Skip to comments.April 19: Freedomís Birthday
Posted on 04/19/2006 6:51:32 AM PDT by Irontank
Americans revere a great number of dates that hold special significance for their culture and history. The Fourth of July, Veterans Day, the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. a quick glance through any calendar provides numerous other examples.
Yet the one day of most importance, to both the nation and its culture, is the one that is conspicuously absent from any mention of notable historical dates. No parades honor the fallen; no speeches in Congress remind us of their deeds; no wreaths are laid; no moments of silence requested.
On this sacred date no president will stand on hallowed ground to remind the American people of the important lessons of the nations founding: dedication to freedom and the example of that principle borne out in dramatic practice.
The day Americans should mark on their calendar every year is April 19. On that day, 229 years ago, patriot militiamen from the New England countryside rose up against brute force, tyranny, and oppression. In so doing, they propelled from theory into vivid reality a revolutionary idea: the supremacy of the individual over government.
The story begins, of course, long before the actual day itself. For years tensions had been increasing between the North American colonials and their masters in the British government. Disputes over taxes and other British policies had resulted in protests, riots, and boycotts. The Stamp Act, the Revenue Act, the Boston Massacre, and the climactic Boston Tea Party were the culmination of a decade of growing conflict. As a result, the city of Boston was garrisoned with large numbers of British troops and its harbor was sealed off to prevent trade under the Boston Port Act, impoverishing the city, and further angering the colonials.
Resentment of tyranny mounts
In July 1774, Thomas Jefferson penned A Summary View of the Rights of British America in response to the governments oppressive measures. Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of the day, he wrote, but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period, and pursued unalterably thro every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate, systematical plan of reducing us to slavery.
The colonials, particularly those in Boston, had tasted the bit of heavy-handed government and found it not at all to their liking.
Attempts to bully the colonials into submitting to British designs were not, however, confined to occupation troops, taxes, and trade laws. In his book A Right to Bear Arms, noted Second Amendment scholar and lawyer Stephen P. Halbrook writes,
The last part of 1774 through the first half of 1775 was characterized by systematic British attempts to disarm the Americans . In September 1774, the Crown-appointed counselors of Boston considered banning possession of arms by the people, leading to widespread protests. Militia stores were confiscated in Massachusetts and Virginia; in Virginia, George Mason and George Washington formed the Fairfax County Militia Association. Interestingly, they were explicitly aware of the quasi-illegal nature of their actions, noting that our governors forbid giving assent to militia laws, making it high time that we enter into associations for learning the use of arms, and to choose officers.
In South Carolina, a militant writer suggested that the inhabitants of this colony ought never to be without the most ample supply of arms and ammunition and that they should ready themselves for the defence of this valuable country. Philadelphia raised five regiments of militia. A resident of the city, Joseph Barroll, wrote to a friend in England, We are ready to die free, but determined not to live slaves . Oppression will make a wise man mad; you will soon be made acquainted with the Spirit of the times.
In New England, as elsewhere, conditions were reaching a boiling point. Tensions between government officials and colonial agitators were rising toward inevitable conflict. In May 1774, Parliament passed laws removing the last vestiges of popular control of the colony of Massachusetts, including, according to John Galvin in The Minute Men, the right to name the Governors Council, to elect judges, sheriffs, and justices of the peace, to summon juries, and to hold town meetings.
Furthermore, Colonists accused of crimes could be carried out of Massachusetts to Admiralty Courts in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for trial. Few acts, concludes Galvin, could have done more to destroy hope for a peaceful settlement of differences.
August 1774 brought an angry letter from Gen. Thomas Gage, the newly appointed governor of Massachusetts, to his superior, Lord Dartmouth, in England:
In Worcester they keep no terms; openly threatening resistance by arms; have been purchasing arms; preparing them; casting balls; and providing powder; and threaten to attack any troops who dare to oppose them. Worse, 2,000 armed colonial militiamen had marched on the common in Worcester on August 26 to demonstrate their resistance to royal judges taking their seats there the following month.
On September 1, Gage ordered 260 soldiers to secure the Kings powder held in the Quarry Hill arsenal in Charlestown the patriot towns in the surrounding area had already withdrawn their stores and the move caused an uproar among the colonials. The government had demonstrated its willingness to act decisively against threats of rebellion.
Yet colonial anger only mounted. When the court at Worcester was due to open on September 6, 6,000 militiamen under arms stood ready to prevent it and if necessary fight against the kings soldiers. None arrived. Worried about the flames of sedition that had spread universally throughout the country, beyond conception, Gage was obliged to stand down and allow British law to be successfully challenged by armed force.
Galvin writes For the first time many provincials began to believe that a revolution was indeed possible, providing further impetus to a growing movement of organized armed resistance to the British Crown.
Right through the autumn and winter of 1774 and the spring of 1775 the two sides prepared for hostilities. The patriots continued to arm themselves and form independent militia companies. Meanwhile British troops continually marched around Massachusetts in show of force operations designed to intimidate the colonials and weaken their determination to resist the government. Instead, these actions only strengthened patriot resolve to be prepared, should the need arise, to defend against any clear aggression.
That opportunity would present itself in April. The fourth of that month brought news from London that more troops were en route to reinforce Boston and that Parliament had declared the province to be in a state of rebellion. Gage was under pressure to force the rebels into a fight. Dartmouth had written to him that the colonial militiamen were merely a rude rabble without plan, without concert, and without conduct, intending for Gage to press a military solution to American resistance.
Lexington and Concord Receiving word of large stocks of military supplies being hidden in the village of Concord, roughly 20 miles from Boston, Gage saw his chance to strike a major blow against the growing rebellion. Forming an expeditionary force of around 700 men, to be led by Lt. Col. Francis Smith, Gage ordered that the militia stockpiles in Concord be seized and destroyed. The troops moved out from their Boston garrison at around 9 p.m. on April 18, crossing the Charles River and heading into the countryside.
Naturally, British movements did not go unnoticed. Patriot riders Paul Revere and William Dawes were given the signal from Bostons Old North Church to warn the surrounding towns and villages, and news spread fast of the armys march. Militia leaders had begun mustering their men by early in the morning of April 19, as the British soldiers were well on their way towards Concord.
In Lexington, Capt. John Parker gathered his men. Their plan was to form on the village green but not interfere with the British march unless attempts were made to damage the town or harass its inhabitants. Seventy-six militia members formed into ranks and awaited the armys arrival.
They came shortly after sunrise and marched right into the midst of the vastly outnumbered colonials. The lead officer in the British ranks, Major Pitcairn, shouted at the militia, Ye villains, ye rebels disperse! Lay down your arms! As the British soldiers moved to surround them, several of the colonials fired, only to be devastated by a return barrage from the British light infantry. The soldiers then went berserk, firing mercilessly into the militia lines without orders. When their officers regained control, eight Americans lay dead and nine wounded. Within half an hour, the army was marching on to Concord.
Like wildfire, news of the bloodshed at Lexington spread to surrounding communities, and more and more militia companies started on their way to intercept the British. None among the soldiers could know that Middlesex County, of which Concord was the geographical center, boasted 6,000 organized militia fighters prepared to respond on a moments notice but they soon would. Before the day was through, approximately 14,000 militiamen would be swarming like hornets around the unsuspecting British force.
Marching into Concord around 8 a.m., the soldiers began their search for the militia provisions hidden there, and moved to hold several strategic positions in and around the village. As this took place, colonial militiamen began taking position on the outskirts of the town.
A militia unit under Col. James Barrett faced three companies of soldiers at the Old North Bridge. At around 10:30 a.m. one of Barretts adjutants saw a plume of smoke rising from the center of Concord (the stores had finally been found). Will you let them burn the town? the adjutant asked his commander. The Americans mistook the smoke as a sign of general plundering. Naturally, this lent a greater sense of urgency to the need for decisive action.
Colonel Barrett then ordered his men to march over the bridge and into the town. Alarmed by the large number of armed men approaching, the British soldiers retreated across the bridge and prepared to defend it, tearing up planks to prevent the militia from crossing the bridge after them. When the militia came to within 75 yards of the British ranks, the soldiers fired on the militia, killing two men instantly and wounding three others. The colonials responded with a volley of their own, wounding four British officers, a sergeant, and six privates (two fatally). Falling back in confusion, the soldiers fled the field of battle, leaving the bridge in the hands of the militia.
Things were not looking good for the British. On the ridges and hills surrounding Concord, Colonel Smith saw that the force opposing him was growing larger and larger with each passing minute. Every time Colonel Smith brought his glass to bear on the hill beyond the North Bridge, notes Galvin, the force of rebels there seemed to have grown . On the south side of town armed rebels in large numbers at least 100 of them, possibly more had crossed the South Bridge and were moving through the swampy ground to take up tactical positions. After much maneuvering, the colonel gathered his troops and prepared to make haste back to Boston, lest his relatively small force be consumed by the (now) vastly superior numbers gathering to oppose them.
For several hours more the battle would rage. Marching through the towns they had encountered on the way up to Concord, the British faced a far different situation on their return journey. Racing ahead of the column, colonial units took up positions in houses and behind walls along the road and fired into the British ranks.
The fighting was at close range, and brutal. The historian Page Smith, in A New Age Now Begins, writes that on the way back to Boston the British were harassed at every step by New England militia and, indeed, by every farmer with a gun, who fired at them from the houses that lined the road and from behind the tree stumps and fences . Every mile was paid for in British dead and wounded.
Colonel Smiths tattered units were saved only by a large relief column armed with cannon hurriedly sent out from Boston. Were it not for those reinforcements, the militia would have completely overwhelmed his force. In fact, despite reinforcements the British were still aware of their precarious situation and continued their retreat.
Back in Boston, they took stock of themselves: in all, 73 soldiers killed and 174 wounded more than 30 percent casualties. The Americans had exacted a heavy toll. Making matters worse, more than 20,000 militiamen now held Boston under siege. Following the battle, one soldier wrote home, I cannot be sure when you will get another letter from me, as this extensive continent is all in arms against us.
The Revolution had begun.
1. *Mr. Robert Munroe
2. *Mr. Jonas Parker
3. *Mr. Samuel Hadley
4. *Mr. Jonathan Harrington
5. *Mr. Caleb Harrington
6. *Mr. Isaac Muzzy
7. *Mr. John Brown
8. Mr. John Raymond
9. Mr. Nathaniel Wyman
10. Mr. Jedidiah Munroe
1. Mr. John Robbins
2. Mr. John Tidd
3. Mr. Solomon Pierce
4. Mr. Thomas Winship
5. Mr. Nathan Farmer
6. Mr. Joseph Comee
7. Mr. Ebenezer Monroe
8. Mr. Francis Brown
9. Prince Easterbrooks
Those distinguished with this mark [*] were killed by the first fire of the enemy.
There was a Comee at Lexington?........
Great post. This day should be a National holiday!
Thank you for an excellent post and a reminder. I emailed parts to several friends and family.
And in the end, he was defeated, and a America's love of guns has never died.
Thanks for the post.
I grew up around Lexington and Concord and take it for granted that EVERY American knows this. It's a nice reminder.
April 19th is just around the corner. Are you ready? The nineteenth day of April has very special meanings for all Americans, and all Jews. April 19th is a crossroads in history where suffering and sacrifice, patriotism and tyranny, liberty and slavery, religious persecution and bigotry all intersect, again, and again. For citizens of Massachusetts, April 19th marks Patriot's Day and for all Americans, the date of the "Shot heard 'round the world", when colonial militias defied orders to surrender their guns and routed King George's redcoats. For Jews, April 19th is the day Nazi storm troops surrounded the Warsaw Ghetto, sparking a revolt led by a few young Jews who refused to be enslaved or incinerated. For modern American patriots, April 19th marks the day 76 members of a religious minority died in an assault by federal paramilitary forces, aided and advised by regular military units. For the people of Oklahoma City, April 19th marks the day that 168 people died in an explosion at the Murrah Federal Building.
April 19, 1775 - The shot heard 'round the world: The Battles at Lexington Green and Concord Bridge. Warned by Paul Revere, William Dawes and Samuel Prescott, the Massachusetts militia mobilized to block a larger, better trained British force coming to seize militia weapons at Concord. At Lexington, Major John Pitcairn leading a detachment of Royal Marines told the colonists there: "Disperse, you rebels! Damn you, through down your arms, and disperse!" Nobody knows who fired the first shot at Lexington Green, but the colonial militia refused confiscation of their guns and the British drove them back in the initial encounter. After regrouping the colonial militia did better, turning back the British at Concord Bridge and forcing a disorderly British flight back to Boston. The road back became a deadly gauntlet as farmers from "every Middlesex village and farm" sniped from behind stone walls, trees, barns, houses, all the way back to Charlestown peninsula. By nightfall the British survivors were safe under the protection of the Royal Navy and British army at Boston, having lost 273 men that day, while the Americans lost 95. The following year, the colonial Americans declared independence, a date now marked as July 4th, a national holiday. Months after participating in the actions at Lexington and Concord, a former slave, a black African named Salem Prince was introduced to General George Washington as the sharpshooter who killed Major Pitcairn at Bunker Hill (June 1775). April 19th is celebrated as a holiday only in Massachusetts.
April 19, 1943 - The Warsaw Ghetto Revolt - When Nazi SS units tried to remove the remaining occupants of the Ghetto for extermination and slave labor, Jewish resistance to tyranny, slavery and religious persecution was reborn and set the spark that created the modern state of Israel. A reading of the events surrounding the Warsaw Ghetto Revolt in 1943 comes from a Jewish synagogue: "Congregation: We remember the Warsaw ghetto on the dawn of the first day of Passover, April 19, 1943. The Nazis were coming to complete the deportation of the remaining Jews to the death camps. A shot rang out on Nalevki Street, signaling the beginning of the revolt. A few hundred Jews with a few guns and hand grenades had decided to resist the tremendous power of the German army and the Gestapo. The courageous men and women of the Jewish Fighting Organization held out for forty-two days." From the Warsaw Ghetto on April 23, 1943 Mordecai Anielewicz observed "The Germans ran twice from the Ghetto....The dream of my life has risen to become a fact....Jewish armed resistance and revenge are facts. I have been witness to the magnificent, heroic fighting of Jewish men of battle." A majority voting bloc of American Jews now presents a puzzling moral and political paradox, they support victim disarmament by registration of guns and gun owners. The unregistered guns used by the Warsaw Jews did not have trigger locks.
April 19, 1993 - Massacre of Branch Davidian religious minority at Waco, Texas. Clinton appointee Attorney General Janet Reno accepted "responsibility" for the disaster, but the principle of accountability was ignored. On February 28, federal paramilitary forces laid siege to the Branch Davidian's home and 6 Davidians and 4 ATF agents died in the initial raid. The final assault on April resulted in the deaths of 76 Branch Davidians, including two unborn children. Steven Barry, a U.S. Army Special Forces soldier and others protested military involvement, but involvement of the elite Delta Force was covered up along with many other blunders by the Clinton Administration. Sergeant First Class Barry continued his protest by founding the Special Forces Underground and publishing a political warfare journal called The RESISTER and was eventually hounded into retirement. Nine Branch Davidians remain imprisoned. Nobody from the Clinton White House, Reno's Department of Justice, the FBI, the BATF or the Department of Defense has been tried, convicted or jailed. News services carried stories of a few federal demotions and promotions of those involved.
April 19, 1995 - Oklahoma City - Murrah Federal Building bombed. Timothy McVeigh was among many Americans expressing frustration at the lack of accountability for the Waco Incident. But McVeigh was convicted of bombing the federal building and sentenced to death. But could the motive for the bombing have been removed if Clinton, Reno, the FBI, the BATF and military had been truly held accountable "with justice for all"? A newspaper clipping found in Timothy McVeigh's car was titled "Waco Shootout Evokes Memory of Warsaw '43'", comparing the Branch Davidian tragedy with the Nazi assault on the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943, was a letter to the editor published in The Wall Street Journal. Federal prosecutors claimed the Waco siege so angered McVeigh that he masterminded and carried out the bombing in Oklahoma City.
April 19, 2000 - Miami - the Elian Gonzalez standoff - As the case of 6-year-old Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez hurtles to a confrontation between Janet Reno and the boy's Miami relatives, news reports speculate that Reno will not send U.S. Marshals to remove Elian tomorrow (April 19). The dark legacy of the Waco Incident hangs heavily over the Clinton Administration and Janet Reno's Department of Justice. Members of the Cuban-American community in Miami have vowed to resist any attempt to physically remove Elian from his Miami relatives. Marshals ready if needed for Elian (UPI April 17, 2000)
To be distinguished from April 20th, which is Hitler's birthday.
MANY important events have happened on April 19! It's kinda weird, actually!
Interesting choice for the second word in the article.
Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."
Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.
Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.
Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,--
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.
Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.
Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.
A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.
It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.
It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.
It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.
You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.
So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1860
Thanks for posting!
'In so doing, they propelled from theory into vivid reality a revolutionary idea: the supremacy of the individual over government.'
I could've sworn that actually happened a bit earlier in 1215 and was called the Magna Carta.
April 19th has long been known as Patriots' Day. New Englanders thought that President Bush made a very poor choice when he gave that name (or one readily confused with it) to another day. April 19th should be recognized nationally, not just limited to New England.
the list forgets to include rodney king getting his award, pope benedict XVI was elected and we went off the gold standard.
the day marksmanship met tyranny, and liberty was born.
How many Riflemen do we have on Free Republic?
Thanks for posting. I was going to post something similar. April 19 has been a busy day.