Answer: Ralph Waldo Emerson coined the term “the shot heard round the world” in his poem “Concord Hymn.”
Early in the morning on April 19th, 1775 hundreds of British troops marched into Lexington, Massachusetts on a mission to capture American Patriot leaders and seize a collection of weapons and military equipment. They were met on the town’s common green by Captain John Parker with his misfit bunch of Minutemen that didn’t even number 80 in total. British Major John Pitcairn ordered the outnumbered Americans to scatter, and as they slowly dispersed an unidentified noise rang out from musket that was soon afterward surrounded in a cloud of smoke. This was the “shot heard round the word” that is responsible for the start of the American Revolutionary War.
Historically speaking, The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War. The towns have debated over the point of origin for the Revolutionary War since 1824. While shots were fired earlier that day in Lexington, Massachusetts, where eight Americans were killed and a British soldier was slightly wounded they are somewhat blurry recollections and at times contradictory. Meanwhile, “the North Bridge skirmish” in Concord did see the first shots by Americans acting under orders, the first organized volley by Americans, the first British fatalities, and the first British retreat. Two pairs of eyes who looked upon the North Bridge skirmish were Rev. William Emerson and his father, otherwise known as the father and grandfather of Ralph Waldo Emerson who would go on to write “Concord Hymn” in 1837. Emerson lived in a house known as the Old Manse at the time when he was composing the “Concord Hymn”, from which his grandfather and father – a boy at the time – had witnessed the skirmish. The house is located approximately 300 feet from the North Bridge.
“Concord Hymn” by Ralph Waldo Emerson
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.
The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.
On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.
Spirit, that made those heroes dare,
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.