On April 19, 1775, the first shots were fired in the War for American Independence in Lexington, Massachusetts. The Battles there and in Concord are the basis for “Patriot Day” in New England. On August 18, British grenadiers and the light army set out from occupied Boston toward Concord “to seize a quantity of military stores, and – the bodies of Mess. Hancock and Adams…” So Founding Fathers John Hancock and Samuel Adams were hiding out at the home of Pastor Jonas Clark when Paul Revere arrived on horseback with his famous warning of the British army’s approach. Historian George Bancroft sets the stage:
“At two in the morning, under the watchful eye of the minister, and of Hancock and Adams, Lexington common was alive with the minute-men; and not with them only, but with the old men, who were exempts, except in case of immediate danger to the town. The roll was called, and of militia and alarm men, about one hundred and thirty answered to their names. The captain, John Parker, ordered every one to load with powder and ball, but to take care not to be the first to fire.”*
When no troops were sighted, the decision was made to stand down, return to their homes, and wait for the alarm. However, a few short hours later, the sound of the alarm bell rang out again in Lexington, signaling the approach of some 700 British Regulars under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith. As dawn was breaking, four of the Militiamen were in the church meetinghouse gathering musket balls, gunpowder, and wadding from the munitions stored there. Captain John Parker assembled the other 50-60 men into two lines on the Lexington green and called out: “Stand your ground! Don’t fire unless fired upon. But if they mean to have a war, let it begin here!”*
Interestingly, the Battle of Lexington took place in the shadow of the Christ Church meetinghouse and it was the Pastor, Jonas Clark, who had been the primary advocate for raising the militia that engaged the British regulars that fateful morning. The town’s resolve to create the militia resounds with the voice of Pastor Clark: “We shall be ready to sacrifice our estates and everything dear in life, yea and life itself, in support of the common cause.”* Clark’s church members proved those words on the morning of April 19, and seven died in that first battle in the War for Independence.
Pastor Clark preached a message on the one year anniversary of this momentous event. In it he declared: “[F]rom the nineteenth of April, 1775, we may venture to predict, will be dated, in future history, the Liberty or Slavery of the American World.”* The role of Lexington’s Pastor and his Church Members in the first battle in the War for Independence is yet another lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read 2 Samuel 10:11-12 and reflect on the words of Joab and compare them to the resolve of Lexington in their creation of a militia.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we are grateful for the leadership of Patriot Pastors like Jonas Clark, who inspired his people to stand and fight against tyranny and for liberty, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citations: George Bancroft, History of the United States of American, from the Discovery of the American Continent, 10 vols., (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1861), 6:181-82; Frank Warren Coburn, The Battle of April 19, 1775 (Lexington, MA: Lexington Historical Society, 1922), 63; “Report of the Committee of Correspondence adopted by the Town of Lexington, December 1773,” as found in the Lexington Historical Society Archives; Rev. Jonas Clark, The Fate of Blood-thirsty Oppressors, and God’s Tender Care of His Distressed People: A sermon, preached at Lexington, April 19, 1776 (Boston: Powars and Willis, 1776), 29-30.