Battle of Lexington and Concord

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Battle of Lexington and Concord

The Battle of Lexington and Concord was the first battle of the American Revolution (1775–83). It was fought in the towns of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts , and the roads in between on April 19, 1775.

In the years leading up to the war, Great Britain had imposed a series of laws that displeased the colonists. In 1774, the colonists gathered in the First Continental Congress to explore how to react to Britain's colonial policies. (See Continental Congress, First .) The Congress and various colonial communities passed resolutions telling Great Britain that they would not continue to accept British policies unchallenged.

In 1775, Great Britain prepared to respond to possible rebellion in America. Ministers in London imposed embargoes on (blocked) the shipment of arms and ammunition to America. General Thomas Gage (1721–1787), who was governor of Massachusetts and commander-in-chief of British forces in America, made plans to seize gunpowder supplies held by the colonists.

Midnight rides

After nightfall on April 18, 1775, Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith (1723–1791) and Major John Pitcairn (1722–1775) assembled British troops in boats at their fort in Boston to cross Boston Harbor. Their destination was a colonial gunpowder storage in Concord. Colonists monitoring British movements saw the British troops, triggering the famous midnight warning rides of men like Paul Revere (1735–1818) and William Dawes (1745–1799) to assemble colonial forces.

As Smith's men marched on a road toward Lexington, Smith realized the colonists were aware of their movements. He sent a message back to Gage asking for reinforcements while sending Pitcairn ahead with a small force of men to take control of a bridge over the Concord River.

Pitcairn and his men reached Lexington in the early morning hours of April 19, 1775. A group of colonial militia men led by Captain John Parker (1729–1775) was assembled on the village green, off the main road. Pitcairn diverted his men to the green, where they fired on the colonists, killing eight and wounding ten more. According to an account by American printer Isaiah Thomas (1770–1802) published on May 3, 1775, the colonists were dispersing as ordered by the British when the British fired on them.

The British troops continued to Concord to destroy the gunpowder supplies. They arrived around eight o’clock in the morning. The colonists had managed to remove some of their supplies to safety. After destroying some supplies, flour stores, and buildings, the British retreated toward Lexington around noon as a crowd of four hundred militiamen approached. The British suffered many casualties throughout the day as they marched through Lexington back to Charleston, Massachusetts, where they crossed the bay back to Boston. Colonial militiamen hiding along the road fired upon the British during the retreat.

At the end of the day, the British had 273 casualties out of 1,800 men who had been involved in the day's activities. American casualties totaled 95 men. Americans considered it an early victory in what became a war for independence.