Guest Author - Vance Rowe
The battles of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, was the official start of the American Revolution against the tyrannical power of England. Pressures between the American colonists and the British soldiers have been mounting for years and it all came to a head one night in April in 1775.
British troops marched from Boston to Concord to seize a cache of weapons from the colonists. Men like Paul Revere rode around and warn the colonists that the soldiers were coming. The colonists, mostly farmers gathered on the Lexington common and waited for the British troops.
Tensions were high between the colonists and the British regime, which started in 1764 as the British government began imposing taxes for things like tea and sugar, in hopes to raise revenue for England. The colonists were not happy to have “taxation without representation” and let the British government know this. In 1770, the Boston Massacre occurred when colonists began picking on and throwing snowballs at a British sentry and some British soldiers came to the sentry’s aid and opened fire on the crowd, killing five colonists. Captain Preston of the British troop was arrested for manslaughter along with eight other soldiers, but later they were all acquitted.
England had passed the Tea Act, in which it stated that the colonists could only purchase English tea. The English tea was cheaper but it was taxed and this put the colonists off and they ordered the British ships to return the tea to England. When they refused, Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty dressed up like Indians one night and began dumping more than 300 crates of tea into the Boston Harbor. They didn’t do any damage to the ships at all. The colonists wanted to make a point about the taxation.
In 1774, after hearing about the tea destruction, British Parliament passed the Coercive Acts of 1774, which included the Quartering Act in which British troops were allowed to stay in colonists’ homes, hotels and empty buildings. The Coercive Acts also included the Massachusetts Government Act, the Administration of Justice Act and the Boston Port Act.
The Boston Port Act closed the harbors to all imports but food, until the tea was paid for. The Massachusetts Government Act did away with democracy in Massachusetts, limiting the power of elected officials and increasing the power of the royal governor. The Administration of Justice Act simply states that British royal officials could not be charged with capital crimes and tried in the colonies, but had to be tried in England.
On April 19, 1775, hundreds of British troops marched into Lexington, looking for the weapons, when they were stopped by 77 militiamen, after being warned that the troops were coming. The militiamen were ordered to drop their weapons and just as their leader told them to disperse, a shot rang out. No one knows exactly who fired the shot but the two sides opened up on each other. When it was done, one British soldier was killed and eight militiamen were killed and nine others were wounded.
The British soldiers then continued their march to Concord but found only a small cache of weapons, as the rest of them had been moved when the colonists were warned about the impending British troop arrival. The British troops searched Concord for several hours and finally gave up and went back to Boston. By this time more than 2,000 militiamen showed up and began firing at the British troops from behind trees, walls, and houses. The British troops retreated dropping weapons and heavy clothing to make their retreat faster. By the time they had made it to Charlestown Neck where they had Naval support against the militiamen, 250 British soldiers had been killed as had 90 of the militiamen.
On May 28 of that year, the colonists were fully embroiled in war against the British and the war officially ended in 1783 and the colonists had won their independence from England.