THE BATTLE
A Provincial Protest Becomes a World War

We saw a large body of men drawn up with the great-
est regularity. . . . with as much order as the best dis-
ciplined troops."

--British Ensign Jeremy Lister
in Concord

They began to march by divisions down upon us from
their left in a very military manner.

--British Lt. Wm. Sutherland,
at the North Bridge

Whoever dares to look upon them as an irregular
mob, will find himself much mistaken. They have men
amongst them who know very well what they are
about.

--Brigadier Lord Hugh Percy after
returning from Lexington

AMERICANS HAVE A VIVID IMAGE of the fighting that began on the morning of April 19, 1775. In our mind's eye, we see a scattering of individual minutemen crouched behind low granite walls, banging away at a disciplined mass of British Regulars along the Battle Road. We celebrate the spontaneity of the event, and the autonomy of the Americans who took part in it. As a writer put it in the 19th century, "Every one appeared to be his own commander." 1

That familiar folk-memory contains an important element of truth. One American militiaman testified that many times in the course of a long day "each one sought his own place and opportunity to attack and annoy the enemy from behind trees, rocks, fences and buildings." But in more general terms, the idea that every minuteman fought his own private war against the British

-202-

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