APRIL 19th 1775 At about 5 a.m., 700 British troops, on a mission to capture Patriot leaders and seize a Patriot arsenal, march into Lexington to find 77 armed minutemen under Captain John Parker waiting for them on the town’s common green. British Major John Pitcairn ordered the outnumbered Patriots to disperse, and after a moment’s hesitation the Americans began to drift off the green. Suddenly, a shot was fired from an undetermined gun, and a cloud of musket smoke soon covered the green. When the brief Battle of Lexington ended, eight Americans lay dead or dying and 10 others were wounded. Only one British soldier was injured, but the American Revolution had begun. By 1775, tensions between the American colonies and the British government approached the breaking point, especially in Massachusetts, where Patriot leaders formed a shadow revolutionary government and trained militias to prepare for armed conflict with the British troops occupying Boston. In the spring of 1775, General Thomas Gage, the British governor of Massachusetts, received instructions from England to seize all stores of weapons and gunpowder accessible to the American insurgents. On April 18, he ordered British troops to march against the Patriot arsenal at Concord and capture Patriot leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock, known to be hiding at Lexington. The Boston Patriots had been preparing for such a military action by the British for some time, and upon learning of the British plan, Patriots Paul Revere and William Dawes were ordered to set out to rouse the militiamen and warn Adams and Hancock. When the British troops arrived at Lexington, Adams, Hancock, and Revere had already fled to Philadelphia, and a group of militiamen were waiting. The Patriots were routed within minutes, but warfare had begun, leading to calls to arms across the Massachusetts countryside. When the British troops reached Concord at about 7 a.m., they found themselves encircled by hundreds of armed Patriots. They managed to destroy the military supplies the Americans had collected but were soon advanced against by a gang of minutemen, who inflicted numerous casualties. Lieutenant Colonel Frances Smith, the overall commander of the British force, ordered his men to return to Boston without directly engaging the Americans. As the British retraced their 16-mile journey, their lines were constantly beset by Patriot marksmen firing at them Indian-style from behind trees, rocks, and stone walls. At Lexington, Captain Parker’s militia had its revenge, killing several British soldiers as the Red Coats hastily marched through his town. By the time the British finally reached the safety of Boston, nearly 300 British soldiers had been killed, wounded, or were missing in action. The Patriots suffered fewer than 100 casualties. The battles of Lexington and Concord were the first battles of the American Revolution, a conflict that would escalate from a colonial uprising into a world war that, seven years later, would give birth to the independent United States of America. 1861 First blood in the Civil War On April 19, 1861, the first blood of the American Civil War is shed when a secessionist mob in Baltimore attacks Massachusetts troops bound for Washington, D.C. Four soldiers and 12 rioters were killed. One week earlier, on April 12, the Civil War began when Confederate shore batteries opened fire on Union-held Fort Sumter in South Carolina’s Charleston Bay. During a 34-hour period, 50 Confederate guns and mortars launched more than 4,000 rounds at the poorly supplied fort. The fort’s garrison returned fire, but lacking men, ammunition, and food, it was forced to surrender on April 13. There were no casualties in the fighting, but one federal soldier was killed the next day when a store of gunpowder was accidentally ignited during the firing of the final surrender salute. Two other federal soldiers were wounded, one mortally. On April 15, President Abraham Lincoln issued a public proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteer soldiers to help put down the Southern “insurrection.” Northern states responded enthusiastically to the call, and within days the 6th Massachusetts Regiment was en route to Washington. On April 19, the troops arrived in Baltimore, Maryland, by train, disembarked, and boarded horse-drawn cars that were to take them across the city to where the rail line picked up again. Secessionist sympathy was strong in Maryland, a border state where slavery was legal, and an angry mob of secessionists gathered to confront the Yankee troops. Hoping to prevent the regiment from reaching the railroad station, and thus Washington, the mob blocked the carriages, and the troops were forced to continue on foot. The mob followed close behind and then, joined by other rioters, surrounded the regiment. Jeering turned to brick and stone throwing, and several federal troops responded by firing into the crowd. In the ensuing mayhem, the troops fought their way to the train station, taking and inflicting more casualties. At the terminal, the infantrymen were aided by Baltimore police, who held the crowd back and allowed them to board their train and escape. Much of their equipment was left behind. Four soldiers and 12 rioters were killed in what is generally regarded as the first bloodshed of the Civil War. Maryland officials demanded that no more federal troops be sent through the state, and secessionists destroyed rail bridges and telegraph lines to Washington to hinder the federal war effort. In May, Union troops occupied Baltimore, and martial law was declared. The federal occupation of Baltimore, and of other strategic points in Maryland, continued throughout the war. Because western Marylanders and workingmen supported the Union, and because federal authorities often jailed secessionist politicians, Maryland never voted for secession. Slavery was abolished in Maryland in 1864, the year before the Civil War’s end. Eventually, more than 50,000 Marylanders fought for the Union while about 22,000 volunteered for the Confederacy. 1809 Thomas Jefferson sells servant to newly elected President James Madison On this day in 1809, former President Thomas Jefferson writes up a contract for the sale of an indentured servant named John Freeman to newly sworn-in President James Madison. Slavery and indentured servitude were major components of the early American economy. Slaves performed most of the manual and domestic labor on the large plantations owned by several presidents and their colonial ancestors, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Andrew Jackson. While slaves were primarily African and Native Americans, indentured servants in the late 1600s to early 1700s were frequently impoverished white men of English descent who resorted to selling themselves into servitude in exchange for room and board, and sometimes wages. Relatively few African Americans in late 18th-century America became indentured servants. By the time of the American Revolution, the practice of indentured servitude had declined in favor of using “cheaper” African slaves. It is believed that Freeman was an African-American craftsman who had sold himself to Jefferson as an indentured servant with an agreement to serve a total of 132 months; he may have been a carpenter or ironworker. After Freeman completed 76.5 months of work, Jefferson “sold” Freeman to Madison who, at the time, was looking for skilled artisans to help build an extension on his plantation house. Madison paid Jefferson an unknown amount, which would have been calculated to equal Freeman’s remaining time in service. (Jefferson had originally bought Freeman’s services for $400.) The original hand-written contract for John Freeman’s sale is now housed at the Library of Congress. In the exhibit, it is noted with irony that America’s preeminent revolutionary, Thomas Jefferson, wrote the agreement on the anniversary of the Battle of Lexington, the event that launched the war to end America’s servitude to England.