The Battle of Lexington, 19 April 1775
Oil on canvas by William Barns Wollen (1857-1936), 1910.
This was the first engagement between British and American troops in the American War of Independence (1775-1783). While marching from Boston to seize military stores at Concord, Massachusetts, a British force encountered a group of 'minute men' (militia-men who had undertaken to turn out at a minute's notice) gathered on the green at Lexington. After a brief skirmish, with few casualties on either side, the Americans withdrew and the British went on.
At Concord Bridge some hours later there was a second, more serious skirmish and the British began to withdraw towards Boston. However, they were caught by the arrival of American reinforcements and the retreat soon became a rout. This ended when more British troops arrived at Boston harbour, supported by the Royal Navy. The episode was not a serious military defeat but was politically disastrous for the British. It persuaded many Americans to support the cause of independence and there was a rapid escalation of hostilities which led on to the first major battle of the war at Bunker's Hill the following June.
NAM Accession Number
National Army Museum, Out of Copyright
National Army Museum, Global Role gallery