SSP TRIP TO CONCORD/LEXINGTON
Report by Timothy McDonnell
On October 28, 2016 a group of 19 SSP graduate students, military fellows and faculty traveled to Lexington and Concord MA to learn about the military engagements that took place there in April 1775, marking the beginning of the Revolutionary War.
The ‘Battle’ of Lexington and Concord was a series of small engagements that took place along the road between Boston and Concord MA on April 19, 1775. These engagements pitted a relatively small force of British regular troops against American militia forces that streamed from nearby towns into the battle area in growing numbers throughout the day.
A brief stop at the Minuteman National Park Visitor’s Center provided background for the rest of the trip. An informative video presentation outlined the political and military context leading up to the battle, before providing a detailed timeline of the April 19 engagements.
Several factors contributed to the American rebels’ overall advantage in the fight. American intelligence provided strategic and tactical warning of the British effort to dispatch troops from Boston to locate and capture cannons and other military supplies supposedly hidden in Concord. Every colonial town had a well-organized militia comprised of all men between 16 and 64. Finally, a sophisticated and effective alert system, made famous by ‘Paul Revere’s midnight ride’ denied the British the element of surprise, and permitted the American colonists to marshall a combined force of local militias that outnumbered their opponents.
The second stop on the field trip was at the site where British troops captured Paul Revere between Lexington and Concord on the night of April 18/19. Revere’s capture was not decisive given the redundancies built into the Colonists’ alert system. Moreover, for unknown reasons he was released by the British a few hours after his capture. While the American colonists were highly effective in their use of intelligence, the British decision to release Revere prevented the identification and interrogation of a key figure in the American rebellion.
Finally, the SSP group traveled to the Old North Bridge in Concord. This was the site of the second engagement between American and British forces on April 19. By late morning, news of the earlier fighting at Lexington had spread throughout the region. Following an undisciplined or accidental shot from the British ranks, the small contingent of Americans at the bridge returned fire. This exchange, and the subsequent British retreat, marked the beginning of the long and bloody British march back to Boston.
Throughout the rest of the day the British faced increasingly persistent attacks from small bands of American colonists who fired upon the British column from concealed positions alongside the road. By the time the British arrived back in Charlestown late on April 19, the British had suffered nearly 250 killed and wounded, as compared with 90 American casualties. This marked the beginning of the American revolution.
NEW FEATURE ON SSP WEBSITE!
As a feature on our brand new website, we have included a section named Alumni Profiles. This is an opportunity for us to stay in touch with our alums through a series of frequently asked questions, such as how your time at MIT helped shape your current career achievements. Now featuring Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University, Caitlin Talmadge.
SSP ROUNDTABLE AT US DEPARTMENT OF STATE, DC
On September 29, 2016, SSP faculty members Roger Petersen, Jim Walsh and SSP alum Sameer Lalwani, Deputy Director, South Asia Program at the Stimson Center were invited to give a talk at the Bureau of Counterterrorism at the US Department of State in Washington DC. The visit was facilitated by former SSP military fellow LtCol Eric Thompson, who is currently the Operations Officer, Crisis Response & Preparedness, at the Bureau of Counterterrorism. The two main topics that were discussed were Insurgency, Counterinsurgency and Terrorism; and Nuclear Weapons and Terrorism. The talk was sponsored by the Frankel Global Policy Initiative.