Late on the evening of April 18th, 1775, a Doctor, a tanner, and a silversmith living in Massachusettes were up watching the tower above. Upon seeing that two lights were hung in the steeple, Dr. Joseph Warren instructed his two cohorts to take off, and raise the alarm in as many towns as possible making as little noise as they could. William Dawes, the tanner, and his partner, Paul Revere, were sent from Boston towards Lexington to warn, of course, of the impending British attempt to raid the armory there.
Dawes took off towards the West via horse and left town before the British cut it off. Revere was left to row across the Charles river to alert a third rider. Upon doing so, Revere mounted up and rode out as well.
As noted above, they were told to quietly raise the alarm, but this did not seem to be remembered by Mr. Revere, who took the time on his ride to yell out that the "Regulars were coming", or something likely similar. The Poetic versions, of course, are far more inspiring but truth is sometimes a tad less interesting.
Revere arrived in Lexington to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams, shortly before midnight. Dawes arrived soon after, having taken a longer route. Together they rode on, taking with them Samuel Prescott, a young doctor from the local area. Heading towards Concord, they ran into a troop of British soldiers, who were out trying to head off any riders trying to pass warnings to the locals. The three split up in hopes of one making it to Concord. Dawes was thrown from his horse in the flee, Revere was caught, and Prescott was the one hopeful who made it to Concord.
Revere was detained for some time, his horse taken. He walked back towards Lexington, and was able to see some of the first battle of what became the American Revolution.
Early on the morning of the 19th, several hundred British Regulars appeared in Lexington, where they found some 70-80 Colonials waiting for them. Captain John Parker and his men were at the Buckman Pub (bad ass! Drinking and fighting were popular even then). When the recoats appeared, he uttered his famous line (inscribed there today): "Stand your ground; don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here."
The British demanded they disperse. Among the spectators, the story is that Parker ordered a dismissal. At this time, some controversy arises.
A shot was fired. The source is unclear, but the effect was that of the dam breaking. Both sides started firing, and the battle was joined. The British, having superior numbers, and at that time, training, fired several volleys before moving in with Bayonets. The Colonists broke lines and retreated. 8 men were killed, 10 wounded.
The British troops were reformed and marched on. At Concord, several units of Colonists were assembled (about 600 men), and order between them was not so great. The British arrival was met with no significant resistance at first, and they indeed searched the town. In an attempt to destroy the few things they did find, they burned some wooden cannon mounts inside the town hall--which caught fire.
The Colonists saw the smoke and, believing the town was being burned, advanced on the British at the Old North Bridge. The British troops there started to retreat in the face of this, back across the bridge. Some confusion ensued, and at some point, a shot was fired (by a British soldier, this time). The Colonial advance brought the two within 50 yards of each other before they fired.
The Brits lost several line officers and a few regulars to this. Confused, in a bad position, and facing a determined foe, they broke ranks and retreated. The Brits in Concord hearing the skirmish had advanced, and were a bit confused seeing their comrades heading their way. The Colonists had taken up good defensive positions at this point, and the British decided wisely to find a way out of town and away from them.
The story most probably remember is the guerilla attacks that harried their return to Lexington. Indeed, some took place, but the majority of fighting during the retreat was with organized units of Colonists ambushing them, including Capt. Parker and the Lexington group, reformed and ready to return the favors imparted earlier in the day.
At Lexington, British reinforcements saved them from further harassment and fire. They regrouped and lacking supplies, headed back towards Boston. This was not a pleasant journey, and nearly half the casualties of the day took place from this point on.
The Colonists surrounded the Brits, including several mounted men who would ride ahead, dismount, take aim and fire, remount, and repeat as needed. Somewhere near the town of Menotomy (Arlington), thicker fighting took place. Several locals took up the fight and fired upon the Brits, some to their doom. General order was lost at some point by the British, leading to some chaos, minor firefights and several deaths.
All told, some 50 Americans and 70 British were killed. Over 170 Brits and 30 Americans were wounded.
This day is remembered as the start of the American Revolution. However, even after this point, many in the Colonies were not entirely sure of the thought of freedom, but rather of re-establishing a greater economic standing with the British. This thought was quickly disbused over the next year, as the fighting continued and the Continental Congress took up a more active position towards independance.
But that's a story for another day.
I will start by making a list...
I'm going to dutifully pay my taxes, obey all traffic laws, and apologize profusely whenever I incorrectly fill out the entertaining and informative forms required by my party leader whenever I want to leave the township.