On the early morning of April 19, 1775, Captain John Parker assembled his small militia and marched toward an area known as Lexington Common. Parker had been given warning that British Troops were headed to Concord, Massachusetts to seize weapons and powder being stored by the Patriot. Unfortunately for Parker, his troops were vastly outnumbered. While he gave the word to disperse, a shot was fired. A shot that would inevitably signal the start of the American Revolutionary War, and a shot described by Ralph Waldo Emerson as the ‘shot heard round the world.’
The British are Coming!
By 1774, the relationship between King George and the colonies had reached a boil. The Sugar Act, Stamp Act and Townshed Acts had created a strong resentment within the colonies. Protests resulted in the 1770 Boston Massacre and the 1773 Boston Tea Party. By 1774, King George III shut down Boston’s harbor and declared Massachusetts to be in an active state of rebellion. Under his provision, British troops were to end rebel uprisings and imprison rebellion leaders. Among these orders, troops were to seize all weapons and military stores.
Massachusetts militias had been storing weapons and supplies in Concord, Massachusetts. Word had been given to British General Thomas Gage to march northward and seize the supplies. As soon as the rebels learned of Gage’s orders, word was to be sent to Concord, leading to Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride.
Parker’s Training Band
A veteran of the French and Indian War, Captain John Parker assembled his men about halfway between Boston and Concord, in the small town of Lexington, Massachusetts. Parker’s militia was a group of smaller militias, known as a Training Band. The group numbered approximately 80 men. Parker, knowing that the weapons had been hidden, assumed Gage would march to Concord, find nothing and return to Boston.
Unfortunately for Parker – and in a rather confusing manner – British Troops surrounded him and his men. As both sides wait for orders, a shot was fired. Who fired the first shot remains a mystery. Many agree that the shot wasn’t fired by those immediately facing each other. After a few hesitant shots were fired, both sides opened fire. Fearing the worst, most of Parker’s men retreat. At the end of the skirmish, 8 militants were killed and one British troop.
Wanting to find better ground, Colonel James Barrett, leader of the Concord and Lincoln militias, led his troops across the North Bridge. At this point, Barrett’s men numbered roughly 400. When British Troops arrived in Concord, they found most of the weapons have been moved. The remaining supplies were burned. Seeing the flames from the town, the militia returned to engage the British. At the end of the battle, 73 British troops were killed and 174 wounded. The rebels suffered 49 casualties and 39 men were wounded.
The Battle of Lexington and Concord signaled the start of the American Revolutionary War. And while both battles weren’t major, it proved that the colonists could stand up to British troops. The battles also helped to turn the tide of public support in favor of the Patriots, leading George Washington to remark: “the once-happy and peaceful plains of America are either to be drenched in blood or inhabited by slaves. Sad alternative! But can a virtuous man hesitate in his choice?”