- The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first battles of the American Revolutionary War.
- The colonists built an alarm system to warn them if the British were coming.
- The British army was coming to get guns from Massachusetts, but colonists knew so they started fighting with British soldiers.
- The battles started on Lexington Green and then moved to Concord Village.
Listen, my children, and you shall hear Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five: Hardly a man is now alive Who remembers that famous day and year. Paul Revere’s Ride Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Since 1764, Great Britain has passed many laws that generated a lot of anger. They include the Sugar Act, Stamp Act, and Townshend Acts.
One city where there was a lot of resistance was Boston which had two big events -the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party.
So in June 1774, King George III made Boston harbor closed until people paid for tea dumped overboard from a year before.
What was happening in Massachusetts?
In 1774, the British Parliament appointed Thomas Gage as Royal Governor of Massachusetts. He was supposed to stop rising unrest in the colonies caused by British laws.
But he made it worse and tried to punish colonists who did things that defied King George, like dumping tea in Boston Harbor. The Coercive Acts were a series of laws he wrote to help him keep order and punish colonists.
By April 1775, Gage saw that the colonists were starting to rebel. He ordered for all weapons and powder in Concord to be seized. But he underestimated his enemies.
April 18, 1775
An American doctor called Joseph Warren learned that British troops were about to march that night from his source. He sent two couriers to tell people of this news.
They went by different ways so they would not get caught. Paul Revere crossed the river by boat, and William Dawes went along other roads. If one of them was caught, the other would get the message across and vice versa.
The patriots had to look at the steeple of the Old North Church. If there was one lantern hanging in the steeple, then British soldiers were coming by land. If there were two, then they came by sea.
Revere passed through the towns of Somerville, Medford, and Menotomy. People fired their guns, so the church bells rang to warn about the coming threat.
As Revere carried out his mission in Charlestown, Dawes left Boston and traveled along the Boston Neck peninsula. The two met up in Lexington, a few miles east of Concord.
Later Revere was captured by a British patrol, while Dawes was thrown from his horse and forced to proceed back on foot back to Lexington.
We set off for Concord, and were overtaken by a young gentleman named Prescot, who belonged to Concord, and was going home. When we had got about half way from Lexington to Concord, the other two stopped at a house to awake the men, I kept along…
In an instant I saw four of them, who rode up to me with their pistols in their bands… We attempted to get through them, but they kept before us, and swore if we did not turn in to that pasture, they would blow our brains out…– Paul Revere, “Account of Midnight Ride to Lexington” (1775)
Just as I reached it, out started six officers, seized my bridle, put their pistols to my breast, ordered me to dismount, which I did.
Paul Revere’s Ride
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a famous poem that took inspiration from these historic events. But he took some poetic license to write it. Here are some of the most famous lines:
He said to his friend, “If the British march By land or sea from the town to-night, Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch Of the North-Church-tower, as a signal-light,— One if by land, and two if by sea; And I on the opposite shore will be, Ready to ride and spread the alarm Through every Middlesex village and farm, For the country-folk to be up and to arm.”
“The British are coming!”
Nowadays, people think Paul Revere shouted, “The British are coming!” as he rode on his horse. This is false. He tried to be quiet so the British wouldn’t notice anything.
The Battle of Lexington
The British saw a small group of men who were in charge of protecting the town. They were led by John Parker.
When the British soldiers came, they ordered the colonists to leave, but Americans refused. Then the bullets started shooting.
The brief fight ended with eight Americans dead (including John Parker) and, at least, an equal number injured. One British soldier was also wounded.
The British army then moved towards Concord. They left dead, wounded, and dying people behind them.
The Battle of Concord
The British then went to search for guns in Concord. It was already 8 am.
British commanders Francis Smith and John Pitcairn ordered 220 people to take the North Bridge across the Concord River. They then continued on another mile to Barrett Farm, where they found weapons and powder.
The British didn’t know that most of the guns had been moved, so they burned what they found.
Some people from Concord and the towns around got together on a high hill. They saw smoke coming out of Concord.
They thought that British soldiers were burning down the town. Captain Davis the first to confront them by saying, “I don’t have any men who are afraid.”
When Davis’s company came close to the British, they started firing and killed Davis. The colonists fired back, killing three British soldiers and wounding nine others.
This is considered the shot heard round the world that caused the redcoats to retreat into town.
The “shot heard round the world”
Someone then shot what was called the “shot heard round the world”. It was called like that in a famous poem written by Ralph Waldo Emerson. This is the beginning of the poem:
By the rude bridge that arched the flood, Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled, Here once the embattled farmers stood, And fired the shot heard round the world.
But in the end, the British left because it was hard to stay there.
Smith and Pitcairn order a return to Boston. For 12 more miles, Smith, Pitcairn, and their men were ambushed by colonists shooting from behind trees, rock walls, and buildings.
When the British reinforcements got to Smith and Pitcairn’s men, they were still being pursued.
The British soldiers had not slept for two days and had marched for 64km in 21 hours. They were very exhausted. The British soldiers killed people because they were so tired from marching without sleep for so long.
The British soldiers ran away but then got to the ships with guns. The Patriots chased them but didn’t know what to do so they let them go.
The British lost 73 men and 174 were wounded when they reached Boston. The Americans lost 49 men and 41 were wounded that day.
Soldiers back then
British soldiers went to Lexington at a time when most people are still sleeping. The British soldiers were called “regulars” or sometimes “red coats” because they wore red uniforms.
Some British soldiers were armed with muskets and bayonets. But many American militias had their own guns, which were light and easy to use.
Colonial militias (people who defend other people) were made up of people to defend settlers from civil unrest and attacks by French or Native Americans. People in the militia called “minutemen” could be ready for a battle in a minute’s time.
What happened afterward?
Americans understood the big fights that happened in Lexington and Concord. They were angry at the British because they had killed people in America.
Radicals such as Sam Adams used this anger to spread propaganda and make people more frustrated with the British. The Americans surrounded Boston and started to get many new recruits for their army.
A man called Ezekiel Russell from Salem, Massachusetts quickly made a poster called “Bloody Butchery by the British Troops”. This poster detailed the fights and America’s losses.
He wanted to make sure that these important events were not forgotten so he urged people to remember them.
June 17, 1775
The British army defeated the Americans in the Battle of Bunker Hill. They only had a few casualties because they were stronger than the patriots fighting them.
Consequences of the battles
John Adams said that these battles were the moment when it was clear what would happen. They showed that American citizen soldiers could stand up to redcoats, which people did not know before then.
The revolution was about to begin. Tensions were high. The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the spark to light the fire.
By that summer, there was a full-scale war. Later America became its own country and got its independence on July 4, 1776.
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