Lexington and Concord: Who Won?

by Stephen Horn based on Paul Revere’s Ride by David Hackett Fischer

Paul Revere


The Battle of Lexington and Concord was the first battle fought between the Militia and the Regulars in the First War for American Independence. The Regulars were commanded by Francis Smith and were on a mission to destroy the military stores in Concord, and also to catch Sam Adams and John Hancock. The American spies in Boston found out about this and sent out messengers to tell the militia to be ready. There were great quantities of military stores at Lexington and Concord, which the Americans needed to resist the British. They also wanted to catch Sam Adams and John Hancock who were two leaders of the War for American Independence. The Regulars lost because they failed to accomplish their mission, they were driven back, and they had more casualties.

The first reason the Regulars lost that we will discuss is that they did not fulfill their mission. The main reason for this is that although it was a top secret operation, the word of it got out, and most of the military stores had been moved. Sam Adams and John Hancock had already left from there, but they had not left for long when the British came to Lexington. After having routed the Lexington militia, they forced one of the residents to tell where a few brass cannons were buried, which the Americans had not been able to remove. They burned the wooden parts of these, along with a few other military stores. They had expected to be able to destroy more than this. This fire spread to some of the buildings in the town, which both the towns people and the Regulars soldiers were trying to put out. This and some other incidents were strange, and they showed that they still considered themselves the same people. This fire had the effect of making the Militia in Concord come out against them, as the Militia thought the Regulars were burning the town.

Concord Bridge


The Regulars had driven back the few militiamen at Lexington, but the Militia who had gathered at Concord drove the Regulars back. They were stationed at a bridge and commanded to hold it. When the Regulars saw the Militia advancing, they tried to pull up the planks on the bridge, which maddened the militia who were from around there. The Regulars were commanded to form into street formation, which was designed to concentrate the fire of a large number of men into a small area. They got confused and disorganized while getting into this formation. Only the front ranks could fire, but they did not show their usual discipline. They only fired a few ragged volleys, which were aimed high and did not do much damage. The militia’s volleys on the other hand were aimed carefully, and took much effect. The Regulars were trained to fire in volleys in front of them, and not at specific targets. The militia were mostly men who had to hunt for their food, so they were good shots, and they fired at individual targets which brought better results. In the first volley from the Militia at Concord four of the eight Regular officers were killed. The Militia drove the Regulars out of the town. The Militia were reinforced by more Militia from other parts, and they ambushed the Regulars wherever they could as they retreated. A few of these traps were sprung too soon, but many of them were fatal to the Regulars and disheartened them. The Militia decided on a plan to harass them where there was a circle of men around the front of the column who would fire, and then retreat, load and fire again, and keep repeating. This plan worked well. Many of the Regulars were thinking of surrendering, as one Lieutenant Barker of the Regulars said, “We must have laid down our arms, or been picked off by the rebels at their pleasure.”1 When they came to Lexington Green they found a brigade of Reinforcements waiting for them there, and also a cannon. This cannon did not have many rounds, since an artillery wagon which was sent for had been ambushed and captured by some men who were too old for the Militia. The British finally made it back to Boston.


Another reason why the British lost was because they suffered more casualties. The total of the men killed wounded or missing was 300 for the Regulars, but only 93 for the Militia. The reasons for this were mainly that they only fired ragged volleys, and never altogether, and also what was mentioned previously about the militia being better shots. The Regulars had left Boston with 700 men. Only 300 of them had deployed to drive off 77 militia who had gathered at Lexington. At Concord, only 100 of them were at the bridge, when they were driven back by the 400 militia. All of the casualties were not from these engagements though, many of them were from ambushes on the march back. By the end of the day, there were 3,800 Militia, and 1,500 Regulars. The reinforcements for the Regulars might of changed the tide of the battle, if they would have come sooner, but they still saved the rest of the British force.


The British lost because they did not fulfill their mission, they were driven back, and they suffered more casualties. This battle showed that the British troops were not invincible, and they could be beaten by the American militia. This was the first battle of the war, but it had been clear that there was going to be a war before that. The battles of Lexington and Concord did not start the war. The British returned defeated, and with their mission unaccomplished. The Regulars had to be reinforced, or they would have been destroyed. The British might have retreated with fewer casualties if they would have been able to hold the militia back at the bridge until the reinforcement Brigade came up.

1 David Hackett Fischer, Paul Revere’s Ride (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994) p. 232

7 comments:

Andrew said...

Did your family make it to Leington & Concord while you were in Boson?
I and my brothers traveled with Mr. Ford and visited Lexington and Concord on the 4th of July. Concord bridge was beatiful!

Joshua Horn said...

We actually did not go while we were at the Reformation 500, but we have been there twice before on faith and freedom tours. It is really nice!

Ashligh said...

who actually won because i dont want to read all that...its for a school project

Ashligh said...

Was it Lexinton or Concord?

Joshua Horn said...

Your dedication to learning is astounding.

bilbo baggins said...

I've read a ton, but I still don't know who won! one site says british, the next says colonist! I am so confused

bilbo baggins said...

I've read a ton, but I still don't know who won! one site says british, the next says colonist! I am so confused

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