“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.”
Paul Revere’s Ride – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Around Boston, revolutionary re-enactors celebrate Patriot’s Day on the 3rd Monday in April. The morning of April 19th, 1775, 700 redcoats marched to Concord to try to seize cannons and other munitions. Paul Revere and William Dawes rode toward Concord to warn the colonists; they were stopped before they reached Concord, but Samuel Prescott, who joined them partway through their ride, was able to take the news to Concord and beyond. Having been warned earlier, the colonists had removed and hidden the weapons. When the British soldiers reached Lexington, they encountered a group of 77 minutemen standing on the village green with their muskets. A British major ordered “Throw down your arms! Ye villains, ye rebels!” Then somebody, nobody knows actually who, fired a shot. Several British volleys were subsequently fired. When the smoke cleared, eight minutemen were dead and nine wounded, with only one Redcoat wounded.
When the British reached Concord, they only found the wooden carriages for the transporting cannon, which they put into the center of the main street and lit on fire. Then they fanned out looking in vain for stored weapons. More than 500 minutemen (the town of Stow, where I lived, sent more than 80, and other surrounding towns did likewise) watched the blaze from Buttrick’s mansion on the other side of Old North Bridge, which spans the Concord River. They thought that the redcoats were burning the town down. As the redcoats recrossed the bridge after searching in vain for munitions in the fields on the west side of the river, the minutemen started advancing toward the bridge. The redcoats fired, killing two minutemen from the town of Acton. The minutemen responded, killing three British soldiers and wounding nine more. This return volley is the “shot heard round the world.” The outside wall of the Colonial Inn in Concord still bears the holes made by musket balls that day. The minutemen continually harassed the redcoats all the way back to Boston – 18 miles! – hiding behind stone walls and trees. At least 2000 minutemen joined the fray – some estimates are as high as 3500. They killed or wounded 250 redcoats, compared to 90 minutemen killed or wounded.
Notice that we did not file for divorce from King George until July 4, 1776 – 15 months later!
When I lived in Stow, Massachusetts, I was captain of the Stow Minutemen for 5 years. When you visit Boston, be sure to see Old North Bridge in Concord, then walk the hallowed roads and fields, wondering who took cover behind this stone wall or that building.
Here are more resources:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbrbORjrYUE – 11 minutes
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQtkw2tCLyU – 5 minutes
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Pt9CNfdM2g – 15 minutes
Photo courtesy of the Maynard Beacon, Maynard, Massachusetts