"Let it Begin Here" Top 5 Page for this destination Lexington by SteveOSF

Lexington Travel Guide: 45 reviews and 106 photos

Revolution

If it were not for the events of April 19, 1775 Lexington would merely be a charming New England town. But events unfolded to furnish this small town its historic distinction. Today, Lexington, rich in historic significance, is an interesting place to visit.

Political Unrest

In 1775, political unrest engulfed England’s colonies in America. Trying to recoup financial resources spent to obtain victory in the French and Indian War during the previous decade, England levied substantial taxes upon the colonies. England had perceived the colonies as the primary benefactors of the victory in that war. However, the Colonials were not represented in Parliament who decided on the taxes. Protests over taxation without representation resulted in repercussions including the loss of liberties that had been taken for granted by the colonies. Americans were no longer allowed to assemble. Colonial Legislatures were dissolved and replaced with martial law. The Americans who were long used to some autonomy and self taxation were disgruntled.

Americans formed an illegal Continental Congress to deal with the drastic affairs. At the Continental Congress the colonies would debate the situation and determine their course of action. Among the political dissenters serving as delegates to the Congress were George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Patrick Henry.

Militias were formed. The members of the militia were termed “Minutemen” since they agreed to be ready to serve at a minutes notice.

Let it Begin Here

London wanted to remove all dissention to its authority. It was believed that the Colonials would submit upon a strong display of British military might. General Thomas Gage, the British Military Governor in Boston, sent out a force for just that purpose. The orders of the redcoats were to march to nearby Concord under the cover of the darkness of the night and seize munitions that the Colonial militia had stockpiled there. They also had orders to round up and arrest subversives like Samuel Adams and John Hancock along the way.

However, the Colonials were expecting such a move as they were observing military operations in Boston. Lanterns in the steeple of the Old North Church alerted colonials like Paul Revere and William Dawes, who then spread the warning of the approach of hundreds British soldiers.

Both Revere and Dawes reached Lexington by taking different routes. Revere was able to personally warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who were in Lexington, of the approaching danger. This gave Adams and Hancock time to discuss a plan of action and also avoid capture.

Revere left Lexington and headed towards Concord but was captured during the night. However, in captivity he managed to make the British believe that 600 militiamen awaited them in Lexington, and thus slowed their advance. Luckily Revere was released later in the night and returned to Lexington to assist Adams and Hancock in their escape.

Around midnight Revere and Dawes warnings of the approaching British Regulars were spreading around Lexington as other riders also carried the word. The militia of Lexington and the surrounding area assembled in Lexington Green in the early hours of the morning. They were only about 70 strong. After a wait with no signs of the British, and without knowing if this was actually a false alarm, anyone within a “drumbeat” of the Green were sent home with orders to immediately return upon the beat of a drum. The rest retired to Buckman Tavern where they drank some grog, tried to stay warm, and passed away the hours of the night.

As the sun rose in the morning, the British reached Lexington. The militia formed in Lexington Green to meet them. The militia did not which to engage the King’s soldiers. Their intent was primarily to prevent the town from being molested by the redcoats. It seems they may have also decided to make a show of resistance and not give way to the first orders of the British soldiers. As the militia stood ready to defend their town, Captain Parker’s orders were: "Stand your ground. Don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here."

The problem was that the militia stood their ground adjacent to the cross roads where the redcoats wanted to pass. It would not have been prudent for the British to by-pass an armd force leaving them to the rear. So the Bristish chose to try to disarm the Colonials.

The British advance force at Lexington was under the command of well liked Major John Pitcairn. (Major Pitcairn actually lived in Boston just a few doors from Paul Revere at the time.) The British ordered the militia to drop their weapons. They refused. But with just over seventy men facing several hundred, Major Parker ordered a withdraw.

As the militia was beginning to withdraw, a shot ran out. No one knows who fired. But the British then opened fire in force, routing the militia. Major Pitcarin ordered his men to cease fire, but they continued to shoot, and many even charged and bayoneted some of the retreating militia. In the end, eight of the militia were killed, including a drummer boy. Nine more militia were wounded. Some of the Colonials managed to fire back, but only one Redcoat was slightly wounded in the fight.

By the time the British reached Concord a few hours later, hundreds of militia were waiting. The word was out about Lexington. The Colonials made their stand at the North Bridge in Concord and the Revolution had begun. The British were forced to retreat to Boston under constant fire from the Colonials. The Redcoats sustained heavy losses in the retreat.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Rich in History
  • In a nutshell:Birthplace of the American Revolution
  • Last visit to Lexington: Sep 2006
  • Intro Updated Aug 23, 2008
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Reviews (8)

Comments (2)

  • atufft's Profile Photo
    Feb 23, 2009 at 8:01 PM

    Thanks for the detailed history explanations Steve. Paired with the images, I have a better idea of what really happened...alan

  • Ewingjr98's Profile Photo
    Aug 24, 2008 at 11:47 AM

    Steve, nice page on one of my favorite New England towns!

SteveOSF

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