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
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!
May 11, 2014
Information for this article was researched from Annals of Mendon by Dr. John Metcalf.
Ammidon Inn - 2008