Bad blood was brewing between the British and the American colonists. The colonists were buying and stockpiling guns, gunpowder and cannon.
The British knew about this from informants and spies. The British decided that it was time to teach those colonial farmers a lesson. So they set out from Boston to seize all the cannon and gunpowder they could find. And maybe catch some of the colonial leaders.
The colonials also had spies and knew the British would be coming soon. But when? So they watched the British army with men standing by to ride out and give the alarm. One of these men was a silversmith from Boston named Paul Revere. When he saw the British were on the move, Paul Revere and other riders galloped over the countryside, warning colonists that the British were coming.
Lexington: When a group of several hundred British soldiers reached the town of Lexington, they were met by a militia of about 70 colonial men. The British ordered them to drop their weapons.
Suddenly a shot rang out. No one knows which side fired this shot. But within minutes, 8 colonial men were dead. Others were wounded. The rest scattered into the woods.
Concord: The British troops moved on to Concord. They spread out a bit. They had heard that the rebels had canons. They wanted everything - weapons, ammunition, and the canons. Following the intelligence they had received from their spies, the British commander established his base at Wright's Tavern, and sent this troops in search of weapons. They found and burned some wooden gun carriages (canon stands.)
About a hundred men were sent to Barretts Farm, where they had told they could find a storage of weapons. They had to cross the North Bridge to get there.
But about 200 Minutemen were guarding the North Bridge. They saw smoke rising from the town. They thought the British were burning their homes. As the British crossed the bridge, a shot rang out. A Minuteman had fired. The British retreated. They were poorly led. They were outnumbered. They fled back to town.
The British left. They retreated. But by then, about 4000 Minutemen and militia lined the road from Concord to Lexington, shooting at the British from behind trees.
A second group of British soldiers had been ordered to follow about six hours after the first had left, just in case. The second group arrived in time to save many British lives. This second group brought canons, which quickly dispersed the colonial forces. Still, the colonists were able to kill about 200 British soldiers.
It was not a victory for the militia, but it was certainly an effective piece of propaganda that colonial leaders could use to help convince people that colonial farmers could fight professional British soldiers and win.
Lexington and Concord were the first battles of the Revolutionary War, although it was not yet called a war by the people of the time. It was, however, a time of decision. Colonists were forced to choose sides. Those colonists loyal to the British were called Loyalists. Colonists loyal to the colonial rebels were called Patriots.