Tuesday, July 3, 2012
On the Village Green
I’m sure many of you have heard the term “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.” It has been used in sports, Hollywood movies, and news media. The phrase has even been associated historically with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the event that started World War I. However the phrase is an American one.
The Shot Heard ‘Round the World as a phrase is the opening line of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Concord Hymn” which was published around 1837. It refers to the standoff between British soldiers and local militia in Lexington.
So…we talked about Paul Revere’s wild ride in an earlier blog. The events of Lexington and Concord are connected to Mr. Revere and his jaunt across the village greens.
Here’s the deal. Britain’s General Gage had a secret plan (a stupid not well thought out one but a plan none the less). He wanted to capture Sam Adams and John Hancock thinking this would demoralize the feisty colonists who had been shouting about independence. After taking the two men, the red coated general wanted his men to then seize Concord. You see my dearies; Concord was home to a nice supply of gunpowder used by the militia. Friends and spies for the Americans cause leaked the word of the plan. So off went Paul and his compatriots, William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott to warn everyone, especially Hancock (yep the big signature guy) and Adams (the beer guy). Don’t capture those guys, we need them.
Word quickly spread (well as quickly as you can, riding like a bat out of hell on the back of horse) between towns and the militias prepared to confront the British (Technically we were British too at this time, but moot point) and help their neighbors Lexington and Concord. The militias had been created by colonists to actually fight against the Natives and the French and were commonly called the Minutemen. This meant they could theoretically be ready to fight in a minutes notice. (I know what you’re thinking and get your minds out of the gutter. Not THAT kind of minutemen, you dirty birdies.)
So when the advance guard of General Gage’s army showed up, all 240 of them, they found about 70 minutemen formed on the Green. The men on both sides just kind of stood there and stared each other down, each hesitant to start stuff. Suddenly out of the blue, a bullet buzzed through the air.
It was “the shot heard ‘round the world"
The British managed to kill about 7 colonists on the Green and then marched off to Concord with new regiments who had joined in. The British had superior numbers hence the causalities on the American side. However things were not so easy for the “lobster tails” when they reached Concord. The militia men managed to thwart them. The redcoats turned and ran, only to be intercepted by more militia. We fought guerilla style, shooting from behind fences and trees. The causality count for the Brits by the end of the skirmish was well over 125 and included several officers. The fight and gumption of the colonists surprised both sides honestly.
The battle of Lexington and the “shot heard ‘round the world” marked a turning point in American history. While it happened in 1775 prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the event fanned the fires for freedom seekers. The British had shed American blood on American soil.
After the battle, Lord Percy, who led the British back into Boston after the defeat at Concord, wrote to London…”Whoever looks upon them as an irregular mob will be much mistaken.” Translation – Watch out, the colonists are serious and they fight dirty.
So now you know the story of “the shot heard ‘round the world.” It was the unofficial day we said enough is Enough. No one knows who fired the shot or which side but it will continue to be one of the most important turning points in American History.
If you want to hear an amazing song that captures the feeling of the day check out "Mama, Look Sharp" from the Musical 1776.
Keep stopping by during the week for all sorts of Revolutionary War fun and facts. Plus, one random commenter over the course of the week will receive an E-book copy of Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell or Drift by Rachel Maddow. It will be winner’s choice. Make sure you leave your email for me in the comments and which book you’d prefer if you win. Winner will be chosen on July 8th, the one year anniversary of History’s Mistress Blog.