A Shot Heard Around the World

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A essay that I wrote earlier in my current school year about the Battle of Lexington and Concord

Submitted: November 10, 2018

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Submitted: November 10, 2018



A "shot heard around the world" is a phrase that refers to a significant historical event that would lead to brutal wars or political instability. The phrase is coined from gunfire at a assassination or the first shot of a military conflict. The phrase usually refers to either the 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria or the assassination of American President John F. Kennedy, but the most famous example is perhaps the Battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775, which would spark the American Revolutionary War and result in the independence of the United States of America.

The colonies in what was once British North America had a great deal of autonomy. Following the Seven Years War, the Kingdom of Great Britain was in debt and she began to increase her control over North America. To pay the cost of the war, the British Parliament in Westminster introduced controversial new taxes on the colonists. The new taxes, which included taxes on American imports and products, were not supported by the subjects living in the colonies. Many argued that the colonies had no representation in the British government, although Westminster saw the colonists as subjects of the British crown. The British parliament introduced more controversial taxes and laws, which caused discontent to increase in British North America. As time went on, groups such as the Sons of Liberty were formed, who argued for American sovereignty and independence. By 1775, tensions had harshly boiled over, and the British had become desperate in the hope of maintaining control over the North American colonies. On the nineteenth of April that same year, an estimated seven hundred British troops were sent to arrest rebel leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock as well as prevented a possible rebellion by gaining control over a nearby arsenal. Alerted by silversmith rebel Paul Revere, a militia known as the Minute Men confronted the British at the town of Lexington outside of Boston. Aware of the inevitable, neither side was willing to fire the first shot. However, a shot was fired and the conflict that would be now known as the American Revolutionary War had begun. But it is not known as to who was responsible for firing the infamous first shot, the shot that would be known as "a shot heard around the world".

While the seven hundred British troops were ordered to seize firearms to prevent them from falling into the hands of the rebels, no one on either side had any intention of fighting. Accounts from the event are conflicting as both sides that fought at the Battle of Lexington and Concord blamed each other for firing the first shot. On the nineteenth of April 1775, John Barker was a lieutenant in the British Army. In his diary, he wrote that while both sides advanced towards each other, no one fired because of the fear of sparking a war. However, Barker wrote that "on our coming near them they fired one or two shots, upon which our men without any orders, rushed in upon them, fired and put them to flight…". Lieutenant Barker's story is supported by Ensign Jeremy Lister, who wrote that his commanding officer, Major John Pitcairn, ordered the Minute Men to disperse. However, the Minute Men "gave us a fire," Lister later wrote in 1782, which forced him and his comrades to return "their salute".

The Minute Men told a different story. Nathaniel Mulliken and Philip Russell were among thirty-four men who formed the Minute Men during the Battle of Lexington and Concord. The men were alerted of the incoming British troops marching towards Concord from Boston, and they assembled to meet them head on. According to the men, while their backs "were turned on the troops, we were fired on by them…". Eight of the Minute Men were instantly killed, and the survivors were forced to flee the British, who were superior in numbers and arms. Despite of this, at Concord, Pro-Patriot American militias attacked the British onvoy and drove them back. Overall, 269 British troops were killed or wounded while the rebels suffered less than ninety.

While John Pitcairn insisted that the rebels were responsible for firing the "shot heard around the world", Ezra Stiles wrote in his diary that Pitcairn "does not say that he saw the colonists fire first." Stiles was the President of Yale College (later Yale University) and one of the founders of Brown University. Stiles personally admired Major Pitcairn, believing him to be a good man fighting for a bad cause. According to Stiles, Pitcairn stated that he ordered the Minute Men to "disperse" and his troops to "surround and disarm them." Pitcairn then saw a "gun in a peasant's hand from behind a wall, flash in the pan without going off; and instantly or very soon two or three guns went off by which he found his horse wounded and also a man near him wounded." With this revelation from Stiles, it is possible that neither side fired the first shot, but rather a civilian or spectator.

While it may never be known as to who was responsible for firing the first shot at the Battle of Lexington and Concord, it is reasonable to say that no matter who fired first, war would still come. Thousands on both sides would perish during the conflict, and it led to the independence of fourteen of Great Britain's North American colonies as well as a loss of territory to the newly formed United States as well as the return of Louisiana to France. While the identity of the shooter remains a mystery, the "shot heard around the world" still changed world history as we know it.

© Copyright 2019 Daniel Bull. All rights reserved.

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