back to top

SCOTT DREYER: Happy Patriots’ Day–The American Revolution Began On This Date

As many schools are on Spring Break this week and children are on a sugar rush from their Easter baskets, it is easy to overlook that today, April 19, is the date that marks the start of the American Revolution, aka The War of Independence. In some New England states, today is honored as a holiday called “Patriots’ Day.”

Tensions between many American colonists and the Mother Country of England had been heating up for years. In 1763, when the British and their 13 English-speaking colonies along the Atlantic Coast (yes, including Virginia) had finally defeated the French and their Native American allies in the Seven Years’ War, the English government thought it was totally appropriate that the colonies pay a part of the war expenses as a part of their defense. However, with taxes and regulations going up (sound familiar?) but the colonists without a voice or vote in the British Parliament, American anger grew.

The Bible says, “There is nothing new under the sun,” and major causes of the American Revolution were high taxes and a tone-deaf government. As I write this on April 19, 2022, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin and the House of Delegates want to end the grocery tax for Virginians, have a brief “gas tax holiday,” double the standard deduction, and return about one-third of the state surplus to the taxpayers. However, stymying tax relief for over eight million Virginians stand a mere 21 Democrat members of the state Senate, including septuagenarian Sen. John Edwards (D-Roanoke). Talk about tone deaf! People are struggling with an economy that never fully recovered from the pandemic and lockdowns, inflation is at a 40-year high, energy prices in the Old Dominion are forecast to soon go through the roof thanks to “green energy” changes, and these 21 politicians aren’t willing to lift a finger to help.

But back to 1775.

By mid-April, rumors were swirling in Boston that the British soldiers occupying the city were preparing to march into the countryside to seize the colonists muskets, gunpowder and bullets stored at the nearby town of Concord.  As another example of “there is nothing new under the sun,” a major spark in the conflict was gun control. The British authorities knew, unarmed people are easier to subjugate and control. Likewise the colonists knew, minus their guns, they would be sitting ducks and defenseless against whatever the Crown would have for them next.

Against that backdrop, on the night of April 18, several hundred British soldiers known as “Redcoats” (thanks to their uniform color) left Boston to seize the powder magazine in Concord. However, their attempts to keep their movement a secret were dashed when colonial spies in the city saw the marching and sent news via riders.

Since Boston is on a peninsula, the colonists had reasoned the British would either take the longer route by road crossing the isthmus connecting the City to the mainland, or else the shorter route by rowing boats across the Charles River. To aid the flow of information and stay ahead of the Redcoats, the patriots had arranged with the sexton at the Old North Church to hang either one or two lanterns in the steeple of the church–the highest point in town. One lantern meant the soldiers were marching by land, but two indicated they were crossing the river.

This fact later inspired poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to coin the now-famous phrase “One if by Land, Two if by Sea” in his poem “Paul Revere’s Ride.”

“One, if by land, and two, if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.”

A team of riders calling for Americans in the area to wake up and try to stop the English advance placed the strident call “The British are coming!” into the American history and psyche. That ragtag band of farmers and shopkeepers had been training to respond to such an event in a moment’s notice, thus earning the nickname “Minutemen.”

Contrary to popular myth, silversmith Paul Revere did not make it all the way to Concord to warn everyone. He was captured by a British patrol. The lesser-known Samuel Prescott made it all the way to Concord.

By dawn of April 19, 1775, about 700 Redcoats came upon about 77 Minutemen at the Lexington Village Green. To this day no one knows who fired the first shot, but a shot did ring out, and thus the simmering resentment between the two sides erupted into open warfare. The British continued on to Concord, but most of the Americans’ munitions had been moved to safety.

There at the Old North Bridge in Concord, the two sides fired at each other again. Although the fighting lasted only a few minutes, it marked an epochal moment in world history: a ragtag band of militia has stood up to the organized army of the world’s superpower, Britain, and held the field. That skirmish earned the title, “The Shot Heard Round the World.”

Using guerilla warfare, the Americans hid behind trees and walls and harassed the Redcoats as they withdrew to Boston.

In honor of this week being National Parks Week, we recognize North Bridge as a unit in Minute Man National Park in Massachusetts.

To commemorate that event, Ralph Waldo Emerson later wrote “Concord Hymn” which was performed when the Battle Monument was dedicated on July 4, 1837.

“By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
   Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
   And fired the shot heard round the world.”


You can read the rest of the poem here.

At the time of these events, Massachusetts and all the other twelve colonies were, in theory at least, subjects of Great Britain. However, with resentments having broken out into open warfare, American public opinion gradually shifted over the next fourteen months from “we are colonists of England” to “we ought to be a free and independent people.”

By July of 1776, delegates meeting in Philadelphia had been debating independence and finally approved and signed the document that Virginian and William and Mary graduate Thomas Jefferson had penned: The Declaration of Independence.

Our founders were imperfect men who created an imperfect system. However, would you rather be a citizen of, say, Russia or Ukraine today?

Happy Patriots’ Day!

Go deeper:

What did “One if by Land, Two if by Sea” mean?

Battles of Lexington and Concord at

–Scott Dreyer

Scott Dreyer at Bryce Canyon
Scott Dreyer M.A. of Roanoke has been a licensed teacher since 1987 and now leads a team of educators teaching English and ESL to a global audience. Trilingual and an avid traveler, Dreyer has visited over 30 countries and 48 US states. Here he is at Utah’s iconic Bryce Canyon. Please visit

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -Fox Radio CBS Sports Radio Advertisement

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -Fox Radio CBS Sports Radio Advertisement

Related Articles