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THE FIRST CONTINENTAL CONGRESS
that kept the colonies informed by letters of all that was going on. This prepared them for united action, and in 1774 a Continental or General Congress -- the first ever held in America -- met in Carpenters' Hall, Philadelphia, to consider what course the colonies should take.
The spirit of that Congress was unmistakable. It was perfectly calm, perfectly respectful, but perfectly determined. The delegates who met there, of whom George Washington was one, did not want to have war with England; they wanted peace -- peace if they could get it, but justice at any price. They did not ask for representation in Parliament, for they saw that they could not be properly represented in that body 3000 miles away. But they did three things of great importance:
1. They issued a Declaration of Rights in which they demanded the right to levy all taxes.
2. They organized the "American Association" which bound all the colonies joining it to stop buying or using British goods until Parliament should repeal its unjust laws.
3. They humbly petitioned the King to redress their wrongs. They might as well have petitioned the "Great Stone Face" in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Not long after this, Massachusetts set up a government (1775) quite independent of the military rule of General Gage, and made John Hancock, a wealthy and influential merchant of Boston, head of it. The colony next raised 12,000 volunteers; a third of them were "minutemen" -- men ready to march or fight at a minute's notice. The spirit of liberty was universal; as a South Carolina paper said, "One soul animates 3,000,000 of brave Americans, though extended over a long tract of 2000 miles."
But the Carolina paper forgot the Tories, who constituted a third of the population. They positively refused to take up arms against the King. Like the patriots they were brave men; they loved their country; but they believed that the quarrel could be settled without drawing a sword or firing a gun. In the end the Tories were driven out of the United States, and the patriots seized their houses and lands.
LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
I. FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE WAR IN 1775 BY THE
COLONISTS IN DEFENSE OF THEIR RIGHTS AS ENG-
LISH SUBJECTS, TO THE DECLARATION OF
INDEPENDENCE, JULY 4, 1776
161. The British Expedition to Lexington and Concord; Paul Revere; the Battle; the Retreat. General Gage having learned that the patriots had stored a quantity of powder and provisions at Concord, about twenty miles from Boston, sent a secret expedition to destroy both. The soldiers had orders to go by way of Lexington, and there arrest Samuel Adams (§§ 157, 159) and John Hancock (§ 160), who were stopping with a friend in that village. The London papers boasted that the heads of these two "rebels" would soon be exhibited in that city; but General Gage found out that Adams and Hancock were not the kind of men to lose their heads so easily.
The British troops left Boston just before midnight of April 18, 1775. Paul Revere, a noted Boston patriot, was on the watch; at his request two signal lanterns flashed the news abroad from the steeple of the Old North Church, and he galloped through the country giving the alarm. When he reached the house in Lexington where Hancock and Adams were asleep, a man on guard cried out to him, "Don't make so much noise." "Noise!" shouted Reverel;" you'll have noise enough before long; the 'regulars' are coming."
Just before daybreak of April 19 the British "regulars" marched on to the village green of Lexington where a number of "minutemen" had collected. "Disperse, ye rebels!" shouted
1 Read Longfellow's "Paul Revere's Ride," though it is not strictly historical.
LEXINGTON AND CONCORD
Pitcairn, the British commander. No one moved; then Pitcairn cried, "Fire!" A volley blazed out, and seven Americans fell dead. Some scattering shots were fired in return. Advancing to Concord, the soldiers destroyed such military stores as they could find; at Concord Bridge they were met by the patriots. It was the opening battle of the Revolution, -- several men fell on each side. There the first British were killed, there the first British graves were dug. The "regulars" then drew back, leaving the Americans in possession of the bridge, and began their march toward Boston.
But the whole country was now aroused. The enraged farmers fired at the British from behind every wall, bush, and tree. The march became a retreat, the retreat something like a run. When the "regulars" got back to Lexington, where Lord Percy met them with reënforcements, they dropped panting on the ground, "their tongues hanging out" like those of tired dogs.1 From Lexington the "minutemen" chased the British all the way to Charlestown. Nearly three hundred of the "redcoats," as the Americans nicknamed the English soldiers, lay dead or dying on the road.
Percy had marched gayly out of Boston to the tune of "Yankee Doodle," played in ridicule of the Americans, but it was noticed that his band did not play it on reëntering the town they had had quite enough of all that was "Yankee" for that day.
The next morning the British army found themselves shut up in Boston. The Americans had surrounded it on the land side; they dared the British to come out and fight the siege of Boston had begun. (See Map, above.)
1 So says an English officer. See Stedman's "American War," I, 118.
LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
162. The Second Continental Congress; Washington made Commander in Chief Ethan Allen's Victories. The Second Continental Congress (§ 160) met at Philadelphia on May 10, 1775. It recognized George III as the "rightful sovereign" of the American colonies, but it voted to raise 15,000 men to defend the liberties of the country, and it appointed George Washington (§§ 137-141) commander in chief of the American army. From this time until the Articles of Confederation were adopted (1781) Congress practically (§ 192) governed the country. Early in the morning of the day on which that Congress met, Ethan Allen, a "Green Mountain Boy," surprised the sentinel on duty and got entrance with his men to Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain. Allen burst into the commandant's room and demanded the immediate and unconditional surrender of the fort. "By what authority?" asked the astonished officer. "In the name of the great Jehovah and the Continental Congress," thundered Allen. The commandant surrendered; the Americans got possession of cannon, arms, and military stores which they sorely needed. Crown Point, a small fort on the lake, north of Ticonderoga, was taken the next day.
163. Battle of Bunker Hill. General Gage (§ 160) had received reënforcements from England under the command of Generals Howe, Clinton, and Burgoyne. He now had a force of about
BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL
8000 men. Near the middle of June, 1775, he planned an expedition to seize Bunker Hill.1 This hill is in Charlestown and overlooks part of Boston. Gage was afraid that the Americans might get possession of it; if so, they could fire into his camp and make him very uncomfortable. (Map, p. 143.)
What, then, was his surprise when he found on the morning of the 17th of June that the "rebels," under the command of Colonel Prescott, had got the start of him, and that, during the night, they had actually seized and fortified the hill. General Gage saw that he must drive the Americans out of their entrenchments or they would drive him out of Boston. He sent Howe to make the attack with 3000 British "regulars." The American officers had about half that number of men. As the British moved up the hill the patriots received this order: "Don't fire till you see the white of their eyes. "They obeyed; when they did fire the destruction of life was terrible. The smoke lifted and there lay "The 'redcoats' stretched in windrows as a mower rakes his hay." 2
The British fell back, rallied, made a second attack, and again fell back. A third time Howe led his men up the hill. This time he was successful. The Americans had fired their last round of ammunition, and, fighting desperately with the butt ends of their muskets and even with clubs and stones, they slowly retreated. They were driven back because they no longer had the means to continue the battle.
1 The name Breed's Hill did not then exist. See Frothingham's "Joseph Warren," p. 507, and Winsor's "America," VI, 135.
2 Read O. W. Holmes's fine poem, "Grandmother's Story of Bunker Hill"