Summary of the Battle of Concord
The Battle of Concord was fought on April 19, 1775, in Concord, Massachusetts. It was the second battle of the American Revolutionary War. On the night of April 18th, Thomas Gage, the Commander-in-Chief of British forces in North America, sent around 800 British Redcoats on a march from Boston to Concord, where they were to destroy weapons and ammunition that had been hidden there by Massachusetts militia. The Patriot spy network in Boston learned about the march, and Joseph Warren ordered Paul Revere and William Dawes to ride to Concord and warn people along the way, including Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who were in Lexington. Through the early hours of the 19th, Revere, Dawes, and another rider, Dr. Samuel Prescott, sounded the alarm through the towns and villages. Prescott rode to Concord and alerted the town militia. When the British arrived in Lexington, on the road to Concord, they were met by around 70 members of the local militia, under the command of Captain John Parker, who were assembled on Lexington Green. Soon after, a shot rang out and both sides started firing on each other. The Americans were routed by the superior British forces, under the command of Lieutenant John Pitcairn. Pitcairn was joined by the main body of the British force and its commander, Colonel Francis Smith. After the Battle of Lexington, Smith organized the troops and they marched on to Concord. Thanks to Prescott’s warning, the people of Concord had moved most of the weapons and ammunition and militia forces had gathered to defend the town. When the British arrived, they searched homes and buildings. What they found, which was very little, they burned or threw into a pond. The militia that gathered on the hill outside the town saw the smoke from the fire and some of them were convinced the British were burning the town. They moved back toward Concord, but their path was blocked by British troops at the North Bridge. When the Americans were close enough, the British fired and killed some of them. The Americans fired back, in what is known as the “shot heard ‘round the world.” After a fierce fight that lasted about three minutes, the British fell back into the town and decided to march back to Boston. As they prepared to leave Concord, more militia arrived. The Americans took positions along the road back to Boston and followed the British, firing at them along the way. The American victory at Concord set the stage for the Siege of Boston, and the eventual evacuation of the British from Boston.
This engraving by Amos Doolittle was made in 1775. It depicts the British marching into Concord while Colonel Francis Smith and Lieutenant John Pitcairn survey the Massachusetts militia forces gathering on the hills around the town. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.
5 Key Facts About the Battle of Concord
- Date Started: The fighting started on Wednesday, April 19, 1775.
- Date Ended: The fighting ended on April 19, 1775.
- Location: The battle was fought in Concord, Massachusetts, a small village west of Boston.
- Who Won: Massachusetts militia won the Battle of Concord.
- American Revolutionary War Campaign: The battle was part of the Boston Campaign.
Key Events in the Battle of Concord
British March to Concord
- On the evening of April 18, 1775, British troops left Boston to advance on Concord with the objective of confiscating a cache of colonial arms and ammunition.
- The British troops were under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith. The advance guard was under the command of Major James Pitcairn.
Warren Sends the Midnight Riders
- American spies learned of the British plan and notified Joseph Warren, the head of the Committee of Safety.
- Warren sent Paul Revere and William Dawes on horseback to warn the people between Boston and Concord about the British march.
- Revere and Dawes both made it to Lexington, and they were joined by a third rider, Dr. Samuel Prescott.
- Revere warned Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who were at the home of Jonas Clarke.
- Prescott rode to Concord and raised the alarm.
Battle of Lexington
- Lexington militia assembled on Lexington Common, under the command of Captain John Paker.
- Around 5:00 a.m., Pitcairn ordered his men to move into the town and surround the militia.
- Pitcairn ordered the militia to disperse and leave their weapons.
- Parker ordered his men to leave but took their weapons with them, which caused confusion.
- As the Americans started to disperse, a shot rang out.
- Almost immediately, the British fired on the militia, even though Pitcairn had not given the order to fire.
- Some of the militia fired back, and the British made a bayonet charge and routed them.
- Lieutenant Colonel Smith heard the shots and rode into Lexington where he restored order.
- The fighting lasted for about 10 minutes.
- After order was restored, the British continued their march to Concord.
Preparations in Concord
- Prescott arrived in Concord early in the morning and notified the citizens the British were headed their way. Sometime around 1 or 2 a.m. the church bells rang, woke the town, and called the militia to assemble.
- The town had three companies of minutemen and an alarm company. They mobilized and were joined by a company that marched in from the town of Lincoln.
- Major John Buttrick was one of the first men to arrive at the Green.
- As militia and minutemen from Concord and the surrounding towns arrived, they gathered at Wright’s Tavern.
- A group of minutemen from Lincoln arrived and said shots had been fired in Lexington.
- Reuben Brown was sent on horseback on the road toward Lexington to find out if the British were on their way. Brown arrived in Lexington in time to see the first shots fired by the British. He went back to Concord as fast as he could and told Barrett what he had seen.
- Colonel James Barrett prepared to defend the town, or else he would have to give up the military supplies that were still hidden in Concord.
- Barrett ordered some of the militia to occupy a hill that overlooked Meriam’s Corner, east of Concord, and sent some more marching on the road toward Lexington. He hoped a show of force might convince the British to turn back.
This postcard from the early 1900s shows Wright Tavern, where the militia gathered in Concord after the alarm was sounded. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.
The British Advance on Concord
- The British were spotted marching on the road toward Concord sometime around 7-7:30 a.m.
- The British force was made up of 21 companies marching 3 men across, estimated to stretch for 1,000 yards along the road.
- The British light infantry broke off from the main column, formed a line, and prepared to deal with the militia on the hill.
- The rest of the British force continued on the road to Concord.
- The light infantry moved up the hill toward the militia and Barrett ordered his men to fall back to Punkatasset Hill, closer to Concord, but they still maintained control of the high ground. The hill was a mile east of town and overlooked a spot called Meriam’s Corner.
- As the British approached Concord, militia forces from the surrounding countryside arrived and gathered on the hills and ridges around the town.
- The militia who were marching toward the main British column turned around when they saw the size of the British force marching toward them. The Americans marched back through Concord, crossed over the North Bridge, and then to Punkatasset Hill to join Barrett and the others.
British Search Concord and Barrett’s Farm
- Around 8:00 a.m., Smith ordered the Redcoats to start searching the town and he sent troops to guard the North Bridge and the South Bridge.
- Some of the British troops started searching houses and other buildings in the town, while Smith also sent troops to the Barrett Farm, two miles outside of town, to search for hidden supplies.
- The British who were searching in Concord found some cannon mounts and other equipment, along with food in the Town House. The British set it all on fire.
- A strong wind blew sparks onto other buildings, which also caught fire.
- The British actually helped the residents of Concord put the fires out.
- However, all the militia could see was smoke from the town, and they moved closer to Concord to get a better look, closer to the North Bridge.
Militia Form Ranks in the Muster Field
- It was around 9:00 a.m. when the militia moved down from the hill and closer to the bridge, into a pasture on the property of Captain David Brown, a member of the Concord Militia and the town’s Committee of Safety.
- When the companies of militia and minutemen arrived, Lieutenant Joseph Hosmer formed the ranks in a pasture which is known as the “Muster Field.” He had them organized so they were facing the town.
- The minutemen were on the right and the militia units were on the left.
- While the officers discussed what to do next, the Acton Minutemen arrived. One of Acton men, Captain Isaac Davis, joined the discussion with the officers.
- A column of smoke rose above the town, above the trees, and Hosmer, Barrett’s second-in-command, went to the officers and asked, “Will you let them burn the town down?”
- There, in the Muster Field, the leaders of the various Massachusetts Minuteman and militia units decided to advance on the British at the North Bridge.
- The Acton men were chosen to lead the column. Davis went to his men, raised his sword, and said, “I haven’t a man that is afraid to go.” and then ordered them to march and take their place at the head of the column.
- The men were ordered to load their muskets, and many of them changed the flints that were needed to fire the gunpowder. A fresh flint made it more likely the musket would properly fire.
- The command of the column was given to Major Buttrick, and Barrett went to the rear, where he followed on his horse, repeating his order not to fire unless the British fired first.
- Butrick gave the order to march to Concord. He was joined in leading the column by Lieutenant Colonel John Robinson of Westford. They were followed by Captain Davis and the Acton Militia. The rest of the column was formed by militia units from Concord, Lincoln, and Bedford, and included men from other small towns.
- The American column moved out of the Muster Field, onto the Groton Road, and made their way toward the North Bridge.
- This column was the first American army to take the field, under a single commander, in history.
Fight at the North Bridge
- The British saw them coming and their commanding officer, Captain Walter Laurie, ordered them back across the bridge.
- After the British crossed, they started to remove the wood planks from the bridge. Buttrick shouted at them and told them to stop, which they did. Then the British formed a line and prepared to fire on Buttrick and his column.
- As the Americans prepared to cross the bridge, the British fired some warning shots. The Americans ignored them and continued to press forward.
- The British fired another volley, but this time directly into the oncoming Americans.
- Luther Blanchard, the fifer for the Acton company, was wounded.
- The Americans were shocked, and Buttrick supposedly yelled, “Fire fellow soldiers, for God’s sake, fire!” and then he fired his musket at the British.
- Both sides fired on each other at close range.
- Isaac Davis and Abner Hosmer from Acton were killed instantly. Four more Americans were wounded.
- There were eight British officers at the North Bridge. Four of them were wounded. At least three British privates were killed.
- The Americans pushed forward and the British broke ranks and ran back to Concord.
- The Americans took defensive positions behind a stone wall that allowed them to control the North Bridge and some were sent to Meriam’s Corner, on the road headed toward Lexington.
This engraving by Amos Doolittle from 1775 depicts the engagement at the North Bridge in Concord. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.
Aftermath of the Battle of Concord
- The fleeing British were met by reinforcements on the road back to Concord. Colonel Smith reformed the men.
- The Americans were now in the middle of Smith and his men on one side, and the infantry returning from searching Barrett’s farm on the other.
- The infantry saw the Americans in their positions and quickly marched over the bridge to join Smith and his men on the other side.
- The infantry did not stop to retrieve the wounded British soldiers from the earlier fight, which included one soldier who had been struck in the head with what appeared to be a tomahawk. As the infantry went by they saw his brutal wounds and were outraged.
- Earlier in the day, Smith had sent word to Gage in Boston, asking for reinforcements, who still had not arrived. By this time, early in the afternoon, the British were outnumbered.
- After a long delay, and running low on supplies and ammunition, Smith ordered his men to prepare to march back to Boston.
- Although the delay allowed Smith’s men some time to rest, it also gave more Massachusetts militia and minutemen more time to make their way to Concord and all along the road from there to Boston.
- The British formed a column and started the march back to Boston. Some of the infantry were sent out on the flanks to help protect the main column.
- About a mile outside of Concord, near Meriam’s Corner, the British had to go over a bridge in order to cross a stream. The infantry had to move in closer to the main column.
- An estimated 1,100 militia had gathered, waiting for them to march by, near Meriam’s House (seen below).
- When the British infantry moved closer to the main column, the militia moved closer.
- As they did, both sides started firing.
This postcard from the early 1900s shows Meriam’s Corner, where the Massachusetts militia attacked the British. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.
- A mile after Meriam’s Corner, the British marched past Brooks Hill, which was later called Hardy’s Hill.
- On top of the hill, a large group of the militia had gathered.
- As the British marched by, the militia opened fire on them.
- The infantry tried to move up the hill and drive the militia off, but they were pushed back to the road.
- Smith tried to move his men along as fast as he could.
The Bloody Angle
- Just down the road from Brooks Hill, around 1,500 militia had gathered on both sides of the road and waited for the British column.
- At the bottom of the hill was a small stream called Mill Brook. It was on the west side of the village of Lincoln.
- The terrain provided significant cover for the militia, who ambushed the British when they came into sight, firing on them from both sides.
- As before, the British had no choice but to keep marching toward Lexington.
Smith and Hartwell Properties
- Roughly 3/4 of a mile past the angle, along the road, were the homes of Sergeant John Hartwell and Sergeant Samuel Hartwell. Just down the road from their homes was the house of Captain William Smith.
- Smith and the Hartwells were members of the Lincoln Militia.
- Militia gathered around the houses and when the British appeared they opened fire on them.
- However, the terrain did not provide as much cover for the militia, and the infantry moved out into the fields and drove them off.
- The British continued their march to Boston and reached the outskirts of Lexington, where Captain John Parker and the Lexington Militia were waiting for them.
This illustration by Charles Stanley Reinhart depicts the Massachusetts militia ambushing the British on the march back to Boston. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.
Interesting Facts About the Battle of Concord
- Gage had sent spies into the countryside to gather intelligence about where the militia was hiding military supplies. The two spies who gathered the intelligence on Concord were Captain John Brown and Ensign Henry De Berniere.
- The spies provided Gage with a map of the roads and told him there were 14 cannons, along with other artillery and provisions, stored in the town. What they failed to report was that the militia drilled in the morning, and set 10 guards around the town at night.
Weapons and Supplies in Concord
- Barrett had learned the British planned to march to Concord as early as Sunday, April 16.
- The weapons and ammunition in Concord were moved to Acton, Stow, and Sudbury.
- Some of the cannons were disassembled and buried on his farm.
- By the time the British arrived, there were still musket balls, cartridges, cartridge paper, and food hidden around Concord. The British found the musket balls and threw them into a pond. However, many of them were recovered after the British left Concord.
- The British found three cannons buried on property owned by Ephraim Jones, which they destroyed, but they did not find the cannons at Barrett’s farm.
- When buildings caught on fire, a woman named Martha Moulton convinced the British to join in putting the fires out. Moulton was 71 years old at the time.
The Concord Hymn and the Emersons
- Reverend William Emerson, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s grandfather, fought in the Battle of Concord and wrote down his eyewitness account of the fight at the North Bridge.
- The Battle of Concord was memorialized in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem, “The Concord Hymn.” The line “shot heard ‘round the world” comes from the first stanza of the poem.
Results of the Battle of Concord
- The outcome of the Battle of Concord was a victory for the Massachusetts militia forces.
- Fighting continued throughout the day along the Battle Road, which runs from Concord to Boston.
Quotes About the Battle of Concord
Colonel James Barrett of Concord asked Captain Isaac Davis, who was in command of the Acton Militia if his men would lead the advance on the North Bridge. Davis said, “I’m not afraid to go, and I haven’t a man that’s afraid to go.”
Important Leaders and Casualties
Prominent American Military Leaders
- James Barrett
- John Robinson
- Isaac Davis
- John Buttrick
Prominent British Military Leaders
- Francis Smith
- John Pitcairn
- Walter Laurie
- Lawrence Parsons
- The total estimated casualties at the Battle of Concord were around 465 killed, wounded, or missing.
- The Americans suffered around 95 casualties.
- The British suffered around 370 casualties.
- These numbers include casualties incurred by both sides on the return march to Boston.
First American Casualties at the Battle of Concord
- When the British opened fire at the North Bridge, Isaac Davis and Private Abner Hosmer from Acton were killed instantly.
The Battle of Concord is important because it was part of the series of battles that opened the American Revolutionary War, and marked the change from a philosophical revolution to an organized, armed resistance. Although the British accomplished their mission, they underestimated the will and the ability of the Americans to fight back. The British made a critical mistake moving slowly to begin the return to Boston, which allowed Massachusetts militia forces to gather along the road from Concord to Boston. As the British marched to Boston, intense fighting continued throughout the day, and the Americans showed they were a match for the highly regarded British troops. By the end of the day, the British were trapped in Boston, surrounded by thousands of militia from Massachusetts.
This illustration depicts the British retreat from Concord. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Images.
Timeline of the Battle of Concord
This list shows the main battles and events that took place before and after the Battle of Concord, and how it fits into the chronological order of the Boston Campaign.
- April 18–19, 1775 — Midnight Rides of Paul Revere, William Dawes, and Samuel Prescott
- April 19, 1775 — Battle of Lexington
- April 19, 1775 — Battle of Concord
- April 19, 1775 — Parker’s Revenge
- April 19, 1775 — Battle of Menotomy
- April 19, 1775 — Siege of Boston Started
- April 23, 1775 — Artemas Ward Placed in Command of the Massachusetts Militia Forces
- May 10, 1775 — Capture of Fort Ticonderoga
- May 10, 1775 — Second Continental Congress Started
- May 25, 1775 — British Generals John Burgoyne, Henry Clinton, and William Howe arrived in Boston
- May 27, 1775 — Battle of Chelsea Creek
- June 14, 1775 — Continental Congress Organized the Army of Occupation into the Continental Army
- June 15, 1775 — George Washington Named Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army
- June 17, 1775 — Battle of Bunker Hill
- July 3, 1775 — George Washington Took Command of the Continental Army
- October 10, 1775 — William Howe Replaced Thomas Gage
- November 9, 1775 — Skirmish at Lechmere Point
- November 17, 1775 — Knox Expedition Left Boston
- January 25, 1776 — Knox Expedition Arrived in Framingham
- March 3, 1776 — American Occupation of Dorchester Heights
- March 7, 1776 — Howe Decided to Evacuate Boston
- March 17, 1776 — Evacuation Day
Video of the Battle of Lexington and Concord
This video from the American Battlefield Trust provides a quick overview of the Battles of Lexington and Concord.