The Day of Concord and Lexington Author:Allen French WRITING upon a subject on which I have more than once written in the past twenty-five years, it seems wise?lest I should be confronted with the difference between this effort and my former printed statements? to explain certain evident contradictions. The subject has a natural fascination for one living in its environment, and from the many book... more »s upon it one can easily absorb the general outline of the story. Having thus absorbed, it has been easy for me, upon occasion, to write an uncritical narrative of the Day of Concord and Lexington.
But in a period of leisure, combined with a new interest in the subject because of the approaching hundred-andfiftieth anniversary, I have gone for information, no longer to books, but to the documents. Since some of the more important books on the subject were written, new evidence has been found, and during my own search I came across other papers, unutilized by historians hitherto. The result has been the changing of some of my earlier opinions.
In addition, the subject has forced the study of the Nineteenth from a military point of view. I am no soldier myself, yet my slight knowledge of tactics, weapons, and marksmanship have shown me that more is to be said of the fighting in 1775 than has yet been written down.
Still another consideration has encouraged me to offer one more book on this old subject. The modern trend of history-writing is most wholesome in its general result, for the old habit of undimmed admiration of our ancestors is now definitely abandoned. Writing with this new freedom, it has been easily possible to point out errors and blunders on the part of the patriot fighters, and to write of our English adversaries with fairness.
Therefore I have tried to use modern methods of research, with no preconceived theories to sustain, and no prejudices to defend. To learn the facts largely from contemporary documents, to test the traditional and discard the legendary, to show our ancestors as they were and conditions as they met them, is requisite in small episodes no less than in great, in war no less than in peace. Hence this attempt to show, for the first time, how the tactics and weapons of 1775, so different from our own, affected events on the Nineteenth of April. And hence the discarding of long-cherished beliefs as to our opponents.
One more consideration I will venture to offer. The new writing of history appears to treat war as a minor incident in the development of a people, and to stress in its place economic and social conditions. This natural reaction from the old worship of martial heroes, I believe to have gone too far. There is nothing more dramatic than the facts of war; they supply unrivalled human interest. But further, war is in itself an economic and social fact of overwhelming importance, and though its place in history may well be lessened, it can never be relegated to insignificance. There would seem to be, therefore, good reason for offering this monograph on the beginning of a great war.
I wish to express my thanks to the librarians of Concord, Boston, Harvard, and the Massachusetts Military Historical Society, and to the keepers of documents at the Massachusetts Archives, the Congressional Library, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and the New York Public Library. But most I wish to express my indebtedness to the dead-and-gone makers of the great collection in the Preface
Massachusetts Historical Society. Without it, and without the welcome offered the outsider by the officials of the Society, this book would scarcely have been written. I am greatly obliged to Dr. Edward Waldo Emerson for the use of family papers, hitherto unpublished; and I acknowledge, as any writer on this subject must, the help derived from Mr Harold Murdock's recent book. Finally, the help of my wife has been invaluable. No historian writes his book alone, and for the assistance freely given me I am deeply grateful.