Bostonians celebrate Patriot Day to recall the events the led to the outbreak of fighting between the American colonists and the British. By 1775, there had been years of tension between colonists and the British government. Taxation without representation, actions denying certain important rights riled the colonists – and led to ever more assertive actions.
The British sent army and navy forces to deal with rebellious colonials in Massachusetts. The British Parliament passed even more objectionable laws and the colonies began to cooperate secretly through the Committees of Correspondence. And, crucially, they began to arm themselves.
The British learned of a large cache of weapons and supplies at Concord, about 12 miles northwest of Boston. They were determined to confiscate the weapons, and punish those responsible. So, on the night of April 18th, a British force of about 700 set out for Concord. Spies learned the route the British would take (“one lamp if by land, two if by water”) and Paul Revere rode to warn the towns the redcoats would pass through. His cry “the regulars are out”, or the more familiar “the British are coming”, told the minutemen to arm themselves and be ready.
By the time the British arrived at Lexington on April 19, seven miles east of Concord, a small group of armed colonists waited. They were overwhelmed. Some of the houses still stand around Lexington green where the wounded and dying took refuge. Then the British marched on to Concord.
When they arrived, they encountered several hundred armed colonists at the North Bridge, on the slope above the Concord River. A battle erupted and the British were forced to retreat. When you visit the site, you’ll read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words on the base of the statue of the famous Minuteman, “and fired the shot heard round the world.”
All the way back to Boston the colonists harassed the British soldiers from behind walls and from dense woods. The redcoats suffered heavy casualties. Battle had been joined and the American Revolution was underway. We remember those who defied the British on April 19, and who fought for nearly 7 more years to win independence – and their freedom.