Cpt. Parker Statue, Lexington
April 19, 1775
Captain Parker Statue
Captain John Parker (1729 -- 1775) commanded the 77 militiamen who faced the British troops on Lexington common at dawn on April 19, 1775. This photograph was taken in April, just after dawn.
The statue is an idealized representation of Parker, sculpted by Henry Hudson Kitson and unveiled by Parker's great grandson, Charles W. Parker, on April 19, 1900, with 40,000 spectators in attendance.
A veteran of the French and Indian War, John Parker had fought at Louisburg and Quebec before becoming the key figure at the opening battle of the American Revolution. Engraved on a monument on Lexington Green is the famous quote attributed to him, "Stand your ground. Don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here." However, this quote was fabricated in the 1800s and is not accurate to 1775. By Parker's own sworn deposition, as the British troops approached, realizing that his force was greatly outnumbered, he gave his men the order to disperse.
He probably did say "don't fire unless fired upon" as the militia were in a purely defensive position and would have been warned not to initiate gunfire against the King's troops. He certainly did not say "if they mean to have a war, let it begin here." Few could have predicted before that day that the British expedition to seize arms in Concord would spark the war that led to an independent nation. "Let it begin here" was fodder in the ongoing rivalry between Lexington and Concord over the relative importance of their places in history.
Although best known for the battle at dawn, Parker also showed valor that afternoon, leading his men to the western boundary of the town to avenge the morning's deaths. Taking up position on a hill overlooking the "Battle Road," Parker ambushed the British column as it was fighting its way back from Concord towards Boston. Possibly two or more British were killed in the action known today as "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.
For Battle Green visitor information, visit the Lexington Chamber of Commerce: http://www.lexingtonchamber.org/
"Parker's Revenge" is marked by an exhibit panel on the Battle Road Trail in Minute Man National Historical Park: http://www.nps.gov/mima