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vancing on the Lincoln road. A body of militia from one hundred and fifty to two hundred men, who had taken post for observation on the heights above the entrance to the town, retire at the approach of the army of the enemy, first to the hill a little farther north, and then beyond the bridge. The British troops press forward in the town, and are drawn up in front of the courthouse. Parties are then ordered out to the various spots where the public stores and arms were supposed to be deposited. Much had been removed to places of safety, and something was saved by the prompt and innocent artifices of individuals. The destruction of property and of arms was hasty and incomplete, and considered as the object of an enterprise of such fatal consequences, it stands in shocking contrast with the waste of blood by which it was effected.
I am relating events, which, though they can never be repeated more frequently than they deserve, are yet familiar to all who hear me. I need not therefore attempt, nor would it be practicable did I attempt it, to recall the numerous interesting occurrences of that ever memorable day. The reasonable limits of a public discourse must confine us to a selection of the more prominent incidents.
It was the first care of the British commander to cut off the approach of the Americans from the neighbouring towns, by destroying or occupying the bridges. A party was immediately sent to the south bridge and tore it up.
A force of six companies, under Captains Parsons and Lowrie, was sent to the north bridge. Three companies under Captain Lowrie were left to guard it, and three under Captain Parsons proceeded to Colonel Barrett's house, in search of provincial stores. While they were engaged on that errand, the militia of Concord, joined by their brave brethren from the neighbouring towns, gathered on the hill opposite the north bridge, under the command of Colonel Robinson and Major Buttrick. The British companies at the bridge were now apparently bewildered with the perils of their situation, and began to tear up the planks of the bridge; not remembering that this would expose their own party, then at Colonel Barrett's to certain and entire destruction. The Americans, on the other hand, resolved to keep open the communication with the town, and perceiving the attempt which was made to destroy the bridge, were immediately put in motion, with orders not to give the first fire. They draw near to the bridge, the Acton company in front, led on by the gallant Davis. Three alarm guns were fired into the water, by the British, without arresting the march of our citizens. The signal for a general discharge is then made ; :-a British soldier steps from the ranks and fires at Major Buttrick. The ball passed between his arm and his side, and slightly wounded Mr. Luther Blanchard, who stood near him. A volley instantly followed, and Captain Davis was shot through
the heartgallantly marching at the head of the acton militia against the choice woops of the British line. A private of his company, Mr, Hosmer of Acton, also fell at his side. A general action now ensued, which terminated in the retreat of the British party, after the loss of several killed and wounded, toward the centre of the town, followed by the brave band who had driven them from their post. The advance party of British at Colonel Barrett's was thus left to its fate; and nothing would have been more easy than to effect its entire destruction. But the idea of a declared war had yet scarcely forced itself, with all its consequences, into the minds of our countrymen; and these advanced companies were allowed to return unmolested to their main. band.
It was now twelve hours since the first alarm had been given, the evening before, of the meditated expedition. The swift watches of that eventful night had scattered the tidings far and wide; and widely as they spread, the people rose in their strength. . The genius of America, on this the morning of her emancipation, had sounded her horn over the plains and upon the mountains; and the indignant yeomanry of the land, armed with the weapons which had done service in their fathers' hands, poured to the spot where this new and stange tragedy was acting. The old New England drums, that had beat at Louisburgh, at Quebec, at Martinique, at the Havana, were now sounding on all the roads to Concord. There were officers in the British line, that knew the sound ;--they had heard it, in the deadly breach, beneath the black, deepthroated engines of the French and Spanish castles. With the British it was a question no longer of protracted hostility, nor even of halting long enough to rest their exhausted troops, after a weary night's march, and all the labor, confusion, and distress of the day's efforts. Their dead were hastily buried in the public square; their wounded placed in the vehicles which the town afforded; and a flight commenced, to which the annals of British warfare will hardly afford a parallel. On all the neighbouring hills were multitudes from the surrounding country, of the unarmed and infirm, of women and of children, who had fled from the terrors and the perils of the plunder and conflagration of their homes; or were collected, with fearful curiosity, to mark the progress of this storm of war. The panic fears of a calamitous flight, on the part of the British, transformed this inoffensive, timid throng into a threatening array of armed men; and there was too much reason for the misconception. Every height of ground, within reach of the line of march covered with the indignant avengers of their slaughtered brethren. The British light companies were sent out to great distances as flanking parties; but who was to flank the flankers ? Every patch of trees, every rock, every stream of water, every building, every stone wall, was lined (I use the
words of a British officer in the battle), was lined with an unremitted fire. Every cross-road opened a new avenue to the assailants. Through one of these the gallant Brooks lead up the minute men of Reading. At another defile, they were encountered by the Lexington militia, under Captain Parker, who, undismayed at the loss of more than a tenth of their number in killed and wounded in the morning, had returned to the conflict. At first the contest was kept up by the British, with all the skill and valour of veteran troops. To a military eye it was not an unequal contest. The commander was not, or ought not to have been, taken by surprise. Eight hundred picked men, grenadiers and light infantry, from the English army, were no doubt considered by General Gage, a very ample detachment to march eighteen or twenty miles through an open country; and a very fair match for all the resistance which could be made by unprepared husband.. men, without concert, discipline, or leaders. With about ten times their number, the Grecian commander had forced a march out of the wrecks of a field of battle and defeat, through the barbarous nations of Asia, for thirteen long months, from the plains of Babylon to the Black sea, through forests, defiles and deserts, which the foot of civilized man had never trod. It was the American cause,-its holy foundation in truth and right, its strength and life in the hearts of the people, that converted what would naturally have been the undisturbed march of a strong, well provided
army into a rabble rout of terror and death. It was this, which sowed the fields of our pacific villages with dragon's teeth; which nerved the arm of age; called the ministers and servant's of the church into the hot fire; and even filled with strange passion and manly strength the heart and the arm of the stripling. A British historian, to paint the terrific aspect of things that presented itself to his countrymen, declares that the rebels swarmed upon the hills, as if they dropped from the clouds. Before the flying troops had reached Lexington, their rout was entire. Some of the officers had been made prisoners, some had been killed, and several wounded, and among them the commander in chief, Colonel Smith. The ordinary means of preserving discipline failed; the wounded, in chaises and waggous, pressed to the front and obstructed the road; wherever the flanking parties, from the nature of the ground, were forced to come in, the line of march was crowded and broken; the ammunition began to fail; and at length the entire body was on a full run. “We attempted,” says a British officer already quoted, “to stop the men and form them two deep, but to no purpose; the confusion rather increased than lessened.” An English historian says, the British soldiers were driven before the Americans like sheep; till, by a last desperate effort, the officers succeeded in forcing their way to the front, “ when they presented their swords and bayonets against the breasts of their own men, and told them if they advanced they
should die." Upon this they began to form, under what the same British oliicer pronounces
a very heavy fire,” which must soon have led to the destruction or capture of the whole corps. At this critical moment, it pleased Providence that a reinforcement should arrive. Colonel Smith had sent back a messenger from Lexington to apprize General Gage of the check he had there received, and of the alarm which was running through the country. Three regiments of infantry and two divisions of marines with two fieldpieces, under the command of Brigadier General Lord Percy, were accordingly detached. They marched out of Boston, through Roxbury and Cambridge*, and came up with the flying party, in the hour of their extreme peril. While their fieldpieces kept the Americans at bay, the reinforcement drew up in a hollow square, into which, says the British historian, they received the exhausted fugitives, " who lay down on the ground, with their tongues harging from their mouths, like dogs after a chase.”
A half an hour was given to rest; the march was then resumed; and under cover of the field-pieces, every house in Lexington, and on the road, downwards, was plundered and set on fire. Though the flames in most cases were speedily extinguished, several houses were destroyed. Notwithstanding the attention of a great part of the Americans was thus drawn oft; and although the British force was now more than doubled, their retreat still wore the aspect of a flight. The Americans filled the heights that overhung the road, and at every defile, the struggle was sharp and bloody., At West Cambridge, the gallant Warren, never distant when danger was to be braved, appeared in the field, and a musket ball soon cut off a lock of hair from his temple. General Heath was with him, nor does there appear till this moment, to have been any effective command among the American forces.
Below West Cambridge, the militia from Dorchester, Roxbury, and Brookline came up. The British fieldpieces began to lose their terror. A sharp skirmish followed, and many fell on both sides. Indignation and outraged humanity struggled on the one hand, veteran discipline and desperation on the other; and the contest, in more than one instance, was man to man, and bayonet to bayonet.
The British officers had been compelled to descend from their horses to escape the certain destruction, which attended their exposed situation. The wounded, to the number of two hundred, now presented the most distressing and constantly increasing ob struction to the progress of the niarch. Near one hundred brave* men had fallen in this disastrous flight; a considerable number had been made prisoners; a round or two of amunition only remained; and it was not till late in the evening, nearly twentyfour hours from the time when the first detachment was put in
* See note D. No. 17. Vol XIT,
motion, that the exhausted remnant reached the heights of Charlestown. The boats of the vessels of war were immediately employed to transport the wounded; the remaining British troops in Boston came over to Charlestown to protect their weary countrymen during the night; and before the close of the next day the royal army was formally beseiged in Boston.
Such, fellow citizens, imperfectly sketched in their outline, were the events of the day we celebrate ; a day as important as any recorded in the history of man. Such were the first of a series of actions, that have extensively changed and are every day more extensively changing the condition and prospects of the human race. Such were the perils, such the sufferings of our fathers, which it has pleased Providence to crown with a blessing beyond the most sanguine hopes of those who then ventured their all in the cause.
It is a proud anniversary for our 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 revolution 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 Concord. 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 Grecian story.
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, re
In the prodigious efforts of a veteran army, beneath the dazzling splendour 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, 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