Freedom: A History of US

Webisode 1. Segment 5
The Shot Heard 'Round the World

Despite the courage of men like Patrick Henry, it was frightening for Americans to think of war. England was a great power; the colonies were scattered and had little military experience Check The Source - "Our Cause Is Just". Still, it made sense to be prepared for the worst, so, New Englanders began to stockpile cannonballs and gunpowder in Concord, a small town about twenty miles northwest of Boston. When the British heard about those munitions, they decided to get them. Paul Revere, a silversmith who was one of those who wanted independence, found out that the British soldiers were getting ready to attack. He sent a spy into the British camp; the spy was to send a signal. Revere instructed: Hear It Now - Paul Revere "If the British go out by water, we should show two lanterns in the North Church steeple; and if by land, one, as a signal."

On the night of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere saw one lamp, then two, in the church belfry. Now he knew. The British—called redcoats because of their red uniforms—were taking the water route across the Charles River. Paul Revere jumped on his horse and rode hard all night, warning everyone in the countryside, Hear It Now - Paul Revere "The British are coming! The British are coming Check The Source - "Lanterns in the North Church Steeple" Check The Source - "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" See It Now - Paul Revere's Ride!" At Concord and at Lexington the American farmers were ready: They grabbed their guns See It Now - The colonists fight back. They were called minutemen because they could fight on a minute's notice See It Now - A Minuteman. Captain John Parker was their leader, and he spoke firmly: Hear It Now - Captain John Parker "Stand your ground. Don't fire unless fired upon. But if they mean to have a war, let it begin here."

And it did begin right there, at Lexington See It Now - The Shot Heard 'Round The World. The great American poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, later wrote of that moment:

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world Check The Source - "Concord Hymn" Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Of course the sound wasn't actually heard. But the poet knew what he was writing. Because this fight, which was just beginning, would have a purpose and meaning that would echo and re-echo around the globe. Its message was one of freedom—and that "all men are created equal"—and that idea would resonate worldwide.

On that April day in Lexington twice as many redcoats fell as minutemen. It was the day the battle really began. And no one that day quite realized how hard it would be. There is always more to war than winning or losing, as Mrs. Isaac Davis of Massachusetts learned painfully: Hear It Now - Mrs. Isaac Davis "Isaac Davis was my husband.... We had four children.... The alarm was given early in the morning, and my husband lost no time in making ready to go to Concord with his company.... He seemed serious and thoughtful; but never seemed to hesitate.... He only said, 'Take good care of the children.' In the afternoon he was brought home a corpse Check The Source - A wounded American lieutenant at Bunker Hill See It Now - The Battle at Lexington."

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