Francis Smith's Report of the Battles of Lexington and Concord

April 22, 1775

In the aftermath of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith wrote a report for General Thomas Gage, documenting the events of April 18–19, 1775. Smith reported the Americans fired first at Lexington, but the British fired first at Concord.

Lexington and Concord, Francis Smith, Report

This portrait of Francis Smith was painted by Francis Coates in 1764. Image Source: National Army Museum (United Kingdom).

Francis Smith’s Report to Gage — Annotated Transcript

Please note that section headings, spacing, and notes have been added to make the text easier to scan and comprehend.

Smith Receives Orders from Gage

Sir, In obedience to your Excellency’s commands I marched on the evening of the 18th inst. with the corps of grenadiers and light infantry for Concord to execute your Excellency’s orders with respect to destroying all ammunition, artillery, tents etc. collected there, 

Smith Carries Out His Orders

which was effected; having knocked off the trunnions of three pieces of iron ordnance; some new gun carriages, a great number of carriage wheels burnt; a considerable quantity of flour, some gunpowder and musket ball with other small articles thrown into the river. 

The Lexington Alarm

Notwithstanding we marched with the utmost expedition and secrecy we found the country had intelligence or strong suspicion of our coming, had fired many signal guns and rung the alarm bells repeatedly, 

Military Stores Removed from Concord

and were informed when at Concord, that some cannon had been taken out of the town that day, that others with some stores had been carried three days before, which prevented our having an opportunity of destroying so much as might have been expected at our first setting off.

Smith Sends Pitcairn Ahead to Lexington

I think it proper to observe that when I had got some miles on the march from Boston I detached six light infantry companies to march with all expedition to seize the two bridges on different roads beyond Concord. 

AHC Note — This took place before Smith and his men carried out their orders in Concord.

The Lexington Militia

On these companies’ arrival at Lexington I understand from the report of Major Pitcairn who was with them and from many officers that they found on a green close to the road a body of the country people drawn up in military order with arms and accoutrements and, as appeared after, loaded; and that they had posted some men in a dwelling and meeting-house. 

The Battle of Lexington

As our troops advanced towards them without any intention of injuring them further than to inquire the reason of their being thus assembled, and if not satisfactory to have secured their arms, but they in confusion went off principally to the left. 

Only one of them fired before he went off and three or four more jumped over a wall and fired from behind it among the soldiers, on which the troops returned it and killed several of them.

They likewise fired on the soldiers from the meeting and dwelling-house: we had one man wounded and Major Pitcairn’s horse shot in two places. 

AHC Note — See Battle of Lexington for more details.

The Americans Fired First

Rather earlier than this on the road a countryman from behind a wall had snapped his piece at Lieutenants Adair and Sutherland but it flashed and did not go off. 

Smith Continues the March to Concord

After this we saw some in the woods but marched on to Concord without anything further happening. 

The Concord Fight

While at Concord we saw vast numbers assembling in many parts at one of the bridges. They marched down with a very considerable body on the light infantry posted there. 

On their coming pretty near, one of our men fired on them which they returned, on which an action ensued and some few were killed and wounded. 

Atrocities Committed by the Americans

In this affair it appears that after the bridge was quitted they scalped and otherwise ill treated one or two of the men who were either killed or severely wounded, being seen by a party that marched by soon after. 

British Troops Search Concord

At Concord we found very few inhabitants in the town; those we met with both Major Pitcairn and myself took all possible pains to convince that we meant them no injury, and that if they opened their doors when required to search for military stores not the slightest mischief would be done. 

We had opportunities of convincing them of our good intentions but they were sulky and one of them even struck Major Pitcairn. 

AHC Note — See Battle of Concord for more details.

Hostilities on the March Back to Boston

On our leaving Concord to return to Boston they began to fire on us from behind the walls, ditches, trees etc., which as we marched increased to a very great degree and continued without the intermission of five minutes altogether for I believe upwards of eighteen miles, so that I can’t think but it must have been a preconcerted scheme in them to attack the King’s troops the first favourable opportunity that offered; otherwise I think they could not in so short a time as from our marching out have raised such a numerous body and for so great a space of ground. 

Notwithstanding the enemy’s numbers they did not make one gallant attempt during so long [an] action, though our men were so very much fatigued, but kept under cover on all occasions where much danger.

Praise for Major John Pitcairn

I must beg leave to mention to your Excellency the active and gallant behaviour of Major Pitcairn and the officers in general as likewise the spirit of the soldiers during the whole conflict. I hope your Excellency will impute to the hurt I received any want of correctness of style.

I have the honor, etc.

F. Smith, Lt-Col. 10th Foot

Interesting Facts About Smith’s Report to Gage

  • Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith was an officer in the British Army stationed in Boston.
  • On the night of April 18, 1775, General Thomas Gage issued orders to Lieutenant Colonel Smith. The orders instructed him to lead a military expedition to Concord to destroy military supplies stored there by the Massachusetts Provincial Congress for use by the New England Army, which it was working to organize.
  • Smith’s report is somewhat confusing because it is not organized in chronological order.
  • He said that the countryside was alerted to his march and that the American response must have been organized ahead of time.
  • Smith accused the Americans of firing first at Lexington.
  • He said that a British soldier fired first at Concord.
  • Smith accused the Americans of committing atrocities at the Concord Fight.
  • He failed to mention the heavy casualties suffered by the British on the march back to Boston, including at the incident known as Parker’s Revenge.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title Francis Smith's Report of the Battles of Lexington and Concord
  • Date April 22, 1775
  • Author
  • Keywords Battles of Lexington and Concord, Francis Smith, Thomas Gage
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date April 18, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 22, 2024

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