History, in general, only informs us of what bad government is. — Thomas Jefferson

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber

The Battle of Lexington

General Gage knew that the patriots were collecting supplies, and he was determined to seize them if he could. But there were good patriots in Boston who were watching him closely, and they had agreed to warn their friends of any danger, by means of lanterns hung up in the tower of the Old North Church.

Two lights in the tower, one night, notified the people of Charlestown that the British were moving, and the minutemen on guard scattered to rouse their fellow-soldiers. Paul Revere, among others, dashed off on horseback, narrowly escaping capture by the British, who were guarding all the roads. As he galloped rapidly on, he roused the people by crying: "The British are coming!" Finally he reached Lexington, about nine miles from Boston. Here Samuel Adams and John Hancock had both taken refuge, because Gage wanted to seize and ship them off to England, to be tried there for treason.

Paul Revere's Ride

The clatter made by Revere roused the sleeping patriots, and when one of them asked what all this noise meant, Revere quickly answered: "Noise! You'll have noise enough before long. The regulars are coming!" Just then the window opened, and Hancock called Revere in. Soon after Revere rode rapidly on again to warn Concord, Massachusetts, while Adams began cleaning his gun to join in the fight. But Hancock stopped his companion, saying that it was their duty, as members of the Council, to plan and think, instead of fighting.

The alarm enabled the patriots to conceal most of their arms and stores, and when the British soldiers arrived in Lexington, soon after sunrise on April 19, 1775, they found about seventy minutemen drawn up on the green. The leader of the minutemen bade them "Stand firm! Don't fire until you are fired at. But if they want war, let it begin right here."

The British officer, at the head of about three hundred men, now loudly cried: "Disperse, ye rebels! Disperse!" Then, as they did not obey, he drew his pistols. Who fired first is a question which has never been settled, but a few minutes later seven American patriots lay on the ground dead, and the rest were obliged to retreat.

The British now marched on to Concord, where they began to destroy the stores. Although they had fancied the patriots would offer no more resistance, they soon found they were mistaken. The minutemen were assembling as fast as they could, and Dr. Warren addressed those at Lexington, saying: "Keep up a brave heart. They have begun it—that either party can do; and we'll end it—that only we can do."

The British guard at the Concord bridge was now attacked. Hearing shots in that direction, the British hurried back, to find their men falling rapidly beneath the fire of the minutemen. The latter were posted behind every bush, tree, barn, and stone wall all along the road, so that the British had to retreat between two lines of fire.

The Retreat from Concord

Bewildered by the constant shots of enemies they could not see, the British soldiers soon broke ranks and rushed blindly on, never pausing to take breath until they met new forces at Lexington, which covered their retreat. There the fugitives fell to the ground exhausted and panting, their tongues hanging out of their mouths from heat and thirst. After they recovered a little, the British, who had marched out of Charlestown that morning playing "Yankee Doodle "to vex the patriots, were only too thankful to beat a retreat. When they reached their fortifications at sundown they had lost about three hundred men, while only eighty-eight of the patriots had fallen.

The Revolutionary War had begun, and the day after the battle of Lexington the Massachusetts Congress wrote to England: "We determine to die or be free." The news of the first bloodshed was rapidly carried from place to place by men on horseback. They went everywhere, calling the people to arms. Guns were polished and bullets cast, the women sacrificing even cherished pewter spoons and dishes to supply the necessary ammunition.

The call to arms found Israel Putnam—a hero of the last French and Indian War—plowing in his field. Unyoking his oxen from the plow, Putnam bade a lad run for his coat and gun, while he saddled his horse. He then rode quickly away to take part in the struggle, which was to last about seven years. Two other patriots, John Stark from New Hampshire, and Benedict Arnold from Connecticut, were equally prompt in responding to this appeal, and it is said that in less than three days, sixteen thousand Americans were assembled around Boston, completely hemming in General Gage and the British troops.


Front Matter

Our Country Long Ago
The Barbarous Indians
The Mounds
Where the Northmen Went
The Northmen in America
Queer Ideas
Prince Henry the Navigator
Youth of Columbus
Columbus and the Queen
"Land! Land!"
Columbus and the Savages
Home Again
Columbus Ill-treated
Death of Columbus
How America Got its Name
The Fountain of Youth
"The Father of Waters"
The French in Canada
French and Spanish Quarrels
The Sky City
Around the World
Nothing but Smoke
Smith's Adventures
The Jamestown Men
Smith Wounded
Pocahontas Visits England
Hudson and the Indians
The Mayflower
Plymouth Rock
The First Thanksgiving
Snake Skin and Bullets
The Beginning of Boston
Stories of Two Ministers
Williams and the Indians
The Quakers
The King-Killers
King Phillip's War
The Beginning of New York
Penn and the Indians
The Catholics in Maryland
The Old Dominion
Bacon's Rebellion
A Journey Inland
The Carolina Pirates
Charter Oak
Salem Witches
Down the Mississippi
La Salle's Adventures
Indians on the Warpath
Two Wars with the French
Washington's Boyhood
Washington's Journey
Washington's First Battle
Stories of Franklin
Braddock's Defeat
Wolfe at Quebec
England and her Colonies
The Stamp Tax
The Anger of the Colonies
The Boston Tea Party
The Minutemen
The Battle of Lexington
Bunker Hill
The Boston Boys
The British leave Boston
Declaration of Independence
A Lady's Way of Helping
Christmas Eve
The Fight at Bennington
Burgoyne's Surrender
Winter at Valley Forge
The Quaker Woman
Putnam's Adventures
Indian Cruelty
Boone in Kentucky
Famous Sea Fights
The "Swamp Fox"
The Poor Soldiers
The Spy
A Traitor's Death
Two Unselfish Women
Surrender of Cornwallis
British Flag hauled down
Washington's Farewell