Today Should Be a National Holiday: An Annual Tradition.

If there were any justice today would be a national holiday at least as big as Independence Day.  I’m not kidding.

Back in the 1770’s an unrest that had started more than a century before–with Colonial reaction to the English Civil War, the Catholic reign of James II, and the Glorious Revolution that followed–was growing in the American colonies, at least those along the Atlantic Seaboard from New Hampshire down through Georgia.  Protests over taxes imposed without the taxed having any voice in the matter, complaints about a distant monarch and legislative body making rules and laws over people to whom they are not beholden.

There had been clashes which fed that unrest, including the famous “Boston Massacre” where British troops fired into a rioting mob resulting in several deaths.  Think of it as the Kent State of the 18th century.

In an effort to quell the unrest, or at least have it be less of a threat to British officials, General Thomas Gage, Military governor of Massachusetts, under orders to take decisive action against the colonists, decided to confiscate firearms and ammunition from certain groups in the colony.  His forces marched on the night of April 18, 1775.

The colonists, forewarned of the action (the Longfellow poem, which children learn in school–or they did when I was in school “Listen my children and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Paul Revere”–is historically inaccurate, but it sure is stirring, isn’t it?), first met the British troops at Lexington Massachusetts where John Parker, in command of the local Colonial Militia said, according to the recollection of one of the participants, “Stand your ground.  Don’t fire unless fired upon.  But if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”

Whether Parker actually said those words, the first shot was fired.  No one knew who fired it, whether British or Colonial.  In the ensuing, brief battle the British regulars put the Colonial militia to flight.

The British then turned toward Concord.

A small unit of militia, hearing reports of firing at Lexington marched out but on spotting a British unit of about 700 while themselves only numbering about 250 they returned to Concord.  The Colonial militia departed the town across the North Bridge to a hill about a mile north of town where additional militia reinforcements continued to gather.

The British reached the town and began searching for the weapons they came to confiscate.  They found several cannon, too large to be moved quickly, and disabled them.  Other weapons and supplies had been either removed or hidden.

On seeing the smoke of the burning carriages from the cannon, the Militia began to move.  It is not my purpose here to go into detailed description of their movements but in the end the British regulars found themselves both outnumbered and outmaneuvered.  They fled, a rout that surprised the Colonial Militia as much as the British regulars.  Again, I simplify but in the end they marched back to Boston continuing to suffer casualties from what amounted to 18th century sniper fire from the surrounding brush.  The frustration of the British soldiers led them to atrocities, killing everyone they found in buildings whether they were involved in the fighting or not.

Eventually the British forces fought their way back to Boston where they were besieged by Militia forces numbering over 1500 men.

And the Revolutionary War had begun.

And so, on this day in 1775, the nascent United States took the course that would lead eventually to Independence.

And that’s why April 19 deserves to be a National Holiday on a par at least with Independence Day.  The latter was recognition of what became fact on the former.

15 thoughts on “Today Should Be a National Holiday: An Annual Tradition.”

  1. An article I read over the weekend on the history said that Parker’s men began to withdraw but had failed to leave their arms behind, as ordered by the British. When the British saw them failing to comply, they fired first. The article claimed that reports from both sides confirmed this. FWIW.

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    1. And other reports claim other things including an “accidental discharge” set the whole thing off.

      Kind of reminds me of the Arthurian legends: Arthur and Mordred at their final battle, meet under flag of truce to arrange peace between them with the agreement that nobody will draw a weapon. A knight sees an adder and draws his sword to kill it. Guy on the other side sees a drawn weapon and…

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  2. Thank you for remembering this day in American history. Attending a Project Appleseed event will get you the whole story; or read David Hackett Fisher’s book “Paul Revere’s Ride”, a historian’s account that reads like an adventure novel.

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    1. In fact, you can obtain a copy of Paul Revere’s own account of his ride in his own words as he submitted it to the Boston Historical Society. Its available for purchase at the Paul Revere House,now a museum, oldest home still remaining in Boston. The home was salvaged in part due to the attention brought to it by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution 100 years later. The house had fallen into ruin after it was no longer in Revere Family hands. Revere was 40 years old when he made the ride, the father of 8 children at that time, the youngest not yet 1 year old. He rode that night in tandem with Dr. Samuel Prescott and William Dawes. Revere was captured and threatened with death by British soldiers and Revere, who later in his account asserted that thought threatened with being shot,” I was not afraid”, and challenged their right to stop him from riding on the road with no cause. Hearing the shots from Concord and Lexington, the British confiscated his horse and released him, and Revere continued to his destination on foot to warn Adams and Hancock to flee the approaching British troops, who were intent on not only capturing Colonial arms, but also decapitating the rebel movement by arresting their leaders. A Revolution is hard. Boycotting “woke” companies, a piece of cake. Americans, lets roll!!!

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  3. Patriots’ Day, April 19th, now celebrated on the Third Monday in April, has been a state holiday in Massachusetts of long standing–so long that the State of Maine which was part of Massachusetts until 1820 has it too.

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  4. Has everyone also forgotten the horrible Murrah Building Bombing that occurred in Oklahoma City on April 18, 1895?
    The bombers apparently considered themselves patriots. Perhaps they were taking some deranged sort of revenge against the corruption of the America beginning long before.
    The bombing at which I and others assisted with the rescues of hundreds killed 168 people and was, as occurrs annualky, commemorated today with 158 minutes of silence at the Murrah Memorial.

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  5. Our country actually is over due in needing to defend its self from government over reach. If people had to fight for what they have and/or gotten free from someone else’s hard work, they would learn to appreciate it! The only problem I see is that we in Oklahoma City did not have the chance to defend ourselves.

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    1. A lot of people really don’t get just how long it took to go from the first unrest in the colonies under British rule to final revolution and independence. You can start with Bacon’s Rebellion (if, indeed, that was the first rumbling) and go on from there.

      Thus, I’m not particularly discouraged by people not already being up in arms. “The mills of the gods grind slowly, but exceedingly fine.”

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      1. There’s a famous (free-born) black guy in the SE Virginia area – Billy Flora – who fought at the Battle of Great Bridge. He was quite the guy, based on what his contemporaries thought.

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