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assembled in the town of Concord. But, to avoid exciting irritation, and the popular tumults, which might have obstructed his design,* he resolved to act with caution, and in the shade of mystery.
Accordingly, he ordered the grenadiers, and several companies of light infantry, to hold themselves in readiness to march out of the city, at the first signal; adding, that it was in order to pass review, and execute different maneuvres and military evolutions. The Bostonians entertained suspicions, and sent to warn Adams and Hancock to be upon their guard. The committee of public safety gave directions, that the arms and ammunition should be distributed about in different places.
Meanwhile, General Gage, to proceed with more secrecy, commanded a certain number of officers, who had been made acquainted with his designs, to go, as if on a party of pleasure, and dine at Cambridge, which is situated very near Boston, and upon the road to Concord. It was on the 18th of April, in the evening, that these officers dispersed themselves here and there upon the road and passages, to intercept the courierst that might have been despatched to give notice of the movement of the troops.
The governor gave orders that no person should be allowed to leave the city: nevertheless, Dr. Warren, one of the most active patriots, had timely intimation of the scheme, and immediately despatched confidential messengers; some of whom found the roads interdicted by the officers that guarded them; but others made their way, unperceived, to Lexington, a town upon the road leading to Concord.
The intelligence was soon divulged; the people flocked together; the bells, in all parts, were rung, to give the alarm; the continual firing of cannon spread the agitation through all the neighbouring country. In the midst of this tumultuous scene, at eleven in the evening, a strong detachment of grenadiers, and of light infantry, was embarked at Boston, and landed at a place called Phipps's Farm,---now, Lechmere's Point-whence they marched towards Concord. In this state of things, the irritation had become so intense, thaťa spark only was wanting, to produce an explosion ; as the event soon proved.
* Pron. desine, not dezine.
The troops were under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, and Major Pitcairn, who led the vanguard. The militia of Lexington, as the intelligence of the movement of this detachment was uncertain, had separated in the course of the night. Finally, at five in the morning of the 19th, advice was received of the near approach of the royal troops.
The provincials that happened to be near, assembled, to the number of about seventy, certainly too few to have had the intention to engage in combat.
The English appeared, and Major Pitcairn cried in a loud voice," Disperse, rebels ! lay down your arms, and disperse !” The provincials did not obey; upon which he sprung from the ranks, discharged a pistol, and, brandishing his sword, ordered his soldiers to fire. The provincials retreated; the English continuing their fire, the former faced about to return it.
Meanwhile, Hancock and Adams retired from danger; and it is related, that, while
on the march, the latter, enraptured with joy, exclaimed, “Oh! what an ever-glorious morning is this !" considering this first effusion of blood as the prěl'ude of events, which must secure the happiness of his country.
The soldiers advanced towards Concord. The inhabitants assembled, and appeared disposed to act upon the defensive; but, seeing the numbers of the enemy, they fell back, and posted themselves on the bridge, north of the town, intending to wait for re-enforcements from the neighbouring places; but the light infantry assailed them with fury, routed them, and occupied the bridge, whilst the others entered Concord, and proceeded to the execution of their orders.
They spiked two pieces of twenty-four pound cannon, destroyed their carriages, and a number of wheels for the use of the artillery ; threw into the river and into wells five hundred pounds of bullets; and wasted a quantity of flour, deposited there by the provincials. These were the arms and provisions which gave the first occasion to a long and cruel war!
But the expedition was not yet terminated : the minutenen arrived, and the forces of the provincials were increased
by continual accessions from every quarter. The light infantry, who scoured the country above Concord, were obliged to retreat, and, on entering the town, a hot skirmish ensued. A great number were killed on both sides.
The light infantry having joined the main body of the detachment, the English retreated precipitately towards Lexington. Already the whole country had risen in arms, and the militia from all parts flew to the succour of their friends. Before the British detachment had arrived at Lexington, its rear guard and flanks suffered great annoyance from the provincials, who, posted behind the trees, walls, and frequent hedges, kept up a brisk fire, which the enemy could not return. The soldiers of the king found themselves in a most perilous situation.
General Gage, apprehensive of the event, had despatched, in haste, under the command of Lord Percy, a re-enforcement of sixteen companies, with some marines,* and two field pieces. This corpst arrived very opportunely at Lexington, at the moment when the royal troops entered the town from the other side, pursued with fury by the provincial militia.
It appears highly probable, that, without this re-enforcement, they would have been all cut to pieces, or made prisoners : their strength was exhausted, as well as their ammunition. After making a considerable halt at Lexington, they renewed their march towards Boston, the number of the provincials increasing every moment, although the rear guard of the English was less molested, on account of the two field pieces, which repressed the impetuosity of the Americans. But the flanks of the column remained exposed to a very destructive fire, which assailed them from all the points that were adapted to serve as coverts.
The royalists were also annoyed by the heat, which was excessive, and by a violent wind, which blew a thick dust in their eyes. The enemy's scouts, adding to their natural celerity a perfect knowledge of the country, came up unexpectedly through cross roads, and galled the English severely, taking aim especially at the officers, who, perceiving it, kept much on their guard.
Finally, after a march of incredible fatigue, and a considerable loss of men, the English, overwhelmed with lassitude, arrived at sun-set in Charlestown. Independently of the combat they had sustained, the ground they had measured that day was above five and thirty miles. The day following they crossed over to Boston.
* Prón. mareens.
Such was the affair of Lexington, the first action which opened the civil war. The English soldiers, and especially their officers, were filled with indignation at the fortune of the day: they could not endure, that an undisciplined multitude,--that a flock of Yankees, as they contemptuously named the Americans,—should not only have maintained their ground against them, but even forced them to show their backs, and take refuge behind the walls of a city.
The provincials, on the contrary, felt their courage immeasurably increased, since they had obtained a proof, that these famous troops were not invincible; and had made so fortunate an essay of the goodness of their arms.
Extract of an Oration delivered at Concord, Mass. 19th April,
1825, in Commemoration of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, 19th April, 1775.-E. EVERETT.
This is a proud anniversary for our neighbourhood. We have cause for honest complacency, that, when the distant citizen of our own republic, when the stranger from foreign lands, inquires for the spots where the noble blood of the
volution began to flow, where the first battle of that great and glorious contest was fought, he is guided through the villages of Middlesex, to the plains of Lexington and Cone' cord. It is a commemoration of our soil, to which ages, as they pass, will add dignity and interest; till the names of Lexington and Concord, in the annals of freedom, will stand by the side of the most honourable names in Roman or
It was one of those great days, one of those elemental occasions in the world's affairs, when the people rise, and act for themselves. Some organization and preparation had been made; but, from the nature of the case, with scarce any effect on the events of that day. It may be doubted, whether there was an efficient order given, the whole day, to any body of men as large as a regiment.
It was the people, in their first capacity, as citizens and as freemen, starting from their beds at midnight, from their firesides, and
from their fields, to take their own cause into their own hands. Such a spectacle is the height of the moral sublime; when the want of every thing is fully made up by the spirit of the cause; and the soul within stands in place of discipline, organization, resources. In the prodigious efforts of a veteran army, beneath the dazzling splendor of their array, there is something revolting to the reflective mind. The ranks are filled with the desperate, the mercenary, the depraved; an iron slavery, by the name of subordination, merges the free will of one hundred thousand men in the unqualified despotism of one; the humanity, mercy, and remorse, which scarce ever desert the individual bosom, are sounds without a meaning to that fearful, ravenous, irrational monster of prey, a mercenary army. It is hard to say who are most to be commiserated, the wretched people, on whom it is let loose, or the still more wretched people, whose substance has been sucked out, to nourish it into strength and fury. But, in the efforts of the people, of the people struggling for their rights, moving not in organized, disciplined masses, but in their spontaneous action, man for man, and heart for heart,—though I like not war, nor any of its works,—there is something glorious. They can then move forward without orders, act together without combination, and brave the flaming lines of battle, without entrenchments to cover, or walls to shield them. No dissolute camp has worn off, from the feelings of the youthful soldier, the freshness of that home, where his mother and his sisters sit waiting, with tearful eyes and aching hearts, to hear good news from the wars; no long service in the ranks of a conqueror has turned the veteran's heart into marble; their valour springs not from recklessness, from habit, from indifference to the
preservation of a life, knit by no pledges to the life of others. But in the strength and spirit of the cause alone they act, they contend, they
bleed. In this, they conquer. The people always conquer. They always must conquer, Armies may be defeated; kings may be overthrown, and new dý'năsties imposed, by foreign arms, on an ignorant and slavish race, that care not in what language the covenant of their subjection runs, nor in whose name the deed of their barter and sale is made out. But the people never invade; and when they rise against the invader, aře never subdued. If they are driven from the plains, they fly to the mountains. Steep rocks, and everlasting hills, are their castles; the tangled, pathless thicket their palisādo; and