Captain John Parker’s Testimony — The Battle of Lexington of April 19, 1775

April 25, 1775

Captain John Parker led the Lexington Militia at the Battle of Lexington on April 19, 1775. Following the events of the day, Parker gave his testimony to the Justices of Peace.

Captain John Parker, Statue, The Lexington Minuteman

The Minuteman Statue in Lexington, Massachusetts has been widely accepted to represent Captain John Parker.

The Deposition and Testimony of Captain John Parker of the Lexington Militia

No. 4

Lexington April 25th, 1775

I John Parker, of lawful Age, and Commander of the Militia in Lexington, do testify & declare that on the 19th Instant, in the morning, about one of the Clock, being informed that there were a Number of Regular Officers riding up and down the Road, Stopping and insulting People as they passed the Road, and also was informed that a Number of Regular Troops were on their March from Boston, in order to take the Province Stores at Concord, ordered our Militia to meet on the Common in said Lexington, to consult what to do, and concluded not to be discovered nor meddle or make with said Regular Troops (if they should approach) unless they should insult or molest us — and upon their sudden Approach I immediately ordered our Militia to disperse and not to fire — Immediately said Troops made their Appearance and rushed furiously, fired up-on and killed eight of our Party, without receiving any Provocation therefor from us,

John Parker

Middlesex April 25th, 1775. 

The above named John Parker personally appeared, and, after being duly cautioned to declare the whole Truth, made solemn Oath to the truth of the above Deposition by him subscribed

William Reed

Josiah Johnson

William Stickney 

Justices of the Peace

Doolittle Engraving, April 19, Battle of Lexington, Plate 1
This engraving by Amos Doolittle was made in 1775 and depicts the British Redcoats firing on the Massachusetts militia on Lexington Common. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Massachusetts Investigates the Events of April 19, 1775

In the aftermath of the events of April 19, 1775, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress ordered local officials to interview witnesses and participants. Congress wanted to establish a key concept — the British fired first. If that could be established, it would place the fault for the action on General Thomas Gage, Lieutenant John Pitcairn, and Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith.

The American Revolutionary War Begins — The Battles of Lexington and Concord

The events of April 19, 1775 — the day the American Revolutionary War started — began well before that day. However, the immediate sequence of events that led to hostilities started with the Boston Tea Party. Parliament responded to the protest by passing the Intolerable Acts, which significantly increased the tension between British officials and the people of Massachusetts.

Tensions Rise Between British Officials and the People of Massachusetts

General Thomas Gage, the Royal Governor of Massachusetts, increased his control over the province by removing military supplies from public storehouses and building defensive works in Boston. The people of Massachusetts, spurred on by political leaders in Boston who were associated with the Sons of Liberty, responded by setting up the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and preparing for hostilities.

Thomas Gage, Portrait, Copley
General Thomas Gage. Image Source: Wikipedia.

British Spies Uncover Military Supplies Hidden in Concord

Gage was notified of the Massachusetts preparations by a spy, Dr. Benjamin Church. In turn, Gage asked Parliament to send for reinforcements. He also sent spies out into the countryside to map roads and gather intelligence. Around March 20, 1775, two British spies informed Gage there were cannons, artillery, and provisions hidden in Concord, Massachusetts.

The Midnight Riders

On the night of April 18, 1775, Gage issued orders to Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith to lead British forces to Concord. The goal of Smith’s mission was to find and destroy weapons and supplies hidden there by the Massachusetts Militia. The Patriot spy network in Boston uncovered the plan and Dr. Joseph Warren sent express riders Paul Revere and William Dawes to Lexington and Concord to warn people.

Captain John Parker Assembles the Lexington Militia

Revere arrived in Lexington and warned Samuel Adams and John Hancock the British were on their way. The alarm was raised and Captain John Parker assembled the Lexington Militia on Lexington Common. The British advance force, under the command of Major John Pitcairn, arrived in Lexington early in the morning and found Parker and roughly 75 men blocking the road.

British Forces Attack Parker and His Men on Lexington Common

Pitcairn ordered Parker and his men to disperse and leave their weapons. Parker ordered his men to leave, but as they did, they took their guns with them. Within seconds, a shot was fired and then both sides opened fire. By the time Pitcairn restored order, eight Americans had been killed, and 10 more were wounded. The British formed their ranks and continued the march to Concord, to complete their mission.

Concord and the March Back to Boston

At Concord, the British were able to find and destroy some of the supplies but were engaged by gathering militia forces at the Old North Bridge where the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” was fired. The Massachusetts Militia followed the British all the way back to Boston, along the way, Parker’s men attacked just outside of Lexington. Militia forces continued to join the fight, as did William Heath and Joseph Warren, and harassed the British as they moved into Menotomy. The militia ended its pursuit at Menotomy. However, the militia gathered around Boston, effectively laying siege to the city and trapping British forces.

Battle of Concord, Militia Ambush British
This illustration by Charles Stanley Reinhart depicts the Massachusetts militia ambushing the British on the march back to Boston. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

John Parker’s Testimony — Notarized by Nathaniel Gorham

The back of Parker’s deposition is notarized by Nathaniel Gorham who went on to serve as President of the Confederation Congress from June 6, 1786, to February 2, 1787.

Gorham’s notarization of Parker’s deposition reads:

Province of Massachusetts Bay, Charlestown.

I Nathaniel Gorham, Notary and Tabellian Publick, by lawful Authority duly admitted and sworn, hereby certify all whom it doth or may concern, that William Reed, Josiah Johnson and William Strikney Esq are three of His Majesty’s Justices of the Peace for the County of Middlesex, and that full Faith & Credit is and ought to be given to their transactions as such — In Witness whereof I have hereunto set my Name and Seal this twenty-sixth Day of April, one Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy five.

Nathaniel Gorham Noty Pubk (LS)

The forgoing are true copies

attest Nath Gorham Noty Publick

Captain John Parker and the First Shot at Lexington — The Day The Revolution Began

This video from the Lexington Historical Society provides an overview of the events that led to the Battle of Lexington, along with the events of April 19, 1775 — the day the American Revolutionary War started.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title Captain John Parker’s Testimony — The Battle of Lexington of April 19, 1775
  • Date April 25, 1775
  • Author
  • Keywords Lexington and Concord Battle, Captain John Parker, Deposition
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date May 25, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 22, 2024

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