Archived Story

American Heritage: Marching orders ignite flame of war

Published 4:43pm Wednesday, July 4, 2012

On April 18, 1775, Gen. Thomas Gage wrote orders for Lt. Col. Smith. In the letter General Gage wrote, “Having received intelligence, that a quantity of ammunition, provisions, artillery, tents and small arms, have been collected at Concord, for the avowed purpose of raising and supporting a Rebellion against his majesty, you will march with a corps of grenadiers and light infantry, put under your command, with the utmost expedition and secrecy to Concord, where you will seize and destroy all artillery, ammunition, provisions, tents, small arms and all military stores whatsoever. But you will take care that the soldiers do not plunder the Inhabitants, or hurt private property.”

He also ordered that the guns must be destroyed and that the powder was to be shook out of the barrels into the river. Tents were to be burned.

Food, such as pork and beef, was to be destroyed.

These were the marching orders that would lead an unexpected conflict and ignite the flame of war between the British and the militia of the American colonies. The British army marched to the farm of Col. James Barrett where the stockpiles were being kept.

As seen in Gen. Gage’s letter, the idea was not to actually engage the militia (minutemen) but was to destroy the stockpiles and to discourage any action that may be in the making by them.

When the troops arrived, they found that the militia was already on the far side of one of the main bridges in Concord. As the British forces began to advance towards the bridge, the militia was ordered to load their rifles. Then, to the astonishment of the British, the militia began to advance on the British troops. Shots rang out. The militia’s orders as soldiers began to fall? “Fire, fellow soldiers, for God’s sake, fire!”

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