VIDEO: Modern Day Minute Man Talks Patriots' Day History
Lexington resident Dan Fenn, a member of the town's Minute Man company, discusses the first few hours of the American Revolution, including who really fired the shot heard 'round the world.
Emerson be damned -- Lexington Minute Man Dan Fenn says the “shot heard ‘round the world” was fired in his back yard, but not by colonial militia or the British Regulars.
The claim came during a Patriots’ Day program titled “What Really Happened That Day,” in which Fenn asked his audience to travel back 237 years, take a few steps outside of the First Parish in Lexington and envision themselves standing on the area now known as the Battle Green.
He started with the weather, saying it probably wasn’t quite sweltering like yesterday’s scorcher the morning of April 19, 1775, but the winter had been warm, the grass was high and the dandelions were in bloom. Meanwhile, tensions running high around Boston had Patriots like Paul Revere and the Sons of Liberty formulating plans to warn colonists of troop movements by the British Regulars, Fenn said.
Lexington was a "full" town, with 750 residents, five slaves and a handful of African-American families, according to Fenn, who said the local militia company -- they weren't considered "minute men" at the time -- had been mustering more seriously in recent years under the leadership of Capt. John Parker.
News leaked of the British Regulars' plans to march out west of Boston the morning of April 19, but the couriers set out with the warning, it was unclear whether the Regulars' destination was Lexington, where Patriot leaders John Hancock and Sam Adams were staying, or Concord, where a large munitions cache was being stored.
"We know roughly pretty much what happened," Fenn said, noting that documentation of the day's events are very detailed, as depositions were taken the next day. "That night of Paul Revere's ride must have been a pretty anxious, nerve-wracking night for the people in Lexington."
Revere rode up around midnight and as Adams and Hancock debated what to do, the bells rang out to summon the local militia, Capt. Parker sent out some scouts and Revere headed for Concord.
When the Regulars arrived some hours later Parker, a man with military experience from the French and Indian War, ordered his men to disperse rather than engage the Redcoats, at they appeared only to be passing through and his charge was to protect his hometown.
"But just at that moment, a shot rang out from Buckman Tavern," Fenn said. "In the depositions at the time, everybody was pretty clear that it didn't come from the ranks of either the Regulars or the Colonials. The suspicion is that our friend Solomon Brown, who was still pretty upset at the British for the way they treated him on the way to Concord earlier that day, fired off his musket."
Solomon Brown, the story goes, was a Lexington farmer's boy who reported overtaking some British officers on his ride home from a Boston market the evening of April 18 and was sent out to spy on the Regulars the next morning.
Wherever the shot came from, Regulars "panicked," according to Fenn, and began firing at the farmers standing before them, killing eight and enraging their own officers who had no intentions of starting an armed conflict along the way to Concord.
“Nobody knew it at the time, obviously, but the events of that day were the start of the American Revolution,” Fenn said. “So it was here, then, that the embattled farmers stood and fired the shot heard ‘round the world.”