac Davis, the Captain of the Acton troops. Davis was the first officer killed by the British on April 19, 1775.
Editor Charles Giuliano points out that Crispus Attucks (c.1723 - March 5, 1770) was an American stevedore of African and Native American descent. He is widely regarded as the first person killed in the Boston Massacre and thus the first American killed in the American Revolution. Historians disagree on whether he was a free man or an escaped slave, but most agree that he was of Natick (or possibly Wampanoag) and African descent.
Davis was a gunsmith as well as Captain of the Acton troops. He is reported to have been a man of high energy, able to make bayonets and cartridge boxes for his entire company. No doubt his unit was the best prepared on the first day of the Revolutionary War.
When a rider sounding the battle alarm woke the Davis household on April 19th, all the children were ill. As the Minute Men of Acton trooped through the Davis kitchen with muskets and power kegs, Captain Davis prepared for battle. Just before he left, he turned to his wife, Hannah and said, "Take good care of the children." An owl sat ominously over the front door.
When the colonials massing on Punkatasset Hill saw the smoke, they mistakenly concluded that the British were on a rampage. ‘Will you let them burn the town?’ cried adjutant Joseph Hosmer of Concord.
Answering with a resounding ‘No,’ the officers decided upon a defiant show of strength. One account states that the lead was offered to a Concord officer, who declined it, but historians have questioned whether a local man would have refused to march to save his own town.
Historians also still debate why Davis, not his superior officer at the Concord Bridge, got out front with his troops. When Colonel Barrett, head of Concord operations, told the troops gathered at Punkatasset Hill, "Be prepared to fight, but don't fire first."
Captain Davis stated loudly, drawing his sword, "I haven't a man who's afraid to go." With Luther Blanchard fifing away, The White Cockade, an old Jacobite song that infuriated the British, the Acton troops marched forward. Davis was hit in the heart and instantly killed by that first volley of British guns.
No images of Davis remained to inspire French, so he gathered photographs of Davis descendants and imagined what the Captain looked like. I am a descendant of those who were imaged.