Hugh Percy's Report of the British March from Lexington to Boston on April 19, 1775

April 20, 1775

In the aftermath of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, General Hugh Percy wrote a report for General Thomas Gage, documenting the British march to Boston following the Battle of Concord. Percy led the reinforcements that joined the original expedition at Lexington, following the Battle of Concord.

Lexington and Concord, 1775, Doolittle, Plate 4 Detail, NYPL

This engraving by Amos Doolittle depicts Percy meeting up with Smith in Lexington. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Percy’s Report to Gage

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

Percy Leads Reinforcements

In obedience to your Excellency’s orders I marched yesterday morning at 9 o’clock with the 1st brigade and 2 field pieces, in order to cover the retreat of the grenadiers and light infantry in their return from their expedition to Concord. 

AHC Note — The expedition to Concord was led by Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith. During the march, Smith heard alarm guns and drums in the countryside, so he sent a messenger back to Boston and asked General Thomas Gage to send reinforcements.

Percy Joins Smith at Lexington

As all the houses were shut up, and there was not the appearance of a single inhabitant, I could get no intelligence concerning them till I had passed Menotomy, when I was informed that the rebels had attacked his Majesty’s troops who were retiring, overpowered by numbers, greatly exhausted and fatigued, and having expaned almost all their ammunition — 

British Artillery Scatters the Americans

and at about 2 o’clock I met them retiring rough the town of Lexington — I immediately ordered the 2 field pieces to fire at the rebels, and drew up the brigade on a height. The shot from the cannon had the desired effect, and stopped the rebels for a little time, who immediately dispersed, and endeavoured to surround us being very numerous. 

AHC Note — Following the Battle of Concord, Smith led his expedition back toward Boston. Americans attacked the British about a mile east of Concord, at Meriam’s Corner, and then outside of Lexington (see Parker’s Revenge). Around the same time Percy arrived, so did Massachusetts leaders General William Heath and General Joseph Warren.

Americans Follow the British to Boston

As it began now to grow pretty late and we had 15 miles to retire, and only 36 rounds, I ordered the grenadiers and light infantry to move of first; and covered them with my brigade sending out very strong flanking parties which were absolutely very necessary, as there was not a stone wall, or house, though before in appearance evacuated, from whence the rebels did not fire upon us. As soon as they saw us begin to retire, they pressed very much upon our rear guard, which for that reason, I relieved every now and then.

British Reach Safety in Charlestown

In this manner we retired for 15 miles under incessant fire all round us, till we arrived at Charlestown, between 7 and 8 in the evening and having expended almost all our ammunition. 

Casualties

We had the misfortune of losing a good many men in the retreat, though nothing like the number which from many circumstances I have reason to believe were killed of the rebels. 

Percy Accuses the Americans of Atrocities

His Majesty’s troops during the whole of the affair behaved with their usual intrepidity and spirit nor were they a little exasperated at the cruelty and barbarity of the rebels, who scalped and cut off the ears of some of the wounded men who fell into their hands.

Interesting Facts About Percy’s Report to Gage

  • Hugh Percy 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 Francis Smith to lead a military expedition to Concord to destroy military supplies that were stored there by the Massachusetts Provincial Congress for use by the New England Army, which it was working to organize.
  • By the morning of April 19, Smith asked Gage to send reinforcements, which were led by Percy.
  • Percy left Boston around 9:00 a.m.
  • After he marched through Menotomy, he learned Smith’s expedition had engaged the Americans.
  • Percy arrived at Lexington around 2:00 p.m., where he joined Smith.
  • He ordered his artillery to fire on the Americans, which successfully dispersed them.
  • The Americans returned in greater numbers and continued their pursuit, firing on the British column from behind walls and houses.
  • Percy arrived in Charlestown sometime between 7:00 and 8:00 p.m.
  • He accused the Americans of atrocities, which was refuted in the testimony of Zachariah Brown and Thomas Davis Jr. (see Deposition 21).

Citation Information

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  • Article Title Hugh Percy's Report of the British March from Lexington to Boston on April 19, 1775
  • Date April 20, 1775
  • Author
  • Keywords Hugh Percy, Battles of Lexington and Concord, Battle of Menotomy
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date May 30, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update May 2, 2024

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