In February of 177,5, General Gage was informed that the Provincial Congress had stored a large amount of munitions and a number of cannons in Salem., and ordered Colonel Leslie to embark in a transport with a battalion of infantry, disembark at Marblehead, march across to Salem and seize this material of war. These troops, two hundred fifty strong, sailed from Boston at night and landed at Marblehead beach Sunday afternoon. Major Petrick, a patriot of the town, at once mounted a horse and galloped to Salem, two miles away, to carry the warning of this invasion. The British marched along the turnpike until they came to the North River, a small navigable stream making up from Salem Harbor. This was spanned by a drawbridge and Col. Leslie was much disturbed to find the drawbridge raised and a formidable assemblage of Salem citizens buzzing angrily at the farther side of the stream. The British officer had no orders to force the passage, and the situation was both delicate and awkward in the extremes. Timothy Pickering had been chosen Colonel of the First Regiment of Militia and forty of his armed men were mustered, drawn up and ready to fire at the order. Colonel Leslie threatened to let loose a volley of musketry to clear the road and was told by Captain John Felt of Salem:

       " You had better not fire, for there is a multitude, every man of whom is ready to die in this strife."

       Some of the more adventurous patriots climbed to the top of the raised drawbridge and hurled insulting taunts at the British infantry, yelling, " Fire and be damned to you " Rev Thomas Bamard of the North Church tried to make peace and addressed Colonel Leslie,'You cannot commit this violation against innocent people, here on this holy day, without sinning against God and humanity, let me entrust you to return".

       At the head of the crowd of armed men stood Captain Richard Derby. He owned eight of the nineteen cannons which had collected for the use of the Provincial Congress and he had not the slightest notion of surrendering them. There was a parley where Colonel Leslie argued that he was in lawful possession of the Kings highway. The Salem rejoiner was to the effect that the road and bridge were private property to be taken from them only by force and under martial law. At this juncture, when a bloody collision seemed eminent, Captain Richard Derby took command of the situation, and roared across the stream, as if he was on his own quarterdeck:

" Find the cannon if you can. Take them if you can. They will never be surrendered. " A fine portrait of this fine gentleman has been preserved and in a well powdered wig, with a spyglass in his hand, he looks every inch the man who hurled defiance at Great Britain and dared a battalion of his Majesties foot knock the chip off his stalwart shoulder. Colonel Leslie made a half hearted attempt to set his men across the river in boats, and it was at this time that the only causality occurred, a Salem man, Joseph Welcher, receiving a bayonet thrust. Perceiving that to force a passage meant to set the whole colony in a blaze, and unwilling to shoulder so tremendous a responsibility without orders from General Gage, the British Colonel delayed for further discussion. At length Captain Derby and his friends proposed that in order to satisfy Colonel Leslie's ideas of duty and honor, he should be permitted to cross the bridge and immediately thereafter return whence he came. The compromise was accepted, and after marching to the farther side of the river, the troops faced about and footed back to their transport at Marblehead without finding the cannon that they had come to take. It was a victory for Captain Richard Derby and his townsmen and well worth a conspicuous place in the history of the beginnings of the American Revolution.

  Probably from " YOUTHS COMPANION "

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