“Let it begin here,” the men of Lexington said on the morning of April 19th.
“Let us die here,” Concord’s minister William Emerson echoed that same morning.
Drawing from the remarkable collection of the Concord Museum, as well as other public and private collections, The Shot Heard Round the World: April 19, 1775 brought together over 50 extraordinary objects that were eyewitnesses to a fateful day in American history. The exhibition marked the first time that many of these artifacts had been displayed together.
The exhibition, on view at the Concord Museum from April 18 through September 21, 2014, followed an hour-by-hour account of the actions of British Regulars and Patriots on April 19, 1775, presenting a chronological and geographical timeline of the day and representing many of the communities surrounding Boston — Lexington, Concord, Lincoln, Arlington (Menotomy), and Cambridge — whose militias played a prominent role in the day-long engagement. Organized by Concord Museum curator David Wood and militaria expert Joel Bohy, the exhibition explored the objects on view and the part they played in the events of the fateful day that began an eight-year fight for independence.
This online exhibition walks you through The Shot Heard Round the World and brings together new material for an extraordinary experience. LEARN about the dramatic events of April 19, 1775; EXPLORE surviving objects and detailed first-person accounts; DISCOVER new stories about the people and places involved.
Explore the Revolutionary War Collection at the Concord Museum.
Listen to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Concord Hymn,” which is carved into the granite base of Daniel Chester French’s Minute Man statue, sung by The Choir of First Parish in Concord; Elizabeth Norton, Director.
Read a blog post by Concord Museum Curator David Wood about The Shot Heard Round the World.
England’s decision to tax the American colonies in 1765 led to widespread protests. So heated did the protests become that several regiments of the King’s Regular Army soldiers were stationed in Boston in 1768, raising tensions further. The Boston Massacre of 1770 was a conflict between townspeople of Boston and Regular Army troops.
Following the Boston Tea Party in 1773, normal colonial government was suspended by British Parliament. In response, colonists formed their own independent government — the Provincial Congress — meeting during 1774 in Cambridge and in Concord. The Congress advised Massachusetts towns to add special minute companies to their militia, ready to respond, armed, to alarms. The minute and militia companies together are referred to as Provincial troops.
Read an Account of The Boston Massacre as reported in The Boston Gazette and Country Journal in its edition of Monday, March 12, 1770.
Listen to Concord Museum Curator David Wood as he shares the story of a letter sent by Jonathan Hosmer from Concord nine days before his son was killed at the North Bridge.
Read Paul Revere’s narrative of his actions the night of April 18th and the morning of the 19th, from the Collection of Massachusetts Historical Society.
If the British went out by Water, we would show two Lanthorns in the North Church Steeple; and if by Land, one, as a Signal
General Gage, commander of the Regular Army troops in Boston, was aware of the military preparations being coordinated by the Provincial Congress. In the middle of April, he determined to send troops to seize the supplies stockpiled in Concord. Paul Revere had been serving as an alarm rider for the Boston Committee of Correspondence for some months and was asked to do so again on the night of the 18th.
Three days earlier, knowing a raid was imminent and aware that he might be captured before he could spread an alarm himself, Revere had arranged a lantern signal that would alert militia to Gage’s raid. Revere rode toward Concord to spread the alarm and got as far as Lincoln before being captured. As the alarm was spread by a network of other riders, it was accompanied by the ringing of church bells and the firing of guns.
About 700 of Gage’s Regular Army troops under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith and Major John Pitcairn left Boston by ten o’clock the night of April 18, 1775, headed for Concord. Even as they stepped ashore in Cambridge at the beginning of their march, they could hear the bells and signal guns that told them their movements were observed.
Eavesdrop on the deliberations of the revolutionaries in 1774 and 1775 in the Records of the Provincial Congress.
Take a Virtual Midnight Ride courtesy of the Paul Revere House.
Watch the video, “Picturing America — Paul Revere,” with expert analysis of John Singleton Copley’s portrait of Revere and Grant Wood’s painting “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.”
I ordered our militia to meet on the common
Paul Revere’s alarm at midnight caused Captain John Parker to summon his company of militia to the Common in Lexington. When nothing immediately happened, Parker dismissed his men with the understanding that they would reassemble at the sound of the drum.
Near dawn, about 700 Regular Army troops were sighted one half mile from the Lexington Common and Captain Parker ordered 16-year-old William Diamond to beat the drum to summon the militia. About 70 members of the Lexington militia had gathered on the Common by the time the Regulars arrived there. Major Pitcairn with about 100 Regulars went across the Common to confront the militia. Captain Parker ordered his men to disperse, but the Regulars opened fire, killing eight and wounding ten more. The Regulars gave a cheer, then rejoined the main body at the edge of the Common and continued on to Concord.
The Bell Rong at 3 o clock
Concord received news of the Regulars’ expedition about two hours before the firing on Lexington Common occurred. The Provincial militia and minute companies from Concord and Lincoln began to gather at the sound of the town bell. Several observers recalled the sight of the morning sun glinting on 700 muskets as the Regulars came into Concord center to the music of the fifes and drums of both the Provincials and the Regulars.
Lieutenant Colonel Smith sent some companies of Regulars out to secure the North Bridge and to search militia Colonel James Barrett’s house for military supplies. Three other companies were sent to secure the South Bridge, while Smith remained in Concord center with the rest of the troops. These troops threw some supplies of flour, musket balls, and cannon balls into the mill pond and piled up and burned some entrenching tools and gun carriages. The fire spread to the Town House.
Explore Spy Letters of the American Revolution, including an April 19th letter from Rachel Revere to her husband Paul Revere.
See the clothing and equipment typical of a minute company in 1775 through a slide show of Captain David Brown’s Concord Minute Company, a group of Revolutionary War reenactors from around the country, in their encampment at the Concord Museum on Patriots’ Day 2014. Photos by Sara Lundberg.
Listen to stirring Fife and Drum Music of the Revolutionary War.
We then was all orded to fire
About 450 Provincial troops from Concord, Lincoln, Acton, and Bedford had retreated from Concord center across the North Bridge to observe the Regulars. They were concerned to see the smoke rising from Concord center. The men were ordered to load their muskets. They then proceeded two by two in military order down to the bridge.
When the first of the Provincials had gotten within 250 feet of the bridge, the Regulars fired three warning shots into the river, then fired on the Provincial troops. Captain Isaac Davis of Acton and a private in his company, Abner Hosmer, were both killed instantly. Major John Buttrick ordered the Provincials to return the fire. Three of the Regulars were killed and several more were wounded. The firing lasted no more than two or three minutes. This was the first time that day — and the first time in history — that Provincial troops were specifically ordered to fire on Regular troops.
Listen to a first person account of Amos Barrett of Concord, a member of David Brown’s minute company. Fifty years after the event at the North Bridge, he wrote of what transpired, including such vivid details as the sight of the warning shots splashing in the river and the sound of the musket balls fired in the first salvo as they whistled past his head.
Learn more about the powder horn of Abner Hosmer of Acton who was killed at the North Bridge, a casualty of the first shots the Regulars fired in Concord. His father, Jonathan, in a letter written just ten days earlier, had predicted that if the Regulars turned out, “there will be Bloody work.”
View a slide show of photographs taken by Robert Cheney at the North Bridge during the Patriots’ Day Parade, Concord, Massachusetts, April 15, 2013.
The Road was Bloody
The Regulars at the North Bridge returned to Concord center, as did the other troops who had gone out to Colonel Barrett’s house and to the South Bridge. After sending their wounded officers ahead, the Regulars left Concord about noon on their way back to Boston. Two miles down the road at Merriam’s Corner, the Concord, Acton, and Lincoln men met up with men from Bedford, Billerica, and Reading. The joined forces fired on the column of Regulars, killing several and wounding several others. From this point until the end of the day, the Provincials kept up an encircling fire on the Regulars, with companies from Sudbury, Woburn, and Lexington joining the pursuit.
Surrounded by Provincials and running out of ammunition, the Regulars, after marching under fire with hardly a pause for fifteen hours, were nearly desperate by the time they got back to Lexington.
Listen to a podcast exploring how muskets, swords, buttons, and drums convey powerful memories of the soldiers who claimed them.
Take a 360◦ tour of a portion of the historic Battle Road, the path of the Regulars retreat on April 19th.
Zoom in on one of the very few contemporary depictions of April 19th—the first map to accurately describe the engagement.
Every one of them put to Death
In Lexington, the column of Regulars was relieved by 1,000 fresh troops — including artillery troops equipped with two cannon — under the command of Brigadier General Hugh Percy. The firing of the cannon scattered the Provincials long enough to allow the Regulars half an hour to rest and treat their wounded.
Percy’s relief did not spare the Regulars hours more of marching under fire on their way back through Menotomy and West Cambridge (now Arlington) toward Boston. Provincials who took cover in houses to fire on the main body of Regulars sometimes found themselves surrounded by Regulars who killed everyone they found within. In the home of Jason Russell, eleven Provincials who had just arrived from Danvers, Beverly, Lynn, Salem, Dedham, and Needham were surrounded and killed in this way, and Russell himself was killed on his doorstep.
These activities are designed to be used either on their own or with the Concord Museum’s online exhibition The Shot Heard Round the World: April 19, 1775.
For more teacher and student resources visit our Education pages here.
Design Your Own Powder Horn
Minutemen and members of the colonial Militias needed lots of supplies during the Revolutionary War. In this activity, students learn what a Minuteman needed and how we can use their belongings and the decorations on them to discover more about people who lived long ago. Students can then decorate their own powder horn. Appropriate for grades 2-5.
Would You Sign? Boycotts in the 1770s
Students think about what it meant for colonists and their families to boycott imported goods in the lead-up to the Revolutionary War. Designed to be either a debate or independent work, students decide if they would sign on to a boycott. Appropriate for grades 5-12.
Revolutionary Art: The Bloody Massacre Print
Students look closely and decode Paul Revere’s print of The Bloody Massacre. After studying the image and an excerpt from the poem, students are also asked to consider whether Paul Revere’s portrayal is fair to both sides. This activity can be done as independent or group work and can be used to introduce a conversation on propaganda during the Revolution. Appropriate for grades 5-12.
Creating the Massachusetts Army
A year before the Declaration of Independence and even before the first shots were fired at the Battles of Lexington and Concord, citizens of Massachusetts wrote a document, “Rules and Regulations for the Massachusetts Army,” which aired many frustrations with the British government. Students look closely at this important primary source, getting a glimpse into the minds of colonists in April 1775. Appropriate for grades 8-12.
Revolutionary Traveling Trunk
Have the Revolution travel to you! Borrow a trunk filled with reproduction primary source artifacts and documents that travel to your classroom to make your Revolutionary unit come alive. Along with touchable objects, the trunk includes directions to set up stations in your classroom and worksheets for students to use. This trunk allows the richness of the Concord Museum’s collection to come to your classroom as you study the events surrounding April 19, 1775. Pick up at the Museum or shipping available.
Background photo credit: Mary Orr
The Last Muster: Images of a Revolutionary War Generation was exhibited in association with The Shot Heard Round the World: April 19, 1775. These photographic portraits of people who lived through the American Revolution and survived into the age of photography were uncovered by “photo detective” Maureen Taylor.
Massachusetts Historical Society
The Coming of the American Revolution, 1764-1776, is explored through the lives and events recorded in newspapers, official documents and personal correspondence from the wide-ranging MHS collection.
Minute Man National Historical ParkAt Minute Man National Historical Park, the Battles of Lexington and Concord are brought to life through the preservation, restoration and interpretation of significant sites from “that famous day and year” when Colonists took up arms in defense of liberty and touched off the American Revolution.
Museum of Fine Arts
Paul Revere, by John Singleton Copley
American Antiquarian Society
The Illustrated Inventory of Paul Revere’s works at the American Antiquarian Society
Museum of the American Revolution
The Museum’s rich collection of objects, art, manuscripts, and printed works has been assembled over the past century, beginning with the 1909 purchase of General George Washington’s sleeping tent (or marquee) from Mary Custis Lee, Martha Washington’s great, great granddaughter.
Fort Ticonderoga holds one of North America’s premier collections of 18th-century military material culture. The exhibits contain thousands of objects and tell thousands of stories, narrating the history of Fort Ticonderoga.
American Archives offers scholars, students, and lifetime learners unprecedented new access to important primary source materials of the American Revolution 1774-1776.
The Buzz at the Hive
The Hive is a series of year round programs and lectures on 18thcentury life held at Minuteman National Historical Park in Lexington, Massachusetts.
This online exhibition is made possible by a grant from
The Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati
The Shot Heard Round the World: April 19, 1775
was an exhibition in the Wallace Kane Gallery at the Concord Museum
from April 18 through September 21, 2014.
The exhibition was made possible by
The Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati
In partnership with
The Lexington Historial Society
Acton Memorial Library | Arlington Historical Society
Dick and Ann Marie Connolly | The Charles W. Dee, Sr. Collection
The Lexington Historial Society | Massachusetts Archives
Massachusetts Historical Society | Medford Historical Society
Dr. Gary Milan | Private Collections
Sudbury Historical Society, Inc.
Trustees of First Parish Unitarian Universalist Arlington
Background photo credit: David Bohl