LEXINGTON AND CONCORD: THE FIRST CONFLICT
On April 19, 1775, the first armed conflict of the American Revolutionary War occurred at the small towns of Lexington and Concord, in Massachusetts. The basics of the story of that day have been passed down to us in a fairly accurate manner. But there are stories about these engagements that have been lost over time. We have gathered some here, but first we need to set the stage for what happened that day.
The plan also included the capture of Samuel Adams and John Hancock. They left Boston 10 days earlier having received word of the secret London instructions, even before Gage had been notified. The two remained in Lexington until April 18th before moving again.
Most of the area’s militiamen, the “minute men,” were organized and waiting near Concord, nearly 2,000 strong. When the British column arrived at Concord, they began to search for military supplies. All they found were three cannons buried behind a tavern and 550 pounds of musket balls, which were thrown into a pond. All of the musket balls were recovered by the colonists after the British left.
The militiamen and the British soldiers were about 50 yards apart, separated by the Concord River. The colonists were told to load their muskets but not to fire unless fired at. Suddenly, a shot rang out. There was no controversy this time that the shot came from the British. Unlike Lexington, the soldiers found themselves outnumbered. Many of them were young and not accustomed to combat. The tense fight only lasted 10 minutes. The British troops began to flee. The Americans were shocked by their victory. Some began to advance on the retreating soldiers, but many simply went home to protect their families.
To win support for their cause in England, the colonists collected testimonies from the militiamen and captured soldiers that painted the British as the aggressors and the Americans as innocent victims. They sent these documents to London on the fastest ship available, and they were published in London newspapers two weeks before Gage’s official military report arrived. This gave the colonists a political victory to go along with their battlefield victory.
For the next 200 years, popular perceptions of this first conflict of the Revolutionary War have changed and many of the details have been lost. Today, Lexington and Concord are seen as a symbol of a people standing up for their independence.