The park stretches through the fields and woods along five miles of dirt road that was named "Battle Road." The road leads all the way to the North Bridge near Concord where the legendary shot was fired. This, of course, was not the first shot fired by the British or Colonists, but the words were made immortal in Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem, "Concord Hymn." What Emerson was most likely referring to was the fact that on that day, on that bridge, it was the first time that a colonial militia had been given an official order to open fire against British soldiers. The result was immediate.
A brief overview of what I learned about the events of April 18-19, 1775 follows (feel free to skip the history lesson)
. British troops were being sent west from Boston to search for and seize the weapon stores of the colonial militias. Having received intelligence of the event, Paul Revere, William Dawes, and further down the road, Samuel Prescott all rode ahead of the British troops to alert the leaders of the revolution and local militias. Shortly after the sun rose in Lexington, British troops encountered a group of militia. No one knows who fired the first shot, but the British opened fire on the militia, killing eighteen men. The militia was greatly outnumbered and quickly scattered. Upon reaching Concord, the British had begun searching the town. When the troops discovered cannons and other weapons they started to burn them, but the fire accidentally spread to the town's meeting house. British troops were actually reported to have formed a "bucket brigade" to help douse the fire and prevent it from spreading; however, 400-500 militia minutemen, comprised mostly of farmers with very little training, had moved to the North Bridge to go defend their town after seeing the rising smoke. They met with approximately 90-100 British troops at the bridge and came to a halt. It is said that the first shot by the British was possibly meant as a warning shot, but anxious British soldiers had taken it as a cue to open fire, killing two militia and wounding four more. With this, militia commander, Major Buttrick, shouted an order to his troops, exclaiming, "Fire, for God's sake, fellow soldiers, fire!" At the bridge, the militia outnumbered the British nearly five to one, and the British were forced to back down. For the next eight hours the British troops made a tactical withdrawal towards Charleston, MA. They met reinforcements in Lexington, but by this time the militia numbers had swelled to nearly 4,000 as news spread further and further into the colonies. The colonists remained hidden behind any piece of cover they could find. One British General remarked in his report, "There was not a stone wall, or house, though before in appearance evacuated, from whence the rebels did not fire upon us." By the end of the day the British had suffered 273 casualties, the colonists 94. The next morning, 15,000 militia troops had surrounded the city of Boston. The war had begun.
The battlefield was my only stop for the day, so after I had finished visiting the different sites, I drove north to New Hampshire. I have now visited the sites of both the first and last major battles of the Revolutionary War.
Today I made a visit to a site that holds a great deal of significance to the history of our country. I went to the Minuteman National Historical Park which extends between the cities of Lexington and Concord.