Thomas Gage Orders Francis Smith to March to Concord

April 18, 1775 — Battles of Lexington and Concord

As tension mounted between the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and Thomas Gage, the Royal Governor of Massachusetts, Gage decided to take action. On April 18, he issued orders to Francis Smith to lead an expedition to Concord and seize and destroy military supplies hidden there.

Lexington and Concord, Thomas Gage, Orders for British March

This portrait of General Thomas Gage was painted by John Singleton Copley, circ1 1768. Image Source: Yale Center for British Art.

Thomas Gage’s Orders — Annotated Transcript

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

Military Stores in Concord

Lieut. Colonel Smith, 10th Regiment ’Foot,

Sir,

Having received intelligence, that a quantity of Ammunition, Provisions, Artillery, Tents and small Arms, have been collected at Concord, for the Avowed Purpose of raising and supporting a Rebellion against His Majesty, 

Overall Mission

you will March with a Corps of Grenadiers and Light Infantry, put under your Command, with the utmost expedition and Secrecy to Concord, where you will seize and distroy all Artillery, Ammunition, Provisions, Tents, Small Arms, and all Military Stores whatever. 

Do Not Harm the Inhabitants or Private Property

But you will take care that the Soldiers do not plunder the Inhabitants, or hurt private property.

A Map of Concord and Hiding Places

You have a Draught of Concord, on which is marked the Houses, Barns, &c, which contain the above military Stores. 

Destroy Cannons

You will order a Trunion to be knocked off each Gun, but if its found impracticable on any, they must be spiked, and the Carriages destroyed. 

Destroy Supplies

The Powder and flower must be shook out of the Barrels into the River, the Tents burnt, Pork or Beef destroyed in the best way you can devise.

Seize and Scatter Musketballs

And the Men may put Balls of lead in their pockets, throwing them by degrees into Ponds, Ditches &c., but no Quantity together, so that they may be recovered afterwards. 

Damage Brass Artillery

If you meet any Brass Artillery, you will order their muzzles to be beat in so as to render them useless.

Secure the Bridges in Concord

You will observe by the Draught that it will be necessary to secure the two Bridges as soon as possible, you will therefore Order a party of the best Marchers, to go on with expedition for the purpose.

Advance Patrol and Artillery

A small party of Horseback is ordered out to stop all advice of your March getting to Concord before you, and a small number of Artillery go out in Chaises to wait for you on the road, with Sledge Hammers, Spikes, &c.

Return to Boston

You will open your business and return with the Troops, as soon as possible, with I must leave to your own Judgment and Discretion.

I am, Sir,

Your most obedient humble servant

Thos. Gage.

Background of Gage’s Orders for Smith

  • General Thomas Gage was the Governor of Massachusetts and the Commander-in-Chief of British forces in North America when the Battles of Lexington and Concord took place.
  • Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith was an officer in the British Army stationed in Boston.
  • On January 27, 1775, Lord Dartmouth — William Legge, the Secretary of State for the Colonies — sent a letter to General Gage and instructed him to take action against the “open Rebellion” in Massachusetts, however, he did not give him specific instructions on how to deal with the situation and left it up to Gage. 
  • While the letter was on its way to Massachusetts, General Gage was receiving information from a spy within the Massachusetts Provincial Congress — Dr. Benjamin Church — and was aware the Congress was making preparations for hostilities.
  • Gage responded by sending Captain William Brown and Ensign Henry De Berniere on a spy mission to gather intelligence and map the roads west of Boston.
  • On March 20, Gage issued more orders to Brown and De Berniere. This time, they were told to go to Concord, “examine the road and situation of the town” and gather “information…relative to what quantity of artillery and provisions.” While conducting their mission, the two spies were informed there were 14 cannons hidden in Concord, along with other military supplies.
  • On April 14, Gage finally received the letter from Lord Dartmouth, instructing him to take action, and Gage started to carry out a plan to seize and destroy the military supplies in Concord.

Interesting Facts About Gage’s Orders for Smith

  • General Thomas Gage issued these orders to Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith on the night of April 18, 1775.
  • The orders were accompanied by a map showing the town of Concord, the surrounding area, and the location of where military supplies were hidden.
  • Gage gave specific orders not to harm the people or public property.
  • Smith was under explicit instructions to secure both bridges in Concord, including the North Bridge, which is where the Concord Fight took place.
  • Gage left it up to Smith to exercise his “own Judgment and Discretion.”
  • These orders led to the Battle of Lexington and the Battle of Concord, which started the American Revolutionary War.

Citation Information

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

  • Article Title Thomas Gage Orders Francis Smith to March to Concord
  • Date April 18, 1775
  • Author
  • Keywords Battles of Lexington and Concord, Thomas Gage, Francis Smith
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date April 18, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 27, 2024

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