March 7, 2019
Battles of Lexington and Concord
Many events triggered revolutionary sentiments in the American colonies. In the decade before independence was declared, Great Britain had imposed several tax acts, including the Sugar, Stamp, and Townshend Acts. After the Boston Massacre and Boston Tea Party, King George III shut down Boston’s harbor and increased Britain’s military presence. By February 1775, the British Parliament had declared that Massachusetts was in open rebellion.
The revolution gained serious momentum in April 1775 when it was discovered that the British planned to march on Concord to seize weapons and powder. Two couriers, silversmith Paul Revere and tanner William Dawes, were dispatched to alert residents and revolutionary leaders John Hancock and Samuel Adams.
Some 700 Redcoats first arrived in Lexington in the early hours of April 19th. They were met by a small militia in the town green. The militia were ordered by the British to throw down their weapons at the same time their own commander ordered them to disperse. Shots rang out in the confusion, leading to several deaths. The British soldiers moved on to Concord later that morning. When they realized most of the arms were gone (alertly relocated), the Redcoats decided to burn what was left. Thinking the town was to be torched, 400 militiamen converged on Concord’s North Bridge, which was being defended by British troops. The British fired first, but fell back when the militiamen returned fire. It was the “shot heard ’round the world.”
The British troops retreated to Concord and prepared to make the 18-mile journey back to Boston. Their trip turned into an ambush as 2000 militiamen attacked the British column from behind trees, buildings, and stone walls. Fleeing Redcoats met a brigade of fresh reinforcements in Lexington, but colonists pursued the British through Arlington and Cambridge. The British eventually reached safety in Charlestown Neck. The amassed militias then blockaded the narrow land accesses to Charlestown and Boston, thus starting the Siege of Boston. The Revolutionary War had now begun.
Did You Know …
The origins of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution can be linked to the Battles of Lexington and Concord? Many early colonial constitutions mentioned the right to bear arms for defensive purpose, in particular for frontier families. Wary of the power standing armies could exert, colonists would also train together with their own weapons for local defense in groups called militia. As revolutionary sentiment grew, the British sought to confiscate colonists’ weapons to prevent their use in any acts of rebellion. The Redcoats’ march on Lexington and Concord was one such effort, thwarted by groups of Massachusetts militia.