Skip to comments.What's so important about April 19, 1775 (history lesson)
Posted on 04/02/2009 9:18:45 PM PDT by Neil E. Wright
Why April 19, 1775?
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, but this was 5 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 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 2 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 2 others rowed past the HMS Somerset to Charlestown. There, his famous ride began.
“The Regulars are out!”
Lt. Col. Francis Smith lead 700 grenadiers and light infantry, accompanied by (among others) Marine Major Pitcairn, who had remarked the prior month that “I am satisfied that 1 active campaign, a smart action, and burning 2-3 towns will get everything to rights.”, in reference to the increase in the citizens’ increased militia drills.
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 2 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 fro 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. They found 3 cannon and 500lbs of musket balls, as well as a supply of wooden spoons and bowls stored in barrels. [Most of the military stores had recently been moved to Acton and Worcester]. 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 2 (Isaac Davis, the 1st American casualty of the Revolution, who 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.” He was extremely well-read on military tactics, and had refined the idea of a ‘circle of fir’, where fast-moving troops could keep a slower moving enemy in the center of sustained fire (modern ‘skirmishers’). 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, the dropping out of sight to reload.
Fortunately for the British, a relief column led by Col. Hugh (Lord Percy) arrived, bringing with them 2 cannon. Even with these reinforcements, the British return to Boston devolved into a rout and the militia pressed their attacks. The British discarded equipment, arms, and even loot as they fled back to Boston.
The British sustained 273 casualties; the Americans 93.
Afterwards, the British reported that the militia fought not as lone assailants, but as units.
A lesson of history.
I plan on going if I can, but haven't actually signed up yet.
By Ralph Waldo Emerson
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to Aprils breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.
The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.
On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set today a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.
Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.
God bless America!
Paul Revere’s Ride
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
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.
The Greek phrase Molōn labe! (Μολὼν λάβε; approximate Classical Greek pronunciation [molɔ̀ːn labé], Modern Greek [moˈlon laˈve]), meaning "Come and take them!", is a classical expression of defiance reported by Plutarch in response to the Persian Army's demand that the Spartans surrender their weapons. It corresponds roughly to the modern equivalent English phrase "over my dead body", "bring it on" or, most closely, "come and get it". It is an exemplary use of a laconic phrase.
NOTE: the only link that will work is the one I posted for the source .... :) I just copied and pasted the paragraph from wiki.
Those patriots shot well.
Just think: 200 years later, the Massachussetts government did something the British couldn’t: disarm its citizens. :)
There is always a tendency to clean up our history for the kiddies. Pitcairn's actual words were, "Lay down your arms God damn you, ye rebel bastards, and disperse!" "Bastard" was the favorite epithet of the era because in so many cases it was true. It was the Golden Age of Illegitimacy.
The damage done to the arsenal at Concord was minimal. Smith and Pitcairn's troops threw some powder and ball into the river and spiked a few cannon. Benjamin Franklin, ever the wit, later said that a troop of American schoolboys could have done more damage.
Smith and Pitcairn were not prepared for what happened next. It was a long and bloody ride back to Boston with every thicket spouting fire. Definitely a bad day for the Brtish.
April 19 ping
Many years ago, about 1990, I wrote a letter to the Editor of the Arkansas Gazette asking why April 19 seemed to be forgotten in the annals of American History. that was before Columbine. I think the refusal had to do with the A G beng a leftist anti-gun newspaper. Then there is the problem of Hitler’s birthday being too close to that date, much like no one in the US celebrates May Day anymore because the Commies hijacked it.
This has all happened before. And it will happen again...
Words to remember.
The courage of those farmers and shopkeepers and laborers—to take on the strongest political power the world had known to that point in time— to risk all they possessed for a concept called “liberty”.
They stood on that line, facing uniformed, trained troops of the British Empire. They could not know if they would live to see the sun set that day. They could not know if they would see their wives, children, mothers and fathers ever again.
But in that moment of time, that is all they thought about—for it was for their future, and for ours uet unborn, that they stood on that line, prime their muskets, aimed and fired the shot heard around the world.
From that first struggle, a great nation would be born, that would forever change the face of the world.
Let us resolve that in memory of these great men, many whose names are no longer remembered, will not be forgotten by us, their heirs of freedom.
Let us resolve that this present Congress and President, who are so unworthy of the mantle of power bestowed upon them, will not succeed in bankrupting our nation of its power and its posterity.
April has a lot of date important dates in America’s military history. Lee surrenderd on the 9th signaling the beginning of the final act of our Civil War. The 21st is the date of Santa Anna’s surrender, ending his dictatorship over Texas.