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|Battles of Lexington and Concord
April 19, 1775, the first battles of the Revolutionary War
On April 18, 1775, Lieutenant General Thomas Gage, military governor of Massachusetts, ordered 700 troops under Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith to destroy a suspected supply depot at Concord, Massachusetts, and to arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Gage's orders were supposed to be secret, but Dr. Joseph Warren somehow learned of the plan and sent Paul Revere and William Dawes to ride to Lexington to warn the patriots there.
When a column of British regulars led by Major John Pitcairn arrived at Lexington in the early dawn of April 19th, it was met by Captain John Parker and about 75 armed Minutemen. According to most contemporary accounts, Parker told his men not to fire on or harass the British unless they themselves were harassed or fired upon, since he did not believe it wise to take on an obviously superior force. Someone, no one knows who, did fire, however, and the both sides ended up in a brief gun battle. By the time it was over 8 colonists were dead and another 10 wounded; one British soldier was wounded in the exchange.
Parker's men fell back after the brief Battle of Lexington, and Pitcairn's men reformed and headed on toward Concord. By the time Pitcairn got to Concord, however, the townspeople had hidden most of the arms and munitions. After conducting a house-to-house search of Concord, the British moved on to Barrett's Farm west of Concord, where athey found and destroyed a couple of cannons and a small cache of munitions. Pitcairn and his men were on their way back to Concord when they encountered about 500 militiamen at North Bridge. Like at Lexington, the militiamen had been instructed not to fire unless provoked. Unlike at Lexington, however, there is no dispute that the British fired the first shot at the North Bridge. Whether that shot was meant as a warning or as a hostile action is not known, but the militiamen began firing back. The Battle of Concord lasted a little longer than the Battle of Lexington had, but this time the colonials prevailed. By the time the British halted their initial retreat, 5 had been killed and another 19 (including 4 officers and Sargeants) wounded.
From Concord, Pitcairn attempted to march his men back to Boston in orderly fashion. His formations were constantly attacked along the way, however. Although most attacks were made from orderly formations at strategic locations along the road, there were also several ambush and sniper attacks. By the time Pitcairn's army got back to Boston he had suffered 73 killed, 173 wounded, and 26 missing; by comparison, the colonials suffered 49 killed, 39 wounded, and 5 missing. Although neither Lexington nor Concord were in any way strategically important battles, they are universally considered to represent the first battles of the Revolutionary War.
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This page was last updated on April 18, 2017.