By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled.
Here once the embattled farmer stood.
And fired the shot heard round the world.
These words by Ralph Waldo Emerson were part of a hymn sung July 4, 1837 at completion of the “Battle Monument” at Concord, Mass.
They have significance today because April 19 is the 207th anniversary of the 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord, opening engagements of the American Revolution.
Patriots Day, observed as a holiday in Massachusetts and Maine, commemorates those battles.
British actions to which the colonists objected led to the fighting. These included Navigation Acts, the Stamp Act, Boston massacre, the Tea Act (which prompted “Boston Tea Party”) and what colonists called the “Intolerable Acts.”
British Gen. Thomas Gage, military governor of Massachusetts, had received orders from England to arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock, accused of stirring up rebellion.
On the night of April 18 Gage sent a detachment of troops to Lexington where the “traitors” were staying. They were to arrest the two men, then push on to Concord to destroy military supplies stored by the colonists, according to source books.
News of the expedition leaked out and Paul Revere and William Dawes of the colonial militia (called minutemen) rode through the countryside warning people that the British regulars were coming.
At Lexington the troops found about 50 minutemen at the town square. The rebels refused to disperse and shots were exchanged. A number of minutemen were killed or wounded
The British went on toward Concord, Hancock and Adams already having fled. They reached the town at 7 a.m. During the night the colonists had hidden most of their stores and ammunition.
What they hadn’t been able to hide, the British set about destroying. A battle took place at the old North Bridge over the Concord River … and the war was underway with “shots heard round the world.”
British troops decided to withdraw to Boston. The farmers – from behind rocks, fences and buildings – picked off retreating Redcoats. Overall, the British suffered more than 200 casualties.
Lexington and Concord are about 12 and 17 miles, respectively, from Boston. The Minutemen National Historical Park and the memorial highway between the two cities preserve memories of the battles. The Minuteman statue at Concord and the statue of Minuteman Capt. John Parker at Lexington are, special points of interest.