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On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five; Hardly a man is now alive who remembers that famous day and year...
April 19, 2008 11:41 AM   Subscribe

"We Nathaniel Mulliken, Philip Russell, [and 32 other men], All of lawful age, and inhabitants of Lexington, in the County of Middlesex...do testify and declare, that on the nineteenth [of April] in the morning, being informed that...a body of regulars were marching from Boston towards Concord...and soon found that a large body of troops were marching towards us...whilst our backs were turned on the troops, we were fired on by them, and a number of our men were instantly killed and wounded..."* Thus "the shot heard around the world" [video | 10:01] led American colonialists (eventually with the help of the French) on the path to founding a new nation [video | 54:04].
posted by ericb (42 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Paul Revere -- previously on MeFi -- 1, 2.

American Revolution -- previously on MeFi -- 1, 2.
posted by ericb at 11:44 AM on April 19, 2008


Nice, ericb!
posted by Dizzy at 11:55 AM on April 19, 2008


And is the world a better place for it? I wonder. America as a British colony through the 1800s might have ended slavery without a civil war, would have altered the dynamics leading up to World War One, and might have spared the world a great deal of sorrow. Really, how onerous was British rule?
posted by Faze at 12:36 PM on April 19, 2008


Really, how onerous was British rule?
posted by Faze at 3:36 PM on April 19


Obviously it was onerous enough for the colonists to fight a war to get rid of it. I guess their crystal ball wasn't handy, otherwise they would have seen how they could have "altered the dynamics leading up to World War One"?!
posted by marxchivist at 12:41 PM on April 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


As it so happens, I have just returned from the Battle Road in Lexington, having spent most of the afternoon watching a few hundred re-enactors portraying the Lexington Minutemen and the British Army as they skirmished all the way back from the North Bridge in Concord to Lexington. We stood only a few yards from the Hartwell Tavern and were treated to quite an excellent show of colonials dashing behins rock walls and trees to pick off the Redcoats as they marched, then there was close-up combat at the tavern.

I'm pleased to say that the onlookers significantly outnumbered the participants. There were easily a few thousand people gathered to watch and to see the re-enactors close up before and after the skirmish itself. I personally had a long chat with a fellow who portrays a captain of British light infantry.

My family and I are planning to get up veeerrrrrryy early on Monday morning to drive over to the Battle Green in Lexington to watch many of these same people re-enact the "Battle of Lexington", a brief encounter between 700 British troops and 70 Minutemen.

Thanks for the post, ericb.
posted by briank at 12:46 PM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Paul Revere provided three accounts of his ride on April 18th 1775. His first two accounts, a draft and a corrected copy of a deposition, both dated 1775, were made at the request of the Massachusetts Provisional Congress. These depositions, taken from all eyewitnesses to the skirmish on Lexington Green, were compiled in the hopes of obtaining proof that the British had fired the first shot.

Though written 23 years after the fact, the most complete account of the ride is Paul Revere's letter to Jeremy Belknap, Corresponding Secretary of the Massachusetts Historical Society, dated 1798."*
posted by ericb at 12:48 PM on April 19, 2008


Oh, and nice post ericb. Anyone interested in reading this I recommend Paul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fischer.
posted by marxchivist at 12:49 PM on April 19, 2008


Video [.mov]: 2006 Battle Road/Hartwell Tavern re-enactment.
posted by ericb at 1:07 PM on April 19, 2008


We're just biding our time. This Republican thing won't last. We'll marry Prince William off to Jenna Bush. Worked for England and Scotland!
posted by alasdair at 1:16 PM on April 19, 2008


Ummm...Jenna is engaged and will marry Henry Hager on May 10th. But, her twin sister, Barbara, is available!
posted by ericb at 1:24 PM on April 19, 2008


Great post.

It made me dig up this robot chicken video.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:26 PM on April 19, 2008


Why is Metafilter glorifying insurgents, traitors, and terrorists?

I support our Red-coated troops!
posted by orthogonality at 1:56 PM on April 19, 2008 [7 favorites]


And MA gets the day off for "Patriot Day"! WOOO!
posted by DU at 2:05 PM on April 19, 2008


"Really, how onerous was British rule?"

usually, taxation & governance without consent is considered pretty onerous - and i don't think there's any guarantee the British would have ended slavery if they had held on to the colonies - indeed, there would have been more impetus to maintain & perpetuate it as they'd still have all those tobacco, cotton & rice fields to till & harvest

then again, maybe they wouldn't have then turned Australia into their prison colony with all the genocide & suffering that entailed

actually, they probably would have done that anyways

my general rule of thumb: empires suck

posted by jammy at 3:00 PM on April 19, 2008


1803, Britain abolishes the slave trade in the colonies. Slave labour abolished and slaves freed in 1833.

I'm sketchy on U.S. independence history. Wasn't part of the motivation something to do with restrictions on settlement in the Indian Reservation set up by the Royal Proclamation of 1763? I mean, not that the Crown didn't royally screw over Natives in what became Canada, so I can't say it wouldn't have happened to the south as well, but one can dream.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:35 PM on April 19, 2008


I personally had a long chat with a fellow who portrays a captain of British light infantry.

That wasn't you outside the Starbucks, was it?
posted by Krrrlson at 4:35 PM on April 19, 2008


hmm... did i remember to say "great post, ericb!"

no.

hey! great post, ericb!

'specially that boston blog - potential feast, there
posted by jammy at 4:44 PM on April 19, 2008


Durn Bronzefist, i think the British abolished the slave trade in 1807

maybe you're thinking of the Haitian abolition of slavery?

posted by jammy at 4:55 PM on April 19, 2008


the British abolished the slave trade in 1807

As did America and at the same time. Importation that is, not the internal trade. Externally, the US Navy did it's part patrolling the coast of west Africa to prevent the now illegal trade.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:06 PM on April 19, 2008


its part
posted by IndigoJones at 5:12 PM on April 19, 2008


Although I grew up in that area, and therefore learned a lot about it in school, this is the lesson I remember best.
posted by Koko at 5:38 PM on April 19, 2008


Really, how onerous was British rule?

Ask the Indians. Ask the Rhodesians. Ask the Kenyans. Ask the South Africans.

But hey, if you like taxation without representation ... I hereby tax you five bucks. Pay up. Or else.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:57 PM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I personally had a long chat with a fellow who portrays a captain of British light infantry.

That wasn't you outside the Starbucks, was it?


Nope. The re-enactor I spoke with was at the farmhouse where the Redcoats were mustering before beginning the re-enactment.
posted by briank at 6:01 PM on April 19, 2008


Don't forget about the boarding of troops. Imagine having to house and feed a few soldiers for weeks at a time. I doubt they helped out with the chores.
posted by vrakatar at 6:16 PM on April 19, 2008


Likewise, the only way the American colonials would have remained under British rule would have been representation on their governance. The southern colonists would have most likely have rebelled had the British crown attempted to extinguish a major part of their economic system. So the presence of the American colonies would have either retarded the emancipation of slaves across the world or would have resulted in a rebellion, but only a few decades later.

Just as interestingly, the war between England and France under Napoleonic rule could have been even more widespread, as Napoleon would have had no American government to sell the Louisiana territory to for cash, creating a vaster battlefield (or it might have been sold to someone else). Its possible American troops of the Crown would have seized the territory.

Likewise, the failure or lack of an American revolution might have stopped or delayed the revolution in France and all successive revolutions throughout the 19th century and onward. Central and South America would have remained in the hands of Spain and Portugal, with no inspiration for the likes of Simon Bolivar, etc.
posted by Atreides at 6:59 PM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


the British abolished the slave trade in 1807

As did America and at the same time. Importation that is, not the internal trade. Externally, the US Navy did it's part patrolling the coast of west Africa to prevent the now illegal trade.


However, the slave trade to Brazil continued until 1853. Darwin witnessed slavery when visiting Brazil in 1832 and condemned it in his account of the voyage of the Beagle. Fitzroy (Beagle's captain) in his account argued that ship patrols would not be sufficient to end the trade.
posted by binturong at 7:00 PM on April 19, 2008


... led American colonialists (eventually with the help of the French) on the path to founding a new nation.

And just look what they've done with it.

Really, how onerous was British rule?

Ask John Adams.
posted by bwg at 7:18 PM on April 19, 2008


> America as a British colony through the 1800s might have ended slavery without a civil war,
> would have altered the dynamics leading up to World War One, and might have spared the
> world a great deal of sorrow.

OTOH, Britain with an enormous wealthy slave-owning colony might not have ended slavery, or might have ended it much later. There's not the slightest guarantee that alternative universes must be better ones.
posted by jfuller at 7:28 PM on April 19, 2008


Little plug for microlocal history, from my own town: Paul Revere's first ride, the Portsmouth Alarm, remembered locally as the first military skirmish in the Revolutionary War. Paul had a hair trigger - this was 6 months before the "midnight ride" commemmorated by Longfellow.

Great post, ericb!
posted by Miko at 8:44 PM on April 19, 2008


I don't get Monday off, damnit. I'll still probably be the only person in the office.

In spite of my day of work, this is the kind of stuff that makes me never want to leave Boston.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:27 PM on April 19, 2008


Excellent post, ericb, great links - thank you - this will make some good Sunday morning reading & watching.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:52 PM on April 19, 2008


Really, how onerous was British rule?

Ask the millions of indigenous people we've slaughtered.

Oh you can't, we slaughtered them.
posted by fullerine at 11:52 PM on April 19, 2008



Likewise, the failure or lack of an American revolution might have stopped or delayed the revolution in France and all successive revolutions throughout the 19th century and onward. Central and South America would have remained in the hands of Spain and Portugal, with no inspiration for the likes of Simon Bolivar, etc.


Well, given that a/the main cause of the French Revolution was financial collapse following the debts contracted during the American war, it's pretty likely that there would not have been a revolution in France.
posted by nasreddin at 1:50 AM on April 20, 2008


New York Chief Justice William Smith, Jr., describes the reception of the news there:
It is impossible fully to describe the agitated State of the Town since last Sunday, when the News first arrived of the Skirmish between Concord & Boston – At all corners People inquisitive for News – Tales of all Kinds invented believed, denied, discredited. Sunday in the afternoon Services 2 Sloops laden by Watts for Boston with Provisions unladen. In that Night the City Armory open the Powder taken out of the Powder House – The Taverns filed with Publicans at Night – Little Business done in the Day – few Jurors and Witnesses attend the Courts. Armed Parties summon the Town publicly to come & take Arms & learn the Manual Exercise – They are publicly delivered out and armed Individuals shew themselves at all Hours in the Streets ... Chandler sent up his Letters last Night & they past thro' P[eter] V[an] B[rugh] L[ivingston] to Parson Achrmurty & Inglis who I find by Wallace & Col. Maunsel were active this Morning – Cooper now flew to the Man of War & Wilkin[s] & Parson Seabury disappear – Their Wifes betake themselves to Mrs. Morris's at Morrisana as I learn from Richd & Gouverneur Morris.
- Historical Memoirs, entry for Saturday April 29 1775
Most of the men mentioned in the second half were Loyalists--Smith himself turned out to be one, and went on to be the first Chief Justice of Canada.
posted by nasreddin at 2:08 AM on April 20, 2008


We stood only a few yards from the Hartwell Tavern and were treated to quite an excellent show of colonials dashing behins rock walls and trees to pick off the Redcoats as they marched ...

Now try and picture the whole route without those trees, because there were almost none in 1775. They'd all been cut down, as contemporary illustrations show. When the NPS seized all that land along Rte 2A to "restore the Battle Road," they demolished the houses of all the people they'd forced to move, but they somehow neglected to cut down all the woods that had grown up.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:03 AM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Now try and picture the whole route without those trees, because there were almost none in 1775

It's not thickly wooded at all, so that's not much of a stretch. Obviously when the land was being actively farmed it would have been treeless, but it is a national park after all, not a historically accurate re-creation. Tearing down the houses but leaving the trees isn't a great disservice to history, but it makes a very pleasant walking/biking trail for visitors.
posted by briank at 8:39 AM on April 20, 2008


My great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather John Walbridge fought at Lexington. Someday I guess I might have to visit the site.

On the other hand, I have some Loyalists in the family tree too.
posted by litlnemo at 3:22 PM on April 20, 2008


If you go, don't miss the Jason Russell House in Arlington, site of some of the bloodiest fighting of that day as the British fought their way back up Mass Ave. Thirteen men were killed in the fighting in and around that house alone, and you can still see bullet holes in the walls inside and out. Best part is the very angry inscription on the gravestone marking the mass grave of the colonials killed there:

"Jason Russell was barbarously murdered in his own house by Gage's bloody Troops on the 19th of April 1775. Age 59. His body is quietly resting in this grave with eleven of our friends who in like manner with many others were cruelly slain on that fateful day. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord."
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:54 PM on April 20, 2008


Sorry-- Jason Russell House.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:55 PM on April 20, 2008


Fun post. A friend who is researching a book on the revolution in Boston tells me that the first colonist to fire on the advancing British troops at the famous North Bridge was standing on his own land as he fired!
posted by LarryC at 7:58 PM on April 20, 2008


Really, how onerous was British rule?

Ask the Indians. Ask the Rhodesians. Ask the Kenyans. Ask the South Africans.


Oh come on. So your complaint is how they would have treated American Indians? Because if you're talking about how they treated colonists then maybe you should include the Kiwis and Canadians in your list. Yeah, haven't thrown off those heavy chains yet.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:11 PM on April 21, 2008


Because if you're talking about how they treated colonists then maybe you should include the Kiwis and Canadians in your list. Yeah, haven't thrown off those heavy chains yet.


One could always argue that the Empire revised the way it treated its colonists due to the revolution, and thus modified itself to prevent the very same from happening again.
posted by Atreides at 4:00 AM on April 22, 2008


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