Joanne Rathe / Globe Staff
LEXINGTON -- Under the glow of a full moon, several thousand people gathered along the ropes around Lexington Green early this morning to await the reenactment of the Battle of Lexington.
Arriving with the sunrise, Thaddeus Bowman -- reenactor Chic Daigle -- galloped in on horseback at 5:55 a.m. "Captain! Captain Parker!" he shouted, calling for the captain of the Lexington Minute Men, to warn him that the king's troops were headed their way.
With that, Parker -- retired Lexington businessman William Mix -- emerged from Buckman Tavern and ordered three members of his militia to fire the alarm guns. The soon-to-be outnumbered Minutemen then gathered on the Green, much as they had early in the morning of April 19, 1775.
British Major John Pitcairn ordered the nearly 80 colonists to disburse. "Lay down your arms!" called Pitcairn, portrayed by Paul O'Shaugnessy, with an imposing column of 150 redcoats behind him.
Parker ordered his men to back away.
A shot rang out.
Men on both sides fired, smoke cloaking the battlefield, the scent of sulfur in the air, cartridges on the ground. Eight colonists lay dead; nine more were wounded. All around, spectators captured photos on cellphones and pocket cameras.
That skirmish would be the first in a daylong series of fights involving more than 3,500 colonial militiamen and 1,500 redcoats, up and down a country road, that would leave more British than American casualties and spark the Revolution.
By 6:15, the 236th anniversary reenactment was over, the dead and wounded rising, the spectators scattering to find seats at local pancake breakfasts, to tour historical sites, and to claim perches along the Boston Marathon route.
On the way out, families gathered for photos in front of Buckman Tavern.
"The British are coming!" a group of children said, in lieu of the usual "cheese," as a shutter clicked. "The British are coming!"
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