The American Revolutionary War’s End in New York City,1783

The American Revolutionary War formally ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783. At that time the British were nearing the end of their seven-year occupation of New York City after their victory over the colonists in York Island (Manhattan) in September 1776.[1]

Several weeks before the signing of the Treaty, Sir John Carleton, who was in charge of the British forces in the City, advised the President of the Continental Congress that the British were proceeding as fast as possible with the withdrawal of military personnel, Loyalists and liberated slaves, but that he could not then provide an estimated date for the completion of that process.

Thereafter the British evacuated more than 29,000 military personnel, Loyalists and liberated slaves although the Treaty of Paris required them to return the slaves to their owners. The process was completed on November 25th.

Washington & Clinton Entry into New York City

After the evacuation was complete that day, General Washington, New York Governor George Clinton and men in the Continental Army marched down Broadway to the Battery to formally take possession of the City.

Fraunces Tavern

Approximately a week later (on December 4th), General Washington invited the officers of the Continental Army to join him for a farewell dinner at noon at the City’s Fraunces Tavern at 54 Pearl Street.[3]

Washington’s Farewell, Fraunces Tavern

When all were assembled in the Tavern’s dining room, Washington filled his glass with wine and said, “With a heart full of love and gratitude I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable.”

After each of the officers had taken a glass of wine, General Washington said, “I cannot come to each of you but shall feel obliged if each of you will come and take me by the hand.”‘ As the officers did so, Washington was in tears.

The British evacuation of the City plays a prominent role in a fascinating novel, The Book of Negroes, by Canadian novelist Lawrence Hill.[2] The novel follows Aminata Diallo, a girl who is abducted at age 11 from her West African village in the mid- 18th century and sold into slavery in the U.S. She is intelligent and learns how to read and write. She is in New York City at the end of the American Revolutionary War, and because she is literate is hired by the British to facilitate their evacuation of the city.

Book of Negroes (page)

Her task is to create the Book of Negroes, an actual historical document that lists 3,000 freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to leave the U.S. in order to resettle in Nova Scotia.[4] There are many other intriguing facets of her life that are covered in this amazing novel.

———————————————-

[1] Various aspects of the American Revolutionary War have been discussed in prior posts.

[2]  The Fraunces Tavern had opened for business in 1762 in a former mansion that was built in 1719. It is still in business today along with its Fraunces Museum. When I was an associate attorney with a nearby Wall Street law firm, 1966-1970, colleagues and I had dinner there several times.

Current NYC map with marker for                  Fraunces Tavern

[3]  In the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, the novel was published under the title Someone Knows My Name.

[4] The actual Book of Negroes is now online.

The American Revolutionary War: The Battle of White Plains (New York), October 1776

Immediately after General George Washington’s victory at Harlem Heights on September 16, 1776, he and the Continental Army remained at the northern end of York Island (Manhattan).[1]

Twenty-six days later (October 12th) General William Howe made his next move. He had 90 British flat-boats with 4,000 troops row up the East River to Throggs Neck, a narrow peninsula that demarcates the passage between that River and Long Island Sound. There the troops disembarked with the objective of establishing a line across the island to the Hudson River and thereby encircling the Continental Army and preventing their escaping from York Island. The British inland advance, however, was blocked by swamps and some Continental troops.

Howe responded by having his troops return to the boats and go three miles north to Pell’s Point (or Pelham). There on October 18th, the British troops again disembarked with the same objective.  Inland were 750 Continental Army men under the command of Col. John Glover, who positioned his troops behind a series of stone walls and attacked the British advance units. As the British overran each position, the American troops fell back and reorganized behind the next wall. After several such attacks, the British broke off, and the Americans retreated.

This battle or skirmish delayed British movements long enough for Washington to move the main Continental army 18 miles north to White Plains, thereby avoiding being surrounded on Manhattan.

In White Plains by October 22nd Washington established a defensive line near the village anchored by Purdy Hill on one end and Hatfield Hill at the other end. Across the line and the Bronx River was Chatterton’s Hill, which was left undefended.

White Plains Battle map
Battle of White Plains
British soldiers, White Plains (reinactment)
Continental Army soldiers, White Plains (reinactment)

When General Howe and the British troops arrived in White Plains on October 28th, Howe immediately recognized the importance of Chatterton’s Hill and made it the focus of their attack.

Washington’s attempt to mount a defense of that Hill failed, and the British won the battle with 300 Americans killed, wounded and captured. One of those killed on the battlefield was my maternal fifth great-grandfather, Perley Brown.[2]

The two sides remained in their positions for the next two days. On October 31st General Howe planned to attack the Americans, but heavy rain prevented this move. That night, under the protection of t he rain, Washington withdrew his troops to the north. The next day, November 1st, Howe again found that Washington had eluded his grasp.

Washington continued his retreat to the north and then west over the Hudson River into New Jersey for their further retreat to Pennsylvania in late December. The British returned to Manhattan.


[1] In addition to the hyperlinked sources in this post, it also draws from Arthur Merrill, The Battle of White Plains (Analysis Press; Chappaqua, NY, 1975); David McCullough, 1776 at 229-34(New York; Simon & Schuster 2005); T. Harry Williams, Richard N. Current & Frank Freidel, A History of the United States [To 1876], at 151 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1959); Henry Steele Commager & Richard B. Morris, The Spirit of ‘Seventy-Six: The Story of the American Revolution as Told by Participants, Ch. Eleven (New York: Harper & Row, 1967).  From 1969 through early 1970, I was a lawyer for a Wall Street law firm working for IBM on the IBM antitrust cases and spent a lot of time at a special office for the cases in White Plains. Unfortunately I did not scout out the sites of this battle.

[2]  Carol Willits Brown, William Brown–English Immigrant of Hatfield and Leicester, Massachusetts, and His Descendants c. 1669-1994 at 17 (Gateway Press; Baltimore, MD 1994).

The American Revolutionary War: The Battle of Harlem Heights (New York), September 1776

On the morning of August 30, 1776, it was apparent that the British had totally routed the colonists in the Battle of Brooklyn (Long Island). But the British commander, General Howe, did not press their advantage and immediately attack the American forces on the southern end of York Island (now Manhattan).

General Washington at his New York City headquarters obviously knew that the British would be attacking the City and the Island, but did not know where or when.

The Battle of Brooklyn was mentioned in a September 3rd letter from my maternal fifth great-grandfather, Perley Brown, to his wife from New York City. He also said that British ships were now “within ear shot” of the City and that he and the others “expect the [British] Regulars will try to take the City.” Another such letter from him on September 9th said “the Enemy have got a Brestwork [sic] about seven miles above the City [in Brooklyn Heights] on long island and they fire actrost [sic] to a foart [sic] of ours [sic] and our men at them.” He added, “they have wounded two men and kild [sic] one.”[1]

On September 12th (the day after the unsuccessful Staten Island Peace Conference), Washington decided to abandon New York City and ordered the main part of the Continental Army to move north on the island as soon as possible to King’s Bridge connecting the island with what is now the Bronx.[2]

Harlem Heights map

By September 14th most of this American force had reached the Harlem Heights[3] on the west side of the island and King’s Bridge at the northern end of the island. The balance of the forces remained at the southern end of the island.

British ships at Kips Bay

On the morning of the 15th five British frigates sailed up the East River and near Kips Bay (on the east side of Manhattan and just south of the present-day U.N. Headquarters) started a cannon bombardment of the island. Thereafter 13,000 British troops left the ships and invaded the island from the east in flat-boats. Some of the British soldiers immediately marched south to occupy New York City.

Simultaneously the last of the American troops marched north from New York City on the west side of the island to reach their colleagues at Harlem Heights. Perley Brown was in this contingent, and in an October 4th letter to his wife said, “on the 15 of September we left new York and Before we could get out the [British] Regulars Landed on the island and intended to stop our retreat.” Perley continued, “they fired their cannon from there [sic] ships [on the Hudson River] which came very [near] to us.”

Harlem Heights Battle
Harlem Heights Battle

On September 16th 5,000 British troops reached the 1,800 American soldiers on Harlem Heights. The British attacked, and their bunglers sounded a fox-hunting call know as “gone away,” meaning that the fox is in full flight from the hounds. The Continentals, who had been in orderly retreat, were infuriated by this insult. They halted and counter-attacked. The British retreated and withdrew.

 

This battle was mentioned in Perley Brown’s October 4th letter to his wife from “Harlom [sic] Camp.” He reported, “on the 16 they came up to our lines at the upper end of the island at harlom [sic] where our Camp is now.” He added, “we had a sharp ingagement [sic] which lasted about two [h]ours” and had “about 20 kild [sic] and about 70 wounded.”

The British suffered 14 to 90 killed and 78 to 300 wounded. The Americans had 30 killed and 100 wounded.

Troop movements for Battle of Harlem HeightsThe map of Long Island and Manhattan Island shows the troop movements leading up to this Battle.

The map to the right of Long Island and Manhattan Island shows the movement of troops leading up to the Battle of Harlem Heights.

This victory, minor though it was, was the first victory of the War for General Washington and bolstered American morale.


[1] Carol Willits Brown, William Brown–English Immigrant of Hatfield and Leicester, Massachusetts, and His Descendants c. 1669-1994 at 17-25 (Gateway Press; Baltimore, MD 1994).

[2]   In addition to the hyperlinked sources in this post, it also draws from David McCullough, 1776 at 208-219 (New York; Simon & Schuster 2005); T. Harry Williams, Richard N. Current & Frank Freidel, A History of the United States [To 1876], at 151 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1959); Henry Steele Commager & Richard B. Morris, The Spirit of ‘Seventy-Six: The Story of the American Revolution as Told by Participants, Ch. Eleven (New York: Harper & Row, 1967).

[3]  This area is now known as Morningside Heights, 110th to 125th Streets from Riverside Drive on the west to Morningside Drive on the east. It is the home today of such institutions as Columbia University, Barnard College, Grant’s Tomb, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Union Theological Seminary and St. Luke’s Hospital.

Today’s Morningside Heights

The American Revolutionary War’s Campaign for New York and New Jersey, March 1776–January 1777

On March 17, 1776, the 11-month colonists’ Siege of Boston ended when the British troops and their dependants evacuated the town of Boston. A fleet of 120 British ships set sail for a British military base in Halifax, Nova Scotia with nearly 10,000 British troops and over 1,000 dependants. This was discussed in a prior post.

New York City, 1776
New York City area, 1776

Both sides’ attention next turned to New York City, which then was a town of 25,000 at the southern tip of the island of Manhattan (then known as York Island). This post will review what is known as the Campaign for New York and New Jersey, March 18, 1776, through January 1777.[1]

For the British, the City was an obvious strategic target. It had a large harbor from which the vastly superior British navy could easily command the area and be a base to conquer the middle colonies to the south and west. The terminus of the Hudson (or North) River into that harbor would provide the British with a route north to connect with British forces in what is now Canada and thereby potentially separate New England from the other colonies. Moreover, many British Loyalists lived in the City and thus made it a friendlier host for British troops than Boston had been.

General George Washington

The strategic importance of the City also was obvious to General George Washington. Not knowing that the British troops were going from Boston to Nova Scotia, he was worried that they would instead be sent directly to New York. Therefore, Washington immediately after the British evacuation of Boston sent some colonial regiments from Boston to New York to join the colonial forces already there under the command of General Charles Lee. Thereafter other colonial troops were sent from Boston, including my 5th maternal great-grandfather, Perley Brown, and his brothers William and Benjamin. Perley and his comrades arrived in New York City in late July on a ship from New Haven, Connecticut.[2]

These transfers of troops from Boston were not easy. The men first had to march 100 to 120 miles over five to seven days to the Connecticut ports of New Haven or New London, where they boarded sailing ships to take them via Long Island Sound to New York City.

Archibald Kennedy Mansion

General Washington himself arrived in the City on April 13th and established his headquarters in the Archibald Kennedy Mansion at No. 1 Broadway.[3]

Washington soon discovered that much work still needed to be done to finish the construction of fortifications in Brooklyn on Long Island and on York Island. He was kept busy supervising their continued construction, inspecting the troops and deciding on command assignments and troop deployments.

Another problem faced Washington in the City. The soldiers were growing sickly. Smallpox appeared causing the deaths of several of the men. In the summer heat, “camp fever” became epidemic, and poor sanitation caused dysentery. At least 3,000 to 6,000 men were ill at one time or another, and many died. One of the victims of these illnesses was William Brown (Perley’s brother), who died in a City hospital on August 27th after being sick for eight days. Also sick at this time was brother Benjamin, but his health improved so he could return to active duty.[4]

New York Harbor & Sandy Hook

The long anticipated arrival in New York of the British troops began on June 29th when 120 British ships arrived at Sandy Hook, a barrier spit jutting northward into Lower New York Bay from the New Jersey shore. Three days later (July 2nd) 9,000 British troops from their Nova Scotia base left these ships to establish their new base on the unguarded Staten Island southwest across the harbor from York Island and directly west of the present-day southern part of Brooklyn.

British fleet @ Staten Island, July 1776

And the British ships kept coming with another 15,000 British and Hessian soldiers soon thereafter. On August 13th 96 more ships entered the harbor plus 20 more the next day. That summer more than 400 British ships with 1,200 cannon and 10,000 sailors under the command of Admiral Lord Richard Howe were anchored in the harbor, and more than 32,000 British and Hessian troops under the command of his brother, General Sir William Howe, were on the nearby land. This turned out to be the largest expeditionary force of the 18th century.

Admiral Lord Richard Howe
General Sir  William Howe

The British, however, did not launch an immediate attack.

Instead General Howe, on July 14th sent a messenger from Staten Island to York Island with a letter addressed to “George Washington, Esq.” conveying an offer to meet and discuss ending the rebellion. Washington’s assistant rejected the letter because it was not addressed to “General George Washington” and because there was no one there by the letter’s simple title. Three days later (July 17th) a second letter was sent; this one was addressed to “George Washington, Esq., etc.,” which also was rejected for the same reason. The next day (July 18th) the British returned to York Island to ask if General Washington would meet with Adjutant General Patterson, and Washington said “yes.”

On July 20th such a peace conference was held at the Kennedy Mansion on York Island. In the midst of polite formalities Washington said he understood that General Howe only had authority to grant pardons, but that those who had committed no wrongs wanted no pardons. This ended these British peace efforts.

In the meantime, General Washington had 19,000 colonial troops in the area, but did not know where the British planned to attack. Therefore, Washington split the Continental Army into fortified positions in Brooklyn on Long Island and in Manhattan with some held in a reserve so-called “Flying Camp” in northern New Jersey to be deployed when they knew where the British were going to attack.

The fighting phase of the campaign for New York and New Jersey began on August 22nd when the British troops invaded Long Island. Thus began what turned out to be the largest battle of the War (the Battle of Long Island or the Battle of Brooklyn) that lasted until August 30th with a British victory.

Staten Island Peace Conference

Soon thereafter– on September 11th (an ironic date in light of its 225th anniversary falling on the day of  the 9/11 attacks of 2001)–another attempt was made to end the rebellion peacefully at the Staten Island Peace Conference.

The Conference participants were Admiral Lord Howe and Continental Congressmen John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Edward Rutledge. The Americans insisted on British recognition of their recently declared independence. Admiral Lord Howe said he could not do that. Howe was also pressed to repeal the Prohibitory Act that authorized a blockade of the colonies, but he said he could not do that either. Instead, Howe offered to suspend execution of the blockade if the Americans agreed to end hostilities and make fixed financial contributions to Britain. This offer was rejected by the Americans. There was no peace agreement. The War continued.

With the exception of an American victory at Harlem Heights on York Island,  the British won all the military encounters of this campaign through Christmas Eve Day (December 24, 1776) and forced General Washington and the Continental Army to retreat from New York into New Jersey and then from New Jersey into Pennsylvania. Future posts will review the Battles of Long Island (Brooklyn), Harlem Heights and White Plains.

The British victory in this campaign looked secure at that time. But on Christmas Day (December 25th) Washington and 2,400 of his troops made their now famous “crossing the Delaware River” maneuver. They crossed the partially frozen river from Pennsylvania to return to New Jersey to make their successful surprise attack on British and Hessian troops at Trenton, New Jersey. This was followed on January 3rd with another successful colonial attack at Princeton, New Jersey and Washington’s establishing his winter headquarters in Morristown, New Jersey.

Fighting essentially ceased in January 1777 due to winter conditions.

Nevertheless, it has to be said that the British won the Campaign for New York and New Jersey and that the British occupied New York City for the duration of the War.


[1]  In addition to the hyperlinked sources in this post, it also draws from David McCullough, 1776 at 110-154 (New York; Simon & Schuster 2005). See also, e.g., T. Harry Williams, Richard N. Current & Frenk Freidel, A History of the United States [To 1876], at 151 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1959); Henry Steele Commager & Richard B. Morris, The Spirit of ‘Seventy-Six: The Story of the American Revolution as Told by Participants, Ch. Eleven (New York: Harper & Row, 1967). From July 1966 through March 1970, I worked for a New York City law firm with offices in the Wall Street district at the southern end of Manhattan.As a result, I frequently walked around the area where General Washington and the Continental Army troops lived and worked 190 years earlier, but unfortunately I did not scout out where things happened in the Revolutionary War.

[2] Carol Willits Brown, William Brown–English Immigrant of Hatfield and Leicester, Massachusetts, and His Descendants c. 1669-1994 at 18-19 (Gateway Press; Baltimore, MD 1994) (letter, Perley Brown to his wife Elizabeth Brown (Aug. 1, 1776)).

[3]  By July 1776, Washington moved his abode and headquarters to City Hall because it was deemed to be more secure. By the way, No. 1 Broadway now is the location of an office building known as “1 Broadway.” Facing Battery Park, it was built in 1884 and extensively remodeled in 1921.

[4]  Carol Willits Brown, William Brown–English Immigrant of Hatfield and Leicester, Massachusetts, and His Descendants c. 1669-1994 at 7, 20-21, 24-25, 31-32, 210-11 (Gateway Press; Baltimore, MD 1994) (letters, Perley Brown to his wife Elizabeth Brown (Aug. 1, 1776; Sept. 9, 1776; Oct. 4, 1776).

 

A Powerful Prayer

Last Sunday (August 5th) at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church I heard the following powerful prayer as the text of an anthem ,”God Be in My Head:”

  • God be in my head,

    Westminster Presbyterian Church
  • And in my understanding;
  • God be in my eyes
  • And in my looking;
  • God be in my mouth
  • And in my speaking;
  • God be in my heart
  • And in my thinking;
  • God be at my end,
  • And at my departing.

(A video of this worship service is available on the web.)

Sarum Primer, title page, 1555

I was surprised I had never heard this prayer or anthem before. The church bulletin said this text was from the Sarum Primer of 1514, which meant nothing to me.

After I returned home and goggled “Sarum Primer,” I discovered that it was a book of prayers and Christian worship resources in the Roman Catholic Church that was collected by the clergy at Salisbury Cathedral in the south central part of England. It was published in 1514 in the “Book of Hours” (Cambridge) and republished as the “Sarum Primer” in Salisbury in 1558. (“Sarum” is the abbreviation for Sarisburium, the Latin word for Salisbury, which was and is both a city and a diocese in England. “Primer” is the Middle English term for a Book of Hours.)

I remember the beautiful Salisbury Cathedral from a visit in 1962. To the right are photographs of its interior and exterior.

David Evan Thomas

The composer of the anthem is David Evan Thomas, who was born in Rochester, New York in 1958 and holds degrees from Northwestern University (B.A.) the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester (M.A.) and the University of Minnesota (Ph.D.). He lives in Minneapolis and in addition to composing sings in the city’s Plymouth Congregational Church Choir. I was surprised to discover that he had been a composer in residence at my church (Westminster Presbyterian Church).

I pray that God will be in my head, understanding, eyes, looking, mouth, speaking, heart and thinking. And eventually in my end and departing.

The American Revolutionary War’s Mustering of the Minute Men, April 1775

On April 19, 1775, the opening battles of the American Revolutionary War occurred in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts and along the road from those villages to Boston.

Minute Man statue, Lincoln, MA

Battles There was no organized colonial army at the time. Instead, the Americans who fought the British that day were “Minute Men,” who were volunteers committed to being ready to fight on a minute’s notice and who had been mustered into service that day by warnings that the British were coming.

A concrete example of the mustering of the Minute Men can be seen by what happened that same day (April 19th) in Leicester, Massachusetts, a village 30 miles west of Concord.

Early that same afternoon a messenger on horseback arrived in Leicester. He stopped in front of the blacksmith shop of the captain of the local unit of the Minute Men. The messenger yelled, “The war has begun! The British are marching to Concord!”[1]

The blacksmith immediately stopped working on the ploughshare he was sharpening. He grabbed his loaded musket. He rushed into the street and fired the musket in the air. This was the agreed upon signal for the Minute Men to assemble. Some who previously had been appointed as messengers went through the town and adjoining countryside to spread the news.

By 4:00 p.m. all the Minute Men had assembled in the town Common. No one had a uniform. But everyone had his musket, powder horn and bullet pouch along with a few necessities. Among those present were Perley Brown (my maternal fifth great-grandfather) and two of his brothers–John and William. They all apparently enlisted for eight months or through the balance of the year of 1775.

Watching the Leicester men assemble were family and friends. To provide the men with shot for their muskets the lead weights of one family’s valuable clock were melted down and cast into bullets. Rev. Conklin, the local clergyman, prayed for their protection and safe return. The mother of the unit’s captain approached him to give him a hug. He responded by saying for all to hear, “Mother, pray for me, and I will fight for you.”

Just before sundown that same day, 80 Minute Men from the town, including the three Brown brothers, marched east approximately 24 miles through Worcester to Marlborough, Massachusetts, a village of 1,500 people. There upon hearing the news that the British had retreated to Boston, they and colleagues from other towns stopped for a short sleep.

The next day (April 20th) they marched another 21 miles to Watertown, Massachusetts and stopped for a night’s rest. The following day (April 21st) they completed their march when they arrived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which was five miles to the east and which had been selected as the staging center for the American forces.

This tale of the mustering of the Leicester men undoubtedly was repeated throughout Massachusetts and the rest of New England for the Leicester men were joined in Cambridge by thousands of other Minute Men. One of the other Minute Men was another Brown brother, Benjamin Brown, from the village of Rowe in northwestern Massachusetts near present-day Vermont.

As we will see in a subsequent post, these men then participated in the Siege of Boston from April 20, 1765 through March 17, 1776.


[1] Carol Willits Brown, William Brown–English Immigrant of Hatfield and Leicester, Massachusetts, and His Descendants c. 1669-1994 at 6, 11-27, 31-41, 50, 308-12(Gateway Press; Baltimore, MD 1994); Emory Washburn, Topographical and historical sketches of the town of Leicester in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at 49-50 (1826); Emory Washburn, Historical sketches of the town of Leicester, Massachusetts, during the first century from its settlement at 296-99(1860).

The American Revolutionary War’s Battles of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, April 19, 1775

As mentioned in a prior post, British relations with her American colonies deteriorated during the period from 1765 through 1775. Especially towards the end of that period, the colonists were organizing militias, training the Minute Men in how to wage war and gathering and storing munitions and weapons. One of the places for such storage was Concord, Massachusetts, which was about 20 miles northwest of Boston.

It was no secret to the British that the Americans were preparing for war, and the British had secret intelligence that colonial weapons and munitions were being stored in Concord.

Map of British Troop Movements, April 19, 1775

Hoping to surprise the Americans, on the evening of April 18, 1775, a British infantry force of 700 men boarded naval barges in Boston to cross the Charles River to Cambridge, about three miles to the west. Around 2:00 a.m. early the next morning, the troops started marching to Concord, approximately 17 miles to the west of Cambridge. Their objective was to seize and destroy the colonial munitions and arms stored at Concord.

The colonists, however, had intelligence that the British were going to try to seize the weapons and munitions in Concord, and the colonists previously had moved most of those materials to another location. Moreover, the colonists had intelligence on the night of April 18th that the British troops were going to make that attempt the next day.

Paul Revere, Ride,           April 18, 1775

This prompted the famous midnight ride of Paul Revere and another rider (William Dawes) to warn the militias in Lexington and Concord and others in towns along the way that the British were coming.

Battle of Lexington,        April 19, 1775

At sunrise on the 19th the British troops entered Lexington, a village of about 800 people. In the village common green, 80 or so Minute Men stood at attention in plain sight in parade-ground formation just watching the British troops. The British troops turned and advanced toward the Minute Men. There were shouts and confusion when one shot rang out by whom no one knows for certain. This precipitated other shots, and eight militia men were killed and ten were wounded.

The American Revolutionary War had started.

The 700 British troops soon reformed into a column and commenced their march to Concord, a village of about 1,500 people approximately seven miles to the west. As they approached Concord, about 250 militia men saw that they were heavily outnumbered and retreated, and the town was surrendered to the British. The British found three large cannons and smashed them so they could not be moved.

Battle at Concord North Bridge, April 19, 1775

At the North Bridge over the Concord River just outside the town, a contingent of militia men outnumbered the British troops. Gunfire erupted, and the British troops abandoned their wounded and fled to the safety of another contingent of British soldiers.  Around noon the British left Concord.

On their return march to Lexington, the British were ambushed and suffered losses as the number of militia men kept growing with reinforcements from other towns. Around 2:30 p.m. a full brigade of 1,000 British soldiers with artillery arrived to reinforce and rescue their retreating comrades. After a short rest at Lexington, they resumed their return march to Boston around 3:30 p.m. All along their return they were attacked by militia men, many firing their muskets from behind trees and stone fences.

The battles at Lexington and Concord were not major ones in terms of tactics or casualties. But they were important in showing the ability of the colonists to fight and the failure of the British to enforce the Intolerable Acts, capture weapons and munitions and prevent hostilities from the colonists.

In 1837 Ralph Waldo Emerson commemorated the fight at Concord’s North Bridge in his “Concord Hymn” with these words:”By the rude bridge that arched the flood; Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled; Here once the embattled farmers stood; And fired the shot heard round the world.”