When on the night of the 18th of April, 1775, Paul Revere rode beneath the bright moonlight through Lexington to Concord, with Dawes and Prescott for comrades, he was carrying the signal for the independence of a nation. He had seen across the Charles River the two lights from the church-steeple in Boston which were to show that a British force was going out to seize the patriotic supplies at Concord; he had warned Hancock and Adams at Rev. Jonas Clark's parsonage in Lexington, and had rejected Sergeant Monroe's caution against unnecessary noise, with the rejoinder, "You'll have noise enough here before long: the regulars are coming out." As he galloped on his way the regulars were advancing with steady step behind him, soon warned of their own danger by alarm-bells and signal-guns. When Revere was captured by some British officers who happened to be near Concord, Colonel Smith, the commander of the expedition, had already halted, ordered Pitcairn forward, and sent back prudently for reinforcements. It was a night of terror to all the neighboring Middlesex towns, for no one knew what excesses the angry British troops might commit on their return march..
Before 5 A.M. on April 19, 1775, the British troops had reached Lexington Green, where thirty-eight men, under Captain Parker, stood up before six hundred or eight hundred to be shot at, their captain saying, "Don't fire unless you are fired on; but if they want a war, let it begin here." It began there; they were fired upon; they fired rather ineffectually in return, while seven were killed and nine wounded. The rest, after retreating, reformed and pursued the British towards Concord, capturing seven stragglers,--the first prisoners taken in the war.
Then followed the fight at Concord, where four hundred and fifty Americans, instead of thirty-eight, were rallied to meet the British. The fighting took place between two detachments at the North Bridge, where
"once the embattled farmers stood, And fired the shot heard round the world."
There the American, captain, Isaac Davis, was killed at the first shot, --he who had said, when his company was placed at the head of the little column, "I haven't a man that is afraid to go." He fell, and Major Buttrick gave the order, "Fire! for God's sake, fire!" in return. The British detachment retreated in disorder, but their main body was too strong to be attacked, so they disabled a few cannon, destroyed some barrels of flour, cut down the liberty-pole, set fire to the court-house, and then began their return march. It ended in a flight; they were exposed to a constant guerilla fire; minute-men flocked behind every tree and house; and only the foresight of Colonel Smith in sending for reinforcements had averted a surrender. At 2 P. M., near Lexington, Percy with his troops met the returning fugitives, and formed a hollow square, into which they ran and threw themselves on the ground exhausted. Then Percy in turn fell back. Militia still came pouring in from Dorchester, Milton, Dedham, as well as the nearer towns. A company from Danvers marched sixteen miles in four hours. The Americans lost ninety-three in killed, wounded, and missing that day; the British, two hundred and seventy-three. But the important result was that every American colony now recognized that war had begun.
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