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Lexington & Concord, The Shot Heard Round the World Illustration

Road to Revolution for Kids
1775 - Battles of Lexington and Concord
Shot Heard Round the World

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The Battles of Lexington and Concord April 19, 1775, in Massachusetts, marked the beginning of the Revolutionary War

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year
-- Henry Wadsworthy Longellow, "Paul Revere's Ride"

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.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Concord Hymn"

Here's what happened:

The British discovered, through their informants and spies, that the colonists were buying and stockpiling guns and gunpowder. The British decided that it was time to teach those colonial farmers a lesson. So they set out from Boston to seize all the guns and gunpowder they could find, and maybe catch some of the colonial leaders. 

The colonials also had spies. They knew the British planned on seizing their guns. But when would the British make their move? They watched the British army. The colonists had men standing by to ride and give the alarm when the British made their move. One of these men was a silversmith from Boston named Paul Revere. When he saw the British soldiers marching out, Paul Revere and other riders galloped over the countryside, warning colonists that the British were coming.

Lexington: When a group of several hundred British soldiers reached the town of Lexington, they were met by a militia of about 70 colonial men. The British ordered them to drop their weapons. Suddenly a shot rang out. No one knows which side fired this shot. But within minutes, 8 colonial men were dead. Others were wounded. The rest of the colonists scattered into the woods.

Concord: The British troops moved on to Concord. They had heard that the rebels at Concord had canons. This was a concern. Canons were powerful weapons. The British planned to grab everything - guns, gunpowder, canons and cannonballs. They especially wanted the canons. About a hundred British soldiers were sent to Barretts Farm, where they had been told by their spies that they would find a storage of weapons. They had to cross the North Bridge to get there. To their surprise, about 200 Minutemen were guarding the North Bridge. As the British crossed the bridge, a Minuteman fired. The British quickly retreated. They were poorly led. They saw they were outnumbered. Their position on a bridge was difficult to defend. They fled back to Concord, where they joined other British soldiers and marched towards Lexington. By then, the word had reached many farms that the British were attacking. About 4000 Minutemen and colonial militia lined the road from Concord to Lexington. As the British retreated, marching in formation, the colonists shot at the British from their hiding places behind trees. It would have been a slaughter, but many British lives were saved when a second group of British soldiers arrived on the scene. This second group brought canons, which quickly dispersed the colonial forces. Guns were no match for cannonballs. Still, before they fled, the colonists were able to kill about 200 British soldiers.

Rumors and Propaganda: The battles of Lexington and Concord were not a victory for the colonists, but they did act somewhat like an effective piece of propaganda. The word spread rapidly that colonial farmers could fight professional British soldiers and win. After all, the colonial farmers did kill about 200 British soldiers before they fled into the woods and back to their farms, where of course they acted as if they knew nothing about the battle they had just left. Like most rumors, the stories grew and grew until one would think the British hardly put up a fight at all, and the colonial militia was overwhelmingly victorious. These rumors helped a great deal. They gave the colonial people courage.

Patriots and Loyalists: Lexington and Concord were the first battles of the American Revolution, although it was not yet called a war by the people of the time. It was, however, a time of decision. Colonists were forced to choose sides. Those colonists loyal to the British were called Loyalists. Colonists loyal to the colonial rebels were called Patriots. The Loyalists and the Patriots did not get along. They had two very strong and very different opinions about the future of the American colonies. They both thought they were right. Break from Britain?, the Loyalists muttered - that's insane; we need the British to defend us and support us. To not break from Britain?, muttered the Patriots - that's insane; we need our freedom to flourish and we can support ourselves.

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