The Shot Heard 'Round the World
At dawn on April 19, 1775, as 700 elite British soldiers marched toward Concord, they fought a brief skirmish with militiamen on Lexington Green, leaving eight colonists dead and nine wounded. The King’s troops marched on, arriving at Concord two hours later. While some troops searched the town for stores of gunpowder and arms, three companies guarded the “North Bridge.” As the British were marching toward Concord, word spread of the fight at Lexington. Alarm bells rang calling out the militia and Minute Men across Middlesex County. Among the units to muster was Colonel James Barrett’s Middlesex County Regiment of Minute Men. Once in formation the regiment moved onto a hill within 500 yards of where the British stood watch at North Bridge. Colonel Barrett, needing to organize additional militia companies, left his command to Major John Buttrick. When smoke appeared in the sky above Concord the Americans wrongly believed the British were burning the town. In response Buttrick decided to move his men toward the town. As the Americans advanced the British pickets fell back across the bridge. The last British unit to cross, the Light Company of the 4th (King’s Own) Foot, stopped to tear up some of the planks to delay the militia advance. Leading the American column was Captain Isaac Davis’s Company of Minute Men from Acton. As they got within 50 yards of the bridge Buttrick shouted at the British to stop tearing up the planks. Suddenly three British shots were fired, killing Davis and another man instantly and wounding a third. Buttrick shouted “Fire! For God’s sake Fire!” and the Minute Men unloosed a ragged but heavy volley. Four out of eight British officers were hit along with seven enlisted men, two of whom died. The British immediately fell back toward the town where they linked up with other Royal troops. Buttrick moved his men across the bridge as the British column began marching back down the road toward Boston. Militiamen gathered along their path and soon began firing from behind trees and stone walls, inflicting an ever-increasing number of casualties. When the exhausted British troops reached Lexington, scene of the fight earlier that morning, they were met by a relief force sent to accompany them back to Boston. However, the Americans did not stop their attacks, inflicting additional losses on the British column before it reached Boston. In total the British suffered almost 300 dead, wounded or missing. Within days an army of nearly 20,000 militiamen from all over New England surrounded the city, effectively putting it under siege. In 1875, on the 100th anniversary of the action at Concord, Daniel Chester French’s Minuteman statue, the symbol of today’s National Guard, was dedicated. As part of the ceremony, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem The Concord Hymn was read honoring the men who “fired the shot heard round the world” which began the Revolutionary War. Today’s National Guard is the direct descendent of those militia and Minute Men who stood their ground to protect their homes and freedoms.