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Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

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Historic Sites and Buildings

National Historic Landmark LEXINGTON GREEN

Location: Massachusetts Avenue and Hancock Street, Lexington.

Ownership and Administration (1961). Town of Lexington.

Significance. On Lexington Green on the morning of April 19, 1775, occurred the short but momentous skirmish between the minutemen and the British expeditionary force from Boston that initiated the struggle for American independence. Maj. John Pitcairn, commanding the British, saw the minutemen confronting his column at Lexington Green and formed his troops in line of battle. Realizing the hopelessness of the situation, Capt. John Parker, commanding the Americans, ordered his men to file away, but before they could do so a British volley and a charge with the bayonet killed 8 of the Americans and wounded 10 more. These were the first American fatalities in a war that would drag on for 8 years.

Present appearance. Lexington Green and nearby Buckman Tavern have been preserved as historic sites since the Revolution, and by State legislation enacted in 1956 they now comprise one of three protected historic districts in Lexington. On the east side of the common, facing the road by which the British approached, Henry H. Kitson's famous statue of a minuteman stands on a pile of rocks over a stone fountain. The historic Revolutionary Monument, erected in 1799 to commemorate the eight minutemen killed here, occupies the southwest corner of the green, and behind it is a tomb to which the remains of the dead were moved from the old burying ground in 1835. Two inscribed boulders have also been placed on the green. One identifies the site of the old belfry, which was separate from the meetinghouse. The other, near the northwest corner, marks one flank of Captain Parker's line. It bears, in addition to designs of musket and powder horn, Parker's immortal words: "Stand your ground. Don't fire unless fired upon. But if they mean to have a war, let it begin here." Lexington Green and its monumentation recall vividly the opening military event of the American Revolution. [25]

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Last Updated: 09-Jan-2005