The first stanza of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem “Concord Hymn” gave us the immortal phrase
“the shot heard round the world.” In 1775, who could have known what that shot would mean to the
history of the world?
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.
While the birth of what would become the United States of America absolutely occurred on April 19,
1775, at the Battles of Lexington and Concord, here are a few examples of what really happened.
1. Who shot the shot heard ’round the world?
In Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Concord Hymn,” the “embattled farmers” fired “the shot heard ’round the
world” at the British regulars in Concord. More likely, the shots were fired at Lexington, where the
British fired on the Patriot militia, who also may have taken a few shots in the confusion.
One eyewitness to the skirmish was Paul Revere who had been detained but not arrested by the British.
He couldn’t tell who fired the first shot, in his account. Both sides later accused the other of firing first.
2. Did Paul Revere say, “The British are coming”?
That seems highly unlikely for several reasons. Revere was on a secret mission to warn the Patriots
about the advance of British forces, and at the time, the colonists were British. His more likely response
was, “The regulars are coming out.”
3. Did Revere ride by himself at midnight to warn the Patriots?
There were multiple riders as part of the intelligence effort set up by the Patriots. Two other men,
William Dawes, and Samuel Prescott rode with Revere. Revere never reached Concord as part of the
ride. He was detained by the British after leaving Lexington. It was Prescott who rode from Lexington to
4. Were the colonists just a bunch of farmers fighting against the British?
In reality, the Patriots at Lexington and Concord were well organized and well supplied. Many were
veterans of the French and Indian campaigns, and they better understood the battle tactics in the area
than the British. After withdrawing back to Boston, Lord Percy said, “They have amongst them those
who know very well what they are about, having been employed as rangers among the Indians.”
5. Did the Patriots engage the British from a distance using rifles?
The Colonists primarily used muskets and not rifles, and they had to get fairly close to the enemy in
small-group formations to be effective.
An article on the American Rifleman website makes a convincing argument that the Patriots were better
shots than the British, but only 2 percent of their shots were on target.
Much of the fighting in the British retreat was in hand-to-hand combat, and the British were able to use
bayonets. The Patriots used circling tactics to constantly harass the British while building up their troop
strength. In the end, about 15,000 Patriot militia and Minutemen surrounded Boston as they trailed the
For a wealth of information about our nation’s beginnings, I highly recommend
https://constitution.org which is the source of these five fact bytes. All of us at the Public Library of
Catasauqua wish all of you a safe and very happy Independence Day celebration!
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CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOKS:
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