Logo   Battle on Lexington Green, April 1775
Boston and other large towns were under the direct control of sizable royal garrisons, but the countryside and its villages belonged to the revolutionists, so an "arms race" went on uninhibited.
Redcoats line for battle on Lexington Green


(Continued from The Boston Tea Party.) Seeing war as inevitable, farmers and tradesmen began to stockpile arms, ammunition, and matériel.

Realizing that the colonists' arms collecting must be stopped, the British ordered an expeditionary force to march secretly from Boston to Concord on the night of April 18, 1775, and to make surprise searches of suspected illegal arms caches at dawn the next day.

American spies learned of the plan and set up a system to warn their countrymen. If the redcoats under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith, departed Boston along the isthmus that linked it to the mainland, one lantern would be hung in the steeple of Boston's Old North Church. If the troops instead boarded boats to row across the water and march on a different route, two lanterns would be hung.

As the British filled the boats, two lanterns appeared in the steeple, easily visible from the far shore where Paul Revere, William Dawes, and Dr Samuel Prescott waited on horseback. These messengers rode into the dark hinterland, sounding the alarm in each village. The American intelligence network was so good that the citizens of Lexington and Concord leapt from their beds long before the British advance force, commanded by Major John Pitcairn, was anywhere near.

We don't know what went through the minds of the Minutemen, the colonial militia, as they waited in the chilly dawn to hear the crunch of the redcoats' boots in the streets of Lexington and Concord. Whatever their thoughts, they had every right to be frightened, since they, small untrained bands of farmers and tradesmen, were about to face 700 of the world's best professional soldiers.

As dawn broke on April 19, 1775, seventy Lexington Minutemen, outnubered ten to one, faced Pitcairn's regiments on Lexington's town green.

The Minutemen were ordered by Major Pitcairn to disperse. They stood their ground. Taunts were exchanged. A shot was fired, and that triggered a battle.

When the smoke cleared, eight Minutemen were dead, and the British troops went on a rampage that was stopped only with difficulty by their commanders, who immediately marched them in the direction of Concord.

(The Lexington Fight is re-enacted each year on Patriots' Day. More...)

Next: The Battle of Concord

—by Tom Brosnahan

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  Paris Girls Secret Society, the new novel by Tom Brosnahan


Lexington Minutemen, Lexington, Massachusetts

Minutemen ready in Lexington MA for the annual re-enactment of the "Lexington Fight," first battle of the American Revolution.

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