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They had occupied Boston since 1768 and had been augmented by naval forces and marines to enforce what the colonists called The Intolerable Acts, which had been passed by the British Parliament to punish the Province of Massachusetts Bay for the Boston Tea Party and other acts of defiance.General Thomas Gage was the military governor of Massachusetts and commander-in-chief of the roughly 3,000 British military forces garrisoned in Boston.The colonial assembly responded by forming a Patriot provisional government known as the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and calling for local militias to train for possible hostilities.The Colonial government exercised effective control of the colony outside of British-controlled Boston.He had no control over Massachusetts outside of Boston, however, where implementation of the Acts had increased tensions between the Patriot Whig majority and the pro-British Tory minority.Gage's plan was to avoid conflict by removing military supplies from Whig militias using small, secret, and rapid strikes.Gunfire erupted again between the two sides and continued throughout the day as the regulars marched back towards Boston. The combined force of about 1,700 men marched back to Boston under heavy fire in a tactical withdrawal and eventually reached the safety of Charlestown.
Gage considered himself to be a friend of liberty and attempted to separate his duties as governor of the colony and as general of an occupying force.Edmund Burke described Gage's conflicted relationship with Massachusetts by saying in Parliament, "An Englishman is the unfittest person on Earth to argue another Englishman into slavery." The colonists had been forming militias since the very beginnings of Colonial settlement for the purpose of defense against Indian attacks.These forces also saw action in the French and Indian War between 17 when they fought alongside British regulars.Gage effectively dissolved the provincial government under the terms of the Massachusetts Government Act, and these existing connections were employed by the colonists under the Massachusetts Provincial Congress for the purpose of resistance to the military threat from Britain. find that a part of your Majesty' s subjects, in the Province of the Massachusetts Bay, have proceeded so far to resist the authority of the supreme Legislature, that a rebellion at this time actually exists within the said Province; and we see, with the utmost concern, that they have been countenanced and encouraged by unlawful combinations and engagements entered into by your Majesty's subjects in several of the other Colonies, to the injury and oppression of many of their innocent fellow-subjects, resident within the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the rest of your Majesty' s Dominions .... laid before us; and whenever any of the Colonies shall make a proper application to us, we shall be ready to afford them every just and reasonable indulgence. it is our fixed resolution, at the hazard of our lives and properties, to stand by your Majesty against all rebellious attempts in the maintenance of the just rights of your Majesty, and the two Houses of Parliament.On April 14, 1775, Gage received instructions from Secretary of State William Legge, Earl of Dartmouth, to disarm the rebels and to imprison the rebellion's leaders, but Dartmouth gave Gage considerable discretion in his commands.
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