6 miles NW of Cambridge, 9 miles NW of Boston
The battle phase of the U.S. Revolutionary War started in Lexington, with a skirmish on the town common, now called the Battle Green. It began when British troops clashed with local militia members, who were known as “Minutemen” for their ability to assemble on short notice.
British soldiers marched from Boston to Lexington late on April 18, 1775. Tipped off, Paul Revere and William Dawes rode ahead to sound the warning. The Lexington Minutemen, under the command of Capt. John Parker, got the word shortly after midnight, when the British redcoats were still several hours away. The colonists repaired to their homes and Lexington’s Buckman Tavern.
Five hours later, some 700 British troops under Major Pitcairn arrived. A tense standoff ensued. Three times Pitcairn ordered the rebel forces to disperse, but the men—fewer than 100, and some accounts say 77—refused. Parker called: “Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here!” Finally the captain, perhaps realizing as the sky grew light how badly outnumbered his men were, gave the order to fall back.
As the Minutemen began to scatter, a shot rang out. One British company charged into the fray, and the colonists attempted to regroup as Pitcairn tried unsuccessfully to call off his troops. When it was over, 8 militia members lay dead, and 10 were wounded. A few hours later, the battle moved to Concord, at the North Bridge. The American Revolutionary War had now begun.
Patriot’s Day, a Massachusetts state holiday observed on the third Monday in April, commemorates the start of the Revolution. Remembrances include reenactments of the battles including a major mock firefight on Lexington’s Battle Green at 5:30am—followed by a pancake breakfast hosted by the Boy Scouts. Visit www.battleroad.org for information.
A country village turned prosperous suburb, Lexington takes great pride in its history. It's a pleasant town with some engaging destinations, but it lacks the atmosphere and abundant attractions of nearby Concord. Making sure to leave time for a tour of the Buckman Tavern, you can schedule as little as a couple of hours to explore downtown Lexington, possibly en route to Concord; a visit can also fill a half or full day, especially if you visit the National Heritage Museum. The town contains part of Minute Man National Historical Park, which is definitely worth a visit.
British troops marched from Boston to Lexington late on April 18, 1775. Tipped off, Paul Revere and William Dawes rode ahead to sound the warning to their fellow rebellious colonists. Members of the local militia, known as minutemen for their ability to assemble quickly, were waiting at the Buckman Tavern. John Hancock and Samuel Adams, leaders of the revolutionary movement, were sleeping (or trying to) at the nearby Hancock-Clarke House. The warning came around midnight, followed about 5 hours later by some 700 British troops who stopped in Lexington en route to Concord, where they planned to destroy the rebels' military supplies. Ordered to disperse, the colonists -- fewer than 100, and some accounts say 77 -- stood their ground. Nobody knows who started the shooting, but when it was over, eight militia members lay dead, including a drummer boy, and 10 were wounded.
Poetry in Motion -- Before you visit Lexington and Concord, track down "Paul Revere's Ride," Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's classic but historically questionable poem that dramatically chronicles the events of April 18 and 19, 1775.