April 19 is the anniversary of the first battle of the American Revolution, which occurred along a road between Boston and Concord, Mass. The area is memorialized by the National Park Service as Minute Man National Historcal Park and includes a museum that presents a vivid, entertaining 3-D description of the events.
The Ministry in London had ordered Gen. Thomas Gage in Boston to quell rebellion in Massachusetts by capturing Samuel Adams and John Hancock, but Gage chose instead what he thought would be a less incendiary step, the capture of arms at Concord. The expedition, meant to be secret, was well known to the colonials and was hampered by hours of delay. Lt. Col Francis Smith commanded the army, and Maj. John Pitcairn led the advance patrol.
As British soldiers moved toward the Boston waterfront on the evening of April 18, British officers rode the Bay Road west from Boston on patrol. After the officers passed through Lexington, about 40 minute men gathered at Buckman Tavern on the east side of Lexington green. Seeing that all was quiet, John Parker dismissed the minute men at about 1:30 a.m. with orders to reassemble at the drum’s beat.
Paul Revere, William Dawes and Samuel Prescott, meanwhile, had ridden from Boston between 11:30 p.m. April 18 and 12:30 a.m. April 19 to sound the alarm that the Regulars were out. Meeting west of Lexington at about 1 a.m., they were surprised by two British officers from the patrol and bolted for the woods. Revere was captured, Dawes escaped to Lexington, and Prescott made it to Concord, sounding the alarm.
The site of Paul Revere’s capture.
Prescott came out of a thicket behind the house of Sgt. Sam Hartwell of the Lincoln minute men, Mary Hartwell took the news to the William and Catherine Smith house, Capt. Smith rode two miles south to Lincoln, and the Lincoln minute men headed for Concord.
At about 2 a.m., heading back east toward Lexington, the British officers and their prisoners — Revere and three scouts from Lexington captured earlier — passed the house of Josiah Nelson, a Lincoln minute man.
Nelson ran into the road and said, “Have you heard anything about when the Regulars are coming out?” One of the officers said, “We will let you know when they are coming!” and struck Nelson on the top of his head, cutting a long gash. Nelson was taken prisoner but was soon released, his wife bound his wound, and he rode north to Bedford to spread the alarm.
After Prescott reached Concord, the Town House bell was rung, and the first to respond was the Rev. William Emerson. The minute men gathered at Wright’s Tavern and hid what stores had not yet been secreted. The British released their prisoners near Lexington.
The advance British force, led by Maj. John Pitcairn, reached Lexington Green at about 5 a.m., where Parker and his minute men waited on the green. The minute men meant only to make a show of patriot resolve, their 77 militia no match for 700 British troops. They were obeying Pitcairn’s order — “Lay down your arms, you damned rebels, and disperse!” — when a shot was fired, no one knows by whom. The British troops fired a volley and charged with bayonets, killing eight and wounding 10.
The British marched without incident to Concord and searched houses for arms but met fierce resistance at Concord’s North Bridge. As the British passed the home of Samuel and Mary Hartwell, Mary Hartwell wrote, “The army of the King marched up in fine order, and their bayonets glistened in the sunlight like a field of waving grain. If it hadn’t been for the purpose they came for, I should say it was the handsomest sight I ever saw in my life.”
Minute men engaged in guerilla fighting at Meriam’s Corner, and a running skirmish followed as the British began a retreat to Boston that turned into a route, and at a place called the Bloody Angle minute men killed eight British soldiers and wounded more, while hundreds of minute men swarmed in from the countryside.
A grenadier was wounded near the Smith house during the return to Boston and was left by the road to die. The Smith family carried him inside and dressed his wound, and he died three or four days later.
Troops under Gen. Earl Percy reinforced the British after they retreated, a half mile east of Lexington, on the way back to Boston, but the royal troops were still sorely outnumbered, and the bloodiest fighting occurred around Menotomy, now called Arlington.
They reached Boston that evening exhausted and aware that the colonials were more than a mere rabble in arms.
The website for Minute Man National Historic Park is http://www.nps.gov/mima/index.htm