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A Visit to Lexington and Concord

Late on the evening of April 18, 1775, approximately 700 British troops moved out of Boston.  Earlier, Paul Revere had ridden to Lexington to warn of the British advance.  The British were under orders to search and destroy patriot military supplies allegedly hidden in Concord.  The alarm had been raised, and Capt Parker commander of the Lexington minutemen formed his 140-man company on the Lexington Common (now known as the Battle Green).  After waiting til past 1am on April 19, Parker dismissed his men with the warning that they should reassemble at the beat of a drum.  By 4.15am, Capt Parker received word that the British were on the way and he reassembled his men, many of whom had gone to Buckman's Tavern for a drink to wait for the alarm to be sounded.

Major Pitcairn of the Royal Marines approached Lexington Common with an advance guard of around 300 men.  Seeing the Lexington minuteman company lined up waiting for him, he ordered his men to load and prime their weapons.  As Pitcairn and his troops advanced, the British called on the minutemen to lay down their arms.  Capt Parker is reputed to have called out to his men "Stand your ground.  Don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here!"

After a tense stand-off in which Parker realised he was heavily outnumbered, Parker then ordered his men to fall back.  Then from an unknown source, a shot rang out.  The British began firing at the colonials without orders.  One British company broke ranks and charged the colonials, bayoneting as they went.  Pitcairn, furious by the breach of discipline, called on his men to cease fire.  After some time, order was regained, and the British resumed their march towards Concord. 

In the history of battles and warfare, Lexington was only a minor skirmish involving 300 British and 140 colonials.  Casualties were 2 British soldiers wounded, 8 Americans killed and 10 wounded.  But amid the growing agitation for American independence, blood had finally been drawn, and the "shot that was heard around the world" had been fired.

At Concord, the minutemen and militia had been assembled and waited for the British to arrive.  They did not know what to expect as they were unaware of the deadly skirmish at Lexington.  Their orders were similar to those at Lexington - don't fire unless fired upon.  By 7.00am on April 19, the British column arrived at Concord.  The colonials - outnumbered - retired to Punkatasset Hill directly above the North Bridge about a mile north of Concord centre.  Meanwhile, the British began to search for the hidden arms - which they did not find as the alarm had been raised and the arms dispersed to neighbouring villages.  However, an accidental fire in the centre of town led the colonials at the North Bridge to think that the British were deliberately burning their village.  They advanced and attempted to cross the North Bridge - protected by 3 companies of British regulars.  The relentless colonial advance across the bridge caused the British to retreat back to the centre of Concord.  

At noon, the British began their retreat back to Boston.  All along the way (now known as the Battle Road), the British column was harried and sniped at by the colonial sharpshooters and snipers.

 

By Dominic Goh (after a visit in October 2003)