British General Thomas Gage tried to stop the colonists’ rebellion by sending 800 troops to Lexington, twenty miles northwest of Boston. Their mission was to arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams there. And then proceed to Concord and confiscate the Patriots’ cache of arms and ammunition that were stored there.
They were met by a group of 77 militiamen at Lexington, commanded by Captain John Parker. He told them, “Stand your ground; don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”
The British commander ordered the colonists to throw down their arms and disperse. Some began to obey the order to leave but held on to their arms. Then, a shot was fired. Other shots followed, and at the end of the battle, 8 Americans were dead and 10 were wounded. And one British soldier was wounded. The outmatched Patriots withdrew, and the redcoats continued on to Concord.
When the British arrived at the North Bridge in Concord, they were met by about 400 militia. When the Patriots advanced, the British troops opened fire, killing two of them.
The Patriots answered with their own volley, killing 3 British soldiers, and wounding 9 others. And that is what Ralph Waldo Emerson called “the shot heard round the world.”
The British retreated. And on their way back to Boston, they were attacked from all sides by swarms of angry Patriots. Many African-American Patriots, both free and enslaved, joined in the fight with their white neighbors.
These battles were a disaster for the British. They had 73 killed, and many wounded, and the Patriots only had 49 killed.
These brave Patriots stood and fought for their God-given rights, and they changed the world forever.
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.
—The Concord Hymn by Ralph Waldo Emerson