Background: April 19, 1775 Lt. General Thomas Gage chose Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith to command the expedition. Smith had seniority among Gage's officers. Gage chose Major James Pitcairn to serve as second-in-command. The force was made up of about seven hundred men: eleven grenadier companies and ten light infantry companies. At nine o'clock on April 18th, the men were roused from bed by their officers. By ten o'clock, they had assembled at the banks of the Charles River.
However, Lt. Colonel Smith was late and a general lack of coordination led to the crossing not being completed until sometime after midnight. As they finished disembarking and prepared to march around 1 A.M. on the 19th, the enlisted men were now informed as to their mission. The order to march and get underway was finally given at 2 A.M., four hours after they had assembled to begin the expedition only a quarter of a mile away.
Meanwhile, in Lexington, almost immediately after Paul Revere had first arrived with his news, the alarm had been given. At around 1 A.M. roll was read for the one hundred and thirty minutemen gathered on Lexington Green under Captain John Parker. At around 2 A.M., no word of the approaching British regulars, so Parker dismissed his men subject to a drum call. Those that lived nearby went home and the rest congregated at Buchman's Tavern.
At Reverend Jonas Clarke's house, John Hancock was wanting to take the field against the British troops. After Paul Revere returned and related his capture, it was decided that Hancock and Samuel Adams should leave Lexington. A carriage was sent for and Hancock, Adams, Hancock's secretary John Lowell and Paul Revere were led to a hideaway in the trees to the north of Lexington by Sergent William Munroe. Shortly after Munroe left them, Hancock realized that his trunk full of papers had been left in a room at Buchman's Tavern, so Lowell and Revere went back to retrieve them.
Meanwhile, the British regulars were marching toward Lexington. They captured scouts sent out by Captain Parker and were joined by the officers who had captured and then released Paul Revere. All reports were indicating that at least 500 militia were waiting for them at Lexington. Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith, commander of the expedition, had already dispatched six light infantry companies of about two hundred under Major John Pitcairn to go ahead and hold the two bridges over the Concord River. Smith also sent a messenger back to Lt. General Thomas Gage with a request for reinforcements.
Around 4:30 A.M. Parker's fourth scout came back with work that the British were less than two miles away. Drummer William Diamond now beat out the signal to summon the minutemen. Many of the minutemen had gone home, but the few that lived nearby and had lingered at Buchman's Tavern turned out to take up positions on the Common. Paul Revere was in Buchman's Tavern retrieving John Hancock's trunk as the British neared. However, he did not see the skirmish begin. He passed through what he estimated to be fifty or sixty militia as he made his way up Bedford Road lugging the trunk.
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