“Stand your ground, Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have war let it begin here,” Captain John Parker announced moments before the battle of Lexington and Concord. The Battle of Lexington and Concord was the official start of The Revolutionary War, where the Americas famously struggled to procure independence from Great Britain.
The Situation in Massachusetts
The 13 colonies, initially established by the British, wanted freedom from the mainland, which directly led to The Battle of Lexington and Concord, the first major battle of the war. Various acts were passed by the British parliament, including the Townshend act, Stamp act, and the Sugar act, which caused tensions between the colonists and the British. As well as the Boston Massacre and, a few years later, the Boston Tea Party, which was the last straw for both sides as parliament a year after the Boston Tea Party in 1774 passed the Intolerable Acts and officially declared that Massachusetts was in open rebellion.
April 18th, 1775
Under faulty intelligence, Dr. Joseph Warren advised William Dawes and, most famously, Paul Revere of the British riding through Massachusetts to Lexington to arrest the two significant leaders of the Sons of Liberty, Samuel Adams and John Hancock. The British were thought to also be on the way to secure stockpiles of colonial ammunition, gunpowder, and canons. They were, in fact, on a mission to Boston.
Accordingly, Dr. Warren told Dawes and Revere to hold two lanterns on their way to alert the fellow sons of liberty that the British were coming not just through the neck of Boston but over the Charles river as well. Eventually, Paul revere made it to the residence in Lexington, where Adams and Hancock resided. With the help of Dawes, who arrived shortly after because of the longer route through the Neck of Boston, Paul managed to convince the two leaders to flee.
They embarked on the journey again, eventually being upheld by Dr. Sam Prescot, who was discovered to be another leader of the Sons of Liberty and joined the two. The British captured the three-midnight rider, Dawes and Prescot, narrowly escaped, while Revere was taken into custody, questioned, and released hours later. The British stripped Revere of his horse, so he walked back to Lexington to witness the conclusion of The Battle of Lexington and Concord.
The First Meet Between the British and Colonial Forces
It is now April 19th, 1775; one day after the midnight ride, at the dawn of the 19th, Commander Thomas Gage’s British forces met with Captain John Parker’s militiamen that had gathered thanks to warnings from the midnight riders. A British general shouted, “Throw Down your arms! ye villains, ye rebels.”
Suddenly, a loud bang from a musket was heard, the first shot was fired, and to this day, no one knows which side shot first. The militiamen were then ordered to scatter; simultaneously, many British volleys were fired onto them. The British proceeded to march onto Concord to loot the revolutionary supplies. They were surprised to see they had little munitions to apprehend, so they torched all of it, and the fire then got out of control. In fear of the whole town being burnt down, the militiamen, nicknamed minutemen for their ability to be called to action at a “moment’s notice,” met the British at the North Gate Bridge.
North Gate Bridge
The British fired first but fell back after being overwhelmed by a revolutionary volley. This volley became known as the “shot heard ’round the world,” and Ralph Waldo Emerson later popularized this phrase.
The British then searched Concord for around 4 hours and made preparations to return to Boston, which was 18 miles away. By the time the British reached Boston, 2000 militiamen had already arrived, and more were constantly on their way. The Militiamen initially followed the British Column, and fighting broke out.
Revolution Forces Gain the Upper Hand
The Minutemen used guerilla-like tactics like hiding in trees and shooting at the British, forcing them to retreat to Lexington, and even causing some troops to abandon weapons, clothes, and other equipment to get there faster. When they finally reached Lexington, they were met with newly arrived redcoats sent as reinforcements. However, the revolutionary army didn’t fall back and kept pushing onto them, even through Cambridge and Menotomy.
The British tried to quell the revolutionary army with flanks of cannons to no avail. Minutemen were arriving from other parts of Massachusetts, including Marblehead and Salem, and overwhelmed the British. The revolutionary army now had their chance to cut off the British escape and cause significant casualties though the same would happen to their side, so the commander ordered them not to attack. The British safely made it to Charleston Neck for naval reinforcements.
Battle of Lexington: Statistics
There were reportedly 1,800 British troops before reinforcements had arrived, and the total number of American forces is unknown. Thomas Gage was the governor of Massachusetts and was the one who met with Captain John Parker at the start of the battle with 700 British troops. Gage was pleasantly surprised by Parker’s somewhat low soldier count of only around 70 armed soldiers. The British were commanded by Francis Smith and John Pitcairn, while the revolutionary forces were commanded by John Parker. 3,500 militiamen were firing on the British, but only around 250 Brits were killed or wounded, and 90 minutemen were killed or wounded.
The Continental Army
The battle lasting only around a day ended in what is considered an American victory. During the time, Great Britain was a military superpower, and the colonial army was just state militias coming together. Against all odds, the soon-to-be-named American forces that overcame them dealt a considerable blow to the opposing army and was a big ego boost and moral victory for the colonists. This spread nationalism in the colonies inspiring many to take up arms to successfully succeed from Great Britain, forming the Continental Army. “What a glorious morning for America.” -Samuel Adams