Significance of the Battles of Lexington & Concord

Amanda Ferguson, Alexandra Lutz
  • Author
    Amanda Ferguson

    Amanda has taught middle and high school social studies subjects for several years. She has a Master of Arts in Teaching degree, with specialization in Secondary Social Studies Education, as well as a Bachelor's in Psychology.

  • Instructor
    Alexandra Lutz

    Alexandra has taught students at every age level from pre-school through adult. She has a BSEd in English Education.

Explore the reasons for the battles at Lexington and Concord. Understand why the British marched on Concord. Learn about the significant events following these battles. Read about related conflicts like Bunker Hill. Updated: 09/20/2021

Table of Contents


The Battles at Lexington and Concord

The first battles of the American Revolutionary War were fought at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts on April 19, 1775. These two skirmishes between American Patriots and the British Loyalist forces launched the American Revolution into full swing, which there was no turning back from. Mounting tensions between the Colonists and the British precipitated the years before the battles of Lexington and Concord. Events such as the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, the First Continental Congress meeting, and implementation of the Coercive Acts had taken place, leading to increased hostility and distrust of the British and their leadership.

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Lexington and Concord Dates

In the days prior to the battles, Royal Governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Gage, heard there was a store of colonial weapons and gunpowder in Concord. Gage wanted to avoid any potential uprisings and violence, so he ordered 700 British troops to seize the arms storage. Meanwhile, Patriot spies got word of what the British were planning, and feared the British were coming after prominent Patriot leaders. Outraged, the Patriots formed a plan of their own to intercept the British and protect the colonists as well as their interests.

Some historians believe Gage's wife, Margaret, may have alerted the colonists of her husband's plans. Margaret was thought to have harbored Patriot sentiments and communicated with Patriot leader Dr. Joseph Warren. When Warren was informed of the British plans, he called on Paul Revere, William Dawes, and others, to go out and warn other known Patriots that the Regulars were coming. (Regulars was a common term for British soldiers).

Colonial Patriot groups planned ahead and instilled an alarm system of sorts for moments like these, which amounted to a network of people, plans, signals, etc., in place. Militia and minutemen had been organized and were at the ready, largely following the colonial First Continental Congress of 1774.

Revere, Dawes, Samuel Prescott, and others began alerting Colonists to be ready for the Regulars on the night of April 18 through the morning of the April 19. The poem 'Paul Revere's Ride' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow immortalizing how Revere rode through the towns at midnight alerting the Colonists 'The British are coming'. Due to this colonial alarm system, the Patriots were able to quickly organize thousands of militia and minutemen, which lead to their victory on April 19, 1775.

Depiction of Paul Revere alerting the colonists

Depiction of Paul Revere alerting the colonists

Location of Lexington and Concord

Lexington and Concord are both located in Massachusetts. Lexington is about 10 miles from Boston's city center and Concord is about 20 miles.

Both locations are important due to their close proximity to the city of Boston, which was a breeding ground of ideas for independence. The British continued a strong presence in Boston at this time, due to colonial unrest, so any outlying towns would be important in trying to control the overall region.

Conflict would occur in Lexington because the Colonial Militia organized a small band to stop the British from continuing their march on to Concord. After the first skirmish in Lexington was over, the British continued their march to Concord to find the arms cache. But, when they reached Concord, they were met with even more American militia forces and the realization the arms had been relocated. The route connecting the two towns is now known as the Battle Road Trail.

What Happened at Lexington and Concord

Events leading to the battles at Lexington and Concord were incited by the British desire to control and extinguish any hint of rebellion, while the Patriots sought the right to defend and, ultimately, rule themselves. These conflicting desires led to the violent events of April 19 and would be the first battles of the American Revolutionary War. Even though the events at Lexington and Concord are typically referred to as battles, they were more like skirmishes due to the length of time and overall scope of fighting in each. Lexington's skirmish lasted around 15 minutes or less. Concord's skirmish was larger and deadlier, but reportedly only lasted a few minutes. Then, the British retreated back to Boston with thousands of Patriot militiamen firing at them from all directions.

Reasons the British March on Concord

The immediate reason why the British marched on Concord was to suppress possible colonial rebellion by taking weapons from the arsenal stashed at Concord. Massachusetts Governor Gage was informed of a considerable supply of arms stored there. By the time the British arrived in Concord, the arms cache had been relocated and secured by colonial groups. The British spent a few hours searching for arms in the area but found little. Meanwhile, the Colonial or Patriot Militia and Minutemen gathered around them, with many watching from the military advantage of high ground, waiting to take action.

How the Conflict Started at Lexington

At 5 a.m. on April 19, 1775, around 77 militiamen led by Capt. John Parker waited on the town green in Lexington. They were met with around 400-700 British soldiers, led by Francis Smith and John Pitcairn. Parker ordered his men to disperse, but a shot rang out, leading to firing back and forth. The minutemen dispersed, but 8 of them died and 10 more were wounded. Only one British soldier was wounded. The British then continued their journey to Concord.

Contrary to popular belief, the messenger Paul Revere was unable to complete his ride to Concord. He was captured between Lexington and Concord by British forces, was held for a time for questioning, and was released a few hours later without his horse. The Patriots knew alerting their countrymen was too important to leave to one man. Dawes and Prescott rode other routes, escaped capture, and were able to finish alerting Colonial Militia of the impending British arrival.

Conflict at Concord

British forces arrived in Concord around 8 a.m. on April 19. For a few hours, they searched for the store of colonial arms in the area. Torching the few they found, the British created a large fire, worrying the colonists they may set fire to the whole town. The colonists were instructed to meet the British at the fortified North Bridge. British forces fired the first shot, then more shots were fired by both sides. Two colonists and three red coats died. This first shot would later be named "The shot heard 'round the world." This term was coined by Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1837 in his "Concord Hymn" poem. The Concord skirmish and the militiamen relentlessly firing on British soldiers on their way back to Boston would be known as "Parker's Revenge'.

Concord's skirmish lasted only a few seconds. Intimidated by the hundreds of militiamen, the British made their retreat back to Boston. During the grueling 16-mile retreat, British forces were fired upon by a reported thousands (though the actual number is unknown) of militia and minutemen. The militia hid behind trees, buildings, rock walls, and more. Their understanding of the land and potential hiding places gave them a superior military advantage. The British picked up additional reinforcements when they hit Lexington again, but that did not stop militia from firing.

Outcomes of the Battles of Lexington and Concord

Some British forces eventually escaped to their ships anchored in the waterways around Boston, particularly Charlestown Neck. They were covered by gunfire and protected by additional British troops. Colonial forces let them go, as they did not have any clear commands to move forward with an alternate plan. One commander of a fresh militia regiment reportedly told the group to let the British go on their way. The immediate aftermath was a sense of pride and confidence in Patriots in the colonies. See the table below for statistics on the battles of Lexington and Concord.

Battles of Lexington & Concord American/Patriots British/Loyalists
Forces Engaged: 3,960 1,500
Casualties: 93 300
Killed: 49 73

British retreat from Concord

British retreat from Concord map

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Frequently Asked Questions

Which came first Lexington or Concord?

The Battle of Lexington occurred first on the morning of April 19, 1775. Lexington was on the way to the British destination of Concord.

Who won the battle of Lexington and Concord?

The Patriots or American colonists won those battles, forcing British troops to march back to Boston. Militia groups and colonial alarm systems were instrumental in the Patriot victory.

What was the purpose of Lexington and Concord?

The battles of Lexington and Concord occurred because Patriot colonists wanted to protect their arm stores and be prepared for any British aggressions. The British wanted to confiscate known colonial weaponry in order to prevent rebellion. This disagreement led to a fight breaking out in Lexington, and then Concord on April 19, 1775.

Why did the battle of Lexington and Concord happen?

The battles of Lexington and Concord occurred due to MA Governor Thomas Gage ordering British troops to confiscate colonial weaponry stored at Concord. Colonists and Patriots heard of Gage's plan and organized militia groups to intercept the British and protect colonial interests.

Why was the Battle of Lexington and Concord so important?

The battles of Lexington and Concord were important because they raised hope and morale in Patriots, and served as a colonial victory. They were the first real battles and initial steps to the American Revolutionary War.

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