AP®︎/College US History
Lexington and Concord
- The Battles of Lexington and Concord, fought on April 19, 1775, were the first military clashes of the American Revolutionary War.
- The Massachusetts militia routed the British Army forces and were soon joined by militias from Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. These militias would become the core of the Continental Army.
Growing tensions leading to the American Revolution
In February 1775, British Parliament declared that the colony of Massachusetts was in a state of rebellion.
After Parliament had passed the Intolerable Acts—largely aimed at punishing Boston’s revolutionaries for the Boston Tea Party—the British government had tightened its grip on the government of Massachusetts. The royally appointed governor, Thomas Gage, had been granted broadly expanded powers, and the British had sent thousands of troops to Boston.
The Massachusetts colonial assembly responded to these provocations by directing townships to ready their militias. War was coming, and Boston’s patriots were preparing for it.
The British were preparing, too, and in April 1775, they directed Gage to disarm the rebels. Gage ordered Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith to gather 700 British Army soldiers and march to Concord, where the rebels were reportedly storing mass quantities of arms and ammunition. Their orders were to find the stash and destroy it.
The Patriots, as the anti-British rebels were known, had established a fairly effective intelligence network, and some historians even believe that Gage’s American wife, Margaret Kemble Gage, was a rebel spy. Whether or not she was the one who provided the Patriots with the information about the planned seizure and destruction of the armory at Concord, they received word of the British orders.
On April 18, Patriot Paul Revere rode to Concord and notified local militias in the area to be on the alert for the British army forces.
Portrait of Paul Revere
The "shot heard round the world"
On April 18, Revere was warned that British Army regulars were making their way to the towns of Lexington and Concord. Having already warned the militia in Concord, which had secured the weapons supply, Revere rode quickly to Lexington to warn the townspeople of the expected British onslaught. The rebel intelligence network suggested that the British aim in Lexington was to capture Samuel Adams and John Hancock, two of the most prominent Patriot leaders, but the size of the British army force was large enough to suggest they had bigger goals in mind.
The British soldiers and rebel militiamen raced to Lexington during the night; they confronted each other at Lexington Green—a village common area—just as the sun was rising on the morning of April 19. Captain John Parker, a veteran of the Seven Years' War, led a contingent of 80 Lexington militiamen, known as minutemen because they had to be ready to fight at a minute’s notice. Years later, one of the participants recalled Parker’s words right before the deadly skirmish: “Stand your ground; don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”
A British officer demanded that the militia disarm and disperse, and in the ensuing confusion, shots were fired. To this day, there exists considerable uncertainty over whether the militiamen or the British soldiers fired first. Regardless, the British soldiers rushed forward with their bayonets. A skirmish ensued, during which eight militiamen were killed and only one British soldier wounded.
After order was restored, the British soldiers began the march to Concord, where militias from Concord and the nearby town of Lincoln were waiting. After the British found and destroyed rebel weapons caches, they squared off against the colonial forces at the North Bridge. Outnumbered and outmaneuvered, the British soldiers broke rank and fled, handing the stunned colonists a victory.
Engraving depicting ranks of British soldiers marching through the town of Concord
The militiamen proceeded to lay siege to Boston, where they were joined by militias from Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. These colonial forces would be constituted as the Continental Army by the Second Continental Congress.
The American Revolutionary War had begun.
What do you think?
In your opinion, was the Battle of Lexington really a battle? Why was it so significant?
Do you think the confrontation at Lexington and Concord made war with Britain inevitable?
What role do you think spies might have played in shaping the course of the first military clash between the British army and the colonial militias?
Want to join the conversation?
- why was the battle of lexington so significant ?(26 votes)
- It was the first battle of the revolutionary war.(19 votes)
- How would the loyalist help the british, during battles like these?(13 votes)
- the loyalists would either refuse to take part in the conflict or they would help by exposing plans. Usually they refused to do anything. Some of them helped quarter soldiers.(16 votes)
- "The Patriots, as the anti-British rebels were known, had established a fairly effective intelligence network, and some historians even believe that Gage’s American wife, Margaret Kemble Gage, was a rebel spy."
Where can I learn more about Margaret Kemble Gage? Does anyone know of any reliable sites to check out? Thanks! :)(6 votes)
- mountvernon.org has many articles and videos about the Revolutionary War. I bet you could find some great information about Margaret Kemble Gage there. : )(6 votes)
- Did the militias collect the supplies they needed from the weapon caches and leave some as bait for the British to destroy, or were the British able to destroy the caches before the militias could stop them? Did the militia even know that the objective of the British was to destroy said caches?(9 votes)
- Well the militias did get to the supplies first leaving nothing behind, making me believe that the did not leave any Caches. there could have been caches but if you want to know then you might want to do some research ZOB ROMBIE(2 votes)
- The article says that "After order was restored, the British soldiers began the march to Concord..."; but how was the order restored? Did John Parker make peace with the Britsh? Or sommething else?(6 votes)
- Order is restored when someone takes command and others obey. It was restored by good military discipline.(4 votes)
- why was it called the shot heard round the world(4 votes)
- Because the spark from the American revolution spread to other nations and colonies and inspired them to fight for their independence. So it wasn't a literal gunshot, it was more of an idea that spread.(6 votes)
- do you think the confrontation at Lexington and Concord made war with Britain inevitable?(3 votes)
- I think the thing is you can't say anything is inevitable when talking about historical events. History was influenced by people, so if people acted differently, everything would have been completely different. For example, if no one fired in Lexington, it would make no difference.(6 votes)
- does any body under stand question 3 i am comfused(1 vote)
- I think it concerns how the colonial militia were told of the coming British troops, making them able to prepare in advance. Somebody had to know about the British Army orders, ride to Lexington and Concord, and tell the militia of the British plans. It's asking if there were spies in the British Army who were willing to risk telling the colonists.(8 votes)
- After the battle at Lexington Green, what did England thought of the Americans grievances? Thank you!(3 votes)
- what did the battle of lexington gain from the fight.(2 votes)
- The Battle of Lexington was important because it was the unofficial beginning of the Revolutionary War. This was the first time the colonial army fought the British army. After the fighting occurred at Lexington, the British moved on to fight at Concord.
Hope that helps!(3 votes)