British Highlanders Quartered as Prisoners of War in Mendon

    The capture of British and Scottish transport ships by privateers off the coast of
    Massachusetts in June 1776 created an uncertain future for the hundreds of soldiers
    who had been headed to the rebellious American colonies. Their mission was to put an
    end to upheaval and attempts of independence from Great Britain. The new prisoners
    of war were divided into many groups and dispersed to several towns to a variety of
    conditions of negotiated confinement. Seven of the prisoners were officers of the 71st
    British Highlanders Regiment, and they were assigned to Mendon. Little did they know
    that they were in for a rude awakening!

    The POW's signed an agreement with the Provincial Congress and Mendon selectmen
    which, at the time, seemed workable. Selectmen were to assist in providing suitable
    lodging, food, and clothing for the men and their seven servants, but the prisoners were
    responsible for paying the costs of all financial requirements. They were restricted to a
    limited area in which they could travel. Not obeying the rules of the agreement  meant
    being moved out of town to the Worcester Jail.

    To say that the agreement did not work out would be an understatement ! There were
    many serious problems. No one with suitable housing would take them in. They wanted
    to be housed near the intersection of the Worcester-Providence Road and Middle Post
    Road ( presently North Ave. near Clough School), but that request was rejected. They
    were constantly being threatened, jeered, and taunted. Because of their state of
    unhappiness, they refused to pay for anything. Their leader, Captain Colin McKenzie,
    wrote several letters to authorities complaining about their abusive treatment and
    requested that they be transferred to another town. He referred to Mendon as being
    hostile and extremely unpleasant.

    Possibly, the disgruntled Highlanders may have heard of another group of people who
    were also new to the town of Mendon during the previous June in 1775. They had been
    staying at Philip Ammidon's Inn (4 Main Street) in the village center. They were from
    Charlestown. They had to find a temporary place to live because the British Army had
    destroyed their town after the Battle of Bunker (Breed's) Hill and burned their homes to
    the ground. The Red Coats killed their Sons of Liberty military leader, Dr. Joseph
    Warren, and they mutilated his body beyond recognition. Had they had a chance to talk
    to the 30 homeless refugees, they may have had a better understanding of why no
    welcome mat was extended to them by Mendon's patriotic residents. It is not known how
    long the POW's of the 71st British Highlanders Regiment  remained in captivity, but in
    1776, during the War for Independence, residents made it very clear to their uninvited
    guests whose side they were on!

    Richard Grady
    May 11, 2014

    Information for this article was researched from Annals of Mendon by Dr. John Metcalf.

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Ammidon Inn - 2008

British Highlanders

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