Lexington and Concord, Battle of

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During the late evening hours of 18 April 1775, General Thomas Gage, commander in chief of all British forces in North America, ordered a raid to capture military stores then known to have been gathered by colonial forces in the town of Concord, Massachusetts. Gage selected a group of soldiers led by Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith and had them quietly rowed across the Charles River to begin their nearly twenty-mile march from Boston to Concord. However, the Patriot leader Paul Revere, spying a lantern warning hung in the steeple of Boston's Old North Church, rowed across the river ahead of the British landing force and quickly traveled by horseback, along with other alarm riders, to warn the Middlesex countryside that the British regulars were out in force. Revere was ultimately captured and later released by British patrols but other alarm riders were able to warn the entire countryside within a few hours of the British beginning their march on the town of Concord.

Arriving at the village of Lexington near dawn, the van of Smith's force spotted the militia company of Captain John Parker in loose formation on Lexington Green. A British officer ordered Parker and his men to lay down their arms when a shot rang out. No one knows for sure which side fired the "shot heard round the world." The British responded by firing a volley into the ranks of Parker's militia, ultimately killing eight townsmen.

Continuing toward the village of Concord, Smith placed a company to guard the North Bridge while other components searched for military stores. About four hundred colonial militia then marched on the bridge and, in a sharp action in which several British soldiers were killed, routed the British company guarding the bridge. Sensing that the countryside was now in a full state of alarm, Smith quickly reformed his force and began a rapid retreat toward Boston. Ambushed at frequent locations on the long road back, Smith's command would have been nearly destroyed had it not been for the timely arrival of Lord Hugh Percy's relief column, which met Smith and his men near Lexington. Even so, the now united British force found itself in heavy combat with Massachusetts militia units for the rest of the day. Casualties were considered heavy on both sides, but the Patriot side claimed the day as a great victory for their cause. In all, 49 militiamen had been killed along with 39 wounded. British losses for the day were 73 redcoats killed and 174 wounded. With this battle, American resistance to British policies shifted from political protest to armed belligerence, and the Revolutionary War commenced.

See alsoRevolution as Civil War: Patriot-Loyalist Conflict; Revolution: Military History .


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Charles Patrick Neimeyer