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