The Shot Heard 'Round the World: April 19, 1775
Major John Pitcairn's six companies of British regular light infantry neared Lexington Common as daylight approached. Their guns were already primed and loaded. They were prepared to face five hundred militia. Captain John Parker managed to get about forty of the minutemen to line up on the town's green. Another thirty or so men were scattered around the Common and the nearby buildings. In all, seventy men constituted the American force.
As the British approached, Major Pitcairn ordered his men to surround the disarm the militia, specifically ordering them not to fire. At nearly the same time, Captain Parker ordered his men to disperse, which they began to do. Major Pitcairn made his order in an effort to not be bogged down, since his orders were to peacefully take possession of the Concord bridges. However, he could not just leave the militia unmolested. Meanwhile, Captain Parker was satisfied with the show of presence by his own men and he did not want his small force in a skirmish with fully armed Regulars.
As the minutemen began to disperse, still fully armed, and the first British soldiers reached the Green, a shot was fired. Some say it came from behind a nearby stone wall. The British soldiers immediately formed up and returned fire. Major Pitcairn, a Marine, strenuously moved among the light infantry ordering them to cease firing. The British had broken ranks and were about to start breaking into houses when Lt. Colonel Francis Smith arrived and the order was soon restored.
Seven Lexington minutemen lay dead on or near the Common. One colonial from Woburn, who had been captured on the road, was killed trying to escape. Nine others were wounded. Of the eight father-son pairs on the Common that night, three sons were killed as well as two other fathers. The casualties were the only colonials in sight as the British Regulars reformed to continue on to Concord. A few minutes after the British departed, the colonials began appearing, first looking after the wounded and the dead.
After the initial shock began to fade, it was realized that the British would be returning. Children were brought into the countryside. Family silver and other valuables were buried. Meanwhile, six British soldiers straggled into Lexington one-by-one, were disarmed and taken prisoner. Later that morning, Captain Parker reassembled the Lexington minutemen and they set off for Concord to face the British Regulars again.
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