English letter of April 1775 on the Attack at Lexington and Concord
From the Sparks Cabinet, at Gore Hall, belonging to William Elliot Sparks
A Circumstantial Account of an attack that happened on lite 19th of April 1775, on his Majesty’s Troops, by a Number of the People, of lite Province of Massachusetts•.
On Tuesday, the 18th of April, about half past at night Lieutenant Colonel Smith of the Royal Regiment, embarked from the Common at Boston, with the Grenadiers and Light-Infantry, of the Troops there, and landed on the Opposite side, from whence he began his march towards Concord, where he was ordered to destroy the Magazine of Military Stores deposited there for the use of an Army to be Assembled in Order to act against his Majesty and his Government, the Colonel called his Officers together and gave orders that the troops should not fire unless fired upon, and after Marching a few Miles. – Detached six Companies of light Inf.” Infantry under the Command of Major Pitcairn to take possession of two Bridges on the other side of Concord, Soon after they heard many signal Guns, and the ringing of
Alarm Bells repeatedly, which convinced them that the Country was rising to oppose them, and that it was a preconcerted Scheme to oppose the King’s Troops, whenever there should be a favorable opportunity for it. About three O’clock the next Morning, the Troops being advanced within two Miles of Lexington, intelligence was received that about 500 Men in Arms were Assembled and determined to oppose the King’s Troops, and, on Major Pitcairn Galloping up to the Head, of the advanced Companies, two Officers informed him, that a Man (advanced from those that were Assembled) had presented his Musquet and attempted to shoot them, but the Piece flashed in the pan. – On this the Major gave directions to the Troops to move forward, but on no Account to fire, nor even to attempt it without orders. When they arrived at the end of the Village they observed about 200 armed Men drawn up on a Green, and when the Troops came within too yards of them, they began to file off towards some stone walls on their right Flank. The light Infantry observing this, ran after them, the Major instantly <.-ailed to the Soldiers not to fire, but to Surround and disarm them, some of whom had jumped over a Wall, then fired 4 or 5 shot at the Troops, and wounded a man of the Royal Regiment, and the Major Howe in two places, and at the same time Several Shots were fired from a Meeting-House on the left, Upon this, without any order or regularity the Light Infantry began a Scattered Fire, and Killed several of the Country People, but were Silenced, as soon as the Authority of the Officers could make them.
After this Colonel Smith Marched up with the remainder of the detachment, and the whole Body proceeded to Concord, where they Arrived about Nine O’clock, without any thing further happening; but vast Numbers of Armed People were seen Assembling on all the heights, While Colonel Smith with the Grenadiers and part of the Light Infantry, remained at Concord to search for Cannon &c there, he detached Captain Parsons, with six light Companies to secure a Bridge at some Distance from Concord, and to proceed from thence to certain houses where it was supposed there was Cannon & Ammunition, Capt. Parsons, in pursuance of these Orders, posted three Companies at the Bridge, and on some heights near it, under the Command of Captain Laurie of the 43d Regiment, and with the remainder went and destroyed some Cannon Wheels, Powder and Ball.
The People still continued increasing on the Heights, and in about an Hour after, a Large Body of them began to Move towards the Bridge, the light Companies of the 41h & Io’h then descended and joined Captain Laurie, the People continued to Advance in great Numbers, and fired upon the King’s Troops, Killed three men, Wounded four Officers, one Sergeant, and four Privates, upon which (after returning the fire) Captain Laurie and his Officers, thought it prudent to retreat towards the m<\in Body at Concord, and were soon joined by two Companies of Grenadiers ; when Captain Parsons returned with the three Companies over the Bridge, they observed three Soldiers on the Ground, one of them Scalped, his head much Mangled, and his ears cut off, though not quite Dead: a sight which struck the Soldiers with horror: Captain Parsons Marched on and Joined the Main Body, who were only waiting for his coming up to March back to Boston. Colonel Smith had executed his Orders, without opposition, by destroying all the Military Stores he could find; both the Colonel, and Major Pitcairn having taken all possible pains to convince the Inhabitants that no Injury was intended them, and that if they Opened their doors when required to search for said Stores, not the Slightest mischief should be done, neither had any of the People the least occasion to Complain ; but they were Sulky, and one of them even struck Major Pitcairn.- Except upon Captain Laurie at ye Bridge no Hostilities happened, from the Affair at Lexington, until the Troops began their March back.- As soon as the Troops had got out of the Town of Concord they received a heavy fire on them from all sides, from Walls, Fences, Houses, Trees, Barns. & etc. which continued without intermission, till they Met the first Brigade, with two field Pieces, near Lexington, Ordered out, under the Command of Lord Percy, to support them ; advice having been received about seven O’clock next Morning, that Signals had been made, and expresses gone out to alarm the Country, and that the People were rising to attack the Troops under Colonel Smith : Upon the Firing of the Field Pieces, the People's Fire was for a while silenced, but as they still continued to increase greatly in Numbers they fired again as before from all Places where they could find cover, upon the whole body, and continued so doing for the space of 15 miles. Notwithstanding their numbers, they did not attack openly during the whole Day, but kept under cover on all occasions. The Troops were very much fatigued, the greater part of them having been under Arms all Night and made a March of upwards of 40 Miles before they arrived at Charlestown, from whence they were ferried over to Boston.
The Troops had above Fifty Killed, and many more wounded. Reports are various about the loss sustained by the Country People Some make it very considerable, others not so much.
Thus this unfortunate and has happened through the rashness and impudence of a few People who began firing on the Troops at Lexington.
* Contributed by Mrs.. M. C. Sparks.