Lexington and Concord
New England and Boston had become the center of the most radical behavior by colonists against Britain. Perhaps that was partly because the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in America, Lt. General Thomas Gage was garrisoned in Boston. The area also relied heavily on both legal and illegal exports, which the British began to tax in order to raise money to pay for the expense of the French and Indian War finally ended. In succession, Parliament passed the Sugar Act, Currency Act, Quartering Act, Stamp Act, and Townshend Act. British soldiers occupied Boston in 1768 at the request of the Royal Governor Sir Francis Bernard. In 1770, the Boston Massacre took place. Things quieted down until 1773. Following the passage of the Tea Act, the Boston Tea Party took place on December 16, 1773. Parliament reacted with Intolerable Acts or the Coercive Acts.
In the Spring of 1775, Boston was under martial law. The port was closed to commerce and General Gage had become military governor of Massachusetts. The Massachuseets Provincial Congress met in nearby Concord periodically and tried to organize rebellion. Tensions continued to quietly boil until April 1775 when General Gage was ordered to take definitive action to quell the growing political rebellion. He chose to seize the provincial stores and munitions at Concord. He figured that there could be no fight, if the colonials had nothing to fight with.
Despite General Gage's efforts at secrecy, colonial spies in Boston learn of the impending expedition.On the evening of April 18, 1775, Dr. Joseph Warren sends William Dawes and Paul Revere to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams in Lexington. Paul Revere became immortalized for his midnight ride. After a series of unnecessary delays, the British expedition finally set out from Charlestown at 2 A.M. on the morning of April 19th. The countryside between Boston and Concord had already been warned.
Paul Revere brought word to Lexington at midnight. The minutemen turned out and planned for the British arrival. However, the British Regulars did not arrive until dawn. Seventy minutemen were on and around Lexington Common as the Redcoats marched up. Both Major Pitcairn and Major Parker had ordered their men not to fire, but someone did fire and the American Revolution had begun. The colonials scattered and the Redcoats regrouped and marched onto Concord.
The Redcoats peacefully took possession of Concord and the North Bridge and began searching for supplies and munitions, while the militia watched from a nearby ridge. The militia grew concerned when they noticed smoke rising from the town. They decided to move into the town and they confronted the companies guarding the North Bridge. The British were routed and fled back into Concord.
When the British finally departed Concord around noon, they began marching through a gauntlet. Militia had turned out and lined the road back to Boston, giving almost constant fire to the British. At Lexington, the British expedition was joined by reinforcements with accompanying artillery, which helped keep the colonials at a distance. The British finally arrived back in Charlestown at 8 P.M. that evening. Colonial militia immediately began turning out and surrounding the area. Thus began the Boston Siege that only ended in March 1776 with the British evacuation of the city.
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