Two Contemporary Accounts of Lexington
and Concord (1775)
from The Salem Gazette and The London Gazette
[Excerpted from American History Told by Contemporaries, Vol. II: Building of the Republic, Albert Bushnell Hart, ed. (New York, MacMillan, 1899), pp. ]
These two simultaneous accounts show the difficulty of establishing historical truth even by contemporaneous evidence. This battle was the turning-point between the period of protests and the period of resistance.
THE AMERICAN STATEMENT
Salem, April 25, 1775.
Last Wednesday, the 19th of April, the Troops of His Britannick Majesty commenced hostilities upon the people of this Province, attended with circumstances of cruelty, not less brutal than what our venerable ancestors received from the vilest Savages of the wilderness. The particulars relative to this interesting event, by which we are involved in all the horrours of a civil war, we have endeavoured to collect as well as the present confused state of affairs will admit.
On Tuesday evening a detachment from the Army, consisting, it is said, of eight or nine hundred men, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Smith, embarked at the bottom of the Common in Boston, on board a number of boats, and landed at Phipp's farm, a little way up Charles River, from whence they proceeded with silence and expedition on their way to Concorde, about eighteen miles from Boston. The people were soon alarmed, and began to assemble in several Towns, before daylight, in order to watch the motion of the Troops. At Lexington, six miles below Concord, a company of Militia, of about one hundred men, mustered near the Meeting-house; the Troops came in sight of them just before sunrise; and running within a few rods of them, the Commanding Officer accosted the Militia in words to this effect: " Disperse, you rebelsÑdamn you, throw down your arms and disperse;" upon which the Troops huzzaed, and immediately one or two officers discharged their pistols, which were instantaneously followed by the firing of four or five of the soldiers, and then there seemed to be a general discharge from the whole body: eight of our men were killed, and nine wounded. In a few minutes after this action the enemy renewed their march for Concord; at which place they destroyed several Carriages, Carriage Wheels, and about twenty barrels of Flour, all belonging to the Province. Here about one hundred and fifty men going towards a bridge, of which the enemy were in possession, the latter fired and killed two of our men, who then returned the fire, and obliged the enemy to retreat back to Lexington, where they met Lord Percy, with a large reinforcement, with two pieces of cannon. The enemy now having a body of about eighteen hundred men, made a halt, picked up many of their dead, and took care of their wounded. At Menotomy, a few of our men attacked a party of twelve of the enemy, (carrying stores and provisions to the Troops,) killed one of them, wounded several, made the rest prisoners, and took possession of all their arms, stores, provisions, &c., without any loss on our side. the enemy having halted one or two hours at Lexington, found it necessary to make a second retreat, carrying with them many of their dead and wounded, who they put into chaises and on horses that they found standing in the road. They continued their retreat from Lexington to Charlestown with great precipitation; and notwithstanding their field-pieces, our people continued the pursuit, firing at them till they got to Charl;estown Neck, (which they reached a little after sunset,) over which the enemy passed, proceeded up Bunker's Hill, and soon afterwards went into the Town, under the protection of the Somerset Man-of-War of sixty-four guns.
In Lexington the enemy set fire to Deacon Joseph Loring's house and barn, Mrs. Mullikin's house and shop, and Mr. Joshua Bond's house and shop, which were all consumed. They also set fire to several other houses, but our people extinguished the flames. they pillaged almost every house they passed by, breaking and destroying doors, windows, glasses, Ac., and carrying off clothing and other valuable effects. It appeared to be their design to burn and destroy all before them; and nothing but our vigorous pursuit prevented their infernal purposes from being put in execution. But the savage barbarity exercised upon the bodies of our unfortunate brethren who fell, is almost incredible: not contented with shooting down the unarmed, aged, and infirm, they disregarded the cries of the wounded, killing them without mercy, and mangling their bodies in the most shocking manner.
We have the pleasure to say, that, notwithstanding the highest provocations given by the enemy, not one instance of cruelty, that we have heard of, was committed by our victorious Militia; but, listening to the merciful dictates of the Christian religion, they " breathed higher sentiments of humanity."
The consternation of the people of Charlestown, when our enemies were entering the Town, is inexpressible; the Troops however behaved tolerably civil, and the people have since nearly all left the Town.
She following is a List of the Provincials who were killed and wounded:
[49 killed; 34 wounded; 5 missing.] . . .
Mr. James Howard and one of the Regulars discharged their pieces at the same instant, and each killed the other....
The publick most sincerely sympathize with the friends and relations of our deceased brethren, who gloriously sacrificed their lives in fighting for the liberties of their Country. By their noble and intrepid conduct, in helping to defeat the forces of an ungrateful tyrant, they have endeared their memories to the present generation, who will transmit their names to posterity with the highest honour.
THE BRITISH STATEMENT
Whitehall, June l0, 1775.
Lieutenant Dunn, of the Navy, arrived this morning at Lord Dartmouth's, and brought letters from General Gage, Lord Percy, and Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, containing the following particulars of what passed on the nineteenth of April last between a detachment of the King's Troops in the Province of Massachusetts-Bay, and several parties of rebel Provincials, viz:
General Gage having received intelligence of a quantity of military stores being collected at Concord, for the avowed purpose of supplying a body of troops to act in opposition to His Majesty's Government, detached, on the eighteenth of April at night, the Grenadiers of his Army, and the Light-Infantry, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, of the Tenth Regiment, and Major Pitcairn, of the Marines, with orders to destroy the said stores; and the next morning eight Companies of the Fourth, the same number of the Twenty-Third and Forty-Ninth, and some Marines, marched under the command of Lord Percy, to support the other detachment.
Lieutenant-Colonel Smith finding, after he had advanced some miles on his march, that the country had been alarmed by the firing of guns and ringing of bells, despatched six Companies of Light-Infantry, in order to secure two bridges on different roads beyond Concord, who, upon their arrival at Lexington, found a body of the country people under arms, on a green close to the road; and upon the King's Troops marching up to them, in order to inquire the reason of their being so assembled, they went off in great confusion, and several guns were fired upon the King's Troops from behind a stone wall, and also from the meeting-house and other houses, by which one man was wounded, and Major Pitcairn's horse shot in two places. In consequence of this attack by the rebels, the troops returned the fire and killed several of them. After which the detachment marched on to Concord without any thing further happening, where they effected the purpose for which they were sent, having knocked off the trunnions of three pieces of iron ordnance, burnt some new gun carriages and a great number of carriage-wheels, and thrown into the river a considerable quantity of flour gunpowder, musket-balls, and other articles. Whilst this service was performing, great numbers of the rebels assembled in many parts, and a considerable body of them attacked the Light-Infantry, posted at one of the bridges, on which an action ensued, and some few were killed and wounded.
On the return of the Troops from Concord, they were very much annoyed, and had several men killed and wounded by the rebels firing from behind walls, ditches, trees, and other ambushes; but the brigade, under the command of Lord Percy, having joined them at Lexington with two pieces of cannon, the rebels were for a while dispersed; but as soon as the troops resumed their march, they began to fire upon them from behind stone walls and houses, and kept up in that manner a scattering fire during the whole of their march of fifteen miles, by which means several were killed and wounded; and such was the cruelty and barbarity of the rebels, that they scalped and cut off the ears of some of the wounded men who fell into their hands.
It is not known what members of the rebels were killed and wounded, but it is supposed that their loss was considerable.
General Gage says that too much praise cannot be given to Lord Percy for his remarkable activity during the whole day; and that Lieutenant-Colonel Smith and Major Pitcairn did every thing that men could do, as did all the officers in general, and that the men behaved with their usual intrepidity.
Return of the Commission, Non-Commission Officers, and Rank and File, killed, wounded, prisoners, and missing, on the 19th of April, 1775....
Total: One Lieutenant-Colonel killed; two Lieutenant-Colonels wounded; two Captains wounded; nine Lieutenants wounded; one Lieutenant missing; two Ensigns wounded; one Sergeant killed, four wounded, two missing; one Drummer killed, one wounded; sixty-two rank and file killed, one hundred and fifty-seven wounded, and twenty-four missing.
N. B. Lieutenant Isaac Potter reported to be wounded and taken prisoner.
Salem Gazette, April 25, 1775; reprinted in Peter Force, American Archives,
Fourth Series (Washington, 1839), II, 391-393 passim
Official bulletin, London Gazette, June lo, 1775; reprinted Ibid., 945-946