“Stand your ground and do not fire unless fired upon,” Parker ordered. “But if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”Read the whole thing. All the way to the end.
Faced off across a space no larger than a football field, [American Captain John] Parker and [British Major John] Pitcairn each commanded their respective forces not to fire. Pitcairn had every reason to expect to be obeyed; British regulars did as they were ordered and Pitcairn’s force of elite light infantry were some of the best troops of the best professional army in the world. Parker, commanding farmers, merchants – and a slave named Prince Estabrook – likewise expected to be obeyed, if for no other reason than because his men had families close at hand, some watching from just off the field. Greek governmental theories, philosophical abstractions and offenses such as the Intolerable Acts may have driven rabble-rousers like Sam Adams and his Sons of Liberty. But for the militiamen on Lexington Green, their homes and farms and livelihoods were all too tangible realities, all too close at hand.
So no one was meant to fire a shot, but as it as has time and again throughout the years, the shot nevertheless was fired and then everyone on the field let loose. It was over in minutes and the outcome, with many rebels killed or wounded, and only one of his own men hurt, couldn't have surprised Pitcairn, who couldn't have had much doubt about how the rest of the day would go.
But it was only dawn. And he hadn't heard Parker. [links and footnotes omitted]
(Hat tip and many thanks to Miguel for the reminder.)