Battle of Lexington and Concord
The Battle of Lexington and Concord The battle of Lexington and Concord was the first battle of the American Revolutionary War, marking the ‘shot heard around the world. ’ Pursuing several years of mounting tensions and the livelihood of Boston troops, the military governor of Massachusetts, General Thomas Gage, began moving to secure the colony’s military supplies to keep them from the patriot militias. His proceedings received official consent on April 14, 1775, when orders arrived from the secretary of State the Earl of Dartmouth, commanding him to disarm the rebellious militias and to arrest key colonial leaders.
Believing the militia to be hoarding supplies at Concord, Gage made plans for part of his force to march and occupy the town. Gage gave secret instructions to 700 regulars under the command of Lieutenant Colonels Francis Smith to confiscate the ammunition. They would also be looking for rebel leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Gage was relying on the secrecy of his instructions to carry out the plan without any hindrance, but a well organized intelligence system, which supposedly involved Gages own wife, kept the militia abreast of the developments.
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The militia in Concord had started to relocate the gathered ammunition to a more secure location even before the British troops had set off. Paul Revere, a local silversmith and patriot, arranged for the militia in Charlestown to know, through the now famous ‘one if by land, two if by sea’ code (referring to the number of lanterns to be lit in a church steeple in the respective case), whether the British were coming by sea or by land. He and William Dawes rode through the night to Concord, alerting colonists in every town they passed through.
Dodging British patrols along the way, they safely made it to Lexington, where Samuel Adams and John Hancock were staying. Despite Gages efforts to deep the raid secret, the colonists had long been aware of the British coming. In Lexington, Captain John Parker mustered the town’s militia and had them fall into ranks on the town green with orders not fire unless fired upon. Around sunrise Smiths advance force led by Major John Pitcairn, arrived in Lexington. Riding forward Pitcairn demanded the militia to disperse and lay down their arms.
Parker partially complied and ordered his men to go home, but to retain their muskets. Captain Parker suffered from tuberculosis. Hence, his voice wasn’t clearly audible and the militia was slow to retreat, and in the midst of all the pandemonium, a shot rang out from an unknown source. This led to an exchange of fire which saw Pitcairn’s horse hit twice. Charging forward the British drove the militia from the green. When the smoke cleared, eight of the militia was dead and another ten wounded. One British soldier was injured in the exchange. It is unclear as to this day who fired the first shot.
At Concord the outnumbered Americans retired over the north Bridge and waited for reinforcements. The British occupied the town, held the North Bridge with about 100 regulars and searched for stores to burn. The smoke alarmed the Americans and reinforced to the number of about 450, they marched down the bridge, led by Major John Buttrick. The regulars hastily reformed on the far side to receive them and began to take up the bridge planks. Buttrick shouted to them to desist ‘Fire, fellow soldiers, for God’s sake, fire! ’ the American counterattack killed2 and forced the British from the field.
The Americans did not pursue, however and the British marched for Boston about noon. At Merriam’s Corner their rear guard was fired upon by rebels from Reading, and from there to Lexington the British were under constant fire from snipers. By the time they reached Lexington the regulars were almost out of ammunition and completely demoralized. They were saved only by the arrival of Sir Hugh Percy with a column from Boston and two fieldpieces. When they marched on again the militia dogged them all the way to Charlestown where before sundown the regulars reached safety under the guns of the fleet.
The casualties of the day bear no relation to its importance. 49 Americans and 73 British were killed: the total wounded of both sides was 366. But the fighting proved to the Americans that by their own method they could defeat the British. In that belief, they stopped the land approaches to Boston before night, thus beginning the siege of Boston. Concord Hymn By the rude bridge that arched the flood, Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled; Here once the embattled farmers stood; And fired the shot heard round the world.