|Battle at Concord's North Bridge|
|On April 19, 1775, at Concord's North Bridge, American Minutemen drove back a force of the best soldiers in the world—the first American victory in the Revolutionary War.|
(Continued from: Battle on Lexington Green)
Word of the Lexington engagement was rushed to Concord (map), where the Minutemen, now numbering about 250, retreated across the North Bridge (map) over the Concord River in the face of the superior British force.
The British commander established his headquarters in the Wright Tavern (which still exists) and set his troops on the search for arms. Seven companies (about 100 men) were sent to cross Concord's North Bridge and proceed to Barrett's Farm, where British intelligence had determined that military equipment was hidden.
A small force of about 95 soldiers under an inexperienced commander, Captain Walter Laurie, was left behind to secure the bridge.
The Minutemen took up positions atop Punkatasset Hill, only 300 yards (274 meters) northwest of the bridge, as reinforcements of Minutemen and other militia from surrounding towns—Acton, Bedford, Lincoln and Sudbury —continued to arrive, augmenting their force to about 400 men.
As the redcoats in the center of Concord pursued their mission, they discovered and burned some wooden gun carriages (cannon mounts). The fire spread to the meetinghouse (church), and the smoke rising from the town, easily visible from Punkatasset Hill, convinced the Minutemen that the British were burning their homes.
"Will you let them burn the town down?" Adjutant Joseph Hosmer cried as a call to action.
The Minutemen advanced down the hill under orders to fire only if fired upon. The British force holding the bridge retreated across the bridge. A redcoat officer began to remove planks from the bridge in order to slow the Americans' advance, which only angered the Minutemen.
When the two forces were only about 50 yards (46 meters) apart, a shot rang out—most probably from an exhausted, inexperienced, frightened British soldier. Hearing it, other British soldiers began to fire as well, and the Minutemen responded.
The battle lasted only a few minutes, but when the musket smoke cleared, half of the British officers were wounded, and a dozen of their troops were dead or wounded. They fled toward the town seeking reinforcements.
The shot heard 'round the world was fired from the Minutemen's muskets at Concord North Bridge, where this band of farmers held off professional soldiers. But this first victorious battle of the American revolution was actually won by the American militias as the British retreated toward Boston. Sniping from behind trees and stone walls along the road back to Boston, Minutemen brought the British casualty count up to 200, a grievous and embarrassing loss for the powerful, well-equipped forces of the Crown.
News of the events in Lexington and Concord spread like wildfire through the British colonies in America, forcing every American to choose sides: would one be loyal to the Crown, or committed to the revolutionary cause? There was no middle ground.
Next: Battle of Bunker Hill
—by Tom Brosnahan