How America Fought Its Wars: Military Strategy from the American Revolution to the Civil War

By Victor Brooks; Robert Hohwald | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
The Shot Heard 'Round
the World

The Battles of Lexington and Concord

General Thomas Gage was convinced that April of 1775 would mark a major turning point in the fortunes of his family. For centuries the Gages had chosen the losing side in a succession of British power struggles as they supported King John against his barons, Charles I against his Parliament and James II against his daughter. Now, as commander of His Majesty's forces in America, General Gage would have the opportunity to direct elite British regiments in a punitive expedition against those deluded provincials who questioned imperial authority.

The crisis of 1775 seemed to be the most current installment in an almost traditional every-three-decade rebellion against the central government in London. Previous challenges including the 1685 uprising by the Duke of Monmouth against his uncle James II, the 1715 Scottish uprising against George I and the 1745 attempt by Bonnie Prince Charlie to unseat George II had been crushed by disciplined redcoats and had made national heroes of their generals. Now Massachusetts was becoming the most likely setting for a new rebellion and Thomas Gage had the good fortune to command the probable victors in the dispute.

Several miles from General Gage's Boston headquarters, Captain John Parker was thinking more about his family's long term survival than about his reputation. Parker knew that he was dying of consumption and in fact had less than six months to live. Yet Parker's experience in the siege of Louisburg and the conquest of Quebec was an invaluable asset to his fellow militiamen as they awaited the arrival of a large British expeditionary force on Lexington village green.

The transition from civil disobedience to open warfare which began on April 19, 1775 might have occurred in several previous confrontations

-13-

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