The First Shot

It doesn’t matter who fired it. Whether it was an eager patriot, a nervous redcoat, or a drunken hunter not even on the field, is immaterial. What matters is that the shot was fired and the road to a new nation was trod. The path to this point had been tumultuous, and it was far from set in stone, even after blood had been spilled, but it was now a different path than what had been. No longer would they entreat their king for redress of grievances with lengthy tomes. Now they would speak with the ferocity of black powder and cold steel, and the hot blood of patriots.

The afternoon of April 18, 1775, Dr. Joseph Warren, considered by Governor Gage as the most dangerous man in the colonies, had seen five British officers on horseback returning to Boston along Charleston Neck. Their mission had been to reconnoiter the route for an armed excursion into the countryside to seize militia arms and arrest Sam Adams and John Hancock, two of the most vocal and radical of the patriots agitating against the long line of usurpations of King George III. The reconnaissance had been designed to prevent raising alarm among the colonists. Instead Dr. Warren mounted the steeple of the Old North Church and lit two lanterns, launching Paul Revere and Richard Dawes on their famous Midnight Ride.

Early on the morning of April 19 approximately 800 British soldiers boarded boats manned by Royal Navy sailors on a deserted beach of Boston’s Back Bay. The men were Royal Marines under Major Pictairn, and Grenadiers and Light Infantry flank companies, the elite of the British Army. Overall command was under Lt. Col. Francis Smith, an experienced and aged officer. Through a source so close to General Gage that his, or possibly her, identity remains a secret to this day, Dr. Warren learned that the column’s target was Concord, and Adams and Hancock.

While the regulars marched through the idyllic countryside, the Sons of Liberty and Minute Men were assembling at Lexington Green and in the surrounding woods militiamen were turning out in ever increasing numbers. As the sun rose over Lexington Common the lead British column drew up in line facing the 80 or so loosely assembled militia men who had just exited the Buckman Tavern. British  Marine Leftenant Jesse Adair, commanding the advanced guard, ordered Capt. John Parker to dismiss his militia and not impede the forces march to Concord. This game had been played before. The redcoats had been playing a game of cat and mouse, trying to capture patriot stores in a series of bloodless skirmishes called Powder Alarms. The British would sally forth, the colonists’ early alarm system of dispatch riders, bugles and drums warned of their excursion, and the arms caches were dispersed. Though Capt. Parker expected that today would be no different, he had no illusions what an engagement with trained British regulars would mean. He had no intention of instigating a fight, and had formed his men so as not to block the road to Concord; but he also was determined to make a statement of defiance. “Stand your ground; don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”

Lt. Adair marched his men down the common in an effort to flank and surround the militia, while the follow on companies under Maj. Pictairn drew up in their front. Lt.William Sutherland rushed the patriots brandishing his sword, yelling “Lay down your arms, you damned rebels!” Adair’s men rushed forward shouting “Huzzah!”, bayonets leveled, to confuse the rebels. Both Pictairn and Parker ordered their men to hold their fire, but in all of the confusion, someone discharged their musket. The “Shot Heard ‘Round The World” had been fired.

The British, acting in an undisciplined manner and without orders, unleashed a devastating volley into the confused ranks of militia.  The militia broke and wisely ran for their lives, leaving behind eight dead and 10 wounded. Those killed were Samuel Hadley, John Brown, Jonathon Harrington, Caleb Harrington, Asahel Porter, Robert Munroe, Jonas Parker, and Isaac Muzzey.

The British officers regained control of their men and reformed them for the march to Concord. In the surrounding countryside the hornet’s nest of Minute Men were swarming.

When they arrived in Concord they found most of the arms had been evacuated. While they fruitlessly searched the buildings and nearby farms, the militia formed on the hills over looking the North Bridge over the Concord River. They formed into a column and marched against the regulars on the opposite bank. To the militia’s surprise the British fired a live volley and two Minute Men fell dead. The militia stopped and fired a volley of their own, and this time it was the British who broke and ran. For most of the redcoats it was their first terrifying taste of combat, and facing an overwhelming force in a confusing situation, they did the unthinkable; the vaunted Lobsterback turned tail.

Both sides then settled into a tense standoff, watching each other from defensive positions while the remainder of the British forces finished their empty search of Concord Town. A local lunatic wandered between the lines selling hard cider to both sides, who sat in stunned disbelief that lethal shots had actually been fired, that blood had finally and truly been spilled.

After lunch the British formed into columns for the march back to Boston. About a mile east of Concord at a crossroads and bridge named Merriam’s Corner, the colonists descended on the British column. To the increasingly worried regulars it was “as if men fell from the sky.” From there, and at places named Bloody Angle, Mason’s Farm, and Fiske’s Hill, the militiamen ambushed the retreating regulars, sniping at them from behind walls and trees with an accurate and deadly fire. At Lexington, the bloodied and bandaged men of Parker’s militia gained revenge when they initiated an ambush which wounded Col. Smith himself.

The planned British withdrawal was now a rout, with British officers having to draw their swords to force their men into lines to engage the yankee militia which swarmed around them like angry wasps. They were close to surrender until they were met with a relief force of 1,000 men with artillery under Lord Percy. Under Percy the reformed column resumed the march in good order, but even more militia had taken the field and the harassing raids and ambushes continued with increasing ferocity and lethality all the way back to Boston. With the increasing desperation of their plight the famed British discipline broke down yet again  and soldiers began plundering and looting houses and taverns along the route of march, killing anyone they suspected of being involved in the fighting, including two drunks in Menotomy whose only crime was being too drunk to hide in the cellar.

By dark the ragged column of British marched back into Boston under the protective guns of the Royal Navy. They had marched more than 40 miles in 21 hours, had not slept, been under fire for eight hours, and had lost 75 men killed, 174 wounded and 53 missing. When they woke the next morning Boston was surrounded by a miltia force of over 15,000. The nascent beginnings of the Continental Army had marched from all over New England when the rumor of spilled blood was born true.

Although a state of actual war now existed between the colonies and Great Britain, it would be more than a year of debates before the course of complete separation and independence was finally decided upon on July 4th, 1776, widely recognized as the birth of our nation. But it was on that bright spring morning at Lexington Green that the first step on the path to our ordained destiny as the Great Experiment, towards American Exceptionalism, to freedom and liberty, was finally and irrevocably taken.

20 comments

  1. 1
    Shaitana growls and barks:

    I read this to my children. We enjoy the detailed descriptions, it really makes it REAL to them. Thank you.

  2. 2
    irish19 growls and barks:

    Wonderful post. Happy Patriot’s Day to all!
    I have to wonder, though. How many would answer the call today?

  3. 3
    LC Stargazer growls and barks:

    It was only a tenth then. I think we’ll do as well if the time comes again. And this time, the disciplined regulars will not be on the other side.

  4. 4
    KArnold growls and barks:

    More to the point: what act will be the next Lexington and Concord? The one in 1775 was resistance to a government which taxed us less and restricted our liberties less than our current one does now, 236 years later. As the current regime continues to ignore the Constitution and rule by will and diktat, what line must they cross – what act must they commit – that causes the opposition to finally stiffen? The Redcoats’ mission was to arrest Adams and Hancock and to seize the firearms of the militia.

    What must our government do? Refuse to protect our own borders? Already there. Take up the side of America’s enemies? That train has long since left the station. Seize our hard-earned money through onerous taxation, destroy our economy, dictate how we live our private lives? I keep hearing the voices that are supposed to represent us in Washington; they keep saying as they compromise on today’s issue that they are doing so to fight on our behalf on tomorrow’s issue, and I’ve learned from their repetition that tomorrow will be the same.

    Whatever that act is that is too far will come. I have come to believe that it is a matter not of “if,” but of “when.”

  5. 5
    LC Rabidfox growls and barks:

    There is an excellent book out there called “The Day the American Revolution Began”. I forget the author, but it follows the events of that day and then how the word spread, where, and how it was received. A really interesting history.

  6. 6
    dasbow growls and barks:

    Ahh, for the days when being from Massachusetts was something to be proud of. How far we’ve fallen.

  7. 7
  8. 8
    Samsapeel1 growls and barks:

    Whatever that act is that is too far will come. I have come to believe that it is a matter not of “if,” but of “when.”

    New here. But I have to disagree with KArnold. I don’t think that there IS an act that will be a step “too far” for most Americans. If the TSA Scan & Grope procedures didn’t do it, nothing will. By the time any “step too far” comes, if it comes at all, it will be far too late. I hate to be so pessimistic in my first comment here, but, personally I think its already too late.

    As far as I can tell, The Revolution has been cancelled due to lack of interest.

  9. 9
    LC Jackboot IC/A growls and barks:

    Welcome Aboard- Samsapeel1– Remember to keep your hands (and other appendages) inside the vehicle and at all times and your seatbelt securely fastened.

    The ride in these parts can get a bit bumpy.

    And beware of clicking on some of the freely given linky-love. Who I won’t say. :em93:

  10. 10
    irish19 growls and barks:

    And beware of clicking on some of the freely given linky-love. Who I won’t say.

    Oh, he’ll find out soon enough.Response to LC Stargazer @:
    I hope you’re right about the disciplined regulars.

  11. 11
    Library Czar growls and barks:

    Crunchie

    Very nice post but are you sure the first shots weren’t fired by the British in March of 1770 in Boston? :em93:

  12. 12
    LC/IB PrimEviL growls and barks:

    An excellent post, Crunch. (damn, seems to be a bit sandy in here). One thing you left out,
    was the presence of a new weapon, which would continually confound and terrorize the *fucking* English.
    That weapon was the American Long Rifle.

    The Brown Bess musket of the day was good to hit a bull in the ass at fifty feet. Could hit a barn from the
    in-side beyond that. It would be an unfortunate elephant actually struck by a ball aimed at it at one hundred
    yards.

    Enter a RIFLE. Which could, and did, strike a man-sized target out to 300 yards. To make it worse for the
    unsuspecting English, some had two super-posed barrels, that could be twisted. Double jeopardy. The
    ubiquitously American “swivel-breech” rifle.

    The contribution of the American Long Rifle cannot be underestimated at any General’s table to Our
    Victory. Plus, those pesky Colonials didn’t know anything about “civilized warfare”, and fought the
    English as a far more dire and present enemy had taught them. No-one I have ever read has given
    proper credence to the American Indian as a teaching enmity; without whose lessons in wilderness
    woodland warfare, grimly learned, America may well have lost the war.

    The English sought to fight a European-style conflict in a land too primitive in both geography and
    inhabitants for that to work. The harbinger that should have sent up the red balloon was Braddock’s
    defeat along the Allegheny north of Ft. Duquene (later Pittsburgh). Oh, well. As the famous writer once
    said, “Fools Die”.

  13. 13
    KArnold growls and barks:

    Welcome, Samsapeel1, and no offense taken. I hope and pray that we never have to find out which of us is right; if at all still possible, I dearly hope that our fellow citizens will vote us back from this brink, and we can avert the need to find out if we’ll fight back. An internal shooting war would be a fine thing to be able to avoid.

    If not, though, I highly recommend siding with the loyal citizens who post and comment here…

  14. 14
    LC Ogrrre growls and barks:

    Welcome, Samsapeel1. I have no compunction about naming names. If you value your sanity, DO NOT under any circumstances click on a link from BC, Radical Redneck (and, where’s the Major?). If you accidentally click on one of their links, the first time I will send, for free, the necessary Brain Bleach to rehab you back to functionality. After that, I will sell you the Brain Bleach, but it is way expensive. So expensive, in fact, that it ain’t covered by Obamacare.

  15. 15
    LC Xystus growls and barks:

    LC/IB PrimEvil:

    One thing you left out, was the presence of a new weapon, which would continually confound and terrorize the *fucking* English. That weapon was the American Long Rifle.

    The Brown Bess musket of the day was good to hit a bull in the ass at fifty feet…

    Reportedly, though, for close quarters, Bess made a better bayonet mount–or club.

  16. 16
    Elephant Man growls and barks:

    OT but speaking of “first shots”…

    First Time: Reporter Turns Aggressive With Obama…

    The Chosen One gets a taste of “Dubya’s” world and is most displeased.

    After all, proper respect and fealty towards ‘The Messiah” is not only expected, but demanded! :em01:

  17. 17
    DarthBane growls and barks:

    Great stuff Crunchie!

    OT:

    Sarah Palin gave a speech in WI. Naturally the unhinged moonbats showed up to protest this grave injustice.

    [url]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_RkyMZ9D9A&feature=player_embedded[/url]

    [IMG][/IMG]

  18. 18
    Samsapeel1 growls and barks:

    Thanks all, for the kind welcome.
    I “lurked” awhile before signing up so, as far as BC’s links …. too late. Besides, with respect to LC Ogrrre’s warning not to click the links “If you value your sanity” ….. if I valued my sanity, would I be here? :em95:

    KArnold, I share your hope. I still have hope. There’s always hope. I just wish it didn’t keep seeming to get smaller and smaller (or farther away, depending on one’s perspective) with each passing day.

    As for “siding with the loyal citizens who post and comment here”, …I already do. Though I was a mostly apolitical dolt until my late 20’s, it didn’t take me too long after Sept. 11, 2001 to figure out what had been going on in America for decades while I slept unawares. As I gained knowledge of the goings on in this country (and the world), and who was behind them, I found that I had already chosen “my side” before I even knew there were sides to choose.

  19. 19

    Response to Samsapeel1 @:
    A hearty welcome aboard Samspeel1. Your story sounds very familiar, a lot of LC’s were in the same boat. Glad to have ya.

  20. 20
    LC Ogrrre growls and barks:

    Besides, with respect to LC Ogrrre’s warning not to click the links “If you value your sanity” …

    Okay, if you value your lunch, or yesterday’s lunch, or even last week’s lunch, don’t click on links by BC and RR. :em38: