April 19, 1775

The town of Lexington lay right along the road to Concord, and the Lexington militia had already assembled on the town green while it was still dark. There was confusion about what exactly was happening, and it wasn’t certain how far away the British troops were, or whether in fact the whole thing might have been a false alarm. But it was no false alarm, and just as the sun was rising, about five in the morning, they saw the long British column coming up the road toward them.

The British vanguard formed up in a battle line on Lexington green facing the militia, who numbered only thirty-eight. A British officer ordered the militia to drop their weapons and disperse. They did begin to disperse, but they didn’t drop their weapons, and then from somewhere a shot was fired. To this day, no one is certain where the shot came from. It may have been from the British lines; it almost certainly wasn’t from the Lexington militia. It may have been from a bystander, or it may have been an accidental misfire. Whatever its origin, that first shot started the British soldiers firing, without orders, into the dispersing militia. When the smoke cleared from those very few minutes of confusion, eight Lexington militiamen had been killed and nine wounded. Some bled to death on the front steps of their houses around the edge of the green. …

When the British column arrived at Concord they had very little success with their principal mission. Nearly all the arms had been hidden away and many of the cannon had been buried in the freshly-plowed fields. … The small detachment at the North Bridge watched as hundreds of militia began to assemble on a nearby hill. …

…soon the entire British force began to march back the way it had come, down the long road to Boston. By the hour, more and more militia and minuteman companies were arriving from the surrounding countryside, and the British retreat turned into a brutal rout, a battle three hundred yards wide and eighteen miles long. At every turn of the road a militia company was waiting and fired into the British ranks. The British were fired upon from many houses along the road, and in response their advance parties began burning nearly every building they came to. …

The above passages come from this excellent modern account of the events of April 19, 1775.

Some contemporary accounts:

An open letter from the Massachusetts provincial congress to the inhabitants of Great Britain, regarding the events of April 19, 1775. (“…the regular troops on their way to Concord marched into the said town of Lexington and the said company, on their approach, began to disperse that notwithstanding this, the regulars rushed on with great violence and first began hostilities by firing on said Lexington Company, whereby they killed eight and wounded several others …”)

A letter from Ann Hulton, Massachusetts resident, wife of a customs commissioner, sympathetic to the British side. (“…a prodigious number of people now occupying the hills, woods, and stone walls along the road. The light troops drove some parties from the hills but all the road being enclosed with stone walls served as a cover to the rebels, from whence they fired on the troops still running off whenever they had fired, but still supplied by fresh numbers who came from many parts of the country. In this manner were the troops harassed in their return for seven [or] eight miles. …”)

General Gage’s report of the events. (“…It appears from the firing of alarm guns and ringing of bells that the march of Lieutenant-Colonel Smith was discovered, and he was opposed by a body of men within six miles of Concord, some few of whom first began to fire upon his advanced companies which brought on a fire from the troops that dispersed the body opposed to them; and they proceeded to Concord, where they destroyed all the military stores they could find. …”)

Major Pitcairn’s report of the day’s events. (“…when I arrived at the end of the Village, I observed drawn up upon a Green near 200 rebels; when I came within about 100 yards of them … I instantly called to the soldiers not to fire, but surround and disarm them … some of the rebels who had jumped over the wall fired four or five shots at the soldiers … Upon this, without any order or regularity, the Light Infantry began a scattered fire …”)

See also:

Video of reenactment on Lexington Green.
Minute Man National Historical Park.
There are many good links at American Revolution.org.

God bless America.

UPDATE: Note the way the statue of Captain John Parker, above, is echoed in the recently unveiled statue of Rick Rescorla, hero of the Ia Drang battle, and hero of 9/11.

7 thoughts on “April 19, 1775”

  1. BY the rude bridge that arched the flood,
    Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
    Here once the embattled farmers stood,
    And fired the shot heard round the world.

    The foe long since in silence slept; 5
    Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
    And Time the ruined bridge has swept
    Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

    On this green bank, by this soft stream,
    We set to-day a votive stone; 10
    That memory may their deed redeem,
    When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

    Spirit, that made those heroes dare
    To die, and leave their children free,
    Bid Time and Nature gently spare 15
    The shaft we raise to them and thee.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

    There are some interesting accounts of the day here. Among other things;

    “The retreat of Percy and Smith and Pitcairn from Lexington to Boston was galling and disastrous. Tablets along the roadside tell much of the tale, but they do not tell of the burning of houses by the British soldiers and they tell little of their killing of unarmed men; the British were maddened by the incessant shooting from right and left, and got quite beyond the control of their harassed officers. A party of soldiers set upon an old farmer of over eighty, after he had slain two of them, and they clubbed and shot and stabbed him into unconsciousness. Besides general bruises he had seventeen bayonet wounds! But, octogenarian of enviable stamina that he was, he recovered and lived to nearly the century point!”

  2. Lex…

    Have you re-read Hackett-Fischer’s Paul Revere’s Ride text recently? I realize there’s a bit of overlap with the Washington’s Crossing material, but his research teams keep all their primary data a la Albion’s Seed on file. Here’s a really good linkfarm (transcribed quite faithfully).


    It’s been my experience that Oxbridge is utterly unreliable regarding Anglo-American historical collections. Let us recall that Boswell’s Journals remained unpublished until an American got ahold of them for a Yale edition last century. In fact, surf over to the BBC’s “official” British History web-site and compare their presentation of UK-US TREATY Documents with the Yale project… (it’s one thing for The Guardian to fudge the actual text of the Treaty of Ghent, say, or the Declaration of Independence, but the BBC?? ) No wonder Karl Marx is considered the most influential philosopher amongst the British computer literate public! (According to BBC polls).

    A final note on Gen. Gage. His wife was American born and an vocal pro-colonial Whig. It’s even been suggested that Mrs. Gage was better informed than her husband…

  3. Helian, thanks for the excellent piece about Battle Road.

    Scott, I have not recently re-read PRR. It is a masterpiece, and I hope to re-read it at some point. It is the best book on the subject that I have read.

  4. A question for Lex an readers: What book is anti- or counter-Anglosphere Challenge?

    There must be something, but what comes to mind as worthy?

  5. … anti-Anglosphere?

    Short answer: It depends. What aspect of TAS are you talking about? Historical, current, future predictions or policy proposals?

    Long answer: I’ll ask Jim Bennett.

  6. Jim Bennett’s response:

    Well, what you said is about all I can say. since TAC is a synthesizing book, its critics are all over the map. Take the basic five works in the biblio, google the authors and titles, and read the more intelligent critiques that arise.

    Here is the TAC bibliography

Comments are closed.