Embattled Farmers and the Shot Heard Round the World: The Battles of Lexington and Concord
- Grade Level:
- Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
- Literacy and Language Arts,Social Studies
- Lesson Duration:
- 90 Minutes
- Common Core Standards:
- 6-8.RH.2, 6-8.RH.3, 6-8.RH.4, 6-8.RH.5, 6-8.RH.6, 6-8.RH.7, 6-8.RH.8, 6-8.RH.9, 6-8.RH.10, 9-10.RH.1, 9-10.RH.2, 9-10.RH.3, 9-10.RH.4, 9-10.RH.5, 9-10.RH.6, 9-10.RH.7, 9-10.RH.8, 9-10.RH.9, 9-10.RH.10
- Additional Standards:
- US History Era Era 3 Standard 1A: The student understands the causes of the American Revolution.
Curriculum Standards for Social Studies from the National Council for the Social Studies
- Thinking Skills:
- Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.
How have Americans remembered and memorialized the Battles of Lexington and Concord?
1. To describe how the events in Massachusetts in early 1775 led to hostilities between England and the colonies;
2. To explain the significance and unintended consequences of the Battles of Lexington and Concord;
3. To explain how myth, history, and memorialization are related and how they create or shape public memory;
4. To identify a person in the students’ own community who has made an important contribution and design a memorial to that individuals place and memory.
Time Period: Colonial/Revolutionary
Topics: The lesson could be used in units on the Revolutionary War or in courses on conflict resolution.
Their flags to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.”1
A century before, a group of express riders, including Paul Revere, rode across the Middlesex County countryside. They did not shout “The British are coming! The British are coming!” as myth would have us believe. Rather, the riders warned that the King’s troops were on the march, arousing the embattled farmers praised by Emerson. At that time the riders and farmer alike were still loyal subjects to England’s King George the III. Independence was the furthest thing from their minds. Instead, these minute men and members of local Massachusetts militia assembled to defend their rights, as they perceived them under English law.
British General Thomas Gage had ordered 700 soldiers to march in what he thought was a clandestine operation. His objective was to destroy the cache of colonial weapons located in the town of Concord. Within twenty-four hours, more than 70 of the King’s finest troops lay dead and many more wounded. Forty-nine provincials died, as well. One of history’s greatest unintended consequences proved to be the nascent seed that launched a revolution, forever changing the world.
Visitors can stroll across Concord’s Old North Bridge. They can pass the graves of two English soldiers killed in the exchange of gunfire across the Concord River, examine French’s sculpture, and walk along the shade lined “battle road.” Today, in this tranquil setting, how can one help but ponder how a nation could rise from the ashes of an event that was never supposed to happen?
1Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Early Poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson. New York, Boston, Thomas Y. Crowell & Company: 1899.
In December 1773, in an era of increasing tensions between England and the American colonies, American patriots in Boston staged the Boston Tea Party. Massachusetts was at the forefront of colonial agitation and resistance and in response to the Tea Party, England’s Parliament, with the support of King George III, decided to punish Boston and Massachusetts by passing the Coercive Acts (known as the Intolerable Acts in the colonies). These acts shut down the port of Boston and suspended the colonial assembly. To show how serious the government was, England sent large numbers of British troops to be garrisoned in Boston to enforce the law as the Royal Navy ringed the port with their warships to keep Boston harbor closed. These actions cut off trade, crippled the economy, and put colonists out of work. British soldiers and colonists, now living in close proximity, frequently brawled in the streets and in the taverns. People who had never paid much attention to political affairs now became overt or secret supporters of one side or the other. Those who resisted British authority were known as “Patriots” or “Whigs” while those who supported the Crown and Parliament’s actions were known as “Loyalists” or “Tories.” Most Patriots in 1775 were not interested in independence, but rather were seeking to be treated as British subjects in England were. In 1774, Massachusetts and the other colonies sent representatives to meet in Philadelphia and discuss how to resolve these problems. This meeting became known as the First Continental Congress. The following year, as events in Massachusetts began to be felt in the other twelve colonies, a Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia to continue to seek ways in which to restore harmonious relations between England and all its colonies.
In late summer, 1774, General Thomas Gage, as Royal Governor of Massachusetts, suspended the elected colonial legislature. In defiance of his order, the delegates decided to form the First Massachusetts Provincial Congress. In October of 1774, the Provincial Congress, directed the establishment of the minute companies, from existing militia, “...to enlist one quarter of ye least of the number of the respective companies, and form them into companies of fifty privates at the least who shall equip and hold themselves in readiness on the shortest notice…” Biased patriot-centered broadsides and newspaper reports fueled and provoked hostility. Tensions ran high by the spring of 1775 as Royal Governor of Massachusetts, General Thomas Gage, was forced to deal with an ever growing tide of resistance.
Getting Started Prompt
Map: Orients the students and encourages them to think about how place affects culture and society
Readings: Primary and secondary source readings provide content and spark critical analysis.
Visual Evidence: Students critique and analyze visual evidence to tackle questions and support their own theories about the subject.
Optional post-lesson activities: If time allows, these will deepen your students' engagement with the topics and themes introduced in the lesson, and to help them develop essential skills.
The American Battlefield Protection Program
The National Park Service's American Battlefield Protection Program provides detailed battle summaries of the Revolutionary War on its web site.
Boston National Historical Park
Boston National Historical Park is a unit of the National Park System. The park's web page provides details on the park and visitation information. Included on the site is a Virtual Visitor Center that guides you through the Freedom Trail, Charlestown Navy Yard, and other sites that demonstrate Boston's role in our nation's history.
Library of Congress
Search the the Library of Congress digital collections for further information about the revolutionary time period. The following links are of special interest: Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention: 1774-1789, Words and Deeds in American History, the George Washington Papers, Map Collections: 1544-1999, and An American Time Capsule.
Liberty! The American Revolution
Liberty! is the story of the American Revolution two and a half decades of debate, rebellion, war, and peace. It begins after the French and Indian War and ends with the creation of the U.S. Constitution. Liberty! is an online companion to the PBS documentary, Liberty! The American Revolution.
National Archives and Records Administration
The National Archives and Records Administration offers a wealth of documents related to the Revolutionary War and the creation of the United States of America in their online exhibit hall. Visit "American Originals" to view documents such as George Washington's account of expenses while Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. Also visit "The Charters of Freedom" to see the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
National Park Service Travel Itinerary
The National Park Service's Discover Our Shared Heritage online travel itinerary, "Massachusetts Conservation ," provides information on National Register sites that relate to this lesson plan: Concord Monument Square and the Ralph Waldo Emerson house.