On September 1, 1774, British soldiers removed gunpowder and other military supplies in a surprise raid on a powder magazine near Boston. This expedition alarmed the countryside, and thousands of American Patriots sprang into action, amid rumors that war was at hand. Although it proved to be a false alarm, this event—known as the Powder Alarm—caused all concerned to proceed more carefully in the days ahead, and essentially provided a “dress rehearsal” for events seven months later. Partly in response to this action, the colonists carried off military supplies from several forts in New England and distributed them among the local militias.
On the night of April 18, 1775, General Gage sent 700 men to seize munitions stored by the colonial militia at Concord. Several riders — including Paul Revere — alerted the country- side, and when the British troops entered Lexington on the morning of April 19, they found 77 minutemen formed up on the village common. Shots were exchanged, eight Minutemen were killed, the outnumbered colonial militia dispersed, and the British moved on to Concord. At Concord, the troops searched for military supplies, but found relatively little, as the colonists, having received warnings that such an expedition might happen, had taken steps to hide many of the supplies. During the search, there was a confrontation at the North Bridge. A small company of British troops fired on a much larger column of colonial militia, which returned fire, and eventually routed those troops, which returned to the village center and rejoined the other troops there. By the time the “redcoats” or “lobster backs” (as the British soldiers were called) began the return march to Boston, several thousand militiamen had gathered along the road. A running fight ensued, and the British detachment suffered heavily before reaching Charlestown. With the Battle of Lexington and Concord — the “shot heard round the world” — the war had begun.
1. Fischer, David Hackett (1994). Paul Revere’s Ride. New York: Oxford University
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2. Frothingham, Jr, Richard (1851). History of the Siege of Boston and of the Battles of
Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill. Little, Brown. OCLC 221368703