Getting the Late Word from Lexington
By Tom Lloyd
The shot heard round the world? Nobody here in Maryland even noticed. At least, not right away. Word didn’t filter down this far south until about a week or so after the fact. It was a horsepower thing.
Listen my children! And you shall hear: It took more than one horse to get from there to here. In 1775, news traveled on horseback and it takes a lot of horses to cover the 450 miles between Boston and Annapolis. Plus, there were precious few bridges and absolutely no tunnels in place to get from point B to point A. It was not your basic pony club gymkhana kind of ride.
Anyway, on the 27th of April 1775, the news finally trotted into Annapolis, eight days after the first skirmish at Lexington. The Maryland Gazette printed its version as follows: “Before break of day a brigade of regulars consisting of 1,200 men landed and marched to Lexington where they found a company of our colony militia in arms upon whom they fired without provocation and killed six men and wounded four others.”
Now, I hate to burst any Marylander’s patriotic bubble some 240 years after the fact, but the truth is there was more of a kerfuffle here about the appalling lack of punctuation in the sentence above than there was about the actual shootings in Lexington.
That is not to say Marylanders weren’t sympathetic. After all, while Bostonians dressed up like Mohawk warriors and tossed a ton of tea into Boston harbor in December of 1773, Marylanders did them one better by throwing two such parties the following year: One in Chestertown in May of 1774 and the other in Annapolis harbor in October of that same year.
In the case of Lexington and Concord, however, Maryland moved a bit faster. By June of 1775, two companies of Maryland riflemen were marching north toward Boston to join the Revolutionary War effort. Thousands more Marylanders would soon join the fray.
Maryland, incidentally, is the only state to have had two of its cities serve as the capital of this nascent nation. When the second Continental Congress fled Philadelphia to escape advancing British troops in December of 1776, it moved to Baltimore and stayed there until February of 1777. Six years later, when the Treaty of Paris officially ended the war in 1784, Congress was based here in Annapolis. And, as every Marylander knows, it was John Hanson of Maryland who was the first president of the United States under the Articles of Confederation in 1781. (That Virginia interloper with the big monument in D.C. didn’t become president under the Constitution until 1789.)
Oddly, despite it’s geographic positioning between Virginia and Pennsylvania, Maryland was largely spared any serious battles during the Revolution.
The Free State was not so lucky in the War of 1812. Havre de Grace, Cedar Point, Bladensburg, St. Leonard’s Creek, the Sassafras River, Washington, D.C. and, of course, Baltimore’s Fort McHenry all saw significant fighting.
The nearby town of St. Michaels did, in today’s parlance, “punk” the Royal Navy rather royally in 1813. The town’s inhabitants had spotted a British flotilla approaching on an August evening and feverishly proceeded to hang lanterns in the woods well outside the town. By the time those ships’ cannons were in range, it was too dark for the Brits to aim by sight, so they fired at the lights. A great number of trees lost their lives, but no one in St. Michaels did. (Fifty years later, Maryland would be the site of the single bloodiest battle in American history when Union and Confederate armies clashed just outside the town of Sharpsburg at a place called Antietam Creek.)
Anyway, that’s my story about how Marylanders responded to the battles of Lexington and Concord back in April of 1775 and I’m sticking with it.
Tom spent the past 35 years writing for newspapers and magazines in the Mid-Atlantic region. Now living in Florida, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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