The Massachusetts Colony: a Hotbed of Sedition

On the Night of April 18, 1775...

In the spring of 1775, Massachusetts colony was a hotbed of conflict with England.  Preparations had been underway to store munitions and arms in nearby Concord, and training of militia was organized to defend against British troops should that become necessary.  The military governor of Massachusetts, General Thomas Gage, was ordered to seize the arms and munitions at Concord and to arrest the patriot leaders, John Hancock and Samuel Adams, who had been staying in the village of Lexington.

As General Gage left Boston to proceed westward, Paul Revere, William Dawes, and other riders galloped ahead to sound the alarm that soldiers were approaching.  Hancock and Adams fled to safety.  Revere was captured in nearby Lincoln, but William Dawes and Samuel Prescott were able to continue westward to sound the alarm of approaching troops. In the early morning fog of April 19, 1775, local militia assembled on the Lexington Common and opposed the advancing British troops.  As the soldiers arrived, they issued a warning to the minutemen to “lay down your arms, you damned rebels..”.  Soon shots were fired, a soldier was injured, and several minutemen lay dead.  There was no turning back; war with England was started.  The British troops marched onward towards Concord where more militia and battle awaited them.

The atmosphere was tense, word of General Gage’s intentions spread through Boston prompting the patriots to set up a messaging system to alert the countryside of any advance of British troops. Paul Revere arranged for a signal to be sent by lantern from the steeple of North Church – one if by land, two if by sea. On the night of April 18, 1775 the lantern’s alarm sent Revere, William Dawes and other riders on the road to spread the news. The messengers cried out the alarm, awakening every house, warning of the British column making its way towards Lexington. In the rider’s wake there erupted the peeling of church bells, the beating of drums and the roar of gun shots – all announcing the danger and calling the local militias to action. 

In the predawn light of April 19, the beating drums and peeling bells summoned between 50 and 70 militiamen to the town green at Lexington. As they lined up in battle formation the distant sound of marching feet and shouted orders alerted them of the Redcoats’ approach. Soon the British column emerged through the morning fog and the confrontation that would launch a nation began. 

Captain John Parker (July 13, 1729– September 17, 1775) was an American farmer and soldier who commanded the Massachusetts militia at Lexington during the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775.

He had instructed his men, “Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”  A British bayonet killed his cousin Jonas Parker.  After his men dispersed from the Lexington Green, Parker re-organized his men to attack the British regulars from a hill that ran perpendicular to the road that British soldiers were retreating on. He, along with Lincoln militia, fired upon the British column, killing Colonel Smith, and the last uninjured officer of the British 10th light foot Captain Parsons. This location is now called “Parker’s Revenge.” 

John Parker was already sick with tuberculosis on April 19, and died a few months after. Parker’s grandson donated his musket to the state of Massachusetts and it hangs today in the Massachusetts State House Senate Chamber.

The day he rallied his men to attack the regulars returning to Boston in an ambush known as “Parker’s Revenge.” Instead of meeting the British on open ground, Parker chose a hill that ran perpendicular to the road the British were traveling. His men, along with the Lincoln militia, fired at the unsuspecting British column. 

Parker was born in Lexington and his experience as a soldier in the French and Indian War at the Siege of Louisbourg and conquest of Quebec most likely led to his election as militia captain by the men of the town.

He was in poor health from consumption (tuberculosis) on the morning of April 19. Tradition reports his order at Lexington Green to be He witnessed 

This was his only military action in the American Revolutionary War. He was unable to serve in the Battle of Bunker Hill in June, and died of tuberculosis a few months later.

American officer John Parker was in charge of the minutemen that met the advancing British column at Lexington Green on 19 April 1775. He watched as the British approached and then ordered his men to retreat. In their retreat, a shot was fired, and then the British line fired at the retreating Minutemen and Militia. Eight of Captain Parker’s men died, and ten more were wounded. After the British moved on to Concord, Parker organized his men again, and led them to attack the British. This extraordinary act of leadership paid off. Instead of meeting the British on open ground, Parker chose a hill that ran perpendicular to the road the British were traveling. His men, along with the Lincoln miltia, fired at the unsuspecting British column. Colonel Smith, and the last uninjured officer of the British 10th light foot Captain Parsons, fell under Parker’s fire. This location has been dubbed “Parker’s Revenge.” John Parker died the next year from tuberculoses.