The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Lexington (Massachusetts)
LEXINGTON, a town of Middlesex co., Massachusetts, at the terminus of a branch of the Boston, Lowell, and Nashua railroad, 10 m. N. W. of Boston, and 7 m. E. of Concord; pop. in 1870, 2,277. The surface is diversified, and the soil generally fertile. A large quantity of milk is produced, the greater part of which is sent to Boston. There are ten public schools, including a high school, four churches, and a weekly newspaper.—Lexington is memorable as the scene of the first armed encounter between the British and Americans in the revolutionary contest. On the night of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere of Boston, eluding the British sentinels, escaped into the country across Charles river, and spread information of the intended march of a detachment of British troops 800 strong, commanded by Lieut. Col. Smith, to seize the provincial stores and cannon at Concord. About midnight he reached the house of the Rev. Jonas Clark, the minister of Lexington, where Hancock and Adams lodged. The town at that time contained about 700 inhabitants, and nearly all the able-bodied males had been trained to the use of arms, and were enrolled as minutemen. The alarm was given, and by 2 o'clock in the morning about 130 militiamen were assembled under arms on the common, commanded by Capt. John Parker, who ordered them to load with powder and ball, but not to be the first to fire. Messengers were then sent toward Boston to look for the British, who returned reporting that there were no signs of their approach. A watch was set, and the militia dismissed with orders to assemble again at beat of drum. Just at daybreak the advanced guard of the enemy, commanded by Major Pitcairn, was discovered approaching the village. The alarm was given, and between 60 and 70 of the militia assembled and were paraded in two ranks on the common a few rods north of the meeting house. The British halted to load, and to allow the rest of the detachment to come up. They then advanced almost on a run. Pitcairn rode in front, and when within five or six rods of the Americans ordered them to lay down their arms and disperse. They kept their ranks until he discharged his pistol against them, and ordered his men to fire. A discharge of musketry followed, by which four were killed on the spot and nine wounded; four others were killed while attempting to escape. When the British fired, Capt. Parker ordered his men to disperse; a few of them returned the fire, wounding three British soldiers and the horse of Pitcairn. The British drew up on the common, fired a volley, gave three cheers, and after a halt of half an hour marched on to Concord. On their retreat from that place, after the battle at the bridge (see Concord), while passing through Lincoln, they were attacked by the Lexington men, and as they were ascending Fiske's hill in the west part of Lexington a sharp contest took place in which a number were killed. About a mile below the common the British were saved from total destruction by the arrival of a reinforcement of 1,200 men under Lord Percy. The action at Lexington roused the whole country. The night before it there were few people in the colonies that expected any blood would be shed in the contest. The night after the royal governor and army found themselves closely beleaguered in Boston. In 1799 a small monument was erected on Lexington common to mark the spot of the first bloodshed of the revolutionary war.