Give me truth my faithful friends and this will make us strong,
Give me hope my loyal Men that we may right the wrong.
Give me faith oh Minute Men, and fear shall disappear,
Give me God beside my arm for victory is near.
Having received Intelligence, that a Quantity of Ammunition, Provision, Artillery, Tents and small Arms, have been collected at Concord, for the Avowed Purpose of raising and supporting a Rebellion against His Majesty, you will March with the Corps of Grenadiers and Light Infantry, put under your Command, with utmost expedition and Secrecy to Concord, where you will seize and destroy all Artillery, Ammunition, Provisions, Tents, Small Arms, and all Military Stores whatever - Per Order of General Gage to Lt. Colonel F. Smith, of the Kings Troops
Having set out on foot from Boston the night before, On the morning of April 19th, 1775
, 900 British regular forces under the command of Lt. Col. Francis Smith were marching on the King's Highway towards Concord, Massachusetts, 17 miles away in the countryside. Their objective was to find and capture weapons and ammunition hidden by the rebel forces in Concord, as General Gage had issued a ban on private ownership of weapons and ammunition earlier in the week. Their other objective was to punish the simple rivulet farmer-rebels of Concord whom recently hosted the illegal Provincial Congress. The British obtained the hidden location of the arms cache from the Tories of the area who were still loyal to the Crown of King George.
"The British are coming! The British are coming!" The American alarm system went into action, and riders were sent by several routes to notify all the militia companies throughout the colony that British regulars were marching with the intention to take the arms at Concord. As the British column of red-coated soldiers marched westward they began to hear strange sounds they were not used to hearing in the colonies: bells were ringing in the distance ahead of them, and alarm guns being fired to waken the population.
In the village of Lexington, which lay right along the road to Concord, the residents prepared for a fight they knew was imminent. Captain John Parker’s militiamen gathered at Munroe Tavern to await word about the arrival of the British Army. The presence of John Hancock and Samuel Adams, the two men most wanted by royal authorities, made Lexington a target for the redcoats' attention on their way to Concord.
Shortly after dawn on the 19th of April, 38 militiamen of Lexington confronted the 900 British regulars on Lexington Green.
What a glorious morning this is!--Samuel Adams, to John Hancock April 19th 1775
As the British vanguard formed up in a battle line facing the militia, Colonel Smith, the British commander, was pleasantly surprised by the small size of the American force. He ordered the colonists to throw down their arms and disperse.
Throw down your arms, ye villains, ye Rebels, Disperse!
Though vastly outnumbered, Captain Parker replied to his men:
Stand your ground; don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here!
BANG! A single shot was fired, followed by dozens more. Whether the shot was fired by a the rebel militia or the British has been lost to history. When the smoke cleared, 18 Americans lay dead or wounded and one British soldier was slightly wounded. The outmatched Minutemen retreated into the nearby woods and the redcoats proceeded westward to their main objective, Concord. As the sun rose, they could see the ghostly shadows of men in the distance, moving across the open countryside from all directions heading toward Concord.
"God wills us free; man wills us slaves: I will as God wills; God's will be done."
At seven o’clock in the morning the British reached their main objective, the tiny village of Concord. The Redcoats occupied the village center and proceded to march a few hundred yards west to the Concord River, in an effort to seize the Old North Bridge. The British suspected the farm houses on the opposite side of the river to be harboring the arsenal of illegal rebel arms.
However, as the British massed their troops upon the bridge, they were not alone. The Redcoats were being watched. About 250 armed farmers gathered on Punkatasset hill above the Old North Bridge, about 300 yards away. These men were lead by their representative, Colonel James Barrett, a Concord farmer and veteran of the French and Indian war. They were unaware of what had just happened at Lexington Green.
As the Minutemen observed the King's men from the hill, something else caught their watchful eye. A pale column of smoke rose over the trees. The British were burning Concord, which lay past the British held side of the river. Joseph Hosmer, Colonel Barrett's second in command turned to Barrett and exclaimed, "Will you let them burn the town down?"
Local militia leader, Isaac Davis drew his sword, and, turning to Barret, said: "I haven't a man that's afraid to go."
Colonel Barrett gave the order to march in defense of Concord. These men resolved to march over the bridge into the middle of the village to defend their homes, or die in the attempt. These defenders of Concordia, farmers, fisherman, woodsman; mostly fathers and their adolescent sons, marched down from the hill toward the bridge.
A child fifer in the lead bravely fluting “The White Cockade”.
The British were immensely surprised, not only to see a small band of farmers on the hill, but to their shock, they were advancing! The Redcoats withdrew to the village side of the bridge and massed around the narrow span. They had to hold the bridge. Colonel Smith had his orders from General Gage, and he meant to carry them out. With their hundreds of glistening guns pointed toward the river, the British soldiers fired warning shots. The American kept coming. A shot rang out. The shot heard 'round the world. A rag-tag band of farmers confronted the King's best soldiers... and beat them.
The Americans seemed to drop from the clouds and we were totally surrounded with such an incessant fire as it is impossible to conceive. -British officer
William Emerson, the village reverend "who had turned out amongst the first in the morning to animate and encourage his people by his counsel and patriotic example,"
wrote this account.
For half and hour, the enemy, by their continuous marches, discovered great fickleness and inconstancy of mind; till at length they quitted the town, and retreated by the way they came. In the meantime a party of our men took the back way, through the Great Fields, into the east quarter, and had placed themselves to advantage, lying in ambush behind walls, fences and buildings, ready to fire upon the enemy on their retreat.
Reverend Emerson also urged his flock that morning; "Let us stand our ground. If we die, let us die here.”
As the British retreated, they were astonished to find 6,000 Minutemen from local villages had descended upon the outskirts of Concord. The Minutemen waited for the British until they reached Merriams Corner, where they sprung upon them. Thus began the bloody retreat back to Boston. The Minutemen hid behind trees and stone fences to attack the British from both sides of the "King's" road. They were harried every step of the way. The British mission was a failure. The rebel leaders were safe and the colonists had salvaged their cache of arms.
The Sword is now drawn, and God knows when it will be sheathed.
Thus, the “embattled farmers” had won the day. The Revolution was on; there was no turning back. The British crossed the Charles River to what they thought was the safety of Torry occupied Boston. However, they were wrong. Tens of thousands of American militiamen surrounded Boston and began what is now known as the "Siege of Boston" and the battle of Breeds Hill. Eventually the British had no choice but to retreat from Boston once and for all, by way of ship. Soon after Boston was liberated by the revolutionary forces, Washington began his Continental Army campaigns to the south, eventually winning the war outright in the years to come.
Manus haec inimica tyrannis ense petit placidam sub libertate quietam This hand, hostile to tyrants, seeks with the sword a quiet peace under liberty
That blood stain, on the vernal sword,
Hallowed to freedom all the shore;
In fragments fell the yoke abhorred---
The footsteps of a foreign lord
Profaned the soil no more.
By rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.