Thursday, April 28, 2016

History: The Year is 1775

I've uploaded year 1775 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

A Few Words Before We Begin -- A list of common facts about the American Revolution.

One If By Land, Two If By Sea -- The British are coming!

Parker's Stand! The Battle of Lexington Green -- A gun goes off accidentally and boom. We are at war.

The Shot heard Around the World: The Battle for the Concord Bridge -- An unauthorized warning shot and BOOM. We are Really at war.

Parker's Revenge! Run! Run! Run! -- Parker runs an ambush.

Bunker Hill: A Battle Worth Losing -- The British take Bunker Hill and wish they hadn't.

George Washington Is Appointed Commander-in-Chief -- The Second Continental Congress convenes and guess what?

A Few Words Before We Begin

1. I cannot do justice in a few paragraphs to the bravery, brutality and plain dumb luck that will occur this year.
2. It is best to have a map of the terrain as it existed. Time has changed that landscape. [1]
3. The Militiamen are not quite the same as the Minutemen but they work together.
4. To this day, no one knows which side fired the first shot at Lexington, but the first shot at Concord was probably British.
5. And remember... both sides think this is going to be a short war. It has to be. Right?
And so it begins as all wars must... at the beginning.

One If By Land, Two If By Sea

It is the 18th of April, but Paul Revere is NOT on the opposite shore! He at the top of the bell town of Christ Church in Boston. The British are coming "by sea." They will cross the harbor (I thought they said "by sea") and head for Lexington to arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock for the Boston Tea Party vandalism. Paul lights two lanterns. It is the prearranged signal in case he cannot get out of Boston. Then Paul rows across the harbor to the opposite shore. (Finally!) He is a member of the Sons of Liberty and the Committee of Correspondence. If the British catch him, he could betray them all. He borrows a horse and by 11 PM he is on his way. (Wait! He was supposed to ride at midnight! Another childhood dream is shattered!) Paul has a backup. William Dawes already left at 9:30 PM, going the long way around. Paul reaches Lexington by midnight, waking every home along the way. A sentry tells Paul to stop making so much noise. Paul replies, "You'll have noise enough before long. The regulars are coming out!" Revere will help Adams and Hancock escape but later Revere will be captured by a British patrol. He will make his way back to Lexington on foot. [2]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Henry Wordsworth Longfellow published The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere in 1863 that brought fame to the memory of Paul Revere. The poem introduced small inaccuracies, but Longfellow was a poet, so "poetic license" seems reasonable. [3]

Parker's Stand! The Battle of Lexington Green

British General Thomas Gage doesn't want this fight, but he has his orders. He has received intelligence of military stores at Concord including brass cannons. He sends 700 infantry the 20 miles to Concord. The troops reach Lexington Green at dawn and are greeted by less than 100 of the Massachusetts Militia led by Captain John Parker. They are seriously outnumbered, but this is just a show of force. Then a shot rings out. Who fired first? No one knows for sure. Captain Parker orders his men to disperse, but it is too late. Muskets come up, and fire, fire, fire. 8 of his men lay dead, 1 of them a black slave. Parker retreats and regroups. He wants payback, and he is going to get it... real soon. [4]
"Stand your ground. Don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here." -- Captain John Parker at Lexington Green.
My Take by Alex Shrugged
There is evidence that General Gage thought that the supplies at Concord had already been moved. (They had.) One wonders why he sent the troops anyway. Certainly, he was under pressure from his superiors to do something, so he did something. The orders he gave to his troops were meant to avoid creating any martyrs to the cause. Oops! [5]

The Shot heard Around the World: The Battle for the Concord Bridge

700 British infantry meet a force of 250 Concord Militia men on the road that morning of April 19th. The Militia retreats across the North Bridge. This is wise. They have no clear idea of what happened at Lexington so they wait and observe. The British search Concord for the Militia supplies they expected but finding nothing, they decide to take the North and South Concord bridges. Smoke from a fire near the courthouse can be seen. (The British are putting out the fire but from a distance it looks bad.) As British forces cross the North bridge, they are trapped on the same side as the Militia. The Militia presses forward, so the British retreat back across the bridge. Then someone on the British side gets the bright idea of pulling up the planks on the bridge to slow down the Militia. Without orders, the Concord Militia rushes to stop the British from destroying their bridge. A British soldier fires a warning shot. The British troops think that the order to fire has been given. They volley fire into the Minutemen and Militia. Two privates are killed instantly. Many more are wounded. Major John Buttrick of the Concord Militia shouts "Fire, for God's sake, fellow soldiers, fire!" The Concord Militia fire into the British. This is often called "The shot heard around the world." There is no going back now. This is war. [6]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
The events as they transpired at Concord were recorded years later, except for the British report which was filed reasonably quickly. The British commander admitted that one of his soldiers fired the first shot at Concord. (That seems reasonable.) A different British officer said that the rebels fired first at Concord and Lexington. At this point it no longer matters.

Parker's Revenge! Run! Run! Run!

It is noon on April 19th. The British infantry leave Concord after their battle with the Concord Militiamen that morning. The Militiamen seem stunned. They fail to press the attack. The British are marching back to Boston, but they must travel through Lexington Green once more. Captain Parker and the survivors of Lexington Green have laid an ambush for the British along the road. Unfortunately, Captain Parker has no experience with large forces in the field. The British commander has flanking forces out that could wrap up Captain Parker's men fairly quickly if the terrain wasn't so difficult. When Parker's ambush is hit from the side, he retreats in good order and continues to hit the British forces along the road. (The road is no longer as treacherous in the modern day as it once was.) The British commander is wounded, but not dead. His officers can no longer hold the troops. They have stopped retreating. They are now running. [7] [8]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
The British commander (Colonel Smith) took the blame because he delayed at Concord for two hours before leaving... apparently to have a good lunch. Making sure the troops are fed before a 20 mile march seems reasonable, but the delay allowed Captain Parker to organize his men for a substantial series of ambushes. A statue stands at Lexington Green, a monument to Captain Parker. He died of tuberculosis a few months after the battle.

Bunker Hill: A Battle Worth Losing

On the evening of April 19th, Admiral Graves suggests to General Gage that he take Bunker Hill and fortify it. (It is currently unoccupied.) Gage's forces have been weakened after the battles of Lexington and Concord. Beyond that excuse, historians cannot explain why Gage delayed. Breed and Bunker Hills should have been fortified long ago. The rebels decide to seize this ground. On the evening of June 16th, dressed as farmers, William Prescott and the rebels march up the hill and set up barricades. On June 17th, the barricades are noticed, so General William Howe works out a plan to push the Americans off of Breed Hill and Bunker Hill. At the beginning, Howe's plan seems like a good one. He takes some casualties, but he figures that once the rebels break he can swing his forces to the side and wrap them up. The problem is that a critical group of battle-hardened veterans refuses to break. So the British are forced to come straight in and very dumb. The carnage is incredible. Colonel William Prescott shouts the old battle cry, "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes!" After Howe's third assault the fighting breaks down to hand-to-hand. The American Rebels are forced to retreat. The British win! With 282 soldiers dead and 800 wounded, they can't afford to win many more battles like this one. [9] [10] [11]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
In fact the Battle for Breed Hill and Bunker Hill defined how the war with the Americans would be fought... with a mind that all British resources were limited and already in place. No more resources were coming. For the Americans, the resources were unlimited. That was NOT reality. That was the British perception and it colored most of their decisions thereafter. The Battle for Bunker Hill was important but it wasn't a war-winner, except that it changed the behavior of the British. Something similar occurred during World War 2 after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. A small raid was put together to bomb Tokyo in reprisal. From a military perspective, the Doolittle Raid was a useless gesture. Yet, it worried the Japanese commanders, so that they changed their plans just a little. Had they kept to their original plans, they might have won that war. [12]

George Washington Is Appointed Commander-in-Chief

I am briefly mentioning something that is incredibly significant: the colonies are banding together for the sake of mutual defense. During the spring the whole mess came apart, and now Congress must figure out what to do with the pieces. The King has declared that the American colonies are now in a state of rebellion against the King. No more fooling one's self that these injustices were caused by the King's ministers giving the King bad advice. The King knows and he doesn't care. Now the Congress appoints George Washington as commander-in-chief. Why? He is tall and he looks good in a uniform... and he acts honorably... for a Virginian. Congress needs the backing of Virginia to legitimize its authority. Washington buys 5 books on military tactics and begins to read. (That's right. In any other man's army he'd be lucky to rise above the rank of major, but he's grabbed this bag of cow manure and now he has to hold it.) His major talent is that he knows genius when he sees it... and he listens. [13]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1775, Wikipedia.

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