On the night of 18th April 1775, Paul Revere rode from Charleston to Lexington with his message that “the Regulars are coming!” The action that was to signal the start of the American Revolutionary War has passed into legend, but whether he referred to the approaching army as ‘Regulars’ or ‘Redcoats’ is unclear. However he certainly didn’t say that the British were coming. At the time the American settlers would still have seen themselves as British, albeit living in a colony and ruled by a faraway King. It’s also highly unlikely that Revere shouted his warning as he passed peoples’ houses. His mission was secret, and the countryside was known to contain army patrols and royalist sympathisers.
By the time British troops entered the town of Lexington the next morning, 77 militiamen had assembled. Their leader, Captain John Parker, knew that his men were outnumbered and so gave an order that is now engraved on a stone at the site. “Stand your ground; don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”
The leaders of both sides ordered their men not to fire, but a single shot from an unknown source rang out. The Battle of Lexington lasted for just a few minutes, killing eight militiamen and wounding a further 10. Moving on to the town of Concord, however, the British met significantly more opposition. The American Revolution had begun.