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were hurrying from every quarter to the scene of action. As the British began their retreat the Americans began the work of sore and galling retaliation. Along the open road the former were harassed incessantly by rustic marksmen, who took deliberate aim from behind trees or over stone fences. Where the road passed through woods, the British found themselves between two fires, dealt by unseen foes, the minute men having posted themselves on each side among the bushes. It was in vain they threw out flankers, and endeavoured to dislodge their assailants; each pause gave time for other pursuers to come within reach, and open attacks from different quarters. For several miles they urged their way along woody defiles, or roads skirted with fences and stone walls, the retreat growing more and more disastrous; some were shot down, some gave out through mere exhaustion; the rest hurried on, without stopping to aid the fatigued or wounded. Before reaching Lexington Colonel Smith received a severe wound in the leg, and the situation of the retreating troops was becoming extremely critical, when, about two o'clock, they were met by Lord Percy, with a brigade of one thousand men and two field-pieces. His lordship had been detached from Boston about nine o'clock by General Gage, in compliance with Colonel Smith's urgent call for a reinforcement, and had marched gaily through Roxbury to the tune of "Yankee Doodle," in derision of the "rebels." He now found the latter a more formidable foe than he had anticipated. Opening his brigade to the right and left, he received the retreating troops into a hollow square; where, fainting and exhausted, they threw themselves on the ground to rest. His lordship showed no disposition to advance upon their assailants, but contented himself with keeping them at bay with his field-pieces, which opened a vigorous fire from an eminence.
Hitherto the Provincials, being hasty levies without a leader, had acted from individual impulse, without much concert; but now General Heath was upon the ground. He was one of those authorized to take command when the minute men should be called out. That class of combatants promptly obeyed his orders, and he was efficacious in rallying them, and bringing them into military order,
when checked and scattered by the fire of the fieldpieces.
Dr. Warren, also, arrived on horseback, having spurred from Boston on receiving news of the skirmishing. In the subsequent part of the day he was one of the most active and efficient men in the field. His presence, like that of General Heath, regulated the infuriated ardour of the militia, and brought it into system.
Lord Percy, having allowed the troops a short interval for repose and refreshment, continued the retreat toward Boston, As soon as he got under march, the galling assault by the pursuing yeomanry was recommenced in flank and rear. The British soldiery, irritated in turn, acted as if in an enemy's country. Houses and shops were burnt down in Lexington; private dwellings along the road were plundered, and their inhabitants maltreated. In one instance, an unoffending invalid was wantonly slain in his own house. All this increased the exasperation of the yeomanry. There was occasional sharp skirmishing, with bloodshed on both sides, but in general a dogged pursuit, where the retreating troops were galled at every step. Their march became more and more impeded by the number of their wounded. Lord Percy narrowly escaped death from a musket-ball, which struck off a button of his waistcoat. One of his officers remained behind, wounded, in West Cambridge. His ammunition was failing as he approached Charlestown., The provincials pressed upon him in rear, others were advancing from Eoxbury, Dorchester, and Milton; Colonel Pickering, with the Essex militia, seven hundred strong, was at hand; there was danger of being intercepted in the retreat to Charlestown. The field-pieces were again brought into play to check the ardour of the pursuit; but they were no longer objects of terror. The sharpest firing of the provincials was near Prospect Hill, as the harassed enemy hurried along the Charlestown road, eager to reach the Neck, and get under cover of their ships. The pursuit terminated a little after sunset, at Charlestown Common, where General Heath brought the minute men to a halt. Within half an hour more a powerful body of men, from Marblehead and Salem, came up to join in the chase. "If the retreat," writes Washington, "had not been as precipitate as it was,—and God knows it could not well have been more so,—the ministerial troops must have surrendered, or been totally cut off."
The distant firing from the mainland had reached the British at Boston. The troops which, in the morning, had marched through Eoxbury, to the tune of "Yankee Doodle," might have been seen at sunset hounded along the old Cambridge road to Charlestown Neck, -by mere armed yeomanry^ Gage was astounded at the catastrophe. It was but a short time previous that one of his officers, in writing to friends in England, scoffed at the idea of the Americans taking up arms. "Whenever it comes to blows," said he, "he that can run the fastest will think himself well off, believe me. Any two regiments here ought to be decimated if they did not beat in the field the whole force of the Massachusetts province." How frequently, throughout this. Eevolution, had the English to pay the penalty of thus undervaluing the spirit they were provoking!
In this memorable affair the British loss was seventythree killed, one hundred and s-venty-four wounded, and twenty-six missing. Among the slain were eighteen officers. The loss of the Americans was forty-nine killed, thirty-nine wounded, and five missing. This was the first blood shed in the revolutionary struggle; a mere drop in amount, but a deluge in its effects,—rending the colonies for ever from the mother country.
The cry of blood from the field of Lexington went through the land. None felt the appeal more than the old soldiers of the French war. It roused John Stark, of New Hampshire—a trapper and hunter in his youth, a veteran in Indian warfare, a campaigner under Abercrombie and Amherst, now the military oracle of a rustic neighbourhood. Within ten minutes after receiving the alarm, he was spurring towards the sea-coast, and on the way stirring up the volunteers of the Massachusetts borders, to assemble forthwith at Bedford, in the vicinity of Boston.
Equally alert was his old comrade in frontier exploits, Colonel Israel Putnam. A man on horseback, with a drum, passed through his neighbourhood in Connecticut,
proclaiming British violence at Lexington. Putnam was in the field ploughing, assisted by his son. In an instant the team was unyoked; the plough left in the furrow; the lad sent home to give word of his father's departure; and Putnam, on horseback, in his working garb, urging with all speed to the camp. Such was the spirit aroused throughout the country. The sturdy yeomanry, from all parts, were hastening toward Boston with such weapons as were at hand; and happy was he who could command a rusty fowling-piece and a powder-horn.
The news reached Virginia at a critical moment. Lord Dunmore, obeying a general order issued by the ministry to all the provincial governors, had seized upon the military munitions of the province. Here was a similar measure to that of Gage. The cry went forth that the subjugation of the colonies was to be attempted. All Virginia was in combustion. The standard of liberty was reared in every county; there was a general cry to arms. Washington was looked to, from various quarters, to take command. His old comrade in arms, Hugh Mercer, was about marching down to Williamsburg, at the head of a body of resolute men, seven hundred strong, entitled "The friends of constitutional liberty and America," whom he had organized and drilled in Fredericksburg, and nothing but a timely concession of Lord Dunmore, with respect to some powder which he had seized, prevented his being beset in his palace.
Before Hugh Mercer and the Friends of Liberty disbanded themselves, they exchanged a mutual pledge to reassemble at a moment's warning, whenever called on to defend the liberty and rights of this or any other sister colony.
Washington was at Mount Vernon, preparing to set out for Philadelphia as a delegate to the second Congress, when he received tidings of the affair of Lexington. Bryan Fairfax and Major Horatio Gates were his guests at the time. They all regarded the event as decisive in its consequences; but they regarded it with different feelings. The worthy and gentle-spirited Fairfax deplored it deeply. He foresaw that it must break up all his pleasant relations in life; arraying his dearest friendf against the government to which, notwithstanding the errors of its policy, he was loyally attached and resolved to adhere.
Gates, on the contrary, viewed it with the eye of a soldier and a place-hunter—hitherto disappointed in both capacities. This event promised to open a new avenue to importance and command, and he determined to enter upon it.
Washington's feelings were of a mingled nature. They may be gathered from a letter to his friend and neighbour, George William Fairfax, then in England, in which he lays the blame of this "deplorable affair" on the ministry and their military agents, and concludes with the following words, in which the yearnings of the patriot give affecting solemnity to the implied resolve of the soldier:— "Unhappy it is to reflect that a brother's sword has been sheathed in a brother's breast; and that the once happy and peaceful plains of America are to be either drenched with blood or inhabited by slaves. Sad alternative! But can a virtuous man hesitate in his choice?"
Enlisting of Troops in the East—Camp at Boston—General Artemas Ward—Scheme to surprise Ticonderoga—New Hampshire GrantsEthan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys—Benedict Arnold— Affair of Ticonderoga and Crown Point—A Dash at St. John's.
At the eastward, the march of the Eevolution went on with accelerated speed. Thirty thousand men had been deemed necessary for the defence of the country. The provincial Congress of Massachusetts resolved to raise thirteen thousand six hundred as its quota. Circular letters, also, were issued by the committee of safety, urging the towns to enlist troops with all speed, and calling for military aid from the other New England provinces.
Their appeals were promptly answered. Bodies of militia, and parties of volunteers from New Hampshire, Ehode Island, and Connecticut, hastened to join the minute men of Massachusetts in forming a camp in the- neighbourhood of Boston. With the troops of Connecticut came Israel Putnam; having recently raised a regiment in that pro