The Second Battle of Lexington and Concord
I have now nothing to trouble your Lordship with, but
an affair that happened on the 19th instant."
-- General Gage's report on Lexington and Concord, April 22, 1775
All eyes are turned upon the tragical event of the
19th. . . . We are unanimous in the resolution, to die,
or be free."
--A letter from a gentleman of rank in New England, April 25, 17751
IT WAS NEARLY DARK when Lord Percy's men entered Charlestown. Behind them the sun was setting on the ruins of an empire. A great blood red disc of fire sank slowly into the hills of Lexington, as the long column of British Regulars marched doggedly down to the sea. The militia of New England followed close at their heels. Fighting continued into the twilight, as fresh regiments continued to arrive from distant towns. On Boston's Beacon Hill, crowds of spectators could see the muzzle-flashes twinkling like fireflies in the gathering darkness. 2
Night had fallen when the last weary British troops crossed over Charlestown Neck and took up a strong position on high ground, supported by the heavy guns of HMS Somerset. American General William Heath studied their deployment and decided that "any further attempt upon the enemy, in that position, would have been futile." He ordered the militia to "halt and give over the pursuit," and called a conference of senior officers to make his dispositions for the night. Fearing a British attack, General Heath decided to withdraw the main body of the militia a few miles to the rear. He ordered "centinels to be planted down the neck," and