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Why April 19, 1775 it all began with gun control.

 

The day prior, an unimpeachable source (believed to be British General Gage’s American-born wife) informed Dr. Joseph Warren that British troops would deploy for Concord the night of April 18, in order to seize Colonial military supplies believed to be stored there. This wasn’t the first time they had done so.  In September of the previous year they had seized 250 barrels of gunpowder from the Massachusetts Provincial Powder House in Charlestown.

The route the British planned to take was not initially known.  They might take boats from Boston to a shorter northern route, or they might take the land route, five miles longer.  The increased distance meant a substantially longer trip for marching troops, who might carry up to 100 pounds of equipment.

That night, longboats from the British ships Boyne and Somerset began to take on British troops for their transfer to the staging area for the northern route. Billy Dawes was sent via the southern route to warn John Hancock and Sam Adams that the British were to march on Concord, the current location of these two notorious agitators.

Paul Revere conferred with other Sons of Liberty to have the pre-arranged signal displayed via lanterns in the steeple of the Old North Church, “one if by land, two if by sea.”  Across the Charles River, posted watchers received and immediately began to spread the message.  About 10 p.m., Revere and two others rowed past the HMS Somerset to Charlestown.  There, his famous ride began.

 

“The Regulars are out.  The British are coming!”

 

Lt. Col. Francis Smith led 700 grenadiers and light infantry, accompanied by (among others) Marine Major Pitcairn, who had remarked the prior month in reference to the increase in the citizens’ militia drills, “I am satisfied that one active campaign, a smart action, and burning two or three towns will get everything to rights.”

77 militiamen, warned by Revere and the additional post riders activated by his alarm, assembled on the village green at Lexington under the command of Militia Captain John Parker.  Parker, who was suffering from TB, had risen from his sick-bed to command his troops, men who were usually just his neighbors.  Parker was an experienced officer, having fought in the recent French & Indian Wars.  He instructed his men: “Stand your ground.  Do not fire unless fired upon.  But if they mean to have a war, let it begin here!”

Despite his words, Parker had his men form two lines, knowing the British would perceive this as a challenge.  British Marine Maj. Pitcairn ordered them, ”Lay down your arms, ye rebels, and disperse!”  The militiamen began to disperse, but not disarm, when a shot was fired!

Without orders from their officers, the British troops fired into the militiamen.  A few militiamen returned fire.  Afterwards, 8 Americans were dead and 10 more wounded.  One British soldier and one horse had been wounded.  The British officers regained control of their troops and reformed ranks.  They fired a victory volley and resumed their march to Concord.

At Concord, hundreds of militiamen were gathering in response to the alarm raised by Revere and the other post riders, assembled on Punkatasset Hill overlooking the town.  The Rev. Wm. Emerson instructed the militia “Let us stand our ground.  If we die, let us die here!”

The British troops began to search the town for military supplies, and to enthusiastically loot its contents.  Most of the military stores had recently been moved to Acton and Worcester, but they found 3 cannon and 500lbs of musket balls, as well as a supply of wooden spoons and bowls stored in barrels.  These were stacked in the town and burned.

The militia, spotting the rising smoke, believed the British had set fire to the town, and advanced via the North Bridge towards Concord.  The bridge was guarded by 3 British companies, who fired a warning volley and another volley at the militia.  Most of the shots went high.  The command “aim” was not in the British manual of arms.  They instead emphasized the bayonet.  Over 100 shots were fired, wounding 4 men and killing two.  Isaac Davis, the first American casualty of the Revolution, had left 4 sick children at home.  The Americans, outnumbered 4:1, using deliberate aimed fire, struck 4 of the 8 British officers and 5 regulars, causing the British to break ranks and run, initiating a disorganized retreat by the British as other militia  joined in the fight.

As they retreated, the rear guard fired at the Americans shadowing their retreat. The senior American officer present was William Heath, a man with no military experience, a self-described “corpulent, balding farmer.”  Extremely well-read on military tactics, he had refined the idea of a “circle of fire,” where fast-moving troops could keep a slower moving enemy in the center of sustained fire (modern day skirmishing).

The British troops faced an 18 mile gauntlet of fire on their retreat to Boston.  Militiamen continued to join in the series of ambushes to attack the British.  From behind trees, stone walls, and houses, the militia fired on the British, only appearing long enough to fire, then dropping out of sight to reload.

Fortunately for the British, a relief column led by Col. Hugh (Lord Percy) arrived, bringing with them two cannon.  Even with these reinforcements, the British return to Boston developed into a rout.  While the militia pressed their attacks, the British discarded equipment, arms, and even loot as they fled back to Boston.

The British sustained 273 casualties to the Americans 93.  Afterwards, the British reported that the militia fought not as lone assailants, but as units.

 

click map for higher resolution 1.5 meg file

 

From Another Source:

On 18 April 1775 three terrorists rode though the midnight Massachusetts countryside from Boston to Concord to warn their conspiring terrorists & insurrectionists that enforcement officials of the legitimate government were on the way to confiscate their assault rifles. Known to be prone to violence, the anti-government activists aroused fellow insurrectionist/terrorist forces – militia types – and over 500 of them unlawfully assembled to resist with armed violence the 700 lawfully authorized agents of the legitimate government come to confiscate the assault rifles from these dangerous anti-government activists. The three anti-government terrorist gun nuts were later identified as Paul Revere, William Dawes, & Samuel Prescott, and had they not made that ride, terrorists, insurrectionists, anti-government activists, and gun nuts that they were, y'all would still be singing "God save the King" at the opening of baseball games.

 

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