April 19, 1775

A painted image of a wooden bridge crossing the Concord river. Redcoat British soldiers approach and fire muskets from the right, Colonial Militia approach and fire muskets from the left. A cloud of smoke rises above the scene. A hill rises sharply behind A painted image of a wooden bridge crossing the Concord river. Redcoat British soldiers approach and fire muskets from the right, Colonial Militia approach and fire muskets from the left. A cloud of smoke rises above the scene. A hill rises sharply behind

Left image
Amos Doolittle painting of the North Bridge

Right image
The North Bridge Today
Credit: NPS Photo

Minute Man National Historical Park in Lexington, Lincoln, and Concord, Massachusetts, preserves and interprets the sites, structures, and landscapes that became the field of battle during the first armed conflict of the American Revolution on April 19, 1775. It was here that British colonists risked their lives and property, defending their ideals of liberty and self-determination. The events of that day have been popularized by succeeding generations as the "shot heard round the world." Often referred to as the "Battles of Lexington, and Concord," the fighting on April 19, 1775 raged over 16 miles along the Bay Road from Boston to Concord, and included some 1,700 British regulars and over 4,000 Colonial militia.

British Casualties totaled 273; 73 Killed, 174 wounded, 26 missing.
Colonial casualties totaled 96; 49 killed, 41 wounded, and 5 missing.

Quick Links

History, science, and living history help us learn about the past.
Battle Site Explorations

At Minute Man, we use history, living history, science and technology to help us learn about the past.

Learn about the many April 19, 1775 witness houses at Minute Man!
April 19, 1775 Witness Houses

Learn about the many April 19, 1775 witness houses at Minute Man!

Group of 40 men dressed as Revolutionary War militia soldiers firing their muskets, white smoke.
The Militia and Minute Men of 1775

Ranger Jim provides some basic information about the militia and minute men of 1775.

A group of 8 men dressed as Revolutionary War British soldiers with red coats, muskets and one drum.
The British Soldier of 1775

Here you will find quick and useful information about the British soldiers in 1775.

A gravestone is imbedded into a low stonewall surrounded by fencing and green grass.
Grave Sites

Minute Man National Historical Park is both a battlefield and graveyard. Many soldiers killed during the battle remain within the park today

Learn about the people whose lives we commemorate at Minute Man

Learn about the people whose lives we commemorate at Minute Man.


Overview of Battle


Prelude to War~ April 18, 1775

In the days, weeks, and months leading to April 19, 1775, tensions across the colony of Massachusetts reached a boiling point. The previous summer British warships closed Boston Harbor, Royal Governor, General Thomas Gage, tasked with implementing the wildly unpopular Massachusetts Government Act, also dismissed the elected Massachusetts legislature, the Great and General Court. In October Patriot leaders called for a Provincial Congress in Massachusetts. Towns across Massachusetts chose to send representatives to this essentially illegal body which immediately proceeded to assume political power. They took control of the colony's militia forces, and began stockpiling arms, ammunition and provisions. Their goal was to raise and equip an army of 15,000 men.

Isolated in Boston, General Gage was running out of options. At last, following the advice he received from his superiors in England, Gage decided to send a force of around 700 soldiers on a secret expedition into the countryside to seize and destroy arms and supplies and disrupt the colonists' warlike preparations. His target was the town of Concord, 18 miles northwest of Boston, where a considerable quantity of these arms and supplies were stockpiled. The expedition consisted of 21 companies of Grenadiers and Light Infantry, the elite soldiers of the army. Grenadiers were chosen for their height and courage. They wore distinctive bear-fur caps which adds to their height and frightening appearance. Light Infantry were soldiers chosen for their physical speed, stamina and intelligence. They were trained to spread out, take advantage of cover, and skirmish with the enemy. Their uniforms were adapted to this service with short coats and leather caps instead of brimmed hats which helped them move more easily through woods.

Solomon Brown, a young man of Lexington who had been to market in Boston, arrived home with the news that he had overtaken and passed a patrol of British officers on the Bay Road. Brown reported his observations to Sergeant William Munroe, proprietor of the Munroe Tavern.

Alarmed by the British excursion into the countryside, Munroe collected eight men from his militia company and posted a guard at the Hancock-Clarke House where John Hancock, and Samuel Adams were then lodging.(HBH,8)
Near 8:00 P.M. a party of mounted British officers rode through Lexington without attempting to arrest Hancock and Samuel Adams. Although observed by locals, the patrol continued along the Bay Road toward Lincoln, passing the area of Hartwell Tavern. As soon as the British patrol exited Lexington, about 40 militia gathered at the Buckman Tavern on Lexington Green to plan their next move.

After passing the farmhouse of Sergeant Samuel Hartwell of the Lincoln Minute Men, the British officers wheeled about and rode back toward Lexington looking for an ideal place to establish a checkpoint.
Near 9:00 P.M. the Lexington militia decided to send scouts mounted on horseback to watch the movements of the British patrol. Elijah Sanderson, later a famous Salem cabinet maker, Jonathan Loring, and Solomon Brown, who had first spotted the horsemen, volunteered.

The group departed Lexington center headed toward Lincoln, unaware of an impending British trap. After crossing the Lincoln line and continuing for nearly a mile, the British patrol emerged from a woodlot and seized the party at pistol point. The militiamen were then led into a pasture, where they were held for four hours, preventing them from spreading the alarm.
General Thomas Gage, Royal Governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, to Lt. Colonel Francis Smith of His Majesty's 10th Regiment of Foot
"Sir, Having received intelligence, that a quantity of Ammunition, Provision, Artillery, Tens and small arms, have been collected at Concord for the Avowed Purpose of raising and supporting a Rebellion against His Majesty, you will march with the Corps of Grenadiers and Light Infantry put under your command, with the utmost expedition and secrecy to Concord, where you will seize and destroy all artillery, Ammunition, Provisions, Tents, Small Arms, and all Military Stores whatever. But you will take care that the Soldiers do not plunder the inhabitants, or hurt private property."

With these orders, Smith was to take roughly 700 soldiers on an 18 mile march into the hostile Massachusetts countryside, seize and destroy rebel military supplies, then return that day to Boston (36 miles round trip). The grenadiers and light infantry in Boston, "were not apprised of the design, till just as it was time to march, they were waked by the sergeants putting their hands on them and whispering to them."

But Dr. Joseph Warren had the news almost before the British had left their barracks. He sent for Paul Revere and William Dawes Jr. Concerned about the route of the British march, Dawes was dispatched over the longer route, to Lexington via Boston Neck, Roxbury, Brookline, Cambridge and Menotomy (Arlington). Revere planned to row across the Charles River and then proceed through Menotomy to Lexington. Their plan was to meet in Lexington and warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams who were staying there while the Provincial Congress was in recess. From there they would continue on to raise the alarm in Concord.
Passing silently by the British warship Sommerset, Paul Revere landed safely in Charlestown where he was met by Colonel Conant, a member of the Committee of Safety who with others had been keeping watch. He confirmed that he had seen the lanterns and dispatched messengers already.

The lantern signals were a pre-arranged signal. According to Paul Revere himself..."When I got to Dr. Warren’s house, I found he had sent an express by land to Lexington — a Mr. William Daws [Dawes]. The Sunday before..I agreed with a Colonel Conant and some other gentlemen that if the British went out by water, we would show two lanthorns in the North Church steeple; and if by land, one, as a signal; for we were apprehensive it would be difficult to cross the Charles River or get over Boston Neck. I left Dr. Warren, called upon a friend and desired him to make the signals."

Revere mounted a horse and began his journey to Lexington.
"Last night between 10 and 11 o'clock all the Grenadiers and Light Infantry of army...embarked and were landed upon the opposite shore on Cambridge marsh; few but the commanding officers knew what expedition we were going upon. After getting over the marsh where we were wet up to the knees, we were halted in a dirty road and stood there 'till two o'clock in the morning waiting for provisions to be brought from the boats and be divided, and which most of the men threw away, having carried some 'em. At 2 o'clock we began our march..." Lt. John Barker, 4th Regiment of Foot, King's Own

April 19, 1775

The Regulars are out!

Revere and Dawes rendezvoused in Lexington to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock who were staying at the home of the town's minister, Reverend Jonas Clarke while the Provincial Congress was in recess. When Revere started shouting under the bedchamber window, Sergeant Munroe of the Lexington Militia who was standing guard told him to not make so much noise. Revere replied "You'll have noise enough before long! The Regulars are coming!" Having warned Adams and Hancock, Revere and Dawes then determined to continue to Concord and warn every household along the way. Soon after starting for Concord, they met Dr. Samuel Prescott of Concord who agreed to ride with them and help. Captain Parker, commander of the Lexington militia, mustered his company on the town green.

Paul Revere was riding about 200 yards ahead of William Dawes and Samuel Prescott when he was surprised by two mounted British officers in the road beside an opening in the wall that leads into a pasture. Dawes turned around and escaped. Prescott jumped his horse over a fence, evaded capture and made it to Concord. Revere cut into the pasture only to be stopped by 6 other officers nearby. One of them yelled “Stop, or I’ll blow your brains out!”

The officers questioned Revere at pistol point; but undaunted Revere exclaimed “You have missed your aim!” meaning the guns at Concord. He then told them he had alarmed the countryside.

“This morning between 1 & 2 O’clock we were alarmed by the ringing of ye bell, and upon examination found that ye troops, to ye number of 800, had stole their march from Boston in boats and barges, from ye bottom of ye common over to a point in Cambridge...This intelligence was brought us at first by Samuel Prescott who narrowly escaped the guard that were sent before on horses purposely to prevent all posts and messengers from giving us timely information....” Reverend William Emerson of Concord.

Once the bells were rung, Concord immediately turned out its two minute companies and two militia companies, who mustered at the town center near the meeting house. Colonel James Barrett, who was responsible for safeguarding the military stockpiles in town, began detaching men from their companies to assist in removing or hiding any of the stores that had not already been removed a few days prior.

Meanwhile in Lexington Captain Parker dismissed his company with orders to be ready to assemble at the beating of the drum. Those who did not live near the town green spent a nervous night in Buckman Tavern.

Ferrying all 700 soldiers across Charles River took over three hours. There were further delays to distribute food to the soldiers in the form of hard-baked biscuits. Many of them were cold, wet and miserable before the march even began. By 2:00 a.m. the column at last began to march. In a short time, the sounds of alarm were heard resonating across the countryside: bells ringing and guns firing. Any hope they had in secrecy was lost.
The British patrol that captured Paul Revere lead him and three other Lexington scouts who had been captured earlier that night back toward Lexington. When they heard the sound of gunfire they decided it would be best to set their prisoners free (without their horses) and try to link up with the column marching from Cambridge. Revere made his way across “a burying ground and some pastures” to the home of Reverend Clarke where he helped John Hancock and Samuel Adams prepare to evacuate.

Colonel Azor Orne, Colonel Jeremiah Lee and Elbridge Gerry, all members of the Committee of Safety from Marblehead, were staying at the Black Horse Tavern in Menotomy (today Arlington). Upon seeing the British column march by, believing they were to be arrested, the men escaped out the back door of the tavern into the chilly April air still in their nightclothes. They hid in a field of corn stubble.

The orders that General Gage gave to Lt. Colonel Francis Smith were to march to Concord to seize arms and supplies. They made no mention of arresting political leaders. However, such an action was generally feared by the Patriot leadership.

Thaddeus Bowman, who had been sent out to scout the road between Lexington and Menotomy, returned in haste to Lexington to warn Captain Parker that he had spotted the British column just a half mile away. Captain Parker ordered drummer William Diamond to beat to arms. Militiamen hurried onto the green and hastily formed ranks.

Lexington To Concord

The British light infantry halted at Vine Brook, about a half mile from Lexington Green, in order to load their muskets. They then continued their advance. When they approached the Green they discovered Captain Parker’s company, about 77 men, formed up and in the open. Someone somewhere fired a shot. The light infantry then rushed onto the green with bayonets, and fired upon the retreating militia. Eight militiamen died on the town common in Lexington. Ten others were wounded. Captain Parker then worked to collect what was left of his company and take them back into the fight later that afternoon.

On April 25th Captain Parker gave a sworn statement about what happened. "I...ordered our Militia to meet on the common in said Lexington, to consult what to do, and concluded not to be discovered, nor meddle or make with said Regular Troops (if they should approach) unless they should insult us; and upon their sudden approach, I immediately ordered our Militia to disperse and not to fire. Immediately said Troops made their appearance, and rushed furiously, fired upon and killed eight of our party, without receiving any provocation therefore from us."

The alarm had been spreading all morning, and minute and militia companies continued to arrive in Concord. Concord's two minute companies and two militia companies were soon joined by two companies from Lincoln. More men were on the way from Bedford and Acton. Not long after daybreak a scout, Reuben Brown, returned to Concord with news that he spotted the regulars in Lexington, and that shots were fired. Unfortunately, when pressed further, he could not tell if they were firing "ball" (live ammunition) or if anyone had been killed.

The British entered Concord. Thaddeus Blood, a Private in Captain Nathan Barrett's Company was among an advanced party that marched about mile east from the center of town along a high ridge that runs along the north side of the road. There they saw the column of British soldiers, 700 strong in a column stretching about a quarter mile, marching toward them. Blood described the scene a follows:

"...we were then formed, the minute (men) on the right, & Capt. Barrett's (militia company) on the left, & marched in order to the end of Meriam's hill then so called & saw the British troops a coming down Brooks Hill. The sun was arising & shined on their arms & they made a noble appearance in their red coats & glistening arms..."

When the regulars entered Concord, the militia, outnumbered by 3 to 1, retreated back along the ridge towards town, then over the North Bridge to a hill nearly a mile beyond called Punkatasset. There they waited for reinforcements. The British then moved to secure both the North and South bridges.

General Gage, in his orders to Lt. Colonel Smith, commander of the Britsh expedition to Concord, directed him to take control of the two bridges in town, the South Bridge and the North Bridge. "You will observe...that it will be necessary to secure the two bridges as soon as possible..."

Securing the bridges was necessary to prevent rebels from slipping across from remote parts of town to threaten the mission. Also, Lt. Colonel Smith sent seven companies across the North Bridge with orders to search for supplies and artillery known to be hidden at Barrett's farm, about a mile west of the bridge. They left three companies (about 96 men) at the bridge to guard it and keep it open for their return.

Colonel James Barrett, at age 65, was responsible for the arms and military supplies being gathered and stockpiled by the Congress. He was out with the militia that morning. The family had been up very early helping to remove any remaining supplies. Colonel Barrett’s wife Rebecca and other family members were home when Captain Parsons arrived with a column of 120 light infantry soldiers. She obligingly served the officers breakfast while the soldiers searched the house. They didn’t find anything.

The minute men and militia advanced from Punkatasset Hill to a field on high ground overlooking North Bridge. With additional companies from Bedford and Acton, their numbers now exceeded 400 men! The British companies left to guard the bridge were still on the same side of the river as the rebels. Both the British and the colonists were content to stay where they were, but smoke was seen rising above the roofs of the town. The colonial soldiers assumed the worst, that the town was being destroyed. In fact, the regulars had set fire to a pile of tents, carriage parts and other supplies. But when the flames accidentally spread to a townhouse, they helped extinguish them after an elderly widow, Martha Moulton insisted they do so.

One warm-tempered Concord officer, Lt. Joseph Hosmer, exclaimed to his superiors "Will you let them burn the town down?" The decision was made to march to North Bridge and engage the British soldiers there. Colonel Barrett issued a firm order. "Do not fire unless first fired upon..." With that, the column of over 400 men, minute men in front, militia companies behind, marched down the road in double file, and in good order.

When the British first deployed at the North Bridge, they were positioned on the west side of the river. This is the side where the Minute Man Statue now stands.

Hopelessly outnumbered by the advancing militia, the British soldiers pulled back to the east side of the bridge, where the 1836 Obelisk now stands, and hastily organized for defense.

As the colonial column advanced to within about 80 yards of the British position, a succession of three shots rang out from the British side and landed in the river on the right of the advancing minute men. Luther Blanchard, a fifer from Acton cried out that he was wounded. Major John Buttrick of Concord then gave the fatefull order "Fire! For God's sake, fire!" This was the first time colonial militiamen were ordered to fire on British soldiers.

In all, twelve British soldiers were hit, three of them fatally. Four out of eight officers present were wounded. The rest of the British soldiers broke and fell back in disorder towards Concord. On the colonial side, Captain Isaac Davis and Private Abner Hosmer were killed. Four other militiamen were wounded.

The minute men and militia decided not to hold the bridge. Instead they posted themselves on a hill overlooking the road from the Barrett farm. Thus, instead of being cut off, Captain Parsons and the 120 British soldiers he led to the Barrett farm were able to cross North Bridge and rejoin the main body in the center of town.
Lt. Colonel Smith and his column prepared to return to Boston. Companies wrapped up their search for arms and returned to the town center. Carts were procured for their wounded. By about noon, the column was reformed and Lt. Colonel Smith gave the order to march. They had 18 miles to go before they would reach the safety of Boston. The enemy, however, was growing in strength and also on the move. Private Thaddeus Blood, of Capt. Nathan Barrett's Concord militia company wrote, "...it was thot best to go to the east part of the Town & take them as they came back……”

Retreat Along The Battle Road

So far there had been fighting at Lexington Green where the first colonists were killed, about 5:00 a.m., and at Concord's North Bridge where the first British soldiers died, around 9:30 a.m. The situation was about to get much much worse as the British column moved out east from Concord center on the road back to Boston. They were attacked by newly arrived minute and militia companies from Reading, Chelmsford and Billerica at a road junction called Meriam's Corner. The British had to pull their flank guard in to cross a brook. The colonists took advantage of this choke point and opened fire. This action is the start of what came to be known as the "Battle Road." From there the fighting continued as the column pushed east from Concord into Lincoln. Learn more about the fight at Meriam's Corner (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov).
Companies from Framingham and Sudbury arrived from the south and engaged the British column on their right flank at a place called Brooks Hill. Companies from Concord, Lincoln, Bedford and Acton, who had fought at North Bridge earlier that morning ,were also in pursuit as were Reading, Chelmsford and Billerica. Meanwhile, 3 companies from the town of Woburn had just arrived and were soon to make their presence felt.

As the road continued east, it descended Brooks Hill about a mile from Meriam’s Corner. At the bottom of the hill the road crossed “Tanner Brook” at “Lincoln Bridge.” It then turned sharply to the northeast (left) cutting through the hillside. It continued northeast for about 300 yards until it made another sharp turn continuing east.

As the British column descended the east side of Brooks Hill, they came to “Lincoln Bridge.” The Woburn companies of Captains Belknap, Fox and Walker, led by Major Loammi Baldwin took a position on the high ground east of Lincoln Bridge. They had somewhere between 180 – 200 men and may have also been joined by companies from Framingham as well.

The Woburn companies opened a brisk fire then fell back toward the second turn in the road, firing from new positions as opportunity allowed. As the British column plunged ahead through the turn of the road they were soon met by a heavy fire from their left (west side of the road). One participant said the British suffered “more deadly injury than at any one place from Concord to Charlestown. Eight or more of their number were killed on the spot and no doubt many wounded.” Learn more about the fighting at Elm Brook Hill (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov).

One thousand British reinforcements left Boston sometime after 9:00 a.m. led by Brigadier General Hugh Earl Percy. Hoping to meet up with Smith’s column before it was too late, they left a wagon train loaded with ammunition behind to catch up when they could. It was lightly guarded. A group of older men, many of them veterans of the old French Wars, gathered at the Cooper Tavern in Menotomy. They chose David Lamson, a half-Indian veteran, as their leader. They set up an ambush for the supply train. Lamson called upon the British drivers to halt and surrender. Instead they chose to make a run for it. Lamson and his men opened fire and killed several men and horses.

The first shots of the American Revolution occurred at roughly 5:30 in the morning, April 19, 1775. In the space of no more than a few minutes life for the people of Lexington had changed forever. Eight of their neighbors and relatives were dead and ten were wounded. What they did next is a testimony to their courage and the leadership of Captain Parker.

Sometime mid-morning Captain Parker collected his shattered company. They marched west towards Concord for the purpose of getting back into the fight. They chose a place very close to the border with the town of Lincoln on rising ground overlooking the road and a narrow bridge that the British regulars would have to pass. The ground chosen by Parker’s company was wooded and strewn with large boulders for cover. When the advance guard of the British column crossed the bridge Parker’s men opened fire. Learn more about Parker's Revenge (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov).

With over a thousand Colonial Militia closing in on the column quickly, the British rear-guard passed the Whittemore house and the Bull Tavern before ascending the sloped sides of the Bluff. From this commanding viewpoint, covered by trees, the Regulars watched Colonial militia advance toward the Tavern, a building that Reading militia man Rev. Edmund Foster knew as “Benjamin’s Tavern.” The British rear-guard then opened fire from the high ground at the Bluff and covered the lead elements of their column now ascending Fiske hill. Learn more about The "Bloody" Bluff (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov).

Utilizing scattered tree lots, stone walls, piles of rail fence, and boulders, colonial Militia staged themselves around the Bay Road. In the distance the long column of weary and battered redcoats struggled toward Lexington; their ammunition nearly exhausted and ranks on the verge of collapse. As they climbed the winding road on Fiske Hill, Reading Minuteman Edmond Foster recalled;

"The enemy were then rising and passing over Fiske's Hill. An officer, mounted on an elegant horse, and with a drawn sword in his hand, was riding backwards and forwards, commanding and urging on the British troops. A number of Americans behind a pile of rails raised their guns and fired with deadly effect. The officer fell, and the horse took fright, leaped the wall, and ran directly towards those who had killed his rider. The enemy discharged their musketry in that direction, but their fire took no effect."

It is believed that sometime between Parker's Revenge, this encounter and meeting up with reinforcements, both senior commanders of the British expedition, Lt. Colonel Francis Smith and Major John Pitcairn, were wounded.

Learn more about Fiske Hill (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov).

Through a tragedy of errors 1st Brigade, under Hugh Earl Percy, did not leave Boston until 9:00 a.m. (Gage issued the order to muster the brigade and march at 4:00 a.m.). By the time they reached Lexington, about half a mile east of the town common, Smith's column was in an almost full headlong retreat. Lt. John Barker, 4th Regiment of Foot recounts...

"The country was an amazing strong one, full of hills, woods, stone walls &c., which the Rebels did not fail to take advantage of, for they were all lined with people who kept an incessant fire upon us, as we did too upon them but not with the same advantage, for they were so concealed there was hardly any seeing them. In this way we marched between 9 and 10 miles, their numbers increasing from all parts while ours was reducing by deaths, wounds and fatigue, and were were totally surrounded by such an incessant fire as it's impossible to conceive, our ammunition was likewise near expended. In this critical situation we perceived the 1st Brigade coming to our assistance..."


Lexington Back to Boston

William Heath, one of five militia generals appointed by the Provincial Congress, and Patriot leader Dr. Joseph Warren, arrived in Lexington and joined the fight. According to General Heath, "Our General joined the militia just after Lord Percy had joined the British; and having assisted in forming a regiment which had been broken by the shot from the British field pieces...and the British having again taken up their retreat, were closely pursued."

After a brief rest and time to tend the wounded at Munroe Tavern in Lexington, the British column now under the command of Hugh Earl Percy resumed their march to Boston. With the addition of 1st Brigade, the column was now more than 1600 strong. Smith's exhausted soldiers were placed at the head of the column while fresh troops from the brigade formed the rear-guard, the most dangerous post. Lt. Frederick MacKenzie of the 23rd Royal Welch Fusiliers wrote in his journal...

"...our Regiment received orders to form the rear guard. We immediately lined the walls and other cover in our front with some marksmen, and retired from the right of companies by files to the high ground a small distance in our rear, where we again formed in line, and remained in that position for near half an hour, during which time the flank companies, and the other regiments of the Brigade began their march in one column on the road towards Cambridge... before the column had advanced a mile on the road, we were fired at from all quarters, but particularly from the houses on the roadside, and the adjacent stone walls..."

As Percy’s column entered the town of Menotomy (modern day Arlington) the fighting intensified. Companies from Watertown, Medford, Malden, Dedham, Needham, Lynn, Beverly, Danvers, Roxbury Brookline and Menotomy joined the fight. General Heath continued, “On descending from the high grounds in Menotomy, on to the plain, the fire was brisk. At this instant, a musket-ball came so near to the head of Dr. Warren as to strike the pin out of his ear lock. Soon after the right flank of the British was exposed to the fire of a body of militia which had come in from Roxbury, Brookline, Dorchester &c. For a few minutes the fire was brisk on both sides; and the British had here recourse to their field pieces again; but they were now more familiar than before...”

The fighting along the Battle Road grew more and more grim as the column entered more thickly settled areas. One British officer described it as "one continuous village." The fighting was house to house. The home of Jason Russell in particular became a scene of horror as Mr. Russell, 58 years old and lame, refused to be driven from his home. Other men from Danvers and Needham may have also barricaded themselves in his orchard, only to then suffer several killed and wounded by British flankers who came in behind their position. Jason Russell himself was also killed and bayoneted multiple times. Other men, including some from Beverly, managed to make it into the cellar of the home and were able to defend themselves. Mrs. Russell later discovered the body of her husband and 11 others in one room of the house with the blood ankle deep.

The battle now progressed beyond Alewife Brook into Cambridge. Not far beyond this at a place called Watson’s Corner, a small group of militiamen took cover behind a pile of empty casks in the yard of blacksmith Jacob Watson. It was a bad decision as they were ambushed by a British flanking party. Here Major Isaac Gardner of Brookline was killed along with Moses Richardson, John Hicks, and William Marcy of Cambridge.

The British column was nearly spent. The men were exhausted and ammunition was running low. Hugh Earl Percy knew he had to reach safety soon or his column would be cut off. Suspecting that the bridge in Cambridge was held against him (which it was), Percy instead took the road to Charlestown - a brilliant move that saved many lives.

Just as the British column was approaching Charlestown neck and safety, a regiment from Salem was closing in. General Heath wrote “At this instant and officer on horseback came up from the Medford road, and inquired the circumstances of the enemy, adding that about 700 men were close behind on their way from Salem to join the militia. Had these arrived a few minutes sooner the left flank of the British must have been greatly exposed and suffered considerably; perhaps their retreat would have been cut off.”

With the British column across Charlestown neck and able to take a good defensive position on Bunker Hill, covered by the guns of the fleet, the engagement came to an end.
British casualties were 73 killed, 174 wounded, 26 missing.
Colonial casualties were 49 killed, 41 wounded, 5 missing.
Percy would also say of his adversaries that day, "Whoever looks upon them as an irregular mob will find himself much mistaken. They have men amongst them who know very well what they are about... You may depend upon it, that as the Rebels have now had time to prepare, they are determined to go thro' with it , nor will the insurrection here turn out so despicable as it is perhaps imagined at home. For my part, I never imagined they would have attacked the King's troops, or have had the perseverance I found in them yesterday."

April 19, 1775 was the first battle of the American Revolution. There would be no illusions among the people as to what this war would be like. They saw with their own eyes the horrors of it. Rev. David McClure wrote, "Dreadful were the vestiges of war on the road. I saw several dead bodies, principally British, on & near the road. They were all naked, having been stripped, principally by their own soldiers. They lay on their faces."

As General Gage looked out he saw hundreds of enemy campfires springing up in the landscape surrounding Boston. 4000 minute men and militiamen answered the "Lexington Alarm" and saw combat on the 19th of April. 20,000 overall answered the call. They arrived in the area within the week and immediately began establishing siege operations under the direction of the Provincial Congress and the Committee of Safety.

Soldiers were then recruited to serve until the end of the year. From a loose collection of minute and militia companies an army began to take shape, a plan became reality, and the daydream of independency started to grow in the minds of the people.


Last updated: September 29, 2022

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