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April 19, 1775

A Celebration Of What It Took That Ours Would Be A Free Nation

 

The secret was out and soon the men, soldiers and messengers, would be on their way....Dr. Warren had learned the secret (the colonists were "not so dumb!") that General Gage, then in charge of Massachusetts, had planned to sneak out of Boston and confiscate the colonists military supplies.  Could the messengers out-smart and out-run the British regulars?  Paul almost got caught but the night was dark and the horse was swift.   "A hurry of hoofs on the village street, a shape in the moonlight...the fate of a nation was riding that night."1  Yes, and as Paul Revere galloped into Lexington he knew the Red Coats were just behind him. Leaping off his horse, he strode to the door of Rev. Jonas Clark's home where Samuel Adams and John Hancock were asleep, and banged on the door.

"Who’s there?  Don’t make so much noise.  Folks are trying to sleep here."

"Noise!  There’ll be plenty of noise soon; the Red Coats are coming!  Get Adams and Hancock out of here!  It wouldn’t do for them to be hung by those traitors!"

Soon the colonial militia had been alerted and they came-half asleep, stumbling in the dark.

"Don’t shoot unless fired upon,"  Sargent Parker told them, "but if they want a war, let it begin here."

And it did.  But let the historians tell it:

Major Pitcairn with six companies of light infantry,..(soon) came within a mile and a half of the Lexington meeting-house...where about seventy towns-people assembled as the drums beat, and at the sound the British halted to load.  The advance guard and grenadiers then hurried forward at double quick, and when 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, (obeying Sargent Parker’s orders) not to fire first.  Some were joining the ranks, 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,... 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, ordered his men to disperse.  The Regulars continued their fire while any of the militia remained in sight, killing eight and wounding ten.  The village green where this event took place, has been termed by the historian "a field of murder not of battle."

George Washington expressed the thinking of all the colonist when he said,

"Unhappy is it to reflect that a brother's sword has been sheathed in a brother's breast, and that the once happy and peaceful plains of America are to be either drenched with blood or inhabited by slaves.  Sad alternative.  But can a virtuous man hesitate in his choice?"

Language in which the yearnings of the patriot give affecting solemnity to the implied resolve of the soldier.2

A few farmers 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 as Samuel Adams predicted, his country's independence was rapidly hastening on.  Indeed, though the colonists struggled to refrain from war the aggressions never ceased, and the very next year, on July 4th, the Independence of our country from England was declared.  How thankful we are for the sacrifice of those who first gave their lives at Lexington the 19th of April, 1775.


Footnotes:

1. From Paul Revere’ Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

2. The above excerpt from Washington’s writings and other quotes are from Richard Frothingham's The Rise of the Republic, 1890


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