Sons of Liberty Ride to Sound the Alert

Paul Revere was one of three men tasked with warning outlying communities of the incoming British troops. William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott (who joined them in Lexington) were his companions in this. Part of the goal was to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that the British would be seeking to arrest them.  

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    Just after midnight on April 19, 1775 patriots Paul Revere, William Dawes, and Dr. Samuel Prescott headed towards Lexington and then on to Concord, warning the countryside, militiamen, and Sons of Liberty of the British soldiers on the move. 

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    At around 1 AM, They were ambushed along the road and managed to capture and question Paul Revere, while Dawes turned back to Lexington, and Dr. Prescott continued alone to raise the alarm in Concord. 

After capture, he was marched back towards Lexington, but when the alarms were going up, his captors decided to rejoin the soldiers marching on Concord and released their captives on foot. 

Buckman's Tavern


With the Lexington Historical Society

This is the place where militiamen gathered the night before the battle of Lexington and Concord, planning what to do about the incoming British troops seeking to capture the arms and ammunition in Concord. 

After plans were set, Captain Parker dismissed his men, to await a signal that they would be needed. Those that did not have homes near the green spent the night gathered at the Buckman Tavern, not sure whether they would be facing battle or not. 

Alerted by a traveling merchant, militiamen started gathering at the Buckman Tavern on Lexington Green to make plans.

Lexington Green

In the early morning hours, pre-dawn, the warning arrived that British soldiers were nearly there, and Captain Parker sounded the alarm for his men to gather and they formed ranks on the Green. 

British troops loaded muskets a distance from the green. Since the night/morning was damp and cold, they would not have marched with them loaded. If gunpowder becomes damp or wet, it will not combust. By the time of the Revolutionary War, soldiers carried pre-made cartridges still, it took more time to load a firearm then than it does today, and so the time to stop and prepare gave the Minutemen in Lexington time to prepare themselves as well. 

The battle of Lexington, April 19th. 1775. Plate I." In: "The Doolittle engravings of the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775."

The minutemen were instructed not to attack or fire unless given reason to do so – at some point, as the British soldiers appeared, someone, to this date no one knows who, or from which party, fired a shot. The British regulars charged, firing upon a surprised colonial militia, and wounded ten men and killed eight.

Black Powder Firearms

In case you are unfamiliar with black-powder firearms, they fire by ignition of gunpowder and the expanding gasses from the explosion being compressed by the narrow confines of the barrel projects the musket ball. Distance and accuracy can be approved by rifling the barrel which inscribes spiraled lines inside the barrel, spinning the musket ball and causing it to fly further and improving the ability to predict its trajectory.
Prior to cartridges, people firing guns poured black powder down the barrel, followed by the ball, rammed into place, then extra powder from a priming flask is added to the priming pan on the exterior of the gun - usually to the side.
Then a source of ignition is applied. Throughout colonial history this has ranged from matchlock firearms of the 17th century - where the ignition source is a burning rope soaked in saltpeter and dried - and your author knows from personal experience the challenge of juggling a long firearm with heavy wooden butt and metal barrel, a bandolier of charges (tiny bottles of gunpowder on a belt across the chest to make loading the barrel faster and more accurate in amount of powder applied), and a priming flask at the hip with about a half pound of priming powder while holding a burning rope. Wheel Locks were less common, and fired by winding gears - they were expensive, and not always reliable.
By the time of the Revolutionary War, most men would have carried flintlock firearms. A knapped piece of flint, held in place by a clamp, strikes a steel plate when the trigger is pulled. This generates a spark, igniting the priming powder, which through a small hole, ignites the powder in the barrel, the compressed gasses force the ball out in a manner that it flies with great speed and impact.
While they could still be loaded the old fashioned way by pouring gunpowder into the barrel then ramming in a ball, many soldiers, and the British army used cartridges. By pre-wrapping a charge of gunpowder and a musket ball and storing it in a box, they had a better chance of keeping their powder dry and it made reloading faster.

One advantage that the British regular troops had was a similarity of weapon, musket ball size, and cartridge size, making them interchangeable. The colonial forces had a wide range of firearms and sizes, making it far more difficult to keep supplied until later in the Revolutionary War.

For more information, there is an extensive timeline of events on the Minuteman National Park website –