April 19th, 2016 is the 241st anniversary of the beginning of the American Revolution. 241 years ago American farmers and militia fought the “British Regulars” (professional soldiers) at Concord and Lexington and chased the redcoats back to Boston. The fight is sometimes called a skirmish, because it was less than a battle. A little over a year after this fight, Americans declared their right to form a new country with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The first modern republic was born with the actions of regular citizens rejecting a government that ruled without its consent.
The skirmish at Lexington and Concord was fought because the British tried to stop the Americans from preparing for war. In 1774, American leaders at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia petitioned King George III and parliament to restore their rights. When the king and parliament refused and continued to hold the people of Boston under martial law, the Americans decided to mobilize for war. Colonists established illegal, revolutionary governments, collected taxes to fund militia and even funerals for soldiers, and established arsenals, which are warehouses for guns and ammunition. Americans were already well-armed, with each family owning several guns. However, men in villages now trained as soldiers. Some, called minutemen, were chosen and financially supported by town leaders to be prepared to fight within a minute’s notice.
General Gage, the commander of the British army in Boston, wanted to surprise the colonists. He ordered Major Pitcairn to march 1,000 soldiers 20 miles to Concord to destroy colonial ammunition and to arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Gage did not want a fight, but wanted take weapons from Americans so they could not fight. However, Americans in Boston learned of this plan and destroyed the surprise. On the night of April 18th, 1775, a Bostonian set two lanterns in the belfry tower of the Old North Church, thus signaling three riders, Dr. Samuel Prescott, William Dawes and Paul Revere, that the British would go to Concord initially by a sea route.
The three riders set off from Boston to Concord, warning the colonists “The Regulars are coming! The Regulars are coming!” The “Regulars” were the professional British soldiers. The three successfully alerted the colonists to arm themselves and meet the British.
On the morning of April 19th, 1775, the American Revolution started. The British Regulars met American militia assembled in Lexington, a village along the road to Concord. When the Regulars met the Americans, it was dark. Major Pitcairn ordered the Americans to disperse. They just stood there. Then, inexplicably, a shot rang out and the fighting started. The British killed eight and the Americans scattered. The British continued their march to Concord. In Concord, the British found the weapons and destroyed them. However, the Americans managed to defeat a smaller group of the British at the Old North Bridge, and this victory energized the colonists.
The British were now twenty miles away from Boston, in the middle of hostile territory. For the rest of the day, the Regulars marched back to the city, drums beating, in formation, along a narrow road. During this march, Americans took aim at the soldiers, firing behind trees, stone walls, and fences, and then running away when any British soldier would chase them. By the end of the day, Americans had killed nearly 300 British and had lost 85 men. Though a small victory, it was seen as a great triumph of Americans over the strongest empire in the world.
- When did the American Revolution start?
- Why is it called a skirmish?
- Who fought for the Americans?
- Which side won?
- What were the strengths and weaknesses of the British regulars, and the American fighters, during the skirmish at Concord and Lexington?