On this day, two hundred and thirty-two years ago, a column of British regulars approached Lexington. They had marched all night on a "secret" mission into Massachusetts, their objective the colonial weapons stores at Concord. They were to quietly remove the arms from colonial hands before the colonials knew what had happened. Their secret mission, however, had been made public knowledge thanks to the efforts of Paul Revere and a dozen other riders who had warned the countryside that "the Regulars are coming!" The column marched into Lexington, an overlookable hamlet at a crossroads on the way to Concord, and found the town's militia waiting for them.
You know that much already. This is what you might not know, and the following is unvarnished, documented fact:
A few days before, General Gage had issued orders to the Regulars in Massachusetts to treat surrendering colonists gracefully... excepting if said colonists were John Hancock or Sam Adams, who were to be clapped in irons if found. Hancock and Adams were in hiding... in Lexington.
Paul Revere had galloped from Boston out to Lexington because his spy network had intercepted British battle plans. Most of the Regulars marching in the column, by contrast, did not know what their mission was even as they approached Lexington. Revere worked with other express riders, but he himself headed to Lexington because he knew that Hancock and Adams were staying there, directly in the path of the British battle plans.
Revere alerted Lexington, told Hancock and Adams to get out of town, and rode on to Concord, as well. Then he came back to Lexington. Why? Because he knew Hancock and Adams. When Revere returned, Hancock was oiling his gun and cursing that the Regulars wouldn't run him out of town without a fight. Eventually, they convinced Hancock he was more valuable to the movement alive and active than dead and vindicated. Revere rode back towards Boston, towards the British column.