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The British Are Coming to Lexington

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"The British Are Coming"

to Lexington!

 

The next time you spill something (milk, coffee or tea) remember Boston and Lexington.1

Because of some spilt tea the English king got mad and sent troops to let Boston know he'd not put up with their pranks.  He soon learned that the Massachusetts patriots weren't playing games.

"If they want to start a war, let it begin here," the Minute-men's sergeant told his men.  And, sure enough, the British started something they couldn't finish.

Comfortably established in the homes of the citizens of Boston, the Red Coats were called out in the middle of the night to sneak up on Lexington and Concord and seize the supplies, food, and ammunition the colonists had hidden away in the country.

The Massachusetts patriots, however, were doing more than preparing to fend off their enemies; they had their spies!  They knew when, under the command of Major Pitcairn, the Red Coats marched off to Lexington-with previous orders to capture the leaders of the opposition, Samuel Adams and John Hancock.

Unfortunately for Adams and Hancock, they also had gone to Lexington to visit the Rev. Jonas Clark, a Pastor Patriot.  This gutsy pastor had been instructing his congregation on matters of state and the possibility of war.  Pastor Clark, Adams and Hancock not having heard of the Britisher's plans went quietly off to bed the night of April 18th and this is the beginning of the famous story: "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere," silver smith, as told by Longfellow, the historian, William V. Wells and others.

Revere reached Clark's home shortly before dawn where a guard of eight men were stationed for the protection of Adams and Hancock.  Riding up to the house, he knocked loudly on the door.  The Sergeant answered the door and warned Revere to be a little quieter as, "The family before retiring had desired that they might not be disturbed by any noise about the house."

"Noise!" replied Revere, "you'll have noise enough before long. The Regulars are coming out."

This calamity caused the sergeant to call out the local militia.  The countrymen of about a hundred and thirty with guns loaded with powder and ball while Adams, Hancock, and Clark looked on waiting for orders.  However, as a messenger came with the report that no troops could be seen, and weather being chilly, the men were dismissed with orders to appear again at beat of drum.

In the meantime, Colonel Smith, in charge of the British, had marched his column but a few miles from Boston when the ringing of bells and firing of guns satisfied him that the country was alarmed.  Major Pitcairn, Smith's subordinate, having orders to press forward, and secure the two bridges at Concord, while his superior sent for reinforcements, marched toward Lexington.

Pitcairn, as he marched his troops through the villages, trying to prevent the news of his approach, captured those whom he met on the road-a hopeless task for these were natives of the area he was traversing.

Eluding the troops, another horseman galloped into the village breathlessly announcing the approaching Britishers.  At this, about seventy towns-people assembled as the drums beat.

The Red Coats now arrived and, hearing the sound the drum beat, halted to load.  The advance guard and grenadiers then hurried forward at double quick. When they were within five or six rods of the Provincials, Pitcairn shouted, "Disperse, ye villains, ye rebels, disperse!  Lay down your arms!  Why don't you lay down your arms and disperse?"

Most of the minute-men, undecided whether to fire or retreat, stood motionless, having been ordered by their commander not to fire first.  Some were joining the ranks, and others leaving them, when Pitcairn in a loud voice gave the word to fire, at the same time discharging his pistol.  The order was obeyed at first by a few guns, which did no execution, and immediately after by a deadly discharge from the whole British force.

A few of the militia, no longer hesitating, returned the fire, but without serious effect.  Parker, seeing the utter disparity of forces, then ordered his men to disperse.  The Regulars continued their fire while any of the militia remained in sight, killing or wounding many.

The village green, where this event took place, has been described by the historian, "a field of murder, not of battle."

"A few farmers, unsuspecting such a sudden onslaught, had assembled, willing to defend their homes but determined not to commence hostilities.”

The firing was soon over, and the royal troops remained masters of the field; but the sacrifice of that little band revolutionized a world.  It was the first scene in the drama which was to carry with it the destinies of mankind-“The shot heard ‘round the world”.

What happened to Adams and Hancock?  As the soldiers made their appearance, they were persuaded to retire to an adjacent village, their safety being regarded as of utmost importance.

The historian, Bancroft, wrote, "Heedless of his own danger, Samuel Adams, with the voice of a prophet, exclaimed, ‘O! what a glorious morning is this!' for he saw that his country's independence was rapidly hastening on,..."

Post Script:  The famous "Committees of Correspondence" were shortly founded by Adams who wanted the colonies to be united "not by external bonds, but by the vital force of distinctive ideas and principles," particularly, "constitutional principles."

These words have a special meaning for us who support the "Constitutional Compass"2 because they indicate the importance of ideas in overcoming tyranny.  


Footnotes:

1. The above edited excerpts are from:

The historian, Charles Bancroft, (1908)

"The Rise of the Republic" by Richard Frothingham, (1890)

"The Life and Public Services of Samuel Adams" by William V. Wells, (1865)

 

2. The " Constitutional Compass" was the newspaper published by North State Tea Party Alliance of California.


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