- Historic Sites
Voices Of Lexington And Concord
What was it like to actually be there in April, 1775? This is how the participants, American and British, remembered it
April 1971 | Volume 22, Issue 3
On our arrival at home, we found that her brother, a youth of fourteen, was shot dead … by the soldiers, as he was looking out of a window. I stayed a little while to console them, and went into the main street to see if all was quiet. …
It was. The day’s strife was over. In the opinion of Lieutenant Barker, of the King’s Own:
The Rebels did not chuse to follow us to [Bunker] Hill, as they must have fought us on open ground, and that they did not like.
The trip to Concord and back had cost the British 73 killed, 174 wounded, and 26 missing. American losses were 49 killed, 59 wounded, and5 missing. In all, perhaps 1,800 redcoats had taken part in the action. The American total is unknown, but was doubtless higher than that of the British. The fact that the Americans fought from cover was, of course, a tremendous advantage.
Military annals list few feats of endurance more remarkable than that of the redcoats of the original party. Heavily encumbered with military gear, they had, in about twenty hours, marched thirty-five or forty miles—half of the distance under savagely nerve-racking conditions.
The British did not spend the night on Bunker Hill. D’Bernicre explains:
At Charlestown … the Selectmen … sent to Lord Percy to let him know that if he would not attack the town, they would take care that the troops should not be molested, and also they would do all in their power for to get us across the ferry [to Boston]. The Somerset man-ofwar lay there … and all her boats were employed first in getting over the wounded, and after them the rest of the troops.
Lieutenant Barker says:
Thus ended this expedition, which from beginning to end was as ill planned and ill executed as it was possible to be.
General Heath kept most of the American forces on the scene. They were deployed in a semicircle stretching for several miles, and their watch fires were visible to British sentries both in Charlestown and in Boston. The next day the lines were extended to shut up the neck that joined the Boston peninsula to the mamland. Thus the king’s troops, who had long held American soldiers in contempt, found themselves not only vanquished by these ill-trained rustics but also (as D’Bermcre expressed it) “fairly blocked up in Boston. ” Even while the encirclement was being completed, Lord Percy was writing of the previous day in a private letter:
During the whole affair the rebels attacked us in a very scattered, irregular manner, but with perseverance and resolution. Nor did they ever dare to form into any regular body. Indeed, they knew too well what was proper, to do so. Whoever looks upon them as an irregular mob will find themselves much mistaken. They have men amongst them who know very well what they are about, having been employed as Rangers against the Indians and Canadians. And this country being much covered with wood, and hills, it is very advantageous for their method of fighting.
Nor are several of their men void of a spirit of enthusiasm, as we experienced yesterday, for many of them concealed themselves in houses and advanced within 10 yards to fire at me and other officers, though they were morally certain of being put to death themselves in an instant.
You may depend upon it that, as the rebels have now had time to prepare, they are determined to go through with it. Nor will the insurrection turn out so despicable as it is perhaps imagined at home.
Percy saw the situation clearly. Three weeks after Lexington and Concord, the Americans captured Fort Ticonderoga in upper Mew Tork, and m another five and a half weeks they stood up well to the British at Bunker Hill. As the war began in earnest, America developed an awareness that April 19, 1775, had been one of history’s momentous days. And the same awareness would at length sweep the world.