British Plans, American Preparations
Keep the measure secret until the moment of execution, it can hardly fail of success. . . . Any efforts of the people, unprepared to encounter with a regular force, cannot be very formidable. --Earl of Dartmouth to General Gage, Jan. 27, 1775
We may all be soon under the necessity of keeping Shooting Irons. --Samuel Adams to Stephen Collins, Jan. 31, 1775
IN HIS METHODICAL WAY, General Thomas Gage had already begun to make the necessary preparations, even before his new orders arrived from London. This time he vowed that the outcome would be different--not like the embarrassing fiasco at Portsmouth or the painful humiliation at Salem. The lessons of experience were very clear. He must strike at the heart of the rebel movement and cripple it with quick, clean blows before its large numbers could be mustered against his little army. If he wished to act without awakening the wrath of the continent against him, it was necessary to do these things without the shedding of blood, or at least with as little bloodshed as possible. Everything hinged on secrecy, surprise, and sound intelligence.
On the other side, Whig leaders in New England were preparing too. Forewarned by friends in London, they knew that the British army was about to move against them, but not precisely where or when. They were prepared to fight for their freedom, but they could not start the fight without forfeiting the moral advantage of their cause. These New England Whigs believed that