In 1775 the people of Concord were mostly farmers who lived off the land. The soil was not only the source of their wealth, but of every necessity of life itself. A Concord man had many rights, and if he had sufficient property (a qualification which was often waived) he had the precious right to vote and participate in town meeting.
When General Thomas Gage, the royal governor, attempted to prorogue the assembly of the General Court of the province at Salem, Massachusetts in August 1774, the court reacted by adjourning to Concord where it met as the Provincial Congress on October 11, 1774. In the same spirit of defiance to the King’s new order of government, the people of Concord continued to hold town meetings as they had before.
In addition to the rights enjoyed by a citizen of Concord, there was a strict responsibility for each man between the ages of sixteen and sixty to serve in the town militia company. In September 1774, a gathering of militia in Worcester County proposed to act at a minute’s notice, and in October the Provincial Congress requested that each town set aside a force of volunteers, to the number of one third of the militia, to act as minute companies.
The town of Concord was not hasty to respond to this new call to arms, but rather seemed to move at a deliberate pace. On December 27, 1774, the town selectmen prepared an article for consideration at town meeting, “To See if the Town will agreable to the Recommendation of the Provincial allow a Reasonable Consideration to the Minute Men (if any Should Inlist in this Town) for their services in Turning out this winter to Lern the art Military.” At town meeting on January 2, 1775, the men of Concord voted on this article and on January 12, an enlistment meeting was held.
At the enlistment meeting Rev. William Emerson preached from Psalm LXIII. 2, and five days later fifty two volunteers chose their officers electing Charles Miles as Captain. A short time later a second company of fifty two men was formed under Captain David Brown.
As mid-April approached a typical minute man was already well into the task of planting his spring crops. But on April 19, in the early morning hours, the town house bell rang an alarm. The minute men jumped out of bed, grabbed their muskets, and mustered in the early morning cold on the town green. There was much discussion among the men, and the story of Dr. Prescott’s escape from a British patrol and ride to Concord was being told, and re-told for newcomers.
With more than one hundred men gathered on the town green Colonel James Barrett organized a party to hide supplies and transport the militia’s cannons out of town. A young saddler, Reuben Brown, was dispatched to Lexington to gather information, and not long after sunrise he returned to announce that the regulars had fired on the men of Lexington. The minute men, anxious and angry, looked to their officers, and a hurried decision was made to march out and meet the enemy.
The Column marched to Meriam’s Corner and suddenly halted. The echo of drums could be heard, and a half mile before them was rank upon rank of British soldiers. The officers hastily conferred, and by Major Buttrick’s order the column quickly turned about face and retreated to town.
Talk was subdued along the hillside when a sudden shout drew all eyes toward town. A plume of smoke was rising above the town, and Lieutenant Hosmer stepped forward to address the officers. “Will you let them burn the town down?” he asked. The men delayed only as long as it took the officers to set the order to march. The column set off down the hill toward the bridge with the minute companies of Acton and Concord leading the way.
As the minute men descended in a great sweeping curve toward the bridge, scattered groups of regulars took up firing positions. A ragged series of popping noises was heard and white smoke rose from the banks of the river as the minute men continued to advance and return fire.
When they reached the top of the hill overlooking the North Bridge Colonel Barrett stopped his men. From the hilltop they could see the town and the British sentries who had been posted at the far side of the bridge. Soon the Acton minute men, led by Isaac Davis, and the Bedford minute men, led by Jonathan Wilson arrived and joined with the minute men of Lincoln, led by William Smith, to stand with Concord.
After the skirmish two of the King’s men lay dead while others hobbled away injured. The men who had responded to the alarm that morning were no longer farmers. They were now soldiers and their actions had set in motion a chain of events that we know today as The American Revolution.