Lexington, Massachusetts (1775 AD)
The Battle of Lexington and Concord, fought between a force of British regulars and Massachusetts militiamen, was the first engagement of the American Revolution. What began as a raid on local stores of weapons and military supplies became a rout as thousands of irregular colonial forces turned out to harass the British troops as they attempted to return to Boston. The engagement, a small but unqualified victory of the American militia, was the gauntlet that formally launched open hostilities between the empire and the colonies. The sites of the battle, which actually consisted of a series of engagements along the road from Boston to Concord, are part of the Militia Man National Historical Park.
Since the end of the French and Indian War, friction between the British Empire and citizens of the American colonies had grown almost incessantly as the crown placed ever tighter restrictions on local government and commerce. No where was this more true than in Boston, which was particularly hard hit by British rules and taxation. Such events as the Boston Tea Party and Boston Massacre only underscored the rising tensions.
By the Spring of 1775, it was becoming evident to both sides that hostilities were imminent. All over New England, especially in Massachussetts, local militia began preparing to fight. Some citizens, known as the Minutemen, drilled themselves to be ready to fight at a moments notice, and became nearly as combat ready as British regulars. This training and discipline prepared them well for the opening of hostilities.
Fighting began on April 19, 1775, when a sizeable British force marched out from Boston to seize arms and supplies being stored at Concord by the Massachusetts militia. Local Minuteman volunteers, famously warned by Paul Revere, swarmed out from the surrounding countryside to engage them. The two sides skirmished twice, first at Lexington and then Concord. As the day drew on, militia forces grew increasingly larger and bolder. The major engagement took place at North Bridge, where the colonial militia stunned their enemies by holding them off and even almost defeating them.
Not expecting this fierce resistance, the British were forced to abandon their raid and withdraw to Boston. Throughout the entire march back to the safety of the city, the British were bedeviled by nearly constant gunfire coming from all sides. They survived the day only due to keeping in good order, and the fact that the colonials did not have the coordination to make an all-out attack on the British formations. The colonial victory became a rallying cry, known as the Shot Heard Round The World, that kicked off the American Revolution.
Minute Man National Historical Park consists of a collection of sites spread out along Battle Road Trail where the engagement took place. Sites include the North Bridge at Concord where the Massachusetts militia rallied to stop the British advance; and the Paul Revere monument, marking the place where the famous silversmith was captured. Also nearby is Lexington Battle Green, where the first shots were fired, but this is not part of the park itself.
The Lexington and Concord Battlefields stretch out along a six mile road approximately ten miles northwest of Boston. The places of interest are generally open sites. The visitor’s center is located near the North Bridge in Concord. It is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm (shorter hours in Winter; closed Christmas Day and New Years Day). There is no charge for admission. Web: www.nps.gov/mima (official tourism website).