Abbildungen der Seite

the commanding officer having previously dispatched six companies of light infantry to possess two bridges which lay at some distance beyond the town; while the main body of the detachment was employed in destroying the stores in Concord, some minute men and militia, who were collected from that place and its neighbourhood, having orders not to give the first fire, approached one of the bridges, as if to pass it in the character of common travellers. They were fired on, and two anen killed. The fire was immediately returned, and a skirmish ensued, in which the regulars were worsted, and compelled to retreat with some loss. The country was now generally alarmed, and the people rushed from every quarter to the scene of action. The King's troops were attacked on all sides. Skirmish after skirmish ensued, and they were driven from post to post into Lexington.

Fortunately for the British, General Gage did not entertain precisely the same opinion of the military character of the Americans, which had been expressed by General Grant and other officers in the House of Commons. Apprehending the expedition to be not entirely without hazard, he had, in the morning, detached Lord Percy with sixteen companies of foot, a corps of maTines, and two pieces of artillery, to support Lieutenant Colonel Smith. This seasonable reinforcement reached Lexmgton about the time of the

· arrival arrival of the retreating party, and with their field pieces kept the provincials at a distance, and gave the grenadiers and light infantry time to breathe. But as soon as they recommenced their march, the attack was recommenced also, and an irregular, but very galling fire was kept up on either flank, as well as in front and rear, from the stone fences which abound in that quarter, till they arrived about sunset on the common of Charlestown. From thence, they immediately passed over the neck to Bunker's Hill, where they remained secure for the night, under the protection of their ships of war, and early next morning crossed over Charlestown ferry to Boston.

In this action the loss of the British in killed, wounded, and prisoners, was two hundred and seventy-three, while that of the provincials did not exceed pinety. However trivial this affair may have been in itself, it was, in its consequences, of the utmost importance. It was the commencement of a long and obstinate war, and it had no inconsiderable influence on that war, by increasing the confidence which the Americans felt in themselves, and encouraging opposition by the hope of its being successful. It supported the opinion which had been taken up with some degree of doubt, that courage and patriotism were ample substitutes for any deficiency in the know-, ledge of tactics, and that their skill as marksmen $ %


gave them a great superiority over their adversaries.

Although the previous state of things had been such, as plainly rendered the commencement of hostilities unavoidable, each party seemed anxious to throw the blame on its cuponent. The British officers alleged that they were fired on from a stone-wall, before they attacked the militia company at Lexington ; while, on the part of the Americans, ' numerous depositions were taken, all proving that, both at Lexington and the bridge near Concord, the first fire was received by them, The statements made by the Americans are ren. dered probable, not only by the testimony which supports them, but by other circumstances. The company of militia at. Lexington did not exceed in numbers one-ninth of the enemy, and it can scarcely be conceived that, in the perilous situation in which they were placed, their friends would have provoked their fate by commencing a fire on' an enraged soldiery. It is also a circumstance of no inconsiderable weight, that the Americans had uniformly sought to cover their proceedings with the letter of the law; and even after the affair at Lexington, they had, at the bridge beyond Concord, made a point of receiving the first fire. It is probable that the orders given by General Gage, prohibited the detachment, under Lieutenant Colonel Smith, from attacking the


provincials, unless previously assaulted by them; but it seeins alınost certain, that such orders, if given, were disobeyed.

The provincial Congress, desirous of manifesting the necessity under which the militia had acted, transmitted to their agents the depositions which had been taken relative to the late action, with a letter to the inhabitants of Great Britain, stating that hostilities had been commenced against them, and detailing the circumstances which had attended that event.

But they did not confine themselves to addresses: they immediately passed a vote for raising thirteen thousand six hundred men in Massachussetts, to be commanded by General Ward; and for calling on New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, for their respective quotas of troops, so as to complete an army of thirty thousand men for the common defence. They also authorised the Receiver General to borrow one hundred thousand pounds on the credit of the colony, and to · issue securities for the repayment thereof with an interest of six per cent....

The neighbouring colonies hastened to furnish the men required of them, and, in the mean time, such numbers voluntarily assembled, that many were dismissed in consequence of a defect of means to subsist them in the field. The king's troops were now themselves, closely blocked up in the

s 3


peninsula of Boston, and their communication 'with the country entirely cut off.

On receiving intelligence of the battle of Lexington, the people of the city and province of New York appeared to hesitate no longer. The general spirit of the colonies obtained ihere also the ascendancy; yet the royal party remained very formidable, and it was deemed advisable to 'march a body of Connecticut troops into the neighbourhood, with the ostensible purpose of protecting the town against some British regiments daily expected from Ireland, but with the real design of encouraging and strengthening their friends.

About the same time, that active spirit, which, *at the cominencement of hostilities, seemed in so "remarkable a degree to have pervaded New England, manifested itself in an 'expedition of considerable merit.

The possession of Tyconderoga and Crown Point, and the command of lakes George and Champlain, were objects of essential importance in the approaching conflict. It was well known that these posts were very weakly defended; and it was believed that the feeble garrisons remaining in them were the less to be dreaded, because they 'were in a state of perfect security, entirely unap"prehensive of an attack from any quarter whatever.

Under these impressions, some gentlemen of Con"necticut, at the head of whom were Messieurs,


« ZurückWeiter »