Patriot Day, April 19
The “shot heard ’round the world” came at dawn on April 19, 1775, at Lexington, Massachusetts, as British Regulars marched on colonials–the second shot was fired at Concord on April 20. The encounters marked the first outright armed conflict between colonials and Britain.
The battle was the first of the Revolutionary War, a culmination of events stemming from increasing taxation of the colonies by the British Parliament after the French and Indian War. In 1773, Parliament passed the Tea Act to aid the East India Company in disposing of a surplus of tea. No new taxes were imposed although the duty on tea continued; however, tea could only be sold by British agents. The Boston Tea Party in December of 1773 turned backed British ships laden with tea from the East India Company. The tea would have flooded the market, driving down prices and harming local merchants.
In response, Parliament passed the Boston Port Act, the first of the “Intolerable Acts,” to punish Boston and the colonies for acts against the King. The colonists continued to organize responses to Britain and tensions escalated. The First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in the Fall of 1774 and drafted a “Declaration and Resolves.” Patrick Henry delivered his “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech on March 23, 1775.
Paul Revere and others made their famous ride on April 18 to warn the colonists that the Regulars were coming to squash any rebellion and seize ammunition. The Regulars and the militia met at Lexington, where the militia were outnumbered. The Regulars marched on to Concord the next day. Surprised by a well equipped and trained militia, many of whom had served in the French and Indian War, the Regulars retreated to Boston.
To read more about the beginnings of the American Revolution, see:
The Constitutional Origins of the American Revolution, by Jack P. Greene.