While Paul Revere was being rowed across the bay to Charlestown, William Dawes had to make his way through the gate blocking entry to the city on Boston neck. He then had to take the long southern road around and then up to Cambridge then west on the road to Lexington. The guards at the gate were ordered not to let anyone in or out but Dawes had developed a relationship with the guards. He may have slipped them a drink, a coin or just a good word and was allowed to pass.
Paul Revere’s boat was quietly rowed and was able to skirt the HMS Somerset by staying in it’s moon shadow. Reaching the far shore he was met by his contacts and given a horse named Brown Beauty. The horse chosen because of it’s speed and endurance. Looking back toward Boston, Revere and his contacts noticed two lanterns in the North Church steeple. The army was coming by the short route over the river, he needed to hurry.
Revere’s ride was to take him through Charlestown down the Charlestown neck and south into open country where he would pick up the west road north of Cambridge. Clearing Charlestown he swung south and noticed a pair of riders in the road ahead. He slowed and upon realizing they were British Officers, wheeled his horse around and took off across the fields. The officers immediately gave chase. One was eventually bogged down in mud and Revere was able to outrun the other. The choice of Brown Beauty had been a good one.
The chase had pushed Revere north and fearing other riders he chose to take the north road up to Medford a detour of 5 or 6 miles out of
the way. This did however afford him the opportunity to contact local leaders who in turn sent out other rides to spread the word.
Unlike popular myth, Revere did not ride through the countryside shouting “the British are coming”. He and everyone else considered themselves British so it didn’t much sense to call them what they themselves were. He also didn’t shout out, instead he had a well-established fan out notification system in place. He would wake the local leader who in turn would send out more riders. By this method by the end of the night some 80 riders had spread the word to a distance of 100 miles away.
After Medford, Revere swung south back down to Menotomy (now modern day Arlington) and notified his contacts there. After a short rest he turned west on the road to Lexington. Revere reached Lexington around midnight.
While Revere was riding west to Lexington, Col. Francis Smith’s column was assembling at the water’s edge on the south end of Boston. The officers who were present did not know the mission and were only told to get their companies in line but things were not going well. By 10 pm the units that were supposed to being ferried across were still being formed and no progress was being made. Large wooden skiffs were present but there was not enough of them to carry the 700 men across. Col. Smith was not in attendance and arguments broke out among the officers as to who should go first.
The troops had been issued the standard combat load of 36 rounds of ball for their .75 cal smooth bore Brown Bess, flint lock muskets. They also carried the requisite 18″ triangular bayonet, cartridge box and haversack for food and personal items.
Col. Smith arrived near midnight and found his troops still on the eastern shore of the Charles River. He quickly got his officers in order and the troops began moving across. The troops were packed shoulder to shoulder in the low skiffs with water all the way up to the gunnels. They were set ashore at a place called Lechmere Point in a marsh at high tide. Many had to wade ashore in waist deep water.
Once ashore, it was learned that food rations had not been issued. A call was put out to the navy to bring rations. The navy responded by clearing out their spoiled and rotten supplies which once issued, the soldiers promptly threw them away.
Long after Paul Revere had reached Lexington and the militia turned out, the troops were finally ashore and assembled. The orders were given to march west.
Upon reaching Lexington Paul Revere immediately went to the house of Reverend Jonas Clark. He knew that John Hancock and Sam Adams when warned out of Concord a few days before had retreated to Rev. Clark’s house. This house was chosen because Hancock’s grandfather had built the church and rectory and served as it’s minister for many years before Clark took over. Hancock was well known in the town having spent a great deal of time there with his grandfather.
Revere was surprised to be stopped by armed militia men as he approached the house. He was told that earlier in the day 8 men on horses
identified as army officers had come through town. John Parker the militia captain had ordered the same number of his men to protect Hancock and Adams.
Revere, Hancock, Adams and Parker met to discuss what to do. Hancock wanted to stay and fight but Adams and Revere talked him out of it. Parker decided he would call out his militia and send scouts east toward Boston to try and locate the column. As they talked, William Dawes, the other rider out of Boston showed up.
After some rest and food, Adams and Hancock were to leave town as soon as possible while Revere and Dawes would continue their ride to Concord.
On the road out of town, Revere and Dawes ran into Dr. Samuel Prescott from Concord. Prescott had been in Lexington visiting his fiancé Lydia Mulligan. Prescott informed Revere that he was “a true son of liberty” and would help spread the word. Since he was doctor he knew most of people in Concord and surrounding areas.
As the trio rode west they noticed a couple riders along the road ahead in the moonlight. Moving forward two more riders appeared from the shadows under the trees. Four more riders suddenly appeared behind them and they realized these men were British officers. Faced with 8 armed men with pistols and nowhere to run Revere and his companions were forced to surrender. The officers, a combination of lieutenants and sergeants forced the men off the road into a stone walled coral. A quick glance among the trio was exchanged and all three spurred their horses forward. Prescott and Dawes managed to clear the wall and escape while Revere’s reins were seized by the nearest officer. Revere was caught and ready to pay the price.
Sixteen year old William Diamond lay asleep in his house with his family. He was warm and comfortable under the quilts and blankets huddled together with his brothers and sisters. There was no central heat just a fireplace that had burned down leaving the house cold in the mid April night.
Suddenly he was shaken awake by his mother. “Billy get up, there is trouble in the village, take your drum.” He was still groggy when he and his father started the walk through town. He was also cold in the chilly New England air. He noticed that the same full moon that guided Paul Revere across the river earlier in the night was now high in the sky. He could hear the meeting house bell ringing in the distance.
As he and his father walked he noticed other people in the houses moving about in the flickering candle light. He noticed other men and boys moving silently along, the bright dots of candle lanterns swaying as they walked.
One of those boys he saw was Jonathon Harrington. Jonathon was walking with his father and cousin Caleb Harrington. As they reached the town square, known as Lexington Green, his family met at his uncle and namesake’s house at the north end of the green.
Prince Esterbrook was already awake in his shack behind the main house when there was a knock on his door. “You don’t have to go” his master said. Prince knew the value of freedom by not having any. As a slave he thought maybe these white men might appreciate what they had if it was in danger of being taken away. He had already decided. He would go. “I am ready,” he said as he stood.
Captain John Parker was 46. He was a veteran of the French Indian war as a member of Roger’s Rangers, an elite company for its time and the forerunner of today’s Army Rangers. Parker had been elected captain of the Lexington Militia by his friends and neighbors because of his steady hand, resolute demeanor and experience. He watched the men file by singly or in small groups onto the green. When he saw Billy Diamond and the young Jonathon Harrington he walked over to them. He put a hand on each of their shoulders and said, “I need you boys to stay close to me. Billy, beat assembly to call the men in. When they are formed, Jonathon, play something on your fife while we wait for the others.”
Diamond the company drummer and Harrington the company fifer did as they were told. Both were only five years old when the trouble started. From the time they could remember all they heard from their elders was about how their liberty was being taken away. They had grown up under the shadow of government oppression and they were both eager to stand up against it no matter what the cost.
As the men and boys formed that day they had no idea what to expect in the coming hours. Standing in armed defiance to the crown was treason. There was no health insurance or life insurance to help their families if wounded or killed. There was no social security or welfare. The death or disablement of the bread winner in the family meant destitution for the whole family. The was no emergency medical service to respond if wounded. There were no anesthetics to dull the pain. There were no antibiotics to prevent infection.
The choice was not simple and its consequence this day was likely the hot lead of a musket ball, the cold steel of the bayonet or the hangman’s noose.
Yet, despite the dangers the women of the town sent their sons and husbands, brothers, fathers and grandfathers. They were as young as 15 years and old as 70. The fathers stood with their sons, nine pairs on the green that morning. Nearly everyone on the green was related either by blood or marriage.
They stood together as one in defense of liberty.