Lexington and Concord…The Backstory

The story of the Battle of Lexington and Concord has always sent chills down my spine. As I sat in that theater listening to the Road to Revolution I found myself tearing up. From Paul Revere’s ride to the “Shot heard ’round the World” there is something in this story that strikes a very deep chord.

On April 14, 1775 General Thomas Gage received the fateful instructions that would lead to the first blood being spilled in what would become the revolutionary war. The orders were to disarm the rebels and imprison their leaders, especially Samuel Adams and John Hancock. The orders gave a great deal of leeway to General Gage in executing these orders. This was to be handled with utmost secrecy so as not to alert the rebels.

On April 18, a contingent of 20 horsemen was sent out into the countryside in an attempt to intercept rebel messengers who might be traveling on horseback. The patrol was not as discrete as they might have been. They acted differently than patrols in the past. They stayed out late and openly questioned travelers about the whereabouts of Adams and Hancock with the unintended result of raising the alarm and alerting many of the residents thereby increasing the rebels’ preparedness.

The Lexington Militia started to muster that evening without any word from Boston.

On the afternoon of April 18, the British regulars aka “Redcoats” received the orders “to proceed from Boston “with utmost expedition and secrecy to Concord, where you will  seize and destroy… all Military stores… But you will take care that the soldiers do not plunder the inhabitants or hurt private property.” No written orders were issued for any arrests for fear of sparking an uprising.

The rebellion’s ringleaders with the exception of Paul Revere and  Joseph Warren had all left Boston by April 8 having received word from London that orders for their arrest were imminent. Adams and Hancock were staying in Lexington with relatives of Hancock where they thought they would be safe. Some weapons had indeed been stashed in Concord but the largest stores were much farther west in Worcester.

On the evening of April 18 the news finally came that the Redcoats were on the move. Joseph Warren told William Dawes and Paul Revere to ride to Lexington to warn Hancock and Adams of the troop movements, spreading the word along the way.

I’m sure everyone has heard of the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere…One if by land and two if by sea while I on the opposite shore will be, Ready to ride and spread the alarm, through every Middlesex Village and Town…. poetic yes, actual truth, well perhaps a bit exaggerated. In actual fact, Paul Revere was detained by a British Patrol. William Dawes and Samuel prescott were the riders that made it through. Revere was released serveral hours later but without his horse.

As the British marched through the night and the colonial militia began to gather on the green at Lexington, the stage was now set for the first skirmish of what would prove to be a long and bloody conflict before a new country would emerge, the United States of America.

My history teacher would be proud. Just proves I didn’t always sleep in class! In tormorrow’s post I’ll summarize the events of that morning. All in the hopes of setting the stage for my trip to Lexington on Monday.

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