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The Battle of Concord and Lexington 1775

Battle: Concord and Lexington 1775

War: American Revolution

Date: 19th April 1775

Place: Boston, Massachusetts

Combatants: British Troops and the Militia of Massachusetts

Generals: Colonel Smith, Major Pitcairne and Lord Percy commanded the British Troops. Paul Revere and William Dawes rode to warn the villages on the route to Concord and the Congress. Militia were commanded by Barrett, Buttrick, Robinson and many others.

Size of the armies: 1,800 British. American numbers unknown.

First Shots at Lexington, 19th April 1775. Image by John Mackenzie. Click to enlarge.

Uniforms, arms and equipment: The British were armed with muskets and bayonet. Some light guns were used. The American militia were armed muskets, blunderbusses and any weapons they could find.

The fight on the bridge at Concord from a contemporary illustration
The fight on the bridge at Concord from a contemporary illustration

Winner: The British suffered extensive loss. The Americans considered the contest an encouraging start to the war.

The British troops march into Concord from a contemporary illustration

American Minutemen Militia
American Minutemen Militia early in the War (from Tim Reese’s CD Rom of 116
illustrations of British and American Regiments from the Revolutionary War.)

British Regiments:
4th later King’s Own Royal Regiment and now the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment
5th later Northumberland Fusiliers and now the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
10th later the Suffolk Regiment and now the Royal Anglian Regiment
18th now the Royal Irish Regiment
23rd Royal Welch Fusiliers
38th later the South Staffordshire Regiment and now the Staffordshire Regiment
43rd later 1st Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and now 1st Bn Royal Green Jackets.
52nd later 2nd Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and now 1st Bn Royal Green Jackets
59th later the East Lancashire Regiment and now the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment
Marines: now the Royal Marines

Colonel Smith, The British officer who led the march to Concord

This engagement was the first encounter of the Revolutionary War. General Gage commanded the British garrison in Boston. A Provincial Congress determined on independence for the American colonies had been established in Cambridge, Massachusetts outside Boston and the New England militia was drilling for war.

Map of the Battle of Concord Lexington
The route of Lieutenant Colonel Smith's force to Concord on 19th April 1775 and of Brigadier Lord Percy's relieving force from Boston

Gage determined to send a force to seize the weapons and ammunition held by the Congress in the armoury at Concord some 15 miles from Boston. Lieutenant Colonel Smith was dispatched with the grenadier and light infantry companies from each of the regiments in the garrison. Boston was sealed overnight to prevent word being passed of the departure of the force which was rowed across the harbour late on the night of 18th April 1775 to Charles River. The troops landed and began the march, but the sound of bells ringing showed that the countryside had been alerted.

Major Pitcairne's troops on the Green at Lexington
Major Pitcairne's troops fire on the militia on the Green at Lexington
 in the first shots of the war from a contemporary illustration

Smith sent forward a force of light infantry under Major Pitcairne to secure the bridges at Concord. Pitcairne entered Lexington to find a body of militia drawn up on the village green. Shots were fired in which 18 Americans were hit and the militia dispersed.

The troops marched on to Concord where such supplies as had not been removed were destroyed. In the meantime American militia attacked a body of Light Infantry on one of the bridges and drove them back.

The scene in Lexington as the militia squared up to the British troops
for the first shots of the war. 

Smith’s troops then began the march back to Boston, shot at from hidden positions by American militia along the whole route until they met Percy’s relieving force and the whole force withdrew into Boston. On the route British soldiers burned and looted houses of the colonials. In one or two cases colonial militia caught were summarily executed.

Casualties: The British Regiments suffered 19 officers and 250 soldiers killed and wounded. The American losses did not exceed 90 men.

Follow-up: This serious reverse encouraged the spirit of revolt across the American colonies and was the immediate cause of New York being seized for the revolution. A strong force of American’s moved spontaneously to Boston and invested the city, being eventually formed into Washington’s Continental Army.

Regimental anecdotes and traditions:
It is claimed that the fight at Lexington was begun by Major Pitcairne firing his pistols at the Americans.