House of Blues

Where a long-forgotten Revolutionary killing took place

russellPhoto: Arlington Historical Society

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he first casualties of the Revolutionary War didn’t come only on the historic battlefields. Some of the bloodiest fighting of April 19, 1775, the first day of the war, occurred in a guerilla raid on a house where Patriot snipers had concealed themselves. A British flank guard surprised the snipers and fatally bayonetted the owner of the house—58-year-old farmer Jason Russell—on his own front doorstep. One other colonist was killed; the rest saved themselves by blockading themselves in the cellar. Bullet holes from the skirmish on the first day of the Revolution still can be seen on the walls of the parlor, master bedroom, and stairway. Next door, the local historical society operates the Smith Museum. Among other assorted artifacts, the museum displays a 42,000-year-old mastodon tusk discovered in 1959 in Spy Pond.

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Samuel Wilson was only 8 when British troops marched past his house on the first day of the Revolution. And he did not have a white beard or wear a high hat. But he would become the patriotic icon Uncle Sam. Wilson was a meat packer who provided casks of beef marked with “U.S.” for American troops during the War of 1812, and the legend took root that the initials stood for “Uncle Sam.” Congress made it official in 1961—Sam Wilson was Uncle Sam. The birthplace of Uncle Sam is marked with a memorial statue on Massachusetts Avenue at Route 60.

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