April 19, 1775: The Battles of Lexington and Concord are fought.
The first open military conflict of the American Revolution was long in coming and resounding in impact. British troops had occupied Boston since 1768, and tensions between colonists and soldiers had been rising since then, heightened by events like the “Boston Massacre” and the Coercive Acts. Finally, General Thomas Gage, governor of Massachusetts, was ordered by his superiors to take action against growing resistance - and so, on the night of April 18, a force of British soldiers marched from Boston to Concord, where rebellious colonists were known to be stockpiling weapons.
It was that night that Paul Revere made his legendary “midnight ride” to warn colonial militias of the approach of British troops, and it was at sunrise on April 19 in Lexington that Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “shot heard ‘round the world” was fired. In terms of casualties, the battles (or more appropriately, skirmishes) at Lexington and Concord were not major, but they were momentous nevertheless.
For the British, the battles were failures. Instead of preventing violence by seizing rebel munitions, the seven hundred troops that departed Boston had started a war - a war that few Brits were eager to fight. Of course, the battles were also ripe material for propaganda in the colonies, and the British were subsequently cast (rather unfairly) as the aggressors in this clash.