Concord and the American Revolution


Concord, MA

October 5th, 1999

"Listen my friends and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere. On the 18 of April in '75, hardly a man is still alive who remembers that famous date and year."

Having followed the course of events of April of 1775 from Boston through Lexington, it was time to finish the journey in Concord. The multi-media presentation at the National Park Visitor's Center had dramatized the events of that day. The British forward guard of 300 infantrymen lead by Capt. Picairn, having skirmished with the Minute Men in Lexington, continued their march toward Concord and the objective of destroying arms and munitions hidden thereabouts. The residents of Concord however, having been warned by the riders from Boston, were scurrying to hide those items being sought by the British authority. The militia had also gathered to determine the situation and decide on a course of action. It was decided that they would march out of Concord and meet the Red Coats on the road. When the Red Coats arrived, their column was over a quarter mile in length. After viewing this, the militia turned and with fife and drum playing, boldly marched back into the city just in front of the British troops. They continued through the streets to the north side and over the North Bridge where they turned and defiantly took a stand on a hillside overlooking the Bridge. The British troops marched into the town and following the direct orders of Col. Smith, searched the entire town, burning or destroying all military stores found. Several companies were dispatched to secure the North Bridge and surrounding lands where military supplies were believed to have been stored. The Militia men remained on the hill overlooking the Bridge debating what to do next. All the while, more farmers arrived with muskets in hand, until the ranks of the militia had swelled to over 400 men. Sometime around this time, smoke was seen coming from inside the town. The cry of "They're burning the town" went up among the watchers. The militia commander, Col. James Barrette ordered his men onto the North Bridge with instructions not to fire until fired upon. The size and aggression of the militia, as it moved onto the Bridge, unnerved the British company on guard there. Suddenly, without warning, a frightened British infantryman fired on the group. This was followed by a full exchange from the Company muskets. The militia stood there mesmerized by the sight of the firing muskets. Major John Buttrick, the senior officer present on the Bridge shouted "Fire fellow citizens, for God's sake fire!" The volley came all at once as the militia as a whole fired directly into the British infantry ranks. The two ranking officers on the Bridge went down together leaving the infantry without leadership. To the amazement of the militia, the remaining infantrymen turned and ran. Both sides were now confused and in disorder. When the militia had regrouped, they marched into town at a safe distance back. No further shots were fired in town. The militia quickly learned from those who had stayed behind that the fire had been accidental and had been quickly extinguished by the British troops. Before further action occurred, the British troops reformed their column and marched out of town, heading back to Lexington along the Bay Road, hoping to finally return to Boston. The militia, now in control of Concord was caught in the emotions of the earlier fight. This spread through the ranks which were mushrooming, as hundreds of men arrived from the nearby towns. Soon the ranks swelled beyond the size of the British column as they ran through the woods on either side of the Bay Road. As they began attacking in small unorganized groups, from behind walls and trees, the Red Coats began to show casualties. The British commander sent out small groups of infantrymen to ward off the ambushes but quickly found that such unprotected squads were easy prey for the now overpowering militia. It was five and a half miles from Concord to Lexington along the old Bay road. By the time the British regulars approached Lexington, they were numb with exhaustion. Every mile of the road was littered with their dead and wounded. Little semblance of order remained. They had been reduced to a fleeing mob. At one point a request was made to surrender, to which the Commander replied "Surrender to who?", as no order or control seemed to exist in the onslaught of musket fire now coming from all directions. On the approach to the town, high on a hill overlooking the road waited Capt. Parker and the Lexington militia that had been previously mauled on the Village Green. There was no hesitation this time. With a deadly volley of fire, the militia poured a rain of death down onto the forward element of the already demoralized column. Within seconds Col. Smith was shot from his horse. Maj. Picairn was thrown from his and injured. With both commanding officers down, all sense of order was gone as the Red Coats poured into Lexington in a full rout with the militia at their heels. There, to the surprise of everyone, was a thousand man relief column lead by none other than Earl Percy himself. In a decisive move the Earl fired the cannons he had brought, stalling the militia's advance. The combined British forces were now around 1700 men, but the militia has swollen to over 4000. There were still eight miles to march before reaching the sanctuary of Boston. By all accounts, some of the bloodiest fighting seen by any man there occurred in those eight miles. Single shots from behind trees were replaced by whole companies firing in unison. The British column reached the sanctuary of Boston, leaving 273 of its infantrymen dead or dying on the field. Counted among the casualties were another 97 farmer-soldiers. As each side sought the human comforts lost over the past few days and reflected on what they had done, none could deny, "The American Revolution was on." All in all, it had been a wonderful three days of historic review. Standing on the replacement bridge, made as a replica of that original structure was sufficient to cause a reflection on "what if". But for these events, American and the way of life I have come to love and cherish night not exist.

* * * THE END * * *