Wednesday, April 19, 1775:
At dawn, fighting breaks out between British regulars and Massachusetts militiamen at Lexington and Concord. Before the day is out, word rapidly spreads throughout the countryside, and into neighboring colonies, that war has begun. That night an ad hoc army of militia begins assembling around the British base in Boston.
Thursday, April 20:
Initial reports disseminating throughout New England are lurid and frightening. Rhode Islander Ezra Stiles learns that the regulars “are now actually engaged in butchering and destroying our brethren there in the most inhuman manner.” He records in his diary that “upon receipt of this news the town [Newport] was thrown into alarm and all went into preparation.” The British frigate Rose is in the harbor, and a rumor circulates that “if any march from hence” the captain “will fire upon the town and lay it in ashes.”
In Massachusetts, the call goes out to reconvene the Provincial Congress. Meanwhile, Joseph Warren, writing on behalf of the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, writes Governor Jonathan Trumbull of Connecticut for assistance. In it, he lays out Massachusetts' account of the battle, in which (crucially from a public relations standpoint), British regulars started the battle:
“On Wednesday, the 19th instant, early in the morning, a detachment of General Gage' s army marched into the country to Lexington, about thirteen miles from Boston, where they met with a small party of minute-men exercising, who had no intention of doing any injury to the regulars. But they fired upon our men without any provocation, killed eight of them the first onset, then marched forward to Concord, where they destroyed the magazines and stores for a considerable time. Our people, however, mustered as soon as possible, and repulsed the troops, pursuing them quite down to Charlestown until they reached a place called Bunker's Hill, although they received a very large reinforcement at Lexington, from General Gage. As the troops have now commenced hostilities, we think it our duty to exert our utmost strength to save our country from absolute slavery. We pray your Honours would afford us all the assistance in your power, and shall be glad that our brethren who come to our aid may be supplied with military stores and provisions, as we have none of either more than is absolutely necessary for ourselves. We pray God to direct you to such measures as shall tend to the salvation of our common liberties.”
Artemas Ward takes command of the ad hoc army and calls the first council of war. Among the pressing concerns are the need to guard the roads to Boston, throw up earthworks, obtain gunpowder, and arrange for food and other supplies to reach the thousands of militia now on hand. According to one estimate, 7,000 men are in the Cambridge area, 4,000 are at Roxbury, and 4,000 are near Charlestown.
Friday, April 21:
The Massachusetts Committee of Safety takes up the need for artillery to support its forces. The committee sends for Colonel Richard Gridley, who will be appointed chief engineer for the province, and later, head of its regiment of artillery. They also send orders for "one field-piece with every implement necessary for action," and to have others brought into a "thorough state of preparation."
Connecticut is formulating a response to the outbreak a fighting. A problem is that some of the news that is circulating is unreliable and it's unclear where the Massachusetts authorities can be found. The governor's son is sent in search of John Hancock. He bears a message from the Connecticut Committee of Correspondence stating, “We have many reports of what is doing with you, the particulars we cannot yet get with precision. The ardour of our people is such that they can' t be kept back. The colonels are to forward part of the best men and most ready, as fast as possible, the remainder to be ready at a moment's warning.”
Saturday, April 22:
In Boston, Lieutenant-General Thomas Gage completes his official report on the action at Lexington and Concord. He and his staff are ill-equipped to win the public relations battle now underway with the various American legislatures and committees of safety or correspondence.
The Massachusetts Provincial Congress reconvenes and promptly establishes a committee to take depositions “from which a full account of the transactions of the troops, under general Gage, in their route to and from Concord, etc., on Wednesday last, may be collected, to be sent to England, by the first ship from Salem.” Although it will take some time to gather this information, Massachusetts will succeed in getting its account of the battle of Lexington and Concord published first in England. As for the other colonies, Massachusetts' version of events will likewise reach the public more quickly and circulate more broadly.
In Connecticut, Benedict Arnold, who is captain of the 2nd company of the Governor's Foot Guard, begins marching his men to Boston. According to Reverend William Gordon, an early historian of the war, “No sooner did the Lexington news reach him, that he called his company together, and asked them whether they would march off with him the next morning for the neighbourhood of Boston, distant 150 miles.—They agreed; and at the proper time paraded before the tavern where a committee was sitting. He applied to the gentlemen for powder and ball; they demurred supplying him, as he was not duly authorized. The captain, in haste to fly to the help of his suffering brethren, proposed procuring the supply by force if needful, to which the volunteers consented. He then sent for the committee, and informed them what he was determined on. Colonel [David] Wooster came out, and would have persuaded him to wait till he had received proper orders; to which captain Arnold answered, "None but God Almighty shall prevent my marching." The committee perceiving his fixed resolution, supplied him; and he marched off instantly...”