Battles of Lexington and Concord

Battles of Lexington and Concord

Overview
The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

. They were fought on April 19, 1775, in Middlesex County
Middlesex County, Massachusetts
-National protected areas:* Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge* Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge* Longfellow National Historic Site* Lowell National Historical Park* Minute Man National Historical Park* Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge...

, Province of Massachusetts Bay
Province of Massachusetts Bay
The Province of Massachusetts Bay was a crown colony in North America. It was chartered on October 7, 1691 by William and Mary, the joint monarchs of the kingdoms of England and Scotland...

, within the towns of Lexington
Lexington, Massachusetts
Lexington is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 31,399 at the 2010 census. This town is famous for being the site of the first shot of the American Revolution, in the Battle of Lexington on April 19, 1775.- History :...

, Concord
Concord, Massachusetts
Concord is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the town population was 17,668. Although a small town, Concord is noted for its leading roles in American history and literature.-History:...

, Lincoln
Lincoln, Massachusetts
Lincoln is a town in the historic area of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 6,362 at the 2010 census, including residents of Hanscom Air Force Base that live within town limits...

, Menotomy (present-day Arlington)
Arlington, Massachusetts
Arlington is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, six miles northwest of Boston. The population was 42,844 at the 2010 census.-History:...

, and Cambridge
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Greater Boston area. It was named in honor of the University of Cambridge in England, an important center of the Puritan theology embraced by the town's founders. Cambridge is home to two of the world's most prominent...

, near Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

. The battles marked the outbreak of open armed conflict
War
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

 between the Kingdom of Great Britain
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

 and its thirteen colonies
Thirteen Colonies
The Thirteen Colonies were English and later British colonies established on the Atlantic coast of North America between 1607 and 1733. They declared their independence in the American Revolution and formed the United States of America...

 in the mainland of British North America
British North America
British North America is a historical term. It consisted of the colonies and territories of the British Empire in continental North America after the end of the American Revolutionary War and the recognition of American independence in 1783.At the start of the Revolutionary War in 1775 the British...

.

About 700 British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 regulars
Regular army
A regular army consists of the permanent force of a country's army that is maintained under arms during peacetime.Countries that use the term include:*Australian Army*British Army*Canadian Forces, specifically "Regular Force"*Egyptian army*Indian Army...

, under Lieutenant Colonel
Lieutenant colonel
Lieutenant colonel is a rank of commissioned officer in the armies and most marine forces and some air forces of the world, typically ranking above a major and below a colonel. The rank of lieutenant colonel is often shortened to simply "colonel" in conversation and in unofficial correspondence...

 Francis Smith
Francis Smith (British officer)
Major-General Francis Smith was the British commander during most of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts on April 19, 1775...

, were given secret orders to capture and destroy military supplies that were reportedly stored by the Massachusetts militia
Militia
The term militia is commonly used today to refer to a military force composed of ordinary citizens to provide defense, emergency law enforcement, or paramilitary service, in times of emergency without being paid a regular salary or committed to a fixed term of service. It is a polyseme with...

 at Concord.
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Encyclopedia
The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

. They were fought on April 19, 1775, in Middlesex County
Middlesex County, Massachusetts
-National protected areas:* Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge* Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge* Longfellow National Historic Site* Lowell National Historical Park* Minute Man National Historical Park* Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge...

, Province of Massachusetts Bay
Province of Massachusetts Bay
The Province of Massachusetts Bay was a crown colony in North America. It was chartered on October 7, 1691 by William and Mary, the joint monarchs of the kingdoms of England and Scotland...

, within the towns of Lexington
Lexington, Massachusetts
Lexington is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 31,399 at the 2010 census. This town is famous for being the site of the first shot of the American Revolution, in the Battle of Lexington on April 19, 1775.- History :...

, Concord
Concord, Massachusetts
Concord is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the town population was 17,668. Although a small town, Concord is noted for its leading roles in American history and literature.-History:...

, Lincoln
Lincoln, Massachusetts
Lincoln is a town in the historic area of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 6,362 at the 2010 census, including residents of Hanscom Air Force Base that live within town limits...

, Menotomy (present-day Arlington)
Arlington, Massachusetts
Arlington is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, six miles northwest of Boston. The population was 42,844 at the 2010 census.-History:...

, and Cambridge
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Greater Boston area. It was named in honor of the University of Cambridge in England, an important center of the Puritan theology embraced by the town's founders. Cambridge is home to two of the world's most prominent...

, near Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

. The battles marked the outbreak of open armed conflict
War
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

 between the Kingdom of Great Britain
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

 and its thirteen colonies
Thirteen Colonies
The Thirteen Colonies were English and later British colonies established on the Atlantic coast of North America between 1607 and 1733. They declared their independence in the American Revolution and formed the United States of America...

 in the mainland of British North America
British North America
British North America is a historical term. It consisted of the colonies and territories of the British Empire in continental North America after the end of the American Revolutionary War and the recognition of American independence in 1783.At the start of the Revolutionary War in 1775 the British...

.

About 700 British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 regulars
Regular army
A regular army consists of the permanent force of a country's army that is maintained under arms during peacetime.Countries that use the term include:*Australian Army*British Army*Canadian Forces, specifically "Regular Force"*Egyptian army*Indian Army...

, under Lieutenant Colonel
Lieutenant colonel
Lieutenant colonel is a rank of commissioned officer in the armies and most marine forces and some air forces of the world, typically ranking above a major and below a colonel. The rank of lieutenant colonel is often shortened to simply "colonel" in conversation and in unofficial correspondence...

 Francis Smith
Francis Smith (British officer)
Major-General Francis Smith was the British commander during most of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts on April 19, 1775...

, were given secret orders to capture and destroy military supplies that were reportedly stored by the Massachusetts militia
Militia
The term militia is commonly used today to refer to a military force composed of ordinary citizens to provide defense, emergency law enforcement, or paramilitary service, in times of emergency without being paid a regular salary or committed to a fixed term of service. It is a polyseme with...

 at Concord. Through effective intelligence gathering, Patriot
Patriot (American Revolution)
Patriots is a name often used to describe the colonists of the British Thirteen United Colonies who rebelled against British control during the American Revolution. It was their leading figures who, in July 1776, declared the United States of America an independent nation...

 colonials had received word weeks before the expedition that their supplies might be at risk and had moved most of them to other locations. They also received details about British plans on the night before the battle and were able to rapidly notify the area militias of the enemy movement.

The first shots were fired just as the sun was rising at Lexington. The militia were outnumbered and fell back, and the regulars proceeded on to Concord, where they searched for the supplies. At the North Bridge
Old North Bridge, Concord, Massachusetts
The North Bridge, often colloquially called the Old North Bridge, across the Concord River in Concord, Massachusetts, is a historical site in the Battle of Concord, the first day of battle in the Revolutionary War....

 in Concord, approximately 500 militiamen fought and defeated three companies of the King's troops. The outnumbered regulars fell back from the minutemen after a pitched battle
Pitched battle
A pitched battle is a battle where both sides choose to fight at a chosen location and time and where either side has the option to disengage either before the battle starts, or shortly after the first armed exchanges....

 in open territory.

More militiamen arrived soon thereafter and inflicted heavy damage on the regulars as they marched back towards Boston. Upon returning to Lexington, Smith's expedition was rescued by reinforcements under Brigadier General
Brigadier General
Brigadier general is a senior rank in the armed forces. It is the lowest ranking general officer in some countries, usually sitting between the ranks of colonel and major general. When appointed to a field command, a brigadier general is typically in command of a brigade consisting of around 4,000...

 Hugh Percy
Hugh Percy, 2nd Duke of Northumberland
Lieutenant-General Hugh Percy, 2nd Duke of Northumberland, FRS was an officer in the British army and later a British peer...

. The combined force, now of about 1,700 men, marched back to Boston under heavy fire in a tactical withdrawal
Withdrawal (military)
A withdrawal is a type of military operation, generally meaning retreating forces back while maintaining contact with the enemy. A withdrawal may be undertaken as part of a general retreat, to consolidate forces, to occupy ground that is more easily defended, or to lead the enemy into an ambush...

 and eventually reached the safety of Charlestown
Charlestown, Massachusetts
Charlestown is a neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, United States, and is located on a peninsula north of downtown Boston. Charlestown was originally a separate town and the first capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony; it became a city in 1847 and was annexed by Boston on January 5, 1874...

. The accumulated militias blockaded the narrow land accesses to Charlestown and Boston, starting the Siege of Boston
Siege of Boston
The Siege of Boston was the opening phase of the American Revolutionary War, in which New England militiamen—who later became part of the Continental Army—surrounded the town of Boston, Massachusetts, to prevent movement by the British Army garrisoned within...

.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century...

, in his "Concord Hymn
Concord Hymn
"Concord Hymn" is an 1837 poem by American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson. It was written for a memorial to the Battles of Lexington and Concord.-Background:...

", described the first shot fired by the Patriots at the North Bridge as the "shot heard 'round the world."

Background



The British
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 Army's infantry, nicknamed "redcoats
Red coat (British army)
Red coat or Redcoat is a historical term used to refer to soldiers of the British Army because of the red uniforms formerly worn by the majority of regiments. From the late 17th century to the early 20th century, the uniform of most British soldiers, , included a madder red coat or coatee...

" and sometimes "devils" by the colonists, had occupied
Military occupation
Military occupation occurs when the control and authority over a territory passes to a hostile army. The territory then becomes occupied territory.-Military occupation and the laws of war:...

 Boston since 1768 and had been augmented by naval
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 forces and marines
Royal Marines
The Corps of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, commonly just referred to as the Royal Marines , are the marine corps and amphibious infantry of the United Kingdom and, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, form the Naval Service...

 to enforce the Intolerable Acts
Intolerable Acts
The Intolerable Acts or the Coercive Acts are names used to describe a series of laws passed by the British Parliament in 1774 relating to Britain's colonies in North America...

, which had been passed by the British Parliament
Parliament of Great Britain
The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union by both the Parliament of England and Parliament of Scotland...

 to punish the Province of Massachusetts Bay
Province of Massachusetts Bay
The Province of Massachusetts Bay was a crown colony in North America. It was chartered on October 7, 1691 by William and Mary, the joint monarchs of the kingdoms of England and Scotland...

 for the Boston Tea Party
Boston Tea Party
The Boston Tea Party was a direct action by colonists in Boston, a town in the British colony of Massachusetts, against the British government and the monopolistic East India Company that controlled all the tea imported into the colonies...

 and other acts of protest. General Thomas Gage
Thomas Gage
Thomas Gage was a British general, best known for his many years of service in North America, including his role as military commander in the early days of the American War of Independence....

, the military governor of Massachusetts
Governor of Massachusetts
The Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the executive magistrate of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, United States. The current governor is Democrat Deval Patrick.-Constitutional role:...

 and commander-in-chief of the roughly 3,000 British military forces garrison
Garrison
Garrison is the collective term for a body of troops stationed in a particular location, originally to guard it, but now often simply using it as a home base....

ed in Boston, had no control over Massachusetts outside of Boston, where implementation of the Acts had increased tensions between the Patriot Whig
Patriot (American Revolution)
Patriots is a name often used to describe the colonists of the British Thirteen United Colonies who rebelled against British control during the American Revolution. It was their leading figures who, in July 1776, declared the United States of America an independent nation...

 majority and the Tory
Loyalist (American Revolution)
Loyalists were American colonists who remained loyal to the Kingdom of Great Britain during the American Revolutionary War. At the time they were often called Tories, Royalists, or King's Men. They were opposed by the Patriots, those who supported the revolution...

 minority. Gage's plan was to avoid conflict by removing military supplies from the Whig militias using small, secret and rapid strikes. This struggle for supplies led to one British success and then to several Patriot successes in a series of nearly bloodless conflicts known as the Powder Alarm
Powder Alarm
The Powder Alarm was a massive popular reaction to the removal of gunpowder from a magazine by British soldiers under orders from General Thomas Gage, royal governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, on September 1, 1774...

s. 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
Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke PC was an Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher who, after moving to England, served for many years in the House of Commons of Great Britain as a member of the Whig party....

 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 of various sorts since the 17th century, at first primarily for defense against local native
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 attacks. These forces were also mustered
Muster (military)
The term muster designates the process or event for the of accounting for members in a military unit. Within the United States Army Reserve, it is an annual event used for screening purposes.-Historical:...

 to action in the French and Indian War
French and Indian War
The French and Indian War is the common American name for the war between Great Britain and France in North America from 1754 to 1763. In 1756, the war erupted into the world-wide conflict known as the Seven Years' War and thus came to be regarded as the North American theater of that war...

 in the 1750s and 1760s. They were generally local militias, nominally under the jurisdiction of the provincial government. When the political situation began to deteriorate, in particular when Gage effectively dissolved the Provincial government under the terms of the Massachusetts Government Act
Massachusetts Government Act
The Massachusetts Government Act was passed by the Parliament of Great Britain and became a law on May 20, 1774. The act is one of the Intolerable Acts , designed to suppress dissent and restore order in the Province of Massachusetts Bay...

, these existing connections were employed by the colonists under the Massachusetts Provincial Congress
Massachusetts Provincial Congress
The Massachusetts Provincial Congress was a provisional government created in the Province of Massachusetts Bay early in the American Revolution....

 for the purpose of resistance to the perceived military threat.

British preparations



On April 14, 1775, Gage received instructions from Secretary of State
Secretary of State (United Kingdom)
In the United Kingdom, a Secretary of State is a Cabinet Minister in charge of a Government Department ....

 William Legge, Earl of Dartmouth
William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth
William Legge 2nd Earl of Dartmouth PC, FRS , styled as Viscount Lewisham from 1732 to 1750, was a British statesman who is most remembered for his part in the government before and during the American Revolution....

, to disarm the rebels, who were known to have hidden weapons in Concord, among other locations, and to imprison the rebellion's leaders, especially Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams was an American statesman, political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. As a politician in colonial Massachusetts, Adams was a leader of the movement that became the American Revolution, and was one of the architects of the principles of American...

 and John Hancock
John Hancock
John Hancock was a merchant, statesman, and prominent Patriot of the American Revolution. He served as president of the Second Continental Congress and was the first and third Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts...

. Dartmouth gave Gage considerable discretion in his commands.

On the morning of April 18, Gage ordered a mounted patrol of about 20 men under the command of Major
Major
Major is a rank of commissioned officer, with corresponding ranks existing in almost every military in the world.When used unhyphenated, in conjunction with no other indicator of rank, the term refers to the rank just senior to that of an Army captain and just below the rank of lieutenant colonel. ...

 Mitchell of the 5th Regiment of Foot
Royal Northumberland Fusiliers
The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers was an infantry regiment of the British Army. Originally raised in 1674, the regiment was amalgamated with three other fusilier regiments in 1968 to form the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.-Origins:...

 into the surrounding country to intercept messengers who might be out on horseback. This patrol behaved differently from patrols sent out from Boston in the past, staying out after dark and asking travelers about the location of Adams and Hancock. This had the unintended effect of alarming many residents and increasing their preparedness. The Lexington militia in particular began to muster early that evening, hours before receiving any word from Boston. A well known story alleges that after nightfall one farmer, Josiah Nelson, mistook the British patrol for the colonists and asked them, "Have you heard anything about when the regulars are coming out?", upon which he was slashed on his scalp with a sword. However, the story of this incident was not published until over a century later, which suggests that it may be little more than a family myth.

Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith received orders from Gage on the afternoon of April 18 with instructions that he was not to read them until his troops were underway. He was to proceed from Boston "with utmost expedition and secrecy to Concord, where you will seize and destroy... all Military stores... But you will take care that the soldiers do not plunder the inhabitants or hurt private property." Gage used his discretion and did not issue written orders for the arrest of rebel leaders, as he feared doing so might spark an uprising.

American preparations



The rebellion's ringleaders—with the exception of Paul Revere
Paul Revere
Paul Revere was an American silversmith and a patriot in the American Revolution. He is most famous for alerting Colonial militia of approaching British forces before the battles of Lexington and Concord, as dramatized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, Paul Revere's Ride...

 and Joseph Warren
Joseph Warren
Dr. Joseph Warren was an American doctor who played a leading role in American Patriot organizations in Boston in early days of the American Revolution, eventually serving as president of the revolutionary Massachusetts Provincial Congress...

—had all left Boston by April 8. They had received word of Dartmouth's secret instructions to General Gage from sources in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 well before they reached Gage himself. Adams and Hancock had fled Boston to the home
Hancock-Clarke House
The Hancock-Clarke House is a historic American Revolutionary War site on Hancock Street in Lexington, Massachusetts. It played a prominent role in the Battle of Lexington and Concord as both John Hancock and Samuel Adams, leaders of the colonials, were staying in the house before the battle. The...

 of one of Hancock's relatives in Lexington where they thought they would be safe from the immediate threat of arrest.

The Massachusetts militias had indeed been gathering a stock of weapons, powder, and supplies at Concord, as well as an even greater amount much further west in Worcester
Worcester, Massachusetts
Worcester is a city and the county seat of Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. Named after Worcester, England, as of the 2010 Census the city's population is 181,045, making it the second largest city in New England after Boston....

, but word reached the rebel leaders that British officers had been observed examining the roads to Concord. On April 8, Paul Revere rode to Concord to warn the inhabitants that the British appeared to be planning an expedition. The townspeople decided to remove the stores and distribute them among other towns nearby.

The colonists were also aware of the upcoming mission on April 19, despite it having been hidden from all the British rank and file and even from all the officers on the mission. There is reasonable speculation, although not proven, that the confidential source of this intelligence was Margaret Gage, General Gage's New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

-born wife, who had sympathies with the Colonial cause and a friendly relationship with Warren.

Between 9 and 10 pm on the night of April 18, 1775, Joseph Warren told William Dawes
William Dawes
William Dawes, Jr. was one of several men and a woman who alerted colonial minutemen of the approach of British army troops prior to the Battle of Lexington and Concord at the outset of the American Revolution....

 and Paul Revere
Paul Revere
Paul Revere was an American silversmith and a patriot in the American Revolution. He is most famous for alerting Colonial militia of approaching British forces before the battles of Lexington and Concord, as dramatized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, Paul Revere's Ride...

 that the King's troops were about to embark in boats from Boston bound for Cambridge and the road to Lexington and Concord. Warren's intelligence suggested that the most likely objectives of the regulars' movements later that night would be the capture of Adams and Hancock. They did not worry about the possibility of regulars marching to Concord, since the supplies at Concord were safe, but they did think their leaders in Lexington were unaware of the potential danger that night. Revere and Dawes were sent out to warn them and to alert colonial militias in nearby towns.

Militia forces


Dawes covered the southern land route by horseback across Boston Neck
Boston Neck
The Boston Neck or Roxbury Neck was an isthmus, a narrow strip of land connecting the then-peninsular city of Boston to the mainland city of Roxbury . The surrounding area was gradually filled in as the city of Boston expanded in population. -History:The Boston Neck was originally about wide at...

 and over the Great Bridge
Great Bridge (Cambridge)
The Great Bridge over the Charles River connected Cambridge, Massachusetts, to what is now known as Allston, Boston, Massachusetts. The Great Bridge was built in 1660-1662 at what was then called Brighton Street, and was the first bridge to span the Charles. A toll was authorized in 1670...

 to Lexington. Revere first gave instructions to send a signal to Charlestown and then he traveled the northern water route. He crossed the Charles River
Charles River
The Charles River is an long river that flows in an overall northeasterly direction in eastern Massachusetts, USA. From its source in Hopkinton, the river travels through 22 cities and towns until reaching the Atlantic Ocean at Boston...

 by rowboat, slipping past the British warship HMS Somerset
HMS Somerset (1748)
HMS Somerset was a 70-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built at Chatham Dockyard to the draught specified by the 1745 Establishment, and launched on 18 July 1748. She was the third vessel of the Royal Navy to bear the name. Somerset was involved in several notable battles of the...

 at anchor. Crossings were banned at that hour, but Revere safely landed in Charlestown and rode to Lexington, avoiding a British patrol and later warning almost every house along the route. The Charlestown colonists dispatched additional riders to the north.

After they arrived in Lexington, Revere, Dawes, Hancock, and Adams discussed the situation with the militia assembling there. They believed that the forces leaving the city were too large for the sole task of arresting two men and that Concord was the main target. The Lexington men dispatched riders to the surrounding towns, and Revere and Dawes continued along the road to Concord accompanied by Samuel Prescott
Samuel Prescott
Samuel Prescott was a Massachusetts Patriot during the American Revolutionary War. He is best remembered for his role in the "midnight ride" to warn the townspeople of Concord of the impending British army move to capture military stores kept there at the beginning of the American Revolution...

. In Lincoln
Lincoln, Massachusetts
Lincoln is a town in the historic area of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 6,362 at the 2010 census, including residents of Hanscom Air Force Base that live within town limits...

, they ran into the British patrol led by Major Mitchell. Revere was captured, Dawes was thrown from his horse, and only Prescott escaped to reach Concord. Additional riders were sent out from Concord.

The ride of Revere, Dawes, and Prescott triggered a flexible system of "alarm and muster" that had been carefully developed months before, in reaction to the colonists' impotent response to the Powder Alarm
Powder Alarm
The Powder Alarm was a massive popular reaction to the removal of gunpowder from a magazine by British soldiers under orders from General Thomas Gage, royal governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, on September 1, 1774...

. This system was an improved version of an old network of widespread notification and fast deployment of local militia forces in times of emergency. The colonists had periodically used this system all the way back to the early years of Indian wars in the colony, before it fell into disuse in the French and Indian War
French and Indian War
The French and Indian War is the common American name for the war between Great Britain and France in North America from 1754 to 1763. In 1756, the war erupted into the world-wide conflict known as the Seven Years' War and thus came to be regarded as the North American theater of that war...

. In addition to other express riders delivering messages, bells, drums, alarm guns, bonfires and a trumpet were used for rapid communication from town to town, notifying the rebels in dozens of eastern Massachusetts villages that they should muster their militias because the regulars in numbers greater than 500 were leaving Boston, with possible hostile intentions. This system was so effective that people in towns 25 miles (40.2 km) from Boston were aware of the army's movements while they were still unloading boats in Cambridge. These early warnings played a crucial role in assembling a sufficient number of colonial militia to inflict heavy damage on the British regulars later in the day. Adams and Hancock were eventually moved to safety, first to what is now Burlington
Burlington, Massachusetts
Burlington is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 24,498 at the 2010 census.- History :It is believed that Burlington takes its name from the English town of Bridlington, however this has never been confirmed....

 and later to Billerica
Billerica, Massachusetts
Billerica is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 40,243 at the 2010 census. It is the only town named Billerica in the United States and borrows its name from the town of Billericay in Essex, England.- History :...

.



British advance


Around dusk, General Gage called a meeting of his senior officers at the Province House. He informed them that orders from Lord Dartmouth had arrived, ordering him to take action against the colonials. He also told them that the senior colonel of his regiments, Lieutenant Colonel Smith, would command, with Major John Pitcairn
John Pitcairn
John Pitcairn was a British Marine who was stationed in Boston, Massachusetts at the start of the American Revolutionary War....

 as his executive officer. The meeting adjourned around 8:30 pm, after which Lord Percy mingled with town folk on Boston Common. According to one account, the discussion among people there turned to the unusual movement of the British soldiers in the town. When Percy questioned one man further, the man replied, "Well, the regulars will miss their aim". "What aim?" asked Percy. "Why, the cannon at Concord" was the reply. Upon hearing this, Percy quickly returned to Province House and relayed this information to General Gage. Stunned, Gage issued orders to prevent messengers from getting out of Boston, but these were too late to prevent Dawes and Revere from leaving.


The British regulars, around 700 infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

, were drawn from 11 of Gage's 13 occupying infantry regiments. For this expedition, Major John Pitcairn commanded ten elite light infantry
Light infantry
Traditionally light infantry were soldiers whose job was to provide a skirmishing screen ahead of the main body of infantry, harassing and delaying the enemy advance. Light infantry was distinct from medium, heavy or line infantry. Heavy infantry were dedicated primarily to fighting in tight...

 companies, and Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Bernard commanded 11 grenadier companies, under the overall command of Lieutenant Colonel Smith.

Of the troops assigned to the expedition, 350 were from grenadier companies drawn from the 4th (King's Own), 5th, 10th
10th Regiment of Foot
The 10th Regiment of Foot was raised on 20 June 1685 as the Earl of Bath's Regiment for its first Colonel John Granville, 1st Earl of Bath...

, 18th (Royal Irish), 23rd, 38th
38th Regiment of Foot
The 38th Regiment of Foot was an infantry regiment of the British Army.-History:It was formed in 1705 and amalgamated into the South Staffordshire Regiment in 1881....

, 43rd, 47th
47th Regiment of Foot
The 47th Regiment of Foot was an infantry regiment of the British Army. First raised in 1741 in Scotland, the regiment saw service over a period of 140 years, before it was amalgamated with another regiment to become The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment in 1881...

, 52nd
52nd (Oxfordshire) Regiment of Foot
The 52nd Regiment of Foot was a light infantry regiment of the British Army throughout much of the 18th and 19th centuries. The regiment first saw active service during the American War of Independence, and were posted to India during the Anglo-Mysore Wars...

 and 59th
East Lancashire Regiment
The East Lancashire Regiment was, from 1881 to 1958, an infantry regiment of the British Army. The regiment was formed under the Childers Reforms by the amalgamation of two 30th and 59th Regiments of Foot with the militia and rifle volunteer units of eastern Lancashire...

 Regiments of Foot, and the 1st Battalion of His Majesty's Marine Forces
Royal Marines
The Corps of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, commonly just referred to as the Royal Marines , are the marine corps and amphibious infantry of the United Kingdom and, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, form the Naval Service...

. Protecting the grenadier companies were about 320 light infantry
Light infantry
Traditionally light infantry were soldiers whose job was to provide a skirmishing screen ahead of the main body of infantry, harassing and delaying the enemy advance. Light infantry was distinct from medium, heavy or line infantry. Heavy infantry were dedicated primarily to fighting in tight...

 from the 4th, 5th, 10th, 23rd, 38th, 43rd, 47th, 52nd and 59th Regiments, and the 1st Battalion of the Marines. Each company had its own lieutenant, but the majority of the captains commanding them were volunteers attached to them at the last minute, drawn from all of the regiments stationed in Boston. This lack of bond between commander and company would turn out to be problematic.

The British began to awaken their troops at 9 pm on the night of April 18 and assembled them on the water's edge on the western end of Boston Common by 10 pm. The British march to and from Concord was a disorganized experience from start to finish. Colonel Smith was late in arriving, and there was no organized boat-loading operation, resulting in confusion at the staging area. The boats used were naval barges that were packed so tightly that there was no room to sit down. When they disembarked at Phipps Farm in Cambridge, it was into waist-deep water at midnight. After a lengthy halt to unload their gear, the regulars began their 17 miles (27.4 km) march to Concord at about 2 am. During the wait they were provided with extra ammunition, cold salt pork
Salt pork
Salt pork or white bacon is salt-cured pork. It is prepared from one of three primal cuts: pork side, pork belly, or fatback. Depending on the cut, respectively, salt pork may be lean, streaky or entirely fatty. Made from the same cuts as bacon, salt pork resembles uncut slab bacon, but is...

, and hard sea biscuits. They did not carry knapsacks, since they would not be encamped. They carried their haversack
Haversack
A haversack is a bag, usually carried by a single shoulder strap. Although similar to a backpack the single shoulder strap differentiates this type from other backpacks. There are exceptions to this general rule.-Origins:...

s (food bags), canteens, muskets, and accoutrements, and marched off in wet, muddy shoes and soggy uniforms. As they marched through Menotomy
Arlington, Massachusetts
Arlington is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, six miles northwest of Boston. The population was 42,844 at the 2010 census.-History:...

, sounds of the colonial alarms throughout the countryside caused the few officers who were aware of their mission to realize they had lost the element of surprise. One of the regulars recorded in his journal,
At about 3 am, Colonel Smith sent Major Pitcairn ahead with six companies of light infantry under orders to quick march to Concord. At about 4 am he made the wise but belated decision to send a messenger back to Boston asking for reinforcements.

Lexington


Though often styled a battle, in reality the engagement at Lexington was a minor brush or skirmish. As the regulars' advance guard under Pitcairn entered Lexington at sunrise on April 19, 1775, about 80 Lexington militiamen emerged from Buckman Tavern
Buckman Tavern
Buckman Tavern is a historic American Revolutionary War site associated with the revolution's very first battle, the Battle of Lexington and Concord...

 and stood in ranks on the village common watching them, and between 40 and 100 spectators watched from along the side of the road. Their leader was Captain John Parker
John Parker (Captain)
John Parker was an American farmer, mechanic, and soldier, who commanded the Lexington militia at the Battle of Lexington on April 19, 1775. Parker was born in Lexington to Josiah Parker and Anne Stone...

, a veteran of the French and Indian War, who was suffering from tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

 and was at times difficult to hear. Of the militiamen who lined up, nine had the surname Harrington, seven Munroe (including the company's orderly sergeant, William Munroe
William Munroe (American soldier)
Colonel William Munroe was a soldier in the American Revolutionary War. He was the orderly sergeant of the Lexington militia at the Battle of Lexington and Concord and as a lieutenant at the Battle of Saratoga...

), four Parker, three Tidd, three Locke, and three Reed; fully one quarter of them were related to Captain Parker in some way. This group of militiamen was part of Lexington's "training band", a way of organizing local militias dating back to the Puritans, and not what was styled a minuteman company
Minutemen
Minutemen were members of teams of select men from the American colonial partisan militia during the American Revolutionary War. They provided a highly mobile, rapidly deployed force that allowed the colonies to respond immediately to war threats, hence the name.The minutemen were among the first...

.

After having waited most of the night with no sign of any British troops (and wondering if Paul Revere's warning was true), at about 4:15 a.m., Parker got his confirmation. Thaddeus Bowman
Thaddeus Bowman
Thaddeus Bowman was the last scout sent out by Capt. John Parker at Lexington, MA, but the only one to find the approaching British troops and get back to warn the militia, on the first day of the American Revolution ....

, the last scout that Parker had sent out, rode up at a gallop and told him that they were not only coming, but coming in force and they were close. Captain Parker was clearly aware that he was outmatched in the confrontation and was not prepared to sacrifice his men for no purpose. He knew that most of the colonists' powder and military supplies at Concord had already been hidden. No war had been declared. (The Declaration of Independence would not even be written for another year). He also knew the British Army had gone on such expeditions before in Massachusetts, found nothing, and marched back to Boston.

Parker had every reason to expect that to occur again. The Regulars would march to Concord, find nothing, and return to Boston, tired but empty-handed. He positioned his company carefully. He placed them in parade-ground formation, on Lexington Green. They were in plain sight (not hiding behind walls), but not blocking the road to Concord. They made a show of political and military determination, but no effort to prevent the march of the Regulars. Many years later, one of the participants recalled Parker's words as being what is now engraved in stone at the site of the battle: "Stand your ground; don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here." According to his sworn deposition taken after the battle:
Rather than turn left towards Concord, Marine Lieutenant Jesse Adair, who was at the head of the advance guard, decided on his own to protect the flank
Flanking maneuver
In military tactics, a flanking maneuver, also called a flank attack, is an attack on the sides of an opposing force. If a flanking maneuver succeeds, the opposing force would be surrounded from two or more directions, which significantly reduces the maneuverability of the outflanked force and its...

 of the troops by first turning right and then leading the companies down the common itself in a confused effort to surround and disarm the militia. These men ran towards the Lexington militia loudly crying "Huzzah
Huzzah
Huzzah is an archaic English interjection of joy or approbation. According to the Oxford English Dictionary it is "apparently a mere exclamation". The dictionary does not mention any specific derivation...

!" to rouse themselves and to confuse the militia, as they formed a battle line on the common. Major Pitcairn arrived from the rear of the advance force and led his three companies to the left and halted them. The remaining companies under Colonel Smith lay further down the road toward Boston.

First shot


A British officer, probably Pitcairn, but accounts are uncertain, as it may also have been Lieutenant William Sutherland, then rode forward, waving his sword, and called out for the assembled throng to disperse, and may also have ordered them to "lay down your arms, you damned rebels!" Captain Parker told his men instead to disperse and go home, but, because of the confusion, the yelling all around, and due to the raspiness of Parker's tubercular voice, some did not hear him, some left very slowly, and none laid down their arms. Both Parker and Pitcairn ordered their men to hold fire, but a shot was fired from an unknown source.


According to one member of Parker's militia none of the Americans had discharged their muskets as they faced the oncoming British troops. The British did suffer one casualty, a slight wound, the particulars of which were corroborated by a deposition made by Corporal John Munroe. Munroe stated that:
Some witnesses among the regulars reported the first shot was fired by a colonial onlooker from behind a hedge or around the corner of a tavern. Some observers reported a mounted British officer firing first. Both sides generally agreed that the initial shot did not come from the men on the ground immediately facing each other. Speculation arose later in Lexington that a man named Solomon Brown fired the first shot from inside the tavern or from behind a wall, but this has been discredited. Some witnesses (on each side) claimed that someone on the other side fired first; however, many more witnesses claimed to not know. Yet another theory is that the first shot was one fired by the British, that killed Asahel Porter, their prisoner who was running away (he had been told to walk away and he would be let go, though he panicked and began to run). Historian David Hackett Fischer
David Hackett Fischer
David Hackett Fischer is University Professor and Earl Warren Professor of History at Brandeis University. Fischer's major works have tackled everything from large macroeconomic and cultural trends to narrative histories of significant events to explorations of...

 has proposed that there may actually have been multiple near-simultaneous shots. Historian Mark Urban claims the British surged forward with bayonets ready in an undisciplined way, provoking a few scattered shots from the militia. In response the British troops, without orders, fired a devastating volley. This lack of discipline among the British troops had a key role in the escalation of violence.

Nobody except the person responsible ever knew with certainty, who fired the first shot of the American Revolutionary War.

Witnesses at the scene described several intermittent shots fired from both sides before the lines of regulars began to fire volleys without receiving orders to do so. A few of the militiamen believed at first that the regulars were only firing powder with no ball, but when they realized the truth, few if any of the militia managed to load and return fire. The rest wisely ran for their lives.
The regulars then charged forward with bayonets. Captain Parker's cousin Jonas was run through. Eight Massachusetts men were killed and ten were wounded; only one British soldier of the 10th Foot wounded. The eight colonists killed were John Brown, Samuel Hadley, Caleb Harrington, Jonathon Harrington, Robert Munroe, Isaac Muzzey, Asahel Porter, and Jonas Parker. Jonathon Harrington, fatally wounded by a British musket ball, managed to crawl back to his home, and died on his own doorstep. One wounded man, Prince Estabrook
Prince Estabrook
Prince Estabrook was a black slave and Minutemen Private who fought and was wounded at the Battle of Lexington, the first battle of the American Revolutionary War. An undated broadside from the time identified him as "a Negro Man", spelled his name Easterbrooks, and listed him among the wounded...

, was a black slave who was serving in the militia.

The companies under Pitcairn's command got beyond their officers' control in part because they were unaware of the actual purpose of the day's mission. They fired in different directions and prepared to enter private homes. Colonel Smith, who was just arriving with the remainder of the regulars, heard the musket fire and rode forward from the grenadier column to see the action. He quickly found a drummer and ordered him to beat assembly. The grenadiers arrived shortly thereafter, and once order was restored the light infantry were permitted to fire a victory volley, after which the column was reformed and marched on toward Concord.

Concord



The militiamen of Concord and Lincoln, in response to the raised alarm, had mustered in Concord. They received reports of firing at Lexington, and were not sure whether to wait until they could be reinforced by troops from towns nearby, or to stay and defend the town, or to move east and greet the British Army from superior terrain. A column of militia marched down the road toward Lexington to meet the British, traveling about 1.5 miles (2 km) until they met the approaching column of regulars. As the regulars numbered about 700 and the militia at this time only numbered about 250, the militia column turned around and marched back into Concord, preceding the regulars by a distance of about 500 yards (457 m). The militia retreated to a ridge overlooking the town and the command discussed what to do next. Caution prevailed, and Colonel James Barrett surrendered the town of Concord and led the men across the North Bridge to a hill about a mile north of town, where they could continue to watch the troop movements of the British and the activities in the center of town. This step proved fortuitous, as the ranks of the militia continued to grow as minuteman companies arriving from the western towns joined them there.

The search for militia supplies


When the troops arrived in the village of Concord, Smith divided them to carry out Gage's orders. The 10th Regiment's company of grenadiers secured South Bridge under Captain Mundy Pole, while seven companies of light infantry under Captain Parsons, numbering about 100, secured the North Bridge near Barrett's force. Captain Parsons took four companies from the 5th, 23rd, 38th and 52nd Regiments up the road 2 miles (3.2 km) beyond the North Bridge to search Barrett's Farm, where intelligence indicated supplies would be found. Two companies from the 4th and 10th were stationed to guard their return route, and one company from the 43rd remained guarding the bridge itself. These companies, which were under the relatively inexperienced command of Captain Walter Laurie, were aware that they were significantly outnumbered by the 400-plus militia men that were only a few hundred yards away. The concerned Captain Laurie sent a messenger to Smith requesting reinforcements.

Using detailed information provided by Loyalist spies, the grenadier companies searched the small town for military supplies. When they arrived at Ephraim Jones's tavern, by the jail on the South Bridge road, they found the door barred shut, and Jones refused them entry. According to reports provided by local Tories, Pitcairn knew cannon had been buried on the property. Jones was ordered at gunpoint to show where the guns were buried. These turned out to be three massive pieces, firing 24-pound shot, that were much too heavy to use defensively, but very effective against fortifications, with sufficient range to bombard the city of Boston from other parts of nearby mainland. The grenadiers smashed the trunnions of these three guns so they could not be mounted. They also burned some gun carriages found in the village meetinghouse, and when the fire spread to the meetinghouse itself, local resident Martha Moulton persuaded the soldiers to help in a bucket brigade
Bucket brigade
A bucket brigade or human chain is a method for transporting items where items are passed from one stationary person to the next.The method was important in firefighting before the advent of hand pumped fire engines, whereby firefighters would pass buckets to each other to extinguish a blaze. A...

 to save the building. Nearly a hundred barrels of flour and salted food were thrown into the millpond, as were 550 pounds of musket balls. Of the damage done, only that done to the cannon was significant. All of the shot and much of the food was recovered after the British left. During the search, the regulars were generally scrupulous in their treatment of the locals, including paying for food and drink consumed. This excessive politeness was used to advantage by the locals, who were able to misdirect searches from several smaller caches of militia supplies.

Barrett's Farm had been an arsenal weeks before but few weapons remained now, and these were, according to family legend, quickly buried in furrows to look like a crop had been planted. The troops sent there did not find any supplies of consequence.

The North Bridge



Colonel Barrett's troops, upon seeing smoke rising from the village square, and seeing only a few companies directly below them, decided to march back toward the town from their vantage point on Punkatasset Hill
Punkatasset Hill
Punkatasset Hill is a hill located in Concord, Massachusetts. It is one of the highest points in the town at 289 feet.The Hill was originally known as Broad-topped Hill by the Native Indians and was cultivated and farmed from the 17th Century on....

 to a lower, closer flat hilltop about 300 yards (274 m) from the North Bridge. As the militia advanced, the two British companies from the 4th and 10th that held the position near the road retreated to the bridge and yielded the hill to Barrett's men.

Five full companies of Minutemen and five more of militia from Acton, Concord, Bedford and Lincoln occupied this hill as more groups of men streamed in, totaling at least 400 against Captain Laurie's light infantry companies, a force totaling 90–95 men. Barrett ordered the Massachusetts men to form one long line two deep on the highway leading down to the bridge, and then he called for another consultation. While overlooking North Bridge from the top of the hill, Barrett, Lt. Col. John Robinson
Lt. Col. John Robinson
John Robinson was a Massachusetts militia and Continental Army officer from Westford, Massachusetts during the American Revolutionary War. On April 19, 1775, during the Battle of Concord, Robinson was the second highest ranking officer in the field after Colonel James Barrett...

 of Westford and the other Captains discussed possible courses of action. Captain Isaac Davis of Acton, whose troops had arrived late, declared his willingness to defend a town not their own by saying, "I'm not afraid to go, and I haven't a man that's afraid to go."

Barrett told the men to load their weapons but not to fire unless fired upon, and then ordered them to advance. Laurie ordered the British companies guarding the bridge to retreat across it. One officer then tried to pull up the loose planks of the bridge to impede the colonial advance, but Major Buttrick began to yell at the regulars to stop harming the bridge. The Minutemen and militia advanced in column formation on the light infantry, keeping to the road, since it was surrounded by the spring floodwaters of the Concord River
Concord River
The Concord River is a tributary of the Merrimack River in eastern Massachusetts in the United States. The river drains a small rural and suburban region northwest of Boston. One of the most famous small rivers in U.S...

.

Captain Laurie then made a poor tactical decision. Since his summons for help had not produced any results, he ordered his men to form positions for "street firing" behind the bridge in a column running perpendicular to the river. This formation was appropriate for sending a large volume of fire into a narrow alley between the buildings of a city, but not for an open path behind a bridge. Confusion reigned as regulars retreating over the bridge tried to form up in the street-firing position of the other troops. Lieutenant Sutherland, who was in the rear of the formation, saw Laurie's mistake and ordered flankers to be sent out. But as he was from a company different from the men under his command, only three soldiers obeyed him. The remainder tried as best they could in the confusion to follow the orders of the superior officer.

A shot rang out, and this time there is certainty from depositions taken from men on both sides afterwards that it came from the Army's ranks. It was likely a warning shot fired by a panicked, exhausted British soldier from the 43rd, according to Laurie's letter to his commander after the fight. Two other regulars then fired immediately after that, shots splashing in the river, and then the narrow group up front, possibly thinking the order to fire had been given, fired a ragged volley before Laurie could stop them.

Two of the Acton
Acton, Massachusetts
Acton is a suburban town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States about twenty-one miles west-northwest of Boston along Route 2 west of Concord and about ten miles southwest of Lowell. The population was 21,924 at the 2010 census...

 Minutemen, Private Abner Hosmer and Captain Isaac Davis, who were at the head of the line marching to the bridge, were hit and killed instantly. Four more men were wounded, but the militia only halted when Major Buttrick yelled "Fire, for God's sake, fellow soldiers, fire!" At this point the lines were separated by the Concord River and the bridge, and were only 50 yards (46 m) apart. The few front rows of colonists, bound by the road, and blocked from forming a line of fire, managed to fire over each others' heads and shoulders at the regulars massed across the bridge. Four of the eight British officers and sergeants, who were leading from the front of their troops, were wounded by the volley of musket fire. At least three privates (Thomas Smith, Patrick Gray and James Hall, all from the 4th) were killed or mortally wounded, and nine were wounded.

The regulars found themselves trapped in a situation where they were both outnumbered and outmaneuvered. Lacking effective leadership and terrified at the superior numbers of the enemy, with their spirit broken, and likely not having experienced combat before, they abandoned their wounded, and fled to the safety of the approaching grenadier companies coming from the town center, isolating Captain Parsons and the companies searching for arms at Barrett's Farm.

After the fight


The colonists were stunned by their success. No one had actually believed either side would shoot to kill the other. Some advanced; many more retreated; and some went home to see to the safety of their homes and families. Colonel Barrett eventually began to recover control. He moved some of the militia back to the hilltop 300 yards (274 m) away and sent Major Buttrick with others across the bridge to a defensive position on a hill behind a stone wall.

Lieutenant Colonel Smith heard the exchange of fire from his position in the town moments after he received the request for reinforcements from Laurie. He quickly assembled two companies of grenadiers to lead toward the North Bridge himself. As these troops marched, they met the shattered remnants of the three light infantry companies running towards them. Smith was concerned about the four companies that had been at Barrett's, since their route to town was now unprotected. When he saw the Minutemen in the distance behind their wall, he halted his two companies and moved forward with only his officers to take a closer look. One of the Minutemen behind that wall observed, "If we had fired, I believe we could have killed almost every officer there was in the front, but we had no orders to fire and there wasn't a gun fired." During a tense standoff lasting about 10 minutes, a mentally ill local man named Elias Brown wandered through both sides selling hard cider.

At this point, the detachment of regulars sent to Barrett's farm marched back from their fruitless search of that area. They passed through the now mostly-deserted battlefield, and saw dead and wounded comrades lying on the bridge. There was one who looked to them as if he had been scalped, which angered and shocked the British soldiers. They crossed the bridge and returned to the town by 11:30 am, under the watchful eyes of the colonists, who continued to maintain defensive positions. The regulars continued to search for and destroy colonial military supplies in the town, ate lunch, reassembled for marching, and left Concord after noon. This delay in departure gave colonial militiamen from outlying towns additional time to reach the road back to Boston.

Return march



An interactive mural describing this stage of the battle may be found at the National Park Service site for the Minute Man National Historical Park
Minute Man National Historical Park
Not to be confused with Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.Minute Man National Historical Park commemorates the opening battle in the American Revolutionary War. It also includes The Wayside, home in turn to three noted American authors...

.

Concord to Lexington


Lieutenant Colonel Smith, concerned about the safety of his men, sent flankers to follow a ridge and protect his forces from the roughly 1,000 colonials now in the field as they marched east out of Concord. This ridge ended near Meriam's Corner, a crossroads and a small bridge about a mile (2 km) outside the village of Concord. To cross the narrow bridge, the army column had to stop, dress its line, and close its rank to a mere three soldiers abreast. Colonial militia companies arriving from the north and east had converged at this point, and presented a clear numerical advantage over the regulars. As the last of the army column marched over the bridge, colonial militiamen from the Reading
Reading, Massachusetts
Reading is an affluent town situated in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, some north of central Boston. The population was 24,747 at the 2010 census.-Settlement and Independence:...

 militia fired, the regulars turned and fired a volley, and the colonists returned fire. Two regulars were killed and perhaps six wounded, with no colonial casualties. Smith sent out his flanking troops again after crossing the small bridge.

Nearly 500 militiamen from Chelmsford
Chelmsford, Massachusetts
Chelmsford is a suburban town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts in the Greater Boston area. As of the 2010 United States Census, the town's population was 33,802. The Census Bureau's 2008 population estimate for the town was 34,409, ranking it 14th in population among the 54 municipalities in...

 had assembled in the woods on Brooks Hill about 1 miles (1.6 km) past Meriam's Corner. Smith's leading forces charged up the hill to drive them off, but the colonists did not withdraw, inflicting significant casualties on the attackers. The bulk of Smith's force proceeded along the road until it reached Brooks Tavern, where they engaged a single militia company from Framingham
Framingham, Massachusetts
Framingham is a New England town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 68,318 as of the United States 2010 Census. -History:...

, killing and wounding several of them. Smith withdrew his men from Brooks Hill and moved across another small bridge into Lincoln.

The regulars soon reached a point in the road where there was a rise and a curve through a wooded area. At this point, now known as the "Bloody Angle", 200 men, mostly from the towns of Bedford
Bedford, Massachusetts
Bedford is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. It is within the Greater Boston area, north-west of the city of Boston. The population of Bedford was 13,320 at the 2010 census.- History :...

 and Lincoln, had positioned themselves behind trees and walls in a rocky, tree-filled pasture for an ambush
Ambush
An ambush is a long-established military tactic, in which the aggressors take advantage of concealment and the element of surprise to attack an unsuspecting enemy from concealed positions, such as among dense underbrush or behind hilltops...

. Additional militia joined in from the other side of the road, catching the British in a crossfire in the wooded swamp, while the Concord militia closed from behind to attack. Thirty soldiers and four colonial militia were killed. The soldiers escaped by breaking into a trot, a pace that the colonials could not maintain through the woods and swampy terrain. Colonial forces on the road itself behind the British were too densely packed and disorganized to mount an attack.

Militia forces by this time had risen to about 2,000, and Smith sent out flankers again. When three companies of militia ambushed the head of his main force near either Ephraim Hartwell's or (more likely) Joseph Mason's Farm, the flankers closed in and trapped the militia from behind. Flankers also trapped the Bedford militia after a successful ambush near the Lincoln–Lexington border, but British casualties were mounting from these engagements and from persistent long-range fire, and the exhausted British were running out of ammunition.

On the Lexington side of the border, Captain Parker, according to only one uncorroborated source (Ebenezer Munroe's memoir of 1824), waited on a hill with the reassembled Lexington Training Band, some of them bandaged up from the encounter in Lexington earlier in the day. These men, according to this account written only many years later, did not begin the ambush until Colonel Smith himself came into view. Smith was wounded in the thigh sometime on the way back to Lexington, and the entire British column was halted in this ambush now known as "Parker's Revenge". Major Pitcairn sent light infantry companies up the hill to clear out any militia sniping at them.

The light infantry cleared two additional hills—"The Bluff" and "Fiske Hill"— and took casualties from ambushes. Pitcairn fell from his horse, which was injured by colonists firing from Fiske Hill. Now both principal leaders of the expedition were injured or unhorsed, and their men were tired and thirsty. A few surrendered; most now broke formation and ran forward in a mob. Their organized, planned withdrawal
Withdrawal (military)
A withdrawal is a type of military operation, generally meaning retreating forces back while maintaining contact with the enemy. A withdrawal may be undertaken as part of a general retreat, to consolidate forces, to occupy ground that is more easily defended, or to lead the enemy into an ambush...

 had turned into a rout
Rout
A rout is commonly defined as a chaotic and disorderly retreat or withdrawal of troops from a battlefield, resulting in the victory of the opposing party, or following defeat, a collapse of discipline, or poor morale. A routed army often degenerates into a sense of "every man for himself" as the...

. "Concord Hill" remained before Lexington Center, and a few uninjured officers turned and supposedly threatened their own men with their swords if they would not reform in good order.

Only one British officer remained uninjured in the leading three companies. He was considering surrendering
Surrender (military)
Surrender is when soldiers, nations or other combatants stop fighting and eventually become prisoners of war, either as individuals or when ordered to by their officers. A white flag is a common symbol of surrender, as is the gesture of raising one's hands empty and open above one's head.When the...

 his men when he heard cheering further ahead. A full brigade, about 1,000 men with artillery under the command of Earl Percy, had arrived to rescue them. It was about 2:30 pm.

During this part of the march, the colonists fought where possible in large ordered formations (using short-range, smoothbore muskets) at least eight times. This is contrary to the widely-held myth of scattered individuals firing with longer-range rifle
Rifle
A rifle is a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder, with a barrel that has a helical groove or pattern of grooves cut into the barrel walls. The raised areas of the rifling are called "lands," which make contact with the projectile , imparting spin around an axis corresponding to the...

s from behind walls and fences. Although scattered fire had also occurred on this march, these long-range tactics proved useful later in the war. Nobody at Lexington or Concord—indeed, anywhere along the Battle Road or later at Bunker Hill—had a rifle, according to the historical records.

Percy's rescue


General Gage had left orders for reinforcements to assemble in Boston at 4 am, but in his obsession for secrecy, he had sent only one copy of the orders to the adjutant of the 1st Brigade, whose servant left the envelope on a table. At about 5 am, Smith's request for reinforcements was finally received, and orders were sent for 1st Brigade consisting of the line companies of infantry (the 4th, 23rd, and 47th) and a battalion of British Marines to assemble. Unfortunately, once again only one copy of the orders were sent to each commander, and the order for the Marines was delivered to the desk of Major Pitcairn, who was on the Lexington Common at the time. After these delays, Percy's brigade, about 1,000 strong, left Boston at about 8:45 am. His troops marched out toward Lexington. Along the way they marched to the tune of "Yankee Doodle
Yankee Doodle
"Yankee Doodle" is a well-known Anglo-American song, the origin of which dates back to the Seven Years' War. It is often sung patriotically in the United States today and is the state anthem of Connecticut...

" to taunt the inhabitants of the area. By the Battle of Bunker Hill
Battle of Bunker Hill
The Battle of Bunker Hill took place on June 17, 1775, mostly on and around Breed's Hill, during the Siege of Boston early in the American Revolutionary War...

 less than two months later, the song had become a popular anthem for the colonial forces.

Percy took the land route across Boston Neck and over the Great Bridge, which some enterprising colonists had stripped of its planking to delay their way. His men then came upon an absent-minded tutor at Harvard College
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 and asked him which road would take them to Lexington. The Harvard man, apparently oblivious to the reality of what was happening around him, showed him the proper road without thinking. (He was later compelled to leave the country for inadvertently supporting the enemy.) Percy's troops arrived in Lexington at about 2:00 pm. They could hear gunfire in the distance as they set up their cannon and lines of regulars on high ground with commanding views of the town. Colonel Smith's men approached like a fleeing mob with the full complement of colonial militia in close formation pursuing them. Percy ordered his artillery to open fire at extreme range, dispersing the colonial militiamen. Smith's men collapsed with exhaustion once they reached the safety of Percy's lines.

Against the advice of his Master of Ordnance, Percy had left Boston without spare ammunition for his men or for the two artillery pieces they brought with them, thinking the extra wagons would slow him down. Each man in Percy's brigade had only 36 rounds, and each artillery piece was supplied with only a few rounds carried in side-boxes. After Percy had left the city, Gage directed two ammunition wagons guarded by one officer and thirteen men to follow. This convoy was intercepted by a small party of older, former militiamen, still on the "alarm list" who could not join their militia companies because they were well over 60. These men rose up in ambush and demanded the surrender of the wagons, but the regulars ignored them and drove their horses on. The old men opened fire, shot the lead horses, killed two sergeants, and wounded the officer. The survivors ran, and six of them threw their weapons into a pond before they surrendered.

Lexington to Menotomy


Percy assumed control of the combined forces of about 1,700 men and let them rest, eat, drink, and have their wounds tended at field headquarters (Munroe Tavern) before resuming the march. They set out from Lexington at about 3:30 pm, in a formation that emphasized defense along the sides and rear of the column. Wounded regulars rode on the cannon and were forced to hop off when they were fired at by gatherings of militia. Percy's men were often surrounded, but they had the tactical advantage of interior lines
Interior lines
Interior lines is a strategy of warfare that is based on the concept that lines of movement, communication, and supply within an area are shorter than those on the outside. As the area held by a defensive force shrinks, these advantages increase...

. Percy could shift his units more easily to where they were needed, while the colonial militia were required to move around the outside of his formation. Percy placed Smith's men in the middle of the column, while the 23rd Regiment's line companies made up the column's rear guard. Because of information provided by Smith and Pitcairn about how the Americans were attacking, Percy ordered the rear guard to be rotated every mile or so, to allow some of his troops to rest briefly. Flanking companies were sent to both sides of the road, and a powerful force of Marines acted as the vanguard to clear the road ahead.

During the respite at Lexington, Brigadier General William Heath
William Heath
William Heath was an American farmer, soldier, and political leader from Massachusetts who served as a major general in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War....

 arrived and took command of the militia. Earlier in the day, he had traveled first to Watertown
Watertown, Massachusetts
The Town of Watertown is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 31,915 at the 2010 census.- History :Archeological evidence suggests that Watertown was inhabited for thousands of years before the arrival of settlers from England...

 to discuss tactics with Joseph Warren, who had left Boston that morning, and other members of the Massachusetts Committee of Safety
Committee of Safety (American Revolution)
Many Committees of Safety were established throughout Colonial America at the start of the American Revolution. These committees started to appear in the 1760s as means to discuss the concerns of the time, and often consisted of every male adult in the community...

. Heath and Warren reacted to Percy's artillery and flankers by ordering the militias to avoid close formations that would attract cannon fire. Instead, they surrounded Percy's marching square with a moving ring of skirmisher
Skirmisher
Skirmishers are infantry or cavalry soldiers stationed ahead or alongside a larger body of friendly troops. They are usually placed in a skirmish line to harass the enemy.-Pre-modern:...

s at a distance to inflict maximum casualties at minimum risk to individual militiamen.

A few mounted militiamen on the road would dismount, fire muskets at the approaching regulars, then remount and gallop ahead to repeat the tactic. Unmounted militia would often fire from long range, in the hope of hitting somebody in the main column of soldiers on the road and surviving, since both British and colonials used muskets with an effective combat range of about 50 yards (45.7 m). Infantry units would apply pressure to the sides of the British column. When it moved out of range, those units would move around and forward to re-engage the column further down the road. Heath sent messengers out to intercept arriving militia units, directing them to appropriate places along the road to engage the regulars. Some towns sent supply wagons to assist in feeding and rearming the militia. Heath and Warren did lead skirmishers in small actions into battle themselves, but it was the presence of effective leadership that probably had the greatest impact on the success of these tactics. Percy wrote of the colonial tactics, "The rebels attacked us in a very scattered, irregular manner, but with perseverance and resolution, nor did they ever dare to form into any regular body. Indeed, they knew too well what was proper, to do so. Whoever looks upon them as an irregular mob, will find himself very much mistaken."


The fighting grew more intense as Percy's forces crossed from Lexington into Menotomy. Fresh militia poured gunfire into the British ranks from a distance, and individual homeowners began to fight from their own property. Some homes were also used as sniper positions, turning the situation into a soldier's nightmare: house-to-house fighting. Jason Russell pleaded for his friends to fight alongside him to defend his house by saying, "An Englishman's home is his castle." He stayed and was killed in his doorway. His friends, depending on which account is to be believed, either hid in the cellar, or died in the house from bullets and bayonets after shooting at the soldiers who followed them in. The Jason Russell House
Jason Russell House
The Jason Russell House is a historic house in Arlington, Massachusetts, the site of the bloodiest fighting on the first day of the Revolutionary War, April 19, 1775...

 still stands and contains bullet holes from this fight. A militia unit that attempted an ambush from Russell's orchard was caught by flankers, and eleven men were killed, some allegedly after they had surrendered.

Percy lost control of his men, and British soldiers began to commit atrocities to repay for the supposed scalping at the North Bridge and for their own casualties at the hands of a distant, often unseen enemy. Based on the word of Pitcairn and other wounded officers from Smith's command, Percy had learned that the Minutemen were using stone walls, trees and buildings in these more thickly settled towns closer to Boston to hide behind and shoot at the column. He ordered the flank companies to clear the colonial militiamen out of such places.

Many of the junior officers in the flank parties had difficulty stopping their exhausted, enraged men from killing everyone they found inside these buildings. For example, two innocent drunks who refused to hide in the basement of a tavern in Menotomy were killed only because they were suspected of being involved with the day's events. Although many of the accounts of ransacking and burnings were exaggerated later by the colonists for propaganda value (and to get financial compensation from the colonial government), it is certainly true that taverns along the road were ransacked and the liquor stolen by the troops, who in some cases became drunk themselves. One church's communion silver was stolen but was later recovered after it was sold in Boston. Aged Menotomy resident Samuel Whittemore
Samuel Whittemore
Samuel Whittemore was an American farmer and soldier. He was eighty years of age when he became the oldest known colonial combatant in the American Revolutionary War.-Biography:...

 killed three regulars before he was attacked by a British contingent and left for dead. (He recovered from his wounds and later died in 1793 at age 98.) All told, far more blood was shed in Menotomy and Cambridge than elsewhere that day. The colonists lost 25 men killed and nine wounded there, and the British lost 40 killed and 80 wounded, with the 47th Foot and the Marines suffering the highest casualties. Each was about half the day's fatalities.

Menotomy to Charlestown


The British troops crossed the Menotomy River (today known as Alewife Brook
Alewife Brook Reservation
Alewife Brook Reservation is a Massachusetts state park located in Cambridge, Arlington, and Somerville. The park is managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation.-Description:...

) into Cambridge, and the fight grew more intense. Fresh militia arrived in close array instead of in a scattered formation, and Percy used his two artillery pieces and flankers at a crossroads called Watson's Corner to inflict heavy damage on them.

Earlier in the day, Heath had ordered the Great Bridge to be dismantled. Percy's brigade was about to approach the broken-down bridge and a riverbank filled with militia when Percy directed his troops down a narrow track (near present-day Porter Square
Porter Square
Porter Square is a neighborhood in Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts in the USA, located around the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Somerville Avenue, between Harvard and Davis Squares...

) and onto the road to Charlestown. The militia (now numbering about 4,000) were unprepared for this movement, and the circle of fire was broken. An American force moved to occupy Prospect Hill (in modern-day Somerville
Somerville, Massachusetts
Somerville is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, located just north of Boston. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 75,754 and was the most densely populated municipality in New England. It is also the 17th most densely populated incorporated place in...

), which dominated the road, but Percy moved his cannon to the front and dispersed them with his last rounds of ammunition.

A large militia force arrived from Salem
Salem, Massachusetts
Salem is a city in Essex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 40,407 at the 2000 census. It and Lawrence are the county seats of Essex County...

 and Marblehead
Marblehead, Massachusetts
Marblehead is a town in Essex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 19,808 at the 2010 census. It is home to the Marblehead Neck Wildlife Sanctuary and Devereux Beach...

. They might have cut off Percy's route to Charlestown, but these men halted on nearby Winter Hill and allowed the British to escape. Some accused the commander of this force, Colonel Timothy Pickering
Timothy Pickering
Timothy Pickering was a politician from Massachusetts who served in a variety of roles, most notably as the third United States Secretary of State, serving in that office from 1795 to 1800 under Presidents George Washington and John Adams.-Early years:Pickering was born in Salem, Massachusetts to...

, of permitting the troops to pass because he still hoped to avoid war by preventing a total defeat of the regulars. Pickering later claimed that he had stopped on Heath's orders, but Heath denied this. It was nearly dark when Pitcairn's Marines defended a final attack on Percy's rear as they entered Charlestown. The regulars took up strong positions on the hills of Charlestown. Some of them had been without sleep for two days and had marched 40 miles (64.4 km) in 21 hours, eight hours of which had been spent under fire. But now they held high ground protected by heavy guns from the HMS Somerset. Gage quickly sent over line companies of two fresh regiments—the 10th and 64th—to occupy the high ground in Charlestown and build fortifications. Although they were begun, the fortifications were never completed and would later be a starting point for the militia works built two months later in June before the Battle of Bunker Hill
Battle of Bunker Hill
The Battle of Bunker Hill took place on June 17, 1775, mostly on and around Breed's Hill, during the Siege of Boston early in the American Revolutionary War...

. General Heath studied the position of the British Army and decided to withdraw the militia to Cambridge.

Aftermath


In the morning, Boston was surrounded
Siege of Boston
The Siege of Boston was the opening phase of the American Revolutionary War, in which New England militiamen—who later became part of the Continental Army—surrounded the town of Boston, Massachusetts, to prevent movement by the British Army garrisoned within...

 by a huge militia army, numbering over 15,000, which had marched from throughout New England. Unlike the Powder Alarm
Powder Alarm
The Powder Alarm was a massive popular reaction to the removal of gunpowder from a magazine by British soldiers under orders from General Thomas Gage, royal governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, on September 1, 1774...

, the rumors of spilled blood were true, and the Revolutionary War had begun. The militia army continued to grow as surrounding colonies sent men and supplies. The Second Continental Congress
Second Continental Congress
The Second Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies that started meeting on May 10, 1775, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, soon after warfare in the American Revolutionary War had begun. It succeeded the First Continental Congress, which met briefly during 1774,...

 adopted these men into the beginnings of the Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

. Even now, after open warfare had started, Gage still refused to impose martial law
Martial law
Martial law is the imposition of military rule by military authorities over designated regions on an emergency basis— only temporary—when the civilian government or civilian authorities fail to function effectively , when there are extensive riots and protests, or when the disobedience of the law...

 in Boston. He persuaded the town's selectmen to surrender all private weapons in return for promising that any inhabitant could leave town.

The battle was not a major one in terms of tactics or casualties. However, in terms of supporting the British political strategy behind the Intolerable Acts
Intolerable Acts
The Intolerable Acts or the Coercive Acts are names used to describe a series of laws passed by the British Parliament in 1774 relating to Britain's colonies in North America...

 and the military strategy behind the Powder Alarms, the battle was a significant failure because the expedition contributed to the fighting it was intended to prevent, and because few weapons were actually seized.

The battle was followed by a war for British political opinion. Within four days of the battle, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress had collected scores of sworn testimonies from militiamen and from British prisoners. When word leaked out a week after the battle that Gage was sending his official description of events to London, the Provincial Congress sent over 100 of these detailed depositions on a faster ship. They were presented to a sympathetic official and printed by the London newspapers two weeks before Gage's report arrived. Gage's official report was too vague on particulars to influence anyone's opinion. George Germain
George Germain, 1st Viscount Sackville
George Germain, 1st Viscount Sackville PC , known as the Hon. George Sackville to 1720, as Lord George Sackville from 1720 to 1770, and as Lord George Germain from 1770 to 1782, was a British soldier and politician who was Secretary of State for America in Lord North's cabinet during the American...

, no friend of the colonists, wrote, "the Bostonians are in the right to make the King's troops the aggressors and claim a victory." Politicians in London tended to blame Gage for the conflict instead of their own policies and instructions. The British troops in Boston variously blamed General Gage and Colonel Smith for the failures at Lexington and Concord.

The day after the battle, John Adams
John Adams
John Adams was an American lawyer, statesman, diplomat and political theorist. A leading champion of independence in 1776, he was the second President of the United States...

 left his home in Braintree
Braintree, Massachusetts
The Town of Braintree is a suburban city in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States. Although officially known as a town, Braintree adopted a municipal charter, effective 2008, with a mayor-council form of government and is considered a city under Massachusetts law. The population was 35,744...

 to ride along the battlefields. He became convinced that "the Die was cast, the Rubicon crossed." Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine
Thomas "Tom" Paine was an English author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States...

 in Philadelphia
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Philadelphia County, with which it is coterminous. The city is located in the Northeastern United States along the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. It is the fifth-most-populous city in the United States,...

 had previously thought of the argument between the colonies and the Home Country as "a kind of law-suit", but after news of the battle reached him, he "rejected the hardened, sullen-tempered Pharaoh
Pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

 of England forever." George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 received the news at Mount Vernon
Mount Vernon (plantation)
Mount Vernon, located near Alexandria, Virginia, was the plantation home of the first President of the United States, George Washington. The mansion is built of wood in neoclassical Georgian architectural style, and the estate is located on the banks of the Potomac River.Mount Vernon was designated...

 and wrote to a friend, "the once-happy and peaceful plains of America are either to be drenched in blood or inhabited by slaves. Sad alternative! But can a virtuous man hesitate in his choice?" A group of hunters on the frontier named their campsite Lexington when they heard news of the battle in June. It eventually became the city of Lexington, Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky
Lexington is the second-largest city in Kentucky and the 63rd largest in the US. Known as the "Thoroughbred City" and the "Horse Capital of the World", it is located in the heart of Kentucky's Bluegrass region...

.

Legacy


It was important to the early American government that an image of British fault and American innocence be maintained for this first battle of the war. The history of Patriot preparations, intelligence, warning signals, and uncertainty about the first shot was rarely discussed in the public sphere for decades. The story of the wounded British soldier at the North Bridge, hors de combat
Hors de combat
Hors de Combat, literally meaning "outside the fight," is a French term used in diplomacy and international law to refer to soldiers who are incapable of performing their military function. Examples include a downed fighter pilot, as well as the sick, wounded, detained, or otherwise disabled...

, struck down on the head by a Minuteman using a hatchet, the purported "scalping", was strongly suppressed. Depositions mentioning some of these activities were not published and were returned to the participants (this notably happened to Paul Revere). Paintings portrayed the Lexington fight as an unjustified slaughter.

The issue of which side was to blame grew during the early nineteenth century. For example, older participants' testimony in later life about Lexington and Concord differed greatly from their depositions taken under oath in 1775. All now said the British fired first at Lexington, whereas fifty or so years before, they weren't sure. All now said they fired back, but in 1775, they said few were able to. The "Battle" took on an almost mythical quality in the American consciousness. Legend became more important than truth. A complete shift occurred, and the Patriots were portrayed as actively fighting for their cause, rather than as suffering innocents. Paintings of the Lexington skirmish began to portray the militia standing and fighting back in defiance.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century...

 immortalized the events at the North Bridge in his 1837 "Concord Hymn
Concord Hymn
"Concord Hymn" is an 1837 poem by American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson. It was written for a memorial to the Battles of Lexington and Concord.-Background:...

". "Concord Hymn" became important because it commemorated the beginning of the American Revolution, and that for much of the 19th century it was a means by which Americans learned about the Revolution, helping to forge the identity of the nation.

After 1860, several generations of schoolchildren memorized Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet and educator whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline...

 poem "Paul Revere's Ride
Paul Revere's Ride (poem)
"Paul Revere's Ride" is a poem by an American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that commemorates the actions of American patriot Paul Revere on April 18, 1775.-Overview:...

". Historically it is inaccurate (for example, Paul Revere never made it to Concord), but it captures the idea that an individual can change the course of history.

In the 20th century, popular and historical opinion varied about the events of the historic day, often reflecting the political mood of the time. Isolationist anti-war sentiments before the World Wars bred skepticism about the nature of Paul Revere's contribution (if any) to the efforts to rouse the militia. Anglophilia in the United States after the turn of the twentieth century led to more balanced approaches to the history of the battle. During World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, a film about Paul Revere's ride was seized under the Espionage Act of 1917
Espionage Act of 1917
The Espionage Act of 1917 is a United States federal law passed on June 15, 1917, shortly after the U.S. entry into World War I. It has been amended numerous times over the years. It was originally found in Title 50 of the U.S. Code but is now found under Title 18, Crime...

 for promoting discord between the United States and Britain.

During the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, Revere was used not only as a patriotic symbol, but also as a capitalist one. In 1961, novelist Howard Fast
Howard Fast
Howard Melvin Fast was an American novelist and television writer. Fast also wrote under the pen names E. V. Cunningham and Walter Ericson.-Early life:Fast was born in New York City...

 published April Morning
April Morning
April Morning is a 1961 novel by Howard Fast depicting the Battle of Lexington and Concord from the perspective of a fictional teenager, Adam Cooper. It takes place in the 27-hour period from April 18, 1775 to the aftermath of the battle...

, an account of the battle from a fictional 15-year-old's perspective, and reading of the book has been frequently assigned in American secondary school
Secondary school
Secondary school is a term used to describe an educational institution where the final stage of schooling, known as secondary education and usually compulsory up to a specified age, takes place...

s. A film version was produced for television in 1987, starring Chad Lowe
Chad Lowe
Charles Conrad "Chad" Lowe is an American actor. He is the younger brother of fellow actor Rob Lowe. He won an Emmy Award for his supporting role in Life Goes On as a man suffering with HIV. He has also had recurring roles on ER, Melrose Place, and Now and Again...

 and Tommy Lee Jones
Tommy Lee Jones
Tommy Lee Jones is an American actor and film director. He has received three Academy Award nominations, winning one as Best Supporting Actor for the 1993 thriller film The Fugitive....

. In the 1990s, parallels were drawn between American tactics in the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

 and those of the British Army at Lexington and Concord.

The site of the battle in Lexington is now known as the Lexington Battle Green
Lexington Battle Green
The Lexington Battle Green, properly known as Lexington Common, is the site of the opening shots of the American Revolution in 1775 during the Battle of Lexington. The Common had been purchased by subscription of some of the town's leading citizens in 1711...

, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places is the United States government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation...

, and is a National Historic Landmark
National Historic Landmark
A National Historic Landmark is a building, site, structure, object, or district, that is officially recognized by the United States government for its historical significance...

. Several memorials commemorating the battle have been established there.

The lands surrounding the North Bridge in Concord, as well as approximately 5 miles (8 km) of the road along with surrounding lands and period buildings between Merriam's Corner and western Lexington are part of Minuteman National Historical Park. There are walking trails with interpretive displays along routes that the colonists might have used that skirted the road, and the Park Service often has personnel (usually dressed in period dress) offering descriptions of the area and explanations of the events of the day. A bronze bas relief of Major Buttrick, designed by Daniel Chester French
Daniel Chester French
Daniel Chester French was an American sculptor. His best-known work is the sculpture of a seated Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.-Life and career:...

 and executed by Edmond Thomas Quinn
Edmond Thomas Quinn
Edmond Thomas Quinn was an American sculptor and painter. He is best known for his bronze of Edwin Booth as Hamlet, which stands at the center of Gramercy Park in New York City...

 in 1915, is in the park, along with French's Minute Man statue.

Commemorations



Patriots' Day
Patriots' Day
Patriots' Day is a civic holiday commemorating the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American Revolutionary War...

 is celebrated annually in honor of the battle in Massachusetts, Maine
Maine
Maine is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, New Hampshire to the west, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec to the northwest and New Brunswick to the northeast. Maine is both the northernmost and easternmost...

, and by the Wisconsin
Wisconsin
Wisconsin is a U.S. state located in the north-central United States and is part of the Midwest. It is bordered by Minnesota to the west, Iowa to the southwest, Illinois to the south, Lake Michigan to the east, Michigan to the northeast, and Lake Superior to the north. Wisconsin's capital is...

 public schools, on the third Monday in April. Re-enactments of Paul Revere's ride are staged, as are the battle on the Lexington Green, and ceremonies and firings are held at the North Bridge.

Centennial commemoration

On April 19, 1875, President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

 and members of his cabinet joined 50,000 people to mark the 100th anniversary of the battles. The sculpture by Daniel Chester French
Daniel Chester French
Daniel Chester French was an American sculptor. His best-known work is the sculpture of a seated Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.-Life and career:...

, The Minute Man, located at the North Bridge, was unveiled on that day. A formal ball
Ball (dance)
A ball is a formal dance. The word 'ball' is derived from the Latin word "ballare", meaning 'to dance'; the term also derived into "bailar", which is the Spanish and Portuguese word for dance . In Catalan it is the same word, 'ball', for the dance event.Attendees wear evening attire, which is...

 took place in the evening at the Agricultural Hall in Concord.

Sesquicentennial commemoration

In April 1925 the United States Post Office issued three stamps commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battles at Lexington and Concord. The Lexington—Concord commemoratives were the first of many commemoratives issued to honor the 150th anniversaries of events that surrounded America's War of Independence. The three stamps were first placed on sale in Washington, D.C. and in five Massachusetts cities and towns that played major roles in the Lexington and Concord story: Lexington, Concord, Boston, Cambridge, and Concord Junction (as West Concord
West Concord, Massachusetts
West Concord is an unincorporated village and census-designated place in the town of Concord in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 5,632 at the 2000 census.-Geography:West Concord is located at ....

 was then known). This is not to say that other locations were not involved in the battles.







Bicentennial commemoration


The Town of Concord invited 700 prominent U.S. citizens and leaders from the worlds of government, the military, the diplomatic corps, the arts, sciences, and humanities to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the battles. On April 19, 1975, as a crowd estimated at 110,000 gathered to view a parade and celebrate the Bicentennial
United States Bicentennial
The United States Bicentennial was a series of celebrations and observances during the mid-1970s that paid tribute to the historical events leading up to the creation of the United States as an independent republic...

 in Concord, President Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford
Gerald Rudolph "Jerry" Ford, Jr. was the 38th President of the United States, serving from 1974 to 1977, and the 40th Vice President of the United States serving from 1973 to 1974...

 delivered a major speech near the North Bridge, which was televised to the nation.

External links