American Revolution OVERVIEW LEXINGTON AND CONCORD General Thomas Gage served as both royal governor of Massachusetts and as commander in chief of the British Army in America. In May 1774, he established his headquarters in Boston. The American radicals controlled the countryside. Their opposition to British policies so alarmed Gage that he ordered his supply of ammunition moved from Cambridge, on the outskirts of Boston, to Boston itself. During the winter of 1774–1775, the people of Boston refused to cooperate with the British. No longer was it merely the radicals and their mobs who resisted British rule. Respectable people were joining the militia and preparing for armed conflict. The Provincial Congress of Massachu- setts formed a Committee of Safety, led by John Hancock. The Committee had the power to sum- mon the militia. However, the Committee knew that in an emergency there might not be time for the militia to gather. Consequently, it organized a special group of militia who could mobilize quickly. They went by the name “Minutemen” because they could answer an alarm call within a few minutes. Meanwhile, in England, Prime Minister Lord North addressed Parliament. North compared the taxes in England with those paid by the colonists and explained that English taxes were vastly higher. His speech helped persuade Parliament to pass new acts to increase the pressure on the res- tive New England colonists. A new set of instructions was sent to Gage urging him to adapt sterner measures. Gage received these orders on April 14, 1775. His spies informed him that the Massachusetts Militia had stockpiled weapons and supplies in the town of Concord, 18 miles outside of Bos- ton. Gage decided to send a military force to destroy this stockpile. American spies inside Boston detected the British preparations and alerted the Massachusetts Committee of Safety. Consequently, when a British expedition set out from Boston in the early morning of April 19, 1775, American riders, including Paul Revere and William Dawes, were already spreading the alarm. Revere rode to Lexington and Lexington passed the warning to Concord. Throughout the countryside, the militia assembled to resist the British advance. First contact occurred at Lexington,
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