The Battles of Lexington and Concord

The spring of 1775 found Great Britain’s North American colonies in turmoil. Lingering animosities from the Seven Years’ War (1754-1763-Also known as the French and Indian War) centering on expansion and the British crown’s attempt to pay for the conflict finally came to a head on 19 April 1775 when a force of approximately 700 men under the command of LTC Francis Smith confronted 77 colonial militiamen on the town green at Lexington, Massachusetts. The British force moved through Lexington, on its way to Concord, determined to seize and destroy military supplies that could be used against the crown by colonial rebels. Smith’s force never intended to engage colonists unless they faced armed resistance. The colonists, however, were warned ahead of time about the British plans and they moved most of their supplies to other locations prior to Smith’s arrival in Lexington.

The small militia force at Lexington was commanded by CPT John Parker, a patient leader with experience in the French and Indian War. He intended to make a political demonstration rather than combat Smith’s British force unless the colonists were fired on first. Who fired the first shot during the tension-filled standoff that occurred when the British ordered Parker’s men to “lay down your arms, you damned rebels” is uncertain. The resulting melee, however, resulted in 8 militiamen killed and 10 wounded. One British soldier was also wounded. The remaining militiamen fled the green and spread word throughout the countryside of what had happened at Lexington. Smith’s soldiers completed their search for military stores hidden in Lexington then departed for Concord to uncover supplies stashed there. But like Lexington, the colonists had moved most supplies there prior to the British arrival.

After a sharp engagement between several militia companies and British regulars at Concord’s North Bridge, Smith departed Concord for Boston, returning through Lexington. During the march the countryside swarmed with an estimated 2,000 colonial militiamen that attacked and harried the British from cover until they reached Lexington. When Smith reached Lexington, he linked up with a British relief column of approximately 1,000 soldiers and supporting artillery led by BG Hugh Percy. After treating the wounded, Percy led the combined force out of Lexington and toward Boston. The long march back to Boston resulted in the British column coming under almost constant attack by an estimated 4,000 colonial forces, now led by BG William Heath. Heath recognized the danger of Percy’s flankers and his artillery. Refusing to engage in a set piece battle with the British column, Heath’s men continued harassing the British using both mounted and dismounted skirmishers who engaged Percy’s flanks with musketry. Percy’s column finally made it to the safety of Charlestown, outside of Boston, and had marched 40 miles in 21 hours, sustaining 73 killed, 174 wounded, and 26 missing. The colonial militia units suffered 49 killed, 39 wounded, and 5 missing but watched their force grow to over 15,000 by the morning of 20 April 1775. The British forces had reached the safety of Boston only to find themselves surrounded and under siege. The Battles of Lexington and Concord marked the beginning of the American Revolutionary War that lasted until 1783, ultimately resulting in American independence from the British Empire.

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