The Battles of Lexington and Concord took place in those neighboring Massachusetts towns on April 19, 1775. The enmity between the British government and the American colonials that preceded the Revolutionary War had led, by early 1775, to militia groups, hostile to the British, being formed in the Boston area. These groups, under the control of Massachusetts leader John Hancock's Committee of Safety, were often dubbed minutemen for their readiness to assemble to fight at a moment's notice. Caches of munitions were stored at various towns for their use, including at Concord.
The Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Dartmouth, instructed the British commander in Boston, General Thomas Gage, to stamp out this resistance. On April 18, 1775, Gage secretly ordered Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith to go with 700 men to Concord and destroy the munitions there. It is uncertain how the Americans came to hear of the plan: Gage's wife Margaret was born in New Jersey and may have been a spy. Another local leader, Joseph Warren, informed Paul Revere and William Dawes, and the two men went by separate roads to Lexington to alert leaders and militia officers there that the British were coming. Both got through to Lexington, where they met with Hancock and Samuel Adams. The supplies in Concord were moved.
British troops began their march at 2 am on April 19, and Smith sent troops ahead under Major John Pitcairn. When Pitcairn and his men found a company of armed colonials at Lexington's town common, he ordered them to disperse. In the confusion, a shot was fired from an unknown source, which brought several volleys from the British troops. Eight of the local men were killed and one British soldier was wounded. The British burned or otherwise destroyed what supplies they could find in Concord, and a second confrontation took place at the North Bridge, in which the legendary "shot heard round the world" was fired. The bridge was held by the British, and by then about 400 minutemen had assembled. Seeing the smoke from Concord, the colonials believed the town was being burned, and attempted to cross the bridge to succor it. The British fired on them but the colonials returned fire and defeated them. The British, who had gotten reinforcements once they realized the countryside was roused against them, began their march to Boston harassed by at least 2,000 militiamen who inflicted a steady toll by gunfire until the British gained the protection of the cannon near Boston. The encounters at Lexington and Concord were the first battles of what became the Revolutionary War.