First battle of the American Revolution, 19 April 1775, at Lexington, Massachusetts. The first shots were fired when British troops, sent to seize illegal military stores and arrest rebel leaders John Hancock and Samuel Adams, were attacked by the local militia (Minutemen). Although a somewhat inconclusive action in itself, it sparked wider rebellion and so precipitated the revolution.
Anticipating a rebellion, the British general Thomas Gage sent 800 troops to seize stores at Concord and arrest Hancock and Adams. An advance party under Major Pitcairn encountered a party of about 50 Minutemen on Lexington Common. They refused to disperse when ordered to do so, and Pitcairn ordered his troops to open fire. Eight Minutemen were killed and the remainder retired. The British party turned back for Concord and was later ambushed; it was only saved by reinforcements sent out from Concord. The total losses in the two actions were 73 British killed and 174 wounded, 49 Americans killed and 39 wounded.
The battle was commemorated by US poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, who described the open of gunfire by the Minutemen as ‘the shot heard round the world’, launching the American Revolution.