Our thanks to
George A. Monroe, M.D. for sending in this account.
enclosed account describes the account of Pvt. Ebenezer Munroe.
Ebenezer Munroe was one of the famous "Minute Men" who fought for the
"Continental Army" against the British in the American Revolutionary
War. The document below describes those events leading to Ebenezer
Munroe firing the very first shot from the Continental (American)
Munroe's 'first shot' became known as "THE SHOT HEARD 'ROUND THE
The link for
the Original Account is:
Heard 'Round The World"
Of the many incidents of the American
Revolutionary War, those which occurred at the two small Massachusetts villages of Lexington and Concord are
perhaps the most revered by the descendants of the American Patriots.
Even if they may not know to connect the phrase "the shot heard
'round the world" with the incident at Lexington, Massachusetts,
most people are at least familiar with the phrase.
The stand which the Massachusetts militia made
against the British infantry at the village green of Lexington
resulted in the first musketfire of an eight year war that would
evolve from a civil uprising to a world war that would stretch all the
way from the American colonies to the sub-continent of India. It would
affect most of the major European Nations. France, by providing large sums of money to the Patriot cause would
be forced into bankruptcy and pushed along the path of a major
revolutionary struggle. The "Fourth English War", as the Dutch called
the conflict, would engage the Netherlands in open fighting. The
influence that the Netherlands held over trade on the high seas would
be irreparably damaged and she would lose her important, and only,
port in the western hemisphere: St. Eustasius. The economy of
Portugal's colonial empire, consisting of Brazil, was very dependent
on the British American commercial system and therefore was strained
as a result of the American Revolution. The intellectual influence of
the American Patriots also contributed to the Minas Conspiracy of 1789
and the Bahian Plot of 1798 which, despite the fact of being
suppressed at the time, revealed growing tensions between that colony
and her mother country. The rebellion against the mother country shown
by the American Patriots also influenced the people of Ireland and
precipitated the formation of "associations" in the American example.
It has been estimated that by 1779 there were approximately 40,000
militia raised within Ireland and mob violence erupted in centers such
as Dublin. Russia, under Emperess Catherine II, at first adopted a
policy of "patient neutrality". As the war progressed and British
vessels seized Russian ships, the policy was changed to "armed
neutrality" and Russia proceeded to enforce a naval blockade against
Great Britain to defend neutral shipping. Through her efforts, the
League of Armed Neutrality was formed between Russia, Sweden and
Denmark; the Netherlands, Prussia and Portugal would join the League
later on. Spain entered the conflict on 16 June, 1779 with a formal
declaration of war against Great Britain; she had signed an offensive
alliance, the Convention of Aranjuez, with France in April of that
year which vowed that the two nations would support each other until
Spain could recover possession of Gibralter. Halfway around the world,
in India and the so-called Dutch Spice Islands of the Pacific, a
ferocious struggle that would result in the deaths of many, would
develop because of the conflicting Dutch, French and English interests
in that region.
As the noted British Historian, Piers Mackesy,
wrote in his book, The War For
America 1775-1783, "The struggle had opened in a grey dawn at
Lexington; its last shot was fired eight years later on the other side
of the world outside a dusty town in southern India."
Major General Thomas Gage, recently named Royal
Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and now in command of the
British army quartered in and around Boston for the purpose of
enforcing the New England Restraining Acts, was made aware that the
American colonists had stockpiled munitions at the small village of
Concord. Concord lay only a short
distance northwest of Boston. Gage determined, during early April,
1775, to take a body of troops westward to claim possession of those
munitions. The mission was intended to be carried out at night and in
secrecy so that the British could avoid a confrontation with the
colonial militia. Dr. Joseph Warren, who was sympathetic to the
emerging Patriot cause, learned of the mission and devised his own
secret plan to warn his fellow patriots.
Bay Committee of Correspondence had, by early-1775, organized
volunteer patriots into a militia association known as the Minutemen.
The Minutemen were simply militia which would be ready at a minutes'
notice if necessary. It should be noted that, despite the effects of
popular legend and folklore, and although the term, Minutemen, has
often been used in reference to almost any Revolutionary War period
militia, the term actually refers specifically and only to the
volunteer troops raised in Massachusetts Bay in the early months of
1775. The threat of danger posed by the restrictive New England
Restraining Act motivated the need for that association. The militia
that would later be raised in Massachusetts Bay during the course of
the war were not even considered to be Minutemen; they were then
designated as either Militia or Continental Line, as was the case in
all of the other colonies.
Dr. Warren, on
April 16, 1775, solicited the help of a Boston silversmith, Paul
Revere, to ride to the nearby village of Lexington. Dr. Warren was
aware that two delegates of the Continental Congress, John Hancock and
Samuel Adams, were staying there and he wished to warn them of the
British plans. They would be better suited to decide what course of
action the local patriots should take. Revere made the trip and
conferred with Hancock and Adams. They made plans for Revere to arouse
the Minutemen when the British marched from Boston. The militia would
attempt to halt the British advance near Lexington; they hoped that a
show of force would be sufficient to dissuade the British from their
mission. Paul Revere returned to Boston that same night. On the way he
stopped to request the assistance of other associates residing in the
village of Charlestown. A signal would be needed to inform the patriot
sympathizers residing on the mainland west of the Boston peninsula of
the route the British would take from Boston. In Revere's own words,
they "were apprehenƒive it would be difficult for a meƒsenger to
croƒs the Charles River or get over Boƒton Neck."
The steeple of
North Church in Charlestown would provide the perfect point from which
a lantern could be exposed as a signal. It was decided that if the
British began to move southward and over Boston Neck, the only land
route out of the city, which led through Roxbury and Brookline, a
single lantern would be lit. If the British took the shorter route
across Back Bay two lanterns would be lit and exposed. The patriot
sympathizers outside of the patroled bounds of Boston would be able to
alert their fellow Massachusetts Bay colonists of the British
movements even if Revere failed in his mission. (It is interesting to
note that legend and myth have served to reverse the true facts of the
story. Because of the poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's famous poem,
The Midnight Ride Of Paul Revere, most people assume that the lanterns
were placed to notify Paul Revere to begin his ride.)
The British troops were assembled on Boston Common in the southern part of the city
around ten o'clock on the evening of 18 April, 1775. They boarded
boats and crossed Back Bay to Lechmere Point east of Cambridge. They
waded ashore and spent an inordinate amount of time while supplies
were distributed. In the cool spring night air, with their clothes wet
from wading through the water, the British troops were no doubt
anxious to get moving.
From the North
Church shown two lanterns. Perhaps they were seen by some of the
infantry and grenadier troops milling about on the shore, but the
reason for their being there was known only to Revere's patriot
associates. In a letter written to Dr. Jeremy Belknap in 1798, Paul
Revere noted the activities of that night, particularly of his famous
"On Tueƒday evening, the 18th, it was obƒerved that a number of
ƒoldiers were marching towards the bottom of the Common. About ten
o'clock, Dr. Warren ƒent in great haƒte for me and begged that I would
immediately ƒet off for Lexington, where Meƒsrs. Hancock and Adams
were, and acquaint them of the movement, and that it was thought they
were the objects. When I got to Dr. Warren's house, I found he had
ƒent an expreƒs by land to Lexington - a Mr. William Dawes."
"I left Dr. Warren, called upon a friend and deƒired him to make
the ƒignals. I then went home, took my boots and ƒurtout, went to the
north part of the town, where I kept a boat. Two friends rowed me
acroƒs Charles River, a little to the eaƒtward where the Somerƒet
man-of-war lay. It was then young flood, the ƒhip was winding, and the
moon was riƒing. They landed me on the Charleƒtown ƒide. When I got
into town, I met Colonel Conant and ƒeveral others. They ƒaid they had
ƒeen our ƒignals. I told them what was acting and went to get me a
"I ƒet off upon a very good horƒe. It was then about eleven o'clock
and very pleaƒant. After I had paƒsed Charleƒtown Neck... I ƒaw two
men on horƒeback under a tree. When I got near them, I diƒcovered they
were Britiƒh officers. One tried to get ahead of me, and the other to
take me. I turned my horƒe very quick and galloped toward Charleƒtown
Neck, and then puƒhed for the Medford road. The one who chaƒed me,
endeavoring to cut me off, got into a clay pond... I got clear of him,
and went through Medford, over the bridge, and up to Menotomy. In
Medford, I awakened the captain of the minute men; and after that I
alarmed almoƒt every houƒe, till I got to Lexington. I found Meƒsrs.
Hancock and Adams at the Rev. Mr. Clark's; I told them of my errand
and enquired for Mr. Daws; they ƒaid he had not been there...After I
had been there about half an hour, Mr. Daws came; we refreƒhed
ourƒelves, and ƒet off for Concord."
William Dawes had taken the land route across
Boston Neck and then northward through Cambridge to Lexington, which
explained his lateness. Revere and Dawes had not reached Concord
before meeting up with Dr. Samuel Prescott, whom Revere recalled was
"a high Son of Liberty". Prescott was
returning from an evening visit with his sweetheart and upon being
told of their mission, offered to join them in spreading the alarm.
When the three had arrived at a point about halfway between Lexington
and Concord they were brought to a sudden halt by a party of British
officers. Dawes and Prescott escaped the trap, but Revere was taken
captive and, with a pistol to his head, transported back to Lexington.
Revere's letter to Dr. Jeremy Belknap continued by stating:
"We rode till we got near Lexington meeting-houƒe, when the militia
fired a volley of guns, which appeared to alarm them (the Britiƒh
officers holding him) very much. The major inquired of me how far it
was to Cambridge, and if there were any other road. After ƒome
conƒultation, the major rode up to the ƒergeant and aƒked if his horƒe
was tired. He anƒwered him he was - he was a ƒergeant of grenadiers
and had a ƒmall horƒe. "Then," ƒaid he, "take that man's horƒe." I
diƒmounted, and the ƒergeant mounted my horƒe, when they all rode
towards Lexington meeting-houƒe. I went acroƒs the burying-ground and
ƒome paƒtures and came to the Rev. Mr. Clark's houƒe, where I found
Meƒsrƒs. Hancock and Adams. I told them of my treatment, and they
concluded to go from that houƒe towards Woburn."
The Lexington town
bell was tolled shortly after midnight, following Revere's arrival in
that place. About seventy minutemen some estimates placed the number
at one hundred and forty left the comfort of their beds and made their
way to the triangular shaped town common. After some time, without the
appearance of any British soldiers and the possibility that they had
turned back to Boston, the militiamen were told they could go back to
their homes. They were cautioned, though, to be on the alert; they
might be called out again that night. Many of them went instead to the
nearby Buckman Tavern to wait.
Just before dawn of the 19th of April, 1775, at some time between four o'clock and
four-thirty, drums beat the call once more. Between fifty and seventy
men again hurried to Lexington Common and formed a line. Major John
Pitcairn also heard that call to arms. Pitcairn, second in command to
Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith, had been chosen to lead the British
column by General Gage. At the sound of the drum roll Pitcairn was
just reaching the outskirts of the town on its south side. He halted
his column momentarily for them to load their muskets. He then doubled
the ranks and ordered them forward at double time pace. As the British
troops came round both sides of the church toward the common, they saw
before them the two ragged lines of the militia. They were not
actually blocking the road to Concord, but their presence posed a
Major Pitcairn rode ahead of his troops and
called out to the Massachusetts Bay
militiamen to lay down their firearms and vacate the ground. Ebenezer
Munroe, one of the militiamen who stood in the line on Lexington
Common, noted that:
"The Britiƒh troops came up
directly in our front. The commanding officer advanced within a few
rods of us and exclaimed, 'Diƒperƒe, you damned rebels! You dogs, run!
Ruƒh on, my boys!' and fired his piƒtol."
Colonel Francis Smith, the mission's top
commander, submitted a different story about the opening fight of the
war. His version stated that:
"Our troops advanced toward
them, without any intention of injuring them, further than to inquire
the reaƒon of their being thus aƒsembled, and if not ƒatiƒfactory, to
have ƒecured their arms; but they in confuƒion went off, principally
to the left only one of them fired before he went off, and three or
four more jumped over a wall and fired from behind it among the
ƒoldiers; on which the troops returned it..."
The various eyewitness reports disagree on the
actual circumstances by which the first shot was fired and to whom
that "shot heard 'round the world" could be attributed. Both, Major
Pitcairn and Captain John Parker, who commanded the militia, had
ordered their respective troops not to fire unless to return fire
directed at them. Captain Parker reportedly told his men:
"Don't fire unleƒs fired upon!
But if they want war, let it begin here."
Depositions given by various of the patriots who
stood on the common that morning stated that a member of the militia
near the edge of the green had attempted to fire his musket at one of
Pitcairn's subalterns, but the powder flashed in the pan. It is
believed that the first shot was fired from the vicinity of the
Buckman Tavern, or from behind the wall that ran beside that property.
The patriots' statements noted that as soon as that shot split the
tension hanging in the air the British troops were given the order to
open fire. American witnesses standing near the center of the militia
line attested that they heard the British commander, Pitcairn, shout
to his troops "fire, fire damn you fire". The British reports
would claim that no such order was given by the major; rather, the
British troops responded spontaneously to that initial shot and began
firing without orders.
Following the first barrage of British
musketfire, Pitcairn's troops continued to discharge their muskets at
the colonial militiamen. The militiamen, meanwhile, dispersed and fled
for cover. Eight of them lay dead on the field and ten were wounded,
including Captain Parker who had been shot in the leg. The British
troops charged after the retreating militiamen, all the while shouting
so loudly that orders, if they had been given, could not be heard.
According to one member of Parker's militia
none of the Americans had discharged their muskets as they faced the
oncoming British troops. The British did suffer one casualty, a slight
wound, the particulars of which were corroborated by a deposition made
by Corporal John Munroe.
Munroe stated that:
"After the firƒt fire of the regulars, I
thought, and ƒo ƒtated to Ebenezer Munroe ...who ƒtood next to me on
the left, that they had fired nothing but powder; but on the ƒecond
firing, Munroe ƒtated they had fired ƒomething more than powder, for
he had received a wound in his arm; and now, ƒaid he, to uƒe his own
(Ebenezer Munroe's) words, 'I'll give them the guts of my gun.' We
then both took aim at the main body of Britiƒh troops the ƒmoke preventing our ƒeeing anything but the heads of ƒome of their
horƒes and diƒcharged our pieces."
MUNROE, BY THIS ACCOUNT AND OTHER HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS, IS GIVEN
CREDIT FOR FIRING THE FIRST SHOT, BY THE REVOLUTIONARY ARMY. THIS SHOT
BECAME KNOWN AS "THE SHOT HEARD 'ROUND THE WORLD)!
Colonel Smith appeared on the scene soon after the engagement. He
was evidently appalled at the sight of the dead colonials and the
disorder of his own troops. He directed a drummer to beat out a tattoo
for his men to lay down their arms and then he assisted Major Pitcairn
in restoring order among their troops. After the British troops were
reformed into columns Colonel Smith allowed them to fire a traditional
victory volley and then give three cheers. Then, to the tune of fife
and drum, they marched off toward Concord. The time was nearly eight
o'clock in the morning.
As Captain John Parker had predicted, a war was indeed started there
are on the town common of Lexington, Massachusetts, a war that would
cost many lives on this continent, upon the oceans and on foreign
lands halfway around the world.
I HAVE INCLUDED BELOW A COPY OF RALPH
WALDO EMERSON'S POEM THE "CONCORD HYMN" WHICH IMMORTALIZED THE PHRASE
"THE SHOT HEARD ROUND THE WORLD" (FIRED BY EBENEZER MUNROE)!
CONCORD HYMN Sung
at the Completion of the Battle Monument, July 4, 1837
By the rude bridge that arched
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.
The foe long since in silence slept,
Alike the Conqueror silent sleeps,
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.
On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone,
That memory may their deed redeem,
When like our sires our sons are gone.
Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, or leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and Thee.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882),
Hymn, July 4,