What are the Battles of Lexington and Concord?

Jason C. Chavis

The start of the American Revolutionary War occurred at the battles of Lexington and Concord on 19 April 1775. Roughly 700 British troops under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith descended onto Middlesex County in Massachusetts in search of weapons and supplies stored by the militia. Patriots, colonial rebels, learned of the operation prior to the Redcoats' arrival and were ready for the troops as they marched through the area. The battles of Lexington and Concord resulted in losses on both sides, igniting the war that would ultimately establish the United States and permanently change the British Empire forever.

Colonists joined militias to fight against the British.
Colonists joined militias to fight against the British.

As the sun rose over Lexington, Major John Pitcairn led six companies of light infantry onto the village green. Captain John Parker, a veteran of the French and Indian War, led 77 militiamen from the Buckman Tavern, taking up a defensive position on the commons. After a brief standoff, Parker realized he was drastically outnumbered. Picairn gave orders to his men to hold their fire, but as the Patriots began to disperse, but during the confusion, a shot was fired.

No one knows who fired the legendary "shot heard 'round the world" that started the Revolutionary War.
No one knows who fired the legendary "shot heard 'round the world" that started the Revolutionary War.

No one knows who fired the famous “shot heard 'round the world,” but with that single discharge, the American Revolutionary War was underway. Reports from the time period state that a colonial observer was responsible. Still others state that a British officer fired. According to historians, there is evidence to support the fact that no combatant on the ground was the culprit.

The conflict at Lexington was short-lived. British troops exchanged fire with the colonials for a brief period of time before fixing bayonets and charging forward. In total, eight colonials were killed and ten wounded. The British suffered only a single casualty.

The battles of Lexington and Concord continued later into the morning. Word of the previous conflict reached the 250 militiamen from Concord and Lincoln under the command of Colonel James Barrett. They marched towards Lexington before turning back towards the outskirts of Concord, taking up a defensive position on a ridge. As the British forces marched towards the town, the Patriots reassembled on a hill across the North Bridge. Soon, minutemen from nearby towns began to swell the ranks of the militia to 400.

After reaching town, the British searched for weapons, but they had already been moved. They then organized for an assault on the Patriots. When the British reached the bridge, they began to fire upon the colonists and the Patriots returned fire. Soon, more reinforcements arrived for both sides, bringing the troop totals to 3,800 Patriots battling roughly 1,000 British.

Realizing they were outnumbered, the British retreated and regrouped in town. They marched out shortly after noon. This gave the colonists a chance to march to Boston, where they would eventually lay siege to British forces. As the first battles of the American Revolutionary War, the conflicts became the rallying cry for the establishment of the Continental Army and the formation of the Second Continental Congress. The battles of Lexington and Concord were the first shots in a conflict destined to last nearly a decade.

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