The Revolutionary War, Pt.2., The Shot Heard Round the World

Major General Thomas Gage

The colonists were not pleased with Gage. Gage wanted to make Boston into a large barracks. Only 7,000 out of the 20,000 people in the city were not rebels. The rebels were leaving the city in a steady stream. Soon, over 5,000 people had left Boston and went to either Charlestown (Just North of Boston), Philadelphia, New York, or the outskirts of Boston.

That didn’t stop Gage. He still had 5,000 troops in Boston, and was confident he could beat the local militia easily. But the rebels had created a new group of soldiers called minutemen. Unlike militia (Who met every other month), minutemen met every week. Minutemen took the oath to be ready in  a minute. Massachusetts and nearby states raised a total of 25,000 militia and minutemen. Gage knew now that he had to act.

In the middle of April 1775, Gage met with his officers. They decided that the best way to defeat the rebels was to take their weapons away from them. Most of their gunpowder and guns were made in England, so by taking them away Gage would disarm the rebels for good. The biggest hold of arms was at the town of Concord. Gage knew that if he was to go to Concord there would have to be absolute secrecy about it. Secrecy was not Gage’s thing. It only took a few hours for the rebel leaders to figure it out. They sent out Paul Revere to warn the Concord and the little town that was on the road to Concord, Lexington.

Gage sent 700 men commanded by Colonel Francis Smith, and by morning, they reached Lexington. Against them were 70 minutemen. The rebels faltered as the British advanced. One of Smith’s officers stopped the British advancing. He told the rebels to lay down their arms. Suddenly, a shot was fired. No one knows who fired the shot, but after that there was no going back. The British lines fired at the rebels and then charged them, killing eight men and injuring many more. The rebels fled Lexington and went to Concord. The British decided on sending 150 troops to Concord to finish off the rebels. Smith had no idea of what he was facing.

The rebels had gathered up 4,000 militia and minutemen to destroy Smith’s forces. The troops sent to Concord retreated with only 90 men. After hours of fighting, Smith finally ordered his men to retreat. The rebels sniped at the main British column when it retreated. When they were ten miles away from Boston, the British met Gage’s second in command, Brigadier General Lord Hugh Percy. He and his men covered the British retreat.

At nightfall, the British had reached Boston. They figured out that Gage, right before Lexington and Concord, had found a flaw in his plan. He had tried to order his men to come back to Boston. Now, 30,000 militia were closing on him. He sent a letter to his superiors in England. He requested a 20,000 man army, with 2,000 cavalry and 300 guns. It would to be transported to Boston by 50 ships of the line and 200 transports. They would attack New York soon.

In England, Gage’s reputation dropped after king George received his letter. The king didn’t believe that a large army was needed to defeat the rebels, so instead he sent 1,000 men and three major generals; Henry Clinton, William Howe and John Burgoyne. They were some of the best generals in England, and they had all fought in the French and Indian War. Gage instantly made William Howe his new second in command, and added Henry Clinton to his circle of officers, which included the second in command, the commander, and ten members. John Burgoyne was not put in a special position. He would soon be sent with 10,000 men to Canada to help General Guy Carlton.

Gage saw that his power was slipping away. He had to act fast, before the militia attacked. But all he could do was watch a disaster unfolded.

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