Today, the Lexington-Concord Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers the events in two colonial towns on April 19, 1775 that focused efforts on the revolution.
From the Pictorial History of the American Revolution published by Robert Sears in 1846:
At eleven o’clock at night, on the 18th of April, General Gage embarked 800 grenadiers and light infantry, the flower of his army, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Smith and Major Pitcairn, on Charles river, at Boston Neck.
They sailed up the river, landed at Phipp’s farm, and advanced toward Concord.
Of this movement some of the friends of the American cause got notice, just before the embarkation of the troops; and they instantly dispatched messengers by different routes, with the information.
The troops soon perceived, by the ringing of bells and firing of musketry, that notwithstanding the secrecy with which they had quitted Boston, they had been discovered, and that the alarm was fast spreading throughout the country.
Between four and five o’clock, on the morning of the 19th of April, the detachment reached Lexington, thirteen miles from Boston.
Here about seventy of the militia were assembled, and were standing near the road; but their number being so small they had no intention of making any resistance to the military.
Major Pitcairn, who had been sent forward with the light infantry, rode toward them, calling out, “Disperse, yon rebels! Throw down your arms and disperse!”
The order was not instantly obeyed: Major Pitcairn advanced a little farther, fired his pistol, and flourished his sword, while his men began to fire, with a shout.
Several Americans fell; the rest dispersed, but the firing on them was continued; and, on observing this, some of the retreating colonists returned the fire.
Eight Americans remained dead on the field.
At the close of this encounter, the rest of the British detachment, under Lieutenant Colonel Smith, came up; and the party, without further violence, proceeded to Concord.
On arriving at that place, they found a body of militia drawn up, who retreated across the bridge before the British light infantry.
The main body of the royal troops entered the town, destroyed two pieces of cannon with their carriages, and a number of carriage-wheels; threw 500 pounds of balls into the river and wells, and broke in pieces about sixty flour-barrels. These were all the stores they found.
While the main body of the troops was engaged in these operations, the light infantry kept possession of the bridge, the Americans having retired to wait for reinforcements.
Reinforcements arrived; and Mr. John Butterworth, of Concord, who commanded the Americans, ordered his men to advance; but ignorant of what had happened at Lexington, enjoined them not to fire, unless the troops fired first.
The matter did not long remain in suspense. The Americans advanced; the troops fired on them; the Americans returned the fire; a smart skirmish ensued, and a number of men fell on each side.
The troops, having accomplished the object of their expedition, began to retreat. But blood had been shed, and the aggressors were not to be allowed to escape with impunity.
The country was alarmed; armed men crowded in from every quarter; and the retreating troops were assailed with an unceasing but irregular discharge of musketry.
General Gage had early information that the country was rising in arms; and, about eight in the morning, he dispatched 900 men, under the command of Earl Percy, to support his first party.
According to Gordon, this detachment left Boston with their music playing Yankee Doodle, a tune composed in derision of the inhabitants of the northern provinces; an act which had no tendency to subdue, but which was well calculated to irritate the colonists.
Earl Percy met Colonel Smith’s retreating party at Lexington much exhausted; and being provided with two pieces of artillery, he was able to keep the Americans in check.
The whole party rested on their arms till they took some refreshment, of which they stood much in need.
But there was no time for delay, as the militia and minute-men were hastening in from all quarters to the scene of action.
When the troops resumed their march, the attack was renewed; and Earl Percy continued the retreat under an incessant and galling fire of small arms.
By means of his field-pieces and musketry, however, he was able to keep the assailants at a respectful distance.
The colonists were under no authority; but ran across the fields from one place to another, taking their station at the points from which they could fire on the troops with most safety and effect.
Numbers of them, becoming weary of the pursuit, retired from the contest; but their places were supplied by new comers, so that, although not more than 400 or 500 of the provincials were actually engaged at any one time, yet the conflict was continued without intermission, till the troops, in a state of great exhaustion, reached Charlestown Neck, with only two or three rounds of cartridges each, although they had thirty-six in the morning.
On this memorable day, the British had 65 men killed, 180 wounded, and 28 taken prisoners.
The provincials had 50 men killed, 34 wounded, and 4 missing.
The appeal to arms was now made; and the struggle about to ensue was one of the most momentous recorded in the annals of the human race; not on account of the number of combatants engaged, for neither party had at any one time above thirty or forty thousand men in the field, and often not the half of those numbers; but because of the principles involved in it, and the consequences which it has produced.
The Lexington-Concord Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows with an artist’s image of American Militia and Minute Men at Lexington.