“Listen my children, and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Paul Revere…”
Today we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776. However, the shooting revolution started 15 months earlier, April 19, 1775, with the battle of Lexington and Concord, as commemorated by Longfellow’s poem. On that day, 700-800 British army regulars marched 18 miles from Boston to Concord to seize military supplies being stored there. They left their barracks before sunup. Paul Revere was among several riders who fanned out to the surrounding towns warning that the redcoats were coming.
77 colonial militia were standing on the town green at Lexington. Historians do not know who fired the first shot; it wouldn’t have been the redcoats, and it wasn’t the colonial militia. In response, the redcoats fired a volley at the militia, killing eight and wounding nine. The militia did not return fire. Simultaneously, at first light, hundreds of minutemen from many surrounding towns started marching toward Concord, halting on the far side Old North Bridge across the Concord River on the west side of town.
When the redcoats arrived in Concord, they fanned out into the surrounding area, searching for supplies (which had been hidden) for four hours. In Concord, they found some wooden cannon carriages, which they put into the center of a street and lit on fire. The minutemen thought the redcoats were trying to burn the town down, so they opened fire – the first time that colonials had fired upon the British army. At Old North Bridge, two redcoats were mortally wounded, as were several minutemen. The ranks of the minutemen continually swelled with new arrivals, finally reaching about 3500. They harassed the redcoats all the way back to Boston, killing or wounding roughly 250, compared to 90 minutemen casualties.
On a sweltering summer day in Philadelphia 15 months later, the colonists signed the Declaration of Independence, making official the revolution that started on Patriot’s Day, April 19, 1775.
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The picture is of yours truly. I was captain of the Stow Minutemen for five years. Every Patriot’s Day, we marched 10 miles to Old North Bridge, starting at 5:30 a.m. The musket is a replica Charleville .69 caliber. Absolutely authentic, down to the steel; it would rust if it saw a cloud a mile away.
Interesting historical side note – the Boston Marathon was created on April 19, 1875 by a handful of young men who thought that Patriot’s Day should be remembered. They wanted to run from Concord to Boston, but were prevented by construction of a rail line, so they started in Ashland instead.
As you celebrate our freedoms today, please remember what they cost.