General Gage sent troops to Concord to capture and destroy stores of military supplies he heard were stored there. He was ordered to disarm the rebel colonists and apprehend rebel leaders by his superior, Secretary of State William Legge.
On April 16, 1775, General Gage sent scouts toward Concord, but this alerted the colonists to British intentions. Paul Revere, William Dawes and Samuel Prescott rode to warn the townspeople of Lexington and Concord. The colonists had set up a system of warning and rapid deployment months earlier. Rebel leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who had been hiding in Lexington, moved to safer locations. Most of the supplies in Concord were moved out of town. By the time British troops under Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith reached Lexington at dawn on April 19, colonial militiamen, known as minutemen for their ability to assemble so rapidly, were waiting for them in the town square. The British fired, killing eight colonists and wounding nine others, and then marched onward to Concord.
In Concord, the British did not find the caches of arms they had expected. Instead, they encountered hundreds of minutemen who returned fire when the British attacked. The answering volley of the colonists became known as the "shots heard round the world" that ignited the American Revolutionary War.