Today we celebrate Patriots’ Day, in celebration of the brave stand the Minutemen took at Lexington and Concord.
As we remember Paul Revere’s ride warning that “The British are coming!” and “one if by land, two if by sea,” let us pause and delve a little deeper into the background and events of that day, and cover an important tidbit that modern-day public school teachings typically leave out.
General Gage, commander of the 3000+ British forces in Boston, was ordered to march on Concord and disarm the people by taking their stores of gunpowder and their cannon known to be stored at Concord. He was also instructed to arrest patriot leaders John Hancock and Samuel Adams.
Revere, William Dawes, and Samuel Prescott rode and warned Hancock, Adams, and the residents of Lexington. En route to Concord, the three ran into a British patrol and took off in different directions. Revere was captured. Dawes was thrown from his horse, and escaped back to Lexington. Prescott escaped and pressed forward to Concorde to sound the alarm.
This alarm not only allowed the Minutemen to muster, but also gave them time to hide as much of their supplies as they could before the British arrival.
After a brief skirmish with the Minutemen at Lexington, the British forces marched on to Concord. Upon reaching Concord, the British were able to damage the trunnions of the three large cannons that were buried there, but the bulk of the military supplies — gunpowder and individual arms — were already gone. On the march back to Boston, 400 Minutemen from Concord and the surrounding towns of Acton, Bedford, and Lincoln engaged the 95 or so British troops who were occupying the North Bridge using guerilla warfare tactics. The British suffered heavy casualties there, and the Minutemen from numerous city militias, including Reading, Chelmsford, and Framingham, continued sniping and engaging the British on their march back to Boston.
By the next day, Boston was surrounded by over 15,000 militiamen, and the War for Independence had begun.
The important thing to remember about this day is not that “the British are coming”. The British were already here. What is important to remember is why the British marched on Concord: to take the colonists’ guns. The British were afraid that the colonists possessed the means to stand up to British rule. Some sources say King George said “they are either colonies, or they are enemies.”
We say that to celebrate Patriots’ Day, buy a gun and some ammunition. Revere, Dawes, Prescott, Adams, and Hancock would have wanted nothing less.
For more historical reading about the founding of this great nation, you may enjoy Patriots: The Men Who Started the American Revolution, and 1776 -ed