After the confrontation with a local militia at Lexington Green, the British regulars continued their march on Concord. Captain John Parker's Lexington Training Band fled in their wake, suffering casualties of eight dead men and ten wounded.
Meanwhile, the local militia companies, alerted by the midnight riders, Paul Revere and William Dawes, converged on the town of Concord. One hundred and fifty armed Americans saw the 700 British soldiers and beat a retreat, finding higher ground. They stayed there to observe the British movements.
The Weapons Search
Upon entering Concord, the British found the rebels on a ridge. The Light Infantry made their way up the hill, pushing the minute men into further retreat. The British commander, LieutenantColonel Francis Smith, deployed his men around the town. Three companies were assigned to guard the North Bridge and four companies were to search a nearby farm. The remaining troops and officers searched the town for military supplies but were not very successful, perhaps because they were ordered to be polite to the locals. At about this time, a British relief force, led by General Earl Percy, set off for Concord from Boston.
Defending the Town
More militia men arrived at the retreat position on Punkatasset Hill each moment; soon 400 men kept vigil above Concord. Then, they saw smoke. "Will you let them burn the town down?" asked Joseph Hosmer. According to later depositions, the men decided "to march into the middle of town for its defence or die in the attempt." Again, the minute men were ordered to hold their fire unless fired upon.
Blood on Both Sides
The Brits dismantling the North Bridge were taken aback by the American advance and hastily got into formation. According to Amos Barrett of Concord: "... they [the British] fired three guns one right after the other. I see the balls strike in the river on the right of me... as soon as they fired them they fired on us.... We then was all ordered to fire and not kill our own men.... Capt. Davis was killed and Mr. Hosmer and a number wounded." The outnumbered Redcoats quickly retreated, but not before three of their men were killed and four men -- all officers -- wounded. The first British blood had been shed.
British Forces Retreat
Around mid-morning, the British forces consolidated in the center of Concord (which, incidentally, was not burned -- in fact, British soldiers helped put out a fire that had spread to a house). Having been up all night and morning on the march, they needed a rest. Still, Colonel Smith knew well enough that the longer they waited, the larger the force of militia men grew. Around noon, they began the long march back to Boston.
The Americans now had the advantage of numbers. More than a thousand men rushed ahead of the British column, setting up ambushes and sniper's nests for the Redcoats. Where the road narrowed at Meriam's Corner, the British flankers had to rejoin the column -- allowing the Americans to get close and attack the main group. The British took many casualties, while the guerrilla tactics of the locals kept their losses to a minimum.
One Old Yankee Woman
Meanwhile, word got out that General Percy's supply train was moving in advance of his men, and without much protection. A dozen older men of Menotomy -- too old for the regular militia -- set up to surprise the wagons in the center of their town. The wagons arrived and the old men demanded surrender. When their command went unheeded, they opened fire on the wagons, killing soldiers and horses. The survivors ran off, abandoning their weapons and eventually surrendering in a field to an old woman, Mother Batherick. She delivered her prisoners to a minute man captain and told them, "If you ever live to get back, you tell King George that an old woman took six of his grenadiers prisoners." The story did get back and one English paper asked, "If one old Yankee woman can take six grenadiers, how many soldiers will it require to conquer America?"
By this time, Lt. Col. Smith's retreating troops had returned to Lexington and Captain John Parker and his men had had their revenge for earlier American losses. The British were exhausted, dragging their wounded, and their ammunition was running low. The retreat evolved into a rout as the Redcoats limped on.
Finally, just east of Lexington Green, General Percy and his 1100 men arrived to protect Smith's bedraggled troops. Percy's cannons boomed, leveling buildings that could be used to hide snipers. With the reinforcements, the British now numbered about 1700 men, and the Americans had a similar sized force. After the tired Redcoats had some relief, the fighting intensified and dozens more men on either side fell in Menotomy.
Brits Find Safety
As dusk settled, the British finally found protection in the British ship H.M.S. Somerset, docked at Charlestown. For hours afterwards, boats ferried them back across the river to Boston.
The War for Independence Had Begun
Whether the war had begun in Lexington or Concord, at the moment the first Patriot or the first Redcoat fell, has been a matter of historical conjecture and local bias. By the end of April 19, 1775, however, no man who had stood on the field of battle had any doubt that the Colonies were at war with Britain. In the day's aftermath, the British counted 73 dead, 174 wounded and 26 missing. The Americans 49 dead, 41 wounded and five missing.