I am the history program coordinator in my state for the Revolutionary War Veterans Association. As such I do history presentations for groups, schools, scouts, and anyone else who will listen. This history is also standard fare at all Appleseed clinics.
Our history is mostly given verbally but I recently wrote out part of it and thought I would share it here. Originally I put it on the Glocktalk forum. One of the readers there put is on XDTalk with my permission and it has made its way to The High Road Forum, AR15.com and Defensive Carry.com. I’ve cleaned it up some and added some illustrations to make it more interesting.
The focus of our history is April 19th, 1775, the day of Paul Revere’s ride and the battles at Lexington and Concord. The story isn’t often heard anymore and not well covered in school anymore. It is however an intriguing story of persona sacrifice, action and adventure.
I will be putting it up in parts every day so be sure to stop back. I hope you enjoy it.
In September of 1774, a company of British troops crossed the Charles River by boat from Boston to Cambridge in the middle of night. By
early morning they had arrived at the Massachusetts Provisional Powder house. The powder house was a stone silo type structure used as a powder magazine to house the black powder used by the surrounding communities. They were let in by the local sheriff and subsequently confiscated 250 half barrels of powder belonging to the Massachusetts colony.
The redcoats marched back through Cambridge drawing the attention of the locals who spread the word “the powder raids have begun!” The locals were so outraged at this raid that nearly four thousand assembled. They took the sheriff hostage and made him write notice that he would never help the red coats again. They rampaged through the Tory/loyalist section of town and ran the most prominent of them out of town, never to return. It was only the intervention of local patriot leaders who kept the mob from marching to Boston and confronting the army stationed there.
This raid did two things. It confirmed the fear of the colonists that “the Regulars” (what they called the army) could and would raid and confiscate arms. The second thing it did was motivate colonial leaders such as Paul Revere and Dr. Joseph Warren to set up a network of citizens to keep an eye on the troops in Boston for any indication of them mobilizing for future raids.
The early warning system and subsequent alert notification system developed by Revere and Warren would be tested in the coming months.
In 1773 as a result of the Boston Tea Party, the Parliament had passed a series of laws to bring the colonies under control. These laws were called “The Coercive Acts” and did exactly what they meant, to coerce the colonies into submission. The colonists didn’t hear about the Coercive Act until 1774 and by then started referring to them as the “Intolerable Acts”.
The Coercive Acts banned free speech. Troops raided newspapers and smashed or confiscated printing presses. They did away with local control of towns, cities, counties and colonies. It removed local judges. A person could now be held without warrant and sent back to England to be judged for any crime the crown could think up. Under the Coercive Acts, militias were banned as was military type training. Even public meetings were banned. Importation of black powder and muskets was stopped.
In December of 1774, General Thomas Gage, commander of all British forces in north America and military governor of Massachusetts ordered another raid. This time the plan was to send a ship load of troops up to New Hampshire to secure the powder and weapons stored
at an outpost called Fort William and Mary. The fort was manned by an officer and a small number of regulars.
Paul Revere’s intelligence network, called “The Mechanics” because the were all tradesmen, notified him and he made the long ride to the fort in a snowstorm. He contacted the local militia, which was now outlawed and they gathered 250 men and stormed the fort. Shots were fired, people were wounded but no one was killed. The fort was taken and the militia relieved the fort of powder, muskets and small artillery pieces. The militia melted back into the country side.
The governor of New Hampshire was outraged. He sent a message to Gen. Gage telling him of the armed insurrection. The ship load of soldiers had been delayed because of a snow squall and didn’t make it for another day. To add insult to injury the ship was run aground (some say intentionally) by the harbor pilot.
The score was now the Regulars 1, Colonists 1. The next raid wouldn’t be tried for another couple months.
Setting The Stage
The conflict between the crown and colonists didn’t happen overnight. In fact it was a decade long escalation of push and push back. By 1764, England was on the edge of a fiscal cliff. They had just finished the “7 years war” with France around the globe. In North America it was known as the French and Indian war because that’s who they were fighting.
To pay for the wars the crown turned to the American colonies. Britain like most of the major powers generated wealth by exploiting the natural resources of the regions they conquered or settled and then created a market in those locations to sell finished products back to. The American colonies had the most resources and were their biggest market. They enjoyed the highest standard of living of all of Britain’s colonies including that of the home island. It is always the way to go after the rich, they can afford it. So the crown imposed new taxes on the colonies. First it was for sugar and then they devalued the money basically creating runaway inflation.
The colonists had always considered themselves lucky to be “free Englishmen” protected by one of the first codified statement of human
rights from centuries before, the Magna Carta. They were also somewhat autonomous from the direct government involvement. They were a long way from Parliament and as such had developed their own style of local government and justice system over a period of decades. The colonists had pushed back the frontier with their own hands. They had fought the French, Spanish, pirates, Indians and marauders of all kinds. They had cleared the land with their own hands. They had borne and buried their children on it. They developed a system that worked and they highly resented the crown taking what they considered to be theirs.
The new taxes shocked and angered them. They formed groups to protest the new taxes. One group that was particularly vocal was The Sons of Liberty. Men like Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, Dr. Joseph Warren, John Hancock and others became leaders. They were able to successfully argue down new taxes only to have them replaced with others.
The more the crown pushed, the more the colonists resisted and pushed back. This caused the crown to send more troops to enforce the regulations and protect the tax collectors and government officials. Of course this escalated the tension between the two sides and increased the odds of a confrontation. With the passing of the Stamp Act (taxing every commercial piece of paper such as newspapers, contracts, letters etc.) the resistance intensified.
Samuel Adams one of the major agitators and was in charge of the Boston Mob. Not an organized crime mob but laborers and tradesmen
whom he could get on short notice to start a demonstration or antagonize the soldiers in Boston. This came to a head in March of 1770 when soldiers taunted by the mob and pelted with snowballs opened fired on the crowd, the infamous Boston Massacre. The British sent more troops into the city in a show of force and of course the Boston Massacre became galvanizing event for the resistance.
The crown backed off for a time and for several years an uneasy peace reigned with only minor conflicts. However, with the passing of the Tea Tax in 1773, colonial passions were again flamed which resulted in the Boston Tea Party. As everyone knows, Sons of Liberty dressed as Indians went aboard ship and dumped the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of tea into the harbor. While the Indian garb may have been to disguise those involved, it was actually used because Indians were considered the symbol of a free people.
The crown was outraged and sent more troops. They created more restrictions such as the Townsend Acts which implemented financial sanctions and import, export regulations. These were met with more resistance. By 1774, the American colonies were under martial law and Boston was occupied by thousands of troops sent in to enforce the mandates of the Coercive/Intolerable Acts.