Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Shot Heard Round the World

On the night of April 18, 1775, 800 British regulars were moving out of Boston, west toward Lexington and Concord, with objectives to capture two troublemakers, Samuel Adams and John Hancock in Lexington, as well as stores of patriot munitions at a farm in Concord. Paul Revere set off on his famous midnight ride,

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,---
from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Along the way he warned the patriot locals and other riders were dispersed to spread the word to the “Minutemen” who were prepared to muster at a minute’s notice. Revere and two buddies warned Lexington and were detained at Lincoln, a small town adjacent to Concord and Lexington. By that time the wheel was in motion and in the early morning hours of April 19 about 70 patriot militia confronted the British at Lexington Green. After a fierce defense by vastly outnumbered Lexington Minutemen, the British advanced on toward Concord, six miles away, looking to capture a large patriot munitions store on a farm two miles west of the North Bridge over the Concord River.

Meanwhile, Minutemen from Concord and surrounding farm towns of Middlesex County had mustered and marched toward the North Bridge to confront the British and prevent their movement across the small river toward the munitions store. Believed to be first at the bridge were minutemen from Lincoln. In face of the large British force, 250 minutemen retreated across the bridge. As reinforcements arrived and smoke was seen coming from the meetinghouse, spreading through town, the growing force of Minute men advanced with orders to fire only if fired upon.

The British retreated back across the bridge, but a shot rang out and the fight was on.

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.
From Concord Hymn, Ralph Waldo Emerson

The British fled and retreated toward Boston, harassed all the way back by patriot militia. The British lost 200 men by the end of the day, a victory setting the Revolution in motion.

A young Lincoln farmer, Nathaniel Gove, 26 years, would have been wakened by the alarm in the early morning hours, likely by 1:00 AM on April 19, and hurriedly put on his clothes, gathered his rifle or musket, perhaps grabbed a biscuit, and mounted his horse to join the other Lincoln minutemen in Colonel Abijah Pierce’s Regiment. The weather was probably a chilly 40 degrees. He left behind a young 22 year old wife, Elizabeth, and two children, Tabitha, age 2 and Nathaniel, almost a year old. He was off to join with his buddies of Lincoln who had been expecting this situation to arise sooner or later.

They marched from Lincoln at about 2:00 AM and arrived at Concord, four miles away about 4:00 AM, the first Minutemen to reach the North Bridge “in a body, under their two captains, Abijah Pierce and William Smith, bringing the rumor that men had been killed at Lexington. The Lincoln men, then, with the two Concord minute companies (some members being probably absent saving the stores) marched down the Lexington Road."
Allen French, The Day of Lexington and Concord (1925)

"One compney I beleave of minnit men was raisd in a most every town to stand at a minnits warning. Before sunrise thair was I beleave 150 of us and more of all that was thair. -- We thought we wood go and meet the Britsch. We marched Down to wards L[exington] about a mild or a mild half and we see them acomming, we halted and stayd till they got within about 100 Rods then we was orded to the about face and marchd before them with our Droms and fifes agoing and also the B[ritish]. We had grand musick.”
Amos Barrett, letter of April 19, 1825 in We Were There! The American Rebels

And meet the British they did. By noon, the British were retreating back to Boston, the Minutemen having won the first battle of the American Revolution.

Nathaniel, our 5th great grandfather, returned home to the farm and had eight more children. His great grandfather was John Gove, immigrant from England in 1635 and brother to the “treasonous” Edward Gove who led Gove’s Rebellion against the British in 1683.

1 comment:

Pat said...

Boys will be boys, I guess. Sounds like fun times!