The Courage Of The Minute Men
April 14, 2011 by Bob Livingston
In the early morning hours of April 19, 1775, about 700 British regular troops began a march toward Concord. Their goal: Round up weapons and gunpowder stored there by rebel colonists and arrest any rebel leaders they find, particularly John Hancock and Samuel Adams.
Around 1 a.m. Paul Revere arrived and informed Lexington’s captain of the militia, John Parker, that British troops were on their way. Parker called for his Minute Men and 77 arrived at the town’s green. After learning from Parker that the best-trained and best-equipped troops Britain had were on their way, the Minute Men voted to disband, lie low and do nothing to provoke the British.
Upon learning from Revere of the British march, Hancock grabbed a pistol and started to join the Minute Men. But Adams persuaded him that their capture by the British would be a major coup for Great Britain and huge loss for the rebel cause. Reluctantly, he relented. However, about four hours later, after learning the Minute Men had dispersed, Hancock met with Parker and the Minute Men who remained on the green. Shortly thereafter the drum was sounded and the Minute Men reassembled.
Hancock and Adams climbed into a chaise to leave the area just as British troops arrived. With orders to capture and hold two bridges leading into Concord and the knowledge that Revere was spreading word of their mission, the British commanders had no intention of engaging the Minute Men on the Lexington green. And Parker had ordered his men to let the British march by and not molest them unless they acted first.
As British troops marched in quick-time past the green, cursing the rebels all the while, British Major John Pitcairn told the Minute Men, “Disperse ye villains, ye rebels! Disperse! Lay down your arms! Why don’t you lay down your arms and disperse?”
After standing fast as most of the British troops passed and defying the British call to lay down their arms, Parker told his men to disband. Some began to walk away, carrying their muskets with them, and it seemed as if the crisis would pass without incident. But someone—no one was sure who but it was thought to have come from a nearby tavern or hedge—fired a shot and all hell broke loose.
Upon hearing the gunfire as the chaise rode away, Adams told Hancock, “Oh, what a glorious morning is this.” Seeing that Hancock mistook his meaning, for it was dawning a nice spring morning, Adams said, “I mean, what a glorious morning for America.”
Back on the Lexington green it was anything but. One of the Minute Men, Jonas Parker, who had vowed to never run from British guns, fell from a musket ball. He tried to fire from the ground but was bayoneted where he lay. The Minute Men fled the green and the British fired into their backs. When the smoke cleared, eight Minute Men lay dead on the green.
Shortly after 1 a.m., Samuel Prescott arrived in Concord and gave word of the British march. Bells in the town began to ring and the Concord Minute Men began to gather at Wright’s tavern. As day broke a messenger arrived from Lexington telling of gunfire on the green, but he was unsure whether the British had fired only powder as a warning, or if they were actually shooting.
About 250 men of the militia decided to carry the battle to the British and began marching east toward Lexington. After they had traveled about a mile they saw the British troops coming their way and they halted, waiting until the British were about 500 yards away.
The Minute Men then did an about face and marched back toward Concord. As they neared town some of the Minute Men were ordered to command a high ridge to deny it to the British and the rest debated what to do next. The Reverend William Emerson said, “Let us stand our ground. If we die, let us die here.”
But the Minute Men weren’t quite ready for battle and they faded back to see what the British would do. The British troops secured the bridges and then began to spread out in search of weapons and rebel leaders.
The troops burned what weapons they found and also cut down the town’s Liberty Pole and threw it onto the fire. Seeing the smoke from the bonfire over the hill, one of Concord’s volunteers asked if they were going to sit back and watch while the British burned the town to the ground.
They were told to get ready to move, but not fire until fired upon and then fire as fast as possible. They marched toward the bridges.
As the Minute Men approached the bridge, British Captain Walter-Sloan Laurie told his men to remove the bridges’ planks to make them unusable, but the Minute Men told them to stop and the British troops complied. Laurie ordered his troops into formation for street fighting, a tactic designed for fighting in narrow roads and alleys surrounded by buildings, not out in the open.
As the distance between the two armies narrowed, once again a musket went off without the order to fire being given, and the battle commenced. The Minute Men fired as rapidly as possible and advanced, driving the British off the bridge. The British troops broke and ran to the center of town.
British commanders regained order and collected their troops, but they were soon surrounded by Minute Men, whose ranks had swelled once the firing began. The order was given for the British to withdraw from Concord and the march back began.
Minute Men, hiding behind houses, barns, fences and trees, harassed the British as they retreated.
Back in Lexington, after the dead were removed from the green, Captain Parker reassembled his men, along with some newly arrived volunteers, and began to march toward Concord. Hearing the sound of the British retreat coming his way, Parker ordered his volunteers to take cover.
The British troops ran headlong into the Lexington volunteers seeking to avenge their fallen comrades. The British had no idea how many troops were facing them, but the shooting was intense. Before long, the British again broke and ran.
In Lexington, British officers got in front of their troops and again got them into order. They began a retreat toward Boston. They whole way Minute Men harassed the retreating British ranks.
When the day was done, 49 Americans were dead, 39 were wounded and five were missing. Of the vaunted British army, 73 were dead, 74 were wounded and 26 were missing. Against overwhelming odds, American volunteers had defeated troops from the mightiest army in the world.
After the fighting was over, Dr. Joseph Warren, who had become something of hero for his actions treating wounded Minute Men as the battle raged around him, put out a call for volunteers:
“Our all is at stake. Death and devastation are the instant consequences of delay. Every moment is infinitely precious. An hour lost may deluge your country in blood and entail perpetual slavery upon the few of your prosperity who may survive the carnage.”
Thousands of volunteers arrived for the cause. Thus began the war for American independence.
Now we have a new war for independence. It’s a war to make us independent from the slavery of the debt burden put on us by the Federal Reserve and the actions of the elected elites. It’s a war that will require the courage exhibited by the Minute Men on April 19.
It’s going to require sacrifice and it’s going to be difficult. But it’s obvious from the most recent budget deal that Congress still doesn’t get it. The plutocrats are crowing about cutting $38 billion from the budget as the deficit grew by $58 billion in the days they debated the cuts.
It’s time and past time to get to work contacting your representative in Congress to tell him or her that things have to change, that government has to be cut, that the Constitution has to be adhered to. Remind him or her that an election is coming soon, and you are watching and taking notes.
Undoing 100 years of damage is going to be difficult. It’s going to require a new way of thinking about the role of government. It’s going to require commitment and courage.
Do you have the commitment and courage of the Minute Men?
(Descriptions of the battles taken from Patriots, by A.J. Langguth.)