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The Battle of Lexington and Concord
The battle of Lexington and Concord: Introduction
The Battle of Lexington and Concord happened on the evening of April 18th, 1775, and carried on deep into the day of the 19th, when nearly 1,200 British troops left Boston en route to Lexington, where they were planning to attack Lexington stores, used as storage for American materials. This battle was the final shove into the Revolutionary War, the last straw for the Americans, and the beginning of a revolution. The way these documents had been originally put together, by the Americans, it looked like they had been minipulated, and bias, inorder to gain support.
The night of April 18th, 1775: the beginning
This night would become famous for being the night of Paul Revere’s legendary ride. Upon instruction by Dr. Joseph Warren, a doctor and soldier (he played a big role in the American Revolution during the war), Paul Revere and William Dawes rode to Lexington in order to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams of the British plans to raid militia stores in Lexington and weapon stocks in Concord ("Paul Revere's Ride", wikipedia.org). Revere, a day before,
had made a plan with Robert Newman, of the Old
North Church, to use lanterns to signify the movements of the British Troops, “One if by land, two if by sea.” ("Paul Revere's Ride", wikipedia.org) The ride is chronicled in the poem, although not completely accurate, Paul Revere’s Ride, written in 1860 by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ("Paul Revere's Ride", wikipedia.org).
|"Paul Revere's Ride."|
| Listen my children and you shall hear|
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm." Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide. Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore. Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,--
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all. Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,--
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats. Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns. A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides. It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down. It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon. It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball. You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,---
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
>From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load. So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,---
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.
Longfellow, "Paul Revere's Ride")
On the night of April 18th, 1775, an ordinary spring night, British officers roamed and patrolled the country side between Lexington and Concord, much like they normally would, at the time, trying to maintain a strong hold on Boston and the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the cities surrounding Boston. In an affidavit, given by Solomon Brown, Jonathan Loring, and Elijah Sanderson, all natives of Lexington, they recalled their experience with British troops (Regulars),
| On the evening of the 18th of April Infant, being on the road between Concord and Lexington, and all of us mounted on horfes (horses), we were about ten of the clock, fuddenly (suddenly) furprifed (surprised) by nine perfons (persons), whom we took to be regular officers, who rode up to us mounted and armed… they [the regular officers] fwore (swore) that if we ftirred (stirred) another ftep (step), we fhould (should) all be dead men (sic),” (Brown, Loring, Sanderson, 1) |
That night, intelligence had arrived to the American forces via express saying that the British had planned to send a number of troops, led by General Haldiman, to Lexington in order to arrest some people, and ruin American resources; and that British reinforcements, led by lord Piercy were standing by in case there were any difficulties with the Lexington provincials (rebels, common people, militia men etc.). In an express sent by a James Hudson, he says,
“General Haldiman, was fent out of Bofton, with the firft party, in order to take some Gentlemen Prifoners [John Hancock and Samuel Adams], & if they met with any difficulty, Lord Piercy, with the main Body was to fallow after, which he did, when a general Engagement enfued (sic),” (Hudson, 1)
This demonstrates the fact that the British were expecting an altercation with the local militia.
|An engraving by Amos Dolittle, 1775. Possibly depicting militia fire, but it is not sure. (Battles of Lexington and Concord)|
April 19th, 1775
The first wave of troops, General Haldiman’s troops, were supposed to raid militia stores, weapon stockpiles, and the Magazine at Concord, but at about 5 O’clock in the mourning, April 19th, on their way there, they encountered a group of about a hundred local militia men, doing their morning exercises, weapons in hands. The British troops came within a couple of rods (16.8 meters) of the militia men, then said, “Difperfe you rebels – Damn you throw down your arms and difperfe:” (“From the Salem Gazette, 2)
In the past, and up to the present, there has been a continual battle as to who fired the first shot at Lexington Green; the Americans or the British? There has been a lot of bias on the topic, and it’s of no small importance. The battle of Lexington and Concord was the first battle of the Revolutionary War and deciding which side fired the first shot gives a lot to the general understanding of the personality, of the whole body of both sides. Patriots would try to make the British look pompous and merciless, by proclaiming that they fired on them first, and that they [the Americans] were retreating or of no threat to them. Whereas the British would try to make the Americans look rebellious by proclaiming that the Americans fired the first shot, and that they [the Americans] were armed and ready to resist British forces. A vast majority of the sources that I have seen have been Patriot newspapers, so my conclusion on this topic is subject change, because the amount of patriot bias in it. In an affidavit given by Nathaniel Mullekin, Phillip Russel, Moses Harington, Thomas and Daniel Harington etc. recalled one of the first British encounters at Lexington, April 19th, 1775, 5:00 am:
| “We further teftify and declare that about 5 O’clock in the morning, hearing our drum beat, we proceeded towards the parade, and foon found that a large body of troops were marching towards us, some of our company were coming up to the parade, and others had reached it; at which time the company had difperfe; while our backs were turned on the troops, we were fired on by them, and a number of our men were inftantly killed or wounded-not a gun was fired by any perfon in our company on the regulars, to our knowledge, before they fired on us, and they continued firing until we had all made our efcape.” (Mullekin, Russel, Harington, Harington, Harington, 1)|
During this first encounter, the British troops, had killed eight of the Lexington militia, and wounded nine. Upon reaching Lexington and getting involved in a battle with the Lexington militia, the British troops set fire to several houses, farms etc. It was the Americans understanding that the British were there to destroy anything in front of them. In an article from the Essex Journal, April 26th, 1775, it portrays the American understanding of the British actions, “It appeared to be their defign to burn and deftroy all before them; and nothing but our perfuit prevented their infernal purpofes from being put in execution”("From the Salem Gazette", 2).
The overall plan for the British was to go to Lexington, where they were going to capture Samuel Adams and John Hancock, take control of arms/ammunition and gun powder; then they were told to go to Concord and raid more American ammunition storages and destroy things such as flour, food, and anything that aided the Americans. A news/opinion article in the Essex Journal said that, "the enemy renewed their march for Concord ; at which place they defroyed feverall carriages, carriage wheels, and and about 20 barrels of flour, all belonging to the province." ("From the Salem Gazette", 2)
The Americans then advanced to the North Bridge, where they were met by the British, who in possession of the bridge, fired upon the Americans, who then returned the fire, forcing the British to retreat to Lexington. In Lexington the British met Lord Piercy, with a large reinforcement. The British held off the Americans, with a troop count of 1800, picked up their dead and wounded, and regathered themselves. They, the British, then found it nessessary, to retreat for a second time, to Charlestown. ("From the Salem Gazette", 2).
During the second retreat, the British were followed by a heavy fire from the Americans; the British retreated from Concord, all the way to Bunker Hill in Charlestown, where they suffered 228 casualties and dealt with more than 800 wounded. (Battle of Bunker Hill, wikipedia.org)
After reading this, there are a number of possible conclusions you, the reader, can come to. The first is that there was and is alot of bias in the assessing the events of the Battle of Lexington and Concord. Two, the Americans were trying to make the British look savage, and merciless in order to gain support for the revolutionary cause. Or three being that the Americans were actualy "bullied" by the British soldiers, and that what they were saying about the British actions was completely true. All of these conclusions are feesible, but the most likely conclusion would be that the Americans exagerated this event to gain support on the war front.
Brown, Loring, Sanderson, Solomon, Jonathan, Elijah. No Headline." The Pennsylvania Gazette 17 May 1775: 1.
"Battle of Bunker Hill." Wikipedia. 2008. 29 May 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Bunker_Hill>.
Hudson, James . Bloody News. Portsmouth, April 20, 1775." The New-Hampshire Gazette [Portsmouth]21 Apr 1775: 1.
"Paul Revere's Ride." Wikipedia. 2008. 30 May 2008 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Revere's_Ride.
From the Salem Gazette." Essex Journal 26 Apr 1775: 2.
"Battles of Lexington and Concord." Wikipedia. 2008. 9 June 2008 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battles_of_Lexington_and_Concord
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