Engraving by James Smilie
19 April 1775 As the British advance party approached shortly after dawn, 77 Minutemen were instructed by Captain Parker: “Stand your ground; don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.” The British commander, Major John Pitcairn, who was pleasantly surprised by the small size of the American force, ordered the colonists, “Disperse, ye Rebels! Lay down your arms and disperse.” Some began to obey the order to leave, but held on to their arms. At that point a shot was fired — its source is unknown. Other shots quickly followed and when the smoke cleared, eight Americans lay dead and 10 were wounded; one British soldier was slightly wounded. The outmatched Minutemen retreated into the nearby woods and the redcoats proceeded westward to Concord.
Who actually fired the first shot cannot be answered with certainty, but a number of experts have theorized that it was probably an American who may have fired from a hidden position — perhaps from behind a stone fence or from the nearby tavern.
1775 Boston: Thanks to two Liberty riders, Lexington and Concord minutemen were warned of the Redcoat advance on their towns. Details of the midnight warning on the 18th of April are just becoming clear.
“I hung two lanterns in the Old North Church to signal a British advance by boat across the Charles River,” reported church sexton Robert Newman. “The prearranged signal was devised in case Revere was captured crossing the Charles River to Cambridge. In that event another rider could carry the message. Revere rowed passed the British Somerset, arrived safely, and galloped through the countryside from Charlestown on a borrowed mare, Brown Beauty, across the Mystic River to Medford raising the alarm. Young William Dawes carried the same warning but took the road south by way of Boston Neck, Roxbury, and Brookline and out to Lexington to meet up with Revere. These men deserve the credit for saving Hancock and Adams and the munitions stored in Concord.”
The Boston Local