Concord and Lexington

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Lexington Green
artistic representation of the Lexington Green where the first shots were fired

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Revolutionary Boston, Lexington, and Concord
by Joseph L. Andrews

On April 19, 1775, the British marched to Lexington and Concord in search of the colonists' stash of military supplies. When they arrived at Lexington they were met by the local Militia. "There appeared a number of the King's troops, about a thousand as I thought, at the distance of
about sixty or seventy yards from us, huzzaing, and on a quick pace towards us ...."
John Robbins, Militiaman

There had been similar confrontations between British troops and militia elsewhere. The British orders were not to fire on the colonists unless fired upon.  But the situation on this day quickly got out of hand. 

Major Pitcairn, the British officer on horseback, had ordered the colonists to disarm and disperse. As they began to do so, a single shot was fired, which led to an exchange of fire between a British platoon and the colonial militia. Eight militiamen were killed and ten wounded before Pitcairn regained control of his troops.

It is not known which side fired.  British troops then began to fire although they had no orders to do so. In fact the British officers tried to get the soldiers to stop firing. Finally they did, but the short conflict left 8 militiamen dead, and 9 others wounded. There was no taking back the "shot heard round the world."


North Concord
artistic representation of the fight on the Old North Bridge

The Old North Bridge

After the confrontation at Lexington the British went on to Concord to search for munitions. British troops and American Militiamen met at the North Concord Bridge. The Americans advanced against the British who were holding their position. The British fired warning shots. The Americans kept moving, hoping that the British would back off and let them pass. The British began firing and hostilities began in earnest. The British retreated to Boston with the Militiamen pursuing.

King George approved the action of the British troops: "Your letter accompanying those received from Major Pitcairn is just arrived: that officer's conduct seems highly praiseworthy. I am of his opinion that when once these rebels have felt a smart blow, they will submit; and no situation can ever change my fixed resolution, either to bring the colonies to a due obedience to the legislature of the mother country or to cast them off!" -- Letter from George III to Lord Sandwich



Major John Pitcairn (Lexington Museum)

Part of These United Colonies: The American War of Independence exhibit

The American Revolution

American Revolution Primary Sources

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